Top Chef: All-Stars S01E15: The Endless Finale Of Our Discontent

Wait, I thought last week was going to be the finale. Admittedly, I wasn’t here last week, so I was clearly PLAYING WITH FIRE! (That’s a reasonable and not-overly-melodramatic way to describe being out of town the week you are supposed to to write a recap for a reality show spin-off season finale on basic cable for a mid-size pop-culture website, right?) But so last week wasn’t the finale, even though the four finalists were in the Bahamas. (R.I.P. Tiffany! Yours was a flame that burned too bright but did not cook well enough. How’s heaven?! Great, right?!) Something about conch and sand and eating on the beach. Richard made noodles out of potato. Mike won everything. Stupid Mike. I mean, good for you, buddy, but also Mike needs to stop (and this carries into this week’s episode) talking so much about how hard he is trying. He pulled that shit on his original season, too. Mike, who do you think ISN’T trying on this show? Everyone is trying! Richard Blais’s head is practically falling off the bone, that is how hard he is trying. Just because you want to win, that doesn’t earn you extra credit (and also, again, EVERYONE WANTS TO WIN!) Just so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, though, can we talk about hilarious it was last week when Richard was like “the conch were a little deeper than I can swim,” and then they show him swimming and the conch is seriously in, like, four feet of water? Haha. COME ON, FRODO! ONE CONCH TO RULE YOU ALL.

But, so, if last week’s episode wasn’t the finale, then surely this week’s episode is the finale, right?

NOPE! This week we are competing to see which final TWO will go on to the real finale. Ugh. How man finales does this show think it has earned? As far as I am concerned, it has earned the standard ONE finale. At one point, Richard points out that this is only the third time in herstory that the Top Chef finale has only been two chefs, “so the gravity of the situation cannot be overestimated or downplayed.” Hahahaha. Take it easy, princess. I’m not sure you can ever talk about the “gravity” of ANYTHING on this show, much less something that’s already happened TWICE before. “It is only every other season of Top Chef in which chefs have to taste olive oil with a blindfold on, so there is no way to express the historic significance of this incredible moment.” No. Anyway.

Quickfire Challenge: they have 10 minutes to overcook Wolfgang Puck a new face to replace his currently overcooked face. Just kidding! Let’s get off Wolfgang Puck faces because I just got off yours his? That did NOT go the way I had hoped. Seriously, though, the whole episode, every time Wolfgang Puck talks, all I can think about is:

The chefs assign each other challenging Quickfires from seasons past. So, Antonia can only used canned goods. Richard has to cook hot dogs. Mike only gets one pot. Cook cook cook. This ought to be easy enough, surely the show isn’t going to surprise them with any last minute twists, that would be crazy, oh my god, you guys will never guess what just happened and right after I said the thing about no surprises! There’s a surprise! Padma makes them pick crazy twists from previous seasons. OK! We get it! This show has been on forever! Now Richard has to cook with one arm, and Mike can’t use utensils, and Antonia is hog-tied to Carla. Cook cook cook. Complain complain complain. Everyone complains so much you would think this was Top Complain. (In their defense, if I was on this show I would be actually for real DEAD and BURIED IN THE GROUND from TOO MUCH COMPLAINING, so I have some sympathy. But not very much. Sympathy isn’t my job!)

Wolfgang Puck thinks Antonia’s peanut butter soup looks and sounds disgusting has a lot of flavor but is too condensed. He tells Richard that he could serve his hot dogs to his children, but he kind of says it like the way you say you could feed something to your dogs. He also says “you could even call this a sandwich if you wanted.” Wait, is Wolfgang trying to fuck Richard? Because these are some pro-caliber J-Dog level negs he is dropping. He loves Mike’s pork shoulder. Mike wins. He tells Wolfgang that he’s trying very hard. Richard’s head falls off. He puts it back on, but who knows how long it will stay there. It’s definitely crooked and slipping.

For the Elimination Challenge, each chef is paired with an ACTUAL chef and tasked with preparing their “last supper.” They have done this kind of thing before (and at the Judges Table there is even a woman who has written a book about it) and I think it’s a really interesting idea, but also almost hilariously morbid? Like, if you’re going to do this, let’s really DO IT. The guest chefs should have to explain how they think they are going to die, and the circumstances in which they are allowed this one final delicious feast before having to meet their makers. Anyway, because Mike won the Quickfire, he gets to choose who is paired with whom. He places Richard with Wolfgang Puck, he takes Michelle Bernstein, and he gives Antonia to Morimoto. His thinking is that Morimoto will be the hardest, and that will get “his cousin” (ugh, with this cousin BULLSHIT) eliminated so it will be him and Richard in the finale, because he wants to beat the best to prove he’s the best. I kind of get it. You could also just try and get Richard eliminated and then win the show? Because that’s how actual competition works? You will still have beaten Richard and also you don’t actually think that anyone is taking this show very seriously do you? But who am I to tell Mr. I’m Trying So Hard And Want To Win And No One Else Is Trying And They Don’t Want To Win how to compete?

Wolfgang Puck grew up in Austria, so he wants goulash with spaetzle and strudel for dessert. Michelle keeps talking about how she’s a Jewish-Latin, which is about as annoying as when Mike refers to Antonia as his cousin (read: VERY annoying), so she wants fried chicken and biscuits because they didn’t have that when she was a kid (except they did have it, there is even a photo of her eating it). It’s kind of this weird thing of being over-proud of your heritage that you have to talk about it CONSTANTLY, but also turning your back on your heritage? Get it together, Michelle. Morimoto wants perfect rice, pickles, and sashimi. Eek! I’m sorry, Antonia. Goodbye! Better luck on Top Chef: All-Stars: All-Stars! (Although, before you go, you might want to call the editors and have them redo this whole episode so that whenever you talk about Morimoto it doesn’t come off as vaguely racist? Like, it’s fine that he looks scary, but why do you have to keep saying he looks “scary, like a Japanese warrior,” whatever that even means?)

Padma shows them an envelope.

Don’t worry about it, I’m sure it’s nothing.

Cook cook cook.

Richard is trying to prepare his food the way he thinks Wolfgang wants it. This is his last supper after all. (At the end of the meal, Wolfgang Puck lays himself down on a tanning bed for his Last Tan and the whole thing is buried in the ocean off the coast of Corsica like a disabled subway car.) Antonia is doing her best to cook Morimoto’s food the way she thinks he would want it, but she’s going to fail. It’s not her fault! But she is! Mike, meanwhile, was asked to make fired chicken and biscuits, so he’s “not making biscuits.” Huh? WHY DON’T YOU JUST MAKE BISCUITS, YOU BITCH! He makes empanadas with eggs in them. Oh good grief. If I asked for biscuits for my last supper and Mike, with his Tex Avery eyes, made goddamned empanadas with eggs in them, I would be like “pull up a chair and grab yourself a plate, because this is the last supper for BOTH OF US.” He also sous-vides the chicken before breading and frying it, which everyone agrees is a weird way to do that. It’s almost as if Mike has no respect for the circle of life.

Cook cook cook.

HERE COMES THE CREAM! Wolfgang loves Richard’s food. He especially appreciates that Richard made his own spaetzle because spaetzle is so hard to make! Good job, Richard. Michelle says that Mike did NOT make what she asked him to make, but she likes that? Wait, what is even going on here? And Morimoto is just thoroughly unimpressed with Antonia’s food. Entirely. Like, he kind of looks like he might throw up, if throwing up didn’t mean having to commit honor suicide for having brought shame on his family? When the chefs come back out to Judges table he can barely contain his disgust when he says “it was interesting.” Ouch! Mike assures everyone at the table that he is trying very hard and that he wants to win. OH FOR GOODNESS SAKE, MIKE! Richard’s head rolls into Tom’s lap. Tom picks it up and sets it onto his finished plate, like a used napkin. “Richard, if this competition was about redemption for you, you are redeemed.” RICHARD MOVES ON TO THE FOURTH FINALE! Congratulations, Richard Blaizzzzzzz!

“Remember this?” Padma is holding up…what is that? Oh no! Her surprise envelope! I was sure that she had forgotten about it!

Mike and Antonia have to go back to the kitchen and prepare “one perfect bite,” and whoever wins will go on to the 19th round semi-finals to compete for six months to see who will turn the TV off. Cook cook cook. Antonia makes seared grouper in coconut lobster broth with a yam, apple & dill pollen relish. Mike makes tempura lobster over beef tartare with carmelized olives & chimichuri sauce. Everyone talks about how much they love Antonia’s dish which is why she…is going…home!

Wait, what? False drama. Split decision. Whatever. Sorry, Antonia. I honestly don’t think you could have beaten Mike or Richard in a mano-e-Antonia face/off. But I know you tried hard and wanted to win. At least I think you did? You never talked about it incessantly like your COUSIN. (Even Padma gets in on this. “You came here as competitors but you leave as cousins.” No! ENOUGH!) Goodbye, Antonia!

Next week: our long, national nightmare is over! I think?