Just when my friends have me believing I’m good enough, smart enough, and that people like me, I’m forced to share a meal with relatives I spend all the other days of the year avoiding. The last Thursday in November is my family’s annual chance to snark at my weight gain, hair loss, and general gayness. Ah, Thanksgiving. Nothing brings out the ugly out in people faster than forced “together time”. I’m tempted to flake altogether this year, but a little friend named Bravo gave me some advice.
Dear Lord, thank you for this week’s episode of Top Chef, which taught me that most people’s best sides don’t come out during the holidays, but your best bet is to make some effort and not be a big fat baby cryie pants. I knew this episode was going to change everything around on us when the tradition of Marcel being an a-hole to a sleeping fat guy first thing in the morning was broken. This time, he slept in on the couch and got ragged on for a change. Ilan, who’s all buddy buddy with Mike after last week’s win (don’t get too close) took one of Marcel’s business cards out of his wallet. On the back was a handwritten pledge: Marcel Vigneron, the next Top Chef!! I never would have taken Marcel for the creative visualization type, and I feel strings of empathy being picked at in my cold cold heart. Yes, Marcel is a goofy monkey bitch, but to see 95 percent of the remaining Chefs pick on him makes me feel…pity. There, I said it! It’s a flaw of mine. I just downloaded K-Fed’s album on iTunes, so what does that tell ya, haters?
Elia doesn’t get why the other Chefs hate Marcel so much, and he is equally as mystified. He assumes everyone just gathered around a dart board and randomly assigned him to heap their aggression upon. Does he really not understand criticizing and demeaning everyone around him isn’t nice? Then he giggles dementedly and I hate him again. Just like that. I opened iTunes and deleted the K-Fed file. This show is costing me money.
aw, sweet little monkey!!!!
As a little Thanksgiving present, Daddy Tom will be judging today’s Quickfire Challenge. No one seems too pleased with this, as Daddy Tom has never added sugar to one word out of his mouth. And to make it worse, he doesn’t take the drama queen or attention whore route and make a big scene, so you can’t easily discount his opinion as psychotic reality show neediness. He’s a blunt, built, instrument of Truth. I hope I never meet him, but today, dear Lord, I pray and give thanks for his presence on Top Chef. Amen.
Carlos says he has always had better luck with the guest judges. Everyone has better luck with the guest judges, you whiner. Suck it up.
This challenge revolves around making delicious Thanksgiving treats out of three cans of food in less than fifteen minutes. Since Mia was a homeless teenager, she knows how to work with canned goods (and half wrapped burritos from dumpsters and chewed gum from under tables, but she can’t use those. There are so many limits on this challenge!) When she finds out the cans aren’t open or half eaten, she realizes she might not have as much as an advantage as she thinks. She’s not wearing those gd ribbons and she mentions that she was homeless as a kid like six times this episode. Is Mia trying to make us like her? What the hell is going on today?
I am surprised and impressed what these Chefs can pull out in fifteen minutes. Cliff stayed at the top of his game with his gorgeous new potatoes with mushrooms, anchovies, and orange vinegarette. Daddy Tom didn’t comment on Betty’s lemon hummus or Mike’s mashed potatoes, but he did enjoy Ilan’s Vienna sausages over spinach and new potatoes. Marcel had a look of shock on his face when Tom didn’t like his lukewarm clam and coconut dish. What shocked you dude? You’ve never won a challenge! And don’t EVEN bring up fat camp. We promised to never discuss it again!
Tom liked Sam’s fried anchovie and chickpea salad and named him the winner. Just when Mia was feeling disappointed because she has often come close but never won a Quickfire, Tom announced that Mia’s salad won too! I invited a couple of homeless guys in off the street to re-watch her jump up and down. I cried like a baby. When one of them asked to use the bathroom I kicked them both out of my house and had to ignore the constant knocking for twenty minutes. You try and share a moment with someone and they just want more, more, more.
Tom went even further and named all top five dishes as winners, which meant Sam, Mia, Frank, Ilan, and Cliff (of course) all had immunity. The bottom five Chefs weren’t looking too happy, and the top five’s gloating smirks didn’t help. Again, my heartstrings were tugged. Poor bottom five! Their work is in the lowest percentile, their chance of being sent home is doubled, and to depress them even more, their challenge is to cook a “cutting edge” Thanksgiving feast for the winning Chefs, who have a day off before they get to return and help judge the meal. You can see it in everyone’s face. It’s gonna get ugly today.
Dear Lord, I am thankful for the producers’ idea to plant this tree of insecurity, resentment and doubt at the center of this very special Thanksgiving episode of Top Chef. May it bear much sour fruit. Amen.
The top Chefs are excused, leaving Betty, Marcel, Michael, Elia and Carlos shell shocked. Betty throws on that huge fake smile and immediately takes charge. “Ok, guys, let’s decide what we’re gonna make!” Which ended up meaning “Ok, losers, shut your mouths and do what I tell you to do!” (crazy grimace)
Michael tries to get a word in, but Betty won’t have it. He feels dejected. “I cook Thanksgiving dinner every year,” he tells us. Woah. With credits like that on his resume, they should just hand him the Top Chef title right now. Dumbass.
Right off the bat, they’re arguing. Marcel wants to plan out every dish himself, Betty wants a plated six course dinner, and Mike wants to make duck, chicken and turkey lasagna and serve everything family style.
Carlos, who has been quiet so far, deems a huge peppermill the talking stick. Betty snaps it up before it even hits the table. Since she just keeps ranting and shouting and clutching the peppermill, Michael tries to talk over her. She puts her hand over his mouth, and I suddenly saw Kelly Rippa’s point. Clay Aiken was rude and disrespectful to her when he covered her mouth as Regis’ fill-in, and I hoped Rosie O’Donnell would put a call in to the Kenmore kitchen and start preaching about gay rights. Sorry, but we don’t have a View blog.
Elia is PISSED. She says that this challenge is de-motivating and unfair, and when she volunteers to make the soup, she says she might just serve the judges a shot of vinegar. Wait a second. Am I starting to fall in love with Elia? One of you lovely readers pointed out to me last week that Elia is in fact Mexican and not French, and I have to admit she went up about ten points on my board. Sorry to offend anyone, but I am still upset about the book French Women Don’t Get Fat.
Betty wants a salad on the menu. Who’s gonna make it? No one jumps, so Carlos grudgingly takes it on. Maybe it’s because I am from a family of fat asses, but I’ve never had a salad at Thanksgiving, which makes me wonder if Betty has it in for Carlos. He says he doesn’t care which course he’s given and he’ll “throw something together.” His strategy for this competition is to stay in the middle. Wise move, buddy. You can always go back to being on the bottom when you get home.
Marcel goes with cranberry sauce and a cranberry “foam” which looks like red popsicle spit. In the Quickfire Challenge, he made a “coconut foam”, which looked like milk spit. Marcel is officially in a spit foam phaze.
WARNING: don’t complain about Marcel’s food
Elia has made it clear that she doesn’t give a f***. She proves her point by not even going grocery shopping with the other Chefs, opting to pick out serving dishes instead. She says she knows the difference between good food and bad food and cannot get over being in the bottom five. She tasted Cliff’s dish and couldn’t even swallow it. If that was what the judges were looking for, what was the point in even cooking anything for this challenge? If she went with that idea, the judges probably would have called her a “bold artisan”. I honestly would not have been surprised if she showed up with nothing, and for that reason alone, I pledge my undying loyalty to Elia.
Since they are off for the day, the top five Chefs go downtown and donate the left over food from the Quickfire Challenge to the homeless. Mia says she’s really excited to be back at the food bank, cuz you see, when she was a kid, she was homeless. AAAGGGGHHH. Fine, Mia, here’s all my loose change. Now SHUT. UP.
To make sure the bottom five would be cooking in a family environment, the producers forced them to cook their meal in their kitchen spaces at the lofts. Not about to be stuck in the same small kitchen as the monkey and the donkey, Bossy Betty decides Marcel and Michael should work in the boy’s loft space, which is fine by them, until they realize that have been shoved into a dirty pile of underwear and man musk. Michael says it smells like ass and cigarettes in there, and Marcel is mad that he has to move toiletries and trash onto the floor just to get to the countertops. Difficult to concentrate on molecular gastronomy when you’re actually smelling someone else’s gastronomy. I’ll be here all week!
Over in the clean kitchen, Betty tries to redeem herself by admitting that she has been pissy since she was named one of the bottom five. This validates Elia’s anger, and before you know it, she’s licking her whisk and covering her face in chocolate. This bitch is going crazy. Dear Lord, I will be very thankful if you help Elia become the next Top Chef. Amen. Betty’s smile looks real for the first time this entire competition, and I think she’s just happy that there is someone who is going to come off as more psychotic than her, if only for a moment.
Carlos just sits around and giggles and makes lame asides. “Elia is having a chocolate meltdown! No pun intended.” This guys a laugh riot. Don’t you have some lettuce that needs wilting?
When time is called for the day, the losing Chefs mingle with the winning Chefs in the communal loft. Frank says that it was great having a day off, but he worries that there will be animosity. When Sam hears Marcel complaining that Frank’s loft was so dirty he had to clean off the counters and put Frank’s stuff on the ground, Sam runs to Frank and gets him all riled up. He says Marcel threw all his stuff on the floor, and if his roommate did that, he would kick some serious ass. I am glad that Sam is wearing the little girl’s comb headband today, so he’s dressed the part of shitty little junior high brat he’s turned into.
Frank marches right over to Marcel and gets in his face. He threatens to beat Marcel’s face so badly his momma won’t know him if the monkey ever touches his personal belongings again. Now, we all (including Frank) saw that the toothbrush was in the toiletry bag that was on the floor, so what’s the big deal? He’s probably feeling like a total pussy since he got whipped by the bitch monkey when they were partnered last week. But that punch in the mouth opportunity has come and gone. You should have used those balls at Social, dude. You can only kill the intruder while he’s still in your home. It’s unjustified if you shoot him on the lawn.
Have another glass of wine, Frank.
The next morning, Elia is still mad. Over breakfast, Carlos tries to lighten the mood by asking her what she’s thankful for. She looks like she wants to hit him as much as I do. He asks again and she shows him her mouth-full of chewed food. When he persists, she deadpans “I am thankful to have Tom Colicchio as my Judge”. LOVE YOU.
Michael has decided that since he has been on the chopping block so many times, he is going to go all out on this challenge and make five losing dishes. If a twice baked potato isn’t cutting edge, I don’t know what is. Maybe a cheese plate. Quick thinkin’, buddy!
When Daddy Tom comes to the girl’s loft to gage the progress being made, Elia cannot hide her annoyance. She chops the mushrooms for her soup like they are little Daddy Tom heads, and he waits for her to bring it. Thankfully, she does.
She asks him what he liked about Cliff’s dish anchovie dish from the Quickfire Challenge, because she had to spit it out when she tasted it. Tom stands by his decision, saying Cliffs dish was inventive and solid, and he was perplexed by Elia’s creamy fruit salad side by side with beef hash. He just didn’t get it. Sorry, kid. With Tom’s absence of drama came Elia’s absence of drama. Yours was weird, his was good. She decided Daddy Tom was ultimately fair and honest, and she moved on.
Dear Lord, thank you for giving Elia the grace to forgive Daddy Tom. Amen.
We have a great little montage of the Chefs working hard. In the back round of almost every shot, Carlos is sitting around making faces at the camera and crossing and re-crossing his legs. Playing armchair critic instead of actually doing something, he says “Michael’s side dishes are a disaster. Beige, beige, beige!” You might not love Michael (I don’t) but misguided effort is still effort, so Michael automatically beats Carlos. Sidenote: I don’t want to be slanderous here, but did Carlos look drunk all day to anyone else? It is Thanksgiving…
When Daddy Tom comes to check on them, Betty slaps on that idiotic cartoony fake smile which is only topped by her too tight glitter halter with pink bra straps peeking out. She looked like a “Little Miss Sunshine” pageant extra. Craaaaaaaaack.
So the bottom five were humiliated. They got through it! They had to work in tiny kitchens instead of the better equipped Kenmore showroom. They did just fine! They’re going to have to serve people they resent. It’s Thanksgiving, they can put all that aside!
It’s all going to be fine. And enter today’s surprise Guest Judge. Dun dun dun!
The Dr. House of the cooking world, Anthony Bourdain, stands before them, looking instantly disgusted. This guy wrote a book called Kitchen Confidential about his life that one critic described as ” graphic, accusatory and ribald”. In other words, you don’t want to get on this guy’s bad side. He’s tasted it, snorted it, and f***ed it, and he does not suffer fools lightly. No simple and rustic for him.
Dear Lord, thank you for making this the bottom five’s worst possible Thanksgiving ever just for our entertainment. Amen.
Good luck, suckas.
you’re all MORONS!
Chef Bourdain sits with the adoring top five and tells them he is excited to get the chance to crush the hopes and dreams of the aspiring Chefs cooking today. Mia asks him for a dollar and he makes her move to the other end of the table.
First up is Michael’s turkey canapé, which everyone loves. He should have stopped there, but he’s out to prove he’s not the moron everyone thinks he is. I doubt he will pull it off, but I’m a bitch like that. I rooted against Rocky every time. BTW, Rocky’s going up against a much younger boxer in the next movie and will finally lose. You heard it here first.
Carlos’ salad didn’t go over very well. Tom doesn’t get it, as it’s just a pile of bagged mescalun greens with some burnt onions and clumps of butternut squash on top.
When Marcel’s double ringed turkey and stuffing circles come out, the top five Chefs jump all over it. Sam says it’s dry, Ilan says the cranberry is bitter, and Frank shouts about Marcel consistently doing bad work. When he realizes he was talking way too loud, Frank admits that he “can’t stand the little punk”, which makes Chef Bourdain smile sadistically. Padma sticks up for Marcel, saying he at least did something cutting edge, and Chef Bourdain agrees that while the turkey was too dry, he too is impressed that someone finally did something different. “Astro boy has some balls!”
Michael comes out with his “beige, beige, beige” plate of mashed potato, twice baked potato, and white corn, and finally we get to see Bourdain lose it. He says this plate is ridiculous and breaks every fundamental rule of cooking. He asks Chef Tom what kind of crack house he’s running here, and Mia’s ears perk up. No, Mia. No one’s leaving you out. It was a joke!
Back in the kitchen, Betty’s crème brulee is a disaster. She is trying to carmelize ginger, but it keeps burning. Marcel offers his assistance, as does Elia, but there’s no saving it before it’s served. Betty announces her course as the “very unique pumpkin pie brulee” and I thought hey, maybe I’ll try that technique. “Hi, I am the very thin and successful Flipit.” No? Didn’t work for her either.
Tom says you can’t call custard a brulee when there’s no brulee on top, and Chef Bourdain says this is typical of the entire dinner. Uninteresting on every level. He is horrified that these Chefs took four hours and prepared a thoughtless meal completely lacking in imagination. Too bad there’s not a monitor in the kitchen, because just after the sentence is finished, Michael comes bumbling out of the kitchen with his cheese plate. Bourdain stares at it for a moment with undisguised disdain and huffs “yeah, I like cheese…?”
In Judge’s chambers, everyone agrees that no one stepped up to the plate. Bourdain says Michael’s white nightmare was so perverse that he was starting to respect it. That reminds me. I have Madonna’s televised concert up next on my Tivo queue.
Even though Chef Bourdain was offended by Michael’s complete lack of grace or knowledge, he liked the twice baked potato. He calls Michael a Betty Crocker/Charlie Manson love child, but I think it’s a compliment because during the face to face, he tells Michael that he loves him like a son. His “sheer contrariness” and “refusal to conform” is admirable, and even though the twice baked potato was “Flinstonian” in it’s execution, it didn’t suck. Woah. Didn’t see that one coming. Looks like Mike will live another week.
The lasers move on to Carlos, who is defensive and edgy right off the bat. He says he wouldn’t have chosen to prepare salad, but no one else wanted to make it. Tom says he could have made something else, and Carlos shifts gears. Now he’s proud of what he did. Why? Because it’s Thanksgiving and he believes everyone should be thankful for their friends and whatever food they had. No one buys it, and Carlos knows he’s screwed. He shoots daggers and warns the Judges to “be nice!” Tom asks him what he did for four hours and Carlos says he cut veggies and roasted his squash. That’s it? “If you’re suggesting that I just sat around on my butt all day…”
Tom cut him off and asked him again how he spent the four hours. Carlos is watery eyed and bitter, and simply stops answering their questions. They move on to Marcel, who says his turkey wouldn’t have been so dry if he had had access to a thermal immersion circulator. Hilarious. Maybe he is Astro Boy. Tom calls him on making dumb excuses, but gives him credit for being the only one who did something cutting edge.
Now here’s where it gets fun. I have been waiting for Betty to crack and show us the true psychopath hiding under that plastic jack-o-lantern smile of hers since the competition began. Tonight, she finally delivered. When asked what went wrong with her brulee, Betty says she made the mistake of enlisting her peers for help and she should have just done the whole thing herself. Elia and Marcel just sat quietly, not bothering to call her out on being a lying, gutless Judas. She was doing enough damage to herself without their help. Tom said you couldn’t just put pie filling in a vessel and call it crème brulee, and besides, what’s cutting edge about her dish? She says she doesn’t do cutting edge, she does comfort food. Like the crème brulee you just miserably failed at? Oh, Betty. Just stop talking.
After choosing Elia’s mushroom soup as the winning dish (sorry, monkey, yours was cutting edge, but it has to taste good, too), the Judges ask Betty who she would send home if it was her choice. She refuses to answer, so Michael goes first, saying he worked his butt off and Carlos took four hours to make a limp salad. Carlos says he would choose Betty’s crème brulee, which really pisses her off. When it’s her turn again, she yells “Carlos! He’s outta here!!” Gail looks like she, like me, has been expecting this all along.
Betty very intensely exclaims that Marcel is the hardest to work with, but if she had to choose between Mike and Carlos, it would have to be the little queen who dissed her.
As the Judges talk privately, fur flies in the waiting room. Betty comes back shaking her head telling the other Chefs that Carlos threw her under the bus again! She goes on about how it should be Marcel who goes home, because he’s selfish and she’s not a fan of his tactics. His tactics? You just betrayed two people who did nothing but help you, a-hole! Marcel tries to defend himself, but she starts yelling at the top of her lungs and suddenly she’s a soccer mom in the Bronx. Could there be a future love connection between her and Frank? Now there’s a couple. Betty keeps getting louder and louder and Marcel finally calls her a bitch and walks away. At last! Someone said it! And even though it was the monkey, I had to bow my head.
Dear Lord, thank you for finally showing Betty for the conniving Cruella DeVille she is. Amen.
Back in chambers, the Judges are deciding the Chefs’ fates. Michael’s cooking was inexplicable, Betty truly felt that she did her best, which was not good at all, and Carlos put in no effort. Bourdain said that even on a cruise ship with Kathie Lee yodeling in the back round, he would expect a better looking salad. LOL Bourdain.
It’s no big surprise when Carlos is asked to pack his knives and go home. He said even though he didn’t graduate from Top Chef school, he sure got an education. Well, fool, you sure got schooled.
So what do you think, dear Reader? Did Michael deserve to escape? Did you start to love Elia as much as I did? Does Mia have a chance of winning this thing, or is it back to the streets with her? And what are you thankful for?