Friday, February 17, 2017

Top Chef - The Final Final Four

So, huh.  Brooke won Last Chance Kitchen and its possible that maybe the fact that they keep reminding us that Brooke and Kristen faced off in the finals after Kristen made it back from Last Chance Kitchen and won is a thing.  We had the quickfire which Brooke won.  And we had the elimination challenge where they had to make a margarita and Brooke won.  So obviously being eliminated got her back in the right mental space and ready for finals.  I appreciate what John was trying to do, honor the fact that they were in Mexico and include that.  As with everything, it's easy for me to nitpick from my couch, and if it had been more successful, this is the exact thing he would have been applauded for.  But.  Sometimes, when you are working too far outside your comfort zone and competing against those who are adding local twists to their own stuff, instead of trying to go all in on a cuisine that isn't their strength, well, it doesn't work quite as well.  We are down to the nitpickiest part of the competition.  
I also want to talk a little about the eliminated chef pairing.  This is one of those things that they do on these shows that is frustrating.  I understand it's a game show, and if you just wanted to cook food, you should go on "Iron Chef" or something.  But.  No one thinks that offering chefs the chance to have Katsuji, Sylva, Emily, or Casey help them is the same thing.  And I'm not suggesting that Katsuji did anything to harm John's chances.  
I think Katsuji was aware that he had nothing to gain in this challenge, and that looking like a team player on TV was to his advantage.  But let me go deeper in on the armchair psychology and suggest, based solely on highly edited TV footage that John fell into a trap.  He assumed Katsuji's lack of overt adversity meant Katsuji was cool.  Even going so far as to say, I'm sure you have no hard feelings.  Which in his head was probably clearing the air.  Instead it was him saying let's pretend we're all good, because I prefer that.  And yes, the small amount of time they had to gather up a shopping list was not really best spent trying to create a new working relationship but I can totally say I have been in this moment where someone who recognizes that there is a thing between us that they should address, but mostly thinks it's just a thing that happened that I should be fine with. But I'm standing there thinking in two days I get to hang out on the beach without this guy, I can make it two days, I can do anything for two days.  But then they want to talk about it, only not really.  So John says, in a tone that says of course you do, well that's how the game works and I'm sure you understand I have no hard feelings.  And Katsuji is then forced into a position of either outright lying - oh, it's all cool, wouldn't have it any other way - or doing what he did which was say, well, yes, I'm sure you have no hard feelings because you are still here.  
And then, John, still not fully processing the words that had been said to him, kept saying, see, Katsuji has been a great help.  Katsuji wants me to win. Now, I'm sure some of this was directed at Brooke, who had the unenviable task of assigned assistant chefs, knowing that Katsuji is a strong personality who doesn't always play with others, and that she could either assign him to someone who might then spend the whole challenge trying to tone Katsuji's ideas down or give him to John who may butt heads with him despite his assurances to the camera that he is a kinder, gentler John now.  I would have paired Katsuji with John too.  Because Katsuji and John were going to snipe at each other no matter what, at least this way everyone else could ignore them.  
And look, I think Katsuji was just as much in the wrong in the restaurant wars challenge, and think it's entirely fair that he went home, and obviously he could have come back via Last Chance Kitchen.  But, that doesn't mean that Katsuiji had to both help the chef he most butted heads with maybe make it to the finals.  And if he does, he doesn't have to pretend he doesn't resent their respective positions.  
So, I remain firmly team chef with an S name for the finals.  I am not sad to see John go.  I'm sure in his head he still thinks that saying Katsuji wants him to win was him being a bigger person and not him actually rubbing it in.  I like Brooke too and in the end Brooke, Sheldon, and Shirley have gotten the chance to get back to the finals (or in in Shirley's case) so the finals should make us all jealous that we can't share the food through the screen. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three Interesting Things

1. Sometimes I think spoiling the messaging of something turns it from fun into vegetables.  I mean I would rather eat delicious cake with carrots, than be offered a batch of carrots for dessert.  But I suppose now that "Dirty Dancing" is thirty we can talk about how the privilege and access to abortion aspects were central parts of the plot
2. This piece about how the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise has accidentally demonstrated structural racism is fascinating.  
3. And if you wanted to watch Oscar nominated "13th", but didn't have a Netflix subscription, they are making it available to non-subscribers. (Warning: Link eventually plays sound.) 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

7 Posts: Rewards and Signs in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Another aspect of the new and old friendships explored this season in "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is that it allowed the characters to grow in new ways. Darryl figured out how to bond with Nathaniel.  In Sunil, Paula found someone who saw how much of a helper she was in some of her other relationships. Heather, Valencia, and Rebecca bonded as single women.  But one thing that happens often in media, is that our character shows some growth and then the universe immediately rewards them.  Now in fiction this is kind of a shortcut, the uncaring hero rescues a cat and we all know that he isn't as uncaring as we thought.  The selfish heroine does something selfless, and we all see that she is grown.  Most audience members know that this is a storytelling shortcut, helping one person across the street does not earn you a job promotion.  
But, of course, Rebecca is not your average audience member.  So, she saw that when Paula's trip was in jeopardy now that she had kicked Scott out, Rebecca, swept in and decided to babysit for a weekend, despite her lack of experience. And she was doing pretty well, until she had to stalk Josh.  But even though Tommy was okay and home, Rebecca owned up to misplacing him and turned Josh away in favor of staying to help Paula when Josh realized that Rebecca was the soup fairy who had always cared about him. 
Now, Paula has always been biased about Josh, so she encouraged Rebecca to go after him.  
Love isn't a prize you get for being unselfish.  One of the things that Rebecca and Josh have struggled with is that they are looking for signs instead of looking within themselves.  Josh decided Rebecca being his soup fairy was a sign that she was his one true love and not a sign that she wanted him to get better.  Rebecca decided that Josh proposing was the universe telling her that she didn't have to work on herself but should go get married.  I'm a big believer in signs in fiction and in life.  But it's really easy to interpret the signs in the easy way, in the way that requires the least amount of introspection and work.  Being unselfish, much like relationships in general, is, more than a moment. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

7 Posts: The Nature of Friendship in Crazy Ex-Girfriend

This season "Crazy Ex Girlfriend" went deeper in on the nature of friendship. Part of that is Rebecca has now been there long enough that she has real friends in West Covina.  But we also got to spend more time with Heather, see more of White Josh and Hector, Father Brah, Darryl, and watch Valencia and Rebecca bond over the mutual ex-Josh-ness. We watched Paula bond with new law school friends, especially Sunil, and look at how that changed her relationship with Rebecca, and her husband.  

Some of this is of course because shaking up relationships makes for good TV, but ssh, no one wants to talk about that. (Well, except for the song they sing about the new guy.)  But also, this is very true, friendships go through phases where you spend so much more time with one person, and invariably that has to come at the expense of something or someone else.  Paula going to law school meant she needed friends who were going to law school.  Rebecca needed people who had time to sympathize about her being dumped.  Or just hang out and do single person things with.  

Rebecca and Paula had bonded hard and fast over Rebecca's pursuit of Josh and once that was on hold, it was natural that they would have to reconfigure.   

But the other thing that was apparent this season is that your friends are the ones that get you with all your flaws.  Not exactly a revelation, but they demonstrated it over and over as they tried to step up and step in and help their friends.  When Josh W. stepped in and tried to get Anna to look away from the amateur modeling at the club he was trying to help. Ultimately Anna and Josh were doomed as she began to realize that the refreshingly charming viewpoint Josh often brings to things, is also a lack of depth. Josh is a great guy, don't get me wrong.  Josh W. knew it was doomed, but figured he could maybe save Josh for one more night.  

So friends are the ones who even when they don't think you are making the best choices, try to save you from some of the fallout. 

Monday, February 13, 2017


[Quick programming note:I will get back to the 7 Posts about "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" tomorrow.]
I saw "Roe" at Arena Stage this weekend.  While I am familiar with the outcome of Roe v. Wade, and knew a little about the woman, who for the purposes of the case, was referred to as Jane Roe, but that was kind of it.  The play looks at Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the case, and Norma McCorvey, who was Roe. The pay used a very interactive form of telling these two stories, often directly addressing the audience, working to put the events in context of the era, and often addressing shifts in the information available about certain characters, and also trying to tell each person's story in a way that honored the ways they have chosen to share.  So, we mostly got information about Sarah's professional life, some personal details being revealed later, while Norma we got a lot of information about because she has shared a lot about herself, while Sarah's tried to focus more on the case. 
Norma's longtime partner Connie is also prominent in the play, as are some of the Operation Rescue folks who ended up converting Norma.  (Speaking to the interactivity, there was a moment when Flip comes onstage and thanks the audience for coming out today and asks if the folks in the back can here. Some of the folks in back said yes.  He thanked them.  And then one felt compelled to add, "I don't like what you're saying though." He smiled and thanked her for listening.)
It's a tough thing to try to create a play that accurately reflects the stories of two folks whose lives touched for a huge moment, but otherwise have been very different, and while Sarah remained steadfast on her view of the case and the law, Norma's ideas have changed.  The show is interesting, thought provoking, and the kind of thing folks were talking about in the bathroom line afterwords.