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Top Chef: Texas – Ep 4 – Padma Rides a Horse. And All Was Good

Sorry for the delay in posting this week – I know, broken record – but this time it wasn’t just busy work schedule or massive procrastination. Well, it was the holidays and the inability to get to the hotel room in time to watch it. Man, I am just lost without my DVR. And yes, I just basically copied and pasted the first paragraph from my Survivor article.

I must say, what was Bravo thinking by airing a brand new episode the day before Thanksgiving when loyal bloggers were holed up in hotel rooms in Pittsburgh?

So thanks to this delay, let’s get right to the cooking. I think the most compelling thing to watch this week was the elimination, and that’s not to say that whole episode wasn’t good. It was quite good. When Top Chef is on, it is as good as it gets in this genre or any genre. And this week was a great hour of entertainment. Well, eight hours and eight minutes if you include the RILCK.

Part of the bitchin’ coolness definitely came from the fact that they were making chili. And there are fewer things on earth more awesome than a good bowl of chili. Even if some of us like beans in chili, despite what Texas says. And 15 chefs on TV staying up all night making chili is even better. There were tons of great stuff there – but the drunkenness was the best part. Chewie dipped into the chili beer a bit too much and started unleashing stories. Borderline tall tales, if you will. We had a term for that in college – someone who boasted about their past achievements and talents was called the Pope. That person used to be the Pope, but they forgot how. Chewie used to be the Pope.

Meanwhile, Glasses had a great moment gazing up at the night sky and marveling at the gigantic star. Or maybe it was a moon. Or a space station. The successes and failures were kind of telegraphed a bit with Sarah’s Texas roots getting tons of coverage, so this team appeared to be a very likely winner. Meanwhile, Nyesha’s team was doing a mole chili for a bunch of rodeo goers. Fancy schmancy chili? Really? It seemed as if they were playing to the judges and not the crowd – always a no-no in Top Chef. Because nine times out of ten it leads to failure.

This is a form of playing it safe. Just as it is playing it safe to make mild pepper dishes instead of crazy hot ones when presented with the opportunity. The Quickfire challenge was a great one – you had to make a dish using one of a variety of peppers. The cash prize for winning was directly proportional to the spiciness of the pepper. Take a risk, and it could pay off. I am sure there is no correlation to the fact that the top dishes were all using the spicier peppers, right?

But the moment that will stand out from this episode will be the end. The Nyesha/Bev/Richie team fell to the bottom and one of them faced elimination. However, in a rather cool and interesting move, the show gave the three of them a shot at redemption – a common theme this season and in other reality shows. When teams are down to three per side, it provides the judges with few options for elimination via the group dynamic. Less if the one with immunity fell to the bottom. So having the three of them take their losing chili and repurpose it for the judging plates was inspired.

Richie had the most confidence going in, but the weakest execution coming out of it. He visibly deflates upon getting knifed and I wrote in my notes, “He becomes five years old.” The man looked like someone took all of his toys and sent him to his room. It was rather heartbreaking to watch. Glasses comes over to give him a big hug as Richie apologized for losing. Glasses gives him incredible affection for two straight dudes on television – telling him he loved him and he did a good job. His poor showing was not a reflection of the person he really is, said Glasses. This scene was mesmerizing and refreshing. Men do not often feel comfortable with that kind of affection shown to each other and for these guys to show it so publicly, well, that was pretty cool.

I will admit to being surprised at Richie’s departure – based on the early editing I expected another Voltaggios dynamic and that these two would go very far in the show. That being said, I feel more comfortable now saying that Glasses is going to go rather deep in the season. I’d be surprised to see the show spend as much time on them as they have without one of them going far. Although, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised – remember Zoe and Jen from Season 4? The couple was cast together in that season and neither were a factor. Either way, I have Glasses in my early prediction for the season’s end.

Quickfire – Create a Dish Highlighting One Chili Pepper. Joining Padma are Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, two former Masters Contestants and business partners. Or as Padma said, two hot tamales. Tabasco gets some product placement as Mary Sue said the challenge is essentially using the peppers without destroying palates, and Susan is very worried about tasting 15 of these dishes.

During prep, Bev goes for the weakest pepper (Anaheim), and Richie also goes for the bottom levels (Fresno). Glasses thinks the prize will buy lots of diapers, and I hope he has a kid at home. Or else he has some ‘splainin’ to do. Chewie, Grayson and Nyesha all do Habanero peppers, while Paul is the only one to tackle the hottest ghost pepper. Bev doesn’t actually cook her chili, and again, this is a cooking completion and she didn’t cook anything!

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