Monday, November 13, 2006

Episode Four, Part 3: Sugar and Spice Rack and Everything Not Nice

It’s the second day of the challenge, and we see Elia doing yoga yet again, this time to what the closed captioning tells us is “uplifting music.” This, as Elia lifts up her knee and arms. A visual pun, say you? Someone at the closed-captioning service is a regular Magritte.

Spice Rack comes out and starts distributing what she calls “morning kisses.” Miss XaXa says, “See? Told you she was Italian.” We don’t quite see this, but it’s certainly starting to look that way. Spice Rack even asks Madame de Pompadour, “Wanna morning kiss?”, the way you might ask a parrot, “Polly want a cracker?” Surprisingly, Polly does not refuse, and doesn’t even wipe his cheek afterward.

They’re back at the Kenmore Kitchen, and this time the nutritionists aren’t around, which, as Cliff puts it, makes one think that people are on the honor system. However, just as with thieves, there may be no honor among cheftestants. Sam tells us, “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, or, perhaps, to steal a joke from James Hamilton-Paterson’s Cooking with Fernet Branca, like a candle-lit scene from Under a Tuscan’s Son. And yet, the Bravo cameras are unable to show us “hands just randomly squeezing olive oil.” We occasionally see squeeze bottles of olive oil, but no one is handling them, so just how valid is Sam’s charge? We are distracted from pondering this by yet another scene from Under a Tuscan’s Son, in which we are treated to a completely gratuitous and suggestive shot of Ilan and a zucchini.

In what will prove a momentous decision, Spice Rack opts to change the recipe for her cookies, reducing the number of egg whites and using sugar instead of Splenda. She figures that this will keep her team under the 500-calorie limit while fixing her meringues. This, despite the fact that the cheftestants were told not to deviate from the recipe approved by the nutritionists. At last the prep work is done, and they head up the PCH, as we Californians refer to the Pacific Coast Highway, making their way to Malibu and Camp Glucose.

There, they encounter Padma, who clearly thinks she’s on “Grey’s Anatomy,” since she seems to be wearing sand-colored scrubs with those hideous flip flops, a tank top, and a necklace from the Tom Colicchio Collection (available on QVC and from the International Male catalogue). Tom himself looks relatively normal, but poor Gail looks bloated and unhappy in a jeans skirt, tank top, those damned flip flops, and very little make-up. We’re unhappy, too. We normally love her because she’s like the Tilda Swinton Snow Queen in the Narnia movie, but with a little cruet of maple syrup for good measure. But in that get-up and without her make-up and high heels, she looks reduced, stripped of her bolt-throwing, almond-eyed Canuck goddess majesty.

Padma tells the cheftestants that each team must provide a representative to “sell” the menu to the kids, and while they finish prepping the meals, she goes off to get the kids. This allows Padma to do her People’s Princess shtick again, suffering the little children to come unto her. She walks into the picnic-table area with the pack of teens and tots, as if she had just rescued them from the Pied Piper of Hamelin, one child on either side of her holding her hand. Camp Glucose? More like Camp Saccharine.

Our stainless steel, hazelnut-sized hearts do go out to the children, though. Not only do they have to suffer the slings and arrows that this too, too solid flesh is heir to, but they also have to endure the indignity of sporting pink tie-dyed t-shirts. Bravo, it’s bad enough being overweight without having to look like a Deadhead, too. We would advise Raggaydy Andy to at least get them Bravo t-shirts in slimming black for next time.

Josette Eber sends out Beer Bong to be the team’s salesman and representative, since, as she says, he’s a big kid at heart anyway. (We always ask ourselves why this is supposed to be a good thing.) We give her credit for a nifty bit of reverse psychology. After all, if you took a look at Beer Bong and asked yourself, “Would I buy diet food from this man?” you might not get all that positive an answer. But she was counting on the kids’ thinking, “Ok, he’s a chunko, and clearly loves his junk food, and he did say there’s chocolate cake, so maybe the food will be yummy and fattening. Let’s order it!”

But she didn’t count on the second part of that thought. “Oh, wait, this is going to be on tv, isn’t? And Mom and her gaggle of Juicy Couture-sweated divorcée pals watch Bravo. So how is it going to look in Brentwood and Sherman Oaks if I’m up here in Malibu at a fat camp taking chocolate cake from a fat guy on national television?” And that’s where you lost them, Mia. Only five kids ordered the red team’s meal, while 15 ordered the black team’s pizza.

The pizza and Sam are both hits. Clearly already practiced in the art of being a sassy fat sidekick that will serve her well should she fail to lose weight at Camp Glucose, one fierce teenage girl earns our devotion by saying to her own sassy fat sidekick, “I wanna go marry the hot diabetic over there.” Then all the cheftestants get to be heartwarming by playing soccer with the kids.

Back at the Judges’ Table, Chef Goin pronounces Elia’s cheesecake the best of all the dishes. We were, of course, duly confused, since Elia herself had referred to it as a pie, but it certainly looked like a cheesecake to us. At any rate, the Black Team with its pizza was declared the overall winner and Frankie the Bull the individual winner. What struck us about this was that, at least based on the editing, it looked as if the pizza idea had come from Spice Rack while at the supermarket and arguing against Madame de Pompadour’s asparagus, but she told the judges that it had been Frankie the Bull’s idea. Truth or sportsmanship, it was nice of her. For his pains, Frankie gets the opportunity to collaborate with Chef Goin on the menu for one of the renowned Sunday suppers at Lucques.

The teams on the hot seat, fittingly enough, were the red and orange. Sam threw out vague accusations about people having squeeze bottles of olive oil, but refused to name names because “I’m not that guy” and “I’m not going there.” Josette Eber had no such compunctions: “I’ll go there.” She called out Spice Rack and the cookies that had miraculously improved after the addition of sugar. (Of course, as Chef Colicchio points out on his blog, “others insisted they had seen Mia add sugar to her cole slaw.” Hmmmm. Curioser and curioser, Ms. Wounded Animal.)

After much yelling from the cheftestants and much throwing up of hands among the judges, it is decided that no one will go home this week, but that the cheftestants will all be on probation. What did we tell you about the “Project Runway”-fication of the show? Yes, this is quite the anticlimax, though it may pay off in an extra week of suspicion and drama, or perhaps a double elimination at some point. We believe that Splenda won’t give us cancer, and we believe the show will improve. Might we be delusional on both counts?


Anonymous said...

Fabulous post, Carlus. I just linked you to my blog.

No, I don't receive Pride and Prejudice spam. Interesting, heh?

Has someone got it IN for you? The plot thickens!

Anonymous said...

Just noticed that I spelled your name wrong. So sorry. Unlike Jane, I need spell check.

Jen said...

I'm so glad I found this blog. Your recaps are highly entertaining. I can't wait for tonight!