As usual, there's a lot of sneaky intel out there, but I'm endeavoring to keep this blog a spoiler-free zone. This isn't just for the readers, but for me, too -- I don't want to know what happens! As such, anything that's already been broadcast or has been posted on the official Bravo site is fair game for discussion. I will, for example, discuss the preview of next week's show at the end of the post. But if you've heard rumors that one chef has been hosting a lot of dinner parties, or that another chef was spotted boarding a plane to an exotic locale, please keep them to yourself.

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February 8, 2012

Top Chef - S9E14 Postmortem

Aaaaaaaaa! Well, I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that I went this deep into the season before one really hurt. I was bummed to see some others go, but this was the first one that got me, even if I'm not surprised. And I was thisclose to getting my midseason wish for the final four, too. Bummer.

No, this was clearly no Ellis Island (that has to be the best episode in the history of the show), but it was still a solid finish even after an incredibly stupid start. Looking at some comments below, I didn't see Ed's comment at the end that way at all. He's been one of the few who have stuck up for Bev. It struck me as some harmless blowing off steam in a safe place to do it rather than something genuinely misdirected or malicious. I'm actually a little surprised it struck some folks so negatively. But then I've enjoyed Ed an awful lot, so I'm probably inclined to have a more positive interpretation.

We've got our final four. Even if Lindsay still seems like a weird interloper, somehow. I can see it, I can rationalize it, but she still seems weirdly out of place in a way I can't quite describe.

No more Last Chance Kitchen! Rankings Monday. Ish. You know how it goes.



Sarah.... Weak sauce. Take the car.

Paul, enjoy Sarah's car.

I can't hold it against Sarah to take the immunity; early in the competition, you go for it. Late, the odds are worse; just advance.

I'm really glad Bev finished on top. I love that the two chefs who went on runs on LCK were the two chefs who really had the toughest eliminations. The absolute disrespect that Lindsay and Sara show her just gets me frustrated; I have to remind myself that this is made for television. It really doesn't help much.

Take the immunity - you don't have to prove anything until the finals.

I am not looking forward to more Mean Girls though.

Agree with IG...that constant disrespect, even when passive is just so unprofessional and so off putting.

On a more positive note, Paul really is the terminator, isn't he?

I really like Ed, and I was hoping he would make the finals and Lindsay would be sent home, but blaming Bev for his elimination was ridiculous. Using non-fresh seafood is always a ticket home on top chef.

Was I the only one that got teary-eyed when Paul was addressing Tyson?

Oh, and just because this annoyed me - Ed's last complaint that Beverly took his spot is factually incorrect. This was an elimination challenge - someone was going home.

Had Beverly not been a part of it, 4 chefs would have been competing for 3 positions, giving Ed a 1:4 (25%) chance of not moving on.

With Beverly a part of it, 5 chefs were competing for 4 positions, giving Ed a 1:5 (20%) chance of not moving on.

Beverly improved his odds of making it into the finale by 5%. In the same way, taking into account Sara's assured spot,

With Beverly, 4 chefs competing for 3 positions, Ed has a 25% chance of not moving on; Without Beverly, 3 chefs competing for 2 positions, Ed has a ~33% chance of not moving on. Again, Beverly increases his odds of making it into the finale by ~8%.

I was surprised that they offered an assured spot based on the quickfire though - it seems odd to offer immunity based on a gimmick quickfire. I would prefer that immunity had been off the table period, and that if it was going to be on the table, that the quickfire had been more straight-up.

Would the car still have been an elimination prize if the quickfire winner had taken it? I wonder if Paul was just a barely undercooked shrimp away from the double Prius V.

I think Ed's comment was that they thought they'd made it into the final four, so that he was (he believed) in the final four, and Beverly's coming back took him out of it and back into the final five, albeit with a chance to still get in.

Don't begrudge Sarah's decision to take the spot at all. Don't like immunity being given for a quickfire, and a somewhat gimmicky quickfire at that, anytime late and certainly for the finals. Even with the car option.

I loved how blown away Tom was by Paul's soup. And if you think about it, that really was an incredibly gutsy move. With a chilled soup which was basically cooked the day before, there is absolutely zero margin for error. First, you can't do much of anything to save the dish if you screwed something up on day 1. Second, you can't hide any flaws with something that simple - the only way he pulls it off is with absolutely perfect technique.

@Janie: no, you were not the only one. I have been so worried since the previews, and Dom calmed be down with his last post. I remember Paul when he was on the line on the sushi table at Uchi. He is truly a great guy.

As an aside, I have heard some "sneaky intel" that said Paul was here in Austin and not in Canada. Just goes to show that a lot of the stuff you hear is BS.

I don't blame Sarah one bit for taking immunity. Rest, a chance to get centered before the finale. Who wouldn't take that opportunity?

Paul has once again demonstrated that intricate flavors ace the predictable. I know I am biased, but having eaten so many times at Tyson and Paul's restaurants, I can understand why they are both revered by diners.

I'm actually going to defend Ed here - Last Chance Kitchen WAS unfair to the final four chefs - who were the only chefs who wouldn't get a second shot into the competition.

If you remember, they did a similar-esque get back in the competition thing in the Season 5 2nd to last episode - with the person who got back into the competition (Jeff) having to WIN the challenge in order to stay in the competition.

That was fair - while the final four besides Jeff wouldn't get a chance to get back in the competition, Jeff had a massive disadvantage once he was back in.

Here - yes, Beverly needed to fight to get back in, but Ed and the other three chefs here DIDNT HAVE A CHANCE TO GET BACK IN.

Thinking more about the car/immunity decision, taking immunity gives you a 100 percent chance of getting to the finals versus a (let's say) 80 percent change of getting through via the elimination challenge, so an extra 20 percent chance of getting to the finals. And getting to the finals is itself a 25 percent chance of winning the whole thing. If you focused only on the $125K prize, taking immunity is worth only $6.25K versus the car which is probably something like $25K depending on what they get.

Now, I know winning is really worth a lot more than just the cash prize. The publicity etc. really gives you a shot at opening your own restaurant (if you don't have one already) etc. But even if wining were worth as much as $500K, it's still kinda breakeven versus taking the car, no?

With Beverly, 4 chefs competing for 3 positions, Ed has a 25% chance of not moving on; Without Beverly, 3 chefs competing for 2 positions, Ed has a ~33% chance of not moving on. Again, Beverly increases his odds of making it into the finale by ~8%.

I disagree with your math. If there are 3 chefs in the finale, without Bev, he's already in the final 4, and has a 75% chance to advance to the finale.

With Bev, he has to survive two challenges. He's got an 80% chance tonight's episode, multiplied by a 75% chance in the penultimate challenge, for a total 60% chance of advancing to the finale. Basically, they added an extra round for him to be eliminated in.

If it's a 2-person finale, he's got a 50.25% chance of advancing without Bev, and a 40.2% chance of advancing with her.

By the way, i hate the freaking editing, because from Gail's blog:

"I actually don’t think we conveyed just how extraordinary Paul’s dish was. I can actually say without hesitation that this dish was the best dish I have tasted from anyone all season long. Hands down. Possibly one of the best dishes ever cooked on Top Chef. It was un-f--king believable. If you asked me a month ago if I remembered a single dish from the entire season, I wouldn’t be able to tell you a single dish, because the second they're done it’s all a blur to me. They all go into the archive of Top Chef dishes that I’ll never have to eat again. But this single dish, I could recite every single ingredient, every detail. It was a chilled soup, which is so deceptively simple. I’ve never tasted anything like that in my whole life."

I thought Bev was going to win from the editing. Not cool.

"I thought Bev was going to win from the editing. Not cool."

I thought Tom's comments about Paul's dish were a pretty big indicator he would win. I do agree with the comment above that it was a kinda ballsy move. I can see the critique of "you thought you were going to win with soup", especially without a prominent protein in the soup.

" I can see the critique of 'you thought you were going to win with soup', especially without a prominent protein in the soup."

How it goes. All of those things we say the judges will crucify you for? Doesn't matter if you rock the dish. There's no recipe for it yet. I'll be really annoyed if they don't post it.

Ed's comment was total sour grapes. Bev won her spot fair and square. Ed lost because he bought canned oysters instead of changing his plan, period.

And seriously, what is it going to take for these people to give Bev some respect? Sheesh!

@chrish: that was my interpretation of Ed's comments about Beverly. He appears to have a warm personal relationship with her and a high regard for her as a chef (he did bet a pack of smokes on her, after all), so this really looks like nothing more than "I thought I'd made it, then LCK got sprung and I didn't make it".

I also agree - it seemed pretty clear to me that Paul was going to win from the comments at the dinner.

I also got a bit misty when they brought out the mentors. I never used to cry at stuff like that on TV, but ever since I had kids I'm a bit more of a softie. I blame the lack of sleep. ;)

"Ed's comment was total sour grapes."

I think almost everything Ed says is with tongue firmly in cheek (except when he was pissed at Sarah over the bbq). I really didn't get sour grapes or Bev bashing from it at all.

Agreed garik, with only four dishes they should have been able to squeeze in more than fifteen seconds for the diners' reactions. If the dish was as 'un-f--king believable' as Gail said, it should have come across on the show. And if they were so concerned about not revealing the result prematurely why did they telegraph Ed's elimination so early? Annoying.

Decent ep though.

I think almost everything Ed says is with tongue firmly in cheek

I agree - Ed has an incredible deadpan which I'm frankly envious of. I think Bravo edits him to appear earnest, but it seemed pretty clear to me that wasn't the case.

Dom - the recipe has been posted. I linked to it above.

Okay, I just went back and watched it three times, and I think you guys are reading WAAAAAY too much into a throwaway line. He's just saying that thinking you're in only to have somebody come back from the dead to knock you out would be a brutal way to go, and he's right, and if I were in his shoes I might use those exact same words without in any way meaning that I actually blame Beverly somehow. I reiterate my surprise that anybody even gave that line a second thought. It's a figure of speech, the guy's whole manner is dry, and he's routinely stuck up for Bev... this isn't even a molehill, much less a mountain.

IG... thanks. Dude's got some finesse. It's an easy recipe, and I'm sure you could make it 50 times and not capture the magic.


I disagree with your math. If there are 3 chefs in the finale, without Bev, he's already in the final 4, and has a 75% chance to advance to the finale.

We are saying the same thing here, just in opposite ways, a 75% chance of moving ahead is the same as the 25% chance of not moving ahead that I cited.

As far as the remainder of your point - I assumed that tonight's episode was the penultimate challenge and that the next episode was the 4 person finale.

If that was my incorrect assumption, and I'm guessing that it is, and there is an additional culling of 4--->3 (with bev), then you are correct with Ed's 60% chance.

I'm not sure I understand your logic about the 2 person finale (I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm saying that you'd have to walk me through it with a little more detail).

If there was no Bev, and it was just 4---3 for a 3 man finale, then this would have been the penultimate episode, and Ed would have had the 75% chance to move on, and Beverly cost him 15%.

damn it. I keep screwing up the formatting - that first statement is quoting you, not making my own point. Sorry!

By a 2-person finale, I meant that it followed the format of All-Stars last season - they had three single-eliminations until a two-man finale. If that were the case, then it's 80% * 75% * 67% = 40% shot of advancing to the finale with Bev returning, and 75%*67% = 50% chance of advancing to the finale without Bev. Either way, his chances go down because of the returning competitor.

We basically came to different conclusions because we started from different assumptions. You assumed that tonight's episode led to a 4-person finale; I assumed there would be another 1-2 eliminations.

Has Tom abandoned his blog to be a full time twitterer now? I suppose it's just the medium but his tweets aren't nearly as erudite.

Curiously, Lindsay and (even more surprisingly) Sarah seem to be trying to make nice to Beverly on Twitter. Makes my head spin.

I'm a Bev supporter but I like Lindsay well enough and am curious to see how she does in the finals. I even want to like Sarah sometimes, too -- though she makes that pretty difficult...

It's been a fairly meh season but still I've enjoyed several of the episodes, including this one. And the finals preview vids are very amusing.

I'm a vegetarian, so I really don't know, but there seemed to be a lot of other fresh mollusks at Whole Foods that day. Would Ed's dish have suffered so much had he used fresh clams or mussels instead of oysters? Again, I don't have much experience with any of the above, just curious. I was sad to see him go.

Of course she should have taken the car. It was not an either or proposition; she would have had had an 80% chance of advancing anyway PLUS a cool $40K ride to keep. Now, when she gets bumped off next week, she gets bupkis.

I would rank them Paul, Bev, Lindsay, Sarah

I think that we all knew Ed was gone the minute he bought the canned oysters.
He's been skating on thin ice for a while-dried out short ribs and rubber chicken.
But I've warmed up to him and I'm sorry to see him go.

Gail's EW blog takes it even further, saying Paul's dish was the best thing she's ever eaten on the show:

"There’s no point in hitting you over the head with it, but I can say with complete confidence that in all my seasons of shooting Top Chef, [Paul's dish was] pretty much the single best thing that I have ever eaten on the show. It was so unbelievably mature and creative and I don’t think that in our description of it we did it justice. It was so beautiful the way he hand-placed the vegetables, [which] he then made into tubes and stood upright in the base of this bowl. Then poured in this dashi-sunchoke soup, the flavor of which I can’t even describe. All of us took one bite and we were sold. It was a really extraordinary dish and it was one I will remember for a very long time. It wasn’t even a question who won that challenge. It was so obvious to all of us that day."

She's gushing like it's pepperoni sauce. Hope that doesn't mean Paul falls short at the end. I was really hoping for a female winner this season, and could generally get behind a Beverly win since I find her awkwardness more endearing than many (plus I think she can really cook). But Paul is in another stratosphere from the rest of this field and truly deserves the title Top Chef. If he loses they'd better cook up a new All Stars season for him pronto.

Very happy for Bev. Not surprised that Sarah did not even congratulate her (she hugged Paul) when Bev and Paul returned to the stew room. Hope she is the first to go in the final four. No car. No top 3.

I love Ed's dry humor. I agree with those above about Ed - I think he likes and respects Bev.

Paul is amazing. Makes me want to go to Austin just to eat his food.

Beth, wow that is a glowing review. If he doesn't win is it the biggest fall on your face ever? I think so.

With that noted, I stand by my initial comment totals the car. It was Sarah who complained she hadn't won anything. And, now she turns it down. There is no guarantee that you win in the finals, so take the sure thing. Shows a lack of confidence.

Agreed that the latent hostility between bev and the others is bordering on unwatchable. Although I note that Sarah was more than happy to take a congratulatory hug from Bev when she won the QF. Here's hoping that she outlast those two, but I'm going to say now that Bev cannot win. She and Paul are both prone to cook Asian influenced dishes and thus they will be compared directly to each other, and based on what we've seen, Pail is the better technician f the two.

Btw "totals thecar" is "take the care". I shouldn't type on my iPad without glasses.

I kind of knew Paul had rocked it BECAUSE the edit showed so little commentary about his dish. As for Ed, man, he really seemed like he was mental toast right from the start of the episode. Watching his face when the QF was between him and Sarah, you could see he had no expectation of winning. He seemed in a pretty self-defeatest mode, and was just waiting to get sent packing. And the way all the judges gasped and seemed to be literally blown back when he admitted he'd used canned oysters? You would have thought he'd admitted to spitting in their food.

Ed was a great contestant, though, and his deadpan hilarity was killer. I definitely plan to visit his restaurant in Louisville.

Paul and Tyson's mutual respect and the way they both tried to remain so stoic and composed (and failed) had me all verklempt. (Talk amongst yourselves.) Oh, and how kickass was it that Beverly won raves for a dish that required serious time-management, speed and control? Take that, haters!

ITA that Ed's comments about Bev were about the surprise of LCK in general -- fill in the blank, "If I go home because of Keith/Chuy/Malibu/Nyesha/anyone we've already beat, I'm going to be POed."

Highlight on Bev's lack of social acuity: Her total delight at being back (understandable), while completely clueless that everyone else was ticked that the game changed (also understandable).

On a totally different note, British Columbia, in the snow, hacking up blocks of ice? Had they planned it before endless days of 110 degree temps, or did some sweating PA (or judge) say, "We've *got* to find some place with ice for the finale"?

Ed DID have a second chance to get back in the game. Right at the beginning.

On the topic of Ed's comments, I agree with Dom and I'll take it a little further: I think he was just stating a fact with no malicious intent at all. He plainly said that they called back all of the chefs thinking they were about to be congratulated for making the finals, but instead were introduced to the LCK twist.

Paul reaction to Tyson was just incredible. And Lindsay won a few points in my book for her JT appearance and the "no cryin' in fine dinin'" line. The pressure of this challenge must've been overwhelming to at least some of them.

It's amazing to me how little awareness people have that they are on national television. Heather, of course, was lucky she was booted when she was she she didn't have time to display her bullying any more. But Sarah and Lindsay have been quite catty, and I simply would never want to hire them, ever. I'm actually angry at the women of this season for making girls look like they are perpetually in middle school--other than Grayson and Nyesha and Bev. It's hard for the viewers to see just what Bev has done that's so annoying, other than being a little slow and oblivious--it seems her biggest crime is seeming like someone who is powerless. I really hope Sarah and Lindsay grow up as a result of this experience and learn some kindness. And as much as I usually root for female chefs, I hope they don't win. Plus, Paul seems to be head and shoulders above everyone else.

I can't remember a season with this much cattiness among the female chefs.

I agree with Dom about Ed wrt Bev. But ... canned oysters? When he reached for them I was saying "nooooooooooo!" and when he decided they would work I knew that he was the one who would be cut. I was rooting for him, but some mistakes you can't overcome.

Another reason she may not have taken the car is the taxes. I guess you could take it out other winnings (she has won money at some point, yes?), but I know a lot of people win cars and then sell them because they can't pay the tax. Probably not the main reason, but could have factored into the decision a bit.

I think that photo of Ed should be captioned, "I've made a huge mistake."

Actually, all elimination photos could probably be captioned that way.

Maybe Paul is too sincere and nice to do this, but I also thought that in his winners comments at JT (that this is the type of challenge that really means something to him and that he came here for) he was taking a little dig at some of the idiotic challenges they've put them through.

I agree with Dom that Ed's comment about Bev taking his spot in the finale was an off the cuff statement, not an intentional dig at Bev personally. I suspect he would have said it in the same manner regardless of who came back from LCK to win a spot in the finale.

When the blindfolds first came out [insert joke here] I thought they were going to do the quickfire where the contestants were blind and had to identify ingredients and/or quality of ingredients. I think they did this before, in the Chicago season, and I think it would have been a better quickfire for this stage in the game.

I really love Bev's transformation actually. It seems like she was just someone who got a rocky start and had trouble adjusting to the format and pace of the show. She got booted right when she was getting her footing - and the dish was simply the worst of the best. LCK was exactly perfectly designed for this kind of contestant - someone who just needed a little more time to get their footing. I have a feeling she's going to keep doing well in these last few challenges now that she has her confidence.

Also - yes, it stinks for Ed that he thought he'd be in the top 4 and then wasn't because of LCK - but it's not like the LCK winner was just sitting around. Bev still had to knock out everyone else head to head which is so much more difficult than just surviving the elimination challenges.

On the math point... just to be clear, my understanding of what Ed said is that Last Chance Kitchen, in the form of Beverly, took him from a 100% chance of making the finals to a 80% chance of making the finals.

I can understand why people would interpret that line as biting at Beverly - after all, we've seen Heather and Lindsey and Sarah make many negative comments about Beverly. But Ed has not, and all indications are that he gets along with her fine and respects her as a chef. Again, he bet on her coming back!

Personally, I think Ed seems like a great guy, and he would be my vote for Fan Fave, with Paul and Tylor close behind. The only thing I can fault him for at all is the way he acted in the BBQ challenge, but I'm pretty sure I'd act the same way if I was up all night cooking and then my teammate who had left me in the lurch (for a legitimate reason, but none the less) swooped in to serve the judges and then went back to resting.

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