Since this season of Top Chef is set in the sand-blasted wasteland that a bunch of conquistador Mafia guys discovered in the 1950s and dubbed Las Vegas, it was inevitable that some sort of wedding-themed challenge would happen. Because lots of people get drunk and lonely in Las Vegas so they decide to marry whatever member of the opposite sex happens to be teetering and leering next to them. At some point in your life, you will get married in Las Vegas. It is bound to happen. You cannot fight that particular moonlight.
So yeah! There was a bachelor/bachelorette party challenge that confuddled (new word!) all the chefs and made Tom Colicchio cry. But that is not where this episode started. It started, as it always does, with a crazypants Quick Fire challenge. Taking the whole Vegas theme (did you know the show was set in Las Vegas this season? Did anyone tell you that?) and beating it down on our heads as hard as possible, the QF was about craps. Yep. Craps. What goes better with food than craps. It's always good to think about craps when you are also thinking about food. Basically the cheftestants had to roll the dice and whatever number came up indicated how many ingredients you could use. If you got 12 you were screwed, because that is really hard. If you got 2 you were screwed, because that is also really hard. So everyone rolled and everyone got their numbers and the two brothers, Orville and Wilbur, started yelling.
It was maybe mostly internal yelling, but you could see in their eyes that they wanted to beat each other up. So they cooked and sweated, sweated and cooked, while Boston-based celebrity chef Todd English watched on, curiously (and with a strange hint of sexual menace). Todd English has this restaurant in Boston that is called Bonfire and its theme is meat S&M; pyromania. Seriously it's all leather and studs and fire and meats. It's kinda creepy! Anyway. Padma was really weird and funny while everyone rolled the dice, clapping and hooting and shrieking as if any of this actually meant something. It was that kind of funny-sad that seeing a happy zombie always is. It's nice that something is happy, but it is also sad because that something is a zombie who will eat your brains.
No one made anything good. Because Quick Fires are hard! And also because these yokels are trying too hard to establish themselves as threats rather than actually making food that is good. In the end one brother, Orville, ended up in the bottom. Joining him was Piercings Terwilliger, who keeps screwing up and then explaining to us in exacting detail how and why she screwed up. Her hindsight is like 1000/20 or something. Orville, the clean-cut of the two bros, just put a hunk of raw fish on plate full of red goop. I don't know why that was so bad! I love Orville's Raw Fish Goop! I buy it at Trader Joe's all the time. A case of two buck Chuck and some Raw Fish Goop, please mister grocer!
On the winning side were some old favorites. That lady who will someday cut you in your face area was up there for her watermelon sandies. Also there was Beardy Clemson, your uncle from Atlanta. And of course there was dangerous brother Wilbur. He took some dry ice and held it next to some tunafish salad or something and made it cold and then slopped it into a dish. Todd English, ominously polishing a knife, loved this one the best. So Wilbur won the challenge and fifteen grand, but mostly he won in the battle of the brothers. Mom is going to be so proud of Wilbur, but worried for Orville. "Hank, I think you should talk to the boys. They're just so competitive. Always have been. Remember when Wilbur jumped off the garage roof and broke his arm just because Orville did? I knew we should have torn down that garage when we bought the house. We never use it. Which reminds me, Hank, you promised you'd clean the garage this weekend."
The Quick Fire just a fading, shouty memory now, it was on to the big dance. Padma sounded a gong and in stumbled two drunk people who had met each other while crapping and had decided to get married. The soon-to-be husband just sort of murmured softly and chewed slowly on a piece of pizza he'd found on the floor outside Tom's dressing room. (Tom shoots pizza out of his eyeballs when he's really mad.) The bride just gurgled and threw up a little bit and then did a sad little ballet curtsy and said, wobbly, "Shottttssss..." Then she fell over. But yeah, the chefs had to make a meal that would pair well with different kinds of shots. America, ladies and gentleman! A wedding to directly recreate how the happy couple met, doing shooters at P.J. MacGufficuddy's Bar & Grille near the Tampa airport. Congratulations.
Another facet of the challenge was that boys have winkies and girls have noonies, and both things are different and gross, so let's keep them separate. I means to tell ya that it was a Boys v. Girls challenge, with the girls serving the bachelor and his bloated broheims their delicious dishes, and the boys fatly ogling the bride and her desperate-to-get-laid bridesmaids and shoving food in their faces. Some people were upset about this challenge! Well mostly the gay lady whose hair looks like a briar patch. She was mad for a legitimate reason--why have a wedding challenge when "at least three" of the show's contestants aren't, y'know, legally allowed to get married in most states--but it was just sorta wrong place, wrong time and she ended up seeming like an insufferable whiner, when really, again, she was making a valid point. So that is too bad.
But whatever, the T to the C isn't about queer politics (I mean it sort of is, but you know), it's about cookin'. And cook these motherpluckers did. They chopped and chipped and shaved and sauteed and farted and wheezed and spat and bled and one lady made "watermelon carpaccio." Watermelon Carpaccio is one of those stupid names that people make up when all they really want to do is lazily slap some fruit on a plate and call it a day. A few seasons back someone actually won a damn Quick Fire with a "watermelon steak." Yeah it was just a thick mound of watermelon holding a baseball pennant that said "Steak!" That's all it was. The watermelon carpaccio was wearing a name tag that said "Hello My Name Is: Watermelon carpaccio." It was effective.
The most annoying of the girls, though, was Polly McAnonymous, the sad squeaky-voiced creature who just seems so lonely and dim. "I... made... this..." she'll say quietly, pointing to a little pile of foodstuffs on a platter with a little raincloud above them. "It's... food..." Then Polly will be convinced she hears a meowing and she'll think it's her cat from back home, Mr. Middlemittens, and she'll go off in search of him, the little food rain cloud just drizzling softly at her cooking station. Yeah, so she's really sad, and she made an even sadder shrimp ceviche for her dish. I guess shrimp ceviche makes sense, except it's sort of a dish of bold flavors and whatnot, and Polly is not exactly what you'd call a bold flavor. So it didn't really fit.
After everyone was done cooking and the big scary Mexican assassin guy was finished hammering out some tortillas, it was time to wrap everyone up in Glad People-Wrap and bus them up to the M Hotel's swimmin' hole. It's a decorative affair up there, with draped fabric and chairs and stuff. It's all pretty fancy, one of the contestants was contractually obligated to say. The boys went off on their side and the girls grumbled off to theirs and everyone souped and slopped their shit into bowls and chafing dishes and lit sternos or whatever they were doing in the 110 degree heat and then they waited.
Suddenly, coming over the hills like the fire scene in Lord of the Rings, we heard a loud jalopy awooooga car horn and some lurching circus music and out stumbled Mr. & Mrs. Drunkaby, followed by a phalanx of equally drunk and miserable friends. The boys got to eat first, which meant that the chef girls got to serve first. "Hiii gentlemen," cooed the bramble-headed lesbian in a weak attempt at seeming jovial. You could have basically said "Open wide" and then squeezed some Manwich out of a baster into these guys' mouths and they would have been happy. When you're doing shots you don't really care what the heck you're eating, as long as it's headed toward your food-hole and will soon be bumping around inside your belly, it really doesn't matter what the F it is. So they gobbled everything up, smiling.
Unfortunately the judges were not smiling. Todd English, creepily licking a last drop of blood from his lips, shook his head at most of the girlies' food. I don't really think it's fair that these guys got to judge while sitting in a poolside cabana and sucking back shot after shot of booze, but whatever. That's their job. So judge they did. Most of the girls screwed up! Everything was either undercooked or bland or just didn't go with the shot. The bachelor boys didn't mind, though, and they milled around in front of the camera chatting up 40-year-old lesbians and Edie Falco and Polly McAnonymous wept in a corner while doing a little dance all by herself, singing through her tears "Pretty, pretty... I'm a pretty girllll..." She's basically that Judice girl from the Lawrence Welk skit on SNL.
Ohh hoobie-hoo, so that all went down, and then it was the boys turn. Let's talk about something. You wanna talk about something? Good. Mattin. You know Mattin. He's the little French squirrel-twink who wears scarves and, when he's not in Las Vegas for the show, lives next to the Rainbow Factory on Gumdrop Island. And yet... And yet Mattin kept talking about how all the girls were hot and that, because he was so busy, he didn't have any time to flirt. All of this was said, mind you, in a little sing-songy French Snow White voice while birds alit on his shoulders and hands and a family of rabbits set a little table for dinner and a grumpy old badger walked by and crossed his arms and looked at the camera and said "Harrrrrumph!" and Mattin just giggled and said "Oh, Mister Badger!" That is what was happening. Mattin, why are you lying to us about liking the bachelorette girls? It's OK. You're allowed. Go for it.
Whatevs. The boys did a bit better. Your bearded uncle told us winkingly about his crazy bachelor party and I pictured him all fat and shirtless and sweaty and alone, wriggling and shuddering in the streamers-and-balloons-decorated basement, while "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" blared on the speakers. That does actually kind of sound like fun. Everyone's dishes were actually pretty decent, with arctic char and sweet and sour things and other stuff that Top Chef people like to make (sooooooo much ceviche, even with tofu!), so the boys were clearly the winners. Clearly boys will always beat girls because the power of their winkies is greater than a sum of noonies, and yet the battle of the sexes rages on, even though we all know how it will end, always. Right, Mattin?
WHO WINS? WHO LOSES? These are the ultimate questions of Bravo's hit series Project Food. The drunken bride was swept off the pool patio by kindly old janitor Gus and the bridegroom was found, six days later, passed out in a Ramada Inn closet somewhere off the interstate. So the challenge had come to an end, bridesmaids pairing off with groomsmen to go have regrettable relations, and it was time for the judging. Obvs migovs the boys team won the thing. Their food was vaguely edible, even though some people like completely straight muscle-bound hunk Mattin stumbled (bouillabaisse and rum are apparently not a good combination. Who knew!!), and plus they're boys. Oh I forgot to mention that the minute the challenge had ended some of the mens sucked in their tremendous guts and went splish-splashing in the fancy pool. Which is tradition. Haven't you ever noticed that after you've had a delicious, three-star Michelin meal, and you say demurely "My compliments to the chef" that the chef then runs into the dining room whooping and clapping, shirtless and jiggling, and then dives into the decorative fountain at the front of the dining room? This is an age-old rite of fancy restauranting. So that was fun.
The boys team won, but really only one person can really win anything ever in life, so one chef had to be singled out as the best of the best. And you know who won? Orville! Isn't that perfect? Little tattooed Brosephine won the Quick Fire and big better brah won the real challenge. So that works out nicely.
But enough of nice! Nice is for other shows, not America's Next Top Comestible. This show is all about anger and booze-sweaty anxiety. So let's talk about the losers. There were four again. They were: Sad little Polly who was just smiling at dust motes, unaware. Piercings Fletcher who once again had a loonnngggg story about why she F'd up. The Google chef who is also Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire. She got in trouble because she made food and then put it on leaves. Just picked up some leaves and put food on them. Dev, my dear. This isn't America's Got Hobo Trash Can Fire Cookin' Talent. This is Top Chef. We don't put things on leaves. And lastly there was the Briar Patch, who screwed up because she bit off too much and tried to make two (2) dishes and also call Mormons to yell at them about gay marriage at the same time.
Padma was busy gnawing on a human leg she'd found in a dumpster, quietly humming her happy food song to herself. Gail was just blabbing on in that Sharp. Canadian. Stacatto. Of. Hers. And Todd English was primping his hair and leering at everyone. He wants to marry someone in Vegas. Anyone. So it was up to shaved bear Tommy C to make the decision. And make a decision he did. He straight up murdered someone.
In the end it was Polly who was told to leave. Poor senseless Polly. She didn't really understand what was going on, mostly just grinned and chuckled. She smiled and clapped and said "Wheee, a ride!" when the van came to the hotel to take her back to the home in Ann Arbor. And when she was on the plane she just stared wide-eyed at all the clouds and didn't think one minute about under-marinated ceviche. No, that was all left behind in the desert. Some days, back at the home, that nice young orderly J.J., with the chestnut eyes and broad shoulders, will walk her down to the pond. She'll stand there for a few hours pointing at turtles and other pond creatures, softly saying "Look, look." And J.J. will nod and say in that soothing Midwestern curl of his "Yep, yep." And then when she gets tired J.J. will walk her back and she'll lie down on her starched white sheets and she'll think about everything but ceviche.
She'll think about J.J. and she'll hope that he has a nice girl in his life. She'll think about Maureen, who sleeps down the hall and has scratches on her face, always. They never seem to heal. And she'll think about those turtles that live down in the pond. How they can just huddle themselves up in those shells and hide from the world. And Polly will think about all of the screaming she used to do and the terrible Day of the Broken Plates when Mom and Gary had her taken up to the home and she'll think maybe she's a turtle.
Maybe she's just crept up in herself and is hiding. But someday she'll pop back out, Polly thinks. Someday she'll spring back into the world and though she'll miss J.J.'s big, soft hands and she'll miss Darla and her stories about New York City, she'll be happy to be out on her own again. To be doing regular people things. Like driving and cleaning and sewing and cooking. Cooking.
There it is.