Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 5: I Can't Get No Satisfaction

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.


Esi said...

Ok, I sort of caught up last night. And by caught up I mean I watched an episode at least 2 weeks old and had no clue what was going on because I didn't start watching it until 30 minutes in. When is the marathon?!?!?!

Diana said...

Esi -- Just checked the Bravo site, and the next marathon is this Sunday, December 14th, starting at 10 am -


Heather said...

i adore fabio! isn't he just the best!?! he's so cute, and i loved his little comments about how he cooked for his wife's shower. so cute. i hate stefan, although his whole love story with jamie kinda cracks me up. i sorta like ariane a little bit... and love lamb and thought hers sounded yum. i like jamie a lot too, though. tough call. i was glad the lamb chop bearded idiot went home.

Alessandra said...

that lamb-chop bearded idiot was my second-favorite (after Fabio)!! i wish he just would have kept his mouth shut... i bet the other dude on his team would have been sent him instead.

Diana said...

Ugh I hated Daniel! Especially after the drippy peanut butter incident in the stew room during the Thanksgiving episode. So gross!

Fabio's my knight in stained apron. I want to take him home with me!

Futile Sniffer said...

Fabio looked hot in his wedding pictures they briefly showed.

Initially I thought the quickfire challenge was going to be the fun one where they have to name the spice/sauce/random vegetable/etc... but was sad when it was just a rushed "name the ingredients" contest. "Salt...pepper..... oil..." duh.

Ariane should not have won. I feel bad for was an Indian inspired dish and she had talked about how well she knew how to cook Indian. I think Jaime just was more of the "bossy" leader. But, the power of protein...

I think Carla is a hoot. As in hooty-hoo! How fun she must be :) I hope she doesn't turn into a bitch now that they scolded her for not having a backbone. I thought it was very professional of her to maintain integrity. If she would have said anything at the judge's table she would have created unnecessary hostility and be accused of throwing someone under the bus. Obviously, she should have spoken up early on while they were cooking though, but she did not know that it was going to fail (that chops would sneak in mushrooms she didn't taste or that Gene would forget to explain their documented brainstormed idea of "you decide" / make your own sushi. Through all the seasons of Top Chef, I have noticed that the judges always look down on giving options. The chef should confidently know what goes best with their dish.

Next weeks with Martha Stewart looks good. I'm crossing my fingers that it will come out looking good :)

Kirby! said...

Yeah, I think this season is a little Meh. Exhibit A: Daniel. I mean, seriously: how did that guy last until episode 5??? I guess it was worth it just to see him spout gems like "I want them to dance with the food.... and then start taking their clothes off" or whatever the hell he said. What a douche.

But I am excited about this week because I am really into Martha these days. And Carla's reaction to her in the promos cracks my shit UP!!!