Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Other White Meat

Oh my hell. In last night's episode, part 1 of 2 of the finale, the contestants were in Puerto Rico. (Where I totally want to go now.)

In the quickfire challenge, they had to use plantains to impress Padma and the guest judge, Wilo Benet. (Apparently pronounced Willow, which made me miss Buffy all over again.) The contestants all start working and bring out their dishes to the judges. Antonia and Richard don't fare so well, Stephanie and Loser do well with Stephanie FTW. It seems to me that Loser practiced cooking Puerto Rican food during the break, and I have to say, if so, that was pretty smart. The others don't mention anything like that, though they could have, of course.
By the way, Loser now looks totally like a guy with her new butch haircut, but it is still a vast improvement over the greasy straggles hanging over the bandana we were treated to before. BUT she keeps wearing tank tops and shlumpy long shorts (board shorts? too-short capris? who knows?) and it is NOT the look for her. Maybe she's become a reality show contestant junkie and is angling for a spot on What Not to Wear. All I know for sure is that I now have to start calling her Lumpy.

The elimination challenge is to cook three dishes from an ENTIRE PIG for a party of VIPs. So they have to butcher poor Babe and create three dishes for the glitterati party; no pressure! But (of course) they'll have help! Out come Dale, Andrew, Spike, and Nikki. I have to wonder why the same losers keep showing up -- do they just use the most recently eliminated? Okay, I just checked and apparently that's it. So I suppose, in theory, that means they are getting the strongest chefs from that season as assistants. Unless by some fluke someone stays way past their due date (I'm looking at you, Spike).

Stephanie's advantage from her quickfire win is not only to choose her assistant, but to ASSIGN all the assistants to chefs. Lumpy is already bitching to the camera about how she doesn't get along with Dale, or Andrew, or... Really, does she get along with anyone? I bet she argues with herself. Stephanie says she doesn't want conflict in the kitchen, so she takes Douche (who I would have chosen just because I think he's the best chef in that bunch, but apparently she's also known him for ten years) and assigns Spite to Richard, Tiny Pasta Dancer to Antonia, and Crazy to Lumpy. Lumpy is -- drumroll, please! -- not happy.

The sous chefs run off to the market to get fresh stuff for the chefs, while the chefs start carving their individual Babes. (Note to self: NEVER be a chef.) I much prefer my meat to be completely unindentifiable as the animal it once was. So. Crazy can't speak Spanish so he's struggling at the market, but Spite apparently knows some, we only hear Douche say Gracias, and we don't hear TPD say anything at all in Spanish, but those three seem to do fine. Back in the kitchen, the chefs have been carving and separating and butchering, but mercifully they don't show too much of it. By "it" I mean gross parts of the poor pigs. The sous chefs come back and everyone moves along. Stephanie and Douche seem to really be grooving along, and I have high hopes because they are both talented. Everyone wraps up and crams their stuff into the inadequate refrigerator space and leave for the evening.

Cut to: Camera focus on rubbed pork belly, left out by DOUCHE.

They come in the next day and Stephanie discovers the Douche's bonehead mistake. She is completely calm and starts thinking about what else she can do. Douche apologizes and she says shortly, "That's okay." Wow. I was impressed. There is NO WAY I wouldn't have lost my temper. And can you imagine what paroxyms of rage Lumpy would have flown into? Actually, I kind of wish we'd seen that.

Cut to: Douche the Homeboy says to the camera that if this makes her lose, he would never forgive himself. Well, I think he really meant it, it looked like he was about to cry in one shot. In another, he had on douchey shades and was acting all Homeboy Down the Kitchen, Yo. STOP BEING SUCH A DAMN DOUCHE.

Back to the kitchen, where Stephanie and Douche have come up with something else. And this is where I think the truly talented chefs show their mettle -- being able to come up with something else quickly enough to fit it in when your original plans fall to pieces. And not something else like me throwing some rice-in-a-bag on to boil because the potatoes fell on the floor or something, but something else good enough to win a cooking competition. Somehow I think Lumpy would NOT have been able to do that. So I think they need to add a challenge like that toward the end of a season when they've already (presumably) weeded out the total washouts. Ahem, producers? Could you get on that, please?

Anyway, they all move on. Lumpy is being her usual sunny self, spreading doom and gloom wherever she goes. Everyone is so over her. Poor Crazy.

Cut to: PARTY! The chefs are at their stations, finishing dishes, making things, lalala. We see various comments by the judges and some of the people at the party, but of course they don't make it extremely clear what's coming.

Cut to: Judges' table. Padma goes and calls Richard and Stephanie. She's all solemn, as if we don't all know that means those two did the best. All season the first ones called have been the favorites. Maybe TC wants to shake it up a little next season, producers? (I'm going to have to start asking for a consultant's fee. No more free tips!)

The pattern remains unchanged and Richard and Stephanie are the favorites! And the winner is... Richard! And his prize is... a brand new car! Yes, a car. No, this is not the Price is Right. Richard was understandably taken aback. (It was a 2009 Toyota Corolla, so, nice, but still... weird, right? Next thing you know we'll have car commercials featuring chef montages à la American Idol.)

The winners now have to send the losers out. The judges go through why they are the losers -- at least two of Lumpy's dishes have problems, if not all three, and Antonia's peas were undercooked. Plus she put all three dishes on the same plate -- gasp! The judges were apparently stymied by this. "If they're on the same plate, I can't distinguish them. I can't taste the difference." What? Seriously, WHAT? Just putting them on the same plate somehow completely confounded your taste buds? If all three of her dishes tasted that similar to one another, don't you think, really, that you would have still realized it even if she had served each one on a separate plate? Really? It's like they all suddenly came down with Homer Simpson's brain: "Look, I don't like you and you don't like me, but let's do this thing. Other people had bits of stuff on different plates and she just handed us a single plate with a lot of stuff on it. Is it all the same, just more? Are these different items of... eating stuff? Is this, whatchamacallit... food? Am I eating?" D'oh, indeed.

So they hear the losers out, send them away, deliberate in a strangely retarded way (see plate discussion above), then call the losers back. Lumpy's double chin is in evidence as usual, along with her buttonhole mouth and narrowed eyes, but it's not as pronounced as usual. Either she's watched earlier footage or she's been reading blogs because it wasn't as bad as it used to be. Antonia just looks normal, a little apprehensive. The judges berate them again, then Padma pauses dramatically and says...

Antonia, please pack your knives and go.

ANTONIA!! Why does past performance not matter to these people?! Arrrrrgggghhhh!! I can't believe Lumpy is still there! Antonia thanks the judges and shakes all of their hands and Lumpy smirks at them and says, "You won't be sorry." Well, they'll be the only ones. The losers go back and Antonia tells the winners she is outie. They are understandably shocked. They hug her and she leaves.

The other three sit there for a moment, then Lumpy says, "I know you didn't want Antonia to go, but it would be nice for you to tell me congratulations." Oh, YES SHE DID. She is the most uncouth, clueless, ridiculous person I've seen on a reality show in a while. Mostly because the current ANTM cycle is over, but still.

Stephanie just looks at her then shakes her head a little and says, "Congratulations." Richard mumbles his congratulations, then cut to him saying to the camera, "You won the bronze medal. Congratulations." He's usually pretty milquetoast, so that was kind of harsh for him.

Feel better, Lumpy? There's nothing like grudging congratulations for warming the cockles of the ol' heart, is there? She then proceeds to say, "I know you liked Antonia, but it feels like you think the wrong one went home." Well, DUH. The WHOLE WORLD thinks the wrong one went home, dear Lump.

You know Stephanie and Richard are thinking "How did we end up slumming it with this angry weirdo?" but they don't show it. They must be itching to beat her. It makes the competition seem a little meaningless. You know, like if they let every child "win" a race, it means nothing to have come in first. It denigrates the whole competition by making it not a competition at all, so what's the point? I know they still win something here, but I think it must be less fun and pride-inducing to beat Lumpy than Antonia or Douche. I still can't believe that no matter what else, she is now THIRD PLACE for the competition. Antonia and Douche must be so pissed.

In my opinion, Top Chef ought to be ashamed. To let her get this far when there were other more talented chefs is just a joke. It makes the competition look lame. And it hadn't seemed lame to me before. It's a sad day when Top Chef disillusions you almost as much as ANTM makes you feel dirty and used.

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