Hello. My name is Joshua David Stein. The penultimate episode of Bravo's Top Chef aired last night. Let's discuss.
Spectacles, testicles, wallets and watch what happens, last night's episode was a panic-inducing angry-making roux of rue, magret du regret, the last crayfish boil before two of the three remaining Top Chefs pack their knives and head into the twilight of semi-celebrity sadness.
The night started off with a scare. Time waits for no man. Over the break of indeterminate length, Faboi had given himself the classic Italian fauxhawk that they seem to love so much in that country and also in Spain. Shades of Kanye West, perhaps but bad/worse. Stefan, on the other hand, gained approximately 20 pounds. Carla straightened her hair and looked great. Only Hosea remained unchanged and that may be because he's made of packing peanuts, flesh-colored band aids and chicken wire.
But no. The scare isn't the inevitability of time passing. The terrors came later, in the front yard of a plantation and under the beady eyes of guest judge
Emeril Lagasse. The Quickfire challenge, somewhat infuriatingly, brought back Jamie, Leah and Dildo Jeff for a crawfish challenge. The already executed contestants could, if they won, rejoin the land of the living and possibly win the title of....Top Chef. So from behind the white columns came trouncing Leah Cohen, bane of the civilized world, who we thought we had permanently rid ourselves of last week. But no, Cohen was back and so was her whiny ineptitude. Jeff won the challenge whilst Leah and Jamie sauntered back into the master's house, no doubt to get tanked, take off their shirts and appear, somewhat later, on the Top Chef: Girls Gone Wild DVD.
[Also: Did anyone else think that Padma seemed to be concealing a deep sadness?]
The elimination challenge was pretty straightforward and inoffensive. Contestants had to create a meal for a party and one dish had to be Creole. I think Mr. Hippity and his band of commenters can offer a better recapitulation, in real time, of the challenge than I can here. Suffice to say, Carla weirdly chose oysters which are risky because shucking them takes forever, especially if you don't know how and she didn't. Hosea like the hosebag he is made a "really authentic" Gumbo and serves a drink called "The Hurricane" and makes a ton of jokes about how people in New Orleans knows what he's talking about (nudge, nudge, get it? KATRINA!). Jeff made something that was unmemorable as he was. Who was he again? Who knows? Fabio didn't break any fingers but on the other hand didn't blow any minds. Stefan [shakes head] the fat bald dork, smoked a lot of cigarettes and didn't give a shit. His dishes were okay but, as Gail pointed out, merely lovely. No soul at all. [And: YAY! GAIL IS BACK! TOBY IS DEAD!]
Cut to the elimination: Padma's still sad inside but drunk. Gail is being great. Tom could not be better looking. Emeril may have suffered a stroke. Carla wins. Jeff leaves (he had to win to stay). Hosea is safe (and aggressively mediocre). And Fanboy and Stefat are the only ones left. So here's the dilemma: Fabio cooked his heart out and made errors, perhaps fatal ones. Stefan is clearly technically a better chef but didn't apply himself at all. In fact, he aggressively sucked. The issue before the judges was, in many ways, the same one faced between Jamie and Leah in an earlier episode. In that instance, the producers chose to keep the less talented contestant, Leah, if only for the down-the-shirt shots she offered. This time around, perhaps sensing that Fabio had reached the top of his game and that this wasn't Top Efforte but rather Top Chef, cut loose our beloved Italian. This gives Stefan the chance to repent of his cockiness and redeem himself in the finale. Hosebag, well hosebag is dead weight. It's Carla who, odds on, is going to win this season. And it's Carla's restaurant—full of love and former models (?)—in which I'd most like to eat. Feel the love. Taste the love.
[Gracias, Michael Coppola Byhoff for the video.]