*shoves fingers in mouth, bites down, stifles frustrated YAWWWRRRRPP so not to wake the baby from his nap*
We get it, Top Chef. While planning this season, you read The Hunger Games and caught up on a bunch of seasons of Survivor. Then you listened to Adele a lot and the album made you think of Project Runway, which made you all sad and bummed out and were like, “Remember how ProjRun used to do awesome unconventional challenges every once in awhile, like make an outfit out of newspaper or car upholstery or incontinence pads? What if we made EVERY challenge like that, just with food? And put our contestants in physical danger for no real reason? Oh my God, that would like, TOTALLY make ProjRun regret breaking up with us, Bravo! Then we’ll win all the Emmys!”
In other words, you’re just hate-f*&king with us now, aren’t you?
Welcome to Vancouver, fans of Top Chef Texas. The Final Four v.2.0 reunite in a scenic airport parking lot. Sarah has lost weight and gotten a much more flattering haircut. She has also possibly had time to watch some of the regular season and realize an attitude adjustment was in order, because she pledges to focus on being a “nice person.” Lindsay blinks blankly at the camera.
…is some kind of nonsense involving gondolas. The gondolas are freezing cold and rocky and sway-y and the chefs have 22 minutes to cook a dish while trying not to barf, basically, from either motion sickness or fear of heights. There’s also some stupid pointlessness involving a stop halfway up where they have to jump out and grab some mystery bottled ingredient to incorporate into their dish, and they have to choose it before the gondola moves away from the platform. The burners and surfaces are all at an angle and it’s a miracle nobody’s food ends up on the floor, and I’m wondering how much it costs to outfit a gondola with a kitchenette in the first place.
The guest judges are all Olympians, because this episode has a THEME and will NEVER LET YOU FORGET IT. Visit Vancouver! There are parking lots and gondolas.
Paul’s lamb and wasabi dish gets very little commentary, and Sarah’s chorizo with pickled gooseberries and prune juice (ew) also underwhelms. Beverly and Lindsay are the favorites, but alas for everybody’s favorite Manic Pixie Ninja Chef, Beverly went with a salmon tartare and Lindsay actually cooked the salmon. While Bev’s rocky mountain high knife skills get praise, there’s no way she’s beating someone who cooked fish perfectly on a damn high altitude bunsen burner and everyone knows it.
Lindsay is our first chef to score a spot in the final-finals. I know you’re all just thrilled for her, but hey! At least it means she goes away for the rest of this episode.
Everything — and I mean EVERYTHING, including cooking oils — has been frozen in gigantic blocks of ice. You can’t even readily identify the contents, which are also completely frozen, in a challenge that offers zero extra time to defrost anything. It’s absolutely the Cornucopia from The Hunger Games without, you know, the bloodshed. (Though I’m sure the producers were bummed nobody took themselves out with an ice pick.)
An unfair advantage becomes clear pretty quickly, as the ladies pick and hack and pound blindly on the ice with little to no success, while Paul can simply hurl the hunks to the ground and shatter them open. However, because he is Paul, who is awesome and kind, he immediately starts breaking the ice for his competitors, too. See, Paul has the CRAZY IDEA that he wants to win Top Chef by COOKING WINNING THINGS and not because he lucked out in some elaborate, poorly-thought-out twist of a challenge. (SARAHHHH.)
Despite Paul’s good sportsmanship, there’s really no suspense here. If you’ve seen a single preview or what’s-coming-up-later for this episode, you know there’s a skiing/shooting challenge still to come, and that Sarah and Beverly are the ones participating.
Paul’s king crab dish wins. Duh.
Sarah’s all, “But I made SOUP! You people love SOUP! NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE ANYMORE!”
…is so difficult and ridiculous that Sarah gives up on being nice to Beverly anymore, because who cares. Put on cross-country skis and make your way to a shooting range. The targets have all your potential ingredients on them, and you get 10 shots total. Hang on to your butts, because you’re gonna be falling on them. A lot.
There’s a weird pre-commercial edit that wants you to think Beverly shoots Sarah. SPOILER ALERT: She doesn’t. Despite having never skied OR fired a gun before, Beverly does okay for herself. She finishes first and ends up with arctic char, celery root, beets, truffle and fennel. She also maaaaaybe not-so-accidentally trips Sarah on the way back, and I applaud this.
Sarah is the one with shooting experience, so of course she sucks at it. She eventually manages to get rabbit, hazelnuts, cherries and cabbage.
They both head into the kitchen and Beverly gets in Sarah’s way by using a blender on her side of the kitchen — it’s not clear if Beverly’s outlet wasn’t working or if she couldn’t find it, or if she’s deliberately trying to be a pain in Sarah’s skiing-bruised ass. No matter what the reason: APPLAUSE.
Beverly is dismayed to find that the pantry is not at all Asian-ingredient friendly and she can’t cook with any of her preferred flavors — likely the ones she had in mind when selecting which target to shoot at, which seems like an unfair bummer. Sarah, on the other hand, is able to go with her Germanic-yet-standard-North-American-pantry-friendly heritage and makes a pretty darn satisfying-looking rabbit dish. Rabbit is actually one of the few meats I still have a bit of mental twitch about eating (along with tongue) but I sadly predict that Sarah is going to be the winner over Beverly’s slightly boring and anemic-looking dish. (She had truffles! And she hid them in a celery root puree! I have ice cube trays of non-truffled celery root puree that I made for my 8-month-old — it’s delicious but hardly groundbreaking.)
Gail thinks Sarah’s rabbit was a little tough, while Tom thinks Beverly overcooked the fish. Somewhere, Lindsay lunges at a camera and starts babbling about halibut, and bleeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Sarah wins and Beverly is sent packing, again.
So I think we can all agree Top Chef Texas is Paul’s to lose, right? He has the best challenge track record by far and the fewest appearances in the bottom three and/or general screw-ups. I’m a little worried his nerves, because I really don’t want to see another Richard-Blais-level EPIC CHOKE FAIL in the finale. For both his sake and because NO LINDSAY NO SARAH NO NO NO NO.