Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having interest in Top Chef Season 7 DC, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the season is now screening. God save Tracey and her clairvoyant sadness.
The Washington Monument rises 555 feet into the sky, a white marble Icarus, the highest obelisk in the world. But as impressive at the monument is, even more meaningful is the feat immediately to the monument's west. There, the Washington Monument plunges inversely downward, five hundred plus feet in the eighteen inches of water of the Reflecting Pool. In posters for this season's Top Chef, the cheftestants float, Messiah-like, on the surface of the Reflecting Pool. The monument towers behind them but—and this explains much of last night's episode—in its reflection becomes a dagger-like knife. Nice Bravo touch and trenchant too: Reflections from Narcissus to sad Tracey Bloom, last night's loser, to ours, glassy eyed and peering into the television set, are infinite and fatal and can be found in even the shallowest pools.
Reflections last night came unbidden like unwanted callers in shiny surfaces. Thus we saw ourselves in the Bob's Big Boy pompadour of pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, "his hair black and wavy, Brilliantine slick, a pot-cleaning dandy." How much money slipped in silver platter—her image fun-house distorted in its reflection—to Tamesha did it take for her to ramble on as she did about his hotness. His hotness is the type bought for two quarters in those vending machines outside of supermarket checkouts along with Superballs and sticky hands. The man has eaten his own treacly sweet myth. He did, however, present a nicely simple Quickfire challenge: Make a pie, a pie as American as violence. I suppose baking a pie is difficult for a chef. Pastry arts and culinary arts taught as two separate degrees at most culinary colleges, but man, these chefs suck balls! Bobby from King of the Hill made a pie using, apparently, the ICAO alphabet as inspiration: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Curry Yankee Golf. Old Lynn, matriarch professoressa, busted out this season's first Ras El Hanout! السلام عليكم Amanda—to whom I might owe an apology for, as the wife pointed out, her cold sore might just be a birthmark—ran around like an insane coked-out pill-popper which, moments later, she reveals she is! (NB: Confessing you were an insane coked-out pill-popper when you were in your mid-twenties when you're still 27 is an admission you are an insane coked-out pill-popper. When I was 28, I was a kleptomaniac. How old are you now? 28. Hey, where's my fucking wallet!??!) Anyway, whatever. Bobby from King of the Hill almost won but didn't. A clink echoes in his mind, another nickel in his piggy bank of bitter disappointment. Eddie Eyebrows made some celery spuma, just like his grandmother made, back in molecular Ireland. Tracey Bloom can't make a pie. She tries once, she tries twice but she simply doesn't know how and she doesn't have the wherewithall to fake it. Her crust is too thin and there's no starch to thicken her liquid. She calls it a crunch pie and puts on a brave face but when confronted with the truth rolls over all eagerly, expecting the blow and grateful for its inevitable falling. Kenny, with Bananas Foster and God on his side, wins and lets his little cupid lips smile. Turns out Juicy nailed it with Jeremiah 29:10-12.
Now we're at a picnic. Popped Collar Arnold who learned how to be gay by watching Bravo programs exclusively (Format: "Like, TK, TK, TK—something he doesn't mean seriously—TKTKTK, Seriously!" Eyebrow raise. Look to Camera. Gay face.) makes "kinda like lamb meatball kebabs. Seriously." Cold Sore/Mole Coke Head Pill Popper Amanda steals Crazy Creepy R. Crumb Character Alex's Monogram oven and calls it 'prison rules' which isn't true (Top Four Prison Rules: Don't Rat. Mind Your Own Business. Don't Get Too Comfortable. Suck My Dick.) Kenny's dad had a great mustache and Tracey is trying to make sausage but can't. "Put your back into it. Strawberry Fudgesicle," she murmurs to herself as she drowns, "Put your back into it."
Tracey is the Garbage Pail Kid of the show. Her crust is too thin. She is, just for context, an overweight lesbian who is also clairvoyant. Could she see her end coming? (Spoiler: Yes.) She has a crush on Angelo. She has a slightly raspy voice and she feeds her child—actually her partner's child—fast food twice a week. Tracey Bloom is incredibly nice and wants desperately to be liked. But the source of her niceness comes from-at least through the reflection (and refraction) of the television screen—the conviction that she's not worth much. She's like Avis, working hard to compensate. What's good in a car rental company might be bad in a person.
What most touches and troubles is Tracy's ever-readiness for failure. In fact, it seems she welcomes it as a confirmation of her own lousy opinion of herself. Beneath the jokey and cavalier attitude, something darker and much more sad lies. So moving ever forward, shrugging off the world's jibes and criticisms, she actually "beats on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" deeper in a downward spiral of her own reflection. Thus when Jonathan Waxman/Harvey Fierstein trashed her burger saying, "It's too big. It ain't no slider," or when Tom Colicchio needlessly zinged, "Calling this Italian food is an insult to Italians," Tracey Bloom absorbed it not with happiness but perhaps with some darker cousin of satisfaction.
When Top Chef ended last night, I was sad. Not because Arnold Popped Collar won nor because Timofey teared up. It wasn't even Bobby from King of the Hill's blatant misrepresentation of judicial criticism to his fellow contestants. "They said it was unrealistic," he sighed, as if bacon-wrapped fish was a culinary fantasia and he a Blakeian visionary. The saddest part wasn't even in the knowing that another chapter has been written for Tracey in her book of self-fulfilling prophecy or even in the relief I felt—that guilty relief when a loved one dies after long illness and we no longer are forced to witness our own mortality, flesh of our flesh turning to dust before our eyes, visions of ourselves, pee-stained, paper skin and rail-thin—when she left. No, it's that long after either Angelo or Kenny are crowned the winner, we all will stay saddled by the stories of ourselves we tell ourselves about ourselves, catching sight of us, our own anti-heroes, in every reflecting pool and polished surface.