This week on Top Chef, the judges break into the Puerto Rican rum and make yet another baffling decision. <Sniff, sniff> Does anyone else smell that? Oh yes, it’s the stink of producer intervention. And/or Fleasa. Or possibly Richard’s eyebrow hair.
American liquor stores just saw a 91% spike in business.
We open in Puerto Rico six months after Evangelass hung up his fedora, with the final four excitedly reuniting. Yoda’s spent the time off traveling in Asia, while Antonia opened up her own restaurant, and Richard learned nothing about how ridiculous his hair is. He tells us that everyone thought he, Yoda and Antonia were the three to beat from the beginning (he’s right on two of those), and that no one expected Fleasa to make it to the finals. That part is 100% true. Speaking of Fleasa, she arrives to show the group her new ‘do which prompts Antonia to exclaim, “You cut off all your hair!” Cut off, or fell off — it’s anyone’s guess. I still can’t decide what to make of Fleasa’s new look. She looks younger, which is a plus, and now at least I can pretend it’s product that’s making it so separated, but she has completely blended genders. She’s Pat for the new generation.
Scar, wearing a lovely flowered top, meets the chefs for their Quick Fire. She’s joined by Daddy Tom doppleganger Wilo Benet, chef/owner of Pikayo in San Juan. Their challenge is to make two frituras, both using plantains, in 40 minutes. Scar sends them off, and Fleasa runs straight for the kitchen to check the protein situation while the others attack the table laden with plantains and other produce. She winds up grabbing duck while Yoda tells us she finally figured out why she sucks so bad at QFs — she gets too many ideas in her head, and it all comes out as one big pile of crap. Meanwhile, Richard almost lights himself on fire while turning on the stove (if that had been Fleasa, the whole place would have gone up in one big grease fire).
“I get cranial diarrhea!”
Time is called and Yoda’s up first. She presents tostones (flattened fried plantains) with seared tuna, as well as a pork/shrimp fritter. Wilo tells her that for her first time making tostones it “wasn’t bad.” Antonia is up next with crispy oysters with plantain jam and a fried yellow plantain with spicy slaw. Scar doesn’t seem too happy with the way Antonia skirted around the plantain requirement by making jam, but she doesn’t say anything. On Fleasa’s turn, she brings out tostones with duck and a sweet plantain/red onion/chorizo fritter. Wilo asks her about a slaw that accompanied one of selections, but merely nods when she lists out the ingredients. Richard’s singed eyebrows and unfortunate rolled-up jeans bring up the rear with pork meatballs with ripe plantain sauce and green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa (which he points out is another one of his fucking annoying “witty” plays on chips and salsa). Wilo seems to question Richard’s judgment in using a raw plantain, since they are traditionally cooked — and for good reason.
Scar lines them back up for results. Wilo calls out Antonia in the bottom group for failing to integrate her plantain well with her slaw, and also for using raw plantains that were slimy and bad tasting. Realizing what’s coming, Richard starts making gassy faces and sure enough is also called out as one of the weaker chefs. Not only were the raw plantains a problem, but his meatball was dry as well. This puts Fleasa and Yoda in the top 2, which is definitely a QF first. Wilo loves the flavor combinations and proportions Yoda offered, as well as Fleasa’s execution of the tostones (even though the duck portion should have been smaller). He picks Yoda as the winner, finally giving our girl her first QF win! But she’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what her advantage will be.
To kill time before the Elimination Challenge (and fill time in this episode), the chefs head over to a traditional Puerto Rican party on Wilo’s invitation. Yoda, Richard, Antonia, and Fleasa’s muffin top arrive to see Scar shaking her groove thing (read: bony ass) out there with Wilo and the locals. Fleasa tries to pull Richard out onto the dance floor, but he refuses saying that he doesn’t dance. His fauxhawk could get messed up. That randomly leads to oddly cliched slow-mo and fade outs while each chef talks about how much they want to win. Festive neighborhood party + slow-mo usually means a group of drug runners are about to bust into this thing and kill everyone (as the pinata swings sadly in the air, natch), but alas we merely go to commercial.
“Baby, you do this so much better than the real Daddy Tom.”
The next day the chefs meet up with Scar and the real Daddy Tom to hear about the EC. Scar tells them they’ll be feeding 100 guests for a big party, which prompts DT to ask them “what’s a party without a pig?” Now don’t worry, Ilan isn’t coming back twice in one season. Nope, instead each chef will be given a whole pig to create their dishes for the party. They have to make at least 2 dishes, using different parts of the animal. They’ll have help of course, as Scar and DT trot out Evangelass, Dale, Twitch, and Nikki. Fleasa immediately doesn’t want to work with either Dale or Twitch, but it turns out it’s not her decision — as the QF winner, Yoda gets to pair everyone up. Fleasa freaks out, but we all know Yoda’s too nice for this job as she immediately tells us she’s going to try to create harmony not discord with her pairings. She probably also realizes that if she fucks over Fleasa with Dale, she’s fucking herself over by having to work with Evangelass, Twitch, or Nikki.
Someone’s been using his time off to work on his Boyz II Men impression…
As a result, Yoda takes Dale for herself, since she’s known him for about 10 years (What?! Am I crazy or is this new information? I wonder how they know each other. It’s probably something boring like culinary school, but I’m going with baby daddy). She gives Evangelass to Richard, Nikki to Antonia, and Twitch to Fleasa. I’m a little surprised Yoda forced the Fleasa-Twitch pairing by putting Antonia and Nikki (who I think is weaker than Twitch) together, so maybe Yoda does have a little spunk in her. Besides Dale’s.
DT and Scar announce that chefs will have 30 minutes to plan their menus, then send their sous chefs to the market while they butcher the pigs. No one’s happy with that delegation of tasks, to say the least. They head into the kitchen to plan, and we overhear Richard talking about a “witty” dish called head to toe, using the pig head and feet. Head to toe is a pretty good name, but I would have gone with vomit in toilet. He tells us that it’ll all go well as long as Evangelass buys him high quality, fresh ingredients. As in, no frozen scallops you fucking idiot. Antonia and Fleasa, meanwhile, want to incorporate traditional Puerto Rican ingredients and flavors into their dishes. Richard thinks this is a bad idea, since they should stick to their strengths.
“Traditional, huh? Like… pasta?”
Off to the market go the sous chefs, with $250 and 45 minutes to shop. Twitch immediately encounters a problem as lots of the venders only speak Spanish, and his Spanish isn’t the best. In fact, his method of communicating is to name a color and then make somewhat inappropriate hand gestures to demonstrate the shape of the item. He also does the always-awesome trick of adding an “o” to end of English words and thinking that’s a translation. As in, he refers to a plastic bag as a “bag-o plastic-o.” Heh. American language barriers always crack me up — especially since I’ve been guilty of them a few times myself. I provided endless entertainment to a some locals in Italy a few years back, trying to find my hotel (“hotel-o”). Twitch admits this all makes him look like a “retard” — which happens more often than not. Aww, it’s good to have him back.
“Pinche gringo pendejo.”
Back at the kitchen, it’s time for the chefs to get elbow-deep in their Wilburs, as Yoda calls them. This is a really gross sequence as the chefs use mallets and other tools to break bones and saw off appendages. I am the furthest thing from a vegetarian, but I don’t like the reminder that meat comes from animals. I prefer to think it grew off the meat tree. Fleasa manages to break her mallet while pounding away at her Wilbur, which confuses Antonia who is just using a large knife so far. She tells us you can totally just pop the bones out of their sockets before realizing that makes her sound somewhat insane. How many large mammals exactly have you broken down, Ant? Her daughter better watch her step.
As Richard is working on his own Wilbur, he begins telling us a story about how this reminds him of a childhood friend. Who you dismembered? Where’s the connection here, Blais? Well it turns out the connection is tenuous at best, but it leads him to call Evangelass and order some malt beverages he can coat the ribs in. Evangelass says he’ll try, but he’s not sure if there are any bums in Puerto Rico he can buy it off of. He then hangs up as Richard yells he meant Malta the soft drink, not malt liquor.
“Give momma a kiss.”
The sous chefs arrive back to the kitchen, where Evangelass nearly steps on a pigeon. The bird flaps towards the chefs for a moment, then gets a load of Fleasa’s hair and gets the hell out of there. The chefs have two hours to prep in a crowded kitchen. Richard breaks out the painters tape and begins labeling his belongings, clearly very proud of himself. Top Organizer, here he comes! Everyone gets down to business, and Fleasa immediately causes drama as she verbally abuses Twitch for not doing things exactly as she wants them. She defends herself to us by noting one mistake will send someone’s ass home, but that still doesn’t give her the right to be a huge, raging bitch. But that’s not going to be the biggest problem. As everyone is packing up to leave for the night, Yoda tells us how good she feels — she’s organized and definitely ready to come back in the morning and get this done. As she’s talking, we see everyone walking out the door… and the camera zooms in on a pan left out. Yoda and Dale’s huge pan of raw pork belly. That’s going to look real nice in about 12 hours.
Sidenote: I love how reality shows so commonly show the camera guy zooming in on something left behind the second after the owner turns his back and walks blissfully away — only to realize he’s fucked later. If I’m ever on reality TV, I’m walking out of every room backwards and watching what the camera guy is so busy looking at. I’m sure some smart-ass recapper will think I have a learning disability (can’t really argue too much with that), but leaving something behind has got to be one of the dumbest mistakes a reality show contestant can make. I want to be eliminated for sucking at life, not for leaving behind a fanny pack at a Russian swimming pool.
“Dear Charlotte: Thanks for nothing, you stupid bitch. Love, Wilbur.”
The next morning, the chefs have five hours to finish getting their dishes ready before dinner. As everyone gets their stuff out of the refrigerators, Dale realizes he fucked up and left the pork out all night. As he smells it and debates whether it’s useable (dude, NO), Yoda tells him to throw it away since it’s not worth poisoning an entire party. She’s taking the whole thing extremely well, just looking dazed and sad, unlike Fleasa who you know would have turned the butcher knife on Dale by now, screaming SABOTAGE! But Yoda sucks it up, decides on an alternative plan, and gets to work. It’s clear Dale feels truly awful about his mistake, which I’m sure is helping Yoda forgive him and not lose her shit.
Richard and Evangelass are getting along well, as Evangelass tells us he’s learning so much from working with Richard. Such as the difference between fresh and frozen. Together they’re making four dishes: BBQ pork shoulder, pork belly with pickled watermelon, ham & beans, and ribs with malta glaze. Antonia and Nikki meanwhile are tackling three dishes: pork belly with sweet peppers, pork sausage with pigeon peas (as in poop nuggets? Maybe that’s why that bird was in there) & rice, and curried pork. With Nikki by her side, Antonia’s decision not to do pasta is brave indeed. You know she’s going to fuck up anything else she touches (and only have about a 50/50 shot with the pasta in the first place). They run into problems as the rice doesn’t cook properly, and Antonia orders it to be thrown out. Nikki, decked out in a little black dress, loftily tells us that Antonia’s not at her best today, so she’s going to have to pick up the slack. Oh, God, no. Snap out of it Antonia!
“No, seriously. ‘Ratatouille’ — it could happen.”
Fleasa and Twitch are also making three dishes: yuca & pork rellena, citrus braised pork belly, and adobo roasted pork tostone. For now, those two seem to be getting along. Across the kitchen, Yoda’s starting to panic a bit as she and Dale brainstorm a third dish. While she’s only required to have two, Yoda’s convinced that will send her home. But they finally come up with the idea of making a chicarrones (similar to a pork rind), fruit & prosciutto salad. This joins Yoda’s other two dishes of coconut pork with plantain pancake and pork satay on sugar cane.
With 30 minutes left before service, the chefs begin setting up outside. It’s controlled chaos as they all tell us AGAIN that they don’t want to leave, there’s no room for mistakes, etc. Where’s Bob Loblaw when you need him? The party starts, and our judges arrive — Daddy Tom, Gail, Scar and guest judge Wilo. Gail’s in yet another misguided and ill-fitting outfit. She seriously must have a lot of enemies behind the scenes for them to let her show up like this week after week. They stop by Yoda first, and it all seems to go well. Wilo likes the plantain pancake, and in the tradition of last-minute dishes being some of the best ones, Gail finds the salad refreshing.
Our judges: Daddy Tom (the remix), Toga Scar, Bloated Gail, and Daddy Tom (classic)
On to Richard. He puts on his normal douchey show for the judges, kissing ass and talking way too damn much while explaining his dishes. Richard, you’re a good chef. You don’t need to be so needy and desperate around the judges. He tells us that he put a local spin on his dishes (depsite having told us earlier in the episode he thought that was a bad idea), and that each one has a story. Excuse me while I go nap. I hate it when he gets this way. While the judges don’t say much, they all seem pleased and Richard is cautiously optimistic.
Fleasa’s up next. Gail and DT seem to find the citrus braised pork belly too sweet, but that’s the only stumble we see as the judges thank her and tell her it was delicious before leaving. This leaves Antonia. We don’t hear any clear criticism of any of her dishes (although there may be a problem with her pigeon poop), but the judges don’t seem quite as happy with her offerings as they did with Yoda or Richard’s. Antonia tells us she has no idea where she stands, and it’s definitely edited to make it look like anyone could be eliminated. I’m praying it’s Fleasa, but if she somehow slides by again (thanks to the grease is all I can figure at this point), then Antonia would be my next choice to go home.
Time for Judges’ Table. The judges quickly confer and decide that Richard and Yoda are their top two, while the chefs sweat it out in the holding tank that is an exact replica of the Chicago version. Antonia’s worried that her pigeon poop was undercooked, while Fleasa keeps her mouth shut for the most part. Scar calls Richard and Yoda in to announce they’re the top two. Richard kisses ass by praising the challenge, and DT compliments his self-editing and simple yet delicious menu. Turning to Yoda, Wilo raves about the flavor of her pork satays. Always classy, Yoda doesn’t mention a word regarding Dale’s mistake and her last-minute scramble. They’re both automatically in the final three, but Wilo names Richard as the winner of this individual EC, revealing it was a unanimous decision as well as the fact he was the crowd favorite. As the winner, Richard gets a new car! I don’t think he’ll be sharing this win. Better hope the “Survivor” car curse doesn’t carry over to “Top Chef”, buddy.
“I’m going to call it the Blazemobile. Because my last name, Blais, sounds just like blaze. I’m so witty.”
Antonia and Fleasa are then called in as the bottom two. Starting with Fleasa, Scar asks her if she’s surprised to be in the bottom. Fleasa answers the question with much less of her normal bitchiness, saying that while she thought her dishes were strong, she knew Richard and Yoda’s were strong too. Daddy Tom then asks her why she went in a Latin direction when her specialty is Asian cuisine. She also handles this question well, explaining that she does have experience in Latin cuisine, and that it’s not much different than Asian fare. Gail pipes in with her criticism — the citrus braised pork was too sweet, and there wasn’t enough emphasis on the pork in any of the three offerings. Wilo also has problems with her adobo roasted pork tostone, calling it unbalanced. Definitely not the first or last time Fleasa will hear that word tossed in her direction.
Turning to Antonia, Scar asks her what she thought of her dishes, and Antonia quickly announces that she knows the pigeon poop was underdone. DT asks her when she realized that, and when she admits she didn’t notice until the very end of the party, he is clearly displeased. She also tries to claim she slightly undercooked it on purpose because she likes her beans al dente — which makes no sense if she didn’t notice they were undercooked. Think then speak, Ant. On an odd note, the judges have a problem with the fact Antonia served all three dishes on one plate rather than separate ones since they all “fell into each other.” Anyone else feel like they’re grasping at straws to give her criticism?
Scar shoos them out for deliberations. Daddy Tom points out that this is all coming down to mistakes, and Gail begins with Fleasa, saying there were elements in each dish she wasn’t crazy about. She specifically has a problem with the tostones, saying if you’re going to serve a local dish, you better not fuck it up. Gail, who’s extra chatty tonight, then declares that Antonia had the least sophisticated dishes of the four chefs. Daddy Tom jumps on board to whine about the plating issue again, saying it made no sense since the dishes were distinct from one another. They also think Antonia’s statement that she likes her beans al dente was complete crap, since there is no such thing as al dente beans. Meanwhile in the holding tank, Fleasa’s insisting to everyone that she’s going home and Antonia’s softly crying.
The judges call Antonia and Fleasa back in for results. Daddy Tom rehashes each of their mistakes, telling Antonia her “fatal flaw” was the undercooked pigeon poop (foreshadowing yet another upset?!) and Fleasa that each of her dishes just fell short of the mark. He concludes by saying that throughout the evening, one of the tables just didn’t have the crowds the others did, which is more telling than anything. He turns it over to Scar… who tells Antonia to pack her knives and get the fuck out! HOLY SHIT. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?
Pretty sure we’re both thinking the same thing right now.
The judges congratulate a stunned Fleasa, and the two head back to break the news to Richard and Yoda. They hug and kiss her goodbye, and Antonia whispers in Yoda’s ear to kick some ass in the finale. Sobbing and reminding us for the final time that she’s a single mom, Antonia rides off into the Puerto Rican sunset.
But we’re not quite done here yet. In the holding tank, Yoda and Richard are sitting in horrified silence, with Yoda looking like she’s fighting back tears. Fleasa, who’s got the dark storm clouds gathering above the oil slick, finally tells them that she knows they’re upset that Antonia went home instead of her, but a congrats would have been nice. This is totally immature and typical Fleasa, but if they really didn’t congratulate her at all, I must admit she has a point. But you don’t say that kind of shit out loud — it just makes you look like a sulky, insecure bitch. Embarrassed, Yoda softly mummers congrats, and Richard tells us he didn’t understand what Fleasa wanted, since all she did was win “the fucking bronze medal — congrats.” LOL very true, very true. Didn’t think you had that in you, Blais.
All right everyone, next week we crown our Top Chef! I’m more firmly in Yoda’s corner than ever before — I want her to win and I actually think she will. Anyone have differing opinions? And with regards to this episode — was Antonia the right person to go home, or did the producers intervene and save Fleasa for ratings? As much as Antonia is the better chef overall, I actually can see the justification for her elimination now that I’ve calmed down a bit. DT’s statement that her table was the least crowded really tells me her food was inferior to Fleasa’s. That and her bottom QF finish this week shows she just wasn’t at her best. Then again, Bravo loves to have a villain make it to the finale, so it just as easily could have been out of the judges’ hands. What do you think?