The episode begins so peacefully, with the native fauna waking up, that we feel as if the Peer Gynt Suite ought to be playing, with the Discovery Channel logo in a corner of the screen. Travel with us as we observe the native species in their habitat. Look, there’s Eliada aboumradia doing yoga. And Spicea rackia and Josetta eberia talking in their beds about how they have to kick it up a notch.
Hush now. Be very still; make no sudden movements. There, sleeping the sleep of the beached, is Beerus bongius. What, we ask ourselves, is the meaning of those curious tattoos on his lardo-smooth biceps? Could they be dolphins? Has anyone told him that tribal tattoos on biceps are like, so gay, dude? Have you ever seen a less tribal specimen in your life? And why is he sleeping on the couch? And wait. What’s that whisper, that suggestion, that merest scrap of blue near his head? Why, it looks like a thong.
We are reminded that on his very first day in the “Top Chef” loft, Beer Bong let it be known that his “wife” had packed a pair of her “panties” in his luggage. Beer Bong now tells us that he is “hurtin’,” that he misses his wife, and that he needs “a new pair of panties.”
Leaving aside the question of how anyone, let alone a supposedly married straight man, could refer to a thong as panties, Miss XaXa plunges into the fray. Miss XaXa, having gimlet eyes and firsthand (firstcrack?) experience of thongs, immediately pounces: “That thing looks awfully small. Could it be that….?” She trails off, and her nose wrinkles with distaste, and her eyes widen with dawning horror. Her voice, when it returns, is an octave higher. “Could Beer Bong actually have married someone hot?” Is the situation for women in California’s Central Valley so dire that even hot women have to marry specimens like Beer Bong? “Couldn’t they start importing men from Alaska?” Miss XaXa asks. “Look at that crap show Anne Heche is on. Surely,” she concludes, “even in Stockton things can’t be that bad.”
We whip out Occam’s razor, test it for sharpness on one of Madame de Pompadour’s hairs, then use it to come up with another theory. Maybe Beer Bong isn’t married. We remember some chaps from our varsity days who had photos in their rooms of women who were supposedly their girlfriends from back home, but the photos were decoys, because in one instance the chap was gay, and in the other, too geeky to get a girlfriend. We are now convinced that this is a decoy thong. Call us doubting Thomases if you like but we won’t believe until we see a marriage certificate. (Also, notice how people who really are married, such as Carlos or Josie, aren't depicting lying around and moaning that they miss Chuck and Caitlin.)
The one who does act like Beer Bong’s wife is Madame de Pompadour, who takes a pair of tangerine flip flops and repeatedly bangs them together above Beer Bong’s head, telling him it’s time to wake up and go to work.
It was like watching a hybrid of “The Bird Cage” and “The Honeymooners” starring John Belushi and Liberace. We squinted at the television to make sure that Marcel wasn’t actually wearing a house coat, house slippers, and a headscarf. What did we tell you about Beer Bong being a great argument for gay marriage? At any rate, Miss XaXa agreed that Marcel's gag was the best use of the has-no-reason-to-exist monstrosity that is the flip flop since the days of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And oh the choice and delicious irony of the flip flop, emblem of the Dude, all that is wrong with American manhood, being used to torment its primary exponent.
Padma comes out to announce the Quickfire Challenge, which provides immunity for the winner, in the company of Chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques, A.O.C., and The Hungry Cat. Our “Lez is More”-dar immediately goes off. Now mind you, we aren’t saying that Chef Goin is actually a lesbian (we know she’s married to the beauteous Chef David Lentz of The Hungry Cat [we’d never make anything of the name, we swear]). It’s just that even Marcel looks butch standing next to Padma, and Suzanne is no exception. Let’s just say that she is lesbolicious and leave it at that. She was named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 1999 (in the same class as Rocco diSpirito), and in addition to attending Brown University and the London School of Economics, she worked at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Arpège in Paris, Olives in Boston and Campanile in Los Angeles. And she’s lovely and slender and has beautiful hair. And we wish we were lesbians. But we digress. Yet again.
Padma tells us that the Quickfire Challenge is about “attention to detail” and will involve the creation of an amuse-bouche. Padma, luv, if we may be so bold as to tap you on the shoulder….about that “attention to detail” business…first of all, it’s ah-MEWS-boosh (as in ah-MEWS-bee-yotch), not AH-moos-boosh. Oh, there, she said it again. Stop, stop, it’s hurting our ears. And second of all, since we’re paying attention to detail, what in fug’s name are you wearing? We were down with the whole slumming thing last week, but jeans yet again, and with a black suede vest that was stolen from John Stamos and the wardrobe department at “Full House”? Simply unacceptable.
Madame de Pompadour muses about an amuse-bouche (correctly pronounced) of oysters with apple jel-LEE (uh, we thought “jelly” was pronounced JEL-lee, and if he’s talking about gelée, it’s jel-AY, so, Mark Vines, what the hell are you talking about?).
The cheftestants set out to do the shopping for the challenge, but they don’t have far to go. The ingredients are in the room next door. In two vending machines! Mais non! Ce n'est pas possible! Is this supposed to give us the vapors?
Given the provenance of the ingredients, Beer Bong is singled out as the early favorite. As Cliff, our Valrhona Bear, puts it, “I’ve never seen a man put more crap into his body.” Well, Clifford, garbage in, garbage out, n'est-ce pas? Beer Bong himself wants “a frozen burrito and a pastrami sandwich, dude,” and proclaims a commitment to “keepin’ it Mike-style.” Madame de Pompadour observes with wry defeatism, “No oysters in the vending machines.” And Beer Bong, with no note of wryness but a symphony of defeatism, announces that he has reached a decision, “Screw this! Screw the Quickfire today.” Giving up, he buys Cheetos and Snickers, which we half suspect he is going to eat, as he did with the beer on last week's challenge.
It’s time for the preparation montage. We see Frankie the Bull in a BERET! Yo, Frankie! You forgettin’ your stereotypes or somethin’? Frankie, you are EYE-talian, and don’t you never forget it. Pepe le Pew wants his beret back; seems Che Guevara wants to borrow it.
Marcel tells us about making his amuse-bouche (correctly pronounced), and confesses that he prefers the “sweeter side” for the ah-mew-SAY. Um, Mark Vine, dude, seriously, don’t even like, try, to speak French. The plural of amuse, if you so choose to abbreviate amuse-bouches, would be "amuses" in any language, not "amusés."
Beer Bong makes a dish, a thing, consisting of a seemingly engorged Cheeto arcing from a round base of Snickers pieces. As our chulo chef Carlos puts it, “Mike’s Cheeto vending dish was the most phallic thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” And as we pointed out, Carlos knows from phallic.
As Marcel puts together his dish, the closed captioning service informs us that he is imitating the Muppet character Beaker, but we disagree. To us it sounds more like the Swedish Chef, or the faux French Valley Girl Chef. Ilan not only embodies, but also provides, a perfect definition of amuse-bouche: “An amuse-bouche is supposed to be something very small that you can just pop in your mouth or eat in one bite, that tickles your appetite.”
Spice Rack prepares a “fromage frittata chiffonade.” We wince and wrap our astrakhan coat more tightly around us, and our white Paraguayan parrot, Iphigénie, lets out a screech. Spice Rack, honey, neither you nor Mark Vine should tackle the furrin tongues. We, more than anyone, understand the temptation of alliteration, but really! Fromage is French, and it means “cheese.” Frittata is Italian, so why not say “a formaggio frittata”? You and Frankie the Bull are really doing your best for the Franco-Italian thing, aren’t you? (We won’t even get into the whole chiffonade thing.)
Elia has whipped up a chicken salad to be served on a mini-tostada made from a Dorito. A witty and smitten Chef Goin says to her, “You make a Dorito sound better with that accent.” Yet another pick-up line that is immediately going into our arsenal.
It’s time for the presentation of Beer Bong’s dish. Faced with a dish that looks like a sex-ed film on the dangers of syphilis, Chef Goin observes, with that quicksilver wit of hers, “You’ve got a playful presentation there.” “Yeah, it’s playful,” answers Clarence Thomas. No, wait, it’s Austin Powers. No, it's Bill Clinton. Ah, no, it’s Beer Bong. “Is it finger food?” she asks, clearly giving him the finger. Her sarcasm is like fleur de sel. Noting that it’s just Cheetos and Snickers, she delivers the coup de grâce. “It’s an ode to the ingredients,” she says as she twists the knife. And we are in love.
Carlos has made a mini loaf of cilantro, carrots, and sunflower seeds garnished with Squirt grapefruit soda and lime juice. Chef Goin pronounces it “nice and bright and clean, and tastes good.” Just like Carlos, purrs Miss XaXa.
Mia is another one who falls prey to the furrin tongue twister. She presents what she calls “la bocadita delicioso,” which she translates as “the little mouth.” Josette Eber, honey, we know that trying to hide weird things under a foreign name is a time-honored tradition, like hiding one’s peas under the mashed potatoes. But you’ve gotta be able to talk the talk. And let us tell you, “la bocadita delicioso” (we won’t even get into the whole subject and adjective gender agreement) does not mean “the delicious mouth.” Mouth is "boca," or, if you’re feeling cute, “boquita.” “Bocadito” means “morsel.” So, que tengas mejor suerte next time, Josette, delicious morsel that you are.
And she’s going to need all the luck she can get, as she is one of the bottom three. Joining her is—surprise, surprise—Beer Bong, whose fat carcass Chef Goin uses to make a chiffonade: “I get this vibe from you that you could not care less. And I feel like, you know, nobody kidnapped you to put you on this show to try to win against all these people who are trying really hard.”
Iphigénie falls off her perch in a dead faint and has to be revived with poire William. We, too, momentarily lose consciousness from sheer giddy joy. Did someone on television actually refrain from the stupid and illogical “could care less”? And did she just rip Beer Bong a new one? We decide right then and there to chain ourselves to the door at A.O.C. until Chef Goin declares that she believes in polyamory relationships and marries us.
The top three are Frank, Carlos and Ilan, whom she chastises because his dish is too sweet (the very problem with Marcel’s dish): “It’s like you guys have to walk past that pear nectar; you don’t need it in every dish.” Amen to that; the woman is a prophet as well as a goddess. She said what we’ve been longing to say for a good while (hey, Chef Ludovic Lefèvre, are you listening?). Our dreams of marriage are dashed. We’re just not worthy.