Top Chef: Boston – Ep 5 – You Don’t Bring Scallop Noodles To War

For those of you who missed Top Chef: Duels, well, do we have the episode for you. For those of us who watched a little bit of that experiment and came away from it longing for another season of Just Desserts…well, the elimination was satisfying.

This whole episode was all about the duels. About the duels. Oh, and also about the foil. Aluminum foil. And about messing with Revolutionary War history.

Honestly, this one felt a bit like a placeholder as the inevitable finally came true. Aa-Hole finally bit the dust. I guess when you make the exact same dish twice – this time with scallops rather than shrimp – and drop a vital ingredient on the ground, you are going to be in trouble.

But we all knew that he was not going to get too deep in this contest. How often have untrained, self-made chefs become Top Chef? You’d have to be special, Jedi-like in your talents to be able to take down the highly-trained and accomplished chefs that are next to you in the Top Chef kitchen. Aa-Hole scraped by up until this point – but it was going to happen soon. He should be proud that he got this far.

Also something for him to hang his hat on…he went out with class. He didn’t compete with class, but he lost with class and dignity. There may be hope for him yet.

By the way, before getting into the challenges, all of a sudden we are down to single digits on chefs! How did that happen? And speaking of that, who do you have confidence in as a potential Top Chef? Gumby. Mei. Maybe Adam and Zaphod. That’s it. Am I right? This is based on performance and editing. Stacy and Kats are getting the loveable weirdo edits – not winners. Blondie is getting an edit that implies she may be next out. Melissa is getting a zero edit and Katie is a bit of a wild card.

Oh well, we will soon see.

Top Chef: Boston – Ep 4 – Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I know, that was easy. So what. It’s Cheers! I do want to bust out some clips about Albania. Or about Kelly Kelly Kelly. Or about groin injuries. Or maybe just a good old fashioned Thanksgiving food fight.

Anyway, apologies for being late. As I said in my other show column – life gets in the way. For me, it has often got in the way in the last couple of years. But that’s ok. You don’t want to shed a tear for your friendly neighborhood blogger. You want to hear about food. And drama. And George Wendt. Needless to say, I’ll keep trying to hit that deadline.

This week we get a random double elimination. I can only assume we have it because Aa-Hole managed to avoid getting knifed at the Sudden Death Quickfire last week. I wonder if that’s going to be the pattern going forward. I am not a fan of the double eliminations in any show. One of the core constants in these shows is that each week, the worst goes. The worst dish. The worst dress. The slowest Racing team. The worst at the Survivor numbers game. The worst. When someone goes home for being the second worst? It is inherently not fair in my mind.

I do not know who get screwed more this week between James and Rebecca. I think Rebecca was second to last, but that’s just me. I honestly don’t know. But anyway, it is also not very surprising to me that the two did not advance much further in the competition because of the nature of the Bravo editing team. When the chefs get very little airtime in the early episodes it usually does not bode well for them going forward. These two got some moments, but mostly it was not a whole lot.

I can’t say that either didn’t deserve it for a bad dish. They both seem to have produced something substandard. I just don’t like the concept. Especially with someone having immunity – and that dish was arguably the worst of the night. Using my earlier assumption, how much more does suck for Rebecca? She was the THIRD worst dish of the night and got eliminated!

If you are going to do a double elimination, at least make it so there is no immunity and/or you have them divided in teams of two. I can see more fairness in that dynamic.

Survivor 29: San Juan Del Sur – Ep 7 – The One That Happened Before Anything Good Can Happen

Sorry for the delay – life continues to get in the way of my punctuality when it comes to reality show blogging. I apologize yet again and continue to promise a much better effort/results in the weeks ahead. It’s been a long week, but finally, I can start talking about a really pretty useless Survivor episode before moving along to a much better Top Chef episode.

But you care about Survivor. Here’s my blog….

Sun Tan Lady quit. She should never have been on this show in the first place. She only was because the show thought having John Rocker aboard was a good idea, and his girlfriend has a large chest and very full lips. Oh, and if you weren’t paying attention, Josh and Namesake are the only two really playing the game and only one will be going deep into the season. And we can all assume that Jaclyn and Other Jon are going to be making a really big decision coming up that will alter the balance of power.

And that’s about it. Sigh. I hate recapping episodes that were all about someone giving up the show. Thousands upon thousands of people apply to be on this show and they repeatedly put people on that they recruit who fail to know what they are getting themselves into. And it happened again this season.

What’s worse? She did it in the middle of what is often the best, most dramatic point of the season – the first merge vote. So many seasons have had massive drama coming directly from this one episode. Colby and Co. faking votes previously cast. The Lex Betrayal. The Penner Flip. The Hantz 4-8 Miracle. The list just goes on and on. This year? We get the quitting tanning lady.

What will her legacy on the show be when all is said and done? Besides quitting and screwing over her tribe? Probably providing the most controversial story line ever attached to trail mix in the history of trail mix. Bottom line here – we get the fun filled Merge Feast. After they gorge themselves, they all gather up what was left by putting the food in their bags. Over the next couple of days, they manage to eat all of the scraps. Except, the mystery trail mix. They all remember putting it away, but where did it go?

That’s where Sun Tan Lady comes into the story. She put it all in her bag and was planning to keep it to herself. Needless to say, they find her out and the tribe is not happy about that.

Honestly, this is what happens when you put on non-fans. Anyone who has ever watched this show knows that the tribe shares what little food it has – especially the food that comes in the feasts. The arrogance of someone thinking they could hide feast food is insane. Starving people do not forget about what is in their food supply. They just don’t. Lies have a way of finding daylight. Deception is always found out. Whether they are huge life lies or stupid TV show lies – they are always found out.

If you want to risk hoarding on Survivor – do it with found food. If you find a hidden grove of fruit…ok. If you catch a fish and want to eat it yourself…ok. However, if you get caught, you are probably toast. If not right away, then pretty soon thereafter.

So, Sun Tan Lady figured out that she just could not handle the stress and the sheer madness of Survivor. However, she is in an alliance, so any decision to leave the game will have ramifications. The question will now be whether or not the alliance will hold without her.

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Ep 6 – I’m A Meat Collector

More on that title in a bit, it really has nothing to do with what happened on this episode. I just snorted in laughter when I heard/thought I heard that line.

You can tell it has been a subpar to mediocre season of Survivor when one of the best strategic moves of the season not only didn’t work, but resulted in the author of such a move getting voted out of the game. That is what happened here. Granted, it is not as if the game has lost a major player as a result, but I was seriously rooting for the little gambit to work.

So, having watched his daughter get voted out, or as he called it “slaughtered,” (Ew) Dale knew that he was the next one to go if Coyopa lost again. Snort. Sorry, I did it again. If they lost! That’s the funniest thing I have written in my 15 seasons of writing Survivor columns. I meant – WHEN they lost again. Silly me.

Holy crap – 15 seasons! I have clearly spent my hours wisely.

So, anyway, Dale was in the line of fire for the next vote. It is at this point that we finally get payoff from Dale’s move at the very beginning of the season. Remember when he grabbed a little token off of the water tank in Episode One? I thought it was an idol, perhaps Dale did too, but in retrospect it was not. There was no little note that it came with. I wondered why we saw this at all. This episode was why.

Dale took this “idol” and went the full Bob Crowley with it – except his move was even more brilliant. Bob used his fake idol – a masterpiece of art, if you ask me – to join Randy’s enemies in making a fool out of him at Tribal Council. It was entertaining, but it wasn’t really strategy. It was revenge. Ozzy’s fake idol was also pure entertainment, as Jason took the crude creation and based his whole survival on it. Poor Eliza – It’s a stick! Yau-Man started the whole concept of making fake idols in Fiji even if his didn’t mean much in the end.

Dale approached Other Jon and tried to cut a deal. If Other Jon and his allies would keep Dale around through this vote, he would give Other Jon the idol. I LOVED this move. He had nothing to lose with this, and he probably correctly speculated that the merge was coming after this next vote. If it worked, he has a fighting chance once the tribes get together. And it gives him a chance of having some serious revenge of his own once Other Jon played it.

To be honest, it is a rather tempting offer too for Other Jon. So tempting that I really did wonder if he was going to take it. We did not get to see if he asked for the letter of authenticity, or if he knew that it wasn’t a real idol based on seeing it on the tank over at Hunaphu, or if Keith let them in on his secret by showing them the real deal. We can only assume that Other Jon was offered an idol in exchange for turning on Missy.

It is also quite possible that is the exact reason why Dale’s strategy failed. He went after Missy again. I wonder of Other Jon takes the deal if Dale says, vote out Keith and keep me. Other Jon has proven loyalty to Missy, but Keith may be a different story. He was certainly willing to throw votes at the Bayou Man in case Dale played his fake one. We will never know if that would have worked, but it might have.

So, the best move of the season turns into a Survivor footnote. Dale joins his baby at Not Ponderosa and Keith now knows where he stands with his group – he has two votes in his pocket to mull over. He must realize that Dale wasn’t one of them. It could be a real eye opening development.

Top Chef: Boston – Ep 3 – Peanuts! Popcorn! Giant Baseballs In Soup!

Before we talk about the latest episode, the one that took place in The Ballpark That Must Not Be Names, one thing that I need to bring up first. I do this every once in a while in these pages because I feel the need to point out the obvious from time to time. The people on these shows are real people performing tasks in high-pressure situations while dealing with fatigue. They are greatly edited for full entertainment purposes. Bloggers like me get to be snarky and have fun with recaps of these shows because we truly love the programs. I treat these columns the way I would treat hanging out with friends, having a few drinks and joking around with each other. Harmless fun occasionally punctuated with inappropriate or rude humor.

It’s one of the things I love about Twitter when it comes to these columns – especially on Top Chef. The chefs get into this and really pay attention to all of these little articles. This week, I had a few responses and retweets for my previous two Boston columns. I especially got attention from Ron, formerly known as BFG. I say formerly because he called me out for poking fun at his weight. Very fair point. I only did so because it seemed as if he and the other chefs were doing the same thing, and the BFGs (Steve and Dave, Amazing Race 4) was one of my favorite teams. A subtle reference, I grant you, but no harm meant. Ron requested a new nickname (Kats jokingly mentioned Ron’s Twitter handle – angry chef – but honestly, he doesn’t seem like an angry dude to me).

I want to say for the record – I love, love, love, love that Ron and I had this exchange on social media. I would love it if more chefs, or Survivors, were that interested. I think he knows now that I wasn’t going for insults, and I promised to give him another nickname going forward.

And then the guy goes and gets his butt kicked off the show! I mean, c’mon, what are doing to me? I spent the last couple of days trying to come up with new ones – There’s all of the oyster-related humor (his last name is Eyester). There’s former MLB second baseman Ron Oester. There’s the giant map of the Philippines he has on his forehead by his eye. There’s the fact that he has this Rorschach test above his eye and his name is Eyester. I was thinking about doing deep sci-fi humor and bringing up the Trill from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and their facial marks. I was thinking that he was the “before” picture to former Top Chef Finalist Kevin (he lost to Voltaggio).

And then he loses and I am stuck with a one-episode nickname! Do I have the time for all of this? Actually, I do, but that’s not the point. So, for the sake of time management and the fact that I am already 511 words into this blog, we will go with a good “Watchman” reference and call him Rorschach. Considering both met similar fates in their pop culture milieus. Death and packing knives being similar in this analogy.

Anyway, moving right along. Also throwing me a curveball this week was the almost elimination of the guy I said could be the biggest Top Chef Villain ever. Aa-hole got a lot of attention early – including some psychoanalysis on why he acts like such an a-hole. He is the product of a broken home. Of course, tons of people are products of broken homes and don’t act like a-holes. My former roommate James (not really, see Ep 1 recap for explanation) is also from a similar self-taught, broken home background. He’s not an a-hole – at least not yet. The only weird thing about him is the Patrick Swayze tattoo. However, it does permit me to dig out this video clip.

Anyway, Aa-hole also has a chip on his shoulder about the size of Rorschach’s Elimination Challenge entrée. The chip is so huge it can be seen from space. It’s bigger than Kim Kardashian’s, er, empire. (That’s what you thought I’d say, right?) It’s bigger than the plot holes in “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’m telling you, folks, dude’s got a chip. He didn’t go to culinary school and wants us all to know about it. Great. Got it, buddy. He says that if his mom had the money for a CIA education, he’d be Bobby Flay. The worst part is, he just outed Bobby Flay as a CIA agent.

So, with that chip we see Aa-hole and the others enter into another Sudden Death Quickfire. This time, Ming Tsai has arrived with a whole lot of tea. In case you haven’t heard, there was a tea party in Boston once. Now we have a TEA Party everywhere and we are worse off for it. But this Tea Party was a good one. The challenge? Make a dish with some random flavor of tea. The winner gets immunity, the loser faces elimination.

All in all, it was a fairly cool challenge. The chefs had no idea what tea they would get so they had to react on the fly to the sometimes-bizarre flavors. Gregory wanted fruity and floral – which would have been a horrible name for a gay florist in a 1970s comedy. Speaking of Gregory, he also requested a nickname and suggested an existing one for him – Gumby Gourmet. Fine by me, but I’ll just shorten it to Gumby. Dammit.

We have gunpowder spearmint. We have monkfish cheek. We have some NY/Boston ribbing. We have Rebecca and about 14 different flavors of tea. We have Melissa speaking. Wait, was she on this show the whole time? We have James making a dish from 1982. We have Rorschach spraying his mole sauce all over James – it is unclear if it in response to 32 year old dishes. Rorschach also lets us know that it is always good to have two breasts. I would add that four is a Penthouse Forum letter.

Melissa – Seared duck breast with toasted nut oolong tea-infused jasmine rice – Ming likes the rice a lot, and it tastes the way it smells, which in this case is a good thing.
Kats – Toasted brown rice tea broth with brown rice crusted tuna – Ming likes the strong flavor.
Katie – Golden honey black tea panna cotta, Asian pear with brown butter tea crumble – Ming mumbles something about the flavor, and says he makes something similar, but as a soufflé. He assures her that a soufflé in 45 minutes would not have been a good idea.
Gumby – Tuna Crudo With Strawberry White Tea and Coconut Ming is not a big fan of fish and fruit, but this worked.
Rorschach – Chocolate and salt herbal tea-crusted duck breast with polenta and balsamic-glazed mushrooms Padma hates this tea flavor, but loves the essence of it in a dish she didn’t hate. I think I got that right, either way it is such a backhand complement that it might have backspin on it.
Aa-hole – Seared monkfish cheeks, Asian pear and mint salad with gunpowder and spearmint tea gastrique That fish is dead. It’s an ex-fish.
Adam – Pineapple and burnt citrus “iced tea-viche” and toasted pine nut gremolata – He made “tea-viche” and deserves to advance just for the pun. Regardless, the exotic qualities came through.
James – Crispy skin trout with quinoa in buerre blanc and Asian pear tea salad – Ming comments that he hasn’t had this dish in years. In fact, it reminded him of seeing ET in the theaters for the first time.
Rebecca – Lemongrass and pomegranate rooibos tea-infused cake with strawberries and apples – Ming says that the tea was used very subtly. So subtly, that it was barely there.

That’s all we get to see. Let’s presume the others made dishes with Asian pears.

The successes? Melissa (who?), Gumby and Rorschach. And earning immunity? Gumby. Remember that near-miss later when Rorschach serves a soup the size of Rhode Island.

The failures? James, Rebecca and Aa-hole. I thought Rebecca could be in trouble here because she had gotten more screen time in these ten minutes than she had in the first two episodes combined, but it is Aa-hole who is up for elimination. Uh oh – Top Chef’s finest villain could be gone before he started his crime spree!

Remember when Aa-hole bragged to Blondie that he could cook her under the table? Well, now is his chance. Instead, to the surprise of everyone, his anti-culinary school hang-up trumped his anti-Blondie hang-up. He chooses Katie to battle with his show life on the line. They have 30 minutes to cook something where the only heat they have is boiling water. Good challenge. They both go for it – he makes a spring roll with a shrimp wrap and she goes for fresh pasta and a sauce made in a plastic bag. Both dishes appear to be creative and well executed. Ming dings her on lack of salt and him on raw peanuts, but the degree of difficulty of his dish saves him.
Aa-Hole – Cucumber, Carrot, Mint and Raw Peanuts Wrapped in Pureed Shrimp Noodle
Katie – Saffron Hand-Cut Pappardelle Pasta, Smoked Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

Top Chef: Boston – Ep 2 – It’s Just Chicken!

One thing about Top Chef over the years – there has not been that many pure reality show villains. Sure, there have been some chefs who have pushed the envelope on villainy – but mostly it’s been a pretty tame show that way. We had Marcel, Stefan, Heather, just to name a few that have come across as chefs to root against. Most others have just been walking egos or annoying ticks that have been fun to root against. But in Boston…we have a budding villain.

Enter Mr. Aaron Grissom. He has all of the qualities and most of them came out this week. He’s the guy that says that you’ll know when he’s being an a-hole. Because his natural assholery is so natural that he has to be a Super A-Hole for him to actually notice it. By they way, Super A-Hole would probably be a horrible Marvel movie.

He also has the massive ego that goes with being a villain – but it isn’t offset by some amusing buffoonery. He thinks he’s Emeril Lagasse and so far he’s been overly Guy Fieri. In addition, these personalities do not work well with others. And so when presented with a group challenge – it crashes and burns badly.

That said, most chefs on this show (and designers on Project Runway) are used to being King or Queen of the Kitchen. Everyone jumps when they say to jump. So when you have three of them telling each other to jump, either they all jump and reach the goal or they all stand still defiantly and accomplish nothing.

Guess what happened with Aaron’s team?

It’s not as if Blondie is all that much better – but at least in this case she was in the right. It started with what seemed to be an innocuous argument in the Stew Room about molecular gastronomy and it’s effectiveness. That will come up again later on.

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Ep 5 – Surround and Drown

For everyone who was intensely interested to see how the Rocker and Drew eliminations would alter the tribe dynamics going forward…well, too bad, so sad. We have new tribes.

As with most tribal shakeups, the new tribes have some intriguing scenarios too. You can’t control the random nature of things. My favorite one was when All-Stars did a second tribal shakeup and the tribes stayed virtually the same – except Amber. Of course that led to the Rob-Lex feud – so it was totally worth it. The tribal shifts often send power players to an unexpected demise – ask our good doctor from Gabon about that. Other times the tribes become lopsided in gender or age. So, it is always good to see how it unfolds.

In this case we had a couples dynamic. Amazingly four couples wound up reunited, with three of them on one tribe. The New Coyopa put poor Keith on the same side as Missy/Baylor, Kelley/Dale and Other Jon/Jaclyn. At first glance, that seems like a horrible spot for Keith. Except there was other madness to play out that wound up putting him in a much better spot than expected. The couples chose to not band together and oust Keith – they chose to turn on each other.

Meanwhile, the New Hunaphu has only one couple – Reed/Josh. That could be a problem for them too. The good news for those guys is that they are longtime fans and Josh has been getting quite the hero’s edit so far. Also, the time spent in the new tribe setting could be short. This was Episode 5. There are usually 14 episodes of Survivor each season (sometimes 15 or 13, but usually 14). That puts eight more eliminations before a Final Five Finale, and a Final Three. Unless there are unexpected double eliminations or evacuations to come. If the Final Three has a nine-person jury, then we get a merge in two weeks. That said, Namesake and Natalie seem more willing to stay linked to Reed, and thus to Josh, then anything else. Julie or Alec seems more likely to be the first vote out from this tribe.

While I thought we were going to see Ken and Barbie decide to stay with the Washington duo, in retrospect it seemed to make more sense to go with the Texas ladies instead. Together with Keith, they have a majority on the tribe, since they are assuming Dale is either the next vote, or he’s never going to align with Missy/Baylor. Missy and Other Jon had a much better connection on Old Hunaphu than he had with Kelley. Remember, his former ally Drew wanted her gone – there must have been something going on there. Along those lines, Baylor has Josh on the other tribe so post-merge an aligning of the Best Looking Couple Ever, the Texas ladies and the Broadway Boys would be formidable. And last, Dale doesn’t seem like much of a threat, but Kelley could have been. She showed some game skills by removing her dad from the rice argument before it blew up. She got it, and that could be dangerous – especially in a season like this where there seem to be few who really do get it.

Now, about the rice. Hunaphu has been so dominant this season, but as we learned this week it is a bit of an inflated dominance. Unlike past seasons where one team owned the other (with Fiji being the exception due to the inane haves vs. have nots that season), this season it seems primarily due to the horrible food rationing plans at Hunaphu. It seems they forgot that this game lasts 39 days. They whipped through their rice faster than The Specialist whipped through scoops of the crispy. They might has well have had Brandon Hantz on their team dumping out the rice. Same difference except Hunaphu won all of their challenges on full bellies. Coyopa rationed properly and got their ass kicked as a result.

When Missy got flipped over to Coyopa, we see exactly why this happened. Dale had been rationing the food properly and the tribe was set up to last a while as a result. Instead, Grasshopper Missy comes and eats up all of Dale the Ant’s food. On Hunaphu, they suck it up and beg Probst for more food. Our good host eats this up like Hunaphu eats their rations. He tells them that it will cost them dearly since they have enjoyed a rather unfair advantage thus far. It sucks especially that Missy and the other old Hunaphu will not suffer any consequences for this action, while the former Coyopans that got flipped now get punished on top of their ass kicking.

I don’t know what the damage will be, but I hope Probst takes it out on all of the former Hunaphu tribe. I thought he was going to extract the price right then and there – some rice in exchange for the immunity idol. Their price should be a member of the tribe – that seems to be the only fair cost for all of Coyopa’s visits to Tribal Council. We shall soon see what happens.

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Ep 4 – Hubris Joins The Tribe

Forget the Rocker madness…this one rocked.

I’m going to delay mentioning the name of the ousted Survivor so those on my Facebook feed don’t get spoiled until they click the link. So, what’s going on? The Royals are in the World Series. There’s an epidemic in Africa. Prince is hosting SNL. There’s a new version of “Twin Peaks” being made. There’s war in the Middle East and Russia is being a major concern. So, instead of being closer to the 2015 in “Back to The Future” we are actually closer to the 1985 in “Back to the Future.” Heavy.

Ok, back to Survivor.

Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, NEVER throw a challenge in Survivor. Did I say never? Because…never. It never works out. Never. Never ever. I think I’ve made the point. Drew failed to understand this Survivor curse, probably because he was not a fan and was recruited to be on the show. It was just the first of many stunningly horrible Drew moments from this episode. Well, not the first. For that, we need to remember the Saga of the Flint.

Remember way back in Episode II: Revenge of the Flint? (I know, mixed Star Wars metaphor, just roll with me). So, Hunaphu lost their flint and tried to bargain with Probst. Badly. When it all shook out, they gave up a fishing gear reward – one that went to Coyopa last week – and got a new flint. Well, low and behold, Natalie was cleaning up around the fire and found the old flint! So, they now have two of them, with one of them brand-spanking new.

So, most of the tribe was chalking this up to bad luck. Not Drew. His brilliant idea…see if Probst takes returns. After all, it was never used. Everyone who has ever watched this show knows that there was no chance in hell that Probst would trade them anything for the returned flint. But Drew tried. Half the fishing gear? A snorkel? Anything? Probst messed with them for a moment but made it clear…ain’t happening. The fact that Drew even thought this was possible was stupid at best and arrogant at worst.

Actually, no. It was something else. And his subsequent volunteering to go to Exile with his buddy’s wife so he could hit on her…er…check out her ass (he did)…er…keep an eye on her, proved this was something else. While on Exile with Jaclyn, she said that Alec has been talking about his ability to pick up women in bars without even trying. The smart move would be to downplay it. Instead, he said, “Yeah, it’s a curse.”

The flint dealing. The ladies man bragging. And later the inexplicable quest to oust Kelley shows one thing – this is a dude who is used to getting everything he wants because of his looks and charm. And thus has a hyperactive ego. This man is an ego with a hairdo. That’s what this whole episode was – Drew’s ego shining for all to see.

And with hubris always comes the fall.

Top Chef: Boston – Ep 1 – Sudden Death Quickfire Is Now A Thing

Welcome back, Chef fans. I’m sorry I chose to pass on Top Chef: Duels. There are only just so many Top Chef shows that I can recap. It makes me hungry every time. I’m trying to stay somewhat in shape, Bravo. Stop tempting me with delicious treats! That’s one reason. Another is that I can only come up with so many jokes about kale.

But here we are for another season. Food & Wine Magazine spread. Aspen. $125,000. And the title. Of Top Chef. Boom! We are in Boston. Home of every sports team I despise. I look forward to a lot of clams and beans this season. I would very much like to see the characters from “Good Will Hunting” show up. And not just because that would be funny. It would mean Robin Williams was still on this Earth.

We jump right into the action with a Quickfire. Padma is there as usual. And, yes, Padma is still stunning. And now 100% fewer Gere’s involved. Joining the Lady of the Quickfire is former Top Chef Winner Richard Blais – one of my favorite Top Chef contestants ever. I ate at his burger place in Atlanta. Amazing.

They go around the room and introduce about half of the contestants. I have a hard time keeping up with the names. We have the kosher Mexican-Japanese chef – who I instantly want to root for because…KOSHER MEXICAN-JAPANESE! We have a Voltaggio apprentice. A big fat dude with personality. A vegan disciple of Masters winner Floyd. A blonde woman who won some made up best chef award. Mike Isabella’s apprentice from DC. And a giant afro.

The new twist on this, and several other Quickfires this season, is that the loser is marked for elimination (TM Amazing Race Season 10). That chef then challenges another to a cook off, if he/she wins then they are ok and no harm done. If they lose, they are out. So, one of these chefs is getting the boot right off the bat. Ouch. The challenge? The World Famous, Often Imitated, Never Duplicated, Mise En Place Relay Race. Take apart three Lab-stahs (Good Boston?), shuck 20 oysters, filet a basket of mackerels, and take apart 21 little neck clams.

There are just too many new people here to keep track of, but we’ll see what we can do. Adam and Blondie battle over the lobsters on their team. Gregory, who makes me think of Carlton from the Fresh Prince, wants the mackerel, but so does DC George. I wonder if that becomes an issue? Volt apprentice Mei Lin smokes through the lobsters. Adam was super confident but he’s also horrible at it. He’s in last.

Afro lady, named Joy, has trouble with the oysters. She calls herself Shaky McGee. And so will I. Blais makes the obvious mackerel joke when BFG Ron smokes his way through them. Boston native Stacy has shucked thousands of clams in her career, so she’s fine. Kosher Mex Katsuji doesn’t know how to open the clams, so he repeatedly slams them on the counter and thus completely blows his team’s lead. They barely avoid last place. That belongs to DC George and Carlton’s team. DC George took the longest of them all while shucking the clams so he is in trouble. Isabella is preparing the jokes as we speak.

Survivor: San Juan Del Sur – Ep 3 – Rocked Like A Hurricane

And the Great John Rocker Experiment comes to an end. Interestingly enough, the former ball player gets the boot at the exact same point in the game that former coach Jimmy Johnson got tossed. There were completely different reasons, of course, but I am sure celebrity played a fairly large and undercover end part in the Rocker elimination.

Yes, Rocker had tons of baggage and his mouth got him in a lot of trouble in this episode. He also played a rather strange game of Survivor. He played like a guy who never watched the show before. And he hasn’t so that made sense. I will also say that his days were going to be numbered anyway. The rich, athletic guy who has the reputation of Rocker had little chance of lasting too long. Most of the recognizable stars to appear not the show – especially the athletes – don’t seem to do very well. Jeff Kent made the jury, but really didn’t play a very good game. He got kind of lucky that his tribe didn’t lose for a while. Cliff Robinson went out early. Brad Culpepper was a pariah on his tribe. Only Gary Hogeboom did fairly well, and even he was identified be someone on the tribe.

This is the antithesis of the former Survivor returnee factor – they usually do insanely well. Perhaps the Celebrity Survivor will take place someday – and if so, I think an athlete version may be interesting. Perhaps even with returning athletes – Kent, Rocker, Gary, Culpy, Cliff, even Crystal Cox and Jimmy Johnson can come back. What do you say, friends?

Well, in this case, Rocker was his own worst enemy. The worst move of all? Not the dust up with Namesake and The Last Twinnie. It was saying, out loud for his whole tribe to hear, that he was secretly trying to help Val in the previous Tribal Council. That was the worst move and the one that put him in Josh’s sights. He knew he couldn’t trust him. The madness at the Immunity Challenge where Rocker’s past caught up with him was the icing on the cake.

Rocker may have had a chance to save himself by proving to his tribe – many of whom seemed willing to defend him – that he was a changed man from the hotheaded creep who splashed the tabloid pages in the late 1990s. When The Last Twinnie baited him with his past, he could have shrugged and said something like – “You’re right, I was young, dumb and on steroids. But that was a long time ago. I’m not that guy. Ask Julie, she wouldn’t be in love with that guy. I’m now a different dude.”

Instead he said that if she were a man he would hit her in the face. Sigh. And then he added that the producers should clear away the challenge so they could all fight. Oh dear. He may be a giant person among these folks, but they chose not to have this guy around them anymore.

And anyway, it’s not as if they were lighting it up with him. They had one challenge win – by Wes in a duel – and Rocker was defeated by Other Jon and his own girlfriend in challenges. If they kept losing with him, it’s not as if they could do much worse without him.

Regardless, they need to get things changed right away. Will a Rocker-less tribe have more positive energy and enable them to turn things around? They had better hope so because barring a tribal shift (likely to take place in a BvW season), these remaining folks are doomed.

The previews could indicate that next week may end the one-sidedness of the season as Drew’s arrogance/laziness got teased a bit. Because we all know how reliable the teasers are regarding what will happen next.

Honestly, I had trouble with this column this week because…well…not much is happening. It’s been the Rocker Drama that’s been dominating this season so far, but now that is over. I am hoping it’s going to be like a couple of seasons ago when Shamar got all that attention and left after four episodes. After that, the season finally picked up and the real narrative began.

Maybe that will happen for this season on Wednesday. Many past seasons of Survivor have started out slowly with false narratives only to progress in outstanding ways. Others even did the reverse. Let’s see what happens this time around.

Our current situation – on Hunaphu, Namesake seems to have things under control. Drew is annoying them by not weaving palm fronds and taking naps. Namesake is predicting that Drew will quit the game. Oftentimes, the editors leave in lines like that for foreshadowing purposes…is this one of those times?

Meanwhile, on the tribe that can’t win, Josh is the man in control. What was interesting was that he not only stayed with Baylor and brought in Jaclyn, but that the young guys voted with him. Only Dale was left out of the plan. Does this mean that Josh, the dudes and the ladies are linked up? Welcome to a brand new alliance. Dale may be in a lot of trouble.

Anyway, I am ready for Season 29 to really start, guys. Let’s make it happen.

Treemail Top 10
1 – I know that Survivors get things like lip balm, tampons and sunscreen, but it seems that Dale didn’t get the message. No, it’s not his time of the month, did you see the top of his head? You can fry and egg on that.
2 – More interesting BvW dynamics – Wes didn’t think his dad could perform the Duel well. It involved balance and precision. He was wrong, as Keith did rather well, but he was right enough because he was able to defeat his dad and win his tribe some badly-needed fishing gear. And then these two men, who probably have never had a teary moment before in their lives, had one. And it was great to watch.
3 – Inappropriate Probstism Alert – “He’s gotta get that pole out!”
4 – More Survivor Magic – Is it Rudy/Hatch again? Let’s watch the Keith/Josh dynamic unfold over time. I think this season would be rather interesting if the boyfriends and the Bayou teamed up to go the distance.
5 – And if Keith has never seen any gay men in Louisiana…well, I don’t think he’s actually been to ALL of Louisiana.
6 – Namesake. Umm. I don’t think Rocker said “homosexual” stuff. He didn’t review “Guys and Dolls.” He said “homophobic” stuff. I’ll let out get away with this and assume it was just dehydration talking.
7 – Other Jon is goofy, but he’s been killing it in the challenges.
8 – Rocker said he regretted the comments he made in 1999. It’s hard to believe him if you’ve ever read his right-wing blogging or his Twitter feed.
9 – Jaclyn ain’t just hot – she’s got some one-liner talent – “Grow some balls and stop picking on me and Baylor.” Snerk.
10 – I completely, totally thought Rocker was playing that idol. I find it even more fulfilling that Rocker left this game with an idol in his pocket.

Votes – Rocker 5 (Wes, Alec, Josh, Jaclyn, Baylor), Baylor 2 (Rocker, Dale)

Next Week – Is Drew a badass or a moron? Let’s find out.

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