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Helloooo, Gasmii! Well, it was yet another week of lame challenges that made the show look like the longest carnival obstacle course in existence. I feel like I’ve spent the past nine weeks watching professional gymnasts forced to compete in tire hopping, water balloon tosses and spoon races (sucked at all of those as a kid). However, there was an insertion of sentimentality in the form of food for returning troops, and coming from a military family, I was prevented from snarking too heavily. Apologies in advance. However, there was just a bushel full of Naomi antics, so look forward to those.
I just want to yank’em.
I wipe my tears after the “Previously On…” reminds me of Hughnibrow’s utterly unfair and undeserved demise, and hear Stonecoldfox introduce the Quickfire. He explains that as chefs who also own restaurants, the final four are often forced to direct others in how to prepare signature dishes. Oooh, this could be totally intriguing! It’d be really cool if the chefs brought in line cooks with all different backgrounds (cooking school grads, cooks who’ve worked their way up, etc.), and the masters were forced to mold some raw talent and prove that being a master chef must also involve being a good manager and teacher. Yes, definitely THAT would be intriguing, but it should come as no surprise to you that the Bravo producers have gone the obvious route and brought in family members of the chefs with no culinary experience. Also, it wouldn’t be funny without some kind of sensory restriction or cheap manipulation, so the family members are hidden behind portable walls, and the chefs must direct them blind, with no idea as to their identity.
I think I actually have played this carnival game.
The secret society family members are Floyd’s sister, Debra, Mary Sue’s sister, Chris, Traci’s brother, Mitch (can anyone think of a first name that goes less with Des Jardins? Seriously, comment on this.), and Naomi’s sweet, kindly father, Toby. Each station has identical ingredients and the dishes will be judged on how closely they resemble each other and how tasty they are. Stonecoldfox starts the 20-minute countdown, and they’re off!
Everyone claims to sort of recognize the voices on the other side of the wall, but no one can place anyone. Floyd detects a “slight Indian accent” from his sister, and Floyd’s idea of slight and my idea of slight differ significantly. It’s barely two minutes in, and Naomi’s yelling at her father that “YES the rice wine vinegar is down below the table MOTHERFUCKER!!!” Granted, everyone has to yell a little bit because apparently it’s pretty hard to hear from the other side of the divider.
Har har har, Gasmii, isn’t it just HIGHlarious watching these incredibly accomplished people bumble around through ridiculous challenges?
However, despite everyone’s agreement that it’s hard to communicate, it takes all of two minutes for Naomi to disgust and embarrass everyone in the room with the sheer amount of verbal abuse she keeps heaping unknowingly on her dad. Her behavior inspires Floyd to be all the kinder to his partner, and Traci manages to look up from kicking the challenge square in the nuts to pronounce it “appalling.” Agreed.
In other news, Mary Sue and her sister could NOT be cuter as they sweetly and identically bumble through a spinach salad with shredded chicken, and when it comes time to plate, Floyd’s sister missed the crucial instruction, “Cut up the asparagus,” so her plate of shrimp stir fry looks significantly different than her brother’s. Oh, well.
When it comes time for the big reveal, Naomi’s appropriately redfaced to find out that she’s been screaming at her father for the past 20 minutes. But then it’s all okay, because he’s her “favorite person,” and that’s how she “talks” to him in the kitchen when they’re at home. I’m starting to get reeeeeally worried about Naomi’s daughter.
It just seems like the Pomeroys have a weird family dynamic…
The dishes, despite the fact that Toby couldn’t crack an egg or recognize a shallot, go over well with Curtis and look close to the same. Not so much for Floyd, though, who’s sister’s asparagus tower out of the bowl like weeds, and that lands them in the bottom. Also in the bottom, Mary Sue and her sister, Chris. But I don’t care one bit because these two ladies are so adorably sweet and alike that I want to give them their own show. “The Misadventures of Hughnibrow” could be their lead-in. Are you reading, Bravo???? The spinach salad is just too messy and underwhelming, but since Quickfire wins are pretty pointless now that there’s no immunity offered, I don’t really care.
Finally, it’s time for Traci, and she and her brother have rocked out this three-legged race better than anyone else. They have nearly identical, perfectly cooked halibut on a bed of asparagus, and watching how Traci calmly and methodically let her bother through a brown butter vinaigrette sauce made me really impressed with her leadership skills. She must be a pleasure to work with. I feel like Naomi’s staff probably makes voodoo dolls of her out of the spare pig parts that must fall out of her apron periodically.
In the end, Traci and her brother take it, and this pleases me. With that, the family exits, and it’s time for the Elimination Challenge! Everyone’s feeling all fuzzy-wuzzy from seeing their relatives, and Stonecoldfox points out that this week’s challenge will also have to do with family. Each chef pulls a knife with a branch of the military on it and are told that they will be cooking a buffet for a service member from each branch who has recently returned from overseas.
Don’t screw it uuuuup…
Two wives of servicemen, one brother and one daughter enter to explain their stories and offer insight into the tastes of their loved ones. Mary Sue’s got the Marine Corps, and luckily, Guatemalans. Her serviceman is Corporal Marlon Chajon, and his brother, Cesar, explains that his brother likes Latin food, spice and ribs, so, yeah, Mary Sue just got walked to first.
Naomi drew Air Force, and a doctor named Colonel Bruce Nelson. His daughter Sarissa explains that he delayed his retirement a year do a tour in Afghanistan. He’s also from Hawaii, and he likes pork and seafood. You can literally see Naomi’s chest pump up at the mention of swine, but she’s worried that she’s unfamiliar with the Hawaiian flavor profiles in play. I don’t know why she’s worried. It’s not like kindly old men make her lose her shit.
Next up is Traci, and she drew the Navy and Petty Officer Philip Dersham. His wife Rachel explains that he’s been on a submarine for the past few months, and that he prepared a menu of things that she was to cook for him when he returned. Or else he would force her to live in a tiny enclosed space for five months so she could see what it was like. Just kidding! But subs do make people crazy. Look at “Crimson Tide.” And “Hunt for the Red October.” And “U-571.” And “Sphere.” Just sayin’, if your workplace is featured exclusively in thrillers, be on your guard.
Anyway, Petty Officer Dersham likes meatloaf, peach cobbler, mashed potatoes and the like. That sounds amazeballs to me, but it’s definitely out of Traci’s comfort zone, what with the French abhorrence of anything meat product paired with the word “loaf.”
Finally, it’s onto Floyd and Captain Eric Palicia, an army engineer who just returned from Afghanistan. Captain Palicia’s wife Jessica breaks the bad news to Floyd that while he is kind of a babe, Eric does not like spicy food at all, and that includes mustard. Ouch. Floyd doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room and Jessica isn’t terribly helpful. Watching her squeak to Floyd that her husband likes steak… and spinach salad… and clam chowder… was like watching that seen from “Best in Show” in which Jennifer Coolidge talks about how she and her husband both like… soup.
We could talk… or not talk for hours.
The Quickfire took longer than usual, so there’s no trip to Whole Foods. I assume that means that there was a dearth of steak throwing in the absence of Hughnibrow. Everyone rushes into the kitchen and immediately cracks down. I can see why – the chefs are tasked with creating a buffet with one main and two sides for 100 people, and they have no prep or line cooks. Mary Sue interviews that she already treats her back of house like kings, but there is going to be a fucking FIESTA for them when she gets back, because this shit is hard.
It’ll be a Cinco de Awesome.
Traci’s psyching herself up, telling us that she’s making a delicious meatloaf terrine, mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and peach cobbler. Captain Palicia’s gonna like chElf. Naomi’s feeling comfortable with her choices of pork, shrimp fried rice and poke (PO-kay) salad. Poke is pretty much raw tuna, so I’d be in line for that if I were there. I’m like Gollum when it comes to tuna – I likes’em raw and wrigglin’, Friends, raw and wrigglin’.
Floyd’s doing a tenderloin he hopes will maintain its juiciness on the buffet, and he’s pairing it with clam chowder and a spinach salad. It’s verbatim what Jessica told him, but this is Captain Palicia:
I would toe the line, too.
Finally, Mary Sue is as happy as the happiest clam that ever was happy. She’s making ribs with spicy tomatillo barbeque sauce, avocado corn relish, potatoes and peppers and an apple bread pudding. If she doesn’t knock this out of the park, I’ll eat my hat. Hmm, which means I’ll need a hat…
The next day, the chefs head to a big hall, and Naomi actually deigns to put on a chef’s jacket in honor of the servicemen. See, the reason she wears skirts, fancy earrings and cleavage bearing blouses is that she wants her restaurant to have an informal atmosphere. Please. There’s a reason the chefs aren’t allowed on the floor at my restaurant – it’s because after they spend a shift actually working a line, they look like homeless bags of laundry in Crocs. I find it as backwards as anything about Naomi that she expects us to believe that she butchers pigs in dressy-casual streetclothes.
Everyone gets down to business, and despite a very, very high stress level, everything gets done and the servicemen are treated to four luscious buffets. Schmoseland, Ruth Reichl, Danielle Restaurantgirl and Stonecoldfox also arrive. Schmoseland’s outfit is a variation of last week’s, but this time his shoes are on his chest.
The Servicemen (no women, alas) are introduce, and then everyone gets to eatin’. Floyd’s steak is turning out perfectly, so he calms down and really starts to enjoy himself. So does everybody, really. ChElf offers to help serve a guest who has a “handful of baby,” and Mary Sue speaks Spanish to children, and I want to take her home with me and cuddle her like a kitten. When Cesar comes by with Schmoseland, the Marine seems elated at his dining choices, and since James can’t argue if Mary Sue’s ribs really DO represent an emulsion, he doesn’t have much to say. They sit down, and we find out that Marlon became a naturalized citizen when he was in Iraq which is a rare instance of immigration law doing its job. Hooray!! His entire family loves the food, so it’s a sweet experience.
Colonel Nelson is sidling up to Naomi’s table and she’s about as nervous as I’ve ever seen her. She feels behind and out of control and I wink at karma for once again holding up its end of the bargain. She’s added a panna cotta with carmelized pineapple that I want in my FACE, but it’s pretty clear she’s not terribly confident in her presentation.
It’s Ruth who accompanies Colonel Nelson to eat, and they speak for a few minutes about the lack of variety of the food in Afghanistan. Yeah, deserts under siege are like that. Everyone seems to like everything until Ruth tells them that the shrimp fried rice isn’t, in fact, good. Elsewhere Danielle finds an undercooked shrimp, so unless Traci and Floyd just start pelting servicemen with globs of mashed potato, it’s safe to say Naomi’ll be in the bottom this week.
I wonder how long it’ll take Bravo to institute a “Food Fight” challenge on this show?
Traci’s up next and Stonecoldfox leads Philip to the buffet. As promised, she’s prepared meatloaf, mash, Caesar salad and peach cobbler. Not only is the petty officer pleased, so is Captain Policia, who is astounded that he doesn’t need to add any ketchup whatsoever to the meat. I knew he and Traci would get along. Sidenote: Petty Officer Dersham’s baby is CUTE and Petty Officer Dersham is cute with him.
Floyd brings up the rear and his steak is still performing well. He interviews that he became a citizen 15 years prior and came to the country to give his family a better life. He is totally humbled at the chance to serve those who risk their lives to serve us, and his sincerity is really moving.
Upon rewatch, however, not at moving as this spot is distracting.
There’s steak, red potatoes with garlic, bacon, spinach salad, and clam chowder. No dessert, but as Captain Policia says, he’s a minimalist and likes to keep food simple, so the spread pleases him. Other tables enjoy Floyd’s food, as well, but there is a mention of the tenderloin “missing something.” Not good. Finally, there’s a montage in which all the guests have something nice to say about everyone’s food, and lunch is over. Captain Policia nearly makes me cry when he takes Floyd aside to thank the chef. Policia explains that in the army, soldiers exchange coins when they want to show their appreciation, so he offers Floyd a coin for making his homecoming so special.
You try being snarky about something so simple and awesome.
Floyd weepily interviews that the gift means a great deal to him and that the coin will his lucky charm. Hearts warmed all around.
And if it couldn’t get any warmer, Mary Sue is voted the winner for like, the tenth week in a row! Yahoo! She’s so magical. Traci gives her mad props before, she, Naomi and Floyd are called to Critics’ Table. There’s the usual, “Didn’t we learn a whole lot about science from this challenge,” but instead of “science” it’s “family and patriotism” or something.
Schmoseland actually does something that doesn’t piss me off when he announces that everyone’s splitting hairs at this point. Nobody wants to tell a chef that they failed the armed forces, so I’m glad Bravo has stepped back from at least that humiliation. Naomi’s up first, and the rice salad with the undercooked shrimp comes back to bite her in the ass. She was rushing to get everything done and just didn’t cook the shrimp long enough, I guess. Traci’s in kind of the same boat with some salty meatloaf and ugly potatoes. Finally, Floyd’s just plain boring. Floyd defends himself explaining that Jessica was very, very specific about Captain Policia’s extreme dislike of spice, then he holds up the coin and tearfully explains that he won today, regardless. Everyone returns to the backroom, and the deliberation begins.
Scotch and cupcakes – unisex comfort food!
Aside from Danielle accusing Naomi’s menu of lacking in cohesion and Schmoseland blathering on about unsafe meatloaf, nothing of import happens in the deliberation. Floyd looks at his coin some more, and everyone talks about how great each family was and then it’s the moment we’ve all! Been! Waiting! For!
Pack yo knives and GO!!!!
Despite Floyd’s crappy spinach salad, Traci’s salty, dangerous meatloaf, Naomi’s rubbery undercooked shrimp send her ass home a week before the finale! She says it sucks, and it does. For her.
Next week there’ll be a finale that won’t make me roll my eyes out of my head, and also, some time with Jonathan Waxman. Gasmii, as you read this, please pour yourself a shot of tequila and join in a spiritual toast with me to celebrate! See you next week