I knew going in that the episode was going to be less enthralling than ususal. My East Coast friend even warned me that it was "not super exciting." Yet, I still maintained an ounce of hope that those crazy gaggle of cheftestants would captivate me with their silly foibles and ridiculous sound bites like they always do.
It was apparent from the first few minutes that something was missing from last night's episode of "Top Chef." Just like the Blue Team's uninspired sea bass dish, the 75-minute show lacked texture and pizzaz. It was bland, lifeless and revived only through the charming tool, Fabio, whose heavily-accented commentary was the saving grace of the episode.
Normally the QuickFire challenge gets things going with a bang -- pots are dropped as the chefs race around the kitchen (and each other) to create breakfast amuse-bouches or entrees made with Spam and Cheetos, and the resulting tension ramps up the level of audience excitement. Last night's tasting competion, whereby the contestants were asked to name the ingredients in various dishes like shrimp bisque and thai curry, did nothing to draw me into the episode. Instead of establishing stakes and setting up the scene for the impending elimination challenge, the only thing it accomplished was proving, yet again, that Stefan is pompous and tempermental. Nothing new there.
The episode continued to trudge along in the elimination challenge. The chefs were broken into four teams -- labelled "Something New," "Something Blue," "Something Borrowed, "Something Old," -- and charged with the task of creating a dish for Gail's bridal shower that was somehow inspired by the new, blue, borrowed, and old moniker. It was clear from the beginning that Eugene, Carla and Daniel were tying themselves to a rapidly sinking ship when they selected de-constructed sushi rolls for their "new" dish. Oddly enough, however, it was unclear who would come out on top. In past episodes, the winner and winning team are amped up in some way throughout the course of the show. Whether it be through extra time on camera, or subtle asides that receive undue attention, there is always some sort of play on audience emotion to get the viewers at home invested in the winning team and contestant. I was as shocked as Jamie was when they announced that Ariane's "perfectly cooked" lamb was the winner. Not because her lamb didn't appeal to me, but because the focus earlier in the episode was on Ariane's failure to put the lamb in on time -- a mistake that could have cost her team the win. Watching her be rewarded for her misjudgment of time was unsettling -- and not just because of the excruciating moment where Jamie revealed "I want this win," just as the judges were crowning Ariane the victor.
The only satisfactory part of the episode was watching Fabio charm Gail and her friends with his adorable smile and truncated description of the blue corn-encrusted sea bass dish. He may have served "old people food," but at least he knows how to captivate an audience. I wish I could say the same for the rest of his friends in the kitchen.