In the Below Deck Mediterranean Season 3 finale, it actually seemed like there was a bright future ahead for João Franco and Brooke Laughton as the two left the Talisman Maiton hand-in-hand for what sounded like a romantic getaway to Florence. But fast-forward to this season's reunion, and we were much less certain about the couple's fate following revelations about João's continued — and sometimes flirty — communications with Kasey Cohen.
Though no final decisions were made regarding the future of this relationship, Brooke said that she would be spending the night after the reunion alone. And it was at least clear that she and João would have a lot to work out if they ultimately decided to stay together.
Of course, we were just as curious as every other Below Deck Med fan to know whether João and Brooke are still together today or if they decided to call it quits after the reunion. So The Daily Dish spoke with João over the phone at the end of August to get all of the answers to our burning questions about the reunion and what came after.
João told The Daily Dish that he, Brooke, and Kasey all got together to speak about what went down at the reunion immediately afterward. "What happened afterwards was myself, Kasey, and Brooke sat together, and we spoke it through," João explained. "And Kasey had admitted in the sense that everything was slightly exaggerated and her points that she was getting across weren't what she was trying to say."
Though Brooke said at the reunion that all of this information from Kasey was news to her, João said she had been aware of most of it during the course of their relationship. He told The Daily Dish that he didn't bring it up at the reunion because he didn't want to "argue with her at that point."
João said he doesn't believe his communication with Kasey after the season ended crossed the line while he was still trying to work things out with Brooke. In fact, he said that Kasey may have misconstrued his attempt to console her as she got some criticism from fans on social media during the season. "Kasey got a lot of heat on Twitter, and whenever I had spoken to her, Kasey was very aware that Brooke was not happy with us talking. I was checking up on if she's OK, I was checking up on how she was taking everything. I guess she took it in a different way as well. She had mentioned that her thinking I'm very flirty was in actual fact me being very charming. She said that she may have misconstrued my feelings toward her when I was just trying to help her out," he explained. "I was really just trying to look after her because I went through a bad stage within the first few episodes with Twitter and stuff. I felt terrible about myself. I'm a fairly strong person, strong-willed, and I have a good way of turning things off, but with how bad I got from the social media side, I felt that if I was that bad, everyone else would feel really, really bad, so I contacted her. I guess I tried to help, and that backfired on me."
João showed remorse for the part he played in the so-called love triangle between himself, Brooke, and Kasey this season of Below Deck Med. But when it seemed as though he had continued to play with Brooke and Kasey's emotions even after the season, some fans may be hesitant to believe João has really changed. "At the end of the day, it's not really about the fans; it's about me and who I am, what my goals are, and trying to figure out my core values," the deckhand said in regards to why fans should believe he's a new João. "I've still got a lot to learn. There's no doubt about that. There's things that I'm still not happy with. There's things that I kind of still fall back and then I'm like, 'I don't want to be that person. I need to walk forward.' There's been a dramatic change, but I'm not perfect. I'm not in any way at the place I want to be."
We saw more of João's sensitive side when he walked off the reunion set overcome with emotion (clip below). It was in that moment that João said that he knew his relationship with Brooke was over. "I guess it was the realization that the probability of myself and Brooke working out after that was very minimal," he shared with The Daily Dish. "It was more the realization that this could be the absolute end between her and I."
João and Brooke had actually stayed together in a relationship for about six months after the charter season ended, during which they did some traveling, even to João's home country of Zimbabwe. But when the couple got jobs on different boats, and their relationship turned long-distance, they decided to take a break. "I think the underlying thing was we both weren't really ready for anything serious because she had been through one relationship after the other, and I had some major, major insecurity issues that I needed to sort out. We did help each other in a big way to get to where we are now, but it played a huge part in us getting to know each other; we found out a lot about our flaws as well," João said. "So I very strongly believe if given time to be apart, let the show blow over, and then got back together, it would have worked, whereas we tried to really intensely keep ourselves going for the better of our future, [hoping] that we could be perfect. It's just that it never got to that point. It was always quite difficult."
Even though João and Brooke are now officially over, he said he still has hope that they could one day get back together. "I'm gonna be very honest. I really, really fell in love with her, and I feel that she was the same for most of it. Obviously, with reliving the show, it didn't help whatsoever because we had overcome so much. Most of what's happened on the show, I told her. The second-to-last episode where I told Kasey if she had not gotten up and if Brooke hadn't sat down, there was a chance I would have kissed Kasey, she knew that because I told her straight after the show. So yeah, she wasn't happy about that, but we had worked all the way through then," he shared. "And then reliving all of that kind of brought everything back to her. And I respected very fully that she obviously was confused with everything. I don't regret [it], of course, but my life wouldn't have been where I left Europe and left everything for her had she just told me that that's what she'd have done. So a lot of changes were made under the false pretense of us working."
As João said during the reunion, he still believes that if he and Brooke had been on the yacht for another week, they may have broken up then. For now, João said he doesn't feel like he can even have a friendship with Brooke. "She has apologized, which I'm very grateful for, and I have apologized, too. I just said that we can't talk for now because I love her, and I still have these feelings for her. And I feel that if we spoke, I would go back to not giving up in trying to be with her, and she needs her space. So I'm gonna give her that, and if she wants to sort things out, I don't know," he explained. "At the moment, anything can happen, so I'm not saying that I'm gonna wait for her, I'm not saying that I'm not, I'm just at a point where I'm happy with where I am, I'm happy with what I've learned throughout the show, and I'm happy to move forward, whatever that may be."
João had moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida prior to filming this season's Below Deck Med reunion in order to be with Brooke where she has been working. However, he said that after the reunion, he didn't want to return to Fort Lauderdale and risk running into her. So João traveled around New York and Europe. He's also been taking some courses to move forward with his yachting career, as well as looking into working with animal sanctuaries and organizations in Zimbabwe and Zambia in the future.
Right now, João said that he's focusing on his career rather than on his love life. "No, very single but definitely not available," João said when asked if he has started to date again. "With everything that's happened, I need some time, I need some space. If something came up, I'm not going to say no to something I believe in. I'm not going to say no to something I feel is right, but I'm gonna tread with caution this time and figure things out well in advance rather than try to figure things out as I go, sporadically and rambunctiously. Day-by-day is not exactly the way I want to be anymore."
João said he never intended to get into a relationship at the start of this season of Below Deck Med. As far as getting flirty with crew members in the future, he said, "anything can happen," but it'll never happen the way things unfolded with Brooke and Kasey this season. "I see the game that was played on my part, and I'll never do that again. I think it's very unfair of what I did, and I think it's extremely confusing for everyone," he said. "Not only does it alter people's moods, it alters their work ethic, and it alters things that shouldn't be a problem on the boat. Everything's really intense on a boat already, and I just added fuel to the fire, and I would never do that again."
Check out more from the Below Deck Med Season 3 reunion, below.