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Top Chef: Just Desserts 2 – Ep 9 – And Then There Were Three

Before I get into this penultimate episode of the second season of Top Chef: Just Desserts, a moment about the first season.

This happened.

Last season, I reluctantly found myself rooting for Morgan. I couldn’t stand the Go Diva team, and that left Morgan and Danielle as the only options. Danielle was not really worthy of a win – talent-wise – so that left Morgan. However, it was very difficult doing so because he acted like such a dick so often. And now…well…this is disturbing. Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but boy, I think I need a shower.

It makes me think about something inherent about these shows. These are real people that we are watching on these competition reality shows. Real flesh and blood people. Oftentimes, I have to remind myself of this while I throw out little jokes, quips, and insults, whatever. I have to remember that this is someone’s mommy or daddy. Or someone’s son or daughter. Feelings are at play sometimes. All they have done is put themselves on TV for our entertainment while they compete for cash, or for a career. And sign away all rights to everything we see, and whatever character is crafted from their words and behavior. Sometimes that does not mesh with who this person really is.

Usually, I have to think about this when someone comes across as obnoxious, or stupid. While I may joke about it, you have to remember that it may not be really who they are. I remember reading an interview with Amazing Race’s Colin (AR5) who said he used to help teams out a lot and was stunned to see a villain cut coming. Recently, Christine from the current season of Survivor tweeted about how she didn’t flip her tribe the bird, even though that’s what it sure looked like. A reality show villain is often times just a regular person.

The same goes for those you root for – even if reluctantly. I rooted for Morgan and boy, do I wish I could get a do-over for that. Although, honestly, I have no clue who I would have been rooting for instead. But to be on the record rooting for someone allegedly capable of this kind of act, it is really sickening.

This year, however, even those chefs who I may not care for at times are still head and shoulders above last year’s lot. Despite what Orlando’s family may think of him, there are no disturbing deviants here as far as we can tell. Macho’s Marcel connection and inherent arrogance can be off-putting, but she seems to be a fairly decent person. Her commitment to her trade is not in question one bit, as she revealed to us this week. Watch out future mates of Macho, you may get a Dear John letter as she heads to her next big gig.

Orlando started the season shaping up to be the big bad villain. It was something he embraced and even sought. However, something happens to you when you think your you-know-what doesn’t stink…you start to get a whiff. Orlando just kept losing, and barely surviving each week. And as a result, he started to develop humility. He was the Grinch at the end of the story – his heart grew three times.
Did anyone think Week One that Orlando would go out in tears hugging his other chefs talking about how much he grew and learned how to take criticism?

Hammer and Matt may not be the most interesting duo, but they seem, like Hillary Clinton, likable enough. Both have very cute kids at home and both seem very dedicated to their craft. Matt seems to have emerged from a childhood full of mischief – possibly originating from some giant bushy eyebrows – as a man on a mission to cook. Of course, I keep many of my photos from that era to myself and not posted on television, so there’s that. Hammer learned how to cook early on and has appeared to be a kitchen geek ever since.

And if you told me today which one of Hammer, Matt and Macho won the title, I would actually be happy. All three earned it, and none of them would really piss me off. Which bodes well for the finale – it should be satisfying no matter what happens.

Q and A with Ben Hansen and Jael de Pardo of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files

Get ready for the return of the Syfy series “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” that answers all the strange questions you may have regarding otherworldly activity. Ben Hansen, a former FBI agent with a lifelong love of the paranormal, leads a team of investigators around to discover whether the photos or online videos people post are fake or real and worth further looking into.

The team conducts elaborate experiments and attempts to recreate the phenomena. Ben makes the final choice which cases require a trip into the field. Once he decides it’s a go, the team will speak to witnesses, collect physical evidence, and determine whether the case should be followed, debunked or even dangerous.

Ben Hansen and Jael de Pardo took part in a conference call to discuss the series. The team has come across everything from ghosts to UFO’s, so they have had their fair share of interesting investigations. The paranormal world has a fairly good following now, and Ben is covering as much as he possibly can. He believes that people love to see a little bit of everything. They do not stick to one main topic. It is not strictly Ghost Hunters or The Twilight Zone, but they combine everything to make the show more exciting.

Jael was a journalist before working with Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, and he was hired as a researcher for Destination Truth, a fellow Syfy show. He started to document his experiences with the paranormal, and has been able to document some of the strangest phenomena in the world. Ben’s natural curiosity and love of the film ET sparked his interest.

Ben’s FBI experience comes in handy for the show. He is meticulous and logs every bit of evidence. Similar to his FBI filing, he writes reports, logs EVP sessions and is hands-on with his work. They choose various locations for the shows, ones that are never the same, but do have to get approval for some of the bigger, complicated experiments.

One of the challenges the team faced involved Area 51 and trying to get an approval to maneuver around the base freely for an investigation. The legendary base is protected and security was watching them at all times. This is just one of the challenges they have faced. When they take the show overseas, they face different laws including no FLIR cameras because of the thermal imaging.

Ben’s dream case is to see a Loch Ness Monster or new monsters. England has its own version, they call it Brownie. There have been sightings and a few photos worth looking into of several different Loch Ness Monsters, but Jael and Ben are certified divers and would have no problem jumping in the water.

The cases take a lot of time, and Ben and Jael work hard at finding the locations, making sure the witnesses are credible, and digging for evidence that can be presented on the show. They are constantly traveling and searching for what is unusual in the world. So while some people may seek the normal, the crew of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files are traveling around the world looking for UFO’s. The world is their playground.

Maybe Ben will find ET one day, but for now you can watch “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” on the Syfy channel Wednesdays at 10/9c, to share their other finds.

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X-Factor, Oct. 18 – Simon and His Plus One

Determining the top 24 or the top 20 is always a tough decision for the judges, and there always seems to be some audience favorites left out of the mix. But to take the final 32 and pare it down to the final 16 like this just seems like an impossible feat. I cannot think of 16 singers I want to get rid of tonight. Regardless, it’s going to happen. The judges will be paring down their groups, eliminating half of them. There’s going to be some hard knocks doled out, particularly to the Girls Under 30 and Over 30 categories.

Simon Cowell gets up the morning after listening to his eight Girls Under 30, having slept on his decision. His problem is he genuinely likes all of them. The first two up to hear the decision are college students Tora Woloshin, 22, of Tucson, and Simone Battle, 22, of L.A. There’s nothing else Simone would rather do than be a pop star, and she knows she’ll never have a chance like this one again. Tora hopes she did enough to get through; it’s her life. 

Simone has tears before even hearing a judgement. Simon then makes it worse, by telling her he’s loved her since the beginning, but forgetting the lyrics is a problem. Tora is told she’s current and different, but the not-great news is that she’s in what Simon considers the strongest category. Tora did not make it through, surprisingly. Simone did, surprisingly. Why it’s surprising is because Tora seemed to have the “X-Factor.” She had something special. 

Drew Ryniewicz, 14, of Chino Valley, Arizona, is the next to hear her judgement. I like this kid a lot, but I wouldn’t be crushed to not have to spell her name anymore. Her expectation is to be normal, not to do anything big. She wants to show teenage girls they can become something and don’t have to follow what others tell them to be. Simon tells her he saw an improvement in her, and she could not have done more, but he can only take four people, and she wasn’t the best teenager, but was the best of the entire day. She’s through. I’ll have to commit that spelling to memory somehow.

It’s Nicole Scherzinger’s turn to make some decisions in the Over 30 category. She feels these people’s lives and families on her shoulders. The first to hear the news from her will be Josh Krajcik, 30, a burrito maker from Columbus, Ohio. Each day has had a moment that was the biggest of his life. He knows at this point he just has to believe. All last year he only made $13,000 to $14,000. He wants to pay for his daughter’s college. Nicole tells him what is so great about him is he is so unassuming, but has such a big voice and so much soul, yet she isn’t sure if the “guy next door” is a superstar. All that considered, she has decided to keep him. 

 Three more are up to hear Nicole’s decisions. Christa Collins, 32, a hairdresser from L.A., is amazed to still be there, even though she was the first Disney recording star. She knows it’s her second chance at the life she was supposed to have. James Kenny, 34, of West Hollywood, was a pure ball of raging emotion during his performance, but he says this is why he works five jobs, to take care of his family. He’d rather live the dream and have his kids see that. Dexter Haygood, 49, a bar singer from Memphis, admits this competition has lit a spark in him. He knows he fumbled a little in his performance this time, and currently, he’s homeless. 

They all face Nicole separately. Christa is told as an artist she’s unique, but there’s still room for growth. James is told the way he is able to be vulnerable onstage isn’t something everyone can do, yet she’s not sure he’s the solo artist she’s looking for. Dexter hears he has an energy and a light about him, and he has a good voice, yet with him it’s like hit or miss. With Dexter, her head says one thing, and her heart another. But she has a big heart, and decided to go with it. Dexter is in; Nicole is not taking Christa or James. She wants Dexter to make her proud. He has somewhere to live. I hope Nicole doesn’t mind, but he jumps in her pool. Maybe he’s living there.

We go now to Paula Abdul’s house. The first three groups to hear her decision are 2 Squar’d, The Brewer Boys, and Illusion Confusion. The latter knows it will be a nightmare if it ends here. The gals in 2 Squar’d have quit their jobs and have bank accounts hovering around zero. For them there is no turning back. The Brewer Boys are closer than they were beforehand, and want the whole world to hear their music.

Paula tells Illusion Confusion that honestly they lacked in showmanship. 2 Squar’d are told their tender vocals and harmonies were spot on, but sometimes they will be asked as performers to sing songs that don’t seem right to them, She knows there are people who connect with The Brewer Boys’ sound, and people who don’t. She made her decision. Paula will not be taking Illusion Confusion or 2 Squar’d. One of the guys in Illusion Confusion is “mad as hell.” Of course, the Brewer Boys make it through. They can’t believe they are one of the sixteen acts making it out of 100,000.

Next up of the groups is 4Shore. Their friendship is built up out of the love they all have for music. It’s hard for them to practice, as they all go to different schools. They heard about the auditions, and decided to try it, and if it didn’t work out, to disband the group, and here they are. Paula tells them they are technically the most beuatiful sounding. Yet, there are times she questioned who was the lead, as a group needs that. She’s not able to take them to the live show, and she is so sorry. The group doesn’t feel this chance was in vain, though, feeling something will come of this.

We travel to L.A. Reid’s house in the Hamptons, where Brian Bradley, 14, of Brooklyn, will be the first to hear L.A.’s decision. If he gets chosen to go to the live shows, he knows his life will change. He won’t be able to walk into the corner store anymore, but will be able to buy his mom a great gift for Mother’s Day. Be proud, Mom! He’s a good kid. L.A. tells him he ws impressed with him the first time he saw him, yet he is struggling with if he will be able to maintain the right kind of attitude. He’ll get the chance, though, as he’s moving on.

What's Hot on TV Tonight – 2011 World Series, Game 1

The World Series starts tonight, Texas taking on St. Louis. Could there be a better name? The World Series! It just sounds so momentous. Will it be? Check out your other favorite shows at TV-Links.

1. Desperately Seeking Susan. Madonna and Rosanna Arquette star in this movie about a bored housewife who gets more than she bargained for as she looks to make things more interesting by meeting a woman responsible for mysterious personal ads. 9:30 AM CT @Max

2. Rachael Ray. Jeff Probst is the guest today. Syndicated, check local listings.

3. The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Taylor Swift, Abigail Breslin, and Foster the People are the guests today. Syndicated, check local listings.

4. PGA Grand Slam of Golf. Day 2 from Port Royal Course in Southampton, Bermuda. 3:00 PM CT TNT

5. 2011 World Series. Texas Rangers at St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1. 6:30 PM CT Fox

6. Survivor: South Pacific A contestant feels betrayed, and is led to reveal a game-changing secret, and another considers quitting the show. Christine tries to win another duel. 7:00 PM CT CBS

7. Up All Night. Reagan’s birth plan goes up in flames, Chris has a hard time with his decisions to quit his job, and Ava needs to deal with the issues keeping her and Reagan apart. 7:00 PM CT NBC

8. The Middle. Frankie and Mike consider giving up their home and moving to an apartment, Axl fakes being sick to get out of a test, Sue and Brad do a kit about texting and drinking while driving, and Brick recites Shakespeare quotes. 7:00 PM CT ABC

9. Pretty Little Liars. The Halloween before Ali went missing. 7:00 PM CT ABC Family

10. Oprah’s Lifeclass. Learning valuable lessons from mistakes. 7:00 PM CT OWN

11. Suburgatory. Tessa is happy to find excitement when Sheila Shay’s doll collection is stolen, and Dallas and Dalia stay with the Altman when they’re afraid of burglars. 7:30 PM CT ABC

12. Criminal Minds. The children of troubled women go missing in a series of kidnappings in St. Louis, and Rossi’s first wife has some shocking news. 8:00 PM CT CBS

13. Harry’s Law. Harry gives representation to a teacher fired because he failed a student who didn’t believe in evolution, and Ollie helps an ex.. 8:00 PM CT NBC

14. Modern Family. Phil and Haley visit his alma mater, Claire goes out with her brother and Cameron, and Gloria and need to have a delicate discussion with Manny. 8:00 PM CT CW

15. America’s Next Top Model. The models play flag football with professional football players, and supermodel Coco Rocha makes an appearance. 8:00 PM CT CW

16. Ghost Hunters. The team is looking for the actress that killed herself back stage. They continue to explore the Niagra Falls Theater and hear voices all over. They decide it was a male voice and it almost sounded like a conversation. 8:00 PM CT Syfy

17. Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. The artists may think they are on a roll, but Simon De Pury disagrees. A very concerned Simon confronts the artists, calling them out their track towards failure. 8:00 PM CT Bravo

18. Man v. Food Nation. Adam coaches racecar driver Joey Logano through a food competition following a race at Watkins Glen International. Logano takes on the “Atomic Bomb Challenge” at Sticky Lips BBQ. Next, Adam’s off to Campi’s to try a taste of Rochester’s meat sauce drenched sub sandwich called a “steak bomber,” then makes a pit stop at the legendary late night eatery, Nick Tahou’s, where he sinks his teeth into a unique regional delicacy called a “garbage plate.” 8:00 PM CT Travel Channel

19. Happy Endings. Jane trie to help her friends plot out their future according to their dreams, Brad finds it difficult to relate to his boss who doesn’t have a sense of humor, and Dave worries about introducing his new girlfriend to the gang. 8:30 PM CT CW

20. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The team looks for a medivac helicopter Brody was in that was hijacked. 9:00 PM CT CBS

21. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The detectives are on the case when a visiting Buffalo woman claims she was carjacked while her baby was in the backseat. 9:00 PM CT NBC

22. Revenge. Victoria’s feelings of guilt and a fight with her daughter expose her vulnerabilities, a vindictive Lydia comes back, and Daniel decides to make a big change when he becomes aware that he has been betrayed. 9:00 PM CT ABC

23. Psych. Gus, Shawn, and Woody are murder suspects, but have no memory of the previous night. 9:00 PM CT USA

24. American Horror Story. Vivien learns about the first residents of the house, Ben becomes further unraveled because of his visitor, and Constance and Moira’s history comes to light. 9:00 PM CT FX

25. South Park. A new gossip website picks up some leaked secrets. 9:00 PM CT Comedy Central

26. Fact or Faked. The team has designed a UFO made of aluminum discs. The disc is supposed to f
ollow down a zipline and then release toward an explosion. 9:00 PM CT Syfy

27. Top Chef: Just Desserts. The chef’testants have a challenge this week that will have them going international. Before they get too excited about the prospect of traveling, Gail bursts their bubble and lets them know that they will be preparing a dessert themed around different countries. The twist? The dessert shouldn’t actually be something from that country, but rather should be something sweet and tasty that resembles a meal from the country. 9:00 PM CT Bravo

28. The Joy Behar Show. Rebecca Dana is the guest tonight. 9:00 PM CT HLN

29. The Real World. Alexandra’s boyfriend causes tension during his visit, Frank gets a haircut from Priscilla, and Nate is left in tears after an evening with Priscilla’s family. 9:00 PM CT MTV

30. Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time. The iPhone and the Droid, a local news broadcast, a guy who meets the parents of his girlfriend, and a guy and his dog. 9:00 PM CT Comedy Central

31. Conan. The guests tonight include Tom Selleck, Julianne Hough, and All Time Low. 10:00 PM CT TBS

X-Factor, Oct. 16 – Day Late and $5 Million Short

It’s been hard to find this episode of the X-Factor. It aired on Sunday night after the episodes were juggled last week due to baseball playoffs on rain delay. I knew it would be on Sunday night, and just assumed my DVR would catch it. It didn’t, and that’s because either UVerse or Fox didn’t change the programming lineup to reflect the change. The DVR listings still said Simpsons, Family Guy, et al., would be aired. I realized that eighteen minutes into it, and hurriedly recorded the four animated sitcoms, but missed those first eighteen minutes. Fox doesn’t make this show easy to find via streaming video. My persistence paid off, though, and I found it, so here we go.

First up tonight at Simon Cowell’s home is Jazzlyn Little, 16, of Cape Coral, Florida. She struggled with nerves and confidence at her audition and in Boot Camp. On top of that, it’s hard for her to be in Paris to be away from her family. The vocal coach, Savan Kotecha, counsels her. She sings an unrecognizable version of I Will Survive. It’s updated and really interesting, really jazzy. I would have liked to see her on those power vocals, but I think this shows more of who she would be as a recording artist. Simon seems like he’s enjoying it. 

Jazzlyn shows host Steve Jones her shaky hands, as Simon discusses her performance with Savan and two producers. Simon thinks she just put herself back in the frame, but Savan finds it too much like a high school talent show. Simon seems a bit incredulous at that statement.

Up first tonight for L.A. Reid and Rihanna is Brennin Hunt, 26, a graphic designer from Nashville. He did not have a hard time with confidence, feeling he was “the total package.” He knows he’s getting somewhat old for the music business, but if he looks around, he’ll notice he’s in the under 30 group. He feels his time is now, and he wants to be even bigger than Lady Gaga. He sings Like a Star, and sings it quite well. He always surprises me how good he really is. His looks make you think he’s just about being a pretty face, but his voice shows so much more depth.

Rihanna thinks Brennin is beautiful and thinks his tone is correct at times, especially when he gets raspy, but he’s a little it corny for her and reminds her of a 90s boys band. She’s not convinced he’s a star and knows this will be a tough decision. Brennin thinks it went well, but says he’s hard on himself and is a perfectionist. He thought he had pitch issues, but that seems to be the least of their concerns.

The Stereo Hoggz, ages 24-25, from Houston, are up first tonight for Paula Abdul and Pharrell. The group have been friends more than half their lives. This is so close to what they’ve been trying to do for so long. One of them just became a dad, and really wants to win this competition for his daughter, not wanting her to have to go through some of the same things he has. They sing Heard It Through the Grapevine, complete with choreography. It sounds great, but it’s more a lead vocal than a group. If Rihanna wants to see corny, she needs to see some of their choreography.

Pharrell tells Paula the lead singer is like an old Motown guy mixed with Genuine. Paula gives him a high five and tells him “That’s who they are.” She appreciates his critique so much, she wants to borrow him for a couple of shows to sit next to her. He wants them to be a constellation, though, and not just one star. The group decides if they weren’t performing, but were judging, they’d put themselves through. 

The first over 30 to perform tonight for Nicole Scherzinger and Enrique Iglesias is Josh Krajcik, 30, a burrito maker from Columbus, Ohio. He explains music was always the most important thing to him until his 13-year-old daughter was born. He wants to show her that dreams can come true with talent and a little luck. When he wins here, it will allow that to happen. Tonight, he sings First Time Ever I saw Your Face, and has so much emotion in it, it brings me to near tears, and seems to do the same for Nicole as well. This burrito maker is the real deal. He’s like the second coming of Joe Cocker. I would pay top dollar for an iTunes download of this. 

Josh tells them after he’s always loved performing and had the confidence he could be something really big, and he’s so excited to have the opportunity to show them what he is capable of. Nicole tells Enrique Josh is relatable and personable, but asks if he’s a star. Enrique admits he’s not the typical star, with all the glitz and glamour. Steve asks if this is the performance that will stop him from making burritos for a living. Josh hopes so.

It’s back to Paula’s house to hear the next group 2Squar’d. They mention that the moment they got four yeses at their audition meant so much to them, as it was the moment they could start living  out their dreams. Paula has chosen Bohemian Rhapsody, surprising them, because they’re basically a pop/R&B band. What they do really well is spread the vocal around so that they take advantage of all their different capabilities in the song, although I’m not sure if it’s enough.

Paula tells Pharrell that she knows it’s a difficult song. He admits that, but says if they would have put a little more soul into it, it would have come off differently. They have shown that they can sing, but Paula and Pharrell seem to want more. The group, meanwhile, thinks Paula has seen growth from them.

L.A. and Rihanna will listen to Tim Cifers, 30, a sales manager from Willow Springs, North Carolina, next. He admits one of his dreams is getting back to his roots. He grew up on his grandparents’ farm, and wants his kids to experience that same “countryism” while living in a nice house. He’s never been away from his kids as much as this, and when he left for this trip, his son asked God to “please keep Daddy safe on the plane,” and handed his dad his stuffed monkey. He sings Dance with My Father, and packs all the emotion from missing his family into the performance. 

Amazing Race 19 Commentary – Ep 4 – A Mighty Wind’s A-Blowin’

Honest to Blog! The Amazing Race has an episode which turned on wind. Wind! Phuket, Thailand!!

Yeah, I made a Juno joke, what of it? Along with a Christopher Guest joke. I must say, I see nothing wrong with either one of those things.

But seriously, amazing how the Phuket (pronounced Poo-ket, folks) winds played such a major factor in the Detour. Granted, for the second time in four episodes, we had a non-elimination leg, so the stakes were less than they could have been. However, it was still fascinating and just a small taste of how cool this show continues to be. This came down to something as simple as weather. For such a huge show, played out over the game board called The Entire Earth, it is amazing how such tiny details can occasionally make a huge difference. Strong winds, a flat tire, traffic, things like that are the factors that teams cannot prepare for prior to the Race, no matter how much Cindy may want to.

In this case, the Detour presented the options of helping to rebuild Phuket’s tsunami-destroyed coral reef, or doing an tradition AR task of mimicking a display (similar to the task in last year’s finale at the trailer park). At first, most teams chose the coral challenge. I would tend to agree with that choice – first of all, it is a much cooler task. Second, those display challenges require such a precise attention to detail which I find difficult normally, much less under extreme pressure and lack of rest.

The Dudes were first out on the kayak after assembling the blue frame of the Phuket IKEA Coral Nursery Collection. They had to balance the structure on the kayak and hold onto the tray with the little coral babies. There’s a cartoon just waiting to be written, by the way. The wind out on the ocean was very, very strong and kept blowing the items and the kayak around. Thankfully for them, the Dudes have surfing skills not just on snow but on the water and had some game. They were also wise to find a rock down below to place upon the frame to hold it in place. Their ability to keep the kayak around the location, tread water effectively and manage the props served them well. The Siblings also managed to pull it off, but did so by accident when the frame drifted into a rock. Nevertheless, only these two teams managed to get this task right.

Meanwhile, over at the other location, teams had to find their assigned beach chairs and umbrellas and then set them up to match the proper layout of Phuket Beach Society. I don’t know, it was just what it was. The Twins were excited about doing this one because they have lifeguarding experience. I need to call a foul on this one. Last time I checked, and it may have been in an episode of Baywatch , lifeguards have a lot of things they have to do. Setting up umbrellas is not one of them. I want my lifeguard paying attention to me as the waves come crashing down, not worrying about how many chairs need to line up in a row. So, saying your lifeguard skills will help the beach layout is like saying that an NFL referee’s skills on the football field will help him throw a touchdown pass.

The wind was brutal on this task, especially to the Twins, who spent hours trying to do it. The wind knocked over the umbrellas, one time right onto one of the Twins’ head, it blew around the chairs. It was a serious wild card in the challenge. It took some strength to get the umbrellas done – Marcus and Sandy each tried to give them some help. Sandy gave them a hand opening an umbrella, Marcus told them to spin it into the ground to get it to stay. I don’t know if it was anything other than the Twins’ lack of upper body strength, but that seemed to be a primary problem. They just could not get that umbrella to stay in the ground.

We did get some interesting character moments from the teams through all of the wind gusts. The Dudes continue to be a joy to watch. I found it interesting that upon learning that they messed up their flight and squandered their lead that they didn’t respond with anger, they essentially said, “bummer.” Magellans really didn’t have much of an episode except for one moment – on the speedboats heading towards the Pit Stop, they managed to get lost. The guys who circumnavigated the globe got lost on a boat. Classic. Basic Navigation, guys. Their attitude was not anger or rage, it was self-deprecation, a bunch of useless sailors we are. Sounds like the makings of a good shanty.

New Jeremy finally got some attention, and after their nasty bickering, I would like them to fad back into the background. Jeremy barked at her to “come here, now” on the beach and continued to talk fairly aggressively to her. If this how they are going to find out about their relationship, I sense a lot of uncomfortable moments during Thanksgiving dinners for them. Regardless, it sure ain’t fun to watch that unfold on television.

The Siblings fought again. Sigh. However, they also were successful, even if some luck was involved regarding the coral. Successful and bickering is not a good combination for the viewers of the show. The Twins are kind of fun, but they cry a lot, and break down a lot. They got saved this week, but can you really see them going very deep into the season with so much self-imposed drama? Geritol just keeps hanging around and Bill is proving to be a surprisingly tough challenge guy. He scaled that mountain during the Roadblock like a pro.

The Peytons are fun – there is no doubt. Marcus shouting “go crazy” was endearing and gave me two flashbacks. One was Prince. Another was Jack Buck. Leave it to my warped mind to combine the Amazing Race, Marcus Pollard, 80s pop, and famous playoff homeruns. And it was a nice moment for them when they paid back the Race karma earned when the Dudes gave them the help last week by helping the Twins with the umbrellas.

Lastly, Control Freak and Cindy’s mad prep. We previously heard all about her prep plan, and this week we learned you could add rock climbing to the list. This could be fun this season; I sense a lot of comedy in my future. Not sure if it will be funny…but nevertheless, I’ll be mining the Cindy prep book. Not in the book – speedboat navigation. How do you get lost on the ocean, with a land mass as your clue? Heck, I think Wilson the Volleyball could find it quicker.

So, in Phuket – not Bucket or Kirby Puckett – we revisit a location where Mel/Mike got knocked out in S14, and it looks like quite the nice place to visit and the continuation of a fun season. I think that the Show putting two early non-elim legs in this season was a good idea. We got to know these teams a bit. It likely means fewer non-elims later on – and to me, that’s a good thing. It adds a lot more drama late in the season, where it belongs, and makes the early episodes have a little bit more mystery.

Project Runway 9, Episode 11 – Showing One's Range

Last week on Project Runway, the designers faced the L’Oreal Paris challenge. Since L’Oreal was coming out with a make-up line inspired by birds, the designers had to make a runway look that was also inspired by birds. The winner, Anya, got both $20,000.00 and the opportunity to have her look used in a Marie Claire advertisement. Bert was sent home.

The next morning, Josh and Viktor talk about how they miss Bert. Josh assures us his sewing skills are superior to Anya’s. That may be true, but his artistic sense seems to be inferior to Anya’s. She’s not the one getting scolded by the judges for failing to edit her designs. Meanwhile, Anya tells us she’s feeling the pressure– which is probably about as close to an emotional outburst as we’ll get from her. Not that I’m complaining. I prefer calm, cool, and collected types over drama kings and queens.

At the runway, Heidi congratulates the designers for making the Top Five and tells them that this is the challenge that will determine who goes on to Fashion Week. Make that the challenge that determines whose Fashion Week collections will be shown on national television, as there are always some decoy collections there. According to the folks on the Fans of Reality TV site, Bert had made such a nice collection that people assumed he’d made the finals.

Heidi then sends the designers on a ferry trip to Governor’s Island. Tim meets them there and explains the challenge. They are to make a miniature collection consisting of three looks inspired by Governor’s Island. They will have two days and a budget of $500.00. The designers have to make a range of looks, which means they can’t make three dresses or three jumpsuits or the like.

The designers then get into some golf carts and drive around the island. Kimberly finds a sculpture called “New Beginning,” and seems to find the title more inspiring than the actual piece, as she feels she’s making a new beginning. Josh finds a chapel and a military exhibit and decides to make a look that combines strength and fragility. Laura notes a preponderance of circles and decides to incorporate that in her looks. Viktor decides to make pants and a jacket for one of his designs. He finds the sculptures with the city in the background inspiring. Anya notes the sculptures and decides to make sculpted pieces, partly to prove last week’s look wasn’t a fluke.

Then it’s off to Mood. Kimberly wants cantaloupe-colored wool, while Anya chooses white, black, and russet fabrics. She’s not working with prints. Laura has gone over budget, as usual, and Tim jokes she thought he’d given them a budget of $5,000.00. She ends up putting a few things back.

At the workshop, Laura is working with some black fabric that already has circles cut into it. She notes that by buying it, she has saved herself ten hours of work.

Tim comes in carrying the Ominous Velvet Bag of Unnecessary Drama, and the designers tense up, fearing that he’s going to throw a lame and unwanted twist their way. Instead, he tells them that he’s realized they are going to need help getting their garments done. As he’s speaking, the five most recently eliminated designers troop into the room.

Tim then reaches into the bag and calls Kimberly’s name. She picks Becky, presumably because of the latter’s sewing skills. Becky is pleased and DR’s that Kimberly is the only one of the remaining designers she’d wanted to work with. Viktor chooses Olivier, while Laura picks her old buddy Anthony. Anya selects Bert, who is happy to be working with her, leaving Josh with Bryce.

Josh immediately tells Bryce that he wants to make something inspired by the stained-glass window at the chapel. Bryce, who is probably cringing at this idea, DR’s that he is going to have to help Josh edit his looks. He also notes the tension in the workroom, saying the designers don’t seems as friendly or as relaxed as they had when he was part of the competition. Given that everybody can imagine himself or herself at Fashion Week, but knows they can’t all go, that’s probably to be expected. Josh then starts talking about how he’d lost the last challenge to Anya, whom he contemptuously calls a “beauty queen.” In his mind, that 20 grand was his. Hate to break it to you, Joshie boy, but the judges disagree. Nor does Anya owe you 20 grand. Then it’s time to go home.

On the second day of the challenge, the designers get straight to work. Viktor has already completed a jacket for one of his looks. Kimberly tells us she wants to show the judges her strengths– and show them something new. Becky notes that she keeps changing her mind. Anya draws things Bert thinks are too complicated, and Laura dyes some fabric.

The Amazing Race, Oct. 16 – Expecting the Unexpected

What’s making this a great season so far of The Amazing Race is that it’s been very unpredictable, both in challenges and rules, as well as how it’s playing out. There are no gimmes. The challenges are tough and aren’t just something the teams need to walk through. They need to use their athleticism as well as their intelligence, and one little mistake can get them eliminated, while a big mistake can seem to not matter at all. It keeps it exciting, and given the choice of watching the Race or X-Factor first Sunday night, I chose the Race.

Leaving first from Indonesia are Andy and Tommy at 8:17 AM. The clue tells them to fly to Phuket, Thailand, where they’ll race to a marina to get their next clue. Tommy mentions they just want to win a leg of the Race cleanly. Laurence and Zac ran a great leg, but used too many buckets at once on the Detour, and were penalized, which gave first place to the snowboarders.

Next to leave are father and son Laurence and Zac at 8:28 AM. Laurence states they don’t want to make the same mistakes they did in the previous leg. He supports my opening argument, telling him the Race is unexpected. Apparently they’re beginning to pick up the Big Brother tagline of “Expect the Unexpected.” The snowboarders arrive at the airport and find there is no direct flight, but they can get a flight to Jakarta at 9:40 AM, to hopefully find a flight there that will take them to Phuket. They help father and son out, telling them where to get the tickets to be on the same flight as them.

Jeremy and Sandy leave the pit stop at the exact time the first two teams are leaving the country. He thinks the Race is showing what they need to work on still in their relationship, as she points out it shows how they handle stressful situations. Justin and Jennifer leave one minute later, and Ernie and Cindy one minute after that. For them, it’s exciting, as they were just in Thailand. Amani and Marcus leave at 9:46 AM, and he is hoping to show his kids about perseverance while they’re on the Race.

Bill and Kathi leave at 9:56 AM, with her noting they are almost thirty years older than the other teams, yet they wake up each day ready to go. She thinks they’ll be here for awhile. Liz and Marie leave at 10:05 AM, and note their dad recently died suddenly of a heart attack. He would be thrilled with this opportunity of theirs. 

As these other teams arrive at the airport, they are told they can get a flight with a stopover in Jakarta that leaves at 12:45 PM and lands in Phuket at 6:50 PM.  Everyone, except Andy/Tommy and Laurence/Zac, of course, are on this flight. Yet those other two teams don’t have a connecting flight yet, so maybe they’ll end up catching the same connecting flight.

As the first two teams arrive in Jakarta, and find the next flight to Phuket is fully booked, they hear there’s a flight to Bangkok that will connect them and have them arriving in Phuket at 7:40 PM. Had they bothered to get connecting flights before, they could have been on that 6:50 flight. Instead of being the first two, they’ll now be the last two teams. 

The first flight arrives in Phuket, and the teams catch cabs to the marina. If the snowboarders and the father/son team are lucky, the challenge will involve something that isn’t open overnight, and everyone will be waiting until the morning at the marina. In fact, Sandy is hoping when they get there they’ll be going to bed. Liz and Marie never had time to exchange their money, and are carrying around Indonesian cash. One of them is already wearing an “In Love with Thai” button. Maybe that will help them. Bill and Kathy get a thumbs up and “chop chop” from their cabdriver, as he pulls ahead of several teams.

The second flight arrives, and when they ask for taxis at a cab stand, the employee tells them she knows exactly where they are going because of the others. They ask how long ago and are told an hour. They are definitely worried now. Funnily enough, the next commercial announces, “Someone didn’t book with Travelocity!”

Jeremy and Sandy are the first team to arrive at the marina, and Sandy asks why “the guys” aren’t there. Jeremy then sees a sign announcing that the dock doesn’t open until 8:00 AM. It looks like the guys just caught a break. Liz and Marie arrive next, as Liz announces that the Thai people are the nicest in the world. Their driver just drove them there for nothing, since all they have is Indonesian cash. They others arrive and try to figure out what happened to the guys. They finally arrive, and someone announces the game is “so unpredictable.”

At 8 AM, Justin says they know where the clue is,  out there in an orange/yellow garbage can at the end of a “wobbly dock.” They just don’t know how they’ll get out there, but Jennifer is sure she’ll be puking on a speedboat. One of each team runs down the wobbly deck. In the lead is Tommy, followed by Laurence. 

Top Chef: Just Desserts 2 – Ep 8 – Macaroon-i and Fake Cheese

We are down to the Final Five, or the Fantastic Five, as the end nears for the second season of Just Desserts. I will say that despite some missteps, it has been an uptick over last season. I think that has a lot to do with some good challenges and a much better overall cast this time around. As these five barrel down to the Finish, I can see any one of them winning. Clearly, the eliminated chef this week won’t win, so I guess the four that are still in their barrels.

I think I lost my metaphor somewhere – and only after one paragraph!

Anyway, this week produced a surprise as the elimination of Carlos was not what I thought was coming. It goes to show that when you take risks, sometimes it can blow up in your face. I don’t think you can win these competitions without some big risks – you can linger for a while, but you can’t win – but part of that is that when you fail, you fail big. That is what happened to Carlos this week – although I thought his concept would carry him over Orlando’s failed concept.

Carlos was done in by his desire to make macaroons for the Macaroon King Francois Payard. Not sure if that monarchy is hereditary or if it is elected, like the Queen of Naboo in Star Wars. Speaking of, I wonder – can there be a King of Naboo? In three prequels, there were three different women as Queen. And another thing, what kind of society elects a teenage girl to run their planet? Can you imagine – Queen Hannah Montana, ruler of Earth?

But I digress. Carlos had a fairly interesting idea for the challenge – something which has done before – of making desserts that look like regular food. With the challenge consisting of making an elegant version of a carnival dessert, Carlos decided to make his snacks look like sliders and churros. Cool concept. His plan was to make his macaroon into the slider buns. It was a bold idea to serve this to someone known as the master of that food – and if he pulled it off, he probably would have won the challenge. However, he came into the kitchen the day of the challenge to check on his word and discovered that the macaroons did not cook properly. In fact, they were non servable. This meant having to adjust on the fly and make a different cookie as the bun.

I cannot criticize his choice because he was really up against the time. He chose to go with an angel food cake specifically because of the quick cook time. The problem was that eating the tiny sliders resulted in some sticky fingers. Interestingly, the messiness seemed to be the primary fault given by the judges. Not taste, not presentation, just really, convenience. Gail did not want sticky fingers to go with her fancy dress.

Meanwhile, Orlando chose to make a variation on candy apple that had little to do with a candy apple. It seemingly was based on chocolate more so than apple. I am sure it looked and tasted great, but it was really far away from the basis of the challenge. I mean, if I say I am making a pizza but use peanut butter has a main ingredient, does that make it a pizza?

Just like every criticism I make on Top Chef, it is all based on what I see on screen and my understanding of the show. I think it comes down to how the item tastes, how it was presented and how much it fulfilled the challenge. The third part was clearly a fault of Orlando’s. The second part was more of a push. The question I cannot answer is just how much better Orlando’s tasted. Even if it really didn’t resemble a candy apple, it still may have tasted rather good. It appeared to me that Orlando should have gotten the boot, but if I were in the room, perhaps it would be different.

Hammer was also in the bottom, but based on the judges input, it seemed as if he was a solid third place. It was the use of too many techniques in his take on the funnel cake that put him there, and no real talk about how it tasted. It just confused people. Macho and Matt really rocked that final challenge. Macho avoided disaster after she locked her pudding in the freezer and put out a very nice corn-based dessert. But it was Matt’s fried apple pie that really got things done. Not only was it good, but Matt became quite the showman by purchasing three ceramic pigs and holding a small raffle to give them away. It was a nice touch and perhaps what gave him that final edge – it was all part of the presentation.

So, we go to the Final Four and I have a very hard time predicting who is going to win this thing. Orlando has been one of those overrated chef contestants – which happens most every year – who just manages to not be eliminated each week. He talks a big talk, but his results have not been there. Now, can he make it to the Finals and deliver in the challenge that counts? Sure, but that’s much harder to do in practice than it is in concept. Hammer tends to over-think and winds up making some pointless errors at times, but he is surely a threat. Macho is talented and has performed well, but Top Chef History has not been kind to women at the end. Matt has some real momentum going right now, and may be peaking at the right time. If I had to guess a winner, I’d go with Matt, but really only because he’s based close to where I live, so I can possibly go and eat some of his food. Or buy his pigs.

What's Hot on TV Tonight – Dancing with the Stars Goes Back to the 80s

You can see the big hair already. Tonight on Dancing With the Stars, the couples will dance to 80s music. We’ll stay back in that decade as The Bangles perform. Catch up on other TV you may have missed at TV-Links.

1. Live with Regis and Kelly. Simon Baker and Jessica Capshaw are the guests today. Syndicated, check local listings.

2. National Lampoon’s Vacation. The original; the best. Lots of Vacation movies succeeded this one, but this is the original. Chevy Chase and Beverly d’Angelo did it up good this time. Everything from Aunt Edna to “My daddy says I’m the best” to “Sorry folks. Park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.” 2:00 PM CT HBO Comedy

3. The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Hilary Duff, Logan Lerman, and J.R. Martinez and Karina Smirnoff are today’s guests. Syndicated, check local listings.

4. How I Met Your Mother. Ted doesn’t do a background check on his new lady friend, leading to his friends getting involved, and Lily and Marshall find out if they’re having a boy or a girl. 7:00 PM CT CBS

5. Sing Off. The top 10 groups will be narrowed down to eight and the battle will be fierce. 7:00 PM CT NBC

6. Dancing with the Stars.The couples dance to songs of the ’80s, and The Bangles perform. 7:00 PM CT ABC

7. Gossip Girl. Dan gets Serena, Blair, Nate, Chuck, Rufus, and Lily together to discuss his book, Louis reads the book, and Diana uses info about a friend of Nate’s to help herself. 7:00 PM CT CW

8. Terra Nova. Jim and Shannon question if they can trust an asylum-seeking orphan, Mira wants to reclaim a valued possession, and Taylor believes there’s a traitor out there. 7:00 PM CT Fox

9. The Lying Game. Sutton resumes her life back in Phoenix. 7:00 PM CT ABC Family

10. Oprah’s Lifeclass. Lady Gaga finds her true calling. 7:00 PM CT OWN

11. Clean House New York.. Top New York designers and former HGTV “Design Star” competitors Nina Ferrer and Michael Moeller hosts this new series that will combat the untidy in all five boroughs, one interior disaster at a time. 7:00 PM CT Style

12. Basketball Wives LA. Jackie’s gossiping gets tiresome, and Gloria has concerns about her relationship with Matt. 7:00 PM CT VH1

13. 2 Broke Girls. To raise money for their cupcake business, Max and Caroline host a 90s themed party at the diner, and Caroline, horrified when one of the patrons is her wealthy ex. 7:30 PM CT CBS

14. NFL Football. Miami Dolphins at New York Jets. 7:30 PM CT ESPN

15. Two and a Half Men. Alan tries to accept Lyndsey’s past, and Walden hosts a party. 8:00 PM CT CBS

16. Hart of Dixie. A heatwave in Bluebell has everyone losing their inhibitions, and Lemon gets herself ready for George’s family. 8:00 PM CT CW

17. House. After making a generous donation, a man collapses, and House and Dr. Chi Park try to determine what his medical disorder is, and Thirteen tries to be happy, despite her feelings of guilt. 8:00 PM CT CW

18. American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior. PJD does a build for Dekalb, OCC a charity bike for Cell Buckle, and Senior’s critiques offend Jason. 8:00 PM CT Discovery

19. Scare Tactics. A young man and woman think they’re filming a show and find what looks like a skunk being eaten by maggots. The cameraman lets them know he needs a new battery and will be right back. The man and woman hear a shrill scream from another room and go to find out what it was. They see a body on the ground and a sinister butler greets them and says the master wants them to stay for dinner. 8:00 PM CT Syfy

20. Gene Simmons Family Jewels. In the first hour, Shannon and Gene get ready for a marriage boot camp which threatens their engagement. In the second hour, they share memories of their relationship, and she wants to become his business partner. 8:00 PM CT Syfy

21. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. A shocking fight brings the ladies’ game night to a close. 8:00 PM CT Bravo

22. Piers Morgan Tonight. Kelsey Grammer is the guest tonight. 8:00 PM CT Bravo

23. Lottery Changed My Life. Too poor to even buy a ticket to a NASCAR race, Joe wins the lottery and ends up buying his own team 8:00 PM CT TLC

24. How Do I Look? Worst-Dressed in America. Host Mai and her troop of fashion experts–including celebrity hairstylist Kim Vo and makeup artist Kandee Johnson–scour the nation hunting for the most atrocious clothing-challenged person in the land. 8:00 PM CT Style

25. The Bad Girls Club. The girls visit Barbados, and Judi’s antics leave her marked as a target. 8:00 PM CT Oxygen

26. Bored to Death. George covers for Jonathan and Ray when they go on the lam. 8:00 PM CT HBO

27. Mike & Molly. Molly wants to save up for the wedding, but Vince’s car is too tempting to Mike. 8:30 PM CT CBS

28. Enlightened. Amy’s chance of landing a dream job are diminished, and and she fights to reform her ex and mom. 8:30 PM CT HBO

27. Hawaii Five-0. The details behind a volleyball coach’s murder show more bad news about Kono, and Chin Ho gets back together with his ex. 9:00 PM CT CBS

28. Castle. Castle and Beckett get help from a sexy insurance investigator when murder happens amongst the thievery of a valuable sculpture, and a rich museum benefactor is a person of interest. 9:00 PM CT ABC

29. Most Eligible Dallas Drew tries to get Cody back, and Neill and the band have their Dallas debut. 9:00 PM CT Bravo

30. Cake Boss Danica Patrick has a special request, and Lisa and sisters look for the perfect dress. 9:00 PM CT TLC

31. Urban Legends. The “Queen Bee” of a retirement home shares a story of escaping death with her peers. It all started many years before she lived at the retirement home when her husband brought home. 10:00 PM CT Syfy