This episode was loads of fun for us. Not so much fun for its victims.
Big trouble in Little China for our exhausted warriors tonight, many of whom seemed to stagger blindly into the meat grinder of a busy dim-sum restaurant kitchen already looking like injured animals, seeking only to be put out of their misery. Like a late '70s Dee Dee Ramone, (who wrote the classic tune referenced above), they moved like sleepwalkers towards an unarticulated but ever more desperate need for oblivion. And when the end came, when the judges' cruel gazes settled finally on Casey, the survivors looked surprised -- and even a bit disappointed. They're tired and cranky, these survivors. They've been pushed hard. And it showed. And as in so many situations where people find themselves in moments of extremis, circumstances brought out the best, the worst -- and the most insane of behaviors. The episode began on a giddy note. Who among us was not thrilled and delighted to see Tom Colicchio step up and challenge the young 'uns to a head-to-head Quickfire Challenge? Who did not delight in his ballsy and unexpected demonstration of how, exactly, the old school motherf---ing professionals do it? Let me tell you friends: the magic of editing can do a lot. But it can't dummy up moves like that. Fast. SO fast. Focused. Smart. And demonstrating the kind of brisk, sharp, economy of movement you only get after years and years of working at places with only the very highest standards. In eight and a half minutes of cooking, Tom showed the contestants, the audience, and any doubters, all the qualities that separate the big kids from the grown-ups. Qualities, by the way, in which nearly every contestant was lacking during the hideous, all-time Chinese clusterf--- that followed.
To be charitable, it was clear that no one -- even before the Elimination Challenge -- was at the top of their game. The strange but very talented Angelo, after having been told specifically to avoid doing a tartare or a raw dish, broke right out of the starting gate and blundered into a crudo like a doped but lame thoroughbred. Jamie's single clam sat forlornly at the bottom of a bowl like a dried turd. Frankly, I think they should have put her out of her misery and sent her home right there. Even the mighty Dale managed only to unravel a lonely strand of tragic "pad thai" noodle that the judges examined as if it were a prolapsed intestine.