<p>&nbsp;Fabio of 'Top Chef: All-Stars'</p>

 Fabio of 'Top Chef: All-Stars'

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef All-Stars' - 'Dim Sum Lose Sum'

A weak link survives for another week

Before we begin, if any of you are wondering why your DVR suddenly stopped recording “Top Chef,” it’s because the title of the show was suddenly changed from “Top Chef: All Stars” to plain, old “Top Chef.” But hey, this show is in constant reruns, so you’ll probably catch it in real time anyway. In other “Top Chef” news, if you live in Southern California and are a Fabio fan, you can watch the show on Wednesday nights at his Toluca Lake restaurant, Firenze Osteria. He’ll even be there, I’m told. And if you’re not a Fabio fan, hey, free hors d’oeuvres. I can’t attest to it being a big hootenanny, as I’m busy blogging for you guys, but if you’ve gone, do tell. If you know of the other chefs on the show doing anything similar, by the way, please post about it. And by all means, tell us about the food!

[Full recap of Wednesday's "Top Chef All-Stars" after the break...]
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<p>Paula Abdul of 'Live to Dance'</p>

Paula Abdul of 'Live to Dance'

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Live to Dance' Premiere

She’s back, but it’s a whole new Paula this time around
Paula’s back! Whoo! Wide-fingered hand clap! I’m all kinds of excited to see America’s Favorite Pushover back on TV, I have to admit. And let’s face it – as much as we loved watching her love/hate relationship with Simon, she was always an odd choice to judge a singing competition. Yes, she’s sold a bajillion records (fine, 60 million if you have to be technical about it), but the reality is that she landed a recording career on the strength of her dancing. That made perfect sense during the height of the video age, because we could distract ourselves from her thin, somewhat nasal voice by focusing on her exceptional dance moves. The girl’s a kick-ass dancer, so “Live to Dance” seems like a perfect fit.
[Full recap of Tuesday's (Jan. 4) premiere after the break...]
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<p>Richard Blais of 'Top Chef All-Stars'</p>

Richard Blais of 'Top Chef All-Stars'

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef All-Stars' - 'Advantage Chef'

One chef rockets from bottom three to elimination challenge winner

Hopefully this week’s episode will be more exciting than last week’s, which seemed to suffer from post-Jen timidity. While “Top Chef” isn’t the kind of hair pulling, immunity idol stealing, bar brawling reality TV show we can expect from other networks, it seems like the chefs deliver some of their most inspired dishes while under intense pressure. If that happens to include some pan stealing of monopolizing the liquid nitrogen while cursing a blue streak, so be it. And this week promises to offer not only plenty of stress, but one of the wackiest Quickfires ever. So let’s get to it!

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<p>The 'Survivor: Nicaragua' Top 5</p>

The 'Survivor: Nicaragua' Top 5

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Nicaragua' Finale - The Winner is...

It started as Old vs. Young, but who took home the 'Survivor' million?
Buckle up, "Survivor" fans... It's time for the epic two-hour finale of "Survivor: Nicaragua," which I like to think of as the last "Survivor" episode before we can move on to a new season and start over. Yay, "Survivor"!
Full, exhausting recap after the break...
Carve another notch in the old oak (or random tropical Nicaraguan) tree.  Jeff Probst promises that the biggest surprises are yet to come. Surprise No. 1: No pre-credit sequence. I'm sure that's normal for finales, but unlike Marilu Henner, I do not have Superior Autobiographic Memory. Anyway, we pick up on Day 37, with Dan carving another notch in a tree. It's the most physical exertion he's showed all season. Fabio's goal is to break up the Holly/Sash/Chase alliance and he and Dan agree that Holly should be out next. "I'll go out fighting, unless somebody else has a better plan," Fabio warns Holly, vowing to be cool and not let on that he's playing the game. Sash, meanwhile, continues to make promises with everybody available, though he agrees with Chase that Fabio is still next out, if he loses Immunity.
A trivial pursuit. Speak of the Immunity Devil, it's time for another challenge. The rain pours as Jeff removes the Idol from Fabio's neck. The challenge combines Nicaragua trivia with puzzle-making. It'd be hard to say who has the advantage under these circumstances. Everybody gets the first question right and everybody besides Fabio nails the second question, putting him in a deep hole. And Dan is way behind because Dan is always way behind. Jeff gives the first answer, educating the kids at home. Then he stops, because who really wants to know things about Nicaragua anyway? Sash gets out to a huge puzzle lead, but Fabio starts a comeback, pushing ahead of Holly and Chase, who dropped a piece and can't figure out why his puzzle won't go together. IT'S FABIO! Huzzah! The Comeback Kid. "I'm missing a piece," whines Chase, before Fabio comes and helpfully shows him the error of his ways. Holly knows that a monkey wrench has been thrown into their plan, but she still plans on an easy vote against Dan.
Dan on the run. Guess what? It's raining again. I'm talking about in Los Angeles, out my window. But I guess it's also raining in Nicaragua. "It was awesome, man," Immune Fabio laughs, explaining that he always knew he was going to wait til the last minute before getting aggressive. He wants Holly out first, but Chase refuses to believe that Holly is a bigger threat than Dan. Or that's what he tells Fabio. Chase admits to the camera that Holly's a bigger threat, but Holly's his ally. Just like Shannon. And Brenda. And Jane. For the first time all season, Dan has to scurry and strategize. He paints himself as the guy who can't win because of his money and points out that Small Town Gal Holly would be harder to beat. Fabio, playing Dan's Advocate, knows that only Sash is sway-able. Sash is willing to hear some of the logic, knowing Holly would be positioned to get votes from women and also old people on the Jury. Holly suspects that Dan and Fabio are lobbying against her, but she's determined to trust in her alliance.
Tribal Council No. 1. Fabio explains to Probst that tonight's vote should be about who the biggest threats are. Dan agrees that he should be taken to the end because nobody will give him a million dollars, not that he'd turn down the money. Holly denies that she's a threat and makes light of Dan's "She's from a town of 11,000 people" argument. "They over there know that my mind is always turning," Chase says. Does he mean "turning" or "flip-flopping" or "caving"? Probst warns Fabio that voting the wrong person out is potentially a million dollar mistake. Fabio calls Holly "a pretty cool lady." Will he vote the pretty cool lady out of the game?
Vote No. 1. We don't see how anybody voted, so let's hear Probst read them:  Dan. Dan. That's it, right? A random, wasted vote on Chase. Dan is voted out. I hope Fabio knows what he's doing. We're down to the Final Four. Dan's last vote was for Chase, to show his contempt. He also has harsh words for shoe-stealing Holly. Bye, Dan.
The lies before the storm. No rain! In Nicaragua. It's still raining in LA. It's back to camp for the Final Four. They all agree it's a pretty huge deal. Fabio knows the only way he's going to feel secure the next night is if he has Immunity, but around the fire, Fabio gets Sash and Chase to agree that they'll be in the Final Three. Sash nods politely with Fabio's plan, but tells us that he has deals with everybody to Final Three and Fabio is the biggest threat. Holly and Chase also agree that Fabio's next, unless he wins. But Holly and Chase are prepared to turn on Sash if Fabio wins. "I don't like the lying part," Chase says, simultaneously lying to Fabio. It may actually be true that Chase doesn't like lying. He may just be too spineless to tell the truth. The last Tree-Mail includes a sword and a lengthy message instructing them to collect the shields from their fallen comrades as part of the season's Necrology (or "Rites of Passage," if you happen to care). Holly feels the responsibility to represent for her departed Ancients. 
Rites of Passage. Excuse me, but I'm gonna go watch the Patriots for five minutes. Even Holly, Sash, Chase and Fabio can't muster enthusiasm for most of these people. I enjoy the ten seconds of of Purple Kelly Bikini Footage, since they didn't have any footage from her achievements in the game. Mostly, I only remember these people because I interviewed all of them, with the exception of Jimmy Johnson. Burn, baby, burn!
Like Jenga, only played on the handle of a sword. Final Immunity Challenge! Probst takes the Idol from Fabio and sets the stage: They'll be balancing a sword on a shield, while also stacking coins atop the sword. Uh-oh. Fabio's coin-stack is precarious and he doesn't seem to understand that you can straighten your pile. Holly goes out first. Then Chase goes down. It's only Sash and Fabio remaining. Fabio's stack is amazingly unsteady. I can hardly breath. Fix it, Fabio! Fix it! He doesn't! Does he not understand? Sash's stack looks so steady. But Sash misplays a coin. It's that simple. His money goes falling to the ground and Fabio wins his third consecutive Immunity with his head on the block. HUZZAH!
Time for Sash, Holly and Chase to devour each other. "I'm lovin' this, man," gloats Fabio with his wind-swept hair. "It's gonna be fun watching them sweat on this one," Fabio laughs. Sash is feeling cocky, but Fabio just smiles and assures him that he hasn't made up his mind. "Right now, I'm as desperate as I've been the entire game," Sash admits, promising Fabio that he'll vote however Fabio votes and insisting that even he's have kept Fabio even if he'd lost Immunity. Lies! Sash's preference appears to be voting Chase out, which pisses Chase off. Chase the Flip-Flopper calls Sash a snake. Fabio, sitting on a tree-trunk throne, compares everybody to cockroaches. Chase, to his credit, admits he'd have voted Fabio out if he didn't win Immunity. Holly follows suit, leading with honesty and then warning Fabio that Sash has played a good game. Given his druthers, Fabio wouldn't take either Chase or Sash. He respects Holly's game, but worries about her potential to get votes. This is actually a really tough choice for Fabio. Personally, I think I'd want to go with Chase and Holly, but I may be misjudging Sash's snake-y appeal.
Tribal Council No. 2. Dan was pleased to rediscover hair products. And Fabio is all aglow. At Jeff's prodding, Fabio laughs his way through the individual arguments made to him by the other three. Seeing the jury's response to Sash's deceit makes me feel like maybe he should be taken. "The truth is, Jeff, I've had many alliances with many different people in this game," Sash confesses and then says "I believe I would have," when Fabio asks again about taking him to the Final Three. It's pretty obvious nobody on the Jury likes Sash. OK. I take it back. I'm taking Chase and Sash to the Finals. Last please to Fabio: Sash says he's been the most honest. Chase says he's been most honest. "Yeah, you were pretty honest at the last second," Fabio cracks. And Holly also claims to have been the most honest. Sigh. This is hard.
Vote No. 2. Probst is gonna go tally the votes: Sash. Holly. Holly. Farewell to Holly. I really think that was the right move by Fabio. Or I hope it was. Looking at the Jury, Fabio hasn't made a single enemy. And yes, Chase wrote Holly's name down. He really has written down the names of more professed allies than any contestant I can remember at this stage in the game. He's stabbed just about everybody in the back, while pouting and looking regretful the whole time. I just hope he doesn't have random and residual sympathies from people on the Jury. Sadly, I fear he may. I'm rooting for Fabio, but I'd even accept Snake Sash instead. 
Wingmen. "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm about a 10 right now," Fabio grins. He's proud of pitting Sash against Chase at Tribal Council, planting the seed for his Jury speech. But Chase promises guns will be blazing the next day. Chase is still cocky, but Sash knows how bad he looked at Tribal Council. He still doesn't think Fabio or Chase deserved to be in the Final Three, but he refers to the guys as his "wingmen" over the fire. 
Pancakes labyrinth. The next morning arrives. It's Day 39 and, out of nowhere, champagne and pancakes appear. "We're best of friends and worst of enemies," an energized Sash announces. But with a full belly, Chase is trying to figure out his angle to win the million. His strategy: Get Fabio over-confident. For his part, Fabio vows to go into Tribal Council swinging. Sash's plan is to be 100 percent truthful and put everything out on the table. Chase thinks of himself as the underdog and suggests that he had better relationships than Fabio and played a better game than Sash. They burn down their camp for the second time. 
Opening Statements. Chase leads off. He asks them to bring on the questions, saying he's looking forward to discussing his crazy game and his wishy-washy decisions. Fabio says that his strategy was to be himself and be an open book and then to assert himself. Fabio says he didn't backstab anybody and that he deserves the million dollars. Sash says the friendships that he formed, he took more seriously than the alliances and that any broken alliances were just part of the game.
The Jury Speaks. NaOnka and Purple Kelly shouldn't be allowed to talk. They can vote. Sure. Why not. They earned that. But Quitters shouldn't get to be stand-offish at Jury. Just my opinion... OK. Let's get started. Brenda is up first. She takes Sash on for making alliances and breaking them, but Sash interrupts, apologizes and says it's all part of the game. Then Brenda, sounding sad, turns on Chase, but Chase blames Fabio and NaOnka. Sash says Chase could have stepped up, but Brenda's all, "You could have stepped up, too!" Zing, Brenda! Marty asks Chase to give the Dumber Than a Bag of Hammers Award. Chase calls it a BS question and says that Marty deserves it. Yikes. Awkward. Marty then says nice things to Sash and Fabio.  At Holly's prodding, Chase says his biggest move was voting Shannon out. Holly asks Fabio if winning those last challenges was "Too little too late." "I think it was right on time," Fabio says. Sash agreeably tells Holly that he did, indeed, lie to her. Jane calls Sash "A New York City River Rat." Chase tells Jane that $100,000 is going to cancer research and then he's going to take care of his mother. Fabio jumps in and says that he also wants to help his parents, not that Jane cared. Benry doesn't wanna hear from Chase and gets a dull answer of some sort from Sash. Dan calls Sash a liar and a phony and calls him "spineless." Then Dan accuses Chase of paranoia and says he backstabbed everybody. "This is 'Survivor,' Dan," Chase says. Dan responds, "Beauty fades, dumb is forever." Purple Kelly gives Sash 60 seconds to say how he outwitted all of them. That was a very nice present from Purple Kelly, who giggles and calls him awesome. LORD. Why was she allowed to talk? NaOnka asks Fabio if seeing his mother was gasoline to his fire. Fabio cries as he remembers seeing her. Are these million dollar tears? It sure looks like that. Brenda and Benry are both wiping off tears. BRILLIANT, Fabio. [At least neither Purple Kelly nor NaOnka showed any hostility or indignation.] Alina says she doesn't want to give a million dollars to a boy (Fabio), she wants to give it to a man. Sash makes a good play in saying that on votes, Fabio was the last to know and Chase was wishy-washy. "It wasn't wishy-washy. It was me making myself a way out," Chase protests, strongly. "He won three in a row to get here, but this isn't the NBA Finals," Chase says of Fabio. Hmmm... Easy-going Fabio plays well. Strong and determined and "I knew more than you think" Fabio? Not-so-much. There are gonna be people who vote on "outwitting" and those people can't vote for Fabio.
The Final Vote. Let's see whose votes we get to see. Marty calls Chase dumb and Sash a weasel, voting for Fabio. Alina writes Chase's name down, saying she was impressed by him tonight. Boo, Alina. Dan is Team Fabio. Brenda writes Chase's name. Oh COME ON. And that's all we see. Looks like it's a two-horse race. Sorry, Sash.
The Reading of the Votes. Jeff leaves Tribal Council in Nicaragua and marches off into the jungle and shows up in Los Angeles. Crazy. Let's get to the vote: Fabio. Chase. Fabio. [The crowd is much more on Fabio's side.] Chase. Chase. Fabio. Fabio. THE WINNER IS... FABIO!!!! Or, maybe... JUD! YAY!
Bottom Line: This was the only result that could possibly have made me happy, so I'm very pleased. Or maybe I'm just relieved. It doesn't salvage the season or anything, but kudos to Fabio. One thing worth noting: I think there's a very reasonable argument to be made that Chase was a more appealing candidate to players who were there and didn't see all of his spineless caving and waffling and who only caught bits and pieces of it in-action. I can't imagine Chase gets four votes if the Jury could have watched the whole season. In the end, Fabio deserved to win, because even if he didn't outwit anybody, he certainly outplayed and outlasted everyone, especially when it counted. I've never loved the floating strategy, but Fabio didn't even float. He glided. And when he needed to perform, he did. He also made the right choice on who to take with him to the Final Three, which is as important as anything. Meanwhile, Sash managed to play his version of the game mighty poorly. He definitely played the most vicious strategic game of any member of the Final Three, but he managed to make people hate him in a way that even folks like Russell didn't do. Sash didn't deserve any votes and didn't get any. So yeah. The finale didn't save the season, but it featured acompetitive Jury vote, a couple interesting choices and, in my opinion, the best available option ended up winning. 
What'd you think? Team Fabio? Or should one of the other two have picked up the Jury votes? Where does this season rank for you in "Survivor" history? Any questions you wanna make sure I ask the Top 5 tomorrow?
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<p>Jeff Bridges</p>

Jeff Bridges

Credit: Kristy Wigglesworth/AP

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Jeff Bridges with Eminem and Lil Wayne

The Dude, Slim Shady and Weezy close 2010 with a typically uneven 'SNL'

So this is the Christmas episode of “Saturday Night Live.” And what have you done, “SNL”? You’ve brought together Jeff Bridges and Eminem for your final comedic jaunt of 2010. The Dude and The Real Slim Shady: like chocolate and peanut butter, but with more facial hair and anger issues. Vegas places 3:1 odds on “Lazer Catz” meeting “Tron” during tonight’s episode, and me liking the result at about 50:1.

Will Bridges redeem a rather tepid Fall for the show? Only one way to find out. As always, what follows below are my insta-reactions to each sketch as they happen. Like “SNL” and Bill O’Reilly, WE’RE DOING IT LIVE! Onto the recap after the break...

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<p>Tiffany of 'Top Chef All-Stars'</p>

Tiffany of 'Top Chef All-Stars'

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef All-Stars' - 'New York's Finest'

After Jen’s freak-out, the chefs try to play it safe


Since we can now watch 3-D television in our homes, I can only hope that someday someone can create taste-o-vision (I’m perfectly happy to skip smell-o-vision, as viewing one episode of “Hoarders” with that sense intact is probably enough to put you off your feed for all eternity). While it’s easy enough to condemn bad dancing or design or even crummy cake decorating, we have to take the judges’ words at face value on “Top Chef.” After last week’s episode, I’m not entirely sure I want to jump on the Crazy Jen bandwagon.
Yes, she acted like a total nutbag, but was her dish truly as lousy as Tom and Gail made it out to be? Yes, Tom Colicchio has won the James Beard Award, so it’s not like he can’t tell fine dining from something whipped up out of a Rachel Ray cookbook. But Jen does work for Eric Ripert, and the man doesn’t hire crap chefs. I find it hard to believe she’d send out something that tasted like an old, wet, bacon-flavored sock and then stubbornly go to the mat for it. And for all the judges’ nattering about how personality and attitude aren’t taken into consideration when cutting a chef, all I say to that is, come on. Taste-o-vision would solve this once and for all.

[Full recap of Wednesday's (Dec. 15) "Top Chef All Stars" after the break...]
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<p>Team Watermelon took a Watermelon in the Face. But did they win The Amazing Race?</p>

Team Watermelon took a Watermelon in the Face. But did they win The Amazing Race?

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'The Amazing Race' Season 17 Finale - The winners are...

The Racers arrived in Los Angeles. Would history be made?
I said it on the very first week of this "Amazing Race" season: When you start with a watermelon in the face, there's really nowhere to go but down. I didn't expect that prediction to be *quite* so prescient, but indeed it was.
"The Amazing Race" wrapped up its 17th installment on Sunday (Dec. 12) night with a finale that only continued the prolonged fizzle of recent weeks. 
Yes, "The Amazing Race" made "history" (I'm hesitant to call anything that happens on a reality show "historic") on Sunday night, but at what cost? Drama, alas.
Full recap of the "Amazing Race" finale after the break...
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<p>Paul Rudd</p>

Paul Rudd

Credit: Peter Kramer/AP

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Paul Rudd and Paul McCartney

The 'Clueless' Paul was hosting, but 'SNL' gave Sir Paul plenty to do

Robert DeNiro may have iconic Hollywood status, but doesn’t necessarily have skills that translate to “Saturday Night Live” success. Paul Rudd, however, possesses those skills in spades. Will he help SNL take the rather ragged Fall run towards a successful conclusion? Sure, Jeff Bridges will take things home next week, but we can’t worry about the future. We can only worry about the Power of the Pauls: not only the host, but musical guest Paul McCartney. Will Paul honor the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s death in one of his numbers tonight? Only one way to find out.

Onto the recap, with all thoughts composed live as the show proceeds…

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<p>Nina Dobrev of 'The Vampire Diaries'</p>

Nina Dobrev of 'The Vampire Diaries'

Credit: The CW

Recap: 'The Vampire Diaries' - 'By The Light Of The Moon'

Several new arrivals in town cause trouble, while Tyler undergoes his transformation

Hey, everyone – didja know it was a full moon tonight? Because it’s a full moon. A FULL MOON. Get it in your head already. The moon? It’s full.

The last episode of “The Vampire Diaries” until January 27 served up more of what this show does well: It moved characters closer together while adding to the series mythology, giving fans just the right amounts of emotion, action, intrigue, and surprise to carry us through the winter break.

But the best part was that Elena/Katherine didn’t overshadow the episode. Instead, everyone else got a chance to play in the supernatural sandbox thanks to the full moon and all it brought to Mystic Falls: Bonnie and Luca, Damon and Rose, and Little Red Riding Caroline and her Big, Bad Wolf Tyler all grew closer, though none of those pairings is without its complications. Even relative newcomers got into the mix: Elijah made his face turn and revealed his agenda, while Mystic Falls’s first lady werewolf made a memorable, violent entrance.  

The idea of duality is another scripting trick that’s become a “TVD” signature, here more subtle than usual as Elena/Katherine found themselves in similar predicaments, both pining for Stefan.  (Another no-fail element: The art of the love triangle. Everyone in town’s got one.) The storyline packing the most affecting emotional punch, however, was the budding friendship between Caroline and Tyler, which developed in unexpected ways as he experienced his first full moon. What girl can resist a guy who’ll collapse half-naked in a heap of tears and allow himself to be taken care of at his lowest moment? I see great things ahead for Tyroline. Start counting the days to January 27…

[Full recap of tonight’s (Dec. 9) episode of “The Vampire Diaries,” entitled “By the Light of the Moon,” below…]

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<p>John Noble and Joshua Jackson of 'Fringe'</p>

John Noble and Joshua Jackson of 'Fringe'

Credit: Liane Hentscher/FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Marionette'

As Olivia struggles to re-acclimate herself, Peter struggles with his own guilt.

In some ways, last week’s episode of “Fringe” could have served as a perfectly satisfactory Fall finale for the show. Getting the two Olivias back to their home universes could have marked the end of one block of programming and allowed things to start from there next January, when the show moves to Fridays with an episode called “Firefly.” No, that’s not a joke. No, it’s not April Fool’s. No, Whedon fans that love “Fringe” are NOT amused.

[Recap of Thursday’s (Dec. 9) “Fringe” after the break…]

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