Top Chef: You Can't Stand the Heat

Everyone's favorite cooking competition was on fire last night. No, it was actually on fire. As in there were sirens and trucks and firemen. No, they were not hot, but the competition was.

Everyone was taken down to the Bahamas for a commercial for the Atlantis resort two-part season finale. When they got there, after the initial meet and greet, Padma came out wearing next to nothing and said, "Welcome, assholes. Thanks for interrupting my vacation here in the Bahamas. I could be on the beach sunning my gorgeous rippling body, but no, I'm here with you jerks. And to make it even worse, there are twice as many jerks as usual. Now you have to cook against the chefs that won your season. Good luck, losers."

This is actually a brilliant challenge, because no one is deserving of winning the "all-star" edition if they can't even beat the person who won their initial season. Then it would be Top Chef: Really Good Runners-Up.

They all get into this pit in some fortress and Blais and the fluttering specter of Antonia have to take on curly-haired Stephanie. Carla, Princess of the Owl Clan of Yosemite, has to take on the evil despot Hosea, who she lost the throne to for some pesky beef dish that she messed up. Mike Isabella is taking on his namesake Mike Voltaggio, who looks pretty bad off, like life has been hard ever since he won. And Black Tiffany is up against some strange dark mound of dough. It's like a beignet with a face. It doesn't deserve a name.

Cook, cook, cook; boring, boring, boring, and the judges show up to taste the dishes. Tiffany easily defeats that lumpy donut. Carla had some trouble cooking her rice on a faulty hot plate, so it was undercooked and Hosea won—again. Because Princess Carla choked—again. Both Antonia and Stephanie's dishes sucked, so Stephanie barely beats Antonia. (Have you ever tried to beat a ghost? It's hard. Like trying to grab a fistful of smoke!). But Stephanie gets trounced by Blais.

The only really interesting competition was between the Mike's. Mike V looked rough. Since last we saw him, he was a little bit balder (and combing his hair forward) and a little more haggard. He didn't get as fat as Mikey I, but he didn't look as stunning as he used to back in the day. It's like the fame and the pressure of his win went to his head. It was hard being a rock star, with all the booze and women at his disposal, with the mountains of coke just piling up on his coffee table. Man, it was great being Top Chef. It was a nightly party for this new celebrity. But $100K doesn't go that far, especially after taxes and after spending it all on cheap strippers and expensive champagne. Mike V was down and out. He couldn't even get a job as a fry cook and he wandered around town with his knife kit stripped to his back, over his ripped and faded denim jacket, just kicking the ground and looking for work.

And soon, he would do anything for a fix. Man, he really needed a fix, and he did some things he's not proud of while chasing that dragon. But thanks to the love of a good working class woman—one who will be played by Marissa Tomei if his story makes the big screen or Mira Sorvino if it's just for Lifetime—he got clean. Then one day Top Chef called and they said, "Hey, Mikey, baby! How you been? We want you back!"
"For another season?" he said, calling his girl over to the phone to listen in with him.
"Oh, no, no. Just for one challenge, Mikey. But if you do well, you can win 10 Gs, and you'll get back in the game."
"I'll do it!" Mike shouted.

Oh, this was the break he was hoping for. He was really going to do it this time. And he practiced every chef trick he knew, and he even learned some new ones. This was going to be great. He was going to show that fat hack Mike Isabella what was what. He was Mike Voltaggio! Winner of Top Chef: A City We Don't Remember. He kicked smack, and now he was going to kick some ass.

On his big day, he cooked and cooked, throwing around pots and and blow torches and pressure cookers and everything that was on hand. He wanted to wow the judges, show them everything he'd been through and everything he can still do. He was Mike Voltaggio and he is on his way back!

And then they roll around: Tom Cohostio, Eric Ripert, and Padma. Oh, sweet beautiful Padma, who used to call him back into the stew room for some one-on-one judging time with her back pressed up against the metal racks while he had his way with her. Now she won't even return his calls. She won't even look at him. But he knows what really turns her on. It's the food. And he serves her. He tells them what he made and it consists of like a dozen things. The title of his dish took about seven minutes to say, and by the time he was done, Padma was standing with her arms crossed and tapping her foot. Everyone tastes it, and the sweat starts. Mike gets the bland look of a man overtaken my nerves, his personality subsumed by anxiety and yearning.

And then they taste Mike Isabella's food, and his head just bobs back and forth a bit, like a buoy in a sea of fat. Padma says, "This will be easy. You look like shit, Mikey. I vote Mike Isabella." Eric Ripert says, "Mike V, you deesh ees veddy interesting. I choose you." And it all comes down to Tom. It's one vote that will decide the second act of Mike Voltaggio's life. "It's a tough choice," Tom says. "But I have to go with who cooked the duck better. And that's Mike..." there's a long tense pause, and Mike Voltaggio grips the table, thinking about his second chance, his lady back home, and getting out of the squalid pad he's been crashing in for months. He thinks he's gonna win, he thinks he's on the way out, "...Isabella." Well, just put the needle in his vein, Tom.

So, yeah, Mike Isabella wins, and Mike Voltaggio is now a toothless begger in one of the lesser large towns of New Jersey. Basically, he's Chet Baker in Lets Get Lost. Then Padma calls all the remaining contestants together.

"Listen, assholes. You're going to cook dinner for royalty. No, it's not me, for a change. Good luck."

Prep, prep, prep; boring, boring, boring. Everyone thinks they're going to make something for a king and queen and it's all going to be very regal and exciting. Then a police escort comes to pick them up and Mike Isabella freaks out because the last time he saw so many cop cars was when he held up that bowling alley in Monmouth, New Jersey, and he had to do 11 months in juvie. That's where he learned how to peel potatoes.

They think they're going to a palace and everyone is very uncomfortable, but then they go through the dingier parts of town and everyone is confused. Finally the car stops and everyone gets out. Carla, Princess of the Owl Clan of Yosemite, is the most excited. She is greeted by all of the envoys Yola, the King of the Junkanoo, a rare bird that is only found in the Bahamas. All the Junkanoo bird people bow before Princess Carla. It is not every day that such a wonderful and regal creature enters their kingdom, and they lay their plumes down before her. And then out comes King Yola. Both he and Princess Carla put their beaks into the air and extend their wings. They touch the tips of their arms, and circle about each other three times, cawing out into the dark air. Princess Carla has arrived, and she is cooking for a fellow member of the royal bloodline of the Avian Nation. She is very pleased.

Everyone else is a little pissed cause they came up with all these prissy disses that are fit for a king, but not King Yula, who only likes beer and things fried in fat. They are escorted into a dingy kitchen to cook for King Yula.

Cook, cook, cook; boring, bor—wait. What is that? Is that smoke? Oh shit, the fryer is on fire. All of that oil is going to explode! Shit! Get out. Everyone get out!

Padma, who was arriving to eat dinner gets out of her personal limo (with police escort) just as the firemen are rushing in. "What's going on?" she yells. Tom Cohostio ambles over and says, "Well, the kitchen is on fire, so they're going to put it out."
"Does that mean we're not going to be able to eat?" Padma asks, getting visibly annoyed.
"Yeah, probably."
"Oh, hell no. Tom, hold my jewelry," Padma says walking toward the blaze.
"Ma'am, you can't..." a firefighter says as Padma walks by, putting a hand out to stop her.
"You just try to stop me," she says, rolling up her sleeves and stalking toward the fire.
"You listen here, you piece of shit fire. You are ruining my goddamned night. It's already 11pm and I have a headache from too many mojitos on the beach this afternoon and you are just making things intolerable. They already dragged me down to this piece of shit island to judge a bunch of fucking loser and you are not going to make me wait to do my damn job. Do you know who I am? I am a motherfucking star. I won this motherfucking show a motherfucking Emmy. And what are you? You're just some stupid piece of shit act of nature. You don't even matter. You think Prometheus made you? Well, I fucked Prometheus and then threw him out on his ass. Did you do that? No! You can't even burn anything other than that stupid greasy oil that people grill catfish in. You listen here. You are going to stop this bullshit and you are going to go out right now and let me eat some fucking dinner and judge this goddamn competition, because I am sick and tired of waiting on your sorry ass! Got it!"

And with that the fire got dimmer and dimmer and dimmer, until it put itself out in a little puff of smoke. Just as it happened all the fire fighters turned on their extinguishers and ruined all the food. "You fucking assholes. I put it out myself! Now I have to wait another three house to eat!" Lasers shot out of Padma's eyes and all the firefighters spontaneously combusted, leaving behind only piles of ash and their unattended red cans, which clanged as the landed on the kitchen floor.

So, all the chefs had to go prep their meals again. Since they knew they were now cooking for the King of the Junkanoo tribe, both Richard and Antonia decided to make totally different dishes.

Prep, prep, prep (again); cook, cook, cook; serve, serve, serve; eat, eat, eat; boring, boring, boring. And we're at judges table.

Everyone is being called out and it looks like Mike's lobster and sous vide chicken and Richard's lamb loin are the favorite. Mike Isabella wins again. What is up with this guy's hot streak? He was never this good on his original season and he's hardly been that good this time around. He just seems mediocre. And when he won, he just let out this gurgle and spew from his fat triangle head rested in its ample bed of neck fat. And that's when I realized who he looked like—Spaceball's villain Pizza the Hutt. That's why Mike can't be beaten, he's a cheesy galactic overlord!

So, it's going to be one of the ladies going home. Princess Carla's pork with apple chip was way too sweet. King Yula loved it, because it is a classic dish and quite the delicacy among the Avian Nation. However, his vote doesn't really count. He is merely a figure head. The fluttering haunting Antonia made shrimp and grits, but she overcooked it and it was nasty. Tiffany made—well, something. It was boring. Tiffany is boring. She's sweet, but she's boring.

Finally they decided that because some of Princess Carla's pork was not thoroughly cooked, she should go home. Yup, Princess Carla choked again. She says that she fares better when she's the underdog, because she has a fear of failure. Well, Carla, it's a very real fear, because every time you get to the end, you can't make it to the finish line because of some silly mistake.

But nothing can keep Princess Carla down. She cranes her neck up as high as it can go and she thinks about the clear night sky. She thinks about her people, atop their branches in Yosemite, waiting for her to come back. When she gets there, they will all rejoice and fly about her and swoop toward the ground in the middle of the night. There will be raucous partying and great festivities in the canopy. Yes, she thinks about her people and all the growing she's done in her time down here with the humans, and she shakes all over, each row of her body growing fat in a ripple. She plumps her feathers for the long flight ahead. Then she jumps toward the sky and with a few heavy beats of her wings and her legs dangling belows, she's off and soaring. Just as all the others chefs below are waving to her disappearing speck mixed in with the stars, they hear a familiar sound, Princess Carla's triumphant call: Hootie-Hoo! Hootie Hoo!