Quick Hits: Reality Bites

E: We’ve gone a little while without talking about some of our favorite reality competition shows – The Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, and Top Chef – but that ends today.  Spoilers after the jump.

Biggest Loser: M here.  Remember how I said in the last review of Biggest Loser that Tracey had just become the first unlikeable contestant on this season?  Well, in the last two weeks not only hasn’t she done anything to change our minds on that, but she has openly made it worse….  and survived a shot at elimination!  Two weeks ago she found out she still couldn’t work out because of her health issues, and Coach Mo, in his efforts to carry the weight for both of them, works himself to the point of collapsing, not winning Tracey any more friends.  This week she won another temptation challenge (this time without having to consume any calories), and got to pick who was on which team, as they split the two person teams up into two teams, one with Bob and one with Jillian.  She kept herself and Coach Mo, and Daniel and Shay together, but split everyone else up, trying to stack her team (trained by Bob) with the strongest competitors.  Just winning again (by complete chance, this time) annoyed everyone, and the way she split people up pissed them all off, especially Liz.

Last week Julio ended up going home over Liz and Danny in a close vote, while this week the blue team lost, and Coach Mo threw himself under the bus because of his injuries and inability to help in competitions, or pull big numbers, so the team let Tracey survive another week, though several people are out to get her.

Both Julio and Coach Mo have continued to lose quite a bit of weight at home, but they both have a long way to go.  The contestants this season started off at such high weights that they are losing incredible amounts of weight, but are still very large.  Sean, for example, when they checked in with him had lost about 150 pounds, but still weighed almost 300 pounds.  It will be interesting to see people at the finale, because some of them could lose 200+ pounds and have a lot to go.  Shay, if she does really well, could conceivably lose over 300 pounds, which is just staggering.  It’ll be interesting to see, and it’ll be interesting to see if Tracey is able to survive any longer with a giant target on her back, and no allies left.

So You Think You Can Dance: Yesterday, I was speculating with some friends (A, P, and My Movie Going Friend).  They listened to grouse about how the Hell’s Kitchen finale had eaten up Vegas week time and how I didn’t think it would be possible for us to get 3 more days of Vegas finish and the top twenty introduced in only one hour, which means that the performance shows won’t even start until the week after next.  This poor show has been so buffeted around by the other FOX offerings you can never really tell when, or for how long, it’ll be on.  I’m seriously looking forward to that changing. (M: FOX is horrible with that!  Last year Idol kept running over into Fringe’s time, first making me miss the end of episodes and having to search for them on line, then having to edit my DVR to end about 5 minutes later, and eventually because it started running over more than that, recording an extra hour.  ugh!)

The main course of our discussion, however, was speculation about what dancers will make the top twenty.  Will we get a tapper this time?  There’s never been one on the show before. What about b-boys who can dance different styles?  Hip hop was the low point of last season.  Will a married couple (there were two going into last night’s ep) make it on the show?  The one thing we could agree on was this – sveldt Russian ballroom dancer Iveta Lukosiute, with her silver bob and gobs of make up, would make the performance portion of the show.  She might look a tiny bit like a drag queen, but that’s just one part of her massive charm assault.  Hopefully Russell Ferguson, the dread-locked Boston krumper, hopefully tappers Bianca Revels and Phillip Attmore, probably hunky ballroom dancer Ryan Di Lello (with or without wife Ashleigh), perhaps charismatic b-boy Legacy, but definitely Iveta.

So you can imagine my surprise when Iveta got the boot in the first ten minutes of last night’s show.  I’m still stunned by that.  The rest of the above-mentioned favorites have all stuck around, as well as young Nathan Trasoras (the brilliant kid who tried out for season 5 but wasn’t old enough. M: remind me, what kind of dinosaur is a Trasoras again?  Is it a herbivore?), Mollee Gray (perky High School Musical backup dancer) , Ashleigh Di Lello, Billy Elliot-like ballet/contemporary dancer Billy Bell (who reduced Adam Shankman to some very big, gaspy tears), mohawked Victor Smalley, corn-rowed hip hopper Kevin Hunt, curly haired contemporary Jacob Karr, and pixie Paula Van Oppen.  And then there’s the guy in the yellow diaper – ballet dancer David Hovhannisyan.  You might be an awesome dancer, dude, but the yellow diaper?  It so has to go.  We had some ankle injuries – it didn’t quite rival Billy Bell’s copiously bleeding nose in last week’s ep, but Pauline Mata’s ankle suddenly looking like someone had grafted a tennis ball onto it?  Unpleasant.  She was ordered off her feet for a sprain; Mollee Gray, on the other hand, semi-danced in the group round through her sprained ankle, and went full on into the Broadway round.  I haven’t felt like her technique is there, but I have to respect her drive and attitude.

Basically, I am SO ready to know which of the 37 dancers left will make the top twenty.  I’m honestly not sure who all of the 37 are, and if there are favorites from earlier in the auditions (Kimmalee?) who might still be there.  Based on skill and screen time, seems like the folks listed above have a good shot at getting in.  I’ve found a site claiming to have spoilers on this subject if you want to read them – it will be interesting to see how right they might be.

By the way?  While I really like Adam Shankman, I’m distressed at the idea of a permanent third judge.  I love the rotating judges, and I hate the thought of not hearing Mia Michaels, Debbie Allen, Lil’C or Toni Basil again.  On the other hand, any day I don’t have to listen to Tyce DiOrio bray like a donkey at the contestants is a good one.

Top Chef: Get over the Robin thing already!  Man, there is some sort of mob mentality that takes over when reality show contestants are forced to live together.  Between the stress of competition, and the constant forced companionship,  some really over the top nastiness can develop.  (Although, I admit it, Michael’s childish teasing of Eli made me laugh.) Kevin seems to be the only one trying to be a decent human being about Robin, and frankly, I am getting bored with this issue taking up so much time.  Bored.  Very bored.  Please stop now, k?

And also, Toby Young tries too hard.  Dude, you can come up with some really nice bon mots, but you are not 100% (of course you aren’t) and the hairy arm pit analogy?  That was not only stomach churning, it was unhelpful.  I don’t like wine, and comparing a glass of European pinot to the respository of sweat glands AS A COMPLIMENT?  Not going to change my mind.  I don’t care how the English feel about the French.  You were reaching.

Now the food, on the other hand, is pretty interesting.  After a product placement quickfire about pairing meals with Alexia snack foods (love said company’s oven fries, btw),  the chefs are invited to prepare small dishes for 150 people at a tasting called Pig and Pinot.  Each contestant drew knives to pick which part of the pig they had to use, and drew lots for the order of choosing a pinot to match it with.  As I mentioned above, I don’t like wine, so the pairing part of the challenge meant very little to me except on a purely intellectual basis.  I’ve no idea how people do this sort of thing, and I’m perhaps too easily impressed by it.  Of course, not everyone managed well.  Eli turned in a terrific dish which bore no relation to his wine.  (I can’t resist reiterating that we did get plenty of boarish whining from him, if not the correct relationship between boar and wine.)  Mike Isabella might have made me ever so slightly less hostile towards him by cooking traditional Lebanese food, even though he pronounced kibbe in a way I’ve never heard, made it look like a meatball and – obviously – made it out of pork.  Let’s just say no one we’re related to cooks it like that.  That’s one of M’s favorite foods, though, so I’m sure he’s going to be excited when he finally catches up with this episode. These two landed squarely in the middle.  The folks we expect to see in the finale – Bryan, Jen, Kevin and Michael – ended up in the top.  Kevin loves pig so much he has one tattooed on his arm, and (much like Kayne the pageant gown designer in Project Runway’s Miss USA challenge)  felt like he had to win this challenge because so much of his livelihood is based on his ability to cook pork.  In a completely crazy stroke of luck, the Southerner has lived very close to the Seattle winery where his pinot is made, and he was able to flavor his terrine (gross looking, gotta tell you) with hazelnuts because he knows they grow in that orchard, too.  Well, like Kayne, win Kevin did.  Good on you, smart nice guy.

One of the other nice guys went home, though.  Ash, I’m sorry to see you go, and I hope you learn to trust yourself.  I’m sure at your own restaurant, you’re not constantly comparing yourself to people you think are better than you.  Right?  Dude, you are a nice guy, and I’m sure you make good food.  Believe in yourself.  I don’t know whether to be pleased or sorry that Robin is still here to stick it to the other chefs.  I’m glad she’s doing better than the other chefs assume she should based on their issues with her personality. We know she can’t win, however, and if she went away, the endless carping about her would, too.

Up next, the most feared and anticipated Top Chef challenge of them all – Restaurant Wars!  Bring it on!


8 comments on “Quick Hits: Reality Bites

  1. Krizzzz says:

    I’m glad Robin survived, because I didn’t get the sense that her dish was as far off as others. Poor Ash: I really enjoy him, and he just wasn’t pulling out top material. The Robin thing is also irritating me because it’s yet another example of how immature people can be in groups. Why is it that when people dont’ like another person, they decide that it’s OK to be rude and petty about it? And why is it that when one person calls another one out in his/her behavior…the caller ends up under a pile of childish snipes? It’s not unlike being the person on the college hall who asks that the noise be kept down, and then finds herself the target of sniping for the heinous crime of, you know, trying to be an adult. Like somehow banding together to snipe at another person makes you better, smarter, more mature. Right, because little kids on playgrounds NEVER indulge in this sort of thing. Cooking aside, I’m pretty disgusted by the way she’s being piled on. Her worst crime, as far as I can see it, has been that she’s talkative. Oh, and that she’s actually mentioned having had cancer. And she’s not the best cook in the group (but neither is she necessarily the worst: time will tell).

    BTW, I was really sorry to see Ashley go. I liked her a lot, and was hoping she could add some confidence to her obvious skill. I was puzzled by something, and I hope I don’t get roasted for this: she raised some telling points about being asked to cook for a wedding, when, as she put it, several people in the contest are barred from the institution. But she was delighted to cook for the military, and for reasons that I support, and that she and the others articulated very sweetly. (I got a little teary watching them get a little teary.) Here’s what I think: she’s not actually BARRED from the military, so maybe it didn’t rankle as much. And I suppose that we’re all a little self-centered this way: I’ve never wanted to be in the army, so I don’t know how deeply it would bother me if I couldn’t join. (In principle, sure. But I don’t know if I’d have the time or energy to get more wound up about it than that.) But marriage is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. And finally, perhaps she found it easier to separate the military families — soldiers, spouses, kids — from the institution than she did when faced with a couple getting married. Granted, it’s not them making the rules either, and maybe she cold have separated that a little more…but it’s tougher still to be mad at a soldier just back from a tour having dinner with his little kids before being shipped out again.

    Anywho, it struck me as interesting. People are people, and our feelings are what they are.

    • E says:

      I’m so bummed that Ashley left – I think she was the most talented person let go so far, and I think it was a shame. And a mark of her class, that she didn’t throw Eli (grr) under the bus for oversalting her gnocchi. To be fair, she was the person who undercooked the prawns, but Eli plated them and he should have been able to tell (according to Tom C’s blog, anyway) and send them back to her.

      You’re so on target about the military/marriage institutional stuff, and no, you’re not the only person to notice. It’s inconsistent. And gosh, the groupthink thing with Robin drives me nuts. What fascinates me is the quiz during the show – 60% of people said they were more put off by Robin’s passive aggressiveness than Eli’s immaturity. For real? What has she done that they’ve shown other than wash that one blasted dish? It’s such a playground mentality, just as you say – being stuck in with other people who are as annoyed as you are gives you license to be MORE annoyed and MORE loud about it than you ever would be otherwise. Bonding against a common enemy… I am so sick and tired of it.

  2. Krizzzz says:

    Exactly! When I heard “passive aggressive” I scratched my head, and thought, Has she been any kind of aggressive, really? Passive aggressive in this context seems to mean anything you just don’t happen to like. If anything, Eli was more of that, what with his rhetorical strategy of just yelling right over her. I really hoped more people would vote against him (even though I think he might be emerging as a contender), but alas. I do think he’s showing more of his skill lately, but he was awfully snarky/judgemental about other people’s skills for my taste last night.

    • E says:

      I really don’t like him. How’s that for judgmental? He just comes across as catty and immature.

    • M says:

      See, now I’m aggravated by Eli and Mike Isabella and all the immature behavior, and Robin has been by no means passive aggressive, however there are times where I, just watching and not living there with them, find myself wishing Robin would come up for air and stop talking for a minute. It’s like she’s narrating her life. I keep waiting for her to say, in her best Austin Powers voice, “How do I tell them I have no inner monologue?”

  3. M says:

    Ok, I caught up to it, and yeah, Mike I pronounced it wrong, and it certainly didn’t look like our family’s kibbe, but I give him HUGE points for making it!!! Woo-hoo! He still needs to dig out after last week’s dispicable treatment of Robin, but he does win a bunch of points back for that. Hooray for Lebanese cuisine on Top Chef!

  4. Matt H says:

    Oh, and as far as The Biggest Loser is concerned, I actually feel protective of Tracey, and am kind of ticked off that so many other contestants are so mean to her. Sure it’s a show for these people to lose weight and ultimately possibly get their lives back on track. But it’s also a COMPETITION. I say good for her for playing the game. Much as the show is trying to cast her as the villain, she doesn’t seem to be doing anything with malice. And Bob and Jillian have never looked less professional or less like adults to me than they do with the way they’re treating her.

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