Shucking clams is a whole different project than shucking oysters. It requires a different technique and a new approach. This young Preeti learned in an embarrassing and bracing Quickfire, the mise-en-place relay race, and thus we will not compare Season 6 to Season 5, trying to parse the present with the past. Let's just take a look at the nutters that arrived into an evermore Real World like set.
Like the first ten minutes of Up, this season started with a concerted attempt to jerk tears. Cancer! Twice! Single Motherhood! Gay! French! I tuned in to watch cooking and, like poor pixelated Frogger, was hit by an emotional truck. We were all made especially vulnerable by a series of discombobulating events, Bravo's version of waterboarding. In loose chronological order: Tom's soul patch has expanded laterally and he wore a vest, looking more like New Jerseyite Renaissance Faire enthusiast than ever. Sad! Padma Lakshmi seems to have gotten even slower than last season. Now she talks like a skinny overly animated muppet in amber. Magic, over! A parliament of showgirls entered the kitchen and awkwardly gyrated in formation. Tits! Sparkles! A new and confusing pay-to-fillet scheme was introduced wherein contestants are paid per Quickfire challenge but they can gamble that away in some sort of bid to trepan directly into our brains that Las Vegas is fun! [Call for information: Can anyone tell me how much of the production cost is covered by Las Vegas? I have the feeling that hosting Top Chef is the result of a process not dissimilar to hosting the Olympic Games. Anonymity guaranteed.]
Then Robin Leventhal revealed she had cancer twice. Thus began a high-stakes game of out-victim. It's like canasta but with adversity! Ash Fulk revealed he was gay. Jennifer Zavala, she of tattoos and large ear holes, hot tempers and seitan, revealed she's doing this all for her kid because she wants the little guy to go to Yale. So, of course, I want all of them to win because they overcame so much and you know when they came so far that if they failed now it would just be that much more tragic. But then the Haitian Ron Duprat told of the time when he was at sea for 26 days on a boat with other immigrants from Haiti and survived cooking fish they caught from the sea. So, suck it up Robin, Ash and Jennifer. You've been officially outvictimed.
Despite of the blatant emotional pube pulling, there are some real keepers here. Kevin Gillespie, the winner of last night's challenge, seems head and shoulders above the others. He's smart, bearded and sweet. Jennifer Carroll has an off-center ponytail but other than that is furiously talented (it seems). Those two will make it into the final three, for sure. Three to lose: Mike Isabella, a misogynistic cocky fuck who will later claim that the producers distorted his words but who actually said those things about being beaten by a girl—no offense!—and so should just stop whining, realize he's actually a crummy piece of shit, either go to therapy to fix his self-esteem issues as best he can or at least learn how to control the gummy vitriolic shit that billows from his buttmouth. Eve Aronoff, a spineless weak-willed woman who lacks imagination and talent. She's the kind of weak that far from inspiring pity calls for cruelty. She was on the chopping block last night and I hope she is diced to oblivion in an upcoming show. And finally, Eli Kirschstein who has no business being as arrogant or proud of his arrogance as he is and is a shonda for the goyim at a time we need no more shonda, or more goyim.
But this is the great thing about Top Chef: Those three probably will fail in some deeply humiliating way, the Top Chef equivalent of dying by diarrhea, deprived of dignity, packing their knives with their pride already excised. Kevin and Jennifer hopefully will prevail. Tom will shave. Padma will take some uppers. Gail Simmons will trip Toby Young on the way to the craft services table and he'll be out of the season, contussed and with a herniated disk. This is the promise and the gamble of Top Chef Las Vegas and I'm all in.
Video by Mikey Byhoff.