Top Chef Crowns a Winner. Are You Satisfied?

Image

It’s been a big year on Top Chef. There’s been immunity challenges. And immunity challenges. There’s been good food, better food, and best food. In fact, this might’ve been the best season so far where food is concerned. And in the end, we got ourselves a new Top Chef.

It was a tight race. While I was surprised last week that Luis and Shirley were the ones who got cut (honestly, I thought Shirley would win the whole thing), we had Nina and Nick facing off in the end. Nina has consistently proven herself throughout the season. She was a strong competitor, always contributing good food. Was it the best food? Not often. Usually one person would slip right past her, giving that last bit of creativity or flavor to their dish, so she was often coming in second.

But contrast that with Nick, who was all over the place with his dishes. Leaning more on technique, Nick would often get over his head, piling on competing elements, while leaving salt off the menu. He had highs and lows; and while his lows were very low, his highs were very high.

In the end, one meal made the difference (and in my own opinion, one judge). Nick pulled through in the end — gaining the title of Top Chef — after delivering a great meal, despite poor service and curse words. But is he the right choice?

It’s no surprise that Nick is not the crowd favorite. Not that that should make any difference. Hung was not anyone’s favorite back in the day if I recall, and dear god, let’s not even discuss Hosea (though one could argue that was less the person and more the lack of talent in the kitchen). But Nick rubbed everyone the wrong way when Stephanie went home when he had immunity. But hey, that’s how the game was played (and if you watched Watch What Happens Live after the show, you’d see that Nick is still not pleased with how that all went down, and even Tom didn’t mean to imply he should have quit — they just asked the question).

Crowd opinion aside, should he have won? What surprised me here was that they based their decision on one meal. In the past — and correct me if I’m wrong — did they not look at performance over the entire competition? If you did that, would it be consistency or highs and lows? And in the end, if you’re looking at only one meal, was Nick’s really the best?

True, they had issues with Nina’s dessert. But from what I understood, everything else she served was great. Nick, on the other hand, had inconsistently cooked duck and a fish that needed salt. And while I can’t bring myself to align with Padma (who really had it out for Nick for some reason, suggesting they start judging on service and not food, among other things), I do think she had a point in a previous episode: How can they be this far in and still be discussing salt?

In the end, Nina probably should have been the champ. The only thing she didn’t have that Nick did was this: Tom. Tom seemed to be Nick’s number one fan. And it was clear that he was going to fight for Nick as hard as he could. And while we didn’t see it at the judges’ table, I think, in the end, he did. (I’m not the only one who thinks this either. And truth be told, I think Tom holds more power than the other judges anyway, given his experience with the show and discontent in the past. But that’s just my guess.)

Nick or Nina, I have to say it was a good season. We got to see real cooking. We didn’t have ridiculous themes that didn’t allow you to see how a person could really cook (think Top Chef: Texas — Make ribs! No, chili! No, this can of beefaroni!). In the end, they presented good food with their own style and personality. Did the best chef win? Well, is that really what this show is about? That sounds like another blog post to me.

*image from Bravotv.com

HIMYM: Team Marshall or Team Lily? Who’s side are you on?

Image

It’s been almost a week, and I’m still debating who’s right and who’s wrong on last Monday’s HIMYM episode, “Unpause.” What ended up being a very sweet episode on Robin and Barney’s part became a heart-wrenching one for Lily and Marshall, where issues buried seven years ago suddenly were brought back to the surface in a really ugly unpaused fight.

So you have to ask: Who’s side are you on?

Lily has a lot going for her. Marshall should have had a discussion with Lily before taking the judgeship in New York. Lily’s dreams were on the line, and Marshall just threw them away without a thought. And on top of it, he kept it a secret from her. They had plans, and he ruined them. And what’s more? He threw her actions from seven years ago in her face — something she thought they had gotten over a long time ago.

But for some reason, I’m siding with Marshall here. Perhaps it’s because we know more of Marshall’s side. We know that he was put on the spot and had to make the decision immediately. We know that he asked if it could wait a year, and he was told no. So he had to take his chance.

Now, let’s stop for a second. Should Marshall have brought up Lily’s leaving him to find herself in San Francisco? No. That really should have been let go of long ago. I’m shocked to know that he still thinks of it and holds it against her, considering how open they are with each other and how they insist that they don’t keep score. That was wrong. That was cold. And if we’re looking at that alone, I’m totally on Team Lily (and I would have run right out of that hotel, too). That was ugly.

But Marshall did tell Lily that he could talk about his job choice now. Lily claims that was too late — but is it? Could he not turn the job down now, even though he took it before? And isn’t there a compromise? Couldn’t he stay in NY for a year while she was in Italy?

Meanwhile, what is Lily asking of Marshall right now? Sure, he agreed to Italy, but he’s stalling his career for a year. Most likely, that year off will hurt his career in a way that would mean he’d never have an opportunity to become a judge. True, he would get to spend time with Marvin (and for all stay-at-home parents out there, I know that’s no simple feat), but he never seemed to be enthusiastic about the trip. At least not that I remember.

Is it a selfish decision? Yes, to a degree. But so is insisting they go to Italy, when Marshall has also been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Lily is looking at this more selfishly, though. While Marshall has been worried sick about Lily’s reaction, Lily has done nothing to but think about herself.

Did Marshall play an ugly card by mentioning her actions seven years ago? Yes. And he shouldn’t have. But Lily needs to be more fair in this argument. I’m on Team Marshall. How about you?

Top Chef: Questioning Immunity

top chefThank you, Top Chef, for giving me something to write about.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a stir caused by Top Chef before. Certainly, people have been kicked off before who should have stayed. And yes, people have won before who should have been kicked of weeks, if not months, before. I think we’re all still reeling from the questionable Hosea win.

But last night was a doozy. While it wasn’t a finale, it was a big one, pitting two teams against each other to battle French versus Spanish cuisine. One team, the Spanish team, was visibly the weaker team with Brian, Nina, and Carlos. The other had top contenders Nick, Stephanie, and Shirley. You could certainly argue that Nina is better than Stephanie, but in recent weeks, Stephanie has been making a name for herself and the combined talent with Nick and Shirley certainly put her on the top. Of all people, Carlos is the weakest of the bunch, and let’s just say, he got lucky.

How? Well, two dishes put the French team on the bottom this week. The safe, Spanish dishes were good, solid fare. They won over the French team’s highs and lows. And in this particular case, the lows were so low, it put the team on the chopping block.

But so what? That’s the usual for Top Chef. Or is it? Well, in this particular case, Nick was the man with the sucky plates. But Nick also had immunity. So in a team of three, that put two of our best chefs at risk for going home. In fact, the plates done by Shirley and Stephanie were some of the best of the night, and the judges clung at straws to find the flaws in the plates.

What’s more? The guest judge of the evening proposed a question to Nick: Should one of these other talented chefs go home because of his mistake? Or should he give up immunity?

And with that, the Twitterverse went crazy.

Nick had always been one of the contestants that put pride in fighting fair and being a standup guy. And boy did this set off the viewers. Can you really be cooking with integrity if you’re sending other chefs home for your mistakes? Should he “fall on his sword”?

In my view, no. This is a competition. And he had immunity.

In fact, some of the discussion rather irked me. He earned immunity. Immunity gives you the opportunity to impress the judges outside their comfort zone. I can guarantee you that Nick would not have made either dish — or at least not the bird’s nest — if he didn’t have immunity. He was taking a chance. And it didn’t work. If he played it safe, they would have had him on the bottom, warning him that if he didn’t have immunity, he’d be going home, much like Carrie was for her broccoli and sauce dish a couple episodes before.

And this isn’t the first time that someone with immunity was at the bottom, making the judges choose someone else in the team. It is, however, possibly the first time Tom didn’t question the team members to see if they had a) tried the food and b) made suggestions to fix it. How many times have we heard Tom say, “This guy’s on your team and he has immunity. You didn’t try his food? If he screws up, you’re the one going home.” And yet, those words weren’t spoken last night.

Nick certainly isn’t going to be making friends with that choice. But then again, this is a competition. Why would you send yourself home if you found the opportunity to stay. He did earn immunity. That’s the perk of winning the quickfire.

I’m also rather skeptical that Shirley, if in a similar situation, would have dropped out, in the hopes of coming back in “Last Chance Kitchen.” I just don’t think that would happen.

In my view, I do wish Shirley had been kicked. It’s not that I don’t like her food, but I do think she’d have a better chance at “Last Chance Kitchen.” Stephanie gets into her head a little too much, and I just don’t think that she’ll make it through. But it would be entertaining to see her face if she and Nick were competitors again. (Full disclosure: I haven’t seen who won the most recent webisode yet to see if Stephanie is still standing.)

I feel bad for Stephanie; she was one of my favorites. But they know the game. And she knew that plate wasn’t good (she said herself, her ass would be going home). But Nick certainly shouldn’t have been asked to give up immunity. All’s fair in love and Top Chef.

American Horror Story: Coven: The Axeman Cometh

Image

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN: 3.06 “The Axeman Cometh”

What an episode. The beginning reminded me highly of the cold opens we used to get on the first season of American Horror Story, back when you’d see through the years why the Murder House became a murder house. It seemed like an odd fit for this season, but by the end of this episode, we could understand why we saw this little scene. It turns out that the Axeman is going to be a rather important player in at least the upcoming episode.

For some reason, I wasn’t as drawn into the Axeman. Perhaps it’s because we really only saw him kill two people — and I think overall he only killed seven (it’s funny to think that sounds like a small number, but after seeing how many torture victims Madame kept in her home, somehow this feels miniscule). I’m still puzzling over how he was a threat to Cordelia, even if he was in that mystical plane where he wasn’t quite a ghost but not quite released yet either. And overall, his running into Fiona feels a little less than threatening to me, too. Of all the characters on this show, Fiona can take care of herself.

Speaking of, Fiona seems to be getting weaker and weaker — physically and emotionally. Somehow, Cordelia’s incident has shaken Fiona to her core, and killing Madison didn’t help her increase her strength (which is no surprise, since we found out that Madison wasn’t the next Supreme). It’s interesting seeing this new side of Fiona, especially when it’s contrasted to the new Cordelia.

The Cordelia we saw in this episode was nothing like the Cordelia we’ve seen in previous episodes. Her accident has provided her with “the vision,” and she isn’t happy about it. But through that vision, she’s seen what her husband really is…well, as much as she can see so far. To her, he’s just a cheater, not a malicious witch hunter that we’ve discovered in this episode. We now know why Hank killed his fling in the last episode; she was a witch. And he was hired by the voodoo queen to take out the coven. I’m surprised I didn’t see that one coming but I didn’t.

Strangely enough, the one person that I wasn’t as fond of in this episode was Zoe, who I’ve loved all season. Somehow, she just seemed to come across stupid. Despite Queenie’s warnings, she kept reaching out to the Axeman to get answers to her questions. As the newest witch there and given all she’s seen so far, I’m just surprised she ignored her and plowed forward. Something just seemed off.

Meanwhile, a strong character who I adore was Misty, who was back this week. Myrtle is buried in her yard, getting healed from the mud, and she was trying to take care of the tormented Kyle. Something about Misty just reaches out to me, because my heart just broke when her beloved Stevie Nicks was knocked over (mild, fun Stevie spoiler here if you want to see it). I can’t wait to see what else they do with Misty. They can’t just leave her to be the girl who only brings people back to live. A threat or a savior, she’s going to be someone with a lot of power who comes into play later this season. Perhaps it’s once she finds “her people”? I’m not sure. But I’m looking forward to finding out.

Did I just say I’m looking forward to something on AHS? That hasn’t happened since we wondered the truth behind Moira. Kudos, AHS, you’ve got me hooked.

HIMYM: Platonish

Image

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: 9.09 “Platonish”

Well, we got ourselves out of Farhampton this week in a flashback episode that took us to a basketball game, McClaren’s, the old apartment, and a pharmacy that held more meaning than you would have thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed everything in this episode (with one exception). This episode really got to the heart of what HIMYM does best: introduce something silly, wacky, or generally funny with a quick twist at the end that makes your suddenly sentimental, stunned, or generally feeling. I loved Barney’s antics (and Lily and Robin’s reactions to said antics), but most of all, I loved seeing why we were seeing this episode.

This wasn’t just some filler episode. It had a purpose. It was the moment Ted was offered his new job in Chicago. It was the moment that Barney decided to make Robin his last play. And it was the moment that Barney met the mother.

If you’re keeping count, that means two out of five people have now met the mother: Lily and now Barney. I’m loving how this is unfolding.

The mother, along with her big eyes, apparently has great perception and wisdom, immediately realizing why Barney was desperate to keep busy with his challenges (I also liked that she called him out for calling her a target). Strangely enough, his behavior didn’t seem so out of the norm for him. And yet, once she identified it, it was clear that it really was. So much of Barney’s storyline was great, and this ending was particularly strong. Kudos.

What wasn’t, however, was the stupid, dumb, and generally irritating conversation between Ted and Marshall about his feelings — yet again — over Robin. At this point, the poor dead horse we’ve been beating all season is just a mushy pulp a la the two-parter pilot episode of Breaking Bad. The only thing we need is a ceiling and a bathtub.

Dear writers: I am so bloody tired of hearing about Ted’s feelings over Robin. End it. Now.

I no longer want to see his wistful face. I no longer want to hear about his feelings. I no longer want to see the blue french horn. Nor do I want to hear a blue french horn. In fact, let’s just get rid of any french horn, or alternately, if Ted opens his mouth — in the past, present, or future — about his feelings for Robin, let’s play a french horn over top of him, so I don’t have to hear it. It’s the wedding weekend for god’s sake. We already had an episode where Barney confronted Ted and he let it go. Why can’t we?

Yes, it was interesting to see why Barney won the girl. He didn’t just assume that there was all kinds of time in the world. He took action. Ted did not. But while it was interesting to see that, I was just so sick of hearing about it in general.

But beyond that, loved the episode.

American Horror Story: Coven: Fearful Pranks Ensue & Burn, Witch. Burn!

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN: 3.04 “Fearful Pranks Ensue”
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN: 3.05 “Burn, Witch. Burn!”

What a Halloween we had on American Horror Story. I can’t quite remember what the Halloween episode was last season, but this season felt a little reminiscent of the first season, when the ghosts come out and can roam the earth. This time, of course, we didn’t so much have ghosts as we had zombies. As someone who doesn’t regularly watch The Walking Dead, I wasn’t so numb to the gore. Seeing these surprisingly swift-moving zombies rip apart and rip open the living, taking out their various intestines and other body parts — ew. Yeah, that’s not a party I want to be a part of.

And really, I was surprised neighbor boy made it out alive. I’m still not sure how he did, but it looks like we’re not rid of him yet.

But how about badass Zoe with the chainsaw? One thing that I’m really appreciating with this season is that there’s not an overuse of the magic on their parts. Sure, it seems simple enough to just recite a spell and zombie-go-boom, but I like that these girls don’t quite know what they’re doing yet and are forced to fight these mystical forces with brute strength and teenage cunning. So far Queenie lacking in the smarts department (sorry, sexually molesting herself in front of a beast and not seeing that she was doing something wrong by burning Myrtle’s hand isn’t exactly all that brilliant), but Zoe seems to have a brain on her shoulders. And while she did end up using a surprising power to get rid of the last of the undead, I did like seeing her take out the rest.

As for Madame, well, I’m not sure what I think about her yet. I love her reactions — especially when she discovered that Halloween was just a holiday for candy now — but I’m perplexed by her guilt. She must be a puzzle we’re still figuring out the missing pieces of because I was surprised she was so remorseful over how she treated her daughters. Based on the flashback, she was ruthless (though she never actually killed or maimed them, based on their later hangings by the voodoo queen). So why is she so sad now?

Meanwhile, we saw many sides of Fiona in just two episodes. She’s killed a girl, denied it, framed another witch, burned the other witch — and yet she brings Queenie and a stillborn child back to life. What’s that about? I don’t know, but I like it.

Then there was Cordelia who suddenly got so much more interesting the moment she became blind. She can suddenly see her husband’s faults, which are still a mystery to me. Perhaps not the affair, but why the murder? Has he been possessed by something that happened during their fertility ritual? Or is he just genuinely a terrible guy?

And who did throw the acid in her face? I’m unsure it was Myrtle — I think that Fiona did frame her. But I also don’t think it was the Voodoo Queen, despite the timing. There’s a mystery on our hands. Or did I miss something obvious? Should we believe with Fiona claimed to see in the elevator reflection?

And who do you think is the next Supreme? Based on the power she showed in these episodes, it looks like it may be Zoe. But then again, Misty Day has the power to bring people back from the dead, much like Fiona. I guess there may be a couple contenders. What’s your hypothesis?

I’m behind on my shows. So what’re you watching?

Consider this an Tuesday open thread of sorts. I’m woefully behind on my TV watching from last week, which makes it very difficult to post reviews. For some reason, people expect you to know what happened in an episode in order to write about it. Crazy stuff.

Even if I was caught up, I wouldn’t have all that much to write about anyway. I think I’m watching about ten shows right now: HIMYM, New Girl (though not very happily), American Horror Story: Coven, Top Chef, Parks and Rec (though now that’s on hiatus), Parenthood, Vampire Diaries, and The Amazing Race. If you include sporadic watchings, you can toss in The Tomorrow People and Witches of East End. I’m forcing myself to watch SHIELD, but that’s mainly so I can see if it’s ever going to get better (because right now, it’s just not good). Everything else either just ended or hasn’t started up again.

Note that only a couple shows in this list are new, and none of them am I watching consistently. And the rest, I just haven’t been all that into — with the exception of TVD, perhaps. Oh, and Parks and Rec, but that’s a moot point right now.

There must be more out there to watch. What are you watching? What do you recommend? Help a girl out.

HIMYM: No Questions Asked

Image

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: 9.07 “No Questions Asked”

I appreciated this episode. In fact, if you haven’t already seen it, you should go watch it now. No questions asked.

Now, I’m not saying it didn’t have its flaws, and I’m sure by the end of this post, I’ll get to them. But the episode did a great job at intermixing the crazy shenanigans of the HIMYM crew in flashbacks while balancing the present day rather well. It’s their usual style of entertainment, and it worked.

Of course, Marshall (of all people) would have plenty of “no questions asked” favors he could ask of others because, of anyone, he’d be the one that would go out and do the wild, crazy things that everyone asked of him. It’s his Midwestern upbringing. And the situations that all of the group got it just felt right as well. Ted would certainly do something as weird and creepy as write a letter to an anonymous woman at the drug store, after overhearing her address. After all, she could be the mother. And Barney always does over-the-top things. Heck, even Robin, who had the most mysterious of all the situations, I could see needing help in such a scenario. While hers was the biggest stretch, knowing Robin, it wasn’t that much of a stretch at all.

And all this was done so that they could delete the text message on Lily’s phone. It was silly but creative, and it got the job done. And in the end, I appreciated that Ted was able to pull out the “no questions asked” line in order to save the day.

But now let’s take a moment to harp on a couple negatives. First, what got in the way for me was the Barney/Robin realization that they can’t be their solo selves anymore, and they need to work together as a team. Once again, we have the relationship reality hitting them smack in the face — and hitting us in the face as well. I’ve complained before that I hate that we’re squeezing so many of these relationship conflicts into every episode of the season, and really, I think this episode could have been sustainable without it.

My other complaint was Lily’s reaction to Marshall’s news. Marshall’s realization that he never wanted to keep secrets from Lily gave us a very heartfelt, emotional confession of his career choice. And what could have been a tense reaction and cliffhanger was instead transformed into a silly joke. Lily’s cartoonish anger and declaration that she’s going to kill him did murder one thing: the moment. We would have gotten so much more out of just an angry face. Or a blank look with silence. Or something that left us wondering what her reaction was. Heck, even just hanging up on him would have been more enticing. Her reaction just killed it for me.

But beyond that, I think it was a well-put-together episode. So I do give them credit for that. Plus, blaming every flaw in the room on a ghost? That was clever. I wonder if other hotels do that…

American Horror Story: Coven: The Replacement

Image

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN: 3.03 “The Replacement”

I’m a bit delayed on writing about last week’s AHS, and in the days that have gone by, I’ve certainly tried to block as much of this episode out of my mind as possible. This all makes me wonder: Did American Horror Story take it too far?

I’m sure we’ve seen worse. But somehow Queenie’s scene with the beast coupled with Kyle’s scene with his mother just makes me want to hurl. I suppose that any horror story needs some sort of grotesque element, and since my main complaint in the first episode was that the scarred, tormented, and tortured souls in Madame’s basement didn’t do it for me, perhaps this was the direction of grotesqueness the writers thing it needed. I tend to disagree. There are much better things we could do with Queenie and her voodoo charm (heck, even with her virginity), and there are many ways that we could have dealt with Kyle and his mother. Actually, I’d argue that maybe that storyline could have been kept, but done differently — with a bit more subtlety — or maybe just not in the same episode as the beast.

The real story we have in this episode is that of the Supreme. We’re suddenly realizing why Fiona is so desperate to keep her youth and why she feels it’s being taken from her. Turns out another Supreme is on the rise, and as her power grows, Fiona’s weakens — and apparently, so does her body. To no one’s surprise, Fiona’s not going to let that happen.

Now, I’ll be honest. I watched AHS a day or two after it aired, and I had already read a spoiler about Madison’s fate. So in all the lead-up to her demise, I knew it was coming. That means it’s up to you commenters to tell me if it was a shock. Personally, if I were to warrant a guess based on what I saw, it seemed like the foreshadowing was pretty obvious. If she wasn’t going to die, Fiona was certainly going to do something to her. Now, I am surprised Madison’s gone so early in the series, but as other reviewers have already mentioned, characters don’t necessarily stay dead in this show. After all, we already have to people who’ve died and they’re back: Kyle and the insane Misty Day.

Anyway, I’m ready to put that episode behind me and to see what’s next. If only just to keep my lunch down.

The Vampire Diaries: For Whom the Bell Tolls

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: 5.04 “For Whom the Bell Tolls”

Man, if TVD charged for every bucket of tears I cry for this series, they’d have a million dollars. Except that I don’t have a million dollars, so they’d just bankrupt me.

I have no idea how, but this show does such a fantastic job with pulling every possible emotion out of you. I just spent ten minutes crying over Bonnie, a fictional character — who isn’t even leaving the show! (At least, not to my knowledge.) I mean, think about it. She’s still around. She’s still interacting with everyone else. And yet, I just mourned her. Heck, I started crying harder when Tyler showed up. I don’t even like Tyler.

Somehow, TVD can pull it off. It’s like the time I spent half an episode crying over Alaric because he was going to die…only to not die. And then, I cried when he died later. And then I cried again when he came back as a ghost to listen to Damon’s lament! Three episodes of crying; one man. Seriously, how do they do it?

I really, truly enjoyed this episode. And I’m going to say it: I even enjoyed Stefan (well, for the most part). While I was skeptical of Stefan’s amnesia when they introduced it, I was so happy to see a brand-new Stefan in this episode. He wasn’t the boring, lame Stefan that I can only assume some fans must like. And he wasn’t the trying-too-hard Ripper Stefan that never impressed me. He was just a new dude. And I liked where it was going.

And yeah yeah, it got a little ruined when the whole Elena love triangle got in the way (I was hoping they’d stretch that out so it wouldn’t get in the way quite yet, and you had to wonder whether Elena was starting to fall for this new Stefan — oh well). But overall, it was interesting.

Also interesting — Matt. I find the gypsy storyline a little confusing, true. But I think Zach Roerig is doing a brilliant job playing the traveler. He truly is coming across as a brand-new person. Voice. Facial expressions. Mannerisms. I was rather creeped out by the guy on the video, and yet it’s the same actor we all know and love. Kudos!

Also top notch? Damon. Ian Somerhalder did a fantastic job in this episode, particularly in his scene with Steven McQueen, when Jeremy confesses that Bonnie is dead. The range of emotions that went across Damon’s face was so great, and ending it in the comforting embrace was just so unexpected yet powerful. I just think it was well done.

No clue what’s going to happen next, and at this point, I’m fine with dwelling on what we just saw in this episode for a while. As for Jesse and Professor Vampire-Maker, well, I’m not quite invested in that yet. Why would I be? All my favorite characters just showed me why they’re my favorites again (and even dud Stefan impressed). But hey, I’ll get there.

In the meantime, can someone please hand me a tissue?