Otto the patriotic NeckerChef tells us that it’s going to come down to “who can improvise, adapt and overcome.” But Otto, what ever happened to “stay the course”?
Then the contestants are woken up at 4:30 a.m. in the way we would like to be woken up every morning: by a beefy, twinkly-eyed Tom Colicchio. The early bird catches the best fish, he tells them, and they’re off to the fish market. The ladies’ modesty is left undisturbed, but we do get to see Beer Bong’s wriggling chest. When Marcel prances around shirtless, we are so distracted looking for the Siamese cat we are now convinced he is hiding in his pompadour that we almost miss the fact that he has a soul patch on his chest to match the one on his chin.
Mia confesses that the stress and the sleeping in a strange bed has left her feeling queasy. Frankly, this is unworthy of our Josette Eber. No cowgirl worthy of the name would be put off by a strange bed. Calamity Jane and Diana Ross turn over in their grave and Beverly Hills mansioleum, respectively.
It’s now six a.m., and time for the quickfire challenge. Padma greets us at the American Fish and Seafood Co. And this is where things come to a screeching halt.
We now interrupt this regularly scheduled recap for a rant.
Padma is sporting an unflatteringly tight pink polo cum pirate-wench top, nondescript black tights, riding boots, and pigtails. The woman who posed in a silver lamé bikini on top of live lobsters is wearing pigtails and pirate gear to the fish market?!? After last episode’s fashion successes, this is simply unacceptable.
We would, of course, have been in heaven if she had worn marabou, silk jersey, and Louboutin slingbacks to the fish market, but we were expecting at least a repeat of the time, two years ago, when, sporting a “Gucci bag and her goggly Costume Nationale sunglasses,” she went with a reporter from the Observer to “Chinatown, in search of fish (she thinks nothing of swinging a great big bass near her flowery summer frock, but she is a little concerned that her heels - as high as the Empire State itself - will get all fishy).”
Forget for a moment that the British reporter actually meant the Empire State Building. Isn’t “Top Chef,” aren’t we, good enough to get at least a “flowery summer frock” and some bass-swinging? Badly done, Padma, badly done.
Oh, and the pigtails. For a second we thought we were looking at Marisa. (Seriously, Typhoid Marisa’s pernicious influence must be stopped, or next we’ll be seeing Tom Colicchio wearing pigtails; we’ll leave it to bloggers with PhotoShop skills to portray that horror). The cruel morning light reveals Padma’s gauchely done highlights and hair that looked encrusted with hair spray. We expected Oribe; you gave us Raggedy Anne. Raggaydy Andy Cohen, you have some 'splainin' to do.
We can hardly believe we’re saying this, but we are actually starting to miss Katie Lee Joel, even with her nonexistent upper lip and the painted whore of Babylon look befitting a shopgirl made good. Padma has a flat, affectless delivery, and this, too, seems like a betryal and a put-on. Consider this excerpt from the same Observer article:
"I'm getting into making pickles ," she says, super-animated (when the tape recorder is switched on, she swoops straight into voice-over mode; as soon as it is off, she immediately flicks out the light, and you are left feeling all chilly and resentful).Well, that’s exactly right. We are feeling all chilly and resentful. Where is the woman who played Sylk, diva rival to Mariah Carey, in Glitter? And where is the woman who starred in Boom, “a Bollywood thriller about three supermodels who steal diamonds belonging to Indian Mafiosi”? And, indeed, the woman who posed in a silver lamé bikini on top of live lobsters?
You may be trying to prove you’re intelligent and competent, but this isn’t the way to do it. Anyway, we thought you had resolved this issue for yourself. After all, you told the Observer, apropos of your marriage to world-famous novelist Salman Rushdie, “I'd be lying to you if I said that my new last name didn't resolve the issue of whether I am intelligent or not. I think that people assume that if someone of that calibre ...”
Aren’t we “Top Chef” viewers entitled to profit from having the issue resolved? We take back everything we said, Padma. Bring back “super-animated” and “flowery summer frocks” and silver lamé bikinis and supermodel hair. We want Sylk and Glitter and Boom in the kitchen. (Whom are we kidding? Silk, glitter and boom describe the entirety of our life’s ambitions.)
Rant over, we now return you to your regularly scheduled recap.
Padma announces to the assembled contestants (who, unlike her, seem to have had enough time to get their hair done), “Today’s challenge is about sushi.”
Priceless expression on Mia’s face, trying to keep the gorge down, an expression which the rewind button, a shaky hand and a digital camera don’t seem to be very good at capturing.
Beer Bong reaches for the top: “How am I going to stay in the middle on this one?”
Not content with her customary and apparently contagious pigtails, Tarte Titass is also wearing a pink baseball cap reading, “koukla.” Forever alert to punning opportunities, we do a little research and hit a gold mine. Koukla is the Greek word for “doll” and the name of a line of women’s clothing sold online and at Greek church fairs (Marisa is part Greek). Well, Marisa, doll, we never expected you to be reading Ms. magazine, so I suppose this doesn’t really come as a shock. Our one question: Bravo blurred your denim-ed derrière in the audition tape, presumably because it sported a label or logo, but didn’t blur the koukla cap. What gives?
After a little dry heaving, Mia tells us her first thought upon hearing about the sushi challenge, “H-E-double hockey sticks.” We find it delightful. Is it retro? Where does it come from? Can we get a linguist on the case?
Elia’s reaction is equally priceless: “I lov kook-eeng weeth feesh. I lov butt-cherrying feesh. I lov sweem-eeng weeth feesh. I lov eat-eeng them. I lov feesh.” What did we tell you? It’s definitely all about the feesh and lovs. Well, Elia, after this episode, we would advise you to be careful around Frankie the Bull, or you may be sweem-eeng weeth the feesh to your heart’s content.
So the challenge is to prepare sushi in 30 minutes for sushi chef Hiroshi Shima, who comes with his own translator (batteries not included). Our favorite part of the food-preparation montage is Mia talking to herself: “Come on, Gaines, get it together, girl.” Even we feel motivated by that. One question, though. According to her Bravo bio, Mia’s last name is Gaines-Alt, so why doesn’t she say, “Come on, Gaines-Alt, girl”? Inquiring minds want to know.
Despite our rant, there is one point during the judging when Padma’s icy demeanor is exquisitely deployed. Beer Bong, who at least is honest enough to declare himself “so out of my league,” has garnished his attempt at sushi with a “cornstarch slurry” (yet another fitting nickname for him). After tasting it, Padma’s only reaction is a straight-to-the-heart, cold-enough-to-keep-vodka-in, worthy-of-Helen-Mirren-playing-Queen-Elizabeth-II, “Thank you.” Brava, Padma, brava!
Then Chef Shima sexually harasses a clearly embarrassed and unprepared Padma by pushing in her mouth one of Mia’s curiously cigar-like handrolls. Verdict: “It wasn’t really appealing.” No shit, Shima. Watch your back. I don’t think Salman Rushdie will appreciate his wife’s being forced to fellate bad sushi. No wonder that “translator” of yours looks so much like a bodyguard.
Of Otto’s sushi, Chef Shima says that he is “very impressed with the way you rolled it.” Pardon us, but isn’t this a compliment that might be better and more accurately given to Beer Bong? Just saying.
Dear, culturally sensitive Otto is truly touched by this compliment. After all, he is but a mere “round-eye from Cleveland, Ohio.” As we will soon discover, Otto’s eyes may be round, but they’re also shifty. Anyway, we thought people from Ohio were called the Buckeyes, not the Round-eyes, but what do we know?
In the end, the winner is Cliff, with his Hubba Hubba, er, Hama Hama oysters with ginger, rice wine, soy, mango and jalapeño. Congratulations, Cliff. And may we say, you look very, very, very good in scrubs. Perhaps you can replace Isaiah Washington on “Grey’s Anatomy”?