Commercial Interruption: This means WAR "Top Chef" judges!
Sara: Holy freaking hell. I'm at a total loss. After week after week of sucking it in the kitchen, Lisa (aka: the crossed-armed lesbian) is still standing strong. Can someone please tell me how this makes any sense?! Not only does she consistently find herself at the judges' table, but everytime she's on the bottom she gets defensive, doesn't take the criticism and, ahem, DOES NOT IMPROVE. Last night's episode -- "Restaurant Wars" -- clearly separates the winners from the losers, and even though she served the judges bonfire smoked noodles and "baby vomit," she did not have to pack her knives and go. Instead Dale, who has been consistent, was sent packing. Sure, he can only make Asian food and the caramel scallops weren't a good call, but c'mon!
Tom, do you have any idea what the judges are thinking?
Thomas: If I can put my anger on the shelf for a second, I have to admit that "Restaurant Wars" was the best episode of the season. It also might be the last one I ever watch.
Here's the thing: any reason you could possibly give for Dale getting sliced and diced off the show last night, you can double, NAY, triple it for Lisa. At the very least, it should have been a double elimination and the final four could have been given two weeks to prepare for the grand finale -- though realistically, we all know Slacker Spike, the soup-maker extraordinaire, doesn't belong either and it's a three-horse race with Antonia a distant third.
After watching the Quickfire, my wife and I both said, "Man, could it be Dale again?" He just always seems to win. And if he doesn't, at least he's being considered. And that's the thing about him: yes, he probably needs some anger management classes, but when given the opportunity to work by himself or with other talented chefs (see the improv challenge with Richard), he's "Top Chef" material. So yeah, while a total blowhard (and if you go back and read our previous "Top Chef" entries, I HATED Dale at the beginning), he's also a talented one, and whether it's real-life or reality TV, I can deal with constant jackassery as long as someone is backing it up with actual skills to pay the bills. The guy won me over.
OK, the flash of rage is back. So please Sara, explain to me why I should give this show any more of my time now that they unfairly booted off a legit final four contestant for ... ugh, I can't even write her name again.
Sara: I wish I could give you one reason to give the show another chance, but I'm afraid the show has failed me. First, the judges keep stupid, bratty Zoi (pronounced Zoy) for FAR too long and I dealt with it. Then blue-tinted glasses chick (aka: Nikki) stays for episode after episode even though her only talent, if you can call it that, is making really crappy pasta. I stayed around and kept my faith in the judges. But now, this is just too much.
The fact that Spike was saved because he stayed out of the kitchen and didn't do anything is complete garbage. The "chef who shall not be named" continues to think people are out to get her and I can't remember the last time she made something that was appetizing to the judges. (With the exception of the wedding cake that tasted good but looked like a pyramid of poo.) Why they continually slip through the cracks? I can no longer cook up an answer.
Dale's sincere farewell, although yes, he can be an ass to fellow chefs, was really sad. I really think he was given an unfair cut and it wasn't his time. With this kind of decision making by the judges I fear if rockstar, pink crocs Richard were to slip up, the judges could send him packing even though he's the clear standout.
I will end my rant with this:
Dear Judges and "Top Chef" Executives,
Go to hell.
So, T-Roz, what can be said of how the finale is brewing for this unpredictably ludicrous show?
Thomas: I think Stephanie has worked through her rough patch and is legit competition for Richard. Honestly, both are worth rooting for. They make great food. Carry themselves well. And while Richard has a take-charge personality that befits a "Top Chef" (at least according to what the criteria I thought the judges valued), Stephanie owns her own restaurant so she isn't over her head. Antonia is in the conversation, but I don't think she's capable of blowing anyone away with her creations. She usually wins challenges based on simplistic dishes -- cooking for your family, etc. -- and if she were up against Richard and Stephanie while forced to think outside the box, she'd look like an amateur. And heck, if anyone has to replicate a wedding cake for the finale, Stephanie's got this one in the bag.
We don't need to talk about Spike, who is basically like a football player who does everything in his power not to hit someone on the field. The guy can't even make chicken salad, for chrissakes. I wouldn't trust him with my Eggo waffles in the morning. I can't even look forward to the next two weeks because I'm seriously still stunned that Dale was sent home. I mean, really. I feel incredibly foolish for getting that worked up about a reality TV show, and I think that's in part because EVERYONE wants Chef Who Shall Not Be Named to go, and the move feels like shock value for the sake of a cheap ratings spike.
So while I certainly thought Anthony Bourdain was entertaining last night as guest head judge, I'm really struggling with the rationale for sending Dale home. If it's the butterscotch scallops abomination, Chef Who Shall Not Be Named screwed up TWO dishes. And if you put all the responsibility on Dale's shoulders as executive chef, when you don't get to pick your team and you're forced to work with two hacks, well, I guess Spike's path of least resistance means you survive in the kitchen. Silly me, I always thought it was about eating good food.
MJ, care to chime in? Please, no curse words.
Malavika: Here's my reaction from last night: AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
I think Dale's tears -- yes, he cried! -- were enough to tell you what a shock it was for EVERYONE that he and not She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named/You-Know-Who was canned.
"Top Chef" is seriously letting me down, though. It has always billed itself as a show that rewards talent, but there's no dish crappy enough to warrant such a blatant oversight on the judge's part to pick the guy who's won more challenges as the loser. I'm so angry, I want to eat everything with butterscotch as a giant middle finger to the judges. In part blame Bourdain (although anyone who knows me, knows I love me some "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations"), but if Chef Tom had been there instead of at a fundraiser, he would have seen through Lisa's diffidence and useless excuses.
There is a movement on the "Top Chef" Web Site to make Dale the fan favorite -- I mean, the least the dude deserves is $10,000 and the knowledge that everyone thinks he got screwed. (You can vote here.)
What's the verdict on a potential boycott of "Top Chef" next week?
Sara: Well said. I think we've all sufficiently given the judges a swift kick in the pants, but when such idiotic decisions are made, I can't help but analyze each judge and what preposterous reasoning they could have.
What I've concluded is this. Yes, Padma is gorgeous but girl needs to zip the lip when it comes to analyzing the dishes. She's a model and everyone knows models don't eat, so really, what credibility can she lend? For her to be a deciding factor at times is just ridiculous. I can't help but feel for the chefs who have to sit there and listen to her criticism on how the dish should've been made better, clearly based on her years of experience as ... ?? Exactly.
I say the mere fact that God forbid, She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named could survive another episode and holy Lord even make it to the finals ... well that's enough for me to begin my shun and start searching for a new 9 p.m. Wednesday show.
Thomas: The reason I started watching "Top Chef" -- for reasons other than Malavika giving it some mad props -- is that like "Amazing Race," I wanted it to be a reality show about the best rising to the, well, top. I feel cheated now.
Not that Dale was going to beat Richard or Stephanie, but he could have, and the idea behind that is important to me. Next week, I'd just be watching to get more infuriated at Frowny Pants Chef Who Shall Not Be Named and Crosses Her Arms Because She Can't Take Criticism and Make Freakin' Rice. But nothing else is on TV these days and I've gone this far. I'll probably give in.
MJ, you have last word.
Malavika: Listen, there's no better reason to watch the show beyond my recommendation. But in a way, I feel like I've let y'all down by promising a clean show that goes by talent, not by dramatic content.
I still argue "Top Chef" beats a lot of TV out there. We've got two if not three solid contestants, including perhaps one of the strongest female finalists since season one. As much as I like Richard, I'm pulling for Stephanie.
-- Malavika Jagannathan, firstname.lastname@example.org, Sara Boyd, email@example.com, and Thomas Rozwadowski, firstname.lastname@example.org