Thursday, February 26, 2009

Top Chef Season 5 Finale Part 2: "A Crap End to a Crap Season"

“A crap end to a crap season,” says the text from my friend Ali mere moments after Hosea is named “Top Chef.”

Her words, while not poetic, couldn't be more accurate. It was a crap end to a crap season -- like a bad tasting menu that gets progressively worse with each dish, or in the case of “Top Chef” Season Five, each episode. Throughout the entire run, I kept hoping that the next episode would be better – that the chefs would find some personality or, at the very least, some semblance of passion. Unless Fabio was in front of the camera, that spark never emerged. Like poor Carla’s final cheese course, the season that never got off the ground ended last night on yet another flat note.

The finale starts out as expected. Stakes are laid. Claims are made. Hosea is suddenly nervous “because it’s down to three.” Apparently, he’s forgotten about the other ten other episodes where he was nervous because he was the last American male chef, or because he had to prepare fish for “the fish guy,” or because he stuck his tongue down Leah’s throat on camera and will have to face his girlfriend when he gets home.

Stefan isn't nervous at all. He’s never nervous. He’s from Finland. He is Team Euro. And oh yeah? "Hosea’s food sucks," and he needs to “go back to frickin' Colorado.” Didn't Stefan’s mother teach him that if he doesn't have anything nice to say, he shouldn't say anything at all? Course half the time I can’t understand his incoherent mutterings, so I guess it doesn't much matter what he is nailing down like an eel on a cutting board. I much prefer Carla’s more simple reflection on the whole deal over Stefan’s “I am Euro, hear me roar” spiel. With her googly eyes a-googling, she says, “In a word, ‘wow.’” In a word (or three), “You go girl!”

Part of me wants to just stop now before even starting into the final (predictable) challenge where the chefs are charged with crafting the “best three-course meal of their life.” I don’t want to talk about the big “surprise” that they will have to do an extra fourth course using alligator, crab or red fish. Nor do I even want to start in on the other surprise that they will be working with sous-chefs Marcel, Richard and Casey from seasons past. Well, okay maybe I do want to pause for a moment to reflect on Stefan’s reasoning for choosing Marcel as his kitchen partner. “People don’t like Marcel” (ie. misery loves company). And I do feel some what inclined to point out that in a previous season the chefs got to work with Rocco Dispirito, Michelle Bernstein and Todd English. Not sure I'd be jumping up in down for help from contestants who came close but, ultimately, as Tom says, "fell short."

But I digress, because I have a point to make here. I don’t want to talk about any of the meaningless episode filler or the great sausage war going on between Hosea and Stefan. Yes, I could go all Freud on them. Or compare it to some sort of world war. Or even begin citing all the various ways the producers set the stage for the epic battle of the baldies throughout the rest of the season. The whole situation repulses me. I want nothing to do with it. Instead, I want to go back in time to shake Carla and tell her to ignore everything that Casey says and just go with that love-saturated gut of hers. Everything will be okay then. She won’t sous-vez the steak, she won’t do a cheese soufflĂ©, and she will win “Top Chef” and put an end to the audience’s misery.

I knew it was coming before it came. Carla tells the camera that she’s never sous-vezed a steak before. Carla blindly follows Casey’s lead on the cheese soufflĂ©. It is like watching a train about to collide with a car that just can’t get off the railroad in time. It makes me hate Casey. And it makes me hate Carla for being so gosh darn likable in the final episodes. Just when I finally bought into all that cooking with love hogwash, “Top Chef” Season 5 goes and tears my heart out.

The facts are these. Stefan and Hosea present food that represents who they are as chefs and people. Stefan’s heart is made of steel, so ultimately, while well-executed, the food lacks “soul.” Hosea has a soul (when he’s not kissing Leah or passing off alligator to Stefan), and that “thoughtfulness” comes through in his dishes. He “[puts] a piece of [himself] out there.”

Carla doesn't. She puts a piece of Casey out there, and hands the victory to Hosea. With just a couple tweaks, it could have ended so differently. The season could have been redeemed with the fairy tale ending of Carla, the little “hooty-hoo”-calling Tortoise from the South, winning over the judge’s, winning over the audience, and winning the competition with all that love mumbo jumbo. I like that story arc -- I like the whole "American" dream undertones that anyone can make it in this country. Or, in the case of "Top Chef," the underdog can come from behind and pass by those big bald posturing chefs.

Instead, the other story arc reigns supreme and the juvenile rivalry between Hosea and Stefan reaches a definitive conclusion. Hosea brings down the great Stefan and wins the entire competition. Do I feel any sense of satisfaction from this? No. And it hardly seems as though Hosea does either. He doesn't roll out a bug-eyed response nor does he burst into a happy-jumpy dance. He claims he "couldn't be happier," but looks the same as he does when he's "so nervous" or filleting fish or making out with Leah. It's an appropriate end to the worst season of "Top Chef" ever, but like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I want the fairy tale.

And, like Stefan, I really really want Hosea to go back to frickin' Colorado.

13 comments:

Reeni♥ said...

You summed it up perfectly. I don't even know what to say about it except that I'm mad, sad and so disappointed in the whole fiasco...

J said...

I am with you!

I was so hoping Carla would pull it out in the end but it looks like she fell victim to the car curse like poor Richard did last year.

My suspicion has been this season that maybe the budgeting was rather low... and that they couldn't afford to pay any high profile guests an appearance fee or something like that because A. you're right... the sous chefs were the last three runners up... and B. What the heck? New Orleans? When they went to Puerto Rico last year and Colorado the year before and Hawaii the year before that? I suppose it made sense because of the way they tied things in but it just seemed odd. Emeril was on but the trade off on royalty fees was that they got to use his restaurant for prep work... they had the finale in a place and had the owner and chef there as well... who knows.. My money had been on Jamie... and Carla... with a little Fabio there for a while. He really grew on me. LOL

Kirby! said...

I have been refreshing your blog all morning, because GOD, am I ready to vent about this stupid episode. You said it best, but this finale was horribly disappointing!!! HOSEA won??? What a big dud that guy is. And God, Carla, WHY would you listen to Casey??? WHY????????? Good grief, if next season is as lame as this one, I'm not sticking with it. ANNOYING!!!

Alessandra said...

I feel so special that my grammatically incorrect text is the first sentence of your piece!

This season was HORRIBLE (said in my NY accent).

Weister said...

Hosea!? This season Ho-Sucked! What a disappointing end to this season. Every finale when they are just about to announce the Top Chef, I'm always on the edge of my seat thinking "Oh my...who's going to win??" This time I thought to myself "Oh shit...you've got to be kidding me..." I don't think even the judges were that confident in this year's decision. Hosea didn't win, it's more like Carla and Stefan lost!

Ashley said...

Pathetic. Whoever decides the story line of this show got it so wrong. I love how they played up the whole Stefan/Hosea rivalry so much and counted Carla out the entire finale, but in every commercial break, viewers texted in that they overwhelmingly wanted Carla to win. No one cared about the petty rivalry that went on about 20 episodes too long.

Also, why was the emphasis placed so much on the final two courses? Didn't Carla win the first two?

The Blonde Duck said...

Hopefully next season will be better!

Mina said...

Maybe I'm in the minority here but I thought Hosea deserved the win. It's a competition and he played to his strengths. Stefan and Carla both failed to deliver their dishes (Carla - were you thinking at all!? And Stefan - that dessert looked like something from The Cheesecake Factory). If Hosea had any fault, he may have played it too safe. But it was smart.

Esi said...

I am beyond stumped as to why Carla agreed to do anything Casey said. I mean the girl LOST for crying out loud. That shoulda told Carla something, but she let Casey walk all over her. It was such an infuriating finale. I actually got almost teary eyed when Carla said "when I cook MY food, I do good food"...sad

Sara said...

I was so disappointed that Hosea won. Carla should have never listened to Casey. I don't even think Casey was very good during her season.

Heather said...

hosea blows. that's all i have to say.

Pepsi Monster said...

Your title of "A Crap End to a Crap Season" said it all.

None of the three finalists did anything for me. I really think the producers and editors of the show thought the audience would be pulling for Hosea to overcome the arrogant Stefan. Boy, were they wrong!

I knew Carla was set up to fail. Somehow I think she'll walk away with the fan's favorite. Boo.

Nicole said...

Ugh...totally agree....worst season ever! Why oh why did Carla listen to Casey????