Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Celebrate this Halloween in costume party style

Tonight is the night before Halloween and while many of us are frightened enough as it is by the evening news,there's something even scarier going on that threatens to make not only this but future All Hallow's Eve celebrations a watered down Brady Bunch version of it's former self.

Many school districts are insisting upon kids dressing up in what they consider "appropiate" costumes on Halloween,such as food items and animals and forbidden to have accessories like fake nails or even allowed to be scary! What kind of a world are we living in where a kid can't be a vampire or a nice ax murderer for their school's Halloween parade,honestly?

Don't get me wrong,folks-I understand the need to maintain order in the classroom and not incur any lawsuits from Little Timmy's overzealous use of his ninja sword on the playground.

However,Halloween is meant to be a time to get a bit weird and wild,particularly in the costume choice department. After all,that's what makes a Halloween costume party worth going to,to check out what your friends and neighbors decided to become for one night only. It's a time honored tradition and cool costumes are a part of that.

Speaking of costume parties,let's look at a few pop culture reasons why we need to exercise our freedom of costume choice:

After a long round of trick or treating,kids are in need of an excuse to keep their costumes on,plus blow off more of that sugar fueled energy built up during the day. As for the fear factor,there are more things to be scared of than another youngster's blood dripping Scream mask,like bobbing for apples too close for comfort with a dog or missing out on all of the fun,thanks to the Great Pumpkin:

GOOD GHOULISH FUN FOR GROWNUPS: Some folks never lose that childhood spirit of Halloween fun and having kids only gives them more of an excuse to dress up on October 31. Even with the young ones out of the picture,the adults are capable of scaring each other at a social gathering without resorting to masks and makeup. Showing up in the same outfit as someone else and running into an old romantic partner is way more terrifying:

STRETCHING YOUR CREATIVE BOUNDARIES: You don't have to hold a costume party on Halloween,you can have one any time for any reason. What makes a non Halloween costume get-together more of a creative challenge is giving it a theme,like your favorite personal heroes or as a tribute to a pop culture icon. Just be sure to do more than slap on a wig and a nametag or no one will blame your date for leaving you at the door:

Another advantage of costume balls is the ability for superheroes to keep their secret identity safe while seeking out evil doers in public. Unfortunately,it also gives the bad guys the same opportunity and lookalike foes extra sneaky stealth points:

Perhaps some of this hysteria about children's costumes will fade away over time and allow both kids and adults the chance to attend Halloween celebrations without fear of social reprisal again. Just remember,you Halloween hall monitors out there,if you don't let the kids get it out of their systems now,they'll grow up with a burning desire to freak you out and may do something even worse than you could imagine,like revive the boy band craze! Happy Halloween to everyone else:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top Chef gets more than meats the eye,Mad Men showdowns and a leap of faith that determines the fate of a TAR team

The Quickfire challenge on Top Chef this week had a nice pop culture favor to it,as the chefs were asked to make a gourmet TV dinner based on a well known TV series. Kevin's show was The Sopranos and his meatballs with polenta pleased both Padma and guest judge Paul Bartolotta enough to get him a win,plus his meal will be included in a line of TC frozen foods.

Bryan Voltaggio came in second with a meatloaf and mashed potato entree inspired by M*A*S*H,a smart idea,in my opinion. Mikey I's Seinfeld food was a flop,due to his having never seen the show(Dude,there are reruns!)and his meal having nothing to do with the sitcom at all. Eli was no better,getting Gilligan's Island and not adding any coconut! I don't care if the show is "twenty years before my TV time",again,reruns!

On to the Elimination Challenge,where everyone had to cook a dish for the judges and several guests at Judge Tom's restaurant,Craftsteak. All the chefs were like"Cool,a steakhouse challenge!",forgetting that like a M. Night Shyamalan movie,there's always a twist.

Judge Tom introduced them to special guest judge Natalie Portman,who was bringing her friends along for the meal and by the way,she's a vegetarian! Sweet irony,folks. So everyone had to make a vegan plate,offering up some type of protein equivalent to make it an entree course.

Most of the dishes offered up were rather slight in portion. Michael Voltaggio put out a banana polenta with an asparagus salad and Japanese tomato sashimi,which he seemed to think would knock them all of the park. It was well received by the diners with a mix of "huh?" and "pretty tasty" that apparently Michael V was going for.

Next to him in the winner's circle was Eli,with his eggplant confit,lentils with garlic puree and radish salad. At least the eggplant gave some texture to the plate,but it looked more like an appetizer that a main course to me.

The winner was Kevin,who was the only chef out of all of them who gave the diners a hearty meal. His duo of mushrooms with smoked kale(which Natalie Portman loves)and turnip puree and candied garlic may not have been pretty but it was a satisfying dish.

Michael V. spewed some sour grapes in the aside interviews,griping how Kevin made such a "basic" dish that he could've pulled off first year in cooking school. Well,if it's so basic,buddy,why didn't you make something like that,hmm?

He's shown himself to be such a grim faced SOB over the past few weeks who shows little pleasure in actually making food for people to enjoy(his brother is not as bad,but competing directly against Michael draws him close to the edge)that I hope he doesn't make it to the Finale. A Top Chef is someone who others would want to work with and for,plus be inspired by and Michael V. is none of those things here.

On the bottom again was Robin,who made a visually appealing plate but the food was very salty. She was happy about doing a vegan challenge but chose to use ingredients that she's never worked with before like fresh garbanzo beans and stuffed squash blossom,not a smart move there.

Jennifer was along side her,due to her charred baby eggplant with braised fennel and tomatoes that barely qualified as a full dish. It's a shame because Jennifer can cook amazing food and work well with others but she gets incredibly tense when the smallest thing goes off that it affects her plates. She served up her verjus nage sauce table side and her hands were shaking so badly that even Stevie Wonder could see her coming and want to duck.

Mikey Isabella wound up packing his knives and going home for his roasted leeks that were a mushy mess and raw to boot. He blamed that on a problem in the kitchen but those suckers looked vile during his stove time and the carrots and fingerling potatoes on the side weren't good enough to make for that. I think that he really went home for his "whatever!" attitude about the whole thing.

Next week,there's going to be a TC reunion dinner and with Marcel at the table,things will get very heated indeed:

The Amazing Race was still in Dubai when a major breakdown between one of the teams occurred,over a water slide of all places. The task before going to the Pit Stop was to go down the "Leap of Faith" slide at a seaside hotel and Mika was terrified of heights(why anyone who has such a fear signs up for this show to begin with)and totally freaked out. Her boyfriend Canaan didn't help matters much by yelling at her and almost shoving her down the slide twice!

Canaan got mad at the Globetrotters for adding a little fuel to the fire,but the guys were way behind and needed to get their chance to get ahead as much as Mika and Canaan did. Besides,Flight Time and Big Easy have been very fair and generous players on TAR and I'm glad they're still in the running:

There were a couple of major confrontations on Mad Men this week,the big one being between Betty and Don over his past. Betty decided to face off with him about the evidence of his Dick Whitman life locked away in his desk(why Don didn't destroy some of that stuff after Pete tried to blackmail him that time is beyond me)and lucky for him that his schoolteacher sweetie,who was out in the car, didn't decide to knock on the front door and make things a thousand times worse.

It was a quite a moment for both characters and altho,Betty seemed more upset about Don having another wife than anything else,she showed some real strength with him while revealing some sensitivity toward his plight. How their lives will go on after this,it's hard to tell:

A briefer and more satisfying showdown happened between Joan and her loser husband Greg,who was whining about how he "did everything he was supposed to" and still couldn't become the big league surgeon that he planned to be. Joan's a pragmatic gal but even she has her breaking point and proved it right over his thick head. Good for her!:


LEGEND OF THE SEEKER: Season Two is coming up soon,starting November 7 on a syndicated station near you. The plot line this time around will be based on Terry Goodkind's Stone of Tears and loads of new developments are on the horizon,along with a few familiar,if unwanted by some,faces:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Penny Vincenzi's latest book is a Windfall in more ways than one

As some of you may know,I'm a fan of the old school style of saga novels,preferably the ones written with women in mind(not that the fellas can't enjoy them,too). Be they steadfast or sexy-or a hybrid of both-those gorgeous glossy stories of love,loss and what they wore are literary catnip to a girl like me.

With that in mind,you can imagine my joy when Bookreporter.com chose me as one of their ten readers to receive a copy of Windfall,the newest novel by Penny Vincenzi to come to America. That's right,I don't just hold contests,I enter them,too! Since I've already given my feedback to the good folks at Bookreporter about Windfall,it seemed only right that I should talk about it here as well.

The novel is set in the England of 1935,where the growing affair between the Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Wallis Simpson is slowly stirring in the background. Our leading lady is Cassia Tallow,a country doctor's wife and mother who long ago gave up her own promising medical career in order to placate the fragile ego of her husband Edward(not to mention that she was also pregnant at the time).

Cassia gets word that her wealthy godmother Leonora has died in Paris and left her a huge fortune of a half a million pounds. At first,she's dazzled by the freedom this money offers to her and uses it to resume some of her old life before marriage by buying new things not only for her loved ones but some stylish clothes and a sleek sports car for herself as well:

Edward feels threatened by all of this and attempts to take control over her inheritance to no avail.The tension between Cassia and Edward rises to emotionally dangerous levels as things go on. Cassia is able to resume practicing medicine(as an volunteer for a women's clinic)and even takes a small house in London to make the commute easier.

Edward tries all sorts of ploys to keep Cassia from moving ahead in life and even stoops to emotional blackmail and payback involving their children. Even when an opportunity arises for Cassia to work along side her husband at their home,he blocks her path and insists upon her being the traditional country doctor's wife.

The other factor in Edward's motivation for holding Cassia back is jealousy. Her new found wealth puts her back into circulation with the elite social circle her godmother introduced her to,including Harry Moreton,a distant cousin of Leonora's who never approved of Edward and Rupert,an old actor friend of the family who Cassia had a crush on during her youth. At first,Cassia has no intentions of being involved with any other than her husband,but things change,due to more than the money:

Other concerns about the money crop up as Cassia starts to wonder just how her godmother could manage to leave her a small fortune when she was a chronic gambler and by certain accounts,died while living in dire straits.

As more questions than answers remain after some inquiry,Cassia decides to seek out the truth about this on her own. What she does discover has quite an impact and even before she sets off on that journey,other choices that she's made due to this money cause Cassia to reexamine many of the major decisions that she's made over the years.

The beauty of a Penny Vincenzi novel is the layering of characters throughout the story,showcasing one supporting player's struggle with a marriage looming under the shadow of a husband's secret love affairs with men while highlighting the desperate terrors of another who's afraid to get medical treatment that might reveal a past abortion to her spouse. The building of such an intricate world for all those who inhabit the pages creates a thoughtful flavor profile for the reader to sink her teeth into.

Windfall is a lush chocolate box of a read,with the mystery about the origins of the money being a cherry on top of this succulent sundae. While it does give readers plenty of substance to chew over,the main appeal of a story like this is the inside peek at the lifestyles of the rich and famous and in that,Vincenzi definitely delivers the goods. If you're in need of a smartly written soap opera with all the luxury trimmings,then step right up,folks and enjoy the show:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A few literary gifts to give and get this November and December

Even with things going completely haywire in the world(or just appearing to be at the moment),there are still reliable comfort zones to be found,especially between the pages of a book. Those needs for reading replenishment are most keenly felt during this time of year,when winter is fast approaching and certain holiday obligations start knocking at your door.

It may be tempting to ignore the simple pleasures of a good book with so much going on,but at times like these,that retreat into worlds both real and imagined is one of the best methods of coping with the craziness. Think of it as chicken soup for the spirit(if you want it for the soul,there's a ton of those books already out there)which can not only keep you mentally healthy this season but solve some of those gift giving dilemmas that are just around the corner:


Julie Powell's memoir about her Julia Child blog experiment,Julie & Julia, was an inspiring read and the film version of that book was one of the big hits of the summer movie season. The movie was so popular than it even peaked enough interest to bring Mastering the Art of French Cooking back on the bestseller lists again.

All of that heaps quite a bit of high expectations onto Powell's new culinary memoir,Cleaving. The focus is still on food,only in a more hands on way.

Julie recounts her foray into the art of butchering meat,which occurred during a rift in her marriage and lead her to not only expanding her food knowledge but figuring out her emotional struggles as well. It may not sound as sweet as J&J,but Cleaving seems to be a rather savory dish worth sampling(December):


In Lauren Grodstein's A Friend of the Family,we are introduced to Pete Dizinoff,a suburbanite whose carefully built life of comfort and control is edging close toward disaster. His medical practice is facing a nasty lawsuit but what worries Pete the most is what direction his wayward son Alec is headed.

Pete has a lot of hopes and dreams pinned on him and is quick to patch up any scraps Alec might get into,including getting accepted into a good college. The unexpected wrench in the works is Laura,his best friend's daughter who has a troubled past and is a decade older than Alec,whom she sets her romantic sights on.

Pete feels that it's his duty to meddle in this affair and save his son,but his actions take a turn for the tragic. While this story is set in the modern day suburbs of New Jersey,the tone of this novel seems to have a lot in common with the social standards that shut in the emotions of those well off New Yorkers who filled the pages of many an Edith Wharton book. I hope the comparison is pleasing as well as accurate to both the author and readers alike(November):


One of the expected big magillas of the fall book season is Stephen King's new novel,Under The Dome,which has unfortunately been a target in the book pricing wars happening online recently.

Other controversies stirring up around this massive novel include comparisons to the Simpsons movie(which shares a similar concept)and the delayed release of the e-book edition in order to help independent book stores get a fair shot at selling their physical copies.

All of this hoopla is a shame,since none of it is focused on what matters to longtime readers of King's work the most;is Under The Dome a good book or not? The plot has a small town in America trapped beneath a mysterious force field,a phenomenon that not only tests the characters of those inside but starts to become a major media event. Under The Dome is over a thousand pages long,so with any luck,this may be the best sinister saga King's given us since The Stand. Only time will tell,folks and with a book this long, you're going to need it!(November)


James Patterson has not only been thrilling adults with his mystery books,he's also dreamed up some amusing books for young people as well. Teaming up again with Gabrielle Charbonnet(who co-wrote Sundays at Tiffany's with Patterson),Witch and Wizard brings a new dynamic duo of magic makers on to the YA scene.

Wisty and Whit are typical teenagers who are living in a world that is swiftly becoming a totalitarian regime that hits close to home one night when government officials storm in and take them away from their parents .

As they await their fate in a secret prison,the siblings start to develop strange new powers that may help them find their way to freedom. Sounds like a combo of Escape to Witch Mountain and 1984,which should be interesting to readers of all ages(December):

Wally Lamb tries his hand at holiday themed fiction this season with Wishin' and Hopin'.Set in the small town of Three Rivers,Connecticut in 1964,fifth grader Felix Funicello(a distant cousin of famed Mouseketeer Annette)is coping with the usual problems a kid his age has to deal with when a couple of new arrivals to his parochial school amp up the volume in more ways than one.

Unlike his adult novels,this Lamb book is intended to be a lighthearted and humorous look back at a time of idyllic childhood in America in the same vein as Jean Shepard's contemporary classic A Christmas Story. Since both authors have a great flair for bringing offbeat yet all too real characters to life,we may be in for a true literary treat,if not a major award at the very least(December):


Another highly anticipated novel,The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver takes her leading man on a quest for a sense of purpose in life that carries him between two countries and towards the brink of war. Harrison Shepard grew up with a hand to mouth existence in Mexico that connected him to no one and nothing until a routine job opportunity brings him to the attention of renowned muralist Diego Rivera.

That leads Harrison to befriending rising artist Frida Kahlo and taking up political causes that will sweep him into the United States and it's growing involvement with World War II. Kingsolver's take on how art can be influenced by politics and public opinion and the ultimate effect on those who pursue it seem to be as timely as Frida Kahlo's paintings are still to this day(November):

Edward Rutherfurd is known for his mega novels about the history of certain pivotal places around the world and his upcoming book takes quite a big bite from the cultural pie. New York follows several generations of families who seek their fortunes in the city that doesn't sleep for four centuries and mixes in a variety of historical figures such as Boss Tweed,Mrs. Astor and Mayor Koch.

Rutherford has been called "the modern Michener" due to his epic fictional takes on historical subjects but I don't think even James Michener dared to take Manhattan. If Rutherfurd can pull this off,he'll make his own unique mark with readers and pay tribute to one of the greatest cities on earth,quite the hat trick(November):


Eddie Russet lives in a world ruled by color,where people are ranked according to whatever singular shade they can see. Even tho he's in the low ranked House of Red,Eddie hopes to get a better position in life in order to marry Constance Oxblood. All of that changes when he meets Jane,a Grey Nightseer,who opens his eyes to the real truth behind the collective color blindness surrounding them.

Jasper Fforde mixes whimsy with romance and conspiracies in Shades of Grey with his smartly stylish and suspenseful tone that many fans have come to know and love about his work. His stories may be set in an England both real and imagined,but their sharp take on society has universal appeal(December):

Whatever holiday you do or don't celebrate in the next couple of months ahead,I hope you have a good time with family and friends with some of these great books by your side. While it may be lovely weather for a sleigh ride together,it's also a wonderful excuse to curl up by the fire with something wonderful to read as well:

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Top Ten Things I learned from Drag Me to Hell

My pre-Halloween horror movie treat this past weekend was Drag Me to Hell,Sam Raimi's return to the genre that received tons of praise from fans and critics alike. Does it live up to the hype,you may ask and my answer is "Oh,yeah and then some,buddy!"

I watched the "unrated director's cut"(which,from what I found out later,isn't that much different from the one seen in theaters)and was happy to see Raimi's slapstick scare style back in full force. You could feel the joy of moviemaking radiating from Raimi and his fellow film fiends throughout the whole picture,sometime that was sorely missing in Spiderman 3,for one.

The story is basically a stylish Tales from the Crypt morality play,as ambitious banker Christine Brown(played by Alison Lohman,who proves herself to be a real good sport about some of the gruesome stuff the screenplay requires her to do)is forced to face the consequences of turning down a loan extension to an elderly gypsy woman(Lorna Raver)about to lose her house. Christine is cursed and tormented by a demon called The Lamia,who intends to take her body and soul to the pits of Hell.

Her boyfriend(Justin Long)is rather skeptical but helps Christine find a spiritual adviser(Dileep Rao) to give her some much needed guidance in trying to find a way to end the curse before the three day time limit is up. Many of the demon attacks in the movie are a mixture of shadow play and sinister silly F/X that give the viewer plenty of chills and awkward laughs while allowing him/her the opportunity to use their own imagination in making the terror all the more real.

Even tho this is meant to be a fun popcorn movie,Drag Me to Hell offers a lot of food for thought,particularly about the choices that Christine makes through this whole ordeal. She may seem to be a sympathetic heroine at the onset, but as the story goes along,we see her quickly shed the values that she claims to have rather quickly and more than willing at times to toss whoever she can under the bus in order to save her own skin.

Understandable,perhaps,yet you could also see Christine's plight as a test of faith and character. Early on,we see her trying to fit into the sleek mold of a big city working gal by using a diction tape to change her country accent and her cringing as she overhears a phone conversation between her boyfriend and his well to do mother,who wants him to find a more socially suitable mate than some "farm girl" as she calls Christine.

Her determination to climb both the social and professional ladder(where she's competing for a promotion with a conniving co-worker)brings out a strong streak of self involved ruthlessness that Christine refuses to admit is within her,but as things go on,it's glaringly apparent in her approach to survival.

While I won't give away the ending(which may or may not be what you'd expect),I will say that it is rather haunting. It filled my head for quite awhile,not something that any movie has been able to do for me in a long time. Whether or not you feel that Christine is a victim or deserves what she gets,Drag Me to Hell does make you wonder what you would be willing to do in a similar situation. Thanks,Mr. Raimi,for giving us more than brain candy to chew on after the closing credits roll.

Here are some more life lessons from Drag Me to Hell that may help you avoid this particular highway to Hades:

10) Shaming a proud woman in public is not a safe thing to do without backup:

9) Don't be so quick to gloat over beating an old woman in a fight or soon you'll be the one who comes begging to her:

8) Even masters of old school mysticism take platinum credit cards as payment.

7) Being a "farm girl" is only a social setback if you let it be.

6) Harvest cake is not enough to win over the affections of a snooty potential mother-in-law.

5) Having a literal scapegoat on hand is no guarantee of deterring a demon's desire to eat your soul:

4) It's hard to pass on a curse to a grown man who's crying like a baby.

3) Waitresses of the world,watch out for those cranky coffee drinkers. Push them too hard and they might leave you a tip that you wouldn't believe.

2) Even a hanky can be a formidable minion of evil:

1) Fly up the nose or down the throat,which is worse? You decide!:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Silly rabbit,Halloween is for kids!

Opening up this week at a theater near you is Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, a kid friendly goth fantasy about a teenage boy named Darren(Chris Massoglia)who runs away to join the circus. Only this one happens to be full of folks with magical abilities and to join the show,Darren must become a "half-vampire" and work for the full fledged bloodsucking ringmaster,Mr. Crespley(John C. Reilly).

The movie is based on a series of YA novels by "Darren Shan"(allegedly his life story there)and I recall reading the first couple of books back in my bookseller days,which were pretty much scary adventure type of tales for boys. Nothing wrong with that,but don't expect a Twilight vibe from this flick-the tone is more Hardy Boys go to Hot Topic:

Since Halloween is supposed to be for the kids,plenty of tame terror flicks pop on screens both big and small. Some are fun film treats while others are as welcome as those rocks that wound up in Charlie Brown's trick or treat bag every year. In honor of the arrival of the Cirque du Freak movie,let's sample a few of the childsized chillfests of the past and see which side of the coin they land upon.

First up is The Little Vampire,starring Jonathan Lipnicki(the annoying know-it-all from Jerry Maquire)as the new kid in town who makes friends with the local vampire family. Cutesy vampires tend to irk me but since this is based on a children's book,I am willing to overlook that. However,I draw the line at vampire cows. More boo than moo for me:

Next is Casper,the big Hollywood blockbuster version of the Harvey comics character that many of us know from TV cartoons. While I remember that old school theme song pretty well,this high tech take on the friendliest ghost you know never seemed quite right to me.

Granted,Christina Ricci as the human girl who inspires him to regain his mortality was a great casting choice(she basically cornered the market on goth girl roles for awhile there)but the CGI is a little off-putting. Not to mention turning the whole thing into an epic love story,which is really creepy if you think about too much:

I must confess to being totally in the tank for Hocus Pocus. It's hard to resist the delights of seeing Bette Midler as an ancient witch from Salem's past brought back to life on a modern day All Hallow's Eve to reclaim her power and youth,along with her two goofy sisters(well played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy).

There's the usual band of Disney kids who try to save the town from the evil plans of the witches but the main thrill here is watching Bette and her back up sister supporting players romp around in this almost campy fare.

The highlight of the film is an impromptu performance of "I Put A Spell On You",which the sinister Sanderson sisters break into at a Halloween party in order to throw the unsuspecting adults off track. That number was well worth the price of admission I paid at the box office all those years ago:

Last but certainly not the least is The Worst Witch,a made for cable movie that later blossomed into a TV series on HBO. Harry Potter fans may like this one,since the story takes place at a boarding school for witches in England.

Fairuza Balk(who later became a more competent and deadly mistress of the black arts in The Craft)plays the title role of Mildred Hubble,the one girl in class who never seems to get her spells to work just right.

As is the way of these things,Mildred uncovers a plot to overtake the school by a pack of evil witches and helps to save the day as well as impress the Grand Wizard(Tim Curry)whose favor is most sorted after. Altho,upon watching his musical salute to Halloween,some of those budding witches might want to rethink their fangirl fervor for this guy:

Perhaps The Vampire's Assistant will be successful enough to spawn a sequel or two. At the very least,it may leave a lasting impression upon young folks who will be inspired to create a little bit of homey Halloween fun in the future. While this holiday is a great excuse for adults to recapture that wonder of youth,it's only fair to let the kids have their time to monster mash on their own terms:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Chef goes to Restaurant Wars,a TAR team with good karma points and Sylar's scary trip down memory lane

Another high stakes Quickfire was given this week on Top Chef as Padma and guest judge Tom Moonan held the first ever tag team cooking challenge.

The chefs were divided into two teams and had to make one dish together in a "one at a time" fashion. They were not allowed to talk about what to cook beforehand and were made to wear blindfolds until it was his or her turn at the helm.

The team that won was made up of Jennifer,Kevin,Laurine and Mikey I,who were given the option of splitting up ten grand or "letting it ride",with the chance of all them winning ten thousand apiece if they won the Elimination round. They all agreed to let it ride and then started off for Restaurant Wars.

Tom Moonan let the chefs use his restaurant(the winning team had first pick of either the upper or the lower level to work on),so planning the decor wasn't necessary but putting together a menu that reflected Moonan's style of "sustainable seafood" cuisine was.

Team Two had the Brothers Voltaggio,Robin and Eli and they called their restaurant Revolt,a name that could've easily backfired on them.

The chefs chosen for the front of the house gig also had to be responsible for one dish and Eli was the frontman for Revolt and while his hosting services were excellent,his smoked arctic char appetizer was just deemed "okay" by the judges.

The Brothers Voltaggio made great entrees(even tho Bryan's beef duo was cold by the time it got to many of the tables)and Robin's pear pithivier was the hit of the night. Michael did get in her face while she was making it,trying to take over instead of "helping" as he claimed later on,but everything turned out well in the end.

Revolt won Restaurant Wars and Michael V was singled out for his cod with zucchini tenderloin and pressed chicken dishes to receive the ten grand that the QF winners had decided to gamble upon. Michael immediately asked if he could share his cash winnings with his team,a very honorable thing to do and one that was appreciated by all except his brother Byran.

Bryan was annoyed at his brother's domineering attitude in the kitchen and I can't say that I blame him. Michael,you're a great chef but you don't have to be a patronizing bully to your fellow chefs there. Part of being a Top Chef is being someone others are willing to follow and work with,not be overrun by and given little pats on the head to make up for it later.

The other team called their eatery Mission and if their goal was to succeed,they failed miserably at it. Jennifer overextended herself,which lead to the butter sauce on her trout plate being broken and bad tasting,plus her halibut with clams and mussels took forever and a day to be served because she chose to cook the shellfish to order.

I don't eat clams and mussels(much less cook them)but even I know that they're not quick cook to order items! Jennifer was in serious hot water there.

Laurine,fortunately,stunk up the joint with her poor service at the front of the house and sent off to pack her knives. Not only was she overwhelmed by the amount of people coming in to eat,Laurine didn't even take the time to explain the dishes to the judges during service(Padma had to ask her twice).

Also,the lamb plate that she was responsible for was a mess,due to her and Kevin(who was working on it in the kitchen)not agreeing about how medium rare the meat should be.

Kevin made a great pork belly plate,which spared him this time,and Mikey I's apps were good,even with Padma requesting some salt for the table upon first tasting his fish dish. Laurine was pretty much a middle of the road chef,so it was about time for her to go home,anyway.

Next week,Natalie Portman shows up and the chefs get a very pop culture challenge,to make a TV dinner based on a TV show. Sounds like a yabba-daba-yummy time to me:

On Heroes,Sylar got some of his memories back,thanks to a member of the Sullivan Bros. circus who jump started his brain waves. It didn't quite achieve the effect that Samuel(the sinister ringleader of the group)was hoping for,since Sylar still feels disconnected to those past acts of murderous mayhem and freaked out,big time.

Meanwhile,Peter hooked up with Mr. Bennett to find a healer to cure Hiro of his deadly brain tumor. As is the way of these things on this show,that proved to be tricky since the kid in question had his powers take a turn for the worse that put him on the defense with a shotgun in hand. Interesting to see one house of horrors put up against another there:

Next Monday's episode has a bit of a Halloween theme,as Clare goes thru a sorority initiation that resembles a bad slasher movie and Sylar's memory echo in Matt's head starts getting more out of control than he bargained for. With any luck,things will get very spooky,indeed:

A team determined to do well both physically and morally on this season's The Amazing Race is Brian and Ericka,husband and wife who have been wed for over two years after a nearly a decade of courtship. Ericka is a former Miss America winner from 2004 and feels that good behavior is highly expected of her due to that.

Brian,however,wants to rack up the good karma and set up some ducats in the favor bank by being as helpful as he can be to his fellow competitors on the race. That's a very smart move and a nice way to go here. Sometimes,it's the little things you do that allows fate to throw you a break at just the right moment:


THE JEFF DUNHAM SHOW: The popular puppet master gets a series of his own on Comedy Central,starting tonight at nine. While his politically incorrect cast of characters may not be for everyone,there are an equal number of targets that hit the social satire mark: