This week's episode of Top Chef Masters was the most intense, the saddest, the most gut-wrenching of any I've watched, through any season. What happened to the chefs this week is something something that happens to everyone: things don't do quite what you want them to do, people don't behave in the ways you expected them to, everything is just off. From start to finish of this episode — both filming it in Las Vegas a few months ago, and watching it here in New York last night — I could feel tension in the air, that sense that anything that could possibly go wrong would.
But watching a room full of professionals dealing with as so many things went awry was, in a strange way, gratifying. For all the overloaded burners, the poorly-timed duck, the high tempers, it still all came together: the restaurant opened, the meal went on. The chefs composed themselves and faced the cameras. Still, the emotional tenor — then and now — left me speechless. Then, I could sense that the energy was amiss — now, having learned all the background details, I'm doubly impressed by the professionalism on display at the critics' table. No one sold anyone out. Patricia didn't get snarky on Kerry. Lorena didn't get snarky on Patricia (well, not reaaally snarky, anyway). It's a powerful lesson.