Well, possums, it was bound to happen.
No, not because Army wife Lauren Starling Hope went into enemy territory overconfident, expecting to be greeted with flowers and a chef’s coat with her name embroidered on it. No, she went home because narrative expediency and historical precedent demanded it.
Of late on Top Chef, it seems as if the person with the most Lifetime TV-worthy narrative is the first one to be oh-so-sweetly pykagged. Last season, for example, the first victim was Nimma Osman, a young Muslim woman who worried her family wouldn’t exactly rejoice in her appearance on reality television and who showed up shy and wide-eyed in Chicago only to encounter presumably un-Quranic lesbians (gasp!) in a Pizzeria Uno.
To be sure, the mother (or should we say father?) of these Dickensian eliminations took place on Top Chef: Miami, when Clay Bowen—a sweet, wide-eyed, attendrissant rube of a lad from Mississippi who was determined to win Top Chef because his chef father had committed suicide after a lifetime of failure—was the first to go.
So of course it makes perfect sense that an Army wife (hello, Lifetime!) whose husband is stationed in Iraq—er, Eye-raq—and who went on Top Chef so as to have some respite from tying a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree should be the first to go. You can’t get a better narrative than that.
And yet there were extra fillips and flourishes of coincidence that served to reinforce the pitiless nature of narrative. Beneath the Quickfire Challenge's surface trope of little apple serving as gateway to the Big Apple, there was a darker, more poignant, symbolic undercurrent. After all, what cruel deity uses apples as the cannonballs of fate for an Army wife? For what could be more patriotic, more American (in an episode with overtones of America vs. the world) than apples, whether in a brunoise or made into a pie? (We don’t have the heart to chide Lauren, even gently, on her mispronunciation of “brunoise”; à quoi bon?). Let us not forget that though Lauren announced on the episode that she was from Savannah (which has its own appeal as making a Southerner the first person to be kicked off on each of the last three seasons), she is actually from Ohio, home of—you guessed it—Johnny Appleseed.
And need we mention—our eyes glittering with the mad fire of a homeless conspiracy theorist—that when Clay Bowen was kicked off in Miami, the Quickfire Challenge that proved the beginning of his undoing involved…an apple?! (Give us some time, possums, and we’ll do for apples what others have done for the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians and the Knights Templar.)
To make the elimination more wrenching, of course, of course it had to be a choice between Lauren and little Patrick, her long-lost, well, we were going to say pocketgay or twink, but Miss XaXa suggested we call him a country crock.
To our furrowed, questioning brow, she replied, “Cos don’t you just wanna spread ‘im on toast?”
How could we possibly answer that?
So, as we were saying, it was between Army Wife and TwinkleGay, that eternal, patriotic choice: For Queen or Country?
A dilemma made all the more poignant by their squealing reunion. Awww, we said to ourselves, trying to find hope in a post-Prop 8 world, the Army Wife has a Gay Friend—
“Uh,” Miss XaXa interrupted. “She does not have a gay friend. That little Patty Melt is definitely not her friend. Have you seen her publicity stills?”
We took a moment to do just that, and oh....
Lauren, hon, you may not have asked, but we have to tell.
Eeek! What were you thinking?
Well, at least you got your chef’s jacket, even if it doesn’t have your name on it.
You know, possum, a woman who loves gays and bacon can be forgiven many things, but this is beyond the Palin.
How could you have gone to that from this?
We understand that an Army wife’s duties include not sitting under the apple tree with anyone else but—oops, sorry about the apple mention—but this is not World War II. There is no call to play Betty Grable on the side of a bomber plane, and in camo at that.
And Patrick, possum, we will have stern words for you, young man. Gays don’t let friends dress drunk.