The Night Top Chef Went Weird and Dark

Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having interest in Top Chef Season 7 D.C., are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the season is now screening. God save creepy men and fake tans.

A sirocco of creepiness swept over Washington D.C. last night, turning good men perverted and old men orange. The gusts swept off the Atlantic coast, a developing cold front of sadism and uncomfortable intimations. Padma, not knowing from whence so wicked a wind blew, flirted indiscriminately, an instinctual diversionary measure. Tom huddled deeper into his corduroy jacket until he resembled nothing more than a beige boulder with two semi-precious blue opals glinting in the cold unkind light.
Blood! Dam! Frogs! Tzefardea! Lice! Kinim! Crabs! Hail to the Chief!

The creepiness came in unguent spurts. We begin the night with two budding romances, each in their own way, sweet or predatory. Or—I'm now reading a note from legal—each in their own way, either sweet or which could give the appearance of impropriety. Front runner Angelo Sosa, building on last week's theme, is set on "mentoring" the much younger Tamesha. Eddie From Queens reveals he is having a mentoring go at Tiffany, another much younger woman. Eddie from Queens, Eyebrow King of Forrest Hills, is pinkish white. Angelo Sosa is olive but white. Both Tamesha and Tiffany are several hues darker. They are, in fact, African-American (actually, Tiffany is African-American; Tamesha is Afro-Bajan). Oh—I'm reading a note from our HR Department—I guess that's irrelevant. So, nevermind! Racial implications notwithstanding—for surely external factors such as that they are the only good looking ladies who are not taken either by husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends or crazy coke cold sore craziness—we can just go with the age difference as the main driver of creepiness. Oh, and also that Eddie from Queens has two caterpillars living above his eyeballs (should get that taken care of) and Angelo Sosa whispers things for which there is no need to whisper and which actually makes it more creepy than whispering creepy things that are meant to be whispered. In addition, are we in for another Hosea and Leah Cohen? Because I'm just getting over that bozo-on-bozette romance.

Creepiness chapters two and three were conjoined in the soft shell quickfire challenge, to which I will devote most of this recapitulation. First of all, a Howdy Doodie ventriloquist dummy showed up. He's life-size, his face is crazy, he smiles a lot and he's won a Beard Award! I honestly have to give mad props to Padma because I didn't see her lips move at all! Although, the hand up his rear was a tad too noticeable. Then again, perhaps it was meant to be. Whatever you guys want to do, that's fine. I'll just be outside curled up on the sofa with I'm Pregnant And _______ on real loud to drown out the moans. A man's face, this is a good rule, should never look like the sunset. When this man—whose name is Patrick O' Connell—speaks, it's like a voice rumbling deep from an orange sofa. Who is in there? Is this my lost change speaking to me, commanding me to slaughter?

Which leads us to the second creepiness aspect of the first half of the fifth episode of the seventh season of Top Chef: blue crabs. Now, I'm no fucking pussy nor am I a righteous vegetarian. I think Meat for Pussies is for pussies. I think knee-jerk carnivore reactions to Meat is For Pussies like Meat is For Pussies is for Pussies is for pussies. I eat meat. I eat pussy. I like them both. But I also went on a David Foster Wallace jag recently—first reading his great Harper's piece from 1996 on cruise ships called Shipping Out and then Consider the Lobster, an essay he wrote in Gourmet in 2004—and I'm a human bean, as the BFG might say, and so bushels of crawling crabs who are alive and sentient being hacked to death—or in one case baked alive—was not an easy or enjoyable thing to watch. Obviously chefs kill things or work with product that was once a living creature. In fact, what's cooking but the gussying up of corpses?

It's not so much the cleaving of a live crawling crab, so that one half of it still crawls posthumously like an uneasy legacy, that upset last night. That's crappy but the taking life is a part of cooking. It's that the undignified feeding frenzy surrounding a bushel of living things was so deeply disrespectful to those things. Those things contain life. Disrespecting them disrespects the life in them. The exigencies of narrative mean nothing to the crabs, who do not receive residuals or product placement from their appearance. Not even a contrived elimination challenge—cook something on an organic humane farm that grows Toyota Pantries, trek across a field to table of creeps and serve it on a chilly evening—could undo the sad spectacle. The lasting image from the show won't be a large happy family shivering in the fading light in a field of heather. It'll be the crab Eddie from Queens baked alive, its claw waving glumly goodbye, seen through the oven window.