Friday, May 12, 2006


Wretched Excess

Katie Lee stands on an empty set with lots of chairs and introduces the show. Contestants return in the order of elimination, intercut with the scenes of their bootings. Ken has his head sticking out of the sun roof of his product-placed ride. His dish was unfocused. The top three of Dave, Harold and Tiffani are in a green room with alcoholic beverages, awaiting arrivals. Ken strolls in. Cynthia had to withdraw. Ken doesn't have to give her a hug, but he does anyway. She says he still smells the same. And what does crazy smell like? Brian's ready for an "adult beverage." He engaged the customers with his personality, but lost them with his food. Candice has lots of bouncy curls. Her inexperience showed. Lisa screams with excitement at seeing everyone, or perhaps because she just caught a glimpse of her gilded hair. She was the last person to handle the jicama. Andrea hugs Tiffani. Andrea wasn't enough about food. She talks about sources of fiber. Miguel is all duded up and ready to party. He was competing in Top Sous Chef. Stephen is wearing a T-shirt and jeans. He was competing in Top Waiter. He tells Lisa he doesn't wear a suit in the shower, although some people think so. Lisa screams for Lee Anne. Her execution fell just a little short. There's a big group toast and then Katie summons them all before the judges.

Katie welcomes everyone, including Gail Simmons and "firm but fair" head judge Tom Colicchio. Right away, Chef Tom asks if the show has done anything for people's careers, and Lisa loudly says it has. Lisa is just bustin' out tonight. Brian says there's just more recognition and people wanting you to do events. Ken got called by Howard Stern, which figures. Cynthia wants to know if they were talking about all the hot girls, and Chef Tom chimes in that they thought the bald guy was sexy. Gail announces that Chef Tom won Hottest Judge on the Bravo boards. Chef Tom asks if anyone has been reading the Bravo boards. Miguel says he has -- Harold and Dave are heroes, and Miguel was okay up until he called Tiffani a snake. Tiffani hisses for him. Chef Tom asks how many eyes he has, and Miguel goes through his two in the front and one in the back routine. He then alludes to a fourth eye, but it's too much information, so moving on.

Katie asks how it felt watching yourself being eliminated. Andrea jokes that she was so into "elimination" that they had to eliminate her twice. We take a look at Ken's behavior from the first show, and Katie asks if he has any regrets. Of course not. Gail wants to know about the finger in the sauce thing. Lisa says she hated it because she has to practice what she teaches. Harold says that every chef has stuck a finger in the sauce, and Cynthia hugs him. Chef Tom says it didn't fly in that kitchen, and Miguel agrees that "you don't put your feet on someone's end table if you do it at home." Lee Anne thinks Ken didn't have the worst dish that first night. Ken calls out the judges for accepting a plate with sand on the kale, even though the competition is supposed to be about food. Chef Tom reviews the bottom three and the problems they had. Ken wants to know, if you're in a restaurant and you have a choice between a bad dish with sand and a bad dish with no sand, which do you pick? Chef Tom says neither. Ken thinks he has proved something. Stephen finally outshouts Ken long enough to pose the choice as "sand or <bleep>" and the crowd goes wild. Stephen is carting around a big, half-empty wine bottle. I suspect it's his third.

Katie asks about watching mistakes, and what they regret. Miguel immediately volunteers, "Salt and sugar." Katie says that one chef seemed to think "he was a cut above the rest" and Stephen looks abashed as he gets a montage. Katie asks if the experience has been humbling, and Stephen says it has been a huge learning experience. Lisa reports that everyone she heard from hated him because of his arrogance. Harold sticks up for Stephen. Gail asks about his "obsession for educating people." Stephen says it's in gratitude for everything he's had the opportunity to learn at such a young age.

Katie congratulates Dave for making it to the finals and asks if it was an emotional rollercoaster. Dave rolls his eyes, "Oh, God, the emotional thing." He says he never cries at work, but before he can get much further, Katie cues the montage. Chef Tom tosses him a box of tissues. Dave says he has a different view and his passion is so extreme. Tiffani disagrees that his view is so different from everyone else's, and Dave gets annoyed that she's trying to take away his "thing." It's Dave time, so step off. Dave never interrupts anyone, because he respects them. Tiffani respects Dave. So why is she talking during his time? He can't even answer the question without her shutting him down. So apparently he stops trying, because he never does finish his answer and we're left wondering why Dave was weeping all over the show. I was wanting to thump Dave for the "so different, so passionate" thing, but sometimes it's better to let people run on for a bit. If he had said that he was more passionate than the others, he'd have hung himself out to dry without Tiffani being the bad guy. And if he had gone on to say something else, maybe I wouldn't have felt like thumping him.

Chef Tom asks Tiffani if she thinks Dave should be in the final. Dave says, "Of course not." Hey, Dave, this is Tiffani's time, so shut it! Oh, sorry. Anyway, Tiffani blandly says that she thinks Dave should "totally" be in the finals. Ken laughs his head off. I wish. So glad he got booted first. How on earth did he pass the psych review? Chef Tom asks Dave if he had more at stake because it was a career change. Dave agrees that it was a validation for him, and he could use the money, but it's really about people. He looks like he's about to tear up, but he shakes it off. Miguel offers that every chef has cried from time to time. Dave interrupts Miguel to say he just wears his emotions on his sleeve and that's his problem. Cynthia argues that cooking is the only art form that engages all the senses.

Katie redirects things to say they've proved that chefs have a way with words, and it's time for another montage. We get to see Brian put the moves on Candice while she ignores him. Almost all the chefs are guilty of "it is what it is." At the end, Katie breaks out a Top Chef "I'm not your bitch, bitch!" T-shirt for Dave. Tiffani laughingly tries to steal it, because she's not his bitch. Katie scolds her like a kindergarten teacher. Dave wins out in the end and gets his big moment in the spotlight.

Gail has a question for Brian from a viewer: Are all chefs naturally competitive? Brian says yes. Even at home, although it's not about being the best so much as winning people over. Lee Anne reaches for Stephen's wine bottle. Cynthia doesn't think all chefs are competitive, but they love that they can all do their thing together. Katie wants this to be about competition, and it's another montage about gamesmanship. According to the captions, Ken was bellowing "Final hour!" as he sharpened his knives. That doesn't sound nearly crazy enough. Everybody wants to win. Lee Anne's oven, Miguel's burner, Cynthia's missing pomegranate, Miguel copied Tiffani's Krispy Kreme idea, Miguel threw Andrea the bus. Miguel protests that he wasn't planning to throw her under the bus, but she didn't have anything to lose. Katie asks for Andrea's take, and she demurs. She thinks Miguel is great and she looks good in tire tracks. I think Andrea pretty much disengaged from the whole experience even before she got the boot, which is probably the sanest thing she's ever done.

Gail asks another question from a viewer: Who did turn off the oven? And did Tiffani know a board conspiracy theory has fingered her as the villain? Tiffani knows, and mocks the drama of it. Dave shakes his head. Tiffani talks about the new equipment and there's a chorus of protests, like "Ovens are ovens." Dave urges her to "admit your <bleep>." Tiffani walks off; she doesn't want to be someone's monkey. Katie calls for a break so they can sort some things out. Are we really supposed to believe that Tiffani was a saboteur? They have footage of the cooking; if she was messing with people's ovens, they should be able to prove it. Or they should be able to prove that she wasn't. The producers have no business being coy about it when they're sitting on the answer. Beat up on people for stuff they've actually done, not stuff you'd like to think they've done.

It's Harold's turn for a montage. Afterwards, Tiffani kisses him on the cheek. Yeah, I'd say she's had a few. Katie asks if his shyness is a problem, but Harold is comfortable as he is. Gail has a question from several viewers: is Harold single? He declines to answer. Ken chimes in that he's gay, and Harold asks Ken what he's doing later. Gail presses, and Harold admits he's not single.

Gail asks what they all thought about the challenges. Andrea says they were creative and let everyone showcase the great and/or not-so-great parts of themselves. Chef Tom knows Harold feels differently. Harold doesn't even want to get into the wedding challenge, so of course they do. Chef Tom thinks they had enough time. Harold talks about the supermarket, and Chef Tom agrees that was a challenge. Dave says they really had more like 12-14 hours, but Chef Tom still thinks it got done, so what was the problem? Harold says they got beat up for the wedding cake. Tiffani interjects that they didn't know that at the time, and Harold asks if he can answer Chef Tom. Tiffani giggles, "Of course." Harold is totally frustrated, and then he doesn't answer Chef Tom because Katie interrupts that it was all pretty stressful.

Another montage about unwinding, aka drinking heavily. Gail asks about sleep. Lee Anne says they slept as much as they could. Andrea would go to bed early, but she couldn't fall asleep until around 3 am, when the house quieted down, and then she got up at 5:30 to do yoga and meditate. Harold's roommates were "professional" snorers, and Miguel takes a bow. Time for a "Chunk LeFunk" montage. Apparently "funk" applies to the odor around him. Katie asks if he landed any babes with his sexy party costume. He laments that Madame S led him on and let him down. Chef Tom asks where the name came from, and someone urges Tiffani to step up as Miguel says it was a collaboration. Tiffani says it was hers, and it just suits him perfectly. Katie asks who Miguel roomed with. Stephen and Brian raise their hands, and Harold says the snoring the first couple of nights was intense. Brian asks if he snores, but before that can be clarified, Lee Anne announces that Chunk farted. Katie waves a card in front of her face, like that's going to help. They cut to commercials while Miguel looks proud of himself.

Katie announces that Tiffani is the most controversial character of the bunch. Tiffani doesn't think so, but we have a montage to prove it. Dave makes faces behind her like a bratty little brother. Tiffani asks what issue they want to address. Cynthia brings up something she made early on and Tiffani asked, "What is this mess?" Cynthia wanted to shoot her. Dave announces that Tiffani is projecting with the being mean, and she needs to accept it and be real with herself. Dave and Tiffani are arguing while Andrea tries to speak up; Katie asks Dave to let Andrea talk now. Andrea thinks Tiffani always treated her with respect. Brian thinks she does whatever it takes. Tiffani responds, but Brian flips out that he needs to finish talking. When he finishes flipping out, he says that she takes it too far and doesn't have any respect for anyone.

Next montage is LiarGate. Gail has a viewer question: why did Tiffani lie? She doesn't think she lied, and people have told her she was misrepresented. Dave interrupts, asking if she said it or not. Just admit it! Tiffani singsongs that she's guilty and she totally lied. Lee Anne scans the ceiling, hoping to spot some ninja assassins whose attack will let her escape during the confusion. No such luck. Katie asks Miguel what he thinks, and he thinks she should have said it to his face. She says she did tell him the truth. Dave disagrees and Tiffani tells him to let them all know when he's done talking. Dave tells her to <bleep> off, and he's tired of being nice to people he doesn't like. When did he start? Dave has come down with a bad case of Vindicated Reality Show Martyr Complex, and he needs to get over it fast.

I'm really tired of LiarGate, so this is how it goes: the montage cheated because it didn't show the full question. Chef Tom didn't ask, "Should Miguel go home tonight?" He asked, based on kitchen performance, "Is Miguel someone you think should go tonight?" These are different questions, decided by different criteria. If Chef Tom had asked, based on the quality of the food, "Is Miguel someone you think should go tonight?", the answers would probably have been different. So Tiffani didn't lie when she said, "I never said that I thought it was time for you to go home." It's all a great big game of Telephone that has gotten completely out of hand. I can totally understand how people thought she lied, because that's how Telephone works, but once you go back to the actual text, it's pretty clear she didn't. Feel free to say she's splitting hairs -- I think nitpicking is an underappreciated art, so it won't bother me -- but don't tell me she out-and-out lied without substantiation.

Katie sums up that Tiffani wins Most Confrontations (Tiffani shakes her head no) but she wasn't part of the longest fight. The next montage is a rehash of Stephen and Candice fighting for some 37 minutes while everyone else watches. I'm astonished no one managed to break it up before that. I'd have been ready to start throwing things at them at the five minute mark. Chef Tom asks Stephen if looking back he would have used cookie cutters. Stephen admits that cookie cutters are entirely appropriate for kids and he was on his education kick. Candice thinks she took it all too personally and it was a learning experience. Stephen protests that she didn't have anything to learn; she was totally right and it was wrong of him to hurt her feelings. Ken cracks up and Stephen tells him to shut up. The benches clear as the two get separated. Lee Anne looks like she's praying for the next big earthquake. Stephen thinks this is serious, but Ken will laugh if he wants to. Stephen calls Ken white trash, and Ken bounces it right back at him. People try to get Ken to shut up and finally it calms down. Stephen delivers a beautiful apology for being mean to Candice; he compliments her courage in competing and doing so well. Candice hugs him. He so has a crush on her. But seriously, that was like a master class in how to deliver an apology. Good job, Stephen. Even if you were sozzled.

Katie tosses the finalists so they can get trashed behind their backs. Why should they start sparing anyone's feelings now? There's a montage of the top three talking about what makes a top chef. Katie asks if the others think this is the right top three. Andrea would have liked to see Lee Anne instead of Tiffani, and Candice agrees. Chef Tom asks if anyone thinks Tiffani should win. Ken says she's a good cook and he picked out her pumpkin dish in the first episode. Cynthia wouldn't hire her. Lee Anne says Tiffani is smart and she has done good food. Lisa is okay with Tiffani's food but her behavior sucked. Gail says it's not a popularity contest and switches the subject to Harold (Mr. Popular). Miguel thinks its about being consistent. Lisa was initially going for Harold, but now she wants Dave to win. Candice nods. Katie asks if he's the underdog. Stephen agrees, but observes that Harold and Tiffani appeal to fine dining and that's only 13% of the market. Andrea loves Dave but she feels he fell apart under pressure. Candice is torn between Dave and Harold. Their styles are completely different, so it will be interesting to see who will win. Maybe Candice should have Katie's job.

Katie thanks them all for contributing and we're done.

I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog. I look forward to reading it each week for the recap, insightful and interesting. I wish other people who are posting all the various boards were half this good. Thank you for taking the time to keep us all updated.
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