Top Chef: Padma Would Like to See You In Bed

Oh good gracious finally. On last night's depressing sigh of a Top Chef episode the cockatoo-coiffed scourge that was Robin finally got her walking papers. After weeks of just skidding under the radar, bobbing when someone else—Lurleen, Hap Blapgood the Zattarain's man, Mike the Toothy Bastid, all the other dearly departed—wove and got hit right smack in the face by the Padma Elimination Express Bus, the judges finally noticed that she was actually still in the competition and said "Holy hell, how did this happen? Get outta here, Robin!" Such sweet blessed relief.

It was a satisfying, if inevitable, ending for an episode that was otherwise sort of strange and melancholy. It began with all the kids busing themselves over to the Venetian Resort & Casino, a ridiculous place that actually very successfully simulates both daytime and dusky light conditions inside the hotel. So basically you never need to leave and never need to know what time it is. It's horrifying and oddly lovely and you should go see it. I mean, you should go to the actual Venice first, but if you're ever in Las Vegas for like a work conference or a trade show or you're nominated for an AVN award or something, go check out the Venetian. You'll never leave. Because you won't know what time it is. And there's only one little door to the outside world that's deliberately tucked away and hidden.

Anyway! All the cookin' kids were piled into the kitchen deep in the bowels of the hotel when a phone rang. Some sad Vegas employee answered it and then droned "It's for you, chefs." When the chefs walked over and put the thing on speakerphone, they heard a terrifying groaning and gnashing of rotting teeth. "Hi, Padma" they all said in cheery unison. "Braiiiiiiinsssss," Padma said. "I mean, breakfast. Hi guys, sorry 'bout that. Me and my special friend, Nigella Lawson [no relation, sadly], are in bed and would like some room service." All the boys (and, let's be honest, Jennifer too) kinda swooned a little inside when they thought about Padma and Nigella hungry in bed together, but it turned out there were two beds, so no funny business going on there. Ah well. So they had 30 minutes to prepare a meal and would cook and present in three different groups. Robin of course bumbled about the kitchen making a terrible mess; swilling sauce everywhere, throwing eggs at the ceiling, reheating pasta sauce in the microwave without putting a damn lid on it so it explodes everywhere and then she just walks away leaving someone else to clean it up (my dad would be sooo mad about that one). After all this clattering of pots and pans and accidentally setting the sad Vegas employee on fire, all she produced was two blintz/crepe type things with some burnt pineapples on top. Voila?

So that was the first sign that this might not be Robin's episode to shine. Though, truthfully, no episode has been Robin's to shine. If Robin were paint she wouldn't be glossy. She'd just be flat and matte. Dull. Unshining. Sigh. After she went, some other people made some other stuff. Jennifer, aka The Lady Who Will One Day Kill You because she has a mean and scary face, came up with some "classic" recipe called "Shit on a Shingle" that was basically shaved beef in a cream sauce and it was perhaps the most disgusting-looking thing I've seen in a long time on this show. The Lady has really lost her edge. I just don't understand it. Little Dr. Robotnik Eli over there made one of those annoying "witty" meals that's "a play on" something. This time it was a reuben sandwich with an egg and "thousand island hollandaisse" that Nigella loved and called good hangover food. Actually she said that about a lot of the dishes, and then would sort of giggle conspiratorially to Padma. If I were producing and editing this show, I would have cut very quickly back to the footage from the night before of Padma and Nigella shrieking at the top of their lungs in the Paris casino, drinking huge margaritas in Eiffel Tower-shaped containers and doing shots with oil guys from Texas. That would be a show I'd want to see and make. Ah well.

Unfortunately for everyone, Eli's whimsical little pastiche to an homage of a reuben sandwich won the breakfast in bed QuiF, which means his recipe will appear in the Top Chef QuickFire Recipes Cookbook, which Bravo was very subtle in telling us is available now in stores and online for the low bargain price of one piece of your brains, to be sent directly to Padma Lakshmi. Robin, of course, was named one of the worst dishes, and she just got that grimacy smug face she's been getting lately that says "No matter how bad I am, I'm never going home. Because I paid that gypsy fifty dollars to bless me. And now I have good luck forever." Think again, Robin! Get a new gypsy, or pay that one a little more!

The Elimination Challenge was, sorta like the QuiF, alls about the casinos of Las Vegas. Each of the six Kuisine Kids were sent to a different sprawling mega-casino on the strip to gain some inspiration for a dish, to be served to 175 people. Because, as we all know, casinos are the most artistically inspiring places in the world. Just so full of nuance and elegance. Eli was sent to Circus Circus, one of the older and more decrepit of the super-theme casinos, and he just muttered and whined about how it wasn't actually a circus inside. Like, I think expected elephants wearing elaborate headdresses and weird Romanian carnies who smoke cigarettes and stare at you and maybe some bears wearing fezzes, driving tiny cars. If those things were part of a casino, it would not be called Circus Circus. It would be called the Inside of Richard's Head Casino. And it would close after a week (sending all the elephants and grumbling Romanians and fezzed bears puttering out into the desert in the tiny cars). Brother Bryan was sent to Mandalay Bay so he could look at sharks and talk about missing his son. He bought him a plush shark toy, which was cute. Meanwhile his younger, hotter, more successful brother was at the New York, New York casino talking about how hot wings are a NYC staple. And... are they? I mean, I thought like... Buffalo. You know, upstate. Ah well, ain't no thing but a chicken wing. Michael also decided to somehow work New York firefighters into the mix, because you never lose with firefighters.

Our bacony friend Uncle Applewood lucked out by getting sent to Barney Bacon's Bacon Casino, where people bet using bacon and if you win you win bacon, so that worked out well. Robin went shuffling off to the Bellagio, one of the fanciest on the strip, and was immediately bowled over by the beautiful glass flower sculpture thing they have on the ceiling of the lobby (it really is gorgeous). Then she spewed some cockamamie flip-flap about being an Artist and how food is her Art and now she could make Art with food and oh, go do some yoga lady. The funniest and strangely saddest of all the casino visits was the Lady Who Will One Day Dance a Lonely Jig On Your Grave's, who was sent to the crumbling and fading Excalibur. There she sat in on a jousting match and ate food with her hands and clamored her dishes and said "Where's my prince?" (Didja mean to add an "ss" to the end of that, Lady?) She also talked about how she never knew what she wanted to do when she grew up, but food just made the most sense. She wandered the casino, a curious pensive look on her face, and I don't know. There was something so quiet and unrushed about, so different from the rest of this show. It was oddly nice, is alls I'm saying.

With ideas brimming like the Bellagio fountains in their heads, the Food Friends all ambled off to the casino kitchen and got workin'. I don't know if it was a lack of time, the size of the crowd they had to feed, or a flawed challenge, but no one really seemed to hit their stride this week. Obvs migovs, the Brothers were good and so was Uncle Applewood (no one says no to bacon! or, in this case, raw salmon!), but the Lady Who Will One Day Wistfully Take a Claw Hammer to Your Jugular totally whiffed it with some sort of curious meat on a stick invention, and Eli made peanut soup. Not playin', yo. Peanut soup. It looked like Jimmy Carter's poop. (Political joke!) And of course there was Robin. She'd tried to go big, but instead she went home. She had attempted to make "glass" out of sugar, but that failed, so all that was left was a pile of mush in a bowl with some festive fruits scattered on top of it. She just shrugged her shoulders and clutched her dimming gypsy amulet and prayed. Oh, and, she wept. Basically from the minute the challenge was done to the last shot of the episode, Robin just sobbed and sobbed. Just tension release, I guess. But it made me feel sad for her in a way that I have not felt sad for her since wayyy earlier in the season. Back when, like, Piercings Fletcher and Horatio the Bear were still in the competish. And I don't like feeling sad for people this far in the game. Usually my heart has hardened with acid and boredom at this point. How dare you make me care about you, Robin? For shame.

At the judge's table it looked, for a moment there, like the Lady Who Will One Day Listlessly Feed Your Remains to an Alligator would be the one to go home. Padma, who was exhausted from having been drinking pirate drinks and dancing to sea shanties at Treasure Island with Nigella all morning long, almost looked like she was going to say the name Jennifer and I kind of gasped, the one true surprise on this show in a while, that would have been. But, no. Robin. Finally they said that name Robin and it was like storm clouds parting and the fifth-best in all of heaven angel choir singing us a song and our limbs felt like jelly and we were just loose, just warm and finished with this undeserving creature. Robin bobbed her head, did one final surrealist yoga pose, and then there was a bright flash of light and she was gone. Disappeared back to the dimension that created her, an alternate realm of mediocrity and unfairness, a version of our world wherein Daniel is considered the best-looking Baldwin, where Rene Russo has won several Oscars, where the Kansas City Chiefs keep having good seasons. It's a place where just-OKness is richly rewarded. It is the best thing in that place, to be in the middle. To teeter on the edge of middle and lower. To never give up on never really trying. There Robin is a queen. And I'm glad she's back where she's appreciated.

And now there are only five chefs left and they are all good chefs, but srsly guys, let's get rid of Eli and then it'll be a real competition. Well, provided the Lady Who Will One Day Melancholicly Beer-Batter and Deep Fry Your Head gets her act together and starts cooking well again. I know she's tired, but she really deserves to be in the final three. And we deserve to see the drama of one of the brothers getting voted off before the finale. Srsly, we've been waiting for it all season. Give it to us. Please.

Otherwise, Top Chef, this season will have been just mediocre. And then you have to go live with Robin. And you don't want that. Nobody wants that.

Not even Robin.

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