Hyphen TV: Never Went to Kindergarten

November 28, 2011

Even Ben Folds can't resist the pull of the Big Green

Hope that those of you in the US had a happy and delicious Thanksgiving! Though I imagine there aren't terribly many of you outside the US following this column, as you probably can't see most/any of these shows. Huh.

Holiday week means few new episodes of anything, but we did get a hearty helping of new Top Chef. Things got real Texan for the chefs this week, starting with a Quickfire in which they had to use peppers in their dishes. The inevitable wrench? The hotter the pepper, the more money you could make if you won. Nyesha, whom I apologize for not including in my round-ups previously, went for the habanero, a pepper on the higher end of spiciness (and cash). Since her mom is of Korean descent, she grew up with spicy flavors and felt confident going into the challenge. Ed also went habanero, though we didn't see much of him during the Quickfire.

Beverly went in a completely different direction with the Anaheim pepper, the second lowest in terms of spice/moolah. She wanted to make a refreshing dish with the raw pepper, and so she didn't want too much spice to overwhelm the uncooked snack. Paul, on the other hand, went way to the furthest extreme, choosing the infamous ghost pepper, the world's hottest pepper. It seemed like a kind of insane move, but I back it: the worst that can happen on a Quickfire is that you feel kind of ashamed; why not go for the ultimate reward? Paul was the only one who did (many other chefs also went with the hot habanero, definitely not a safe choice either).

Beverly landed in the bottom for "not doing enough" with her pepper. Correct me if I'm wrong, but one would think Top CHEF would be a cooking show? Therefore one would expect to have to cook to do well on it? Meanwhile, Paul's gamble paid off, literally: his chilled coconut soup with ghost pepper relish won the Quickfire, earning him $20K and immunity. I love seeing people with skills take risks and get rewarded! Go Paul!

The immunity challenge took on another Texan classic: the chili cook-off. The chefs were divided into teams (Beverly and Nyesha were together on the black team while Ed and Paul both landed on blue) and had all night long to cook some delicious pots of chili. Before we get to the results, there was an odd little moment before the judging when the exhausted chefs got to attend a rodeo (aside: I went to one for the first time a couple years ago, and lemme tell ya, it's kind of awesome. I highly recommend, even if you're a bit bull-riding, hog-tying -squeamish like me). At one point during the show, Beverly got teary, wishing that her husband could share the rodeo experience with her. Uh, Bev? I was with you on the quinceanera tears last week, but this is just sort of weird. Nyesha clearly agreed with me, awkwardly trying to comfort Beverly and then interviewing, "There's no crying in cooking." I wouldn't quite go that far, but I would suggest that there's probably no crying in ... rodeo viewership? I hope Beverly can pull it together before her emotional nature hurts her.

Nyesha: "Uh...huh."

Beverly was tested, along with Nyesha and teammate Richie, when their team landed in the bottom. The judges found their chili too sweet, saying it needed more heat and more focus. In a twist, all three chefs got a chance to cook again, tasked with remaking their failed chili into a successful dish. Beverly did well with her seared tuna, prompting the judges to call her very imaginative in fixing the dish's flaws and creating a new flavor profile. She was safe. Nyesha made a frito-crusted shrimp with salsa that the judges said needed more sauce and didn't go far enough in reworking the chili (she treated it as "an afterthought"). However, she made it through because Richie was eliminated. Close one, guys! Get focused and don't let me see you in the bottom again!!

You weren't really in this one, Ed, but here's a nice BBQ-in' shot.

On the finale of The Sing-Off, the Dartmouth Aires made it into the final two, but in the end, Pentatonix took home the top prize. Hey, guys? You'll always be #1 around here. Pentatonix was great, but the Aires were fun, and I appreciated that. Thanks for doin' me proud, Preston and the rest of the Dartmouth Aires!

The Walking Dead went out for its mid-season finale with a bang this week (it's already been said a million times, but THAT ENDING!). At the beginning of the episode, Glenn interrupted the relatively placid scene amongst his fellow survivors with the bomb that there are walkers locked away in the barn just yards away from their encampment. He can't lie, you guys!

This was followed by a couple stand-offs between Glenn and Maggie, who was angry that Glenn spilled the beans about her family's secret. First she refused to speak to Glenn at all, instead putting eggs in his hat and smashing them over his head (I cried foul at the waste of precious food, but then Glenn commented about the egg waste and I was assuaged), and later Glenn forced her to listen to him, telling her that he cares about her and is just looking out for her safety -- and having a bunch of walkers right on the property is hardly safe. Aww! Caring! The development of this sweet little romance is one of the highlights in the mostly clunky non-walker plotlines of this show.

And one last note before we break from the Dead until February: anyone else feel cringey whenever Hershel refers to Glenn as "the Asian boy?" I mean there's the obvious disdain and racism in not referring to him by his name and calling him a "boy," but something about it always rang extra weird to me. I realized this week that it's because I have never encountered an elderly Caucasian person who referred to Asians as "Asian" and not "Oriental," a term that is of course unacceptable now, but was the norm years ago when the 70+ set was young. I see now that that PC-ification of a very un-PC character actually made me almost as uncomfortable as the driving force behind his comment in the first place. Would I feel "better" if he said "that Oriental boy?" Not necessarily; I see why the writers perhaps didn't want to go so far in painting Hershel as racist. But from my own personal experience (and please, do chime in if I'm alone in encountering unenlightened elderly people), this was a small but visible off-note in what was mostly a nice episode of television.

And finally, while Survivor wasn't new this week, the recap episode revealed a couple blink-and-you-missed-them facts about Elyse: she claimed to Cochran that she wants to go to law school, and she never went to kindergarten. True? Does it even matter if either statement is? I'm just glad we got to spend a bit of time with Elyse before the finale. Hope that treehouse hotel place they send the eliminated contestants to was nice, E!


Dianne Choie


Dianne Choie's TV is in Brooklyn, NY. She has a cat, several reusable shopping bags, and other mildly annoying stereotypes of youngish people who live in Brooklyn.