The Oprah edition
With only three contestants left, episode 15 of Top Chef Seattle is a slow-moving beast that delves deeply into the personal lives, motivations and dreams of its remaining chefs. It's everything you ever wanted to know and more about Brooke, Sheldon and Josh, not to mention Emeril, Tom, Gail, Padma, guest judge Roy Choi and a team of bedraggled huskies. The only people who don't get to confess "Why I Joined the Food Industry" are the cameramen.
Top Chef, you never seem to mind throwing out an extra-long episode when necessary; how about an extra-short show? Why not make these final episodes an action-packed 15 minutes long? We're not watching Top Chef to find out what Chef A's mother cooked for her when she was 5. We want knives, gummy pasta, Padma choking on bones inadvertently left in a salmon fillet and, if we're lucky, blood gushing from a severed thumb.
The only people who don't get to confess "Why I Joined the Food Industry" are the cameramen.
Episode 15 tries to jack up the action with wonky transport. Like helicopters. Brooke is so so scared. "Flying in a helicopter is the epitome of all my fears combined," she says, crushing her face into Josh's porky bicep. But then she cracks her eyes open and the beauty of Alaska reaches to the bottom of her soul and she breaks through her fears.
Next comes a gratuitous dog sled ride. The helicopter drops the trio off at Point A, requiring them to ride a dog sled to Point B, where Padma and Tom stand waiting in the cold snow. Why didn't the helicopter drop them off at Point B? Because they need to show chained huskies growling, and Brooke couldn't have felt the 5-year-old child deep within her. Not making that up.
Then there is the baby. Josh's wife is in labor. We see repeated cellphone conversations in which Josh tells his wife he wishes he were there. Is it rude to ask why he isn't there? The show, ever cowardly, tiptoes around the topic by having Brooke ask him if he wants to leave, and having him say no. Hey, there is always Skype.
The show's Oprah-esque theme has the chefs cook the meal that represents why they got into cooking. Sheldon being from Hawaii makes fish. Brooke's mother made chicken so her theme is fowl. Josh being Josh does foie gras, because it's just so dang fancy. He does it three ways, one of which is a torchon. Tom Colicchio furrows his brow, trying to silently warn Josh this is a bad idea, but Josh does not read brow.
The judges cluck and murmur about Josh's bad torchon, and he is expelled. "Right now I have a bittersweet taste in my mouth," he says. Us, too, after finding out that the series' conclusion in LA will be stretched out over two episodes. Let us say it again: 15 minutes.