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The Thai That Binds

Hugh Acheson points out some missed opportunities for both the chefs and the producers.

By Hugh Acheson

We wake up in Italy, but soon we fly to Asia. Nicole is getting no love for being the immune one last time, a condition that really saved her skin. Her steak was not very good and Nick went home because of it. No one is very enthused about that. 

They are traveling to Thailand, and upon landing get their first challenge. 

Three teams of two match up, but despite the fact that they have been running non-stop in this whole series, there is no natural inclination to pair up with the person who would be fastest. I think John, Nicole, and Liz look the most light of foot. Nookie and Jenna look like they feel gravity’s pull more than the rest of the group. 

The loser will be “left out in the cold.” Winner gets some advantage. 

Nicole tells her driver that she is from America, something most of us keep to ourselves when traveling throughout Southeast Asia. I will sell you a Canadian flag for your backpack. Three for $10. 

Avery is really tired. 

They all find the coconuts and balance those nuts to the grinding area. Nookie loses his balance and becomes the “Goofy American” story for years in Thailand. Nookie’s cardio work is pale compared to the Midwestern fitness of John. 

Avery and Jenna find out that cheating by adding the coconut water to the mass wil quickly catch them up. This cheat does not help though, and somehow Jenna turns into a puritan for the rest of the show, railing against any form of cheating or unethical behavior, all of which are wrapped up in a heavy Red Sox uniform with Postal on the back.Onto the rice fields, where the chefs will have to plant rice in the muddy mass that rice thrives in. Jenna’s adrenaline is pumping like crazy. Nookie and John arrive first and take the shortcut, with Nookie falling into the rabbit hole and finding Wonderland. John has a nice chat with a scarecrow, and briefly considers swapping Nookie for the scarecrow, it being a much faster runner than the Nookie. 

Suddenly there is a lot of chatter about Jenna’s ankles. She and Nookie sound like an old couple running through an airport late for a flight: ”My ankles are killing me. I’m tired. Can we get a cheeseburger? Did you forget my foot cream?”

Jenna and Avery arrive last and they do look cranky. Avery is holding her tongue, but you can see that she is all boiling on the inside. Slayer’s "War Ensemble" is playing loudly in her head.  

Sport the war, war support 

The sport is war, total war 

When victory's a massacre 

The final swing is not a drill 

It's how many people I can kill

I am thinking happy thoughts about kittens and yarn and John.

Street cart food time and Nookie and John get double the budget and also get to sell two items. The losers, Avery and Jenna, get no heat to work with. 

In passing through the market, we see the strange fish tank that you dip your feet in. Elves, you missed a moment here to get Jenna’s ankles back on track. Avery has a tub of tiny poisonous eels all ready for Jenna. John is spending all his money on she-male Thai prostitutes because this Midwestern boy is going to experience this trip to its full extent. 

There is some eating. Some sampling and some diplomacy. We are introduced to the Thai guest chef judge who looks a little like Liberace and a little like an excited lawn gnome with highlights. His name is McDang, but I am sure that’s a stage name. 

Avery recounts the story of her last few years, and it’s a pretty sad tale. Addiction is no joke. but is very prevalent in our industry. Serious kudos to Avery for forging through for herself and her kids. If she can deal with that. then she can surely work with Jenna for a street cart challenge. 

Pork and juice from Nookie and John.

Green Papaya salad from Avery and Jenna.

Pork belly Chinese-style from Liz and Nicole. 

In the judging we see Curtis judge Nookie with a look of disdain. Really? You have set them up to be ruthless bastards; do not now expect them to be all about the food and the honesty of cookery. This is about strategy and being a weasel at this point. Someone tell Avery that her early episode hopes of this being about the food has officially expired. 

The taste winner is Avery and Nicole, but this is about sales, and Nookie’s plan has worked like a charm. So Avery and Nicole are back to the bottom. John wins again, and is really making some progress in these last few episodes. Jenna is voted off. She was a fine chef with lingual skills, but her social fluency left a bit to be desired. 

I will wind up with these fine words from my favorite Boston Red Sox player ever (I liked him even more when he was an Expo) Bill “Spaceman” Lee:

"I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I get this guy out." 

- Bill Lee

Until then, we have reality television. Tune in next week.

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