Dallas chef John Tesar gets back in the spotlight on the latest episode of Top Chef — a blessing in a segment fraught with silly challenges and an annoying conclusion.
Tesar also returns to his role as the chef you love to hate. Is he grabby and selfish with ingredients? The producers make it clear where they come down on this, but they designate tearful, complaining chef Emily Hahn to convey the message.
Viewers also learn more than they ever could have dreamed of about Tesar's astrological sign. Zodiac signs are the theme for the show's opening quickfire challenge — so new-agey! Ingredients are grouped according to the four elements of the universe: fire, earth, air, and water. The chefs have to cook a dish that represents their sign.
Many of the chefs turn out to be Aries. Tesar is Scorpio. In fact, triple Scorpio, which means sun in Scorpio, moon in Scorpio, and rising sign in Scorpio. Everything in Scorpio. Tesar knows his astrology.
"I've owned the Scorpio thing for a long time — good and bad," he says, launching into a Scorpio soliloquy that he illustrates via many hand gestures. "The Scorpio crawls on the ground (left hand moves horizontally) and becomes a vindictive kind of creature (right hand bats at left), and that was me on season 10. But I've done some reading, that when you learn to discover yourself and mature, you turn into an eagle (hands extended in a V), and soar above the ground."
Wait, there's more.
"I'm trying to make that transition from the scorpion," he says, left hand crawling again, "with the vengeance and the stinger (right hand batting), to soaring like an eagle."
Throughout his soliloquy, the producers lay in a mildly disturbing calliope-type music, passing not-so-subtle judgment on what he's saying. They end it with an abrupt, cartoonish eagle screech.
The quickfire/zodiac challenge is "sudden death," which means someone will go home, and that someone is sweet, chipmunky Jim Smith. Seconds before his dismissal is announced, the producers show him telling the camera that he's in it for the long haul. So cold.
The elimination challenge is idiotic from beginning to end. Ingredients are hidden in baskets planted around the city of Charlotte. The chefs must find them via a scavenger hunt with maps. Luckily for the drama quotient, there's a tropical storm, so the chefs have to do the hunt in ponchos. OMG, all that walking in the rain, Katsuji Tanabe's feet are soaked.
Tesar is on a team with Emily and Jamie, the gentle chef with many neck tattoos, who takes this opportunity to confess his former heroin addiction and heroic comeback. Uh-oh, that sure sounds like he's going home. But he can't, because he has immunity, see.
Now is when the producers splice in Emily's complaints about Tesar: He takes lobster, he takes truffles, he expects her to debone his lobster, and her dish suffers. Good-natured Jamie takes all the crappy ingredients nobody else wants, like chicken and peanut butter, which is A-OK, because remember he has immunity.
Their team is the loser. Jamie's chicken is awful. So is Emily's lobster chowder. Overwhelmed by a wave of misguided chivalry, Jamie offers to revoke his immunity. Seeing an opening, the lazy judges pick him off. Emily cries some more, and nobody's happy. Lamest episode ever.