On Reality T.V., It's All About The Package

Last night, one of Top Chef's contestants met a humiliating end. Sara, sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, fell under the body blows of Tom Collichio's strident criticism and piercing blue eyes, Padma's honeyed deadly words and Gail Simmon's henlike picking apart of her fricasee. Dale, whose blah gayness has grated on us before, was thisclose to being sent back to whatever Hot Topic-infested tra-la-la he came from—but instead is being foisted upon Aspen in the finale. Frankly, our joy at Sara's departure outweighs our disappointment at Dale's endurability. But. Maybe instead of being an idiot, Dale is actually a genius?

Perhaps his gayness is just a constructed plea to appeal to the largely gay Bravo audience? Surely when push came to pack-your-knives-and-go, it must have occurred to somebody at Bravo that Dale was a more valuable asset than Sara. We all loathe and love to watch what looks like us, even in or rather especially in a debased incarnation. Was Sara's real fault not her poorly executed dish but her poorly executed self-marketing strategy? I mean, how many Jamaican-West Indian cheesemakers really watch Bravo? How else can you explain that the man who can't count up to 18, who can't remember to put a sauce on his "duet," who even makes a duet and who can't use a French mandoline, has lasted this long?

Realistically the competition is now between Hung and Casey. Both Brian, who makes no sense, and Dale, who makes no sauce, are both plainly outclassed and they know it. You kind of feel bad for Brian, whose years on Ritalin have left him a glassy-eyed surfer strewn on the beach of life with no board.

So it's becoming clear that the narrative of choice will be between technique and passion. Hung, the bisexual wizard, can julienne vegetables without looking in a matter of seconds. But, as a bitchy Dale said, wonderful food takes heart to make and when you don't have one, you can't make it. Casey, the Texas sorority girl whose ample heart is nestled into her similarly ample and often highlighted bosom, lacks formal training but makes up for it with down-home passion.

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