Top Chef: Cold War

M: Ok, I’m on the ball this week, getting to this quickly unlike the last two weeks.  This week starts with the introduction of the guest judge, Michelle Bernstein, who happens to be a professional rival of Andrea.  Not cool, producers, not cool.  That was the first thing that rubbed me the wrong way with this episode…  and yes, there were more.

E: I’m with you – I like drama well enough, but that’s really unfair.  I don’t blame Andrea for feeling unsettled by it.  And it really set the tone for an uncomfortable episode.

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So You Think You Can Dance: Performance Show, 7/21/2010

E: That did NOT just happen.  Are you freaking kidding me?  What is this, some weird sort of power of suggestion where everyone gets so paranoid of getting injured that they injure themselves?  A self-fulfilling prophecy?  I was joking to Mr. E about how finally we were going to get a week full of healthy dancers – I mean, how could we not – only to find Billy freaking Bell missing?  Damn it, people!  This cannot be possible.

We find out from Cat and Nigel that Billy has done something to his knee, and the doctors say he can dance whenever he feels ready, but he didn’t feel ready today.  I hate that.  I hate that so much.  I mean, it’s good that he isn’t pushing it – we don’t want what happened to Alex to happen to anyone – but that just sucks.  So, interesting.  That means it’s not a forgone conclusion that he goes home, because he would be cleared to dance next week.  Then again, he’s been in the bottom so much lately.  I’d hate to think he’d given up. Nigel says they’re going to have someone come in to make sure they’re not doing something wrong, somehow.  Alex, Billy and Alexie are all in the audience, looking adorable and relatively chipper.

In happier news, Cat (resplendent with a sleek pony tail, and a flesh toned sheath underpinning a poofy draped chiffon melody in crimson) tells us this is the 150th episode of So You Think You Can Dance.  Happy sesquicentennial, SYTYCD!  Hurrah!  Cat, you look stunning.  This dress, seriously, is a marvel.  And the costume designer for the show has won an Emmy!  What, they hand out the technical ones a month early?  What’s up with that?  I have to research that.  Who else won?  Sorry, a little obsessive here. In other happy news, we have an additional judge – the film director, Kenny Ortega, responsible for Footloose and This Is It and the High School Musical oeuvre. Nice to see you, sir!  (The judges are all turned with their backs to the camera, the better to make a goofy entrance, my dear!  Adam is so blue steel it’s hilarious.) Kenny loves the show.  He’s watched every season, he’s familiar with the dancers, he loves the choreographers, he’s friends with Adam, he’s just so thrilled to be there and have such a great seat.  Nigel just beams.  And, I have to tell you, despite my sorrow for Billy, what follows is a pretty nice show.  There’s a new dance style, sort of, and new approaches to dancing, and one totally knock out routine.  It feels good.  Cat’s adorable and extra chatty; they must have had a lot of time to play with, and she did her job beautifully.  The extra judge didn’t even feel like a bore. Don’t mind me – I’m high on the dancing!

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Top Chef: Room Service & Farm Policy

E: Sorry to have been so long absent!  Ahem, M…

M: Yeah, that would be my fault, I’ve been completely out of the loop for the majority of the summer.

E: Anyhow, we wanted to give a quick rundown, or perhaps I mean response to the last two episodes in preparation for this week’s tour de force.

Room Service

E: Obviously as parents we thought the baby food challenge was interesting.  You have to love the contestants reactions to the high stakes quickfire concept, though.  Arnold wants to funnel the money to an orphanage for Thai children with HIV.  Alex wants a hooker.  Lovely. I wonder if  he’s embarrassed by that in retrospect?  “I practice making baby” – what, with the prostitute?  Just ew.

M: Yeah, could their motives have been any more disparate? Alex is pretty creepy.  Not Angelo level, but still creepy.

E: We find out that Tamesha has a seven year old brother, and she cooks for him all the time.  Cool.  We also find that Kenny’s wife was killed in a car accident when their daughter was one.  Wow, that’s awful.  Shades of Susur Lee, huh?  Anyway, he is deeply familiar with feeding small children.  Not that you puree food for babies at a year, but still.  This is the softer side of self proclaimed alpha male Kenny.

M: I loved seeing that.  It combined with my distaste for Angelo and the earlier letter from Kenny’s girlfriend that contained my favorite Bible verse (Jeremiah 29:11) have really endeared him to me.  Right now he and Kelly are my favorites.  As for the baby food, I thought it was very oddly judged.  They thought some were too adult, but others weren’t complex enough flavors, and that chunky, barely pureed and layered were good.  Odd.

E: Yeah, I’m with you.  And of course, Padma’s baby is far too young for babyfood, but whatever.  I will say I wonder if Angelo knew that fenugreek is not only an Indian spice, but it increases the mother’s supply of breast milk?  Moving on, I totally love the idea of the full day room service challenge.  But I’m puzzled, I admit – the winners come from the losing bracket?  Does that make sense in the end?  Really?  M, you’re the sports fanatic.  I ask you, is that a reasonable way to structure a tournament?  Talk about high stakes!

M: It’s not reasonable.  I think, however, that they had the advantage of having three shots at making something for the winning dish, and that’s what ended up happening.  More opportunity, more chance to win.  It’s like the basketball team that knows they stink at defense, so they try to shoot as quickly and as often as they can to get more opportunities.  It can work, but usually doesn’t win championships.

E: It’s nice to see Andrea find her legs – she’s one of the James Beard finalist people, right?  And man, what a prize!  Two ten days trips to Europe – that was amazing.  That had Mr. E and I debating where we’d go if, you know, we didn’t have four kids.  Also.  Short ribs?  Mmmmm.

You could see Lynne’s pasta drama coming a mile away.  She told poor Arnold a dozen times (with increasing sharpness) that she didn’t want mushy pasta, only to undercook it in the end.  Bah.  It’s sad to see two talented chefs go home for that, though.

M: It was, but with Kenny and Kelly each on the other teams that were up for elimination, that was the only way it was going to go down.  Those are two of the top contenders, they weren’t going home as part of a pair.  The pasta being undercooked was unfortunate, but I think that it would have lost regardless.  Both short rib dishes were good, and who’s going to go to the Hilton and order mussels with squid ink pasta?  Not something that had a chance based on concept alone.  It’s unfortunate, but they just didn’t get the parameters of the challenge, and when you don’t do that, you go home.

Farm Story

E: Ed wins the quickfire and immunity, and Kenny wins the elimination challenge.  That’s cool.  The montage of people killing crabs and leaving their juices all over the Top Chef kitchen squicked me out, though.  I’m such a wimp when it comes to shellfish.

M: I L-O-V-E loved the crab montage…  minus the nasty comment Angelo made about having had crabs, yuck.

E: Thanks for oversharing, dude, even if it doesn’t come as a particular surprise.

M: Other than that it was so funny, especially seeing people trying to pick them up without tongs.  Hilarious.

E: Things we learned:  Andrea calls Kenny Big Daddy.  Everyone thinks he’s smooth.  Amanda has three nicknames for him, all of which refer to his skin color, which seemed a little odd to me.

M: Me too.

E: Angelo has been totally macking on Tamesha, while also mentoring her.  I want to shower just thinking about that.  He wants to bring her suppressed passion out.  Anyone else utterly grossed out by the way he said that?  I sure was.

M: Grossed out by pretty much everything he says.  Notes to Angelo…  Not all well made food is sexy.  You do not make love to chicken by cooking it, nor should you ever consider making love to chicken in any way.  You are not all that.

E: Ed and Tiffany are buds.  This relationship is much cuter.  He likes her laugh.  And she thinks he’s funny. If you watch Room Service again, you can see the seeds of these two – I can’t call them romances, exactly, but pairings.   I think – think – that Tamekah has enough sense to run from Angelo, but Ed and Tiffany might have the start of something nice going on.  They both seem like good people.

M: Mrs M and I thought that part of the episode felt like the Love Connection portion of the show.  It was a little odd, but I’m with you, Ed and Tiffany were good together.  However, in the Elimination Challenge they were not able to pair up again.  After a big fight, during which Angelo and Kenny battled for Alpha Male position, with neither winning, everyone ended up staying in the same pairs as the week before.  Most of them worked well together in the cook on the farm challenge, but a few of them continued to struggle, specifically Timothy and Stephen.

E: Stephen made the cardinal sin of serving salad in a bowl.  A bowl!  My God, sir, what were you thinking?  Have you ever seen such wanton disregard for one’s greens as this, M?  To serve them all crowded up in a bowl?  The depravity of it all!

M: I have to say, when they said “There are two ways you can serve a salad, and in a bowl is the wrong way” I respectfully disagreed.  When they said having it on a plate allows you to continue to toss the salad, I realized they are simply crazy.  Because, when you toss a salad you don’t want the serving dish to help you keep it off the table or floor, right?  Anyway, despite that egregious error, Stephen survived, and Timothy was send packing for the lackluster veggies that he decided not to puree, and apparently not to season.  It’s too bad, I liked him, but he had been struggling for a while, so it wasn’t that surprising.  Now, on to the next challenge!

Covert Affairs: Walter’s Walk

E: Do me a favor, y’all, okay?  This episode begins with a dreaming Annie reliving her beautifully lit romance with Ben Mercer, and the moment in last week’s episode where he saved her life.  If you’re going to go through all the sexy footage repeatedly, though, could ya please get some new stuff?  Or just tone it down a little?  Also, do you suppose the agents cars get bomb-sniffed everyday?

And, get out of town!  Eric Lively is out – with no further explanation that the phrase “now that we’ve lost Conrad” – and Mohinder Suresh of Heroes is in!  Aw, networks suits, what’s the deal?   I’m never going to convince C she ought to watch this show if this keeps up.  Mohinder – er, that is, Sendhil Ramamurthy – plays Jai Wilcox, CIA royalty and interloper into Joan’s department, sent there by Arthur to keep tabs on Annie and watch out for the mysterious Ben Mercer.  Oh, very interesting.  Jai gets Auggie’s back up immediately, not least when he claims Joan is thrilled to have him there. “That sounds like Joan – to be thrilled with an interloper installed in her division!”  That’s why it’s interesting – Auggie is very smooth, but Jai gets right under his protecting layers. Oh, ans speaking of revelations, did I mention that Arthur was married to someone else when he and Joan fell in love?  No wonder she’s insecure about their relationship.  Also, this may be just me, but I’d love to know what name Annie knew Ben by.  I somehow suspect it wasn’t his real one.

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Memphis Beat: One Night Of Sin

E: Well.  That’s quite a thing.  We’ve got smiling country singers, a family with a gospel tinge, backstage bachanalias, a dead manager, a documentary, and Giovanni Ribisi hanging from a ceiling fan.  My oh my.

Dwight and his Momma attend a Memorial concert for Ma Boswell, the mother (duh) of a country music family act.  Everything is lovely and touching, and the music has a gospel feel as husband Doc and daughters Sadie and Delilah sing to Ma’s memory.  Their manager, Frank Dixon, weeps a tribute.  And right afterward, he seems to have thrown himself off the building.  Dwight (being Dwight) soon realizes Frank’s been smacked in the face with Doc’s priceless mandolin, which would have sent him flying off the building.  And Dwight being Dwight, he figures out other clues based on his encyclopedic knowledge of the Boswell’s music.  Frank Dixon – I don’t suppose that’s a nod to Emma, is it?  No. I’d say that’s extremely unlikely.

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