I’m not someone who likes meanness in my reality shows. To me, meanness is like that pickle Down Home Cookin’ insists on sticking in the paper wrapper of my sandwich, it gets smelly pickle juice all over my hands, my clothes, my desk or kitchen table, and it doesn’t spice up the sandwich, it just ruins everything.
But this season of TC is pretty mean, and I’m loving it. I wonder if that means I’ve become meaner. Or if I’m just becoming a better reality TV consumer. Or maybe, because I know everyone involved pretty well (as a tv viewer seeing them on an edited show, which is to say not at all), it just tickles me when someone either lives up to their past (hi, Marcel) or breaks into a new routine (looking at you, Jen).Whichever, the meanness ran high tonight and I was giggling throughout. It seemed like funny meanness. Like one of the Three Stooges hitting the other on the head with a seltzer bottle.
But I first want to address something Tom said in his BravoTV Blog entry: “”We cannot say so overtly while eating the food, lest the episode be over before it’s over, but it was abundantly clear to us all that ‘Team Herbivore’ was the runaway winner.” First, it was clear to me as a viewer. Second, why is it such a problem? I just posted about The Sing-Off, how I knew who would be eliminated, and it didn’t mar the enjoyment of the show at all. On the contrary, it felt like I was in sync with the judges and they were evaluating and deciding fairly. What is this obsession with false suspense? Sometimes it is suspenseful – two great dishes (or two terrible ones) and the decision is made on something like “Which is better, simplicity that reveals flavor, or complexity that creates wonder?” (or, “which is worse, a bad concept or bad execution?”). Tonight was not one of those times. It was clear. There’s no harm in saying so. Muddling things only makes the show infuriating.
The theme tonight was the Museum of Natural History in New York, and a sleepover for school kids. How come we never did anything like that when I was in school? I’ve heard people talk about this, like it’s something everyone does these days. Of course, when I was in school, in South Florida back in the 60’s, things were different. I don’t think there was a museum within two hundred miles, for one thing.
Quickfire: Prepare a midnight snack for the kids at the museum. No utensils or plates, it’ll be in a paper bag. One of the Jonas brothers is the guest judge. Don’t ask me which one, I think I’m doing well knowing there are Jonas brothers at all. DaleT thought he might be a pastry chef.
The interesting thing here is that a lot of these guys had bad experiences with children in their initial season. TiffanyF, for example, and we revisit her snobbery about making real applesauce without sugar or food coloring and what a shame it is that kids have such horrible palates and it’s all beneath her to cook for kids. Then there was Angelo making celery with peanut butter as a dish, and Jonas specifically says it can’t just be celery with peanut butter. They don’t show a reaction shot, I wish they had.
DaleL – decides to get the kids as jacked up on sugar as possible. Something with graham crackers and chocolate.
DaleT – takes the whole container of sugar, pissing everyone off. “Healthy food sucks. Unhealthy tastes good.” The kids are gonna be crazy from sugar. He wants to put some Nyquil in his corn cakes to knock them out. I love this guy.
Marcel –He is very happy to be cooking for kids. His mom took over the food program in his elementary school. Oh. That explains a lot, I think. He makes something with marshmallows.
Spike – comes from a restaurant family, decides chips and dip are the answer. Carrot and potato chips, mascarpone.
TiffanyF –”Just give the kids what they want” – If a snowball, a moonpie, and Rice Krispies treats had a threesome and had a baby, that’s her snack. Yep. That’s a change.
Blais – didn’t know much about what to eat. Microwaved bread. SHENANIGANS! That’s a modification of that microwave cake from Iron Chef, damn, he’s calling it bread now? I want a big buzzer over his head at all times that goes off every time he rolls that out. Or banana scallops, since he used them three times in his first season.
Stephen – healthy food was important in his life as a child. Snickerdoodle cookies, fairly low in sugar. With apricot type stuff in between.
Antonia – white chocolate and cherry muffin. Sounds delicious.
Tre – cracker with jam and bacon.
Casey – chocolate and bacon lasagna. Isabella wants to throw up. Now he knows how I feel whenever he’s on my tv screen.
Jamie – something with cinnamon apple sauce.
TiffanyD – coconut cookie.
Fabio – apple dipped in chocolate and stuff.
Angelo – Cheese crisps, 2010 The Evolution. Really, that’s what he called it. Then he explains it’s fried dough with stuff on it.
Jen –If the kids don’t like it they can throw it at each other. What is wrong with Jen?
Isabella – makes a cookie. Not sweet enough.
Stephen – cookie good, in between stuff not good.
TiffanyD – coconut cookie fell apart.
Isabella (who has never been in the bottom of a QF before).
Spike and Tiffany, it’s a tie, so they’re going to the museum to let the kids decide.
DaleL isn’t happy. “They’re called brats for a reason.” I love kid haters, being one myself. People who are willing to say they hate kids are very brave.
They pick teams.
Spike: Blais, Marcel, Isabella, DaleT, Stephen, Angelo, Carla. Leftover Fabio chooses Spike.
TiffanyF: Jen, Antonia, Jamie, Casey, TiffanyD, DaleL, Tre.
Jamie is upset at helping someone else win a QF and get an advantage in the EC, and I don’t blame her. Jamie has no interest in having children. Ever. As little as I think of her this season, I love her for this, because I have to.
DaleL: “It’s the Spice Girls plus their bodyguard vs the cool kids plus babysitter Carla.” Hey – don’t you go slammin’ my Carla! You lose the points you gained by being a kid hater.
When they pass out the bags with snacks, TiffanyF does the Monkfish Interpretive Dance (except this time it’s the Chocolate Moonpie Interpretive Dance). Say what you want about her, she learns from experience.
The kids start cheering wildly for Padma in her flouncy napkin blouse. No, they’re cheering for the Jonas brother. Padma must feel quite inadequate. Not only is she wearing a flouncy napkin on her breasts, she’s second fiddle to a goofy kid.
TiffanyF wins! Sugar trumps salt, or it’s that Monkfish Interpretive Dance. She gets an advantage.
Elimination challenge: starts immediately. They will make breakfast for the kids, their parents, and the judges, so they will stay overnight in the museum. On cots. Stephen isn’t happy with the cot setup. He lives in a loft in downtown Manhattan and a cot in the museum with 16 of his competitors is not his style.
TiffanyF can choose T-Rex or Brontosaurus – carnivore, or herbivore. Tiffany chooses carnivore. Makes sense, eggs, steak, bacon. But no herbs, bread, flour, lemon, onions, which she doesn’t realize until later.
Both teams do a planning session which is hard because they really don’t know what’s in the kitchen. Jen is saying “I’m against you, you’re against me…” I’m not sure what she means. She says they’re pairing up to work on dishes. TiffanyD interviews that Jen should take a chill pill.
The brontosaurus team takes a flashlight tour of the museum. The T rex team naps. They both get up at 4am to cook. Spike looks at a display of the brain and starts talking about the brain of the other team: a brain that picks meat over vegetables, a brain that’s going to be sleepy, a brain that will lose. This doesn’t sound like much but it was hilarious. It’s like they have a comedy coach this season.
Carla and Spike work on gazpacho.
Fabio and Stephen work on gnocchi. And as always, Stephen has a lot of work to do while everyone else is sitting around eating bonbons. Fabio gets upset that Spike is stirring his gnocchi wrong.
Jamie cuts her hand and goes to the hospital. Fabio tells about the time he broke his finger and kept cooking. He’s got a point. I think she was just sick of doing this. Jen doesn’t care. Jen has some idea for bacon as pork belly with eggs on top, Casey says it tasted like wet bacon to her. I think maybe she was aiming for the same thing one of the Volts made in the Thunderbirds challenge – bacon treated as pork belly, but they made a taco out of it.
Uh oh, Casey is getting along really well with Tre. Casey was famous for buddying up to people just before they got sent home. If I were Tre, I’d run in the other direction. They’re making salmon with some kind of sauce.
TiffanyD and Antonia are making frittatas in muffin tins but they aren’t cooking evenly.
Mike and DaleT make polenta.
And it’s service time. Marcel finds Carla cutting up his plums. It’s way funnier than it sounds. Angelo told her to. Marcel is upset. “You don’t mess with someone else’s mis en place.” I want that on a tshirt.
Jamie comes back from the hospital with two stitches. No one is impressed.
Katie Lee is back, sans the Joel. She looks like she’s a little older and wiser. Rock stars will do that to you, I hear. Go ask Christie Brinkley.
Comments during service make it pretty clear that T Rex is in big trouble. Bronts are doing pretty good. DaleL just wants to take a shower. I don’t blame him.
There’s interstitial commenting on Fabio charming the guests: he’s the Mayor, he’s kissing people, he’s everyone’s best friend… Spike says, “He’s a car salesman” which improves Spike’s standing in my eyes.
Team Brontosaurus wins. Fabio complains anyway about how Spike cooked his gnocchi, even though they liked it. “Here comes the bus” says someone, I don’t know who. The Parfait wins, giving Marcel, Richard, and Angelo the win. And we have the first “to be honest witchoo” from Angelo. Marcel thinks he would’ve been the solo winner if they’d done solo winners.
Bronts go back to Stew and there’s tepid applause from TRex. TiffanyF looks sick. TRex go out to face the judges. TiffanyF explains how her decision wasn’t wrong at all, it was the challenge that was wrong. Antonia and TiffanyD admit the frittatas didn’t cook evenly. Dale L and TiffanyF’s Steak and eggs were good, but considering it was a grilled steak and scrambled eggs, it should have been good, it was too simple to screw up. Casey’s salmon was good but Tre’s sauce overreduced and was way too salty. Jen morphs into a neckbitch. Some kind of dinosaur with a throat like a bullfrog that sticks out. Or like that thing that Troi devolved into on StarTrek:TNG. She tells Tom off, he should be smart enough to ask for another plate if he doesn’t like it all on one plate. She didn’t care that Jamie was there. Their team made the better spread and she tasted every one of the other dishes. Her eggs were not bland no matter what Tom says. I want to shoot her with a tranquilizer dart. Really, it was embarrassing. I wonder if Eric Ripert wanted to shoot her, too, and not with no dart. They go back to Stew so the judges can talk behind their backs. Someone in stew asks if Jen was like that on he season and she says,” Absolutely not, welcome to All Star Jen.”
The judges deliberate, and Tom assures everyone that the person who goes home will go for a bad dish, not for talking back. They liked the salmon, but the sauce was awful and Tre knew it overreduced but did nothing about it. I would love it if Tre went home after Casey snuggled up to him – that’s why they showed that, isn’t it? The judges don’t know what to do with Jamie since she didn’t do anything and it didn’t matter that she didn’t do anything. And Antonia and TiffanyD should’ve been able to figure out how to rotate the frittata pans in the oven.
In the end, Jen goes home. Jen? She laughs. That kind of bat-shit crazy laugh, like Very funny, now tell us who really goes home. Antonia and TiffanyD are shocked. Everyone is shocked. Wow. When she stops laughing, she is shocked, and after she says her goodbyes and leaves Stew she can be heard screaming something at someone, most of which is bleeped out. I’ve got to go find an interview. It’s sad to see someone so talented turn into something unrecognizable, especially when her mentor and boss, Eric Ripert, has said several times that he turned away from the Chef as Monster model to require courtesy and civility in his kitchens.
I don’t have any problem with her being cut. Yes, I think she must be very talented; I’m sure slouches and idiots don’t work for Eric Ripert for long. I feel bad for her. But I don’t think she’s ever lived up to her potential on TC. I don’t know why she’s so arrogant this time around, but it’s not attractive, and it doesn’t seem to have been effective, either. Which is one reason this felt so satisfying – the bully didn’t get her way. Finally. And I’m impressed with Anthony Bourdain, champion of the rude and intimidating, who dissed her attitude (and Elia’s from her post-show interviews slamming Tom) in his BravoTV blog. But I also love Eric Ripert, her boss and mentor who titled his blog, “Jenny is my Friend” (it’s a video blog so I don’t know what it says, I hope someone will post a transcript).
Saddest moment: Jen says something like, “My father always says, second place is still losing. I wonder what he’s going to say about second to last.” I wonder, too, and I wonder how much that has to do with the change in attitude.
Addendum: Jen’s post-viewing interviews have been published at TV Guide and the Chicago Tribune’s The Stew. She’s a mensch. I have to admire her – she blames no one, she admits she was over the line, she regrets it, and she would’ve done things differently, including her dish. This is class. Of course, it would’ve been classier to have nothing to admit to, but it’s so much better than Elia’s throwing everyone from Tom down under the bus.
My favorite part of the interview: from The Stew: “I had a hell of a lot of fun doing that food fight promo. That was probably some of the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. That was an all-out crazy-ass food fight that I would not give up doing. Did I win any money this time around? Did I make it to the finals? No, but I had a really good food fight. It was fun.” Good girl, Jen.