There’s an idea set forth in film production called ‘psychological closure,’ where it is unnecessary to show the audience absolutely everything – all the steps in a process – for them to figure out what’s going on. For example, if someone walks into an elevator in an establishing shot, and in the following shot – perhaps an interior of the elevator – we see them press a button and the doors close, there usually isn’t any need for us to take the entire elevator ride to whatever floor for us to understand what is going on. We can work out that, when the next shot is the elevator doors opening and the actor walking out into an entirely new area, that they have travelled from one floor to another. We don’t think they’re in a different building; we don’t think it’s magic or time travel or get confused and terrified and wonder how it all happened – our minds fill in the gap and we understand they have ridden an elevator.
So the fact that Food Network are seemingly determined to include a requisite trip to the market in every episode of The New & Improved Not Necessarily The Next Food Network Star indicates that they think, a) viewers at home are simply far too thick to comprehend just how it is food has managed to appear in the kitchen for the Sith Apprentices to cook, or b) it is the only sufficient method by which they believe they can place their heavy-handed Where’s Waldo- style spotter’s guide for How To Recognise Blatant Product Endorsement From Quite a Long Way Away.
Either way, it’s getting tiresome.
‘Last week the judges were hard on me,’ Whinging Twat Judson stated straight away, referring to a segment apparently not in the original broadcast of the previous week’s episode. ‘So this week I’ve really gotta prove to them that I am being me, that I can be genuine, and I belong here.’
So the first target was set for the Stark Fist of Removal.
Breaking the mould of previous years, this episode started with the Sith Apprentices meeting with their mentors for a New & Improved mid-way-through-the-competition chat about their various states of progress which took about ten very long minutes, the result of which was that Nikki sounds too ‘hosty,’ Yvan has no depth, Ippy has no energy, and that Malcolm has no need of a CPOV because he has style. Also, Justin was told to be less cocky and not so much of a ‘jerk face,’ Martita wants to ‘bring it,’ without further specifics as to what ‘it’ exactly is, Emily does indeed have ‘the whole package’ and I want to marry her, and Dark Lord Flay felt that if Michele were to continue on her present path, she would lose, tagging her again as a potential victim of the Stark Fist of Removal along with Martie With The Party for not having an off switch for her constant rambling.
‘Here’s the big mystery…’ stated Sith Master Alton Brown, once again focussing his ire on Whinging Twat Judson: ‘Who are you?’
The short answer was, essentially, that he’d learnt to ‘embrace flavour’ on his weight loss journey but doesn’t like to talk about it because it brings back bad memories of being a fat whinging twat, but – gosh – wouldn’t it be helpful to actually have some sort of Culinary Point of View now that we’re already five episodes along?
Finally gathering in the Food Network kitchen for the Obligatory Congratulations as well as the introduction to the Star Challenge, Dark Lord Flay explained that the Sith Mentors would be searching this week for ‘versatility and your ability to thrive in any situation.’
‘And,’ Darth Giada enthused, ‘we have just the GUY to help us out with this one!’
Wow. Where’s Louie Anderson when you need him?
Michele was shone to blink stony-faced at this pun as Guy Fieri strutted out of the shadows to the heavy crunch of guitars and pounding drums because he’s so rock n’ roll (though not as rock n’ roll as Josh was) in his ugly Western shirt and sunglasses dangling stupidly off the back of his head.
The nature of this week’s challenge, Guy eventually droned on, was for each team to host a ‘live’ special in front of a studio audience. And by ‘live’ he meant transmitted to nowhere because it wasn’t a real programme, just something they threw together for the challenge. Guy, of course, would be the host and each team would have a theme: Halloween for Team Alton, ‘Big Game Day’ for Team Giada, which sadly hadn’t a thing to do with stalking prey on the Serengeti, and Team Flay got ‘Cooking For Kids’ and they were less than thrilled, especially Nikki. Malcolm was elated, though, because he is a father, but his style precluded him ever mentioning children or interacting with them again.
As they broke into their respective groups to sort out what they were going to do, Team Flay decided on fun and playful food for kids with a healthy twist.
‘Healthy, mindful cooking sometimes tastes like grass,’ Dark Lord Flay warned Nikki whilst she explained to him her idea for a spinach, kale, agave, pineapple and banana smoothie for children.
On Team Alton, Justin wanted to do sardines and fried sardine skeletons which, he said, were ‘the potato chip of the sea’ and much like eating ‘fried lace.’ I thought he’d said ‘fried lice’ at first and had to go back and check. Emily felt, for the Halloween/Fall theme, that applesauce was appropriate (though Justin was compelled to question her choice) and Whinging Twat Judson chose to prepare a vegetarian chilli, which he would eventually make cloyingly sweet.
On Team Giada, Martita earned the ‘tita’ in her name by having her breasts very nearly spilling out of her widely-open blouse.
And then there was the Obligatory Shopping and more advertising placement for Buick and Discover card followed by an hour of cooking the next morning amidst cunning shots of Moen faucets and Lodge cookware.
On the theoretically ‘live’ programme, Team Alton were plagued with difficulties: low energy from Justin, who fumbled and froze before the awesome rock n’ roll power of Guy Fieri and his tacky shirts and backwards sunglasses; Judson suddenly deciding to test drive his newly discovered CPOV to both the chagrin of Emily and the stunned amazement of Bob T and Susie, who had no idea Judson had lost 115 pounds because he never talked about it – ever – because it brought back bad memories and made him cry; and Martie With The Partie, shockingly, talked over her allotted time limit leaving Emily just scant moments to hurriedly explain her contribution.
Bob T gave Emily ‘extra credit’ for maintaining her composure and sense of humour despite the fact Martie couldn’t stop talking, but Susie felt they were four separate presenters who ‘didn’t really rise to the occasion personality wise.’
Team Giada were big, loud, hyperactive and hit all their marks to the point that, at the end, Darth Giada leapt to her tiny feet clapping and screaming ‘Yes! Yes!’ and then was tranquilised. Team Flay got the rather unfair disadvantage of having to deal directly with children who, surprisingly, absolutely hated Nikki’s healthy, grass-like smoothie – which she felt compelled to blend throughout a majority of Michele’s segment as everyone stood and watched. And watched. It was only Michele’s resemblance to and camaraderie with Guy Fieri which ultimately saved the team.
So it was really no surprise at all to determine that, standing before the big cartoon doors in the Council Chambers to face ‘The Network,’ Teams Giada and Flay were safe. This placed Team Alton against each other in the now Obligatory Producer Challenge – something of a sudden-death cook-off in which the bottom team had 30 minutes to prepare a dish and 60 seconds to describe the nature of that dish in what is referred to as a ‘to camera’ – or to the camera – segment.
Bob T explained that they were to be ‘versatile’ and show their ‘brand and POV.’ But first they had to throw a dart at a map of the US and prepare a dish based on where that dart landed. Whinging Twat Judson got Arkansas and felt that a baked catfish dish would be appropriate. Justin got Neraska and chose a carbohydrate overload in the form of ‘Spaghetti Midwestern,’ a comically large steak swimming in pasta and salsa. Emily landed on Arizona and created a Chicken Posole in 20 minutes through the nimble use of a pressure cooker. And Martie got Pennsylvania, the ‘home of nothing,’ she claimed. She decided to make stuffed mushroom caps because Sith Master Alton told her that most mushrooms purchased in a grocery came from Pennsylvania. And so does some cream cheese. And Yuengling beer.
And then there was more Lodge cast iron and Boos butcher block product placement interspersed with cooking. After that, an inordinate amount of time was spent trying to drag some sort of useable performance out of Martie, so much time, in fact, that it needed to be divided over an advertising break to really build up the intensity of her facing the Stark Fist of Removal.
A short time later, at the Eye of Sauron table in The Inner Sanctum, all the stress and focus put on Martie as a form of misdirection was for naught as Justin, with his large steak and enormous plate of spaghetti and salsa, was declared safe along with Emily and Martie.
That, of course, left Whinging Twat Judson to finally have his long overdue meeting with the Stark Fist of Removal and he broke down in great whinging tears once more. ‘The Network,’ it seemed, had been frustrated by the fact that they felt they had to lead him by the nose to a Culinary Point of View, and that he seemed to feel good about finally getting to ‘hoine in’ on something useful just ‘a couple of days ago,’ as he admitted, and at the last minute did little to appease them.
Susie Fogelson did say, ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart’ and offered him a nice big conciliatory hug which allowed him to blubber enormously and incoherently on her shoulder in a dramatically-shadowed shot, so that was nice.
There was another big mystery, however, which was never addressed: why did this episode need to be 90 minutes long?