Film and TV

Top Chef: Texas Is Now Set in Canada, Because Why Not

This week's episode of Top Chef: Texas has left Texas entirely, never to return (at least for this season). It has, instead, gone to almost literally the polar opposite of Texas: British Columbia, Canada. On Top Chef: Texas. Which was funded with $400,000 of our tax dollars (much more if you count the tax dollars that Dallas, Austin and San Antonio spent on the show - bet the Houston CVB is feeling pretty pleased with itself right now for refusing to pay Bravo's fees).

If filming the last three episodes - the most important, arguably - of Top Chef: Texas in Canada is some kind of epic mindfuck, I would be almost impressed. That kind of long troll is rarely sighted in the wild. If, however, this was just a legitimate, non-satirical, deliberate choice on the part of the producers, I'm honestly baffled. Just smack my gob.

The contestants this week seem to feel the same way, as Paul notes: "I'm glad not to be in the heat [of Texas] anymore; I'm glad not to be in 115 degrees."

"But," he's quick to add, "I'm also not glad to be in 5 degrees, either." Paul and the other contestants have been assigned a first-round challenge that throws off their equilibrium even further: cooking a meal in a gondola (the enclosed ski lift-style pods that traverse the mountains, for those of us who don't go skiing very often). Because as if altitude sickness at 7,000 feet wasn't enough - and didn't contribute significantly enough to the sheer cooking challenges at that height - let's throw in motion sickness as well and really fuck over the contestants as much as possible this season. Forget the serious challenges of Top Chefs past, let's turn this into a Japanese game show.

So continuing in that completely glib vein, let's just talk about shallow and superficial things for the rest of the show. After all, that's as seriously as I can take Top Chef right now.

Lindsay can really rock a ski hat! She looks so cute that I want to make out with her! That professional athlete guest judge who has little-to-no connection with cooking is really pretty! Tom Colicchio's eyes are the color of fjordic pools of amethyst! OMG, y'all! The winner of this challenge doesn't have to cook in the next two challenges leading up to the finals so what's really the fucking point of the entire competition if one of the last three contestants is benched for the semi-finals for winning a cooking challenge SET IN A FUCKING GONDOLA? Lindsay wins, but who cares? Snow is falling on pretty buildings in pretty Canada land!

Wait, the guest judge for the next round is a Canadian gold medalist in skeleton? Skeletons aren't pretty - this is throwing me off. Also, I swear the show could be an easy 20 to 25 minutes long if they would remove every redundant establishing shot and duplicate angles of the exact same five seconds of a "tense" scene. But you can't sell as many commercials that way. Oh well! Let's watch the same repetitive shots over and over again of mountains and gondolas and sideways glances until I feel like I'm having a stroke!

After the commercial: Yes, arm the contestants with ice picks! I want to see some bloodshed. Forget carving your frozen peaches and fish out of blocks of ice like you're some monkeys, turn on your human masters and obliterate them, damn-dirty-apes-style! Sadly, none of this happens and we're instead treated to endless shots of these poor chefs whaling uselessly at blocks of ice for a good five minutes.

That's entertainment

The only good thing about this competition is seeing Paul step up and help both Sarah and Beverly get their ingredients out of the ice. Because, as he VOs to the camera, "This is about the food, not about how many blocks of ice you can crush." Paul gets it, Top Chef producers. Because he's a chef, and this is ostensibly a cooking show. He's probably as mortified to be monkeying around with giant ice blocks as I am to watch it happen.

"My only issue with the mango is that it was a little bit frozen," says Gail of Paul's otherwise impressive dish at the judging table. It looks like it's all he can do to not scream in her stupid face, "OH YOU THINK ASSHOLE?" What a stupid, stupid competition. Thankfully, he wins anyway and gets the second spot in Vancouver at the finals with Lindsey.

Side note: Are y'all seeing this bizarre Hughes Net commercial? At first I thought it was a commercial for Usenet - Usenet, of all things - and that sounded more plausible when they started talking about dial-up, but then I was like, Wait, what? This isn't 1996. People don't use either Usenet or dial-up anymore. What is going on? And then I saw it was a shitty commercial for some knockoff Internet service that looks about as shady as discount plastic surgery. I really hope some poor Top Chef fan/schmuck isn't suckered into buying that crap.

Meanwhile, back on the show, the circus continues: Sarah and Beverly are forced to navigate an obstacle course of cross-country skiing to a shooting range, then "shooting" their "food" (listed in target form on the range). They only have a few "bullets" and use them to grab targets like rabbit, beets, arctic char and cherries.

Beverly is stymied, however, by the lack of "traditionally Asian" ingredients like coconut milk and lemongrass in the pantry of the kitchen. "These are the ingredients I usually build upon," she VOs, but I don't feel sorry for her. A cooking competition should push you to be more creative and cook outside of your comfort zone. I do feel sorry that she had to effing cross-country ski to get this point, though.

"The first thing I noticed was flavor," says pretty professional athlete judge. "It was there right away. It just made me want another bite." GEE, REALLY. THAT DISH HAD FLAVOR. WHAT A MEANINGFUL CONTRIBUTION YOU'VE MADE TO THIS DIALOG. THANK YOU FOR THAT WELL-INFORMED AND INSIGHTFUL RESPONSE.

I get that not every second on the show can be gold, but we're getting to a point where about 99 percent of Top Chef is made up of bullshit like this.

In other bullshit moments, who else has noticed that Sheila D. from Louisville, Kentucky is consistently the "viewer who earned their favorite chef the most votes" week after week after week? And who else thinks that Sheila D. is actually Pretty Chris, a.k.a. Besh Stalker?

Back to the show, Beverly is booted once again. That's twice she's been eliminated now and faced double the rejection, which - if I were her - would make me want to curl up in a fetal position for the next two years. She takes it a lot better than I would in her shoes, saying in a moment of stunning self-awareness that she knows she's always been seen as one of the "weaker" contestants and is simply proud of herself for getting this far.

Aw, you're kind of a loon, Beverly, but you're all right by me.

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Katharine Shilcutt