Previously on Top Chef...
Palate testing! Judge Gail's cleavage! Something Crappy! No more funny beards!
-This show is usually pretty awful with the constant, crammed-down-your-throat product placement, but... hoo boy... tonight they crossed a line. At the opening of the show, Contestant Hosea gets to call his sister to check up on their father who, it turns out, was diagnosed with cancer a week before the Top Chef competition began. All during said phone call... while, in voiceover, Hosea is telling us about how hard it is to be away from his family at a time like this... we're getting nothing but long, loving shots of the T-Mobile Sidekick logo on the back of the phone he's using. And we're talking fucking LURID shots... the camera lingers on the logo for an uncomfortable amount of time. If it were porn, it would be full-on penetration, no rubber. Way to use a guy's dying father to hawk cellphones, Top Chef. You stay classy.
Let me say right off the bat that the whole "Martha Stewart" thing was WAY over-played. Bitch only showed up for the Quickfire! I mean, okay, she's Martha Stewart and probably has better things to do than hang around a fading reality show all day, but still. It was pretty clear she was just there to plug her book. I get it... it makes me want to fart on her, just a little bit, but I get it.
THE QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE
After everyone calms down about Martha walking among them (I guess to chef's she's like a Connecticut WASP rock star or something), the contestants learn that they have to cook a "one-pot wonder" holiday meal; i.e. cook something to serve over the holidays that only uses one pot to cook everything.
Oh... right... sorry, forgot to mention: It's Christmas. I mean, obviously it's Christmas for us in the hear and now, but it's ALSO Christmas for the contestants, even though they shot this over the Summer. Seriously, these kids should all win Emmys for their constant and consistent portrayal of people "in the holiday spirit." Needless to say, I rolled my eyes a million times at the constant invocation of faux holiday spirit, but whatevs... we covered all this during their pseudo-Thanksgiving episode.
So, the Quickfire Challenge: One-Pot Wonders. Chefs.... COOK!!! A bunch of stuff is made, all in one pot as per the rules. I was half-expecting someone to be stupid and use multiple pots, if not a standing charcoal grill and a panini press, because there's usually one knucklehead in the group that can't follow directions but... nope. Everyone pretty much towed the line. A paella is made, (which looked delicious), there are a bunch of hurried stews, and some polenta (from the Italian Stallion) that was ass-y, among others.
Martha hands forth her judgement: The losers are Fabio, because his polenta is grey (and ass-y, as mentioned), Eugene, because he used corn starch in his Korean-inspired soup, and Jeff, for making potato risotto, which is a thing that doesn't even exist.
The winners are Hosea, for his paella, Jamie, for something with scallops (and managing to not be a total bitch to Martha Stewart, probably because she knew Martha's been to prison and would shank her), and Ariane, who apparently just used her last wish because she is crowned the eventual winner; no going home for her... at least not this episode. That, for those of you keeping score at home, is three challenges won for her in the last three episodes. Hooray for moms everywhere, I guess.
Then things get weird...
To introduce the Elimination Challenge, we have... the Harlem Gospel Choir! And they're singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas!" Huh? Exactly. It's lovely music, don't get me wrong, but it's CLEARLY the manifestation of a producer going, "Holy shit, we don't have anything New York-y in this episode!"
THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE
And once again, we're back to the show being Top Caterer. This time, it's for a big AIDS charity benefit and... here's the twist... the contestants have to each create an hors d'oeuvre that relates to one of the days in the aforementioned song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
WHAT. EVER. You can tell from the onset that all the chefs are soooo over this kind of bullshit, and frankly, so am I. Look, I get that they have to keep things gimmicky and whatever to hook people in but... c'mon... this is just stupid. And everyone on the SHOW knows it's stupid. Let me put it to you this way: The whole concept of tying the dish to one of the days from the song DOESN'T EVEN COME UP DURING THE POST-EVENT JUDGEMENT!!! It clearly was regarded as an inessential part of the challenge, which begs the question... why even bother if you're just going to ignore it?
Anyway, for the record, here's what the contestants came up with...
Twelve drummers drumming - Stefan - some sort of deconstructed chicken pot pie (using the drumsticks... drumming... GET IT?!?!)
Eleven pipers piping - Hosea - a smoked pork loin thingy (use smoke with a pipe... piping... GET IT?!?!)
Ten lords a-leaping - Jeff - seared Greek cheese with a beet salad (he was using different cheese from a bunch of different islands and, thus, "leaping" from island to island... GET IT?!?!)
Nine ladies dancing - Fabio - Crab cakes (because crabs have legs and legs are what you use for dancing... GET IT?!?!)
Eight maids a-milking - Hillbilly Deluxe - Big wad of a bleu cheese with a tiny snippet of steak (because you get cheese from milk... GET IT?!?!)
Seven swans a-swimming - Jamie - A raw scallop in vichyssoise (the scallop is "swimming" in the soup... swimming... GET IT?!?!)
Six geese a-laying - Ariane - Deviled eggs six ways (because the geese are laying eggs... GET IT?!?!)
Five golden rings - Eugene - Some sort of ceviche in a spoon served with a pineapple ring (which is golden... and a ring... like in the song... GET IT?!?!)
Four calling birds - Not chosen, as there's only eleven contestants... way to fuck up the theme, guys.
Three French hens - Leah - Guinea hen with some squash goop (because it's a hen, though I think she might have mistaken Italian for French... GET IT?!?! ETHNIC SLUR!!!)
Two turtle doves - Carla - Chicken with mushroom caps (because the cap of the mushroom looks like a turtle's back.... GET IT... er... actually... HUH?!?!)
And a partridge in a pear tree - Rhadika - Duck with a pear chutney (because... well, actually this one is pretty straight forward!!!)
God, that was exhausting to write out. I can only imagine it was as painful for you to read. Glad we're suffering together... I really think it's bringing us closer. Can I borrow some money?
Anyway, they do all their prep work and leave off for the night, intending to return in the AM to wrap everything up and get it ready for the event. However... TRAGEDY STRIKES!!! When the contestants arrive back at the kitchen, it's discovered that someone (my guess: a drama-craving producer) has left one of the refrigerator doors ajar. The food therein... spoiled and teeming with gut-destroying bacteria. Into the garbage it goes! Rhadika and Hosea are the two hit hardest by this unfortunate mishap, however... and this is why I remain a Top Chef fan season after season... the other cooks in the kitchen all pitch in to help them remake their dishes with the food on hand.
Seriously... I can't think of another reality show where the other contestants would actually go out of their way to help one another, and I can think of... just off the top of my head... three separate instances over the last few years where it's happened. It's just nice to see a reality show where people have the capacity to be decent human beings to each other on occasion. Even if it's not out of the kindness of their hearts... to paraphrase Stefan, "I helped them because, if I'm going to win, I want to win it fair." Hey man, good sportsmanship is admirable too.
Anyway, they get it together and head off to the big, schmancy event.
There's a bunch of people in pretty dresses and sharp-looking suits, Natasha Richardson... who's the sexy older lady married to Liam Neeson... is introduced as the guest judge, Jeff and Hosea get all flirty with the ladies, and some other stuff happens that's too boring to write up.
What's important is that, basically, all the food... to varying degrees... sucks. Even the dishes that are noted as being the best of the evening are merely good, not great (for the record, Hosea, Rhadika, Stefan, and Jeff were deemed the least sucky). Hosea ultimately wins and, as he should, makes a point of saying that his dish was a group effort because everyone pitched in to help him overcome Fridgegate and he loves everyone and so on and so on. It's nice and people hug.
The losers of the night...
Jamie... her scallops in soup were lukewarm and slimy.
Eugene... his ceviche was crazy sweet; a fact which he refused to acknowledge.
Hillbilly Deluxe... her dish was basically just a piece of bleu cheese.
The Judges debate the three losing dishes for a minute, but the conversation swings back around to the fact that, really, ALL the food that night was pretty lousy. Colicchio decides to go have a talk with the the remaining contestants/kick them all in the ass for making the show boring as shit this season (that part is unspoken, but implied).
He reads them the riot act, specifically calling out Ariane for being a lame-o deviled egg maker, and strongly suggests that they all get their acts together, immediately. Then he tells them that... in the spirit of this Christmas-themed episode shot in August... and because they all pitched in to help others like good little campers... NO ONE IS GOING HOME THIS EPISODE!!!
It's a goddamned fake-Christmas miracle!!!
Next week on Top Chef...
No limitations! A new regular judge! Who looks like Colicchio's fey younger brother!