Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, December 05, 2013

Top Chef tackles Restaurant Wars,checking in on AHS:Coven and how Masters of Sex is shaping up

One of the most favorite challenges on Top Chef for both participants and viewers is Restaurant Wars, which was a nice way to bring the show back from their Turkey Day break.Two teams were formed,due to the now classic knife pull,and each group of five had less than a day to set up a pop-up restaurant.

 They not only had to please the judges(with David Chung in the guest spot position) but a batch of "Chase Sapphire" diners as well. So subtle with the product placement,guys,seriously!

The team that consisted of Travis,Carrie,Nicholas,Stephanie and Brian decided to be a seafood place called Fin(not too bad of a name).

Travis chose to be the front of the house and Nick volunteered to be the executive chef,a risky role since if things go wrong,that person would be a big target at Judges' Table. Brian was nervous about his scallop crudo,due to his grabbing the wrong ingredient to stabilize the purple corn gel served along side it.

Fortunately,that gel was the only down note in the savory song fest that Fin played for everyone's palate. The other dishes shined and service was excellent,mainly in part to Travis who was a very attentive host to all of the diners and not just the special tables either.

He also made an olive oil cake for dessert that turned out nicely and I have to say that despite his attitude issues in prior episodes, the guy did do a great job here. Nice comeback, Travis,keep it going!

Fin won the challenge and Nicholas was deemed the top winner for his well run kitchen as well as his food.

His oxtail with kale,king trumpet mushrooms and hibiscus reduction was warm and hearty,mirroring his team work with Travis and the others. Kudos all around,Fin!

The second restaurant,run by Carlos,Nina,Shirley,Justin and Sara,named itself "Found" but everyone was seemed lost,especially the diners. It was not surprising that they lost this round,due to the collective chaos in the front and back of the house.

Between Justin's snappish behavior plus his frenzy to organize the tickets as executive chef and Sara's detached attitude as front of the house, things were a right proper mess. Food either went out twice to the same table or  not at all while ,menus were taken away before anyone had a chance to look at them and Sara barely listened to complaints on the floor.

Justin's main dish,a roasted parsnip angolotti with rabbit, turned out terrible. David Chung said that the meat was both over and under done,not a ringing endorsement there!

Nina and Shirley did make good dishes as usual while Carlos' red snapper was a bit on the skimpy side. At least he was sensible enough to acknowledge that at Judges' Table, unlike Sara who dare to give them attitude.

In addition to her brown butter cake tasting like a "weird greasy cookie", Sara did not take the time to describe her fellow team mate's dishes to the judges during service, a standard courtesy.

While Padma called her on it and even pointed out that Sara did go over her own dish, she implied that it was only due to Padma's "insistence". Sorry, Sara but you're in New Orleans not Texas and no body was buying your revisionist history here! Sara was rightly sent off to Last Chance Kitchen and with any luck, she won't be back again.

American Horror Story:Coven also returned to the airwaves with more witchy wackiness as Misty Day is now believed to be the next Supreme, Zoe is in a three way love triangle with undead Kyle and formerly deceased Madison(it's that kind of show,folks),plus Fiona was this close to ending it all but for the ghostly intervention of Spaulding.

Granted, this is my first full season of AHS, so I don't know if the loose leaf approach to story telling that is being taken is par for the course here. While some character motivations are clearly more highlighted than others(in some cases, barely sketched in) and certain plot points have not been fully developed(why,for example,do we never see anyone taking a magic class? This is a witch school, after all and even a Hogwarts:Goth version would be fine), there is plenty of reasons to keep on watching.

Granted,the diva roster is pretty full here,with Fiona,Marie Laveau and Madame Lalaurie and it's glorious to see any of these ladies take center stage but out of the young girls set to possibly be the Supreme, the one I identify with the most is Queenie.

On last night's episode, Queenie's defection to Marie's camp was made abundantly clear to the rest of the group and while some may wonder what made her "all of a sudden" jump ship and hand over Madame Lalaurie(who deserves everything she gets,trust me on this) to Marie, I can well understand it.

Queenie has a real outsider's position,due not just to her race amongst the Salem witches but also her size,the latter being something in which I have personal emotional experience with. Always feeling out of place,looking to anyone older for recognition and acceptance regardless of that person's true agenda(Fiona already used her to frame Myrtle and I have no doubt that Marie has plans for her as well) and the need to prove her own worth to the world, those are traits that I know far too well and no doubt others in the audience will respond to:

I also like Nan's pluck and sincerely wish that Zoe would display more of the aggressive savvy she wielded to fight off Marie's zombie army than her usual too stupid to live tactics. Yes, let's lie to the ghost of a serial killer and then just release him out into the world with no effort to keep him from returning to his hack attack ways!

 Lucky for her, the Axeman is being distracted by Fiona for the moment. Not to mention that taking out Spaulding made sense but guaranteeing that he wouldn't be able to affect the physical world again would have been smart. See what happens when you don't take magic classes? Professor McGonagall would be most displeased,indeed!

 Soon enough, AHS:Coven will take it's next holiday break and by the time it comes back, maybe the writers will fill in more of the blanks for us:

The first season of Masters of Sex is nearly finished and so far, I hope that we will be given a second one.

While the sexual content is what is to be expected here and several good performances are on deck(particularly Allison Janney as the sadly unaware wife of the provost who is as firmly in the closet as he can be), the real drawing power of this series are it's two leads.

Between Bill Masters, a man who worships order yet can not resist the chaotic lure of sexual misbehavior, and Virginia Johnson, a divorced mother of two who is in many ways ahead of her time,the endeavor to unravel the mysteries of human sexuality has been given more depth that simply a scientific quest.

The emotional give and take between Bill and Virginia,going from  occasional acceptance as equals to desire being masked as research and  mutual concerns about the future of their work, is the core of the show and in that, MOS delivers. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan received Emmy nominations next year for their outstanding duet of acting:


SLEEPY HOLLOW: A new episode will be on next week, with Ichabod being particularly eager to learn about the fate of his son but those answers promise to be rather pricey:

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