Photo: David Giesbrecht / Bravo
We should've seen this one coming. Like Mephistopheles creeping up over your shoulder, like Javier Bardem asking you to toss a coin for your soul, there is on Top Chef a long, less-than-illustrious history of the politely grinning evil genius, just waiting to distribute the wrong advice at the right time to the weakest competitor in hopes of sabotaging their burgeoning careers in the kitchen.
In this season, that's been Angelo -- only the moniker of "evil genius" doesn't quite fit with him. He's more an over-gelled, presumably over-cologned version of Mike Meyers' Dr. Evil, flitting around the Top Chef D.C. brownstone, looking for anyone who'll listen to him. He's like the guy who sat over your shoulder in high school geometry, prattling on about how you were doing it wrong -- when really what you were doing was oh-so-right. You didn't listen, but the longer he went on, the more he wore down your resistance: "Maybe I should do it his way..."
Unfortunately, every evil douchebag needs an object of their bad advice, and this season, it's been Tamesha. The no-nonsense chef from Barbados has done everything but give Angelo a "talk to the hand" move -- whether out of politeness, or good humor, or -- shudder -- because she might be attracted to him. (We hope the latter is just a figment of the editor's imagination, for her sake.)
And if ever there was an episode where a chef might be off his or her game and susceptible to such a thing, it was this week. With emu eggs being hacked in half, chefs being switched from one ingredient to another, mid-dish, and some sort of confusing,cold-dish/Cold War-themed nautical cooking challenge facing our intrepid cheftestants, it was enough to disorient anyone.
Some came out shining -- the usually bottom-rung Kevin, for example, who skipped his way to his first show victory by using tuna and veal to good effect in a sort of crudo, laced with pine nuts and dill. But mostly, the feathers flew, as the chefs were allowed to judge each other along with the panel. If it wasn't Floridian Andrea thinking she was being slighted by guest judge Michelle Bernstein (a former Miami peer who was thought to have a chip on her shoulder), then it was Kenny, now judged by his cohorts and being totally paranoid/cocky about it.
Of course, leave it to Bernstein to state the obvious -- maybe his confused, busy dish (Lamb salad and black-eyed pea hummus) just sucked. But if Kenny sucked, Tamesha -- taking her evil-mentor Angelo's advice and creating a rhubarb jus that was both weirdly flavored and ill-fitting with her scallops -- belly flopped. Even the fish wasn't cooked correctly, a failing that could only be her own. As she made her tearful goodbye, we felt the first true hurt of the season so far.