Week 16 (Season Finale): Endless (premiered July 27, 2010)
“Gotta do what the old man woulda wanted me to do.”
~ Josh Harris
Well, this is it: the final recap of Season 6, the season that changed everything. I’m thoroughly convinced that this season spells the end of a lot of what (or maybe I should say “who”) we’ve come to associate with Deadliest Catch. The formula’s still there, but there’s no denying that the landscape is going to look quite a bit different when Season 7 rolls around. But until then…
This final episode opens with Josh Harris preparing to return to the Cornelia Marie. With Phil laid to rest, there was never a question in my mind about whether or not Josh would do exactly that. Of course he’ll return to the boat to finish out the much-delayed season. Captain Phil put his life into that ship and its crew, and Josh has stepped up and proven himself to be his father’s son in all the right ways. Besides, it’s what Phil would have wanted. Still, as Josh stands in his father’s stateroom, remembering the last time he was in it, you can see the struggle on his face. “This is weird,” he finally understates.
Over on the Kodiak, unsettled minds seem to be the theme of the day. “Can’t wake up from this nightmare,” says Captain Bill as he sets gear in the middle of ice floes, desperate to make his numbers. As he has his crew modify the gear to handle floating under the ice without getting caught up in the current, Bill couldn’t possibly look any more haggard. “God, this is like the trip from hell,” he says.
The Time Bandit is in St. Paul harbor, offloading their second-to-last delivery of the season and picking up an old friend. Captain Johnathan is rejoining his brothers and crew. “I missed my guys. Missed my boat,” Johnathan says with something like relief in his voice. There’s no doubt he needs a distraction from the death of his friend, and fishing is exactly the thing to provide that. Captain Andy obliges him with a recap of the antics of their appointed captain-to-be, Mike Fourtner. “It’s not gonna be easy to let somebody else run our boat,” Andy tells Johnathan. Both men look like they’re changing their minds about the whole retirement thing.
The eerie feelings continue on the Northwestern, where the crew is, as they always are at this point in the season, exhausted. “It’s all about home. It’s not about here,” says Edgar, inching closer and closer to that “I’m taking a break” line we’re all waiting for him to cross. Captain Sig has been affected by recent events as much as any of Phil’s comrades, and is having trouble sleeping with his friend on the brain. He describes a dream he had that he can’t shake: he’s over at Phil’s place. Everything’s there, loud music is blaring just the way Phil likes it, his bike is parked out front with parts scattered around like Phil’s been working on it. But no one’s there. “It’s vivid, real,” Sig says, “but empty.” The Norwegian fishermen are a superstitious bunch, and Sig looks, if I’m not mistaken, a bit haunted by the thought of wandering around the dream version of his deceased friend’s house.
While Sig tries to get his head on straight, Edgar is down on deck prepping an unwitting crew to survive without him. He steps back and observes, and astonishingly (or not) the deck runs like a well-oiled machine. “I guess I am a little surprised,” Edgar comments. Pleasantly or otherwise is hard to tell. “I was really hard on Edgar. Very hard on Edgar,” Sig says as he watches the proceedings and gets an inkling of what might be going on. “I need to find another Edgar somewhere.” Good luck with that, Sig.
Things are getting snippy on the Time Bandit as Scotty Hillstrand and Mike get into it on deck. Andy switches up the batting order again, putting Scotty on the rail and Mike on hydraulics. It all goes downhill from there, as Scotty can’t get the rope on the block and loses the buoy (and almost Mike along with it, because he for some inexplicable reason chases it across the deck). The next pot comes out of the launcher. It’s like these two have been working on a crab boat for all of five minutes instead of season and seasons. Finally, in spite of Mike and Scotty’s best efforts to botch everything up, the crab start coming and Johnathan hits the deck to help his crew. The crab may be good, but the Hillstrands are no longer certain about the future of their wheelhouse. They toss names around but it’s clear they don’t know what to do anymore.
The Northwestern is running their final string, and the tanks are nearly at capacity. Another season has finally ended. The crew decides to celebrate the final pot in honor of Phil, and in a touching moment Sig instructs each crew member to take a hook and light it on fire. Then, together, they throw out their hooks towards the final pot, shouting their goodbyes to Phil. When the pot is hauled in it is stuffed to the brim with crab. “Thank you Phil!” Sig shouts into the night sky.
The Kodiak’s luck may have finally turned around—without a moment to spare! Just as Wild Bill says, “I wish I could pull a rabbit out of my hat on this one,” the pots start coming in full and the only concern is getting to them all before the ice does. The crew hauls threw the night and into the dawn, but it pays off: the tanks are full and the first full season of Wild Bill’s return to crabbing is over. It’s a flip of the coin whether he comes back next year, though. I don’t think his glorious return was what he envisioned at the start of king crab.
The Wizard is also wrapping up their season, and then some: the tanks are full but the crab keep coming, and the excess go to a temporary home in the totes for lack of space anywhere else. That’s a new one!
The Northwestern is heading in to port, and the day of reckoning has finally arrived. Edgar is up in the wheelhouse with Sig, laying all his cards out. “Sometime soon I’m gonna need time off, completely, from fishing,” he tells a very quiet Sig. “My god I’m almost 40, I’ve been here since I was 17.” Edgar explains how he wants to be there for his family, his immediate family. “When do you say when, you know?” Sig doesn’t know, and clearly doesn’t want Edgar to leave. But, since he also doesn’t really know what to say to make Edgar stick around, the conversation ends awkwardly with a subtext of “we’ll discuss the rest of this later.”
Edgar calls his wife once they reach Dutch Harbor to tell her that he’ll be home in a week and that he talked to Sig. Sig, however, is probably not taking this with the proper amount of gravity. “I suspect he doesn’t really mean what he’s saying,” Sig says to the universe at large. I suspect he does, but Season 7 will reveal all. A final glimpse of the departing NW crew reminds us that Jake Anderson is headed home to chaos and a missing father. We can only hope the off season brings good news on that front.
After a brief wrap-up on the TB where Andy tells Mike he’s not quite ready for the captain’s chair, we join Jake Harris on his way to rehab. “I’m kind of nervous. I know the old man’s watching, you know. I’m here to make him proud, too.” All signs point to a success on that front, as Josh has spoken since then and said that Jake is out of rehab, has moved closer to where Josh lives, and is doing well. I have high hopes for both boys and will be interested to see what Season 7 holds in store for them and the Cornelia Marie. Speaking of…
In the final minutes of the episode we finally get to see the battle-weary Cornelia Marie ten weeks after the other boats complete their final offloads. The very last boat out fishing for opies, the crew is determined to finish what their leader started with the help of relief captain Derrick Ray. “We’ll finish what Phil started,” Derrick says, and that’s exactly what they do. A very well-done montage kicks in showing the crew working through somber moments and more lighthearted ones, carrying on and basically living, which is all Phil would have wanted from them. “I like being here. I need this right now,” Josh says, and he does look a little more alive and a little less tired than before. Maybe he feels closest to his father out on the Bering Sea where they spent most of their time together. “I may move on from the fishing industry at some point in time,” he says thoughtfully. “But for now this is what I do. And I’m gonna keep doing it.”
The season ends with a final shot of seagulls on the bow, conjuring up Sig’s theory on the souls of fallen sailors, and as we fade to black the words “This season dedicated to Phil Harris” pop up. It’s a fitting end to an extraordinary season. And yes, I got choked up. Again.
And so another opie crab season, Phil’s final season, ends. Here are the final stats:
Northwestern: $990,000; $32,000 per deckhand
Time Bandit: $1.2 million; $36,000 per deckhand
Wizard: $1.8 million; $57,000 per deckhand
Kodiak: $1.6 million; $40,000 per deckhand