Top Chef Is Turning into a Soap Opera, But We Love It!

After checking out a special screening of John Ford's The Searchers at Santa Monica's revival theater, the Aero, last night, I came home to watch Top Chef with my girlfriend -- which, let me tell you, is not the way you want to contrast any Ford movie. Reality television has its place in the universe, but mixed together with Ford in the same evening is not one of them! With thoughts of John Wayne sneering "that'll be the day" still in my head, I sat down with my girlfriend, beers in our hands, to watch the cheftestants duke it out once again.

Things kicked off with Jennifer still smarting over how girlfriend Zoi was sent home last week instead of Spike. You know how, in revenge movies, the protag sets out to right some wrong and has to tell somebody about that quest by the first act's end? Well, that was Jennifer last night -- gunning for vengeance, telling us at home all about it. Meanwhile, Spike had to deal with a house full of peers who almost universally think he should've gone home instead of Zoi, too. By the time the Quickfire Challenge rolled around -- create a dish that pairs perfectly with beer -- Top Chef had delivered on the promise of last week's volatile episode. If the producers can keep delivering reality television like this, I'll never tune out.

By the way -- beer? You've got to love that Top Chef persistently caters to the everyman despite being a show about high-end food the everyman can't afford. Street parties, movies, beer, the Chicago Bears later in this very episode. Of course, you've got to have that one chef who doesn't like beer to contrast with the others, like Ford does with just about every other director in cinema history; that would be Spike, who proclaimed, "[Beer] all tastes the same to me." Still out for justice like she was Steven Seagal, Jennifer said she was now "doing it for Zoi," referring to the competition as a whole. I figure someone should make that into a tee-shirt: "Doing it for Zoi." When Jennifer eventually won the Quickfire Challenge, Spike, who looks like he'd smell like BO and barbecue chips, sarcastically says, "Yay lesbians!"

Next up was the elimination challenge; for $350, the cheftestants had to individually prepare a dish for the tailgating party that precedes every Chicago Bears home game at Soldier Field. Again, the everyman theme -- which is why you get comments from fans like, "Anything's better when sprinkled with bacon." Some of the cheftestants chafed against this low-brow dining, like Richard, who insisted on making a pate burger, and of course Ryan, who created some kind of five-course tailgating experience involving everything from bread pudding to pears to cocoa. Others who you'd expect to excel at such a challenge -- like Marc, since Kiwis are pretty much born with a barbecue in the hospital room -- dropped the ball entirely. In the end, Nikki (who's made only one dish the judges liked even moderately so far), barbecue-bungling Marc, and Ryan all made it into the bottom three after Dale won the challenge. But it was Ryan who had to pack up his knives, which was okay with me!