January 13th, 2011
12:54 PM ET
Psychological strategy; justifiable eliminations; a rare glimpse of camaraderie among contestants? Now THAT’S an episode I can get excited about!
After my complaints last week about the All-Star format failing to live up to expectations, this week I saw things from a completely different angle (oh yeah, that’s a pun on the fishing theme of the episode; expect more).
There was no quickfire challenge this week; we waded immediately into the elimination challenge. The chefs had five hours to catch their own fish and then two hours to cook them for a beach party. This was done in teams of three. (I am VERY ready for the team challenges to be over, as are some of the contestants.)
Team 1: Carla, Dale, Tre
Team 2: Mike, Tiffany, Angelo
Team 3: Jamie, Tiffani, Antonia
Team 4: Fabio, Richard, Marcel
The threat of elimination had to be stressful. The fact that this was a double elimination could only increase that stress. And then add in the rule that the chefs could only cook what they actually caught. You’d think that would make this the most stressed-out challenge ever, but you would be completely wrong.
From the minute the chefs hit the fishing boats, it seemed like everyone was having a great time. The exuberance that was displayed with each catch reeled me in. (Should I apologize now?)
For those five hours on the boats, I’m sure people were worried about the competition, but it never seemed that way. They were colleagues, not competitors. People danced, cheered each other on, cracked jokes (some of which can’t be repeated here). It was one of the rare times that contestants on a competitive reality show seemed to all get along, and it was awesome to watch. If it turns out this was all an illusion manufactured by the producers, I fell for it hook, line and sinker (well, I did I warn you).
Once the cooking started, things got more serious. Team 1 cooked individual dishes, with Carla’s and Dale’s getting very positive reactions. Team 2 collaborated on two dishes. Team 3 went the individual route, with Tiffani’s and Jamie’s dishes looking particularly poor (and it was right here that I called one of the eliminations). And Team 4 decided to just make one dish.
If you’ve ever watched "Top Chef," you know that Judge Colicchio hates it when teams don’t make enough dishes. It doesn’t matter how complicated your dish is (and in this case, it was too complicated), going the “less is more” route hardly ever works. But Fabio, the human quote machine (is it just me, or is he trying way too hard at that this season?), raised an interesting point: if all of the team members have an equal hand in a single dish, how can the judges decide who should be eliminated?
When Team 4 ended up on the losing side of Judges’ Table, that was the argument that the guys presented, and the judges took the bait (don’t worry; that should be the last one).
Luckily, Team 3 was right there with them to take the fall. As it turns out, Antonia had what one judge thought was the best dish of the night, so you knew she was safe. But Jamie (FINALLY!) was booted for her watered down dish, and Tiffani was sent packing for her overly fishy blue fish.
What’s interesting is, Carla also cooked blue fish and ended up winning this challenge. During prep, Carla specifically mentioned wanting to be cautious about the fish’s blood line, which can be problematic in terms of taste. Of course, that’s exactly what Colicchio brought up as Tiffani was eliminated.
Jamie’s exit seems long overdue, and Tiffani’s elimination means that Season 1 is the first one to lose all of its representatives. With just 10 chefs remaining, it seems like the show is finally hitting its stride, which should bode especially well for next week’s eagerly anticipated challenge: Restaurant Wars! See you then.
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