Takashi and Patricia sweetness
Tragedy struck this week on So You Think You Can Dance's top six episode! But I'm getting ahead of myself. The dancers each performed thrice this week: once with an all-star, once solo, and one with one of their fellow semi-finalists. For his first performance, Cole did another Sonya routine with last year's winner Melanie. Since he's played so many sinister characters before, Sonya decided to show the softer side of Cole by positioning him as a man searching for freedom from a relationship that's holding him back. Mary said that Cole kept drawing her in and praised him for always commanding attention. Guest judge Christina Applegate called Cole and Melanie "beautifully androgynous" and remarked on the performance's "incredible oneness of humanity" (o...kay). She also mentioned that Cole's foot was "terrible" when he did his pirouette, but it doesn't matter because the performance was so strong overall (I guess I appreciate that kind of commentary on a very personality-driven show like this, but it's also like, really??). Nigel liked that Sonya showed the vulnerability behind Cole's "martial arts armor," adding that Cole was able to adapt his normal style well to sonya's vision.
Those are some sculpted bodies right there
Before we got to Cole's solo, we got another visit with his sweet mom Wanda. "When I watch Cole, I have so much emotion," she explained. "You have no idea what he's been through and it is his time!" Wanda then turned her attention directly to her son: "Hi Cole! Mom here! Go kick butt, son! You show 'em what you got because you are the best!" I MEAN! She's too cute to handle. Also cute was the sign she held in the audience that read "Go ninja Cole!" We got to see Cole's solo, which will look familiar to anyone who's seen his other solo pieces, but this one was performed while wearing red contacts. Spooky!
Okay this image is freaking me out...the eyes! THE EYES!
Quick Cole break to say that all-star Marko graced us with his presence in a lyrical jazz piece with Witney. We missed you, Marko! Loving the new shaved head look! Following the tradition of dancing at the altar, Marko played the loving guy to Witney's unsure girl. So great to see that guy and his big leaps again. Congrats, Marko!
Marko! Looking aerodynamic!
Back to Cole, whose last performance was a Mia contemporary piece with Eliana. They played a couple fighting with the physicality of rams, locking "horns" and ending with a silent scream that was just gut-wrenching. They got a standing ovation from the judges, who called them brilliant and emotional, capturing both the resistance and the pain of the piece while allowing the harsh movements to meld seamlessly together.
Eliana freaks out at the thought of Cole leaving the show
And yet! And yet. The voters threw the fewest number of votes Cole's way, which meant that he was sent home. Early on I thought Cole might have been too much of an oddball to do well with voters: his martial arts style felt like it could have easily made him an "Other" instead of unique, and his acting intensity once he made it past Vegas was, at least to me, a bit off-putting. But I was delighted to be proven wrong as he was showered with praise and safety nearly every week -- so delighted that I lost sight of the fact that he's still an atypical star on this sort of show, and so it was a bit of a shock when he was sent home. Cole, I know mama Wanda is proud of you, and so are we! Looking forward to seeing you in many cool places soon.
Ugh, MORE sad news on Top Chef Masters? Say it ain't so! This week the chefs competed in a series of head-to-head battles, which I always enjoy on this show. First they had to race to prep ingredients; they had to separate 18 eggs, grate a huge amount of parmesan cheese, and cut several portions of meat within a certain range of weight. It was the last count that tripped up some of the chefs, including Patricia, who was disqualified. Takashi then went up against Kerry (who said, "I'm up against the immunity king") in a quickfire where they had to use their prepped ingredients and be judged by the remaining three contestants. Although everyone, including Kerry, was impressed that Takashi could cook potatoes and eggplant so well in such a short amount of time, he lost to Kerry, who was safe from elimination.
Takashi always has time for fun, even during a speed grating
In honor of guest judge Sugar Ray Leonard, the other four chefs paired off to cook dishes with a mystery ingredient in a boxing ring. Chris went up first against Takashi, who did a little sparring before entering the ring. Aww. Their mystery ingredient was bacon, and though Takashi (half?-) jokingly asked for tuna instead, he did a little dance of joy when he found his beloved yuzu at his station (the guy loves that Japanese citrus). At one point Chris asked Takashi for an egg, which the latter granted, and then then Takashi realized that he was one piece of bacon short with one minute to go, Chris magnanimously handed over one of his own. C'mon, that's sweet. Though the judges liked Takashi's mushrooms and the combination of salty and sweet flavors, Chris took the win.
Put up those adorable dukes
Next up, "Pan-Asian Sensation" Patricia cooked against Lorena. Their mystery ingredient was also bacon, and Patricia played it cool and calm while Lorena dashed and clattered all over her station, even prompting Patricia to comment derisively on Lorena's loud, wild chopping. Patricia actually finished early, the first time in a long while I've seen something like that happen, and though the judges praised her calmness and her balance of flavors, Lorena edged her out.
So that meant my personal nightmare scenario, Patricia and Takashi battling it out int he bottom two. Their ingredient was chicken livers, and the judges had positive remarks for both: Patricia's dish was "clean and pure," while Takashi's was "very interesting" and "beautifully done." Patricia's livers were deemed superior, which meant that it was Takashi's turn to go. He expressed his shock at leaving and this thankfulness for the $20K he raised for the Red Cross's efforts in Japan (where all of Takashi's family lives), and I loved Chris's comment about his fellow contestant in the flurry of good-byes: "How is a guy coming from Japan cooking better French food than the Frenchies?" May you get your own cooking/adventure show, Takashi! You'll be terribly missed.
Note that the happiest, proudest person in this photo is the loser
Ven continued what I've been seeing as a downward spiral on Project Runway this week as a weak link in another group challenge. He was teamed up with Melissa and Fabio to first sell t-shirts on the street, then use their earnings to create a mini fall collection of two looks. At first Ven made a skirt that was signature Ven, with origami-like folds in a flower design. During his visit, Tim commented that he didn't think the skirt went with the rest of the collection, so Ven started over with a drapey, shapeless skirt that guest judge Anna Sui called "frumpy" and Heidi called her least favorite piece in the collection. "Where are you in all of this?" Michael asked during judging. "Normally you are like king of construction." Although their group made the most money on the street, their pieces looked the most inexpensive, which is always a serious issue on the runway. In the end Ven was safe, but I wonder how much longer he can continue that way now that the initial positive reception of his one look has dwindled.
That skirt is just WOOF
I haven't been covering the show MasterChef because, well, I've already got a lot of cooking shows with the Top Chef franchise alone. I was aware, however, of contestant Christine Ha, who is remarkable because she is completely blind. Christine made it to the semifinals of the show, and watching her in action is pretty amazing. The contestants' "mystery box" didn't contain an ingredient this week; instead they revealed cookbooks with a photo of each contestant on the cover representing what could happen if they win. When asked who she would dedicate her cookbook to, Christine explained that hers would be for her mother, who was a great cook and died when Christine was 14 without leaving any recipes behind. Christine has been trying to recreate her mother's dishes ever since. Sorry, I think someone was chopping some onions over here...
So each contestant was tasked with making a dish exemplary of one that would be in his or her cookbook, and Christine made a noodle stir fry with scallops that won her first place. When asked how she knows how much if each ingredient she's handling, she said that she just guesses and adjusts. Seriously, that is amazing. How does she not burn herself on the hot pots and pans? I have so many questions. As the winner, Christine got first choice of legs: chicken, lamb, or frog. She went with the chicken and made a classic fried chicken with creamed kale. Although her kale was deemed too creamy and her competitors questioned the simplicity of her dish, Christine did well enough to make it to the finale with Josh. I honestly don't understand how she performs so incredibly well, and now I'm regretting not fitting in another cooking show either. We're rooting for you, Christine!
This is what inspiration looks like
Sullivan and Son almost seemed to be responding to my previous criticism that Ok-Cha's character is purely mean to Susan with no real emotion or joke besides the "Can you believe a mother said that to her daughter?" shock. This week Susan finally stood up to her tormentor, saying, "I want you to be a normal, supportive mom," to which Ok-Cha replied, "You mean a normal American mom," one who she sees as weak because she celebrates mediocrity and allows her children to feel proud for doing nothing. Later Susan confronted her mom again, and the latter said that her comments come from a place of love. "You're not fat because I call you fat. You're not stupid because I call you stupid." Ugh, this just felt like the broadest regurgitation of the whole tiger mom stereotype without any real motivation, depth, or relationship. I've said before that I'm pretty thrilled to see a multiracial family on primetime television, but I've been disappointed over and over with how bland and familiar and -- ironically? -- lazy it's been with the material it's given itself.
And finally, two late night appearances to check out: Kunal Nayyar made what I believe is his third appearance on Conan (the Big Bang Theory tapes in the same lot as Conan, so I guess it makes sense), and he discussed his new puppy, his character's upcoming love interest, and his body hair. Conservative columnist Reihan Salam was on the Colbert Report, and he got all the boos and jeering you'd expect a Republican to get on the set of a very liberal show during the DNC. I respect his willingness to walk right into his personal lion's den, but as I always wonder when someone so opposite from the show's ideals makes a visit: why?!
Just a couple of guys chattin' about puppy poo