My apologies in advance for how boring and self-serving this first paragraph is going to be, but can I just say that my DVR has not properly recorded an episode of Top Chef in months, which means that if I am not home to watch it live, which sometimes I am not, because I am a human adult in 2012 and we all have responsibilities (read: bars to drink at) then I have to stay up for the late-night airing of the episode, which sometimes means even having to watch a couple of minutes of Watch What Happens Live. The point is I have the hardest life out of all the lives and I am a saint for even doing this and we all agree about how true both of these FACTS are and how sad we all feel for me. But seriously, last night was the worst yet in that my DVR did not tape the episode properly, but I was actually home for the last half of the show and it still just wouldn’t play and then I stayed up late to watch the rerun and watching LIVE still didn’t work! It just kept showing me the first 5 minutes and whenever I would try and pause or restart or turn the machine off it just was stuck on this endless Quickfire Challenge loop. O’ WOE IS ME! What’s even going on? Who designed this technology? Has even Bravo given up on this show? Fuck it. Fuck it! (You can’t be upset about this annoying introductory paragraph because I already apologized for it. You have to accept my apology and forgive me, that’s how it works.)
Anyway, the Quickfire Challenge if anyone even cares at this point:
This week’s special guest judge is Pee Wee Herman. Sure! Pee Wee’s fun. Although, it feels like Pee Wee’s big revival was last year, and he doesn’t have anything to really promote, and the closest they can come to explain him being there is that part of his movie from 200 years ago was shot at the Alamo, but that’s fine. We’re just having fun. So much fun. Almost too much fun, I worry sometimes. This week’s Quickfire is about pancakes, because I guess Pee Wee loves pancakes? To be completely honest, this was the portion of the show where I was cursing out my television. Everyone shares their childhood memories of pancakes and who made which pancakes with some dad etc. Personally, I don’t have any intense childhood memories of pancakes. Do you? I mean, I ate pancakes when I was little but I wasn’t sitting at the table being like, “better file this pancake memory away for if I ever have to answer prodding interview questions on a reality show in the future.” In any case, again, my DVR was the most fucked up at this point, so all I really know is that Pee Wee went around to each chef and told him/her that it was the best pancake he’d ever eaten, which was supposed to be charming and cute but was actually just kind of boring and the whole fun of Pee Wee being on the show is to see him RIP THESE GUYS SOME NEW ONES, and then Ed won the challenge because he made the burnt edges of a bunch of pancakes into one giant super-pancake. He gets $5,000 for jaw surgery.
This week’s Elimination Challenge is classic Top Chef nonsense. Everyone gets $100 to buy supplies to make a lunch at the Alamo for Pee Wee and the judges, but the trick is that they have to get all around town on bikes just like (not just like) the one Pee Wee had in that movie from 1921. To make matters more complicated, they have to “find” a kitchen that will let them prepare their food. And then transport the food to the Alamo for the lunch. Shop Shop Shop. Bike Bike Bike. Everyone is buying their main ingredients at a farmer’s market and then hoping that the kitchen they “find” to cook in will have things like oil and salt. That’s fine, I am pretty sure those kitchens that randomly allow a stranger to cook there will have oil and salt, although Ed is hoping that they also have SHRIMP. “Hey, can I cook here and also can you provide the food and what do you think I should cook?” It’s weird that Ed expected there to be shrimp at the farmer’s market, and it’s even weirder that when there wasn’t shrimp at the farmer’s market he just took off like, oh, it’s fine, wherever I go there will be shrimp. Pull your head out of your jaw, Ed.
Sidenote: did anyone else notice the diaper commercial that ran repeatedly during this episode that featured cartoon bears just EXPLODING shit into their pants?
So now everyone is biking around and they’re trying to “find” a kitchen that will “let them” cook there. Obviously, everyone has a map with five restaurants, one for each chef, carefully labeled, all within a couple blocks of each other, and it’s just a matter of everyone picking one and sticking to it. There’s some variation on the size and quality of the kitchen, I guess, but for the most part it all seems to work out fine for everyone. Each chef has to go into the kitchen and explain who they are and what they want as if it wasn’t all pre-arranged by the producers. It’s a little exhausting.
And then there’s this whole drama between Lindsay and Sarah because Lindsay got to a kitchen and then left the kitchen to go to another kitchen to scavenge for ingredients and then came back to the kitchen but now Sarah was in that kitchen and Lindsay is running out of time to cook except she isn’t and once again everyone gets their food cooked and the drama subsides. Neat.
The judges ask Pee Wee what kind of food he thinks they’re going to be eating and Pee Wee says chicken because he mentioned chicken and it’s true. He said that he eats chicken sometimes so everyone made tons of fucking chicken. Sarah made an egg salad with chicken skin dressing, and Lindsay made zucchini stuffed with beef cheek, and the rest is all chicken all the time. And while it seems fun enough to have Pee Wee on as a guest judge, the dining scenes are where it really falls flat. His character is such a carefully constructed, painstakingly written stage play built upon silly puns and his interactions with other written characters. Riffing with Padma is the opposite. Pee Wee says that he has a lot of childhood issues with runny yolks that he’d have to lay down to tell you about, to which Tom responds “did it ever catch you?” and then Gail throws in “it was running.”
GAHHHH. Et tu, Gail? The only thing worse than a lazily delivered dad joke is someone explaining it. And then Padma jumps in with “I know you are but what am I” which is a reference to Pee Wee’s own line in his movie and she says it as if she is about to fuck him. The whole thing is a mess, kind of like the way most of everyone’s dishes look this week.
Since we are down to the final five, everyone is called to Judges’ Table. I do love Pee Wee’s “Judgement Face.”
Paul’s and Lindsay’s dishes were great. Moving on. Sarah’s eggs were cooked perfectly but they were underseasoned. Back in the Stew Room, Sarah will say “you guys, isn’t seasoning just, like, the biggest?” Uh, yeah, Sarah. I’m not a professional chef, much less one with the confidence and arrogance to appear on a meritocratic elimination-based reality show and I know that seasoning your food is VERY IMPORTANT. Grayson’s dish had lots of delicious components but once again she served a giant BRICK of protein, and Tom didn’t like the tomatoes. It is also funny when she explains that she cooked the chicken without the skin to make it healthier for Pee Wee the Gym Rat and then someone points out that it was covered in bacon dressing and stuffed with gorgonzola cheese. Haha. It’s kind of like when Ed decided to serve his bulgogi on bread instead of rice last week to get rid of empty calories. Top Thinkers. Ed’s dish was fine, but he poached his chicken in beef tallow, which already SOUNDS disgusting and apparently it also tasted very weird. Lindsay wins for her stuffed zucchini because Tom was a kid once and Pee Wee likes his food served in “tiny boats.” Paul is also safe, obvs.
Judge judge judge. Deliberate deliberate deliberate. This season sucks, and the judges work extra hard to hide that simple fact. Now that we are down to five people, they say that thing about how at this point in the competition it’s really just the details that will get you eliminated. Well, sure, but also not? I mean, Ed cooked his chicken in beef fat and it was disgusting, but it was just chicken which you should really be able to cook at this point. Grayson’s dish was poorly proportioned and all over the map. And Sarah didn’t even SEASON her food. It’s not details we are discussing here. It is major bloopers on each plate. Nice try, judges. Nice try, this show.
In the end it is Grayson who goes home.
Ultimately the judges decide that it was simply unacceptable of her to send the message to any children watching that it’s OK to ride a bike with a warming tray full of hot chicken in your hand.
Aww. Bye Grayson! You seemed genuinely very nice and sometimes you could kind of cook. At least your elimination gives you more time to poke Gay Chris on Facebook! He’ll come around. You’ll show him. And so now we are down to the final four. OR ARE WE. The remaining contestants are brought back in to the Judges’ Table where Tom reveals that unbeknownst to them, each eliminated chef has been able to try and win a place back onto the show on the on-line post-show challenge, Last Chance Kitchen. Ha. What a flop. They show a quick-cut montage of all the excitement that has been going on behind the scenes, and I’m pretty sure it is the first ANYONE has ever seen of this thing. Who is watching that? Even Beverly’s mom is like “good luck, sweetie, I’m going to bed.” But it is VERY exciting that they are going to make this show go on for another 10 years. Great. You know what they say about having an audience: keep them wanting you to shoot them in the face.