'Top Chef' - 'Night at the Museum': You get what you get and you don't get upset
A quick review of last night's "Top Chef" coming up just as soon as I ruin the integrity of the plums...
Because I have a busy schedule, and because HitFix already has Liane Bonin recapping this show at our Monkeys as Critics blog, my plan is to only post on this season from time to time if an episode particularly catches my fancy - which "Night at the Museum" absolutely did.
First, it was tons of fun. Challenges involving kids - and the high-falutin' chefs trying to come up with things to please young and unsophisticated palates - almost always work great, and this one produced one fine one-liner after another: Dale's "10-year-old rave!" or Casey boasting "I'm a virgin with a Ritz cracker handjob!" or, of course, Marcel complaining that "You don't fuck with somebody's mise-en-place." I smiled at the inevitable reveal that Blais teaches a Liquid Nitrogen 101 class, at Fabio being more Fabio-like and less Rupert-like, at the chefs going on the flashlight tour, and many other moments.
Second, it had an elimination that would seem surprising if you told someone who didn't watch the episode who went home in second-to-last place, but one that made absolute sense if you watched. I only watched a few episodes of Jen's season, but in those I could tell that she was both an extremely talented chef and a completely insufferable reality TV character. You can be confident in your skills, maybe even arrogant about them, and still be likable. Blais pulls that off, for instance, in part because even though he clearly considers himself the best chef there by a mile, he's not dismissive of the competition in the way that Jen always is. So it was both unsurprising and somewhat gratifying to see a sleep-deprived Jen just lose it at Judges Table and angrily defend her dish in the face of the judges' obvious dislike of it.(*) I don't believe she went home because she insulted the judges, but I do think she went home because she was in complete denial about their critiques.
(*) I will say that Colicchio tends to be inconsistent in how he wants chefs to respond to criticism. On the one hand, Jen went home not only for making a bad dish, but for not realizing why it was bad. On the other, there have been many times where what Tre admitted - that he knew what he made was terrible but served it anyway - would have been a knife-packing-level offense.
One down note: no Bourdain.
What did everybody else think?