Last week, Shinsei's Casey Thompson very easily could have gotten the pointy boot from Bravo's Top Chef for her lousy tuna tartar -- should have too, for putting her two at-risk partners on the judge's grill. This week should have been her shot at redemption, her getting-her-shit-together moment to prove to Craft-man Tom Colicchio and current GQ hot dish Padma Lakshmi that she wasn't elimination material.
Only, she blew it -- and with a Latin-"inspired" dish, no less, served up to a Telemundo soap-opera cast that thought her Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Rice & Molasses Coffee Glaze was a disaster. So much for Latin cooking being "second nature" to a girl who lives and works in Dallas. That was a bad as Abacus' Tre Wilcox blowing his barbecue a few weeks back. They live in Dallas, sure, but do they ever eat here?
But Casey was spared the paring knife: Instead, her new best friend Lia was told to pack her knives and go, no surprise given that her dish of polenta mush topped with smoked Rainbow Trout looked as inedible as it must have tasted. What was surprising was how close Casey and Lia appear to have grown during their few weeks together in Miami; coulda sworn Casey whispered, "Love you too" into Lia's ear as she was being shown the door. No, wait -- 30 TiVo rewinds later, and it was, "Talk to you soon."
But what wasn't surprising was that once more, Casey made Lia's exit all about Casey. As she did last week, she turned someone else's misery into her own camera time. Instead of letting Lia tell the rest of the so-called cheftestants she'd been trimmed and discarded, Casey walked ahead of her: "The very talented and inspiring chef Lia is going home," she uttered between teardrops, and, as the missus pointed out, "Casey always makes it all about Casey." Because, yeah, while the sentiment was nice and all, all the other chefs get to say their own goodbyes without the need for a stand-in.
Abacus' Tre Wilcox, again, barely factored into Episode 5; he was a top-three finisher in the Quickfire Challenge, with a dish apparently on Abacus' menu (not today, apparently): a Fennel & Apple Tart Tatin, which was pretty beautiful for a dish prepped in 90 minutes -- dug those tiny stars cut from the frozen pie crust. Tre, a big part of the first couple of shows, has settled into the background for now, as guys who looked like clowns earlier (Howie and Joey, who've gone from enemies to best friends in the flash of a pan) have emerged as contenders while former comers (Hung especially, but also Casey) suddenly seem doomed for failure.
But the numbers are dwindling: We're down to 10 wanna-be Top Chefs now, and it's going to be harder to hide. Unless you're Casey Thompson, in which case, all you have to do is cry. --Robert Wilonsky