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.