Top Chef Episode 13 Recap: WWNED (What Would Nick Elmi Do)

Author’s Note: If last week was any indication, this whole recapping thing sometimes takes a village. And since none of you readers take the time to comment these days (or maybe nobody’s reading this?), I thought it would be a good idea to bring some feedback into the recap itself. To that end, I’ve enlisted the help of the Evster this week, a true American TV recapping hero, and the person responsible for making this the longest Top Chef recap in the history of Foobooz Top Chef Recaps.

Well, that sucked.

I’m not talking about my disappearance last week, although the Yeti hair did make it hard to sleep. This week’s episode was even harder to watch–even after half a bottle of wine and a generously poured Dad’s Hat rye on the rocks (full disclosure: red wine and whiskey both tend to make me grumpy).

Everything starts out fine. Nick’s sporting his sweet striped hoodie and “come at me, Carlos” face during breakfast. There’s a nice shot of PHILADELPHIA CREAM CHEESE. And our hometown hero’s got a 1 in 6 chance of taking home the hardware.

The “so far, so good” gets even better when guest judge Jacques Pepin and Padma tell the cheftestants that the Quickfire is all about technique. Without being too cocky (because cocky gets you cut), Nick alludes to the fact that the only thing standing between him and immunity is Shirley, who thankfully can’t find a family angle in this challenge because that shit’s annoying. Carlos, however, does manage to mention once again that he has no formal training and is therefore fucked.

Jacques demonstrates how to prepare his Dover sole with artichokes and asparagus, then tells the chefs they must “duplicate” it–in 25 minutes. Then the whole place gets pin-drop quiet as they go to work. The result, as expected, was that the non-French chefs sucked a fatty and Nick and Shirley are the top two, with Nick edging Shirley out ever so slightly and finally winning immunity.

Things are still good when Dominique Crenn and Julian Serrano roll up on the scene for the Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants draw knives to decide whether they’ll be cooking French food or Spanish food. Nick and Shirley are on team France, so the expectation is that they, with Stephanie in tow, will run away with this thing. (Note to self: manage your expectations.)

Madame Crenn tells the cheftestants to push the envelope, something they’re all willing to do. Julian, on the other hand, wants to keep things as traditional as possible, all the way down to the knife cuts. He’s kind of a dick and a micromanager and seems to think he’s in the competition, but Type A folks can’t help themselves sometimes.

You might think this exacting approach would sink Team Spain, but the cheftestants’ execution of its simplicity (and having Nina on the team) bests Team France. Oh yeah, and there was one other reason that Team France lost: Nick.

This is where the dark clouds come a-rumbling. Because he had immunity, he took a risk. But with only three people on the team and the other two cooking great food, our hometown hero is presented with an ethical dilemma when Pepin suggests that he bow out of the competition for making chocolate-covered game hen with a side of corn pubes. Certainly not the best dish choice, but the whole point of having immunity is to push outside your comfort zone. Bias notwithstanding, the judges shouldn’t have put him on blast like that. If you disagree with me, perhaps the Evster can shed some light on the situation:

Look, I love Jacques Pépin. I love his accent, I love his knife skills, I love his ridiculously colorful and oversized bow tie. But when dude asked Nick if he should RESIGN because of his lousy dishes, I lost it.

Nick had immunity. IMMUNITY. That means that he was EXEMPT from any and all consequences. Who knows how he would’ve cooked with his fate in limbo? Who knows if he would’ve even chose to take on the dishes that he did? He might’ve gone the scallop route and wept his way to victory. But he didn’t, BECAUSE HE HAD EARNED A MADE-UP THING CALLED IMMUNITY THAT ALLOWED HIM TO DO WHATEVER THE FREAK HE WANTED.

Think about it like this: a defensive lineman jumps offsides before the ball is snapped, the side judge throws a flag — in clear sight of everyone — and the quarterback recognizes that he has a free play. “OH BABY, FREE PLAY, I’M GOING TO LAUNCH THIS STUPID FOOTBALL AS FAR AS I POSSIBLY CAN. WEEEEE!!!” Seconds later, the ball is picked off by a strong safety who returns it (in spectacular fashion) 78 yards for a touchdown. Obviously, the play is going to be called back. The offensive players weren’t even trying to tackle the dude after he picked off the pass anyway, but then the referee faces the crowd, turns on his microphone and announces, “Offsides, #92 on the defense, penalty declined by me, because quite frankly that was just a really lousy throw. It was so wobbly, and thrown into triple coverage. I mean who throws into triple coverage?! I’m guessing this quarterback has been taught from day 1 to not throw into triple coverage. Sorry everybody, but the touchdown for the defense stands. It just wouldn’t be fair to the strong safety. He’s a really nice guy. And let’s be honest, he’s had a pretty strong season thus far.”

If Stephanie wanted to stay in the competition, she should’ve outcooked Shirley. That was the only person she was up against. Or she should’ve beat everyone else in the Quickfire — WHICH NICHOLAS DID — to ensure herself IMMUNITY. This is a stupid game with stupid rules that Nick was immune to last night because, back in the day, some French butthead taught him how to mush a piece of butter into a rose.”

In the end, Bravo proves that Top Chef is just as big a mindfuck as any other reality competition show. I agree that Nick made the right choice. It just sucks that they made him look bad for doing so. And I call bullshit on Stephanie saying she’d bow out if she was in his shoes. You’re 5 dishes away from $125,000 dollars. No fucking way are you gonna risk getting back on via the Last Chance Kitchen, especially since the only one left you could probably beat is Carlos. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Onward and upward.

All Top Chef Coverage [f8b8z]