Top Chef S09E03: Rattle And Huh (GOOD ONE, GABE!)

We finally have our 16 chefs. Uh, that is SO MANY chefs. How long has this show even been on already? Forever? It’s been on forever and we only have 100 forevers left to go. The one Asian lady who showed us her The Secret vision board last week has added a new item to her The Secret vision board, which is a print out that says “Congratulations to the new Top Chef, [Insert Asian Lady’s name here in about 10 weeks if she makes it that long, but that is how long it will take to reduce the number of contestants to a manageable and name-rememberable number].” Haha, good print out! It would genuinely be great if at the end of this show, whoever won just got a print out that they’d made themselves that said “Congratulations on winning, me.” (How come all of Asian lady’s print outs are so crumpled all the time? What is she doing with these print outs?!) She says that if she can envision it, she can make it happen. Again, not really sure how well you can win a cooking based reality TV show just by WILLING IT TO HAPPEN, but what the hell do I know about it. Everyone heads to the kitchen. It is time for our first Quickfire! Or fourth Quickfire depending on how you are even supposed to do the math of this endless season!

Normal b-roll. Classic Texas.

Padma (Hi, Padma!) welcomes the contestants and introduces their guest judge, Johnny Hernandez, who is a Texas chef “known for cooking a lot of wild game.” Oh, there is also a snakeaquarium filled with rattlesnakes, and each chef has a spooky looking Indiana Jones and the Crystal Snake box in front of him/her. These, we can assume, are filled with dangerous rattlesnakes that each contestant must kill by hand or be killed before preparing a rattlesnake dish. Someone actually groans “THIS SUCKS!” and for a split second we, the audience, are allowed the bright and hopeful feeling that maybe there really are live rattlesnakes in these boxes and maybe upwards of 6-10 of the chefs will either be killed instantly, or at least be forced to drop out of the competition due to snakebite. No such luck. Each box has a dead, skinned, and cleaned rattlesnake in it. Lame. You might as well place a spooky looking box in front of each contestant with a chicken sandwich inside. That is how exciting these goddamned boxes are.

Cook cook cook. Snakes snakes snakes. The winner will receive immunity AND $5000. I’m kind of annoyed that they’re already busting out the cash prizes. For what? No one is even any good yet. At least they don’t try and tie it into the theme like they did in Las Vegas. This isn’t a “high stakes” Quickfire. But they still should save the special prizes for later. What does it even mean at this point? Why am I so mad about this? YOU’RE DEVALUING THE SPECIAL PRIZES!

The losers are Paul, Bandana Face, and Nayesha. Tough luck, guys. It’s so crazy how they changed the rules at the last minute and anyone in the bottom of a Quickfire has to go home. So sad! Unfortunately, I am just kidding. No one goes home. They just don’t get THE SPECIAL PRIZES! (Still angry.) The winning dishes are Asian Lady, Dakota, and Sarah. But Dakota wins for her tempura rattlesnake. Congratulations, Dakota. That $5,000 is gonna buy a lot of Manic Panic and manga!

This week’s elimination challenge is a quinceanera, which Padma explains is “like a sweet 16 party.” Oh phew. At first I was like WHAT IN THE HELL IS THIS STRANGE FOREIGN CUSTOM?! WE MUST GO TO WAR WITH MEXICO! But now that I know it is “like a sweet 16 party,” I feel the sweet comfort of human relatability. I guess we really are all just lonely creatures trapped on a rock shuttling through space LOL. The chefs draw knives and split into two groups: the Green Team and the Pink Team. Huh. OK. Why green and pink? Nevermind who cares. We meet Blanco Flores, the birthday girl, whose full name is definitely appropriate to broadcast on national television, at which point you do have to stop and wonder if we are really going to bring CHILDREN into this mess, but the answer is yes. She will never forget the wonderful day she got to celebrate becoming a woman with Ty-lor Boring. (Real name of an actual contestant!) Edward, who is quiet this week but still somehow my least favorite, says that he doesn’t know who she is, maybe she’s a Mexican rockstar. Or she’s just a little girl, Edward. Blanco goes to both groups and explains what some of her favorite Mexican dishes are. And then all the chefs have a Mexican-off. There’s the one dude who was raised “between California and Mexico,” which kind of just sounds like he was raised “between upper and lower Mexico,” but whatever. I mean, in terms of cultural shock and difference, I’m sure there’s plenty of it between Mexico and California, but not as much of it as between, you know, Mexico and almost anywhere else. Then there’s the blonde lady who spent two years in Mexico. She says it as if she was learning how to cook down there, but I think what she was learning was how to get free drinks at the Senor Frogs foam party.

In some previous season, perhaps Top Chef: All-Stars, the producers had done away with the “thrilling” grocery shopping montage, but this season we are right back at it. They always make it seem like there’s some kind of genuine tension to the shopping, as if between the time limit and the limited budget someone gonna diiiiee. But no one dies. And everyone always leaves with plenty of groceries. And it’s still the same afternoon, it’s not 10 weeks later. So whatever. Although I guess this week’s shopping trip IS a little dramatic because Keith was in charge of buying the shrimp and he bought pre-cooked shrimp. This is where Keith first launches the “No One Told Me” defense. With every mistake that he makes, he is ready to let you know that no one told him it was a mistake. Well, OK, Keith, but also you are literally a big boy now. Keith seems like a very nice guy, and I’m very glad that cooking changed his life while he was in prison (probably the only thing I know about any of the people on this show at this point) but, you know, you’re not in prison anymore. Congrats. Now stop thinking everyone is going to hold your massive hands and guide you down the tortilla aisle. As far as buying pre-cooked shrimp is concerned, it seems less of a matter that no one told you that you shouldn’t buy pre-cooked shrimp as much as no one told you that you were ON A COOKING SHOW AND HAD TO COOK THE STUFF.

Cook cook cook. Quinceanera quinceanera quinceanera. It looks fun! What a wonderful and magical culture! (It does look fun. I just think it’s funny to make such a big deal out of what is, literally, a sweet 15 party.) The Asian Lady starts crying when she watches the little girl dancing with Tom her dad.

Eek. I told you we should not involve children in this. What a nightmare. The little girl rips everyone’s food a new one, which is perfect. Also, everyone keeps making fun of the giant tres leches cake because I guess it is sliding around a little bit, but it actually looks really beautiful, and tres leches is delicious, and the other team just made some bullshit Frosting Pile, so what even are the jokes? Enough with the jokes, comedians.

Ultimately, though, the Green Team wins and the Pink Team will be going to Judges’ Table. This is totally fine because who cares, but it is unfortunate that the situation provides such a golden opportunity for this dude to make this face:

Only four of the eight people on the Green Team are even up for elimination (Sarah, Keith, Ty-lor Boring, and Senora Frogs) and I could not even tell you who the other four people on the team were? Let’s kill some of these chefs! Everyone did something wrong. Ty-lor’s hush puppy things were too dry. Sarah something or other. Senora Frogs is a braggart who can’t even make the thing that was supposedly her favorite thing from her whole time in Mexico (BESIDES a daiquiri served in a conch shell). But obviously the real problem was Keith, who bought pre-cooked shrimp and then made enchiladas in flour tortillas rather than corn tortillas. When these issues come up, and Sarah talks about them, Keith says that she loves to throw people under the bus. How would you even know that, Keith? You have been on this show for 12 hours. There is literally no tension in this elimination because there is only one person who can go home. It is Keith. Tom says that it’s always hard to be the first one, which is probably true, except he’snot the first one? This show has been on for three weeks and we’ve already eliminated 13 people. In any case, goodbye, Keith.

It’s probably uncomfortable to be eliminated so quickly, but certainly no more uncomfortable than, you know, jail. I think you’ll be alright.