Top Chef 9.15 recap: A chilly reception in BC, Canada

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OK, did this episode make anyone else as grumpy as it did me? Reality shows always need to find the sweet spot between gimmicky and suspenseful, and this one tipped over into a pit of contrivance.

So let’s make this snappy: As the contestants arrive in British Columbia, before the finale in Vancouver, Sarah tells us in interview mode that she’s determined to be a nice person. Cut to the foursome (Sarah, Beverly, Lindsay, and Paul) in the car: Paul asks Bev how the Last Chance Kitchen was, and Bev is all, “it was totally awesome,” and as she’s about to say more, Sarah shouts, “Look at those trees!” So much for niceness—or, so much for me being immune to the manipulative effects of the Bravo editing machine. The show’s hour pretty much revolves around the competition between Beverly and Sarah, and you just feel the producers prodding the tension behind the scenes in every frame.

On a blustery mountain, we learn from Padma (whose pearly whites match the exact shade of the snow, well coordinated) and Tom that the episode will revolve around three culinary games, with Olympic medalists as judges. The first challenge is to cook a dish in one of those ski lift gondolas that swings down a mountain. Motion sickness and high-altitude boiling challenges ensue, but Lindsay wins for her seared salmon dish: She’s in for the finale and doesn’t have to continue with the challenges.

The second event is maddening and ridiculous: The chefs have to chip the foods they’ll cook out of frozen ice. Because, you know, chipping ingredients out of ice happens in real restaurant kitchens. Ugh. Bev, humiliatingly, tries to bust out scallops with a frying pan. Paul helps the women get their ingredients, and he wins for king crab poached in brown butter. That leaves—what? No way!—Bev and Sarah to compete against each other for the last spot in the finale. They each must ski to a firing range where they then will shoot bullseye targets with names of ingredients on them. Much falling and bad aim ensues: Sarah ends up with items to make braised rabbit leg and heart with sauerkraut puree, hazelnuts, and cherries. Bev changes it up with a non-Asian entree: slow-roasted arctic char with celery root-truffle puree, beet compote, and shaved fennel salad.

They’re both solid dishes, but Sarah proves triumphant. Cut to one of the most awkward couple of moments in the show’s history, with Lindsay and Sarah talking to Bev like she’s a child, and Bev being the good sport who just wants to be liked as she always is, and then she leaves and the three of them all look so relieved and hug giddily. Also: Padma looks weepy after telling Bev to pack her knives and go. Even Padma cried this season of tears? Will Tom weep next week? Dang.

Speaking of next week, in the previews we learn that one more person gets eliminated before a showdown of two. Can this season just be done with already? I hope Hugh Acheson makes an appearance at least…

PREVIOUS RECAPS
9.14: And then there were…five. Again.
9.13: Pancakes, not porn, for Pee-wee
9.12: The brutality of chicken salad and bees
9.11: The last seven dwarves
9.10: Return of the Hughnibrow
9.9: Oh, the sexiness!
9.8: Tweets for twits
9.7: Tears of a chef
9.6: Cue the Dallas theme music
9.5: Don’t be tardy for the dinner party

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