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The 7 Best And 7 Worst Episodes Of Deadliest Catch

"Deadliest Catch," which first aired in 2005, can be either amazing or absolutely terrible. The show follows a team of dedicated fishermen — who have one of the world's most dangerous jobs — as they each try to charter their vessels across the unpredictable Bering Sea. Spearheaded by renowned captains such as Sig Hansen and Johnathan Hillstrand, the series gives viewers a glimpse into the world of crab fishing, which features stormy conditions, territorial battles, and life-or-death injuries. It's safe to say we never quite know what we're going to get from each episode. 

Even with 18 seasons under their belts, the fishermen are still regularly making waves, tangoing with Russian missile boats and planning even more comeback spinoffs, despite allegedly hanging up their rods for good. There's still plenty to dive into behind the scenes. 

The most notable "Deadliest Catch" episodes make a name for themselves for wildly different reasons. Whether you're an armchair fisherman or looking to get stuck into the world of "Deadliest Catch," here are the 7 best and 7 worst episodes according to IMDb.

Best: Man Down (Season 13, Episode 16)

If anything should scare humans, it's Mother Nature. In IMDb's top-rated episode of "Deadliest Catch" — Season 13, Episode 16, "Man Down" — the waves of the Bering Sea are at their roughest. This installment gives as much high-stakes drama as you can get, with Jake's crew risking their lives to get the job done. Sadly, the deckhands don't exactly come away without a scratch, as one of the crew falls down a 15-foot drop while working on a stack of crab pots.

After so many seasons, the frightening but exhilarating episode is a timely reminder to dedicated fans that literally anything can happen while out at sea. The action is filmed at breakneck speed and accompanied by a dramatic soundtrack that longtime viewers know and love. For high drama and a true understanding of the fishing trade, this episode truly peaks. 

Worst: Double Agent (Season 16, Episode 5)

Sometimes, reality TV blends too much fiction into its facts. The narrative of the Season 16 episode "Double Agent" involves American satellites spying on Russian operatives, which feels a little too far-fetched. Paced like a crime drama rather than reality television, the storyline is a far cry from "Deadliest Catch's" usual fare of untimely deaths, life-threatening outbreaks, and medical emergencies. The geopolitical aspect of fishing life should be exciting but instead verges on the mundane. The Cornelia Marie is a vessel that has seen its share of action, and it deserves the break it gets here, but unfortunately, its lower-key usage doesn't make for compelling TV.

The side plots don't pick up too much steam, either. Scott Campbell Jr. is working to revive a long-dormant fishery, while Wild Bill is busy facing his own personal challenges on the waters. He might be wild by name, but this episode shows Bill certainly isn't so by nature. This episode is realistic insofar as it shows that the lives of fishermen are not constantly jam-packed with action, but we all know the action is what we're watching for. 

Best: We Have Not Yet Begun to Fight (Season 11, Episode 18)

The episode "We Have Not Yet Begun to Fight" lives up to its title, focusing on the environmental threats that come with the end of the fishing season. Deathly polar ice is descending on each of the Skippers, driving our favorite fishermen to choose either fight or flight. It's a tense, gripping episode that has also divided fans, with some criticizing Captain Bill's irresponsibility surrounding his crew's onboard injuries.  

The two-hour spectacular season finale also shines a light on Josh, who acts against Casey's advice and heads into ice-infested waters. Fans have picked up on the fact that, by this point, Josh seems to have been learning the ropes for a long time. However, his rookie mindset makes for great television, with fans knowing he'll face serious repercussions for his choices. Sig and Johnathan also have a race of their own, so this episode is definitely playing with a stacked deck. 

Worst: Blood Is Thicker Than Water (Season 16, Episode 22)

One of the aspects of "Deadliest Catch" that fans love is the close bond between the Skippers and deckhands. Even so, it doesn't make losing a veteran crew member any easier to bear. Season 16's "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" is one of the lowest-rated episodes on IMDb, proving that filming post-COVID likely took its toll on the show's quality. With a valuable crew member missing, Jake is pushed to steam a greenhorn army on his own, heading toward the Russian line. It's not the first time we've seen the two countries tussle over territory, meaning the show is retreading tired ground. 

Another thing fans noticed about this episode was the reality of the fisherman's families back home. As one viewer points out, Josh is more focused on not missing his daughter's birthday than his work, prompting Casey to say that what needs to be done must be done. With a crew that sometimes functions like a family, it's disheartening to hear senior members be so dismissive of newer crew members' major life events. We knew being on the seas was tough, but is this really necessary?

Best: Lost at Sea (Season 13, Episode 18)

As loyal fans know, "Deadliest Catch" is at its best not when it focuses on the size of a fishing haul or the daily procedures of fishing life, but when the stakes are literally life or death. In the penultimate Season 13 episode "Lost at Sea," a missing crab vessel is at the center of the action, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard to get involved in the search. This intense sequence keeps viewers on the edge of our seats as we wait to discover what's happened to the six-man crew.  

The episode ends on a cliffhanger, so it's not until the next episode that we find out the fate of the missing crew. In the meantime, Sig also contemplates leaving the fishing life behind at the request of his wife. The crews often talk about family disparagingly in other episodes, so it's refreshing to see the opinions of spouses and loved ones held in such high esteem.

Worst: Like Father, Like Daughter (Season 16, Episode 18)

Coming in at 6.4 on the IMDb episode ratings, Season 16's "Like Father, Like Daughter" isn't without its issues. By this point in "Deadliest Catch," it's been established that Sig is a man of two minds. He clearly loves his life on the water, but has doubts about whether he should give it all up so he can spend more time with his family. In this episode, his daughter Mandy is doing her best to influence Sig's decisions. Fans know that the fishermen have a strange and often volatile relationship with their families, whom they've largely abandoned for the seas. 

This episode is a tricky one to watch for fans of Sig. We know fishing is what he loves and makes him come alive, so seeing him being railroaded into other decisions feels against the spirit of "Deadliest Catch" altogether. At the same time, the ships are dealing with the fallout of the injury sustained from the 15-foot drop. The road to recovery after the big incident is not so dazzling.

Best: 5-Year Storm: Part 1 (Season 11, Episode 12)

Whenever an episode of "Deadliest Catch" sounds like it could be an epic adventure novel written in the 1800s, you know it's going to be good. Season 11's "5-Year Storm: Part 1" is rated as one of the show's best episodes of all time, and it's not hard to see why. This time, the Skippers are dealing with a menacing storm that threatens to affect their opilio crab season. The Cape Caution is the vessel most at risk, being caught off-guard by a rogue wave. There's something incredibly satisfying about being swept up in the literal eye of the storm.

While Jake Anderson's crew is nearly capsized by a 40-foot wave, the deckhands aboard the Wizard race against time to fix a gushing leak. This episode is tough and nail-biting to watch, but it's amazing to realize that the smallest of starting points can create chaos in so many different ways. Thankfully for us — and them — our favorite fishermen are the perfect team to take on this terrifying job.

Worst: Harm's Way (Season 16, Episode 10)

As one of the worst-rated episodes of "Deadliest Catch" on IMDb, Season 16's "Harm's Way" once again focuses on the eye of a storm, but not in the best way. Our favorite Skippers are in the midst of dealing with fearsome Siberian weather conditions, hitting their vessels from 500 miles away. The fallout, however, is less appealing. By the show's 16th season, Josh has earned himself a reputation for being slow to pick up the slack and for hiding under Casey's wing for what feels like an incredibly long time. His moment of finally striking out on his own means taking big risks to keep his crew safe.

The Cornelia Marie has had its fair share of controversy. Josh's hasty plans don't seem to work in its favor. His more senior counterparts aren't having the best of luck, either. Junior loses control of his rudders, leaving him at the mercy of the storm, while Jake's greenhorn deals with a toilet problem. If plumbing problems are the best kind of drama able to be captured on camera, it's perhaps a sign that this episode should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Best: Hillstrand's Last Catch (Season 13, Episode 17)

When it comes to the legends of "Deadliest Catch," Johnathan Hillstrand is right up there. Fans say goodbye to him in Season 13's "Hillstrand's Last Catch," when he bows out in a fisherman's blaze of glory. Not only does the episode mark his exit from reality television, but it's also his official retirement from the commercial fishing game. Alongside a montage of some of his best bits throughout the show, viewers see Johnathan depart in a way only he can: with a huge onboard fireworks display, a few meaningful parting words, and his trademark hearty laugh. 

Though Johnathan is rightly the star of this episode, the support from his crew and fellow Skippers is also beautiful to watch. Taking on the unpredictable Bering Sea in order to give him a fitting send-off, "Hillstrand's Last Catch" is a testament to the strong relationships built up over the show's 16 seasons. Even if the drama between them has sometimes felt overly scripted, this moment truly marks the end of an era for dedicated fans.

Worst: The Bleeding Edge (Season 16, Episode 6)

For those of us who have spent far too much time binge-watching "Grey's Anatomy," there are clearly certain places medical attention shouldn't be received. Midway through a dangerous fishing expedition is certainly one of those cases. In a particularly hairy episode of "Deadliest Catch," Johnathan Hillstrand actually goes under the knife during the Season 16 episode "The Bleeding Edge," getting stitched back together after a fairly nasty accident. For viewers of a more squeamish nature, it's certainly an outing to the Bering Sea to be avoided, though the outcome could have been far worse.  

It's safe to say the episode's main storyline is unpleasant. The side plots do little to pick up the missing excitement. Wild Bill takes things down a notch as he deals with a rather unruly greenhorn, while Junior sets out to chase the Golden King Crab. There are a lot of head-in-hand moments from the Skippers during the episode, and as fans painfully wait for things to take off, we can see why.

Best: A Brotherhood Tested (Season 11, Episode 1)

Few shows can still deliver a quality season premiere after being on the air for a good while. Coming in as one of the top 7 "Deadliest Catch" episodes on IMDb, the Season 11 episode "A Brotherhood Tested" promises to put big bucks on the table in the form of a 12-million-pound bairdi quota. Numbers and contracts are parts of fishing life that don't sound too exciting, but this episode manages to thrill with a fishing frenzy unlike any fans have seen on the show before. It's quite literally all hands on the deck here, especially once a poorly timed boat theft jeopardizes the team's plans. 

If "Deadliest Catch" was a completely scripted show, this episode would be a masterclass in how to successfully structure drama. The stolen boat serves as the twist viewers didn't see coming, prompting us to keep watching, even when we think we've seen this all before. Being able to fulfill a big quota is just another day in the life for our fishermen, but the show's producers have turned the everyday into unmissable television.

Worst: Collision Course (Season 8, Episode 12)

This is a rare "Deadliest Catch" episode where nothing actually happens, but 45 minutes of our time nonetheless passes by. The Season 8 episode "Collision Course" is akin to montage/filler episodes in sitcoms, padding out a season and being the weakest link. Instead of heading back out on the choppy waters, the Captains sit down to touch on their own legacies and swap stories of bygone days. Jake and Josh Harris have a particular focus, comparing what they have each learned as deckhands aboard different ships.

When it gets down to it, this type of episode just doesn't work in a reality TV format, particularly one that depends so much on high-stakes drama. Even while the change in pacing is welcome, the content itself fails to entertain. Elliot does briefly square off with his boat's owner, but it's not enough to save "Collision Course." Let's put it this way: The episode definitely doesn't live up to its title.

Best: Hells Bells (Season 11, Episode 9)

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, and the same can easily be said for the Season 11 festive special "Hells Bells," which clocks in as one of the top-rated episodes of "Deadliest Catch" on IMDb. This time, the threats don't just come from the deadly fishing environment but also the crew themselves, as an "unhinged" deckhand is set on terrorizing the rest of the Time Bandit. It's an interesting direction for the show to head in, given that the crews vary from being thick as thieves to having noticeable feuds. The drama ramps up a notch when Jake's plans for his daughter's birth go awry.

Typically the fishermen keep their cool, but it's entertaining to see them gradually lose it as more and more problems pile up inside the boats. Fans have speculated if the episode hints at Matt being in trouble, since he's previously had issues trying to stay clean. There's also a gruesome injury that interrupts the greenhorn season, adding to the layers of problems that are continuing to pile up. As far as quality drama goes, we don't know where to look first, which makes for a particularly delicious episode.

Worst: The King Is Dead... (Season 18, Episode 0)

Clearly, the team behind "Deadliest Catch" didn't learn their lesson from the much-panned Season 8 episode "Collision Course," as the Season 18 premiere kicks off as even more of the same on a bigger scale. "The King Is Dead..." is an extended look back at a King Crab expedition that went completely awry, fronted by fan favorites Sig and Johnathan. The episode is supposed to serve as the team's reintroduction to the seas, with both Captains needing to rally their troops in the face of financial closure. However, watching them devise a new fishing strategy turns from must-watch into must-miss television.

It might be considered to be the deadliest job on earth, but stripping it back to the most basic of problems doesn't translate well on screen. Both Sig and Johnathan have a rocky reputation as it is, with Sig called out for misogynistic behavior and Johnathan branded as "too nice" for letting his fellow captains walk all over him. A tell-all type of episode doesn't fit the show's format or the fishermen's bolshy personalities.