The current season of Discovery’s award-winning reality series Deadliest Catch has been focused on the impact of Super Typhoon Nuri on the fleet. For Saga captain Elliott Neese, though, it’s been the turbulent inner storm of drug addiction that has posed the biggest threat to his (and his crew’s) fishing season, and potentially his career.
During last week’s episode, fans watched as Elliot handed over captain duties for the Saga to relief captain Jeff Folk. After the behind-closed-doors, audio-only scene, Elliott exited to find Discovery cameras outside his door. Elliott told the crew that he didn’t want any of his conversation to be shown on television, and that he would be very angry if it did air. (Needless to say, Elliott is indeed angry.)
After handing over the wheel of the Saga, Elliott–e-cigarette in hand–decided to burn some calories by working on the deck, where his temper flared. Among other things, he threw a water bottle at the wheelhouse because Folk was unable to quickly locate the switch for the deck lights.
So what happened to captain Elliott Neese? Did he lose the Saga? According to his Twitter account, Elliott spent 60 days in the Passages drug rehab facility in Malibu beginning late in 2014:
To everyone yea I had issues but went to passages Malibu for 60 days and have a new outlook on things now!Hate all you want but I’m above it
— Elliott Neese (@CaptElliott) May 14, 2015
He later pointed out that everything viewers are seeing now was taped more than six months ago. “You all realize what your watching was filmed back in October it’s now May,” he tweeted, mentioning again that he went to Passages and adding, “I’m doing great now!”
This wasn’t the first time in rehab for Elliott, but it appears this may have been his first time where he was really motivated to go. “Im feeling great,” he tweeted back in early December. “When you go to a place on your own and are not forced there is a huge difference!! That means you really want it !!”
Elliot tweeted this photo from Malibu:
Feelin today beautiful day in Malibu !! pic.twitter.com/VIzcQOhtlI
— Elliott Neese (@CaptElliott) December 10, 2014
So what about everything that’s happening on screen this season? Elliott says a lot of that is just editing. “All you people out there only see what DC wants! There are worse things going on on other boats but they just choose to expose my hardships,” Elliott tweeted last Tuesday.
Earlier that day Elliott watched the preview trailer for the episode and compared it to fiction:
@Manda598 I just watched the trailer for tonight, its like Im watching fiction cuz that’s not how it went down its TV they gotta get ratings
— Elliott Neese (@CaptElliott) May 12, 2015
Elliott talked more about how he is portrayed on the show in an interview with KTVA back in February. “I don’t think the role of the villain is fair, but I signed on to be part of this show,” Elliott said. “They can portray me whichever way they like. I don’t necessarily agree with it or like it, but I have to deal with it.”
So what about the “reality” of Deadliest Catch? “At times it is definitely over-animated or overdramatized, but I mean it’s a TV show at the end of the day,” he said.
Original Productions executive producer Jeff Conroy spoke with Yahoo TV this week, with most of his conversation centering around Elliott’s drug problems. Conroy was asked for his reaction to Elliott’s decisions in the episode:
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.
Conroy is also asked about the tense scene between Elliott and his dad in which his dad tries to ascertain exactly what is going on with his son in as non-revealing a way as possible. “The fact that his dad is there is what makes it so much more of a powerful story,” Conroy says:
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?”
Conroy makes sure to point out that “Elliott’s an incredibly high-achieving crab fisherman. He’s a young boat owner and captain. It’s tragic to see.” He adds, “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…”
As far as what fans can expect to see happen with Elliott and the Saga crew in tonight’s episode, Conroy says “There’s a breaking point tonight. We are at the edge of everything.”
On another positive note, in addition to successfully completing 60 days of rehab, Elliott has also found himself a love interest! “Met an amazing girl during my time off the boat,” he tweeted earlier this month, “went to Mexico had some real adventures! So to all the haters live in da now not October.”
So who is Elliott Neese’s girlfriend? Her name is Erika Fridenbergs and by conventional beauty standards she is quite the catch! (See what I did there?)
From what I can tell online, she is a 20-year-old college student from Chicago who is currently attending Santa Monica College (right down the road from Malibu) where she is studying “Biology and Biological Sciences and Film and Video Studies.”
Here’s a photo of Elliott and Erika enjoying St. Patrick’s Day together in Chicago:
And here they are in Mexico:
A photo posted by Elliott Neese (@captainelliott4) on
Congratulations to Elliott for taking the steps (12 of them?) to get his life back in order. Let’s hope he’s able to keep it together and return for a successful 2016 crab fishing season!
Meanwhile, we can all take a step back in time and follow Elliot’s story (as well as the story of the other Bering Sea captains and crews) with new episodes of Deadliest Catch airing every Tuesday night at 9/8c on Discovery.
Here’s a dramatic preview for tonight’s episode featuring Elliott’s drug struggles:
— Deadliest Catch (@DeadliestCatch) May 19, 2015