Top Chef: Season 9, Ep. 7
Game On
Michael Richardson
I hate admitting when I'm wrong.

Last week I spoke about how Top Chef rises above other reality series by staying away from personal feuds and cheap drama. There is always conflict, and the Bev/Heather feud was present towards the end in that last episode, but it's always about the food (I can almost hear Tom chanting that phrase as I type it: "It's always about the food. It's always about the food."). But this is reality television, and there is a glass ceiling for drama-free entertainment.

Let's start with the quickfire, before all hell breaks out. Our chefs were tasked with cooking a dish that pairs well with tequila. They each get to pick what kind of tequila they'd like from a bunch of this week's sponsors, I assume, and then get free reign in the pantries. The quickfires have been especially good this year, because they've often been taken in completely diverging directions. Like the emergency supplies cook-off, the chefs had two basic options: cook with the tequila, or just pair the flavors. The dishes that came out looked pretty damn good, but Ty-Lor came out on top with a steamed clam dish. He doesn't get immunity, but he does get a nice little paycheck. On the bottom lands Heather. This is the start of her not-so-good episode.

For the main challenge of the night, the chefs get paired together in order to cook a single dish with some "Texas" game (I'm pretty sure elk aren't common in Texas, and I'm dubious about how many people go hunting for pigeon). They cook together and they go home together, so teamwork matters. And it just so happens that Bev and Heather, who quibbled last week, are standing next to one another. I believe in the integrity of Top Chef and Tom Colicchio's insistence that they only send people home based on the food they taste rather than the urgings of the producers, but I can't help but assume that those two just happened to stand next to one another thanks to some arranging. It's a fateful decision, as their differences soon escalate into a serious confrontation.

I don't honestly remember much about the food created tonight, as there wasn't much outstanding about any of it. Ed and Ty-Lor took the prize with the only dish that got unanimous praise from the judges, while everybody else seemed to have serious problems. And as much as it's always about the food, tonight it was truly overshadowed by the general negativity of team Bev/Heather. The latter obviously wants the dish done her way, and her constant criticism of Bev was making the other chefs as uncomfortable as it was making us on the couch.

First off, let's get this out of the way - I assume it's fucking hard out there for a female head chef, and often times a woman gets called "a bitch" for something that a male chef or executive or whatever would get excused for (that's why Gordon Ramsay exists, after all). I know on Twitter that some people were throwing around the "racist" term for Heather's aversions to Bev's Asian-y Asiane-ness, but I don't think that's really the case either. Let's take those two judgmental terms off the table; they can be debated elsewhere. But stupidity crosses all barriers of race and creed. At the judging table, Heather continues to berate Bev for ruining their dish, especially for getting all of her Asian flavors on her home-cooked style. This, in a competition where THEY WOULD BOTH GO HOME if the judges decided their dish was the worst. There is an unspoken rule on the show - you stand at the judging table, you take all the blame you can, and maybe apologize for a "cooking failure." You own up to it, and you save face. Blaming anybody else is just a different way to make the audience turn on you. Heather may have other failings, that she was being downright dumb by the end.

It's telling that Dakota end up the one defending Bev at the end of competition. She and Nyesha end up in the bottom three as well because of some undercooked venison that was Dakota's responsibility. She might as well have been defending herself, except Nyesha mostly pulls her punches, taking joint blame for their dish. Chris J. and Grayson stand off to the side, trying not to get sucked into the drama. In the end, the venison sends Nyesha and Dakota home. Nyesha didn't deserve to leave for what truly seemed like Dakota's failing, but she accepts the judgment stoically. Certain other contestants should take note.

Grade: B+


This week in my continued infatuation with Grayson: She gets paired up with Chris Jones, who wants to do something fancy and elaborate, as he always does. She admonishes him not to screw it up. He maintains that he's not going to screw it up. He screws it up. And then he blabs to the judges about how it got screwed up. And as they come back from the judges' table she yell/whispers to Jones not to mention anything to the other chefs about it, because they don't need to know the fucking details.

For those too upset about Nyesha leaving, she handily beat the competition this week in Last Chance Kitchen. Dakota remarks that she's genuinely happy that Nyesha wins, giving her a chance after Dakota dragged her down. She might be a competitor for a few weeks, as she showed some serious talent over the last few weeks.

Tags: Top Chef
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