Monday, November 13, 2006

Episode Four, Part 2: Suffer the Little Children

Following the Quickfire Challenge, it’s time for the Elimination Challenge, or, as Padma puts it, “It’s time for the knife block.” We get the merest frisson from this, since, when Padma says it, it sounds like, “It’s time for the wrack” or “It’s time for the Iron Maiden.” In this case, it’s merely a sort of Russian roulette meets The Sword in the Stone, with cheftestants pulling knives from The Knife Block to sort out which of four teams—red, black, orange and white—they’ll be on.

The first bit of high-camp drama, as it were, is not long in coming, for the television gods have decreed that the black team (natch) should have Frankie the Bull, Spice Rack and Madame de Pompadour on it. No one is more faux-aghast than Madame de Pompadour, who sucks in his cheekbones for that extra drama drag queen touch, when he finds out that he is going to be “accompanied by my arch nemesis, Betty.” Earlier on, we predicted white-cat-stroking Blofeld moments to come, and we were not wrong.

Actually, we’re thrilled, as we don’t think we’ve heard “arch nemesis” bandied about since the days of Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter (we may have left off one or two husbands, but, after all, we’re not Debrett’s or the Almanach de Gotha, or even Us Weekly; you should be thankful we remember this many of her married names). Truthfully, we think it’s a shared honor, with Spice Rack qualifying for “nemesis” and Madame de Pompadour a shoo-in for “arch” (how could he lose, when his eyebrows manage to be both arched and arch?).

The Elimination Challenge is to create a meal consisting of an entrée, a side dish, and a dessert, with the entire deal not to exceed 500 calories. The meals will be served to kids at a “fitness” camp called Camp Glucose. First, we groan. We guess the term “fat camp” is out, but really, is Camp Glucose the best they could do? After all, real summer camps are supposed to have apocryphal, Indian-sounding names, something like, oh, dunno, say, Camp Weighalotta? And then we sigh in regret. Kids and weight-loss issues? Where’s Emily when you need her? Oh the episode that might’ve been!

And they’re off to plan their menus and do the shopping, and we steel ourselves for another box of lychees or six-pack of beer, but no such luck. Carlos and Cliff, Sam’s teammates on the orange team, are excited to have Sam’s expertise in managing his diabetes. They decide to serve turkey meatballs, roasted corn and smoothies. Mmmmm, Miss XaXa sighs,
this team is all smoothies.

The black team, led by a beret-ed Beretta, er, Frankie the Bull, is already engaging in a little Alexis v. Krystle hair-pulling. Spice Rack nixes the idea by Madame de Pompadour (or, given his uxorious behavior in the earlier part of the episode, should we start calling him Madame de Beer Bong?) to serve the kids asparagus stalks wrapped in prosciutto. We can’t believe our luck. Two phallic dishes in one episode! However, cannier, more PG-rated, and non-pompadoured heads prevail, and the team decides to serve pizza, berry skewers and crispy cookies.

Returning to the Kenmore Kitchen, the cheftestants are greeted by four nutritionists, who are there to supervise the recipes in order to ensure that the 500-calorie limit is enforced. Once the nutritionists sign off on the ingredients for the recipes, the cheftestants are not supposed to deviate from those approved recipes.

The food preparation montage takes us to the red team, captained by Josette Eber, along with Beer Bong and Tarte Titass. They plan to serve barbecued chicken, coleslaw, and chocolate fudge cake. Josette Eber feels a kinship with Beer Bong, since they are both from California’s Central Valley and were both in the bottom of the Quickfire Challenge, which makes them tenacious and dangerous. After all, she tells us, “there’s nothing more dangerous than an injured animal.”

And we know exactly what she means. We remember the look she gave Chef Suzanne Goin when she was placed in the bottom three for the Quickfire Challenge; it was the same look she gave Ilan when he won the snail & frog legs challenge from her, the look that says, "One day, you will wake up in your bed to find me barefoot in your darkened bedroom and ready to do you in, Deer Hunter-style."

She not only gives great looks; she gives great soundbite. Advising her team on the ingredients for their recipe, she admonishes them, “And no extra pinches to grow any inches.” Just the sort of thing you might hear in a late-night infomercial directed at men, or on a Chi-Chi LaRue set.

During Chef Colicchio’s inspection, he asks the white team—Josie, Ilan, and Elia—why they’re serving pie, and she replies, growing more adorable with every episode, “Becoz I lov pie. Me, I lov pie. I theenk I’m a beeg keed somehow, yeah.”

Turning to Carlos, our other Latin loved, Chef Colicchio asks about the wisdom of serving smoothies while other teams are offering chocolate cake, cookies and beeg keed pie. Carlos, of course, has an answer: “It’s about learning a lifestyle. They’re at a fitness camp and they have to learn to eat smoothies and stay away from the chocolate cake.” Hey, Carlos, papi, we thought it was a life, not a lifestyle, but leaving that aside, we love it that you’re trying to make us miss Emily just a little less. That’s telling ‘em!

Over on the black team, Spice Rack is losing her cookies. Using Splenda instead of sugar for her meringues wasn’t a good idea, as Marisa explains in some talking-head thing about molecular structure, blah, blah, blah. Spice Rack’s meringues are falling flat, and Madame de Pompadour finds it impossible to resist making a metaphor of the literal: “Betty’s dish is plummeting, it’s just failing; in other words, Betty’s failing.” Ooh ah.

But then we think about it a little more, and the audacity of it takes our breath away. What was that bit Marisa mentioned about molecular structure? And who is it who’s all into “avant-garde molecular gastronomy”? And whose hair lets you know right away that he knows plenty about meringues? So who would be the best person to advise Spice Rack about the plummeting meringues? Verry shneaky, Mishtah Blofeld.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

“I saw hands just randomly squeezing olive oil,” which actually sounds rather erotic and European art-film-like to us, like Last Year at Marienbad meets Mostly Martha..."

Ah, Mostly Martha. Such a wonderful movie in the original German. I dread the specter of seeing it Hollywoodized with Catherine Zeta-Jones as the lead. Sorry, but Martha needs to be plainly beautiful, not divinely beautiful. And who can top that heart stopping song by Paolo Conte, "Via Con Me,"which I will showcase on my blog soon.