Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Swiss Miss-take: The Bachelor recap

Get your shit together, ABC promo department! (Only photo available)

Bachelor Ben is deep in thought.
He’s got three lovely ladies, three tickets to paradise, but only two roses. It’s a painful situation for a man who is part player/part sensitive emo dude.

So we see Ben leaving the hotel, rolling his wheely luggage thoughtfully.
Then we see him alone on a plane, riding the friendly skies pensively.
Then we see him in Switzerland, sporting a vaguely Eurotrashy jacket, and wandering the cobblestone streets contemplatively.

“I’m starting to fall in love with all three of them,” Bens moans. Then he thinks, but doesn’t say: “But not really Nicki. Well, maybe Nicki—I mean, have you seen her badunkadunk? But probably not Nicki. . .”

First up: The aforementioned Nicki. The “dark horse,” Ben calls her. (Translation: Doesn’t stand a chance.)

In a shocking twist that is a complete 180 from the usual Mike Fleiss protocol, they go on a helicopter ride.

“My relationship with Nicki is getting to new heights,” Ben says. “But at the same time, it’s grounded.”
Then he adds: “She will propel me forward.”
“She’s one heli woman.”
“I’d like to ’copt-a-feel.”

The copter drops them off for a mountaintop picnic and I must say, the Alps are so gorgeous I’m beginning to wonder if the whole thing was filmed in front of a green screen in a studio in Burbank.

Then they go to a log cabin, which Nicki, like, just can’t get over.
“It’s literally a log cabin,” she says, as if they were walking into a house made of gingerbread, not wood.

Nicki starts talking about moving to San Francisco and making babies with Ben and then she says, “Just tell me if this is too much, too soon.”
“You already dropped the L-bomb,” Ben shrugs. (Note to would be lovers of the world: When the object of your affections refers to your heartfelt and emotional declaration of love “as “dropping the L-bomb” that’s rarely a good sign.)

It’s time for the first Pimp Card from Chris Harrison of the night.
Now, the bachelorettes are all undoubtedly instructed to look surprised by the offer to spend the night in the fantasy suite, but Nicki looks genuinely surprised. Maybe she forgot.
Anyway, hells yeah. She’s all for it.

Cut to the night’s first hot and heavy makeout sesh in the hot tub. But not the last. Ooooh no, not the last.

Next date: Lindzzzzi.
In keeping with this season’s “If One of Our Bachelorettes Died, We Would Totally Win the 8 PM Slot” theme, they go repelling off a cliff and into a gorge.

“In a relationship, you’ve got to be there for each other. Just like repelling off a cliff,” says Lindz.
“And might I say, you look gorge-ous,” says Ben.  (Not really.)

So they repel down the cliff, but they obviously don’t repel each other because cut to Ben and Lindz wrapped around each other in a hot tub. Yowsa that was fast. Please tell me this is a DIFFERENT hot tub from last night. (Or at the very least, please tell me they drained the water.)

“I love this woman,” Ben says. Oooh, interesting.

Then Ben and Lindzi have Ben’s favorite kind of conversation. It goes exactly like this. Every. Single. Time.

Ben: You’ve been opening up to me and I like what I see.
Lindz: I just feel like I can be vulnerable with you.
Ben: I love that you feel you can be vulnerable with me.
Lindz: I love that you love that I feel I can be vulnerable with you.
Aaaaand repeat.

Lindz tells Ben she’s falling in love with him. He grins like a school boy.
Then he’s honored that she accepts his invite to the fantasy suite.
Explains Lindz: “When you get to the point where you care so much about someone, you might as well bone them just put it all out there.”

Now, it’s Crazy Courtney time!

“I’ve had a really great week, but now it’s all about Courtney,” Ben says. (I’m sure he didn’t mean that the way it came out.)
“What continues to worry me is how she’s treated the other women,” he says.
Ya think?

   His date with Courtney involves visiting the quaint town of Wengen.
Somewhere, Lindzzzi is all: “I repelled down a fuckin’ cliff and she’s taking train rides and going on a picnic? Screw you, Fleiss.”

So Ben and Courtney discuss her tension with the ladies in the house and Courtney takes the blame and acknowledges her wrongdoing and shows seemingly genuine remorse and is basically not acting like Courtney at all.
And I feel for Ben because I know she’s full of shit, and even I’m half buying it. Poor sap doesn’t stand a chance.

“All of my concerns were laid to rest,” Ben says.
Heh-heh,  he said “laid.”

    Off to hot tub #3.
“This is hand’s down the smallest hot tub I’ve ever been in my life and I’m not complaining,” says Ben. (Oh Ben, you adorable man-whore, you.)
Do I even need to confirm that Courtney says yes to the fantasy suite? (She would say yes to a fantasy gas station restroom.)

One more thought: When Ben and Courtney get together? Their California upspeak? Drives me insane?(Just me?)

At this point, there’s so little mystery as to who Ben is going to pick, the show has to manufacture some. So they trot out poor, vulnerable, immature Kacie.
Shame on you, show.
I mean, surely they recruited her, right? Surely they said: You need answers, dammit! You deserve answers! And maybe, just maybe, once he sees you, Ben will see the error of his ways.
(Considering that the conversation ends with Kacie splayed out on the hotel hall floor in some sort of temporary paralysis brought on by despair, it’s safe to say she didn’t get the answers she was hoping for.) (To recap: he dumped her all over again and on her way out, she told him that Courtney is a skank.)

Now, Ben has more deep thinkin’ to do.
He stares out the hotel window solemnly.

Chris Harrison shows up.

“I’m just not sure what the hell’s going on anymore, buddy,” Ben says.
“Do you want Kacie in the rose ceremony?” says Chris. (Awww, Chris is so on Team Kacie.)
“No buddy,” Ben says, furrowing his brow.

Then Chris leaves Ben alone to stare thoughtfully at the photos of the final three ladies, as if he’s hoping they might come to life, Hogwarts style and tell him what to do. They don’t.

Rose ceremony.

“My heart is beating out of my chest,” Ben says to the bachelorettes. “Again. I can’t thank the three of you enough for continuing to trust in me and believe in me and have sex with me.”

He wields the first rose.

Then, he takes the second rose. Stands there sadly, dramatically, pretending to be torn.
“Courtney,” he finally intones.

Lindzzz hugs Nicki and then Courtney awkwardly bro-hugs Nicki, to show Ben how loving and supportive she can be to other women.

Ben walks Nicki to the limo.
“I’ve enjoyed every single moment I’ve spent with you,” he says earnestly. “I had a pit in my stomach coming out to this rose ceremony. I cried a little bit today, I’m not going to lie. I don’t know what else to say. You deserve . . . everything.

Awww. If you must get broken up with on national TV, at least let it be with Bachelor Ben.

So next week, reunion show: Boo!
But the week after that: The most controversial finale ever, says Chris Harrison.
What?!? Most controversial? That means he picks Courtney, right? Because, what’s the controversy in picking Lindzzzz?

Oh dear God, no. I need a moment.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dude, that's cold! The Top Chef Texas recap

I’m not saying that the final 3 are a little dull, I’m just saying that they showed them playing a word association game in the car ride to Vancouver. (And did anyone catch the rules to this game? Steven Seagal leads to Sammy Hagar which leads to Q-Tip which leads to Barbara Bush? Was it the “washed up celebrities of the 80s” name game? Or perhaps just the “blurt out any celebrity’s name you can think of” game?)

Anyway, they go to a kitchen in Chinatown and there are three master chefs—Takashi Yagihashi, Floyd Cardoz, and my girl Anita Lo (love her for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on—she has what can best be described as an endearing logyness.)

Sarah is tearing up because apparently whenever she is encountered with master chefs, she gets weepy (also, she and Takashi are bowling buddies, or somethin).

Paul is feeling what I like to call the “Reverse Lin”—namely, there’s an extra expectation that he'll do well in this challenge because he’s Asian.

They’ll be making a tag-team dish in 40 minutes, with no communication between partners.

They draw knives:
Anita is teamed with Lindsay
Paul is teamed with Takashi
Sarah is teamed with Floyd

And away they go.
I actually love a challenge like this, precisely because of the lack of communication. The masters simply have to prep and leave some clues and hope for best. (Now if I was playing, my “clue” would be a napkin with the words “I’m making scallops 3 ways” written on it, but that’s just me.)

In the end, Sarah and Floyd achieve a perfect mind meld on their seared cod with coconut curry and win.

“I’ve won $30,000 in Canada alone,” says Sarah. “I won nothing in Texas.”

In sports we call this “peaking at the right time.” (Worked out pretty well for a little team I like to call the New York Football Giants

Padma now lays out the rules for the Elimination challenge:
They will be serving at a Fire and Ice cocktail party, where they have to make one dish and one cocktail.

“Your dish must contain both a hot and cold element,” Padma says.

“That is so wide open to interpretation,” Lindsay reports.
(Actually, Lindz, “a hot and a cold element” seems pretty narrowly open to interpretation to me.)

At Whole Foods, Paul orders 1,000 grams of King Crab and I’m thinking, get a hold of yourself man, you’re going to need some sort of giant truck to carry that much—but then I remember that 1,000 grams = about 2 pounds. #Metricsarehard

Paul and Sarah both have very high concepts, involving melting mousse and snow foam but Lindsay thinks they’re being too “gimmicky.” Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, she’s making halibut, because one of the burning questions of this season is: Can Lindsay make halibut or what? (Sadly, that’s not an exaggeration. That actually is one of the burning questions this season. Especially now that Malibu Chris and his magically shape-shifting sexuality is gone.)

Tom comes into the kitchen to check on their progress and proceeds to really mess with Paul’s head.

“What happened in the last Quickfire?” he asks. “Did the pressure get to you? Don’t you know that you’re Asian!” (Okay, he didn’t really ask that last part.)

But Paul, in classic Paul fashion, keeps his cool: “These two ladies are bad ass,” he says.

“So they just made better dishes than you?” Tom asks. (Dude, lay off.)

“Yeah,” says Paul. He is unflappable Tom. Stop trying to flap him.

It’s service time.
“I wish I had another hour,” sighs Paul. But when the curtain rises, the curtain rises.

As the judges wait for their food, they bemoan the fact that someone is going to have to go home.

“There’s no Last Last Chance Kitchen,” says Tom.
“Bev’s coming back!” cracks Padma.
“She’s actually under the table right now,” says Emeril. Hey, an actual joke. By Emeril Lagasse. On purpose. Welcome to Season 9, Emeril!

Paul’s up first with his king crab with sunchoke chips and lobster broth, plus the “Pan Am” cocktail (kaffir lime, Thai chilies, rum—followed by a quickie in the airport bathroom).

Everyone likes the dish a lot, but they wish Paul’s Pan Am had more kick. (Ironic, since they were blasting his Quickfire dish for being too hot. Dude can’t win.)

Tom becomes enraged by Paul’s arugula, which he has basically used as a garnish. Tom is apparently a member of the lesser known PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arugula.) He is not a happy camper.

Next up, Sarah’s five greens-filled pasta with garlic and chili spiced sformato (mousse) and “Agrumi” cocktail (gin, kumquat and mango).
The pasta is delicioso, but the mousse got overly frozen on her fancy freezing plate and isn’t quite creating the melting sauce effect she was hoping for.
Still, high marks for degree of difficulty and flavor.

Suddenly, Lindsay begins to second guess her second guessing. Maybe she should add a more gimmicky element to her dish. So, at the last minute, she adds a spoonful of tomato ice to her halibut with fiery celery root salad and roasted tomato with an ‘Encendido” (vodka, tomato, and horseradish).
And it’s a good thing, too.

“I’ve never eaten a piece of ice so well seasoned,” says Gail, of Lindsay’s ice spoon.

Also, for the record, the halibut is perfectly cooked. Can we all just finally move on with our lives?!?

Then the judges deliberate.
It gets a little contentious, especially this exchange about Lindsay, between Gail and Tom.
“I didn’t think she made any mistakes,” says Gail.
“The drink was a mistake,” says Tom.
“But it definitely went with the food,” says Gail.
(Okay, so not exactly contentious, but that qualifies as high drama on this particular episode.)

The cheftestants are called back in.
“Sarah,” says Padma, pausing for effect and making a sad face. “You are moving on to the finale!” (Oh, the patented Padma fakeout. When. Will. I. Learn?)

Once Sarah retrieves her heart from her mouth, she’s able to celebrate in the holding room.

Sort of strange order for the show, huh?
Arugula abuse notwithstanding, Paul was pretty much a foregone conclusion, so the suspense between Lindsay and Paul isn’t that extreme.
(I guess they thought the original Sarah fakeout was more compelling than a Sarah v. Lindsay final two.)

Anyway, yeah, Lindsay is going home.
A shame because her womance with Sarah was a lovely thing to behold.

But it seems fitting that in a season more defined by its constantly self-mythologizing homebase state than anything else, we’d have two Texans as the final two.

Saddle up. Giddy-up. Hook em horns. Etc. etc. etc. . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bride Goeth Before the Fall: The Bachelor recap

I now pronounce you Dumb and Dumber

So here’s a thought: If you are emotionally fragile or have been appallingly unlucky in love (or better still, if you are emotionally fragile and have been appallingly unlucky in love), a great place for you is a reality TV dating show!

Because no one is ever hurt on those things and the chances of you driving home in a limo with a camera trained on you as you curse the heavens and ugly cry is, like, totally nil.

I mean, is it just me or are these Bachelorettes a little more basket-case-y than even the usual crop of reality TV love-seekers? We have Nicki who sees herself as a modern-day Hester Prynne (she’s a—shhhhh—divorcee, you know) and Courtney who hurls herself at men willy-nilly and then is shocked, shocked, shocked when they don’t respect her in the morning, and adorable Kacie who used to have a little illness I like to call body dysmorphia, and finally Lindzii who was not so much dumped as punk’d by her last boyfriend.
Stability, thy name is the Final Four.

Okay, hometown visits here we come. (Needless to say, they’re going to save Courtney for last, because we’re all dying to see what she is the spawn of. I, for one, am basically expecting her mom to be Madeleine Stowe from Revenge.)

We start with Lindzzzi. 

Generic photo because show promo department couldn't be bothered getting screen shot from her date

Here are my thoughts on Lindzzzi. She may love Ben, but she will never love Ben as much as she loves those damn horses. No, not in a creepy Equus sort of way (I hope), just in a “I’m naked without a horse between my legs” sort of way. (Uh. . .)

“Horses have been my life since before I was born. I rode before I walked,” says Lindzzi, who clearly needs a refresher course on the human reproduction timeline.

So how is this horse situation going to work out on a vineyard in San Francisco? How I ask you?

Ben meets Lindzzi’s parents and is surprised to discover that they got married in the exact same San Francisco City Hall where he and Lindzii had their first date. What’s odd is that Lindzzi also seems surprised by the news. Are these even her real parents? Did she hire a couple of actors to play her parents? I am now officially suspicious.

Then Lindzzi’s “dad” challenges Ben to some sort of medieval initiation ritual—a chariot race. (No, really.)
And Ben loses so he and Lindzzi have to drag her parents home like two-legged work horses, as Lindzzi’s “dad” whips their backs and yells, “Faster, swines! Faster!” (Okay, not really on that last part. But they really did have to drag them home.)

In the end, everyone likes everyone at this little family get-together and Lindzzi’s “dad” even says, “I would  be honored to have you as a son-in-law. . .if this were actually my daughter, that is. . . .”

Next up:

I get a kick out of romance

Oh, poor sweet, plucky, deluded Kacie, who stages her own little teenage dream on her high school’s football field.
Because what’s sexier to a grown man than a drum majorette?

Ben has to look dutifully heartwarmed as she leads a marching band down the field, twirling her baton with glee. She ends with a spazzy little cartwheely flourish and then she and Ben have a serious convo about what to expect with her parents.
Bad piece of news #1: Dad is a federal probation officer.
Bad piece of news #2: Who doesn’t drink.
Ben’s internal monologue: I should’ve kept Emily.

“Anything else you want to tell me about him?” Ben asks tremulously.
“Well, he killed a man once,” Kacie says. (Psych!)

Basically, it’s amazing Kacie’s parents ever let her leave the house, let alone go on a reality TV dating show.
They’re very, very protective of their little girl. Like, chastity belt protective.

Next, Ben and Kacie’s dad have what might very well be the most awkward conversation in the history of conversations (and I’m including the time my mom asked me what kind of birth control I was using my sophomore year of college).

In short, Kacie’s dad is all like: Do not have sex with our baby. It will not end well.
And Ben is all like: Gulp.

As for Kacie’s mom. If she was trying to intentionally sabotage her little girls chances—not that I would ever suggest such a thing—she could not have done a better job.

“I have a serious problem with her moving to California,” mom says, adding. “And I would be a little disappointed if you two chose to live together before getting married.”

Kacie’s parents aren’t so much deal breakers and deal annihilators.

So, with that, the only mystery remaining in this episode is: What will Courtney’s parents look like? But first, Nicki, in Fort Worth, Texas.  (I’m pretty sure that was Texas, right? It was hard to tell because there weren’t enough Texas stereotypes on display for me to be sure.)

Wait? What state are we in again?

So Ben and Nicki go to a cowboy outfitter and buy boots and  hats.
(I’m assuming that the show is reimbursing Ben for this little shopping spree, otherwise I’d advise him against it: Never buy a turquoise belt buckle in Santa Fe, a cape at the Renaissance Festival or a pair of $500 cowboy boots in Texas. You will come home, come to your senses, and they will collect dust in your closet.)

“Finding the right boot is very similar to finding the right partner in life,” Nicki says. “You have to get just the right fit.” (Aaaand we are 51 minutes in before our first tortured metaphor people! A season record?)

Off to meet the parents. And you will never guess what fresh scandal I am about to expose: Nicki’s parents are—wait for it—divorced!!!!
Oh, the shame. The shondah! How did this depraved family get past the network TV censors?!?

Dad pulls Nicki aside. You see, he wants to apologize to her. He feels he too readily gave her hand in marriage the first time and he won’t make that mistake again.
(Um, I know Texas is a little conservative, but good lord, what year is this?)
“Oh, don’t blame yourself, Dad,” Nicki says. And they hug. Somewhere, Rick Santorum is tearing up.

But good news, people! Nicki’s parents like the cut of Ben’s jib.
“If we don’t see you again, I won’t be mad at you. I’ll just be disappointed,” says her dad in a toast to Ben. (Aww, that’s actually kind of sweet.)

Crazy Town, Arizona here we come!
(I love how they dispensed with the first three girls in a little over an hour and devote the entire second half of the show to Courtney. They know which side their bread is buttered on.)

In a voiceover, Courtney has a rare moment of reflection.
“I feel disappointed in myself for treating the girls the way I did,” she says. (Really? Hello, complete personality transformation! Some PR person has clearly gotten to her.)

So we meet her family. As usual, there is a less pretty sister. (Why is there always a less pretty sister? It’s practically axiomatic at this point.)
Also, Courtney’s mom seems pretty intense, but is not quite the bitch goddess I was expecting her to be.

As for Courtney’s dad, it was hard to see past his blinding argyle sweater vest.

Courtney proceeds to talk about Ben like he’s not at the table: “He’s amazing. I’m excited for you guys to meet him. I like him a lot. He’s so smart and funny. I dig him. I feel like I’m falling for him.”
Meanwhile, Ben is waving his hands in front of her face: “I’m RIGHT HERE!”

“Have you fallen or are you falling?” asks her sister. (Translation: Because I will so take your sloppy seconds.)

“I like him/love him,” Courtney says.

As for Courtney’s mom, she says this: “Ben seems like a very polite young man.”
(Translation: He’s not hot enough for my daughter).

Ben and Vesty McVesterson have a talk in the rain. At least, I think it’s raining. I see rain drops but neither of them are getting wet. (I know it’s a dry heat in Arizona but I didn’t realize that rain actually evaporated before hitting the ground. Where’s the super smart Emily to explain all this hard sciencey stuff when you need her?)

OMG, I just noticed that Ben is wearing the cowboy boots he bought on his hometown visit to Nicki. Party foul!! Party foul!  (But is it a . . . sign?)

The weird thing about the visit to Courtney’s family is that she almost seemed—dare I say it—normal in their presence. Luckily, the second half of the date is about to happen!

Follow me to Crazy Town: Population 2

So Courtney takes Ben to the spot where she’s always wanted to skinny dip get married.
The only date I can think of worse than “drum majorette on a high school football field” is “faux wedding ceremony.”

At least I think it’s a faux wedding ceremony.
The aisle is set up, there are chairs, an alter. Courtney slaps a jaunty little makeshift bowtie on Ben. And a man standing there who may or may not be a minister!
Holy matrimony!
Ben, for his part, handles it well. He even writes some super sensitive Ben vows at Courtney’s request.

“I’m getting a little nervous,” he admits.
But not so nervous that he doesn’t actually play along.
Ben reads his rather eloquent vows. Courtney burps out hers.
They exchange rings.
So wait. . .are they. . .married now? WTF?
“If this were a real wedding I’d now be pronouncing you man and wife,” the not!minister says.
Whew! They must’ve gotten him from the same casting agency where they got Lindzzi’s “father.” (For all your Father-y casting needs)

“We are not Mr. and Mrs. Flajnik yet, but it feels pretty good to try it on for size,” Courtney purrs.
Alrighty then.

And now they’re back in LA.
True recapper confession: I fast forwarded over the part where Ben recounts the last 1:45 minutes of the show with Chris Harrison. Couldn’t they have had this conversation off camera? #Filler

Rose ceremony time. Here’s the order:

1. “Courtney, will you accept this rose?”
“I do” (I see what you did there.)

2. Lindzzzi

And now it’s down to Nicki vs. Kacie.

3. And. . .Nicki gets the third rose.

Nicki and Lindzzzi hug Kacie. Courtney lurches awkwardly, but doesn’t go for the hug.
Kacie holds it together manfully until she gets to the limo and basically turns into Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
The less said about this the better.

Next week, all your Bachelor tropes are trotted out: An Alpine adventure! Ben and Courtney in a hot tub! An unexpected visitor to shake things up!

The pleasure of your presence is requested. . .

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Padma's Gotta Gun: The Top Chef Texas recap

Pick me!

They’ve gone through over two months of grueling competition, they’ve cooked their asses off, prepared everything from pork ribs to foie gras, and, one by one, they’ve defeated their culinary foes. So what’s the best way to choose our Top Chef finalists? Cross country skiing and target shooting, of course!
Shoot me now. (But not literally.)
Look, I’m not the first to say that this season of Top Chef has kind of lost its way. But here’s some unsolicited advice to Padma and friends going forward: Less forced product placement, less gimmicks, less challenges that have more to do with physical prowess than culinary skills, and get back to basics. There’s no shame in recycling some of the old Quickfires (I, for one, miss the blindfolded taste test), especially when the ones you come up with involve moving gondolas and blocks of ice.

So yeah, we’re in British Columbia now, for reasons not quite made clear.
Some time has passed, all the contestants have grown their hair—as they do.
Paul has packed on a few pounds, but still looks cute. And with his bratty school boy haircut, he looks a bit like the Asian Chuck Bass.
(However, the less said about his neon orange pants and matching suspenders, the better.)

They all greet each other warmly, but Sarah and Lindsay are cool to Bev.

“Paul, Sarah, and I have a bond,” explains Lindsay. “We’ve been through this since day one. It’s a little weird seeing Beverly show up.”

Yes, because she missed two whole episodes.

As the cheftestants drive to their challenge destination, Paul asks Bev about Last Chance Kitchen.
“Oh, it was pretty awesome!” gushes Bev, so glad that someone finally bothered to ask. “I.  .  .”
Look at that tree!” blurts out Sarah, in what is quite possibly the least artful sabotage of a conversation I’ve ever seen.
Beverly rolls  her eyes and simmers quietly, Beverly-style.

(By the way, did anyone catch Bev get the honey badger treatment on Watch What Happens Live last night? So good.) (And snazzy jacket there, Bev.)

They go to the top of a mountain, where Padma and Tom are about to be blown out of the frame, like this guy from the Weather Channel. 

So apparently, this was the same mountain where the Winter Games took place and we’ve got a completely reasonable Olympic theme to tonight’s show. Because the Winter Games are coming . . . in February 2014.

“Welcome to the Culinary Games!” says Padma, living out her Suzy Chapstick fantasy.

There will be three events. Each event offers a prize of $10,000 and a trip to the finale.

For the first event, the cheftestants have to prepare a dish on a moving gondola.

Here are a few things that might stand in the way of them making an ideal dish:
It’s cold as shit.
Paul gets motion sickness.
Food defrosts slower in the cold.
Water boils faster at high altitudes.
The gondola is moving.
“It’s very nauseous in here”-Sarah.

But besides that, it’s all about the food.

Guest judge is noted foodie and Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. (I wonder if her fans are called Beleilers, Justin Bieber style. . .)
In the end, miraculously, the judges like all four dishes, but they are partial to Beverly’s clever salmon tartare and Lindsay’s salmon and chorizo.
And Lindsay wins! She’s our first finalist.

After, Sarah assesses Beverly with a series of baffling animal metaphors: “She is that silent horse. She likes to be meek and timid and then she likes to attack like a tiger.”(Why does everyone feel compelled to compare Bev to a woodland creature? Discuss among yourselves.)

Round two, where food is packed into enormous ice blocks. So they have to get to their food, thaw it, and then prepare it.
They are given ice picks, and all start hacking away like Jason in Friday the Thirteenth, if Jason had a culinary degree and an impudent way with a buerre blanc.
The ice picking—and all the Olympic-style competition for that matter—brings out the crazed, Honey Badger side of Beverly. She looks positively demented.
But of course, she’s not that strong. And neither is Sarah, who’s clearly not the jock of the bunch. They start whacking at their ice blocks with frying pans. It’s not a pretty sight. (It's like the Pine Barrens episode of The Sopranos, for those who get the reference.)
Paul releases his ingredients first. And even he knows how idiotic and irrelevant to cooking this exercise is. So he helps Sarah and Bev break their ice blocks, too. (Love. Him.)

In the end, it all works out for the best.
Paul wins this round with his King crab and mango chivalry (I mean, uh, chutney).

So, as it must be, I suppose, it’s down to Sarah vs. Beverly.

They meet Padma at the top of another mountain.
“Oh my God, she has a gun,” Sarah says when she sees Padma. (I had a nightmare like this once—except it was both Heidi Klum and Padma with guns and for some reason I was dressed in bearskins).

“This is your last shot to move into the final three,” says Padma. (Anyone who reads my The Bachelor recaps knows that my intolerance for bad puns is at Defcon 1 at this point. So Padma is treading on thin ice.) (Ohmygod, it’s contagious.)

This final challenge is the culinary biathlon where you have to cross country ski and then shoot for your ingredients.
(I’m pretty sure Chef Ripert also had to do this before he opened Le Bernardin.)

Bev has never cross country skied or used a gun in her life.
Sarah, however, used to shoot tin cans in the woods with her pappy. (Is that a real thing? My hand to God, I thought it was just something fake rednecks did in movies.) #EastCoastgirl

Advantage Sarah?
You might think so, but then you’d be underestimating the Honey Badger.
Beverly gets on those skis, and with a Bev look of Bev determination that only Bev can muster, Bevs her way around the course.
There’s a moment where Sarah wipes out on Beverly’s skis—and of course, Sarah seethes at Beverly, as though she did it on purpose. (Beverly can barely ski in a straight line, but she has the diabolical know-how to use her skis as a weapon? I think not.)
Eventually, they both make it to the end of course and start shooting for their ingredients.
Bev proves to be a halfway decent shot, at least as good as Sarah.
They both get the ingredients they want, so we are finally done with this nonsense.

The judges like Beverly’s arctic char with celery root, beets, and black truffles and are impressed that she got out of her Asian comfort zone to produce something earthy and rootsy.
Quibble: Her fish is slightly overcooked and the whole dish was not quite seasoned enough.

They also like Sarah’s rabbit with black cherries and hazelnuts. It’s a very flavorful and well thought out dish.
Quibble: Rabbit a little tough.

“You made two very good dishes,” says Tom. “You’re not making it easy on us. So thank you.”

Padma breaks the news: “Beverly, please pack your knives and go.”

What follows is a show of hypocrisy that “is very nauseous,” as Sarah might say.
All of a sudden, everyone is hugging Beverly and loving her spunk and telling her how awesome she is. It’s a freakin’ lovefest.
“You kicked ass,” says Paul.
“You kicked hardcore ass,” says Lindsay.
“I’m so glad we got to cook together. You’re amazing,” says Sarah, hugging Bev. (Aaaaand I just threw up a little in my mouth.)

And then Bev pulls out her trusty ice pick and stabs them all repeatedly in the eye.

The End

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The United States of Courtney: The Bachelor recap

Striped Ass

I’ve decided that Courtney has essentially four personality modes:
1. Vixen-like seductress
2. Mean-girl-style psychological terrorist
3. Creepy, self-fondling baby  talker
4. Crying basketcase.

Blend, serve, and you’ve got the cocktail that is Courtney. Needless to say, all four sides of Courtney emerged at various points throughout last night’s show. Hooray!

So this week, they're in Belize.

“The house is beautiful,” says Emily. “Too bad and  I’m sharing it with four women and a shark.”
(Just for the record, later in the show, Courtney will also be compared to a black widow, and during the show’s final credits, she will be seen stroking a tarantula. True story.)

The first date card arrives. It’s for Lindzzzi—my pick to win the whole shebang.
“Two Halves Make a Whole” the card reads. (Or did it actually say “Two Halves Make a Hole”? This would’ve been that rare case where one of the show’s horrible puns might’ve made sense—since they were actually jumping into a hole—but I think they blew it.)

Ben comes over and for some reason, he’s dressed like a 4-year-old mime in this precious Garanimals-style cotton striped tanktop.
Nonetheless, Emily compares him to a giant slice of cheesecake that  has been taken away from her (no, it didn’t make any more sense when she said it, either.)

The Bachelor producers must have some iron-clad insurance policies, because this week, Ben and Lindzzi are jumping out of a helicopter and into the Blue Hole. (Next week: Ben and the girls play a sexy game of Russian Roulette! “If we can survive a potentially fatal gun shot wound to the head, we can survive anything!” Ben enthuses.)

Of course, Lindzz is afraid of heights.
They kiss.
“A kiss before dying,” Ben cracks. (He’s kidding, right? Right?) And they jump.
Aaaand cue the longest metaphor session yet. (The only thing Ben likes more than a long makeout session is a long metaphor session.)

“I literally fell for Ben,” says Lindzzi.
“We really took a leap today,” says Ben.
“It’s truly like falling in love,” Ben says.
Make. It. Stop.

Afterward, they walk along the pier, where some candles and cushions and wine is set up.
“Oh, is this us?” asks Lindzzzzi.
No, it’s for the other reality show contestants that will be along in a few minutes.

There’s this whole nonsense with sending a message in a bottle—barf—and Lindzzi and Ben write the fairytale story of their love.
Lots of nuzzling and snuggling. And all I can say is, it’s a good thing Ben wore dark colors cause otherwise Lindzzzi’s self-tanner might stain his shirt.
“I can really see myself with Lindzzzi,” Ben says. (A clue? Naaaa. As we’ll soon find out, Ben is a commitment slut.)

Enough of that. Let’s check in on the house, shall we?
They’re all waiting around for the date card—aaaaand it goes to Emily.
“Do you Belize in love?” the card reads.

“Emily gets a one on one date with Ben and I want to kill myself,” says Courtney. (Oh Courtney, don’t make promises you can’t keep.) She is about to enter to a long period of Crying Basketcase Mode.

Emily’s date, miraculously, doesn’t involve anything too dangerous.
They bike around the village, buy some coconuts, and go diving for lobsters.

“I feel like I’m on vacation with my boyfriend,” says Emily. “If only my boyfriend didn’t have 5 other girlfriends, this would be a perfect day.”

They dance, they snog, they seem to have a nice time.

“I could see myself with her,” Ben says. See?

At home, Courtney is sitting on the couch in a fetal position.
“I just don’t know how much more of this I can take,” she says pathetically.

The date card comes:
Courtney, Let’s Take the Next Step in Our Relationship.

And it’s amazing to watch Courtney’s transformation. Her entire physical bearing changes,  like a crying basketcase caterpillar morphing into a beautiful psychological terrorist butterfly.

“Gimme my date card! Woohoo! He’s a smart boy, he listens,” she says, all filled with sass and gumption.

“It took every fiber in my being not to leap across the room and punch her in the face,” says Kacie. (And again with the promises these girls aren’t keeping.)
Then she makes the black widow metaphor. “This is what I want to do to her,” she says. And smacks her hands together. Bam! Courtney, the black widow, would be dead in this scenario, get it? Cause she crushed her. Like a bug.

 Courtney skips off to her date. “Bye! I can’t stand you all!” she trills under her breath as she leaves.

Ben is excited to see her: “When I look at Courtney, I think big picture.” (When Ben looks at small kitchen appliances he thinks big picture.)

But Courtney will have none of this lovey-dovey stuff. She has a few things she wants to get off her chest. It’s hard to remember exactly what she said, but it went a little something like this:
“Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, and while we’re on the subject, me!
Ben nods in agreement.
“I lost the spark,” says Courtney. Because you haven’t been paying enough attention to me!
He won’t make that mistake again. He assures her that he’s all-Courtney-all-the-time from now on.
Satisfied, they climb the stairs to the top of an ancient temple.

Another metaphor orgy:
“Each step is like a step in our relationship.”
“Let’s climb this together.”
“With each step, I left the hurt and drama behind.”
“Step off, bitch.” (Whoops. Unfortunately, Ben didn’t actually say that last one.)

“I see my life with this woman,” Ben says, as they reach the summit. Oh, Ben. . .

Cut to a Courtney confessional.
“I’m high on love right now,” she crows. “Snap, girls! The show’s over. You can pack your bags.”
And then—my hand to God—she does this fake hand pistol thing, complete with shooting sound effects, and shouts,  “Kill shot!”
(That actually happened, right? It wasn’t just some fever dream I had last night.)

At dinner that night, Courtney raises more red flags than a NASCAR ref. But the penis wants what the penis wants, as a poet once said. So Ben ignores all of them, even when she tells him that she has no female friends. (Always a good sign.)

Group date. There is one rose up for grabs.
“Let’s Sea Whose Family I Will Meet”- the card reads.

Ben has a surprise for the girls. It’s called breaking and entering. He sneaks into the house at 4 am—dude is lucky he didn’t get tasered or pepper-sprayed or something—today wearing the striped hoodie version of the striped tank top he was wearing earlier. (In case he gets arrested for this B&E, he’ll already have the prison uniform covered.)

The girls don’t look their freshest first thing in the morning. Lindzzi has a giant glob of pimple cream on her cheek (sorry, Lindzzi. But if I saw it, Ben saw it.). Another girl hides under the covers.
There is a frenzied, mass shaving of the legs and armpits in the bathroom.

And, in case, you thought Ben’s last two reasonable dates—bike riding and sightseeing—meant a return to sanity, guess again. The gang will be swimming with sharks. (Not metaphorical sharks, actual sharks.)

“If the shark gets a little too close, punch them in the nose,” Ben says. No, you first.

Rachel, of course, has selachophobia (fear of sharks). She also has This-is-a-Great-Way-to-Get-Ben-to-Myself-itis. Her strategy works like a  charm. Ben is totally in heroic boyfriend mode, holding her hand as she jumps and swims.

“We see sharks and stingrays,” says Kacie. “Actually none of that scares me. I’m more scared of the way that Rachel is monopolizing Ben.” (Heh.)

As for Ben. He has the following thoughts: “A relationship is all about”—say it with him, people—“diving in head first.”
And. . .scene.

Party time. Both Kacie and Nicki pull Ben aside and tell him that they’re falling in love with him.
But Kacie gets the all-important rose.

Back at the house, Psychological Terrorist Courtney is having fun with the remaining girls: “Ben must be really exhausted,” she says. “We were out really late last night.” (And I just noticed that the lovely graphic pattern on her scarf is made of skulls! Of course it is.)

On the group date, Kacie, Rachel, and Nicki have decided to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Ben about Courtney.

“We want you to be happy,” says Nicki. “We wouldn’t want you to be fooled.”
“Tell me more,” Ben says.
“WewantyoutobecarefulwithCourtney!” Nicki blurts out. (By the way, for some reason spellcheck didn’t recognize that phrase. However, if this Bachelor season were to go on for a few more months, I’m pretty sure it would.)
So the black widow’s out of the bag.
“You mean, it wasn’t just a personal thing between Courtney and Emily?” says Ben. And I repeat: Oh, Ben.

Rose ceremony time.
All the girls are pretty nervous and talking about their feelings. Not Courtney. She’s baby talking to her umbrella in her pina colada.

No cocktail party, announces Chris Harrison. We’re going straight to the Big Tally board!

Ben stands tremulously before them.
But before he starts, he wants a word with Courtney.
“Do you think he pulled her aside because she is or isn’t getting a rose?” Rachel asks.
“50/50,” Nicki responds helpfully.

So Ben needs assurances from Courtney that she’s here for the right reasons. She promises she is. Well, that’s good enough for Ben’s penis! Case closed!

Back to the most dramatic rose ceremony evah.
He calls them out:
Nicki. (Didn’t see her getting the first one. Huh.)
Then Lindzzz.
Now he’s got three girls—Courtney, Rachel, and Emily—and one rose.

“Goodbye Courtney. It’s been very nice knowing you and my condolences to whichever man you end up with,” Emily says in an interview.

Ben plucks the rose from its silver platter, stares pensively, trying really hard to pretend that his penis isn’t doing all the thinking for him.

“Courtney,” he says dramatically.

Rachel, it turns out, sounds like Cher with a mouthful of marbles when she cries. “I fweel wejected,” she says. That’s because you. . .well, nevermind.

As for Emily, it’s all about Courtney, til the bitter end.

“I just hope that there’s enough time left for Ben to see who she really is,” she says.

Emily, love ya, girl. But as you go forward in this life, worry a little less about the sharks under the surface and more about the big catch on the boat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jaw Walking: The Top Chef Texas recap

The more I thought about it, the more I knew that Bev was going to walk through that door.
I mean, Top Chef is a TV show, after all—and where’s the drama in Grayson being a finalist? For one thing we already know she’s good, but slightly less good than Sarah, Paul, Edward, and Lindsay. Second of all, everybody loves her. How dull.
So yeah, door opens and in marches Bev, smiling that spunky, indefatigable Bev smile, which, as always, lives at the corner of Adorable Ingénue Road and Will Murder You In Your Sleep Boulevard.
Her arrival is greeted with funereal silence.
In fact, let’s just call this whole episode what it is: Awkward Interactions With Beverly.
“I am not happy to see Bev,” says Sarah.
“We were all excited because we thought we were the Final Four,” grouses Ed, glaring at Bev like it’s her fault she won Last Chance Kitchen.
Tom, sensing the tension—and loving every minute of it— chimes in with: “If Bev continues to cook the way she did on Last Chance Kitchen, you’re all in for some real competition.”
Hell yeah, it is ON.

(And just for the record, Bev was able to recover the “Congratulations Top Chef Beverly Kim” sign from the trash—so thank God for that.)

The Quickfire Challenge is some sort of cooking exercise/Three Stooges routine/1970s key party rolled into one: Everyone has to put on a blindfold and grope their way into the pantry to pick out their ingredients.
And grope is the operative word: Bev cops more feels than Larry King in a sorority house.
People keep banging into walls. Jars are overturned. Floors become Bon Jovied (slippery when wet). It’s a mess.
(And Padma and Tom laugh and clap their hands and say, “Dance monkeys, dance!”)

Tom asks Lindsay how she did blindfolded in the pantry and she says, “I hit some walls.”
“I hope you didn’t hit any metaphorical walls,” he cracks, and Lindsay gives him the kind of death stare usually reserved for Beverly.

It comes down to Ed vs. Sarah for the win and Sarah takes it.

I love the twist on the Quickfire prize: You either get a new Prius OR a guaranteed spot in the finals.
Seems like a no brainer, right? Take the guaranteed spot.
But that shit can play mind games with you: Did you truly earn your spot? Did you lose a little of your competitive edge by sitting one out? Will your competitors now see you as someone who fears them? What’s the gas mileage on that Prius?

The boys are all posturing that they would take the car because they fear no Elimination Challenge, but Sarah, quite reasonably I think, goes for the guaranteed spot instead.

Then, of course, she’s probably a little disappointed when she sees who comes waltzing through the doors: The cheftestants' mentors.

For reasons not quite made clear, this turns into an enormous blubberfest.
Paul in particular really needs to get a hold of himself. Both he and his mentor—Tyson Cole—are doing some serious Stage 5 ugly crying.

Also, did anyone else get the sense that Bev’s mentor:
a. Barely knows her?
b. Doesn’t really like her that much?

Here’s the challenge: Make a dish that will make your mentor proud.  (Except for you, Sarah.)

Sarah’s mentor—Tony Mantuano (I also hear he’s a helluva disco dancer)—is there, too, but just for show. They end up going to the Golden Corral for dinner.

Oh, and here’s a little insight into the way Lindsay’s brain works: She seems very close to her mentor, Michelle Bernstein—I mean, like mother/daughter close. And  yet, this is the amount of crazy pressure she puts on herself: “If I don’t do well, I won’t have a job when I come back,” she says.
Girl, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

At Whole Foods, Edward goes looking for fresh oysters, can’t find them, and settles for smoked oysters instead.
Seriously, some sort of siren should sound whenever a cheftestant does that.
When will they learn: If it came from a jar, a box, a tube, a can, or the freezer section of your grocery store, RUN AWAY!!!

Dinner is served to Tom, Padma, Hugh, Gail, and all the mentors.

Bev comes out first.
She’s made gulf shrimp with BBQ pork and Singapore rice noodles.
And she cooked to order in a wok, which is apparently tricky, even though the guys in dirty undershirts at my local Chinese takeout seem to do it just fine.
Everyone is impressed and Tom appreciates the degree of difficulty. How he managed to not tell Bev that she took “a wok on the wild side” is beyond me.

Next Lindsay, who is already in the kitchen seriously self-flagellating because she added cream and dried herbs to her cioppino.

As expected, the judges like it but wonder about the emulsified cream.

“I’m firing that incompetent bitch,” Michelle Bernstein says. (Just kidding.)

Paul comes out with his chilled sunchoke and dashi soup with summer vegetables.
The judges flove it, and particularly take note of the restraint Paul showed in not adding unnecessary components. A sign of a very confident chef.

Next Edward’s braised pork belly with Chicken-of-the-Sea-brand oysters and pickled vegetables.  (Okay, maybe not Chicken of the Sea. But still.)
“My oyster sauce tastes funny,” Tom says.
But Gail likes the pickles almost as much as she once liked Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce. (And I wish I liked anything as much as Gail liked Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce.) (True story: I ate that sauce recently, when I visited Isabella’s Graffiato’s in D.C. It is definitely a sauce worth swooning over.)

So Padma wants to see everybody (except for you, Sarah.)

High praise all around, but “Beverly and Paul served our favorite dishes of the night.”

And the winner is. . .The Artist! (I mean, Paul. . . sorry about that. . . I have Oscars on the brain.)

But Bev is safe, too.

“It’s so much sweeter because I was at the bottom,” Beverly says, as Lindsay gives her the death stare usually reserved for, well, her.

So Paul and Bev scamper back to the holding room, where Sarah looks decidedly unimpressed.
“Oh my God I’m so worried about Ed and Lindsay,” she says.  Implication: It should’ve been you, Beverly!

In the end, if your oysters are smoked, you must be revoked.
Ed is out.

“Getting knocked out by Beverly,” says Ed. “It’s a bad way to go.”

Nonetheless, he’s super gracious as he leaves, congratulating everybody and telling them they deserve to be there. (I like Ed V.2.0—too bad I didn’t get to meet him sooner.)

Don’t worry, Ed. You’ll have a chance to redeem yourself on Last Chance Kitch. . . .doh!