I don't like reality TV. Bear with me. That statement is not the complete logical disconnect that it appears at first read. The higher echelon of reality fare -- no Kardashians need apply -- focuses not on the deconstruction of the human race, but on gamesmanship and excellence. This season the food played second chair to the petty bullying of a clique of women contestants. If I watched Big Brother or any of the Real Housewives franchises, maybe I'd have a different take on this season. But I come for the food.
It's quite clear that early on the producers saw a story arc and decided to exploit it into a gender-biased season. Even if the numbers don't support me, the editing made it feel as though I was seeing more boy vs. girl challenges than in any other season. The foundation of that was the bullying of Bev by certain of the women chefs rumpus. Scripted comments and editing made this bigger than it was, but it was still happening and the decision was made to capitalize on it as though Top Chef was one of the bottom-feeding reality programs and not an Emmy-winning show.
I'm sure the producers thought it was a sound decision ratings-wise, and the numbers may prove them correct. As a viewer, however, I believe it was a tactical misstep because that decision took me completely out of the Top Chef experience; something that hasn't happened since season two and the hijinks with Marcel. If I watch any season nine episode, I do not root for the best chef to win. I root for anyone but Sarah, Lindsay or Heather to win and begrudge all of them their cash prizes and perks that go with the wins. This is not how I want to watch the show. I come for the food.
As long as I'm passing blame around, it's only fair to share it with the women who sparked the story idea. There are always personality clashes in a work setting, and a competition only makes it more fraught. We see it every season; the chefs snap at each other, accuse one or the other of laziness. It's all happened before. What hasn't happened is the persistence and the ostracization to this level. For whatever reason, mob mentality took over and never left. What's sad is that, because no one in the mob could detach and regain a modicum of professional conduct, it provided the opening for the producers to flavor the whole season with the ladies' ugly behavior.
With any luck there will be a more professional group of chefs next season, and focus will shift primarily back to the competition. Like I said, I come for the food.