So in this episode, Alton Brown is really mean and the Food Network is really dumb and the contestants are dumber. I do find it mystifying that the show spends next to no time (maybe an episode worth if we're lucky) on on-camera skills, yet somehow expects people to come up with scripts, memorise them, hit your talking points, and be a friendly, knowledgeable, on-camera presence in the space of 24 hours. AAAAAND come up with a recipe using an ingredient that you hate. What happened to season 1 where folks had challenges JUST on following a teleprompter. Not only that, the casting for this season is completely whack. How am I supposed to want to watch anyone's series when the NFNS has established them as a) incompetent, b) annoying? And finally, is this a way to promote your existing stars? It's sad that BOBBY FLAY is the most humane and instructive. Giada seems to be bringing the bitchface and cleavage in equal proportions and, damn, Alton just plain mean. The editors needed to put in footage of him giving advice to the contestants, as opposed to just ripping on them in judging.
With those lovely feelings, here the recap. We spend no time in the apartment and move directly to the kitchen where a bearded, raggedy Alton Brown comes out. He introduces bullshit challenge #1 which focuses on working with the camera or as Alton puts it, "the big stack of glass." They choose components of their dish from three sacks of rice. Amy gets a veal cutlet, oyster mushrooms and popcorn. Paul gets calamari, fennel, and persimmon. JAG gets shrimp, snow peas, and cornflakes. Adrien gets flounder, japanese eggplant and peanut butter. Rory gets Minute steak, red radish, and dried prunes. They need to come up with a dish and a demonstration that lasts 3 minutes. Seriously, this challenge would have happened three episodes ago in season 1. Ah the F4. Noone looks too flustered. That will change once the demos happen.
Rory - She's not too annoying, she starts with the premise of having an empty pantry with only her challenge items. She says the prunes should be used like raisins in a salad. She gets cut off but manages to get her dish plated.
JAG -He refers to himself as "the JAG." Dear god. He uses the cornflakes as a crunchy factor in a tempura. He's actually fairly competent as well.
Paul - Already with the nervous energy. Starts in with his Dad catching fresh calamari. then he talks about making fried calamari healthy. BOO! It's FRIED! More on the fishing story but it seems like there isn't much instruction. MORE of that DAMN STORY!
Adrien - FINALLY they acknowledge that he has his own local cooking show. But according to the Televisionwithoutpity boards, he doesn't cook on on the show, he hosts while REAL cooks do the cooking. He's feeling confident. His story is about comfort food. Rather than do any actual cooking, he justs refers to the ingredients and mimes the cooking. WHUH? It's his death knell.
Amy - She's totally nervous and getting the loser edit. She's giving herself the loser edit because her presentation is so measured. Hi. I'm. Amy. Finley. Her story is to make a simple dish with a wow factor. Popcorn encrusted veal? Yuck.
Afterwards, Alton gives the contestants feedback. Rory needs to cook more. JAG needs to explain his terms. Paul is too much story. Amy tells, not shows. She's deflated. Adrien didn't cook. BURRRN!
After commercial, the contestants get covered plates. Underneath the plates are ingredients they hate. Amy hates bok choy because it's bland. JAG hates tofu because it's high protein gunk. Paul, who wins over my heart, hates lima beans because they are pasty and dry. WOOOOORD!!!!! Rory hates goat cheese because it smells like male billy goats. Where did she get THAT experience? Adrien hates baby corn because he thinks it tastes like baby corn. He obviously didn't have Cafe Atlantico's grilled baby corn. So they have to develop a recipe, design a 5-minute demonstration and write a script with 4 talking points. Six episode's in and they get sprung with THAT? WTF?
Ok. Shopping for food is my F5. F5 all around. Sadly, JAG decides to do a Carribean pad thai with banana peppers. Before hitting the kitchen, they kvell over their well-appointed set. That night they all work on their scripts. Everyone is seriously stressed. I do like the camaraderie among the contestants. Knowing that this is essentially a job interview, the contestants are aware that backstabbing doesn't get you the job. Oh, Amy gets the "I miss my family edit." Everyone is trying to convince her to stay.
The next day the contestants F4, except for JAG who doesn't have his banana peppers and immediately cries sabotage. The others sensibly blow him off. Amy is sad, sad, sad. Then she cuts her finger and is drenched in blood. Quickly they move into the presentations. I'd have to say, Alton is really getting off on the stern taskmaster role. I think it would be hard to understand being in the contestants' position since he came from a tv background and then went to culinary skills. He came to the Food Network with the chops.
Paul - The lima bean goes on an adventure. Then it's about his mom stretching her budget. Then it's about him not liking lima beans. Then it's about his catering. He finally gets to the cooking and he's fairly good. And then about him mom. I like the idea of the parmesan crisp. But really he's all over the place. And then he makes a silly joke about the oven being hot (it's not). The judges don't like his lack of focus.
Amy - Whine whine whine. She's blanking out. Hi. I'm. Amy. Finley. She promptly forgets her script and talks about her sister Diane. Wow she is two seconds away from crying. It's painful to watch. The judges hate the recipe and say she had no personality. Bob says that she better hope someone else does worse than she does. Not to worry about that one.
JAG - Makes his pad thai with something like 20 ingredients. He can't spend time on any one technique or ingredient. Sofrito? Scallops? Whuh? The other contestants are watching and criticizing. Wow, and JAG totally shoots himself in the foot by pronouncing his dish, "not half bad." He promptly spits out the tofu in disgust. GROSS! They hate the complex dish.
Rory - Her theme is out of the city and into the panhandle. Wow, her eyes are bugging out. It's scary. She does a lot of talking without actually cooking. She mentions rennet, the enzyme in an animal's stomach. This is grossing everyone out. I think the recipe is simple but there wasn't much cooking. She actually finishes ahead of schedule which is totally bad.
Adrien - More on the cooking show. He has a good personality but doesn't do much demonstrating. He refers to the baby corn as baby corns. It bugs. Alton is pissed about Adrien not showing how the corn is grilled and then his referring to pan frying his nuts as roasting them. Adrien gets totally flustered getting the pasta out of the boiling water. It's all going downhill. Then he adds an egg and says the egg is for flavor. The egg isn't cooking like it should and so Adrien is now serving a dish with a raw egg. Alton is freaking out about the egg, screaming "the eggs is for EMULSIFYING!" He can't even watch the end.
Backstage, Amy is all about going home. And Alton wants to kick them all out and start over. You made your bed Food Network. At judging, the judges like the performances in the first challenge and HAAAATE the second challenge. Everyone except for Adrien admits to struggling with the challenge. JAG gets his ass kicked because his recipe wasn't geared for a home cook. He also gets reamed (rightly so) for his banana pepper freak out. Rory gets criticized for her point of view, or lack thereof. And then Rory says her point of view is all the food in America. Paul is criticized for starting stories and not finishing them along the lack of a clear point of view. Adrien is knocked down three pegs with his lack of cooking and his misstated food facts. And then there's Amy. Same criticism as everyone else. She was the worst elements of everyone. And here comes THE INCIDENT. Being told she's a big ol' loser, she tries to save face by saying she didn't want to win anyway and wants to go back to her family. Even I would give her the bitchface on that one. But it gets better. After the commercial, the judges push her on her statement on wanting to go home. She gives the half assed answer of "if they had a decision to make between me and these other people, I would send me home." They push her harder and Amy, sensing they might like her, say no she doesn't want to send her home. I'd send her home because she's being a big baby.
In the end Paul is called the winner just because he did marginally better from the first challenge to the second. Amy, the whiner is called next. The judges say they chose her against her wishes. Amy says she wants to stay but really, does baby want her bottle? Amy and Paul hug in releif. Rory is safe and it's down to JAG and Adrien. And once again, it's clear these people like each other. That is a really huge plus about NFNS. JAG gets to stay and no hard feelings all around. Group hugs!
The final four go over their points of view. Amy- Gourmet next door (good luck on that one. Sara Moulton's on PBS). Paul - Dan and Steve part 2. JAG - that Ingrid Hoffman latino show Part 2. Rory - Real food for real people.