Catch... and Release
Anthony Bourdain speculates that Top Chef fans are probably quite satisfied with this week's outcome.
I'm sure that this was a pretty deeply satisfying episode for the Jamie haters, all those viewers for whom every week that went by without their nemesis getting unhooked and thrown back over the side was agony -- evidence of everything they suspected wrong with the world and with the show. Conspiracy!! Evil producers! Master Plan! No. Jamie simply managed to not suck more than anyone else for a few weeks more than appeared... seemly… or just. Keeping your head down and avoiding a spectacular failure may not be a winning strategy. But it can work for a while. It works in the military. It works in politics. It works in kitchens. In the end, of course, as in any true meritocracy, you are usually found out. Unlike many institutions, there is, on Top Chef, actually a price to be paid. Eventually. Just like the restaurant business. This was the week when Jamie was finally returned to the briny deep from whence she came, to rejoin, perhaps, her beloved scallops. Given her under-performance (some might say non-performance) this season, many, I suspect, had they been in charge of the good ship Top Chef, would have found being tossed overboard like bloody chum insufficient punishment for all the vacant stares, hiding under tables and eye rolling utterances of "whatever." But keel-hauling is prohibited on basic cable. Believe me, I've inquired. Best one can say about Jamie is that she lived up to her role as this year's "designated villain" magnificently -- and without raising much of a sweat. But… now that the Sea Sloth is gone, who… who shall take her place? Who will rise to grab the Crown of Douchedom from the vacant throne?
Marcel seems to be doing his best to live up to her standards. Apparently, all you have to do is feed Marcel a little alcohol and he starts thinking he's an OG, flashing a dizzying array of half-assed hand gestures and gettin' all gangsta and shit. And right up in your face, too! It's really an amazement that Marcel has made it this far through life without getting a proverbial pencil in his neck. On the prison tier of existence, he seems designed to be a victim. May you live long and prosper, Marcel. You make good television. Especially your menacing exhortation to your cellies that should they not live up to your high standards, they should just "Get the f--k out tha game!" I tell you, that gave me chills. Reminded me the time Suge Knight held me upside down off the hotel balcony and asked for half my publishing.
What else did we learn this week?
Well… we saw Richard Blais take one for the team as he loyally described the cheftestants getting in the cars to Montauk as jumping into their "Toyota Siennas." Sounded natural, too. Personally, anytime I invite friends down the shore, I always mention the name of the car. Like… "So. What say you and us jump in the El Camino and head down to Seaside?"We saw Padma, dressed like Mr. Howell in Gilligan's Island. Kind of a yachting outfit, I gather -- though our intrepid host was noticeably absent from the churning, angry seas during the actual fishing scene. I have to say, by the way, that I was shocked that none -- none -- among the contestants were to be seen spraying chunks over the side. Many years of making way too many fishing scenes for purposes of television have taught me an almost ironclad set of rules. Rule One is that for every five people who go out on the water, one will become sea sick. Rule Two is that no matter if giant sea creatures were leaping out of the water and onto the deck yesterday at this time, TODAY, when the cameras are rolling, there shall be nothing. Rule Three is that the best strategy is to dispatch a PA to the nearest supermarket in advance, for some Gorton's frozen fish sticks or a flounder filet to attach to the hook.
We also learned that when Jamie says "I'm excited," it means she's visibly breathing.
Challenged to cook and serve their catch from an earlier fishing scene on Water Taxi Beach, the contestants formed teams and reverted to predictable patterns of behavior:
We learned that maybe there really is something to the longstanding superstition that to be a teammate of Antonia (The Black Hammer), spells doom: both Jamie and Tiffani F. fell -- one on each side of her. Jamie, for making a bland, watery, and flavorless dish with incompetently cooked bass. Tiffani for making the fatal error with bluefish of not removing the dark, oily blood line whose strong flavor and odor can quickly permeate the rest of the fish. Which is too bad as she correctly understood how good the under-appreciated bluefish can be when fresh. I admire anyone who cooks bluefish and I'm sorry to see Tiffani go. She was a strong contender. Richard, Fabio and Marcel -- three complicated characters -- colluded on one overly complicated dish. And Marcel being Marcel, there's NEVER an occasion where foam doesn't improve things. Except when it doesn't. Like this time. I loved guest chef Kerry Heffernan's comment: "Foam on a beach?" Exactly.
Dale stayed out of trouble by (once again) identifying the venue and the context and making good decisions. What do you want to eat on a beach? Answer: Fish tacos!
Antonia made a similarly wise choice with her Open faced Po' Boy with Old Bay mayonnaise.
Angelo managed to resist the urge to do raw fish. And it was entertaining watching him hide under the table, refusing to be objectified by his teammate, Mike Isabella's, solicitations of female passersby.
And underestimated Carla gave us all a lesson on how to do everything right on Top Chef, and how well bluefish takes smoke, serving it with pumpernickel and dill with lettuce wraps -- an homage to New York -- and the beach -- that won her a trip to Amsterdam and five Gs. Maybe she can sell her prize to Antonia, who one suspects, might enjoy that particular destination more -- or Marcel "Snoop" Vigneron, who for sure smokes an ounce a bud before brushing his teeth in the morning, then, no doubt, to his corners, to pistol whip any crew who might have come up short on the money.
All in all, a strange, but ultimately satisfying episode of Top Chef. Tune in NEXT week for an episode I'm pretty proud of. And a challenge I actually helped design. Excitement and drama guaranteed.