Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just a Little Prick: The Top Chef Vegas recap

At this point, it’s actually kind of sad to watch the systematic breakdown of Jennifer.

She went from bossy, supercilious, unstoppable—a glorious combination of Sue Sylvester from Glee and Anthony Bourdain—to, quite literally, a quivering mass of insecurities. Her hair is askew, her sweatshirt is zipped up protectively over her chin, her mind is probably racing with dark and destructive thoughts. It’s like some horrible social experiment gone awry.

So the show starts with Goofus sharpening his knives, which is not heavy-handed imagery at all. (I’m surprised Bravo didn’t photoshop a raging fire behind him.)

The Quickfire Challenge is to make a gourmet TV dinner inspired by famous TV shows. At least, I thought they were famous. (I mean, it’s not like they were being asked to make TV dinners for Cop Rock or Mama’s Family. We’re talking Seinfeld here.) But the Cheftestants are totally stumped.

Gallant’s idea of M*A*S*H cuisine is the oh-so-Korean chicken roulade (couldn’t he have thrown in a token kimchi just for appearance’s sake?).

Eli seems to have confused Gilligan’s Island with Fantasy Island and makes “cheesy resort food.”

Jennifer is disturbingly under the illusion that Bam-Bam is hot. (She must be referring to some sort of Joannie-Loves-Chachi-style Flintstones spin-off, because the Bam-Bam in the original is, like, 4.)

And Michael I, who got Seinfeld, feels that nothing says “neurotic New York Jew” quite like sausage and green peppers.

Anyway, Jen and Robin are in the bottom. Kevin and Gallant are in the top. And Kevin wins. (He made Sopranos-appropriate meatballs, for what it’s worth.)

The Elimination Challenge is to take over Tom Colicchio’s very own Craftsteak. But once they arrive at the restaurant, a very special guest arrives. It’s Natalie Portman! And guess what, kids? She’s a vegetarian. Surprise!

So, of course, there’s lots of kvetching about making a vegetarian meal and general mocking of vegetarians and Jennifer gets saddled with these sad, puny little eggplants and takes out her anger by viciously pulverizing her scallions, who never did anything to her.

After serving Natalie and her friends, Eli comes galumphing back into the kitchen and announces: “Natalie Portman has hot friends!” This is moral equivalent of having dinner with the Obamas, coming home, and saying, “The White House plumber is a surprisingly good conversationalist.” But that’s Eli for ya.

(And can we discuss Gail’s dress? It looked like she had a romaine salad stapled to her chest. Did she misunderstand when her doctor encouraged her to get more roughage in her life? )

Alright, I guess I’ve been avoiding it long enough. We have to talk about the longest, most awkward series of double-entrendres, triple entrendres, and quadruple entrendres I’ve ever witnessed.

In case you missed it, it went down like this:

Gallant brings out his dish of artichokes with garlic blossoms. Then his garlic blossoms are dissected:

Padma: I got a little prick on the end of my tongue.

Natalie Portman (giggling): Don’t say that!

Padma (always happy when she is the focus of dirty talk): It’s getting bigger in my mouth.

Natalie (chortling): That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Tom C (finally getting it): It went from a little prick to big in your mouth.

One of Natalie Portman’s “hot” friends (wanting some TV face time): That’s what usually happens.

Make it stop.

Goofus serves up some sort of asparagus salad and banana polenta that is very creative and compels one of Natalie Portman’s “hot” friends to say: “Michael is Picasso.”

(Somewhere, Ash is all, “I told you guys!”)

At the judging table, the Top 3 are Eli (ugh), Kevin (yawn), and Goofus.

Natalie Portman, who seems truly determined to show the world just how un-PC she is, says to Goofus: “Who’s your dealer and is he accepting new clients?”

They also say some nice things to Eli, but I have chosen to ignore those remarks.

Anyway, despite Goofus’ trippy genius, Kevin’s domination continues. His duo of mushrooms with turnip puree wins. He rules with meat. He rules without meat. He pretty much just rules. (Although, if you ask Goofus, Kevin made an amateur dish that Goofus himself could’ve made in 20 minutes flat with one hand tied behind his back. Will these people ever realize that sore loser is never going to be an attractive personality trait?)

The Bottom 3 are Robin, Michael I and Jennifer.

By now, it’s clear that one of two things needs to happen: Either Jennifer needs to be taken out of her misery or Robin needs to go home. (Even I, staunch defender of Robin, think she’s the weakest chef left.)

However, Michael doesn’t help himself when, in defending his undercooked turnips, uses two of the most douchetastic phrases known to man: “It is what it is” and “whatever.” (Had he thrown in a “big whoop” he would’ve completed the trifecta.)

As the judges deliberate, they discuss Jennifer’s mental fragility. “She really is losing it,” says Tom Colicchio. Cut to Jennifer in the holding room staring at a wall, laughing. It’s like the frickin Bell Jar in there.

But somehow, it is neither Jennifer nor Robin who gets the boot—it’s Michael!

Robin lives again! She’s either some kind of indestructible robot vampire chef, or she’s simply discovered a masterful secret to staying in the competition: Don’t suck the most. I mean, pitiful as she is, there’s always someone who sucks just a little harder. A valuable survival lesson for us all.


cjcat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cjcat said...

If you could fry up and serve ego on this show, both Mikes would be able to feed the Air Force and the Army for four or five months.

I've come to the conclusion that what we are seeing here is a battle between advanced fancy pants technique and soul. Goofus has technique - he attempts all that molecular gastronomy razzamatazz. Eli is a MG wannabe snob. Jen is a classic French chef. Each of them is more concerned with their technique than actually feeding people.

Kevin has technique and soul. He thinks out how to feed you instead of how to impress you with his artistry. Gallant was doing the same thing in the beginning but let himself get drawn into a show off battle with Goofus and now he's floundering a bit.

Robin has no technique but my god she has soul and grit. Imagine holding your own in a house full of people who are so disdainful to you, winding up on the bottom so much and to just keep hanging in there and trying your best. She may be annoying but she sure is ballsy. I think she may have a pretty good palate too.

All the eliminated chefs had deficiencies in one or the other, soul or technique. Mike I thought he was good enough to get away with a mistake and it was that lack of soul, an inability to stand outside of himself and empathize with others that finished him off. He'll never see that it was his own arrogance and not bad judging that made him fail.

So this is the drama we are watching, will the head or the heart win? Will Gallant find his inner Kevin and will Kevin be able to keep on track amid all the great looking plates that make him doubt himself? Will the hot shot Goofus fireworks on a plate prevail and in just what order will the lesser chefs fall away? I hope, just because of that stupid kick and glare of Eli’s, that Robin outlasts him. That would be just sweet desserts.

jess said...

kevin was my favorite from the start, but him winning all the time is getting pretty unexciting. i SO wish that michael volt wasn't so cocky, i would like him a lot more. and i have FAITH that jennifer will pull herself together next week. actually, i'm just a little scared to see what happens if she doesn't...

great recap, as always, even if our internet wasn't on your side!

Namrata said...

Did anyone notice that "Gallant's" piddly salad of garlic bulbs (otherwise known as little pricks) was faaaaar less substantial than jen's dish? It wasn't even large enough to be an appetizer, yet no mention was made of the quantity, especially considering our girl Jen was dinged for that very reason! I love Bryan n think he has a higher chance of winning than Jen does, but in the words of Chandler Bing, could it BE more obvious that they want to keep him safe so they can keep the voltaggio drama alive? I mean he still wouldn't have gone home over mr. "whatever whatever" buy come on, people, stop picking on Jen just because her shaky saucing ran up your laundry bill. Really hope she pulls it together coz I'd hate to see robin or Eli break up the fantastic four and get into the finale. Love your blogs as much as I love watching the show, Max!

Cliff O'Neill said...

Great cap, Max. And, yes, I'm sure Ash is relieved that someone else thought "Picasso" too!