Top Chef Season 7, Episode 10: Alex Takes a Swan Dive; Tiffany Goes to Paris

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Wylie 'n' Padma, with Wylie looking wily.

I'd been at a birthday party at Momofuku just before Top Chef Season 7, Episode 10 aired. Knowing that I'd drawn the short straw and had to write about it, I cycled home in a lather, filled to the brim with fried chicken, corn salad, and pork-belly ssam. One of the topics of conversation at the party had been how no one watches Top Chef anymore, and it was the general consensus that the once-interesting show had become bogged down in predictability.

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Amanda: "I never used a ramp before."

To me certain tropes had become especially tedious: the way that, when a new judge is introduced, the camera cuts to talking heads of contestants extravagantly praising him, even though you can tell they'd never heard of the guy before. The redundancy of the slow-moving establishing shots, as contestants walk to their cars or back to their cramped but supposedly luxurious place of residence. The sprint through Whole Foods as if their asses were on fire, and the boring scenes wherein the remaining contestants shoot the shit while sitting in a circle on boxes, and the dialogue sounds as if it had been extracted from them with pliers.

There are seven characters left (Alex, Amanda, Angelo, Ed, Kelly, Kevin, and Tiffany) as Episode 10 commences with Amanda ostentatiously opening a bag of Seattle's Best coffee. Let the plugs begin! The cameras cut to the usual morning powwow in which the cheftestants immediately set in to bitching about Alex. "I'm not getting along with anyone in the kitchen," he ruefully observes, and not since Marcel have we seen someone so hated by the other contestants. The affair of the pea puree is brought up once again, but the main complaint, best annunciated by Kevin, is that Alex didn't really make the dish attributed to him in the last episode. A dense cloud is being dramatically unfurled over Alex's bald pate, and you wouldn't be out of line to detest such ham-fisted foreshadowing on the part of the producers.

Nevertheless, this evening's episode provides a few interesting features. The Quickfire was a mystery box affair, wherein a series of ingredients is carried into the kitchen in black boxes with big question marks emblazoned on one side. The guy who carries the box in is a dead ringer for the character called Killer in the sequel to The Matrix, a dumb gag that gets dumber each time it's pulled.

During this Quickfire, Angelo's confidence continues to sag, and we can hear the plot machinery creaking here. At one point he looks up and says, "I feel a bit lost," which presents quite a contrast to his braggadocio of earlier episodes. Then he sheepishly admits, "This is the first time I've sweated into the food," making us doubly glad to not be a judge that evening. Angelo ostensibly wants to win the challenge in order to straighten out the immigration status of his girlfriend, but we almost suspect that he loses on purpose to forestall being reunited with her.

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