Top Chef: "Farm Policy"
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Top Chef: "Farm Policy"

Note: Scott Tobias is out sick. Michaelangelo Matos is filling in for him tonight.

Tonight: 12 Angry Chefs! Well, that’s pretty much how “Farm Rules” was set up—and to a great degree, played out. That is, when the chefs weren’t practically jumping one another. “Tamesha is the only person I feel comfortable hanging out with,” says Angelo of his younger competitor, and as the last episode informed us, would-be paramour. “There’s a lot of inner passion… that I’d like to bring out.” I bet! Then there’s Ed and Tiffany, who have a very clear and comfortable chemistry, whereas Angelo (in this edit, at least) seems more on the make. Or maybe not: later, Tamesha defends Angelo’s behavior with a slight smirk: “For me, it works”—is she reciprocating? And isn’t Angelo married, with child?

We get our second indication that Angelo has played fields very different than those he and his fellow would-be Top Chefs will be cooking in when the short challenge is introduced: “For your Quickfire, you’ve got crabs.” Angelo, cringing: “Well, I had crabs.” You’re joking. Tamesha, on the other hand, has never picked them before: at one point, she was allergic to them. Timothy, on the other hand, lives in Baltimore, where crab is king, and smiles his Felix the Cat half-smile and nods sagely, “I pick crabs every Sunday,” as he calmly cleans 25 of them.

But Timothy doesn’t win this challenge—or any other, for the rest of the season, as it turns out. (Though he’s gracious in defeat: “I should have put some soy sauce in there.”) Ed wins the Quickfire, and between the gradual increase of camera time over the season’s arc to date and his bashful flirtation with Tiffany (think of the potentially levelheaded kids!), he’s starting to seem like a potential comer, though the fact that the runners-up were, again, Kenny and Angelo makes it more clearly obvious that along with Kelly, they’re the odds-on favorites for Final Three.

Then: chaos! It’s time for your challenge: for 40 local chefs, cook six dishes family-style. Proviso: “You won’t see your ingredients or cooking equipment until you get there.” And of course, the chefs have to decide who does what themselves. Naturally, this is where Angelo and Kenny butt heads—and Bravo, never missing a trick, asks us to text our answer to the question, “Who is the bigger alpha male?” Just like the house itself, except by a smaller margin, the people voted Kenny. And what does Mr. Daddy Love Shtick or whatever the hell his housemates called him during this week’s Top Chef Interstitial Love Jam (pointedly not featuring Angelo) opt to do with his rather easily conferred power? Yep: Everyone gets to work with the same people they worked with on the last challenge. If Kenny, as is pointed out during the ILJ, bears a resemblance to Isaac Hayes, this is the part of the show where he unveiled that love-beads-era favorite, “Do Your Thing.”

The challenge turns out to be on a farm during a cold day, the perfect opportunity for things to go wrong. Kelly at one point literally has no vegetables to work with, and has to negotiate with Timothy for some. Kevin is so plainly disoriented that his partner Kenny just calmly explains what and how the two of them will do what they do. Then, when Kevin’s couscous is accidentally dumped on the ground (Angelo less-than-helpfully attempts to convince them to pick it up and re-use it), he’s forced to try the recipe with cauliflower, something he’s never done before. Angelo, meanwhile, prepares a duck. “It’s so sexy… I basically made love to that duck, to be honest with you.” (Save it for Tamesha, please.) Kelly, too, winds up being so composed—and so ahead—that she prepares a strawberry dessert, even if she knows that “doing an extra dish sometimes gets you sent home on Top Chef.”

That doesn’t happen this time: Kelly and Andrea are two of the four finalists, along with Kevin and Kenny. The judges are effusive: Kevin’s cauliflower couscous was “done perfectly,” and Padma is especially praiseworthy of Kenny’s spicy eggplant curry—no small thing, as Tom points out. Kenny is the victor, and his sigh of relief is deep and felt. This looks more and more like his game to lose, especially if Angelo doesn’t succumb to his own temperament.

On the losing side, it was obvious pretty much from the beginning that this would be Timothy’s last round. When Tiffany indicates that she’s ready to throw him under the bus, it’s all but finished. Stephen’s salad is a disaster (“Overthought and overdressed”), and Amanda calls her soup minestrone, but neglects to either cut the vegetables uniformly (the carrots are too big, and undercooked) or include pasta. Nevertheless, Timothy’s turnips and asparagus “didn’t register with any of us,” the judges demur. “Keep the love train rolling,” he says to… Angelo? Hmmm. Nevertheless, he goes out with a motto worth remembering: “Salt and pepper! Peace!” Classy guy.

Stray observations:

• I’m getting used to this ad-in-the-middle-of-the-quickfire thing. I guess.

• They’re still advertising The Last Airbender?

• Plugs for Toyota this week were even more gratuitous than usual. Shot of symbol on steering wheel! Timothy uttering “The Toyota Mobile Pantry was off the hook!”

• And of course, my thanks to Scott Tobias for letting me fill in this week. He should be back next week, just in time for something that looks even more internecine-warfare-ish than this one.

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