On Thanksgiving Eve and with turkey on the brain, Top Chef Seattle pulled off a cunning programming feat in episode 3 by staging a turkey duel, a battle of the turkeys, a turkey throwdown.
They also broke Top Chef precedent, not once but twice: first, by having judges Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse put on their chef's whites and step into the Top Chef kitchen. Second, they showed the judges actually judging.
Usually the producers are cagey, including just enough judge snippets to maintain suspense. But this time, we saw the judges on it, taking a vote, all in favor of the red team, say aye.
First came the quickfire challenge, dumplings from all over the world, from such far-flung places as Germany, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Germany. Returning contestant #1 Stefan, a native of Germany, snagged the dumplings of his home country, which seemed an unfair advantage until he didn't win.
Josie volunteered to cook the turkey because she had immunity. Then she royally screwed it up, and her bad turkey brought down the gray team.
Returning contestant #2 Josie won, and thereby gained immunity. Returning contestant #3, CJ, began his pattern of being an irritating doofus throughout the show by gushing over the Amazon devices they used to research dumplings.
"These things are kind of awesome," he said, obviously knowing that any contestant who fellates a sponsor gets rewarded with 10 seconds of screen time. Good for you, big ears.
On to Turkey Battle Royale. In this corner, Emeril's spicy Creole turkey. In that corner, Tom's old-school Eyetalian, which seemed to be "hide 50 sticks of butter under the skin." The prospect of working directly with Tom and Emeril prompted CJ to say the words "Holy fuckball," and presto, he got another 10 seconds on TV.
CJ led the Tom/red team. His primary task seemed to be congratulating himself for being such a great leader. The Emeril/gray team didn't have anyone that douchey, but Josie volunteered to cook the turkey because she had immunity. Then she royally screwed it up.
Excuses excuses: She didn't realize the oven was hot. No, it was that the turkey was too close to the heat. No, it was the thermostat. The result: an undercooked turkey that was pink inside.
Her bad turkey brought down the gray team, but given her immunity status, they couldn't send her home. So Kuniko got axed for undercooking the potato pave. On the winning red team, Italian firebrand Carla won for her carrot soup. The trouble-making camera cut to CJ's bitter face: what a sore loser.
The producers threw in a cliffhanger with action in the "stew room," where the cheftestants awaited their fate. John Tesar began talking about Emeril's New England roots and the camera cut to CJ and Josh Valentine, who were mocking him like two bratty teenagers.
After Kuniko left, it was sad faces all around, until Tesar had the nerve to suggest that cooking a potato is a basic skill. Oh, the outrage.
"Why do you say something like that right now," CJ said. "We know you have a lot of knowledge but, like, everything ends up being a lecture with you."
"You're full of shit right now," Tesar responded.