'Deadliest Catch' Producer: This Week's Episode Is 'Breaking Point' for Elliott

Deadliest Catch has been full of struggles in Season 11, from the captains simply finding the elusive Bairdi crab to them navigating untimely repairs and massive waves during Typhoon Nuri. But Capt. Elliott Neese’s battle with addiction may be the most unsettling to watch.

In last week’s episode, viewers saw Elliott tell a cameraman that he better not be filming him before he left his relief captain, Jeff Folk, in the wheelhouse and joined his crew working on deck. After more than a decade of Catch, fans understand how dangerous the job is in the best conditions — this was at night, with the Bering Sea raging.

As the clip above shows, the worrying of his crew, which includes his father, Mike, continues in the May 19 episode. “There’s a breaking point tonight,” says Jeff Conroy, executive producer for Original Productions. “We are at the edge of everything.”

One clue: After last week’s episode aired, Elliott took to Twitter to remind viewers that what they’re seeing was filmed last October and share that he’s since spent 60 days at Passages Malibu.

He also questioned the show’s editing:

Yahoo TV spoke to Conroy to discuss how his team handled the situation and why they felt this is an important story to tell.

To confirm for fans who are wondering: Do any of the captains have the wiggle room to ask that something not be aired?
The captains don’t really have any say at all in what we air. We’ve managed to keep that. But honestly, we are trained and ready for situations where a captain or crew is hostile towards us. These are hard stories to tell: It can feel really lonely out there when you’re on a boat and you’re trying to tell a story that someone doesn’t want you to tell. We’re with someone for 24 hours a day — certainly not all of us would want ourselves [shown] in every single light that we experience in a day. But this is obviously a much more serious situation. Our policy is, follow the story and stick with the story, whatever it is, as long as it’s safe to do it.


Was there genuine concern for your team’s safety aboard the Saga?
Absolutely, we were concerned. Thank God that the satphones work so much better now. We were constantly in contact with them, and most every conversation ended with, “Do you feel safe? Do we need to get you off the boat?” They kept saying, “No, no, we’re good.” It wasn’t like we had a smoking gun; it was more like a heavy suspicion and the rest of the crew supporting that suspicion. We reassigned our chase boat so that it would be within range of the Saga, and if necessary, we could pull our guys off. We had Jeff Folk, who is a captain and able to drive the boat — that felt like that was a safe alternative.

What was your reaction when you first saw the footage of Elliott saying he’s on deck because he wants to burn calories?
Knowing what’s going on, you look at that and go, “This is a person with a real problem.” He’s at that point where he doesn’t want to fully face it. Last year, the stuff we had with him going to rehab — the things he says in the car are shocking. He’s talking to his dad about drug use and [saying] “I don’t have a problem.” That’s the point: He’s not thinking clearly. Something is inhibiting the way he thinks and changing his judgment to a point where it’s not rational.

Why is this a story you want to focus on? Is part of it because drugs are such an issue in their industry?
Yeah. I would say that it’s a story that you can tell now in Season 11 — and maybe for a few seasons now, we could be able to tell a story like this — but it’s not a story that we would of probably started on. You could take 10 people in a room and you could probably find at least nine of them that have been affected by some kind of addiction or abuse situation. So it’s a real story that’s affecting all of us. I believe that there are people who are home watching going, “Oh my God, I’m going through the same thing with my son, my daughter, my brother.” That’s what sets us apart, to be able to tell authentic, real stories. That’s what I would hope would be the legacy of this show, that we saw stuff that was as real as it gets in this crazy environment, and these are things that are universal. That’s where the show transcends the fishing community.

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Watching Elliott’s father talk to him in last week’s episode, you could tell how carefully he was choosing his words. He’s trying to get through to Elliott but not put him on the spot. Is that relationship something we’ll see more of in tonight’s episode?
You do see that. The fact that his dad is there is what makes it so much more of a powerful story. His dad doesn’t need to fish, he doesn’t need the money. His dad is a really great guy, and he’s trying to be there for his son. And like with any parent, it’s so confusing to try to figure out, “What can I say? What story can I tell to try to turn my son back on the right path?” Elliott’s an incredibly high-achieving crab fisherman. He’s a young boat owner and captain. It’s tragic to see.

Most of the time, any addict is somewhat capable of hiding the real bitter details. We can tell a lot more of the story because his crewmates are telling us [their suspicions]. One of the best things about Elliott is that he is such an open book, and he does say things that the rest of us would never say to another person, much less on camera. That’s what makes him such a raw and real character. That’s what I love about him, is that he is so raw. But this is a time when it works against him….

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Speaking in broader terms about this week’s episode, has the typhoon passed?
We’re still in the typhoon, and it’s still a major factor in the show, but we do see it come to an end. The amazing thing about a show like this is that you have these external forces like a typhoon that really bring personalities and skills and confidence to a point. A normal reality show would try to concoct a way to get their characters to a point of conflict or drama, and in this case, Typhoon Nuri helps us get there.

It was interesting to see Josh Harris realize he was out of his league during the storm and ask Casey McManus to take back the wheel. Will we see the Cornelia Marie have any luck this season?
They certainly did not have a very fortunate season with breakdowns and everything else. I think they work their way through it. I think you could argue this is a great trial by fire for both Josh and Casey. As you see them move forward into Opies, Josh does not get off easy with Casey and continues to push him.

Last question: How soon will we see the female deckhand come aboard the Wizard?
That’s coming up in Opies. Eleven years of Catch, and now there’s a female deckhand. The thing about it though is, we really try to take the approach that this is a deckhand. It’s more about can you do the job? We’ve seen so many greenhorns come and go — some successful, some not. She has a resume that it’s appropriate for her to get this job. She hasn’t fished [Opies], but she has a fishing background. She’s been on boats. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the big gender question. It certainly comes up and is on the guys’ minds, but it’s really about whether this particular deckhand can be successful or not where so many other people — men or women — have failed.

Deadliest Catch airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Discovery.