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“My name is Alex Parrish”. Over scenes from last week’s premiere, her voice over continues, making a nice change from the standard “previously on”. “I never thought, before I’d save our country, I’d have to save myself. I need to find the truth.” Also better than “To save my city, I have to *be* someone else.” The truth is out there, Alex! You just have a mighty big haystack.

We’re flashing back to pre-Quantico and the new recruits’ interviews. Simon, Natalia, Shelby, Nimah, Alex. As each one leaves, something hinky occurs to rouse our suspicions. Simon tries on several pairs of glasses. Natalia examines a fresh scar behind her ear. Shelby deletes a phone contact with what looks like a name in Arabic script. Nimah is joined by the assistant director, Miranda Shaw. But Liam already has Alex pegged, as he tells Ryan, “That’s your mark.” In carny slang, a mark is a victim.

We flash forward to Week 2 and early morning PT. The troops are out for a run, and after, we revisit the notion that Alex and Ryan are what, in military lingo, is called “pissmates”, meaning they share a bathroom. Since opposite-sex PMs are frowned upon in the military, I’m pretty sure this arrangement is script dictated to build sexual tension. But hey, I get to see Jake McLaughlin in a towel, so it works for me. Ryan is having problems getting close to Alex again. My suspect, the hijab-wearing twins playing Nimah, and my friend’s suspect Shelby, seem to get along with her just fine. But I think I see a spark of jealousy in her eyes when he starts playing up to the ex cop, Natalia, who seems to have it in for Ms. Parrish.

This week’s first class is on preventing terrorist attacks. They will be working with analysts, and as the dozen blue polo-shirted extras walk in, everyone stiffens to see Caleb Haas, who was expelled after driving the LDS missionary to commit suicide. I perk up to see Rick Cosnett, previously seen as Eddie Thawne on The Flash. The class is taken to a set up of several different crime scenes, or “haystacks” and told to find the evidence pointing toward an attack, the “needle”. They are broken up into groups, with one analyst per group.

Nine Months Later (9ML): Alex, who has somehow gotten an FBI windbreaker, baseball cap, and walkie talkie, holds a tense conversation with Liam. As he orders someone to triangulate on her position, she promises him she’ll find the needle that will clear her name.

Quantico: Liam acts surprised when Miranda tells him Ryan’s an undercover agent, then calls her on her association with the twins. She evades his probe, and then pays them a visit to tell them they need to straighten up their act, because if their cover is blown, they won’t get the juicy assignment promised to them. I can’t decide if this heightens or lessens my suspicions.

9ML: Liam doesn’t pull any punches when he interrogates Miranda as to her role in Alex’s escape, but she turns it straight back on him, asking him if, when he looks at Alex, he sees the recruit he fell in love with or the terrorist who turned him down. Natalia interrupts with a phone call to let him know Alex’s apartment was a dead end. She thinks there’s a safe house somewhere. In the meantime, Alex is in the bistro across the street, starting her needle search with their security camera footage.

Quantico: Nimah’s twin, S (I didn’t catch her name and IMDB doesn’t list it), is having problems staying away from Simon, who seems pretty desperate to make friends with her for a purportedly-gay Jewish boy. In the haystacks, Ryan and Alex seem to be working well together until she starts harrassing him about the cover story he gave her last week. Natalia doesn’t miss the opportunity to woo Ryan away while getting in a dig at Alex. Shelby confronts Caleb; he claims he was given the choice to come back as an agent or analyst and chose analyst so he can kick back and watch Internet videos. Eddie Thawne introduces himself as Elias to Simon, and is kinda sorta hitting on him, although he claims he isn’t. It kinda sorta goes over Simon’s head. Alex finds her needle, so we jump to

9ML: She’s reviewing the security footage, and spots someone in her apartment after she left and before Ryan gets there. She has no idea how they got in. About then, the bistro owner recognizes her and Alex has to take her down.

Quantico: Now we’re going to identify the threats. Miranda’s sitting in. All the people who found evidence come forward and give it to their analysts; Simon cold-shoulders Eddie, who asks Nimah for the goods. She happily tells him about the Gaza trip. The analysts are using a super computer to crunch the data, and Haas is the first to announce the results. Eddie announces his team’s, then Ryan and Natalia tag team theirs. Guess their analyst didn’t rate a line.The trainees start to head out, but Miranda stops them. They have to prioritize, she tells them. Which (“If any” Liam interjects) of these threats is the imminent one? Liam gives them five minutes to figure it out. They all argue for each of theirs, but Alex suddenly pipes up with, “None”. That’s not one of the options, she’s told. She points out that Liam said “If any” but is roundly ignored, and disappears out the back of the classroom as the others dash off to their particular locale. Liam calls Haas back and reminds him that analysts just watch. We watch Alex studying the haystacks intercut with security camera footage of a shot Ryan being carried out of her apartment. Liam and a couple other agents appear to be closing in on the signal from Alex’s pilferd walkie as in the past, we see the results of the other three teams. Ryan and Natalia’s team was burned. Simon’s was flat out wrong. Shelby’s was still in the planning stages. “Where’s Trainee Parrish?” Liam asks, a question I figure he’s going to be repeating as we cut back to

9ML: Liam and his team are heading into a building. I don’t know where they are, but it’s definitely not the bistro. Some poor delivery guy in a dayglo vest is jacked up. Alex dropped the walkie in his bag when she bumped into him on her way into the bistro. Unfortunately, his bag has their logo on it, and Liam’s on the phone to Natalia. She and her troops storm out to cross the street as Alex watches from behind a garbage can, then warily approaches her front door. She slips in and slams it shut.

Quantico. Liam, followed closely by Ryan, Natalia, and Shelby, confront Alex in the agents’ office. She explains how she figured out the MacGuffin. “You have to question everything.” Liam tells them, something he seems to have forgotten. “You have to look past what you’re told to find the truth.” “Evidence lies”, chips in Miranda, echoing what she told (will tell?) Liam in an earlier-in-the-episode-but-nine-months-later-in-the-timeline scene. As she praises Alex for following her instincts and being the first recruit since they started running the test to figure it out, we see Alex trying to look past the evidence in her apartment. Then we’re fully with her as she rushes around, packing a go bag. She opens her door to come face to face with Natalia. “I’m innocent!” she blurts before the hand to hand combat starts. She manages to get away and drop a clothesrack on Natalia, then locks herself in her bathroom, where she discovers a secret passage. She busts out while Natalia calls for back-up and finds herself in the next building, in a room with a lot of damning packages addressed to her. She spots a piece of wire and grabs it as her once and current nemesis spots her. She heads for the fire escape. Natalia sends her team to the front of the second building and charges after Alex, who heads up to the roof. A chase ensues, and I unsuspend my disbelief enough to think Alex should quit looking back so often. Can’t she place Natalia’s location by the sound of her footfalls?

Natalia manages to get her to stop by shooting at her. Alex again protests that she’s innocent, and points out the illogic of her leaving incriminating evidence such as those packages just lying around, not to mention “shooting the man we both love.” She’s backing slowly away as Natalia closes in, and of course manages to get the drop on her, handcuff her to the nearest drainpipe, and kipe Natalia’s gun to arm herself before taking off.

Quantico: The trainees return to their dorm. Shelby quietly observes that Haas didn’t “choose” to come back as an analyst. He fesses up and she leaves. We see that the Internet videos he’s been watching all day, along with a picture of the clue that was in their haystack, are from Eric (the LDS missionary)’s social media profile. Eddie confronts Simon about his trip to Gaza, saying he likes to poke holes in things, then tries to turn the situation into a seduction. Nimah interrupts, and Eddie discovers Simon’s glasses are as fake as the picture of him kissing his boyfriend. Ryan runs into Alex in the bathroom, and reaches out to her by confessing just how right she was when she profiled him last week. A quick flash forward shows a recuperating Ryan returning a call to her burner phone.

Back at Quantico, Liam bring Miranda a coffee and an ear. Then he chews Ryan out for still not being best buds with Alex. They are almost discovered by the class running by, Liam ghosts away and Ryan catches up to Alex, who flirtatiously challenges him to keep up, and we again segue to

9ML: Alex has ditched the rest of her FBI outfit, and quizzes Ryan about his time at her apartment. He tells her he came by to apologize for what happened at Quantico, and it was too dark to see who shot him. He can help her, but only if he lets the FBI think she’s guilty. She tells him she managed to grab some evidence, and that a mole said it’s someone from their class, and he tells her not to trust anyone (including him, perhaps?), and they hang up just before Liam comes in. When asked who shot him, Ryan says, “It was Alex Parrish.”

Quantico: Liam tells Alex that he has some info on her father and he’ll tell her more later. We see the beginnings of a glimmer of interest in his eyes as he regards her. Miranda starts the lecture by reminding the class, and us, of the question they were asked at the beginning of the show, “Why do you want to join the FBI?” As she talks about the answers in a voice over, we see our suspicious recruits acting suspiciously. Shelby gets a call from her (probably) Arab lover. Eddie knocks on Simon’s door, and when he gets no answer, checks out the fake glasses again. Simon sees him. Miranda concludes her lecture.

9ML: A news anchor updates her audience with Alex being named as the main suspect in the bombing, and gives a description as Alex fondles the piece of wire she grabbed, then tucks her hair into her hood and strides off down the street. The news anchor’s voice over takes us to black.

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Long time no postie. And it might be a while before I post again since I no longer get to watch shows the same day. But there’s been more than a few times where the fingers are itching to get on here and type, so I’m finally gonna do it.

Since I watch my shows on the ‘net when I get a chance, it’s easy for me to get behind and not realize it. So I actually watched the last two shows of Glee in reverse order; I only realized I’d missed one when I spotted two new kids in the club. But I’m glad I did, because that episode was better than “The Rise and Fall of Sue Sylvester”. Because we went back to the beginning, sorta, and got to know the new kids. And maybe actually get to care about them. Loved that Kitty called them out on the alumnus crap.

I noticed the spark between Mason and Jane when the did their first duet, so it’s nice he’s getting out of Madison’s shadow. (And I agree with the previouslytv recapper when he said mother issues are NOT how that duo has been presented. More like Flowers in the Attic than Psycho.) Speaking of duets, that interaction with Sue and Will played right into why I started this blog to begin with. See, every other recapper and commenter would bitch and whine whenever Glee started a song in the auditorium and then switched into some unbelievable performance sequence. So the Glee club watching those two play air guitar while prancing about on the stage, intercut with their hair band antics, really spelled out what I’ve been maintaining all along — IT’S A FANTASY. IT’S ALL IN THEIR HEADS. Get over it.

And the interplay between Roderick, Alistair, and Spencer was sweet and well done. The only thing that pissed me off about the last two shows is that, very shortly after Rachel got Kitty back in the Glee club by promising her that she’d stick it out with them, she was back auditioning for Broadway and now she’s got two reasons to go back to New York. But what else have we come to expect from Rachel Berry?

Anyway, here’s the main dealio I wanted to talk about: Does when you first hear a song influence how you feel about it? See, here’s the thing: A very long time ago I was dating a guy who absolutely loved Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You” because he first heard it in “The Bodyguard”, whereas I preferred the original songstress (and author!) Dolly Parton’s version because I first heard it in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” (Which I saw here in Juneau at the downtown theatre, FWIW).

I bring this up because Glee has definitely influenced my music choices over the years. Sure, it’s been a rich home of my favorite classic rock anthems and ballads (I’m an old fart who doesn’t think there’s been much decent music past 1984), but it’s brought me to liking some new stuff, too, like Britney, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. And it did it again last night, when I was watching “The Final Countdown”. See, there’s a new song out there that everyone’s into — “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars. Everyone’s so into it, that it’s already been copied and aped and mimicked and redone to death. I finally decided to give it a try when, a couple weeks ago, the Huffington Post assured me that I’d get a kick out of watching a bunch of old people shake their groove thang to it. Except I didn’t. I hated it. I watched for less than two minutes before I shuddered and turned it off.

Then, last night, I’m watching Glee, and the kids start in on a song. It’s a great song. It’s catchy. It makes me drum my fingers along to it. I want to boogie in my seat. And then the chorus hits me, and I’m damned if it isn’t “Uptown Funk”. WTF? How come I like it now? How come, with these kids bopping around and singing, I think it’s a great song? This definitely isn’t a “I heard that version first” thing — I already turned it off once. I just don’t know. What do you think?

Yes! Tomorrow night TVD returns, and I’m not sure I can wait until Saturday to read Jules’ and Thomas Galvin’s blogs. PLUS we get a special sneak preview of spin-off The Originals. But wait, you may be thinking, didn’t we kinda have a backdoor pilot last season? Yes, yes we did, and according to this week’s EW, many of the scenes we’ll see tomorrow night will be lifted straight out of that episode. But we’re promised a doozy of an ending that will be sure to tide us over ( and have us chomping at the bit?) until the time-slot premiere Tuesday.

First the new ones. Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday, September 16, yes, you read that right: *this* Monday on Fox. I’m planning on watching it online.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Tuesday 9/24 on ABC. IDK if I’ll be watching this one live or taped. Either way, I probably won’t be blogging about it. Since I’m not the one in control of the remote, it’s not fair to the other viewers to ask them to pause it while I type. And I watch so many shows online, it’s unfortunately too time consuming to rewatch any.

The Goldbergs 9/24 on ABC. I haven’t yet found a good way to recap comedies.

The Michael J. Fox Show, Thursday 9/26 on NBC. I’ll be watching this online.

MasterChef Junior, Friday 9/27 on Fox. Online.

Super Fun Night. Maybe, and if so, online. Premieres Wednesday, October 2 on ABC.

The Originals. Online. Tuesday 10/8 on the CW.

OUAT Wonderland Thursday 10/10 on ABC. Same as for S.H.I.E.L.D.

Reign Thursday 10/17 on the CW. Ditto.

Enlisted on Fox has been pushed back to January 10, 2014.

Now for the returning shows.

X-Factor returned on Wednesday, but I haven’t watched it yet. Admittedly, this year I only want to watch about 28 shows, but I dropped The Voice last year because it ate up so much of my time. I haven’t decided for sure if I’m going to watch either or both yet. The Voice doesn’t premiere until the 23rd.

DWTS. I’ll be watching this live. I probably won’t be live-blogging it until after Bill Nye is voted off, since the only reason I’ll be watching it live is that the lady who owns the TV will be watching it for him. I will, however, be voting for anyone and everyone other than Snooki.

Castle returns to ABC 9/23. Same as DWTS.

HIMYM Final season returns on CBS 9/23. Online.

CSI Original Recipe. CBS, 9/25. Probably live under the same caveats.

Modern Family, ABC. 9/25. Online.

Grey’s. 9/26 on ABC. Online.

The Big Bang Theory (TBBT) 9/26 on CBS. No clue. I know my friend wants to watch both OUAT Wonderland and Reign, but DirectTV is charging more than she can afford for a multi-channel DVR. I don’t think this will be one to bite the dust, though.

Glee returns to Fox on 9/26. We know why they had to push the return date. Expect the memorium for the third episode, from what I’ve heard. I’ll be watching online.

Hawaii 5-0 moves to Fridays opposite Grimm (I might note that in November Bones also moves to this timeslot, and will thereafter be dropped from our viewing list) on CBS. 9/27. I don’t know which we’ll tape and which we’ll watch live, but I probably won’t be able to blog either.

TAR returns to CBS on Sunday 9/29. I’ll be watching online.

OUAT Original Recipe also returns to ABC that night and will be watched live. It’ll again be followed by Revenge, which I’ll watch online.

TVD stealth-Salvatores its way back to the CW on 10/3.

The Biggest Loser has Jillian back and Ruben Studdard, and has finally reduced it’s bloated programming to one concise hour Tuesday nights on NBC. I may be watching this online starting 10/9, since it premiers 10/8.

Last but by no means least, Grimm returns to eat our brains (what? Too soon?) on October 25.

Please feel free to weigh in with which shows you plan to watch and whether or not you really wish I *would* blog about any of the above. I should note that anything I watch online I may not always be able to get to the next day. Currently the users of http://projectfree.tv/ aren’t as quick about uploading decent links as they are at http://www.tvmuse.eu/tv-shows/

At least the former seems to have less spam and viruses (not to mention pop up ads) than the latter.

Happy Watching!

Nina Lisa

It’s no secret, if you’ve been following this blog, that I’m rooting for Luca tonight. So I’m extra hyped to see they flew in his father and sister from Italy.

They have ten minutes in the pantry to get all the ingredients for a three-course dinner that they’ll serve to the judges in the MC restaurant.

They have an hour for their appetizers, which I’m not going to name without the assistance of the chryon. But the announcer reiterates that Natasha’s involves seared scallops, seaweed salad, and couscous, while Luca’s searing duck liver. Gordon talks to Natasha about her dish; Graham talks to Luca. Joe is concerned about sweetness, but Luca corrects him that one of the components has lemon and ginger for acidity. Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, I want to say right now I’m not going to be covering any talking heads, especially Jordan and Krissi.

The two bring their dishes to the usual table, and the judges ask Natasha what she thinks of Luca’s dish. She thinks it looks heavy. The judges head into the restaurant.

Natasha gets to go first, although I have my doubts about Gordon referring to her as a lady. Seared scallops with couscous and seaweed salad. Joe likes it. Gordon says it’s delicious and the scallops are cooked perfectly. Graham really likes the couscous.

Luca sets his dish on the table and then we break for commercial, which gives me time to pose a question I’ve been wondering for some time now: How do the cheftestants keep their dishes warm while they’re waiting for the judges to sample the other dishes ahead of them?

Luca’s plate is seared duck liver with brioche and peaches.  There’s also what he calls an Asian pear chutney. Gordon says it needed another 90 seconds. Graham says it was very rich and if the entrée’s heavy, it could be a mistake. Joe thinks it’s a masterpiece. The cheftestants head back to clear their stations while the judges confer. Graham reminds them they want all three courses to be cohesive. They head out to watch the next hour.

Natasha’s preparing monkfish, Luca’s making beef short ribs and using a pressure cooker to get them done in time. This time, Graham talks to Natasha about how she’s wrapping her fish in tripe. With ten minutes left, Luca has to open the pressure cooker. Everyone counts down as the cheftestants finish plating. They ask Natasha’s opinion of Luca’s dish again, and again she picks at it.

She’s serving five-spice monkfish with rice and coconut curry. Now, that’s an interesting combo. The only five-spice I’m aware of is Chinese five spice, which would not go well with the spices in curry. Perhaps she threw five spices on the monkfish and so that’s why she’s calling it that?

Gordon thinks it looks divine. Graham says the cook on the monkfish is awesome, but the spice is a little hot. Joe says the complexity is amazing, and Gordon says she’s elevated curry. Evidently the monkfish is also the hardest fish to get right.

Luca presents his braised beef short ribs with chanterelle mushrooms. Gordon says it looks fantastic, and the judges start to pull the ribs apart with their forks. I will note that Luca said the ribs would be tender if they fell off the fork. I can’t tell from the shot before the commercial break if they were tough or tender, although I’m leaning toward the latter.

Gordon says he barely has to touch his knife to it before it comes apart, and they’re brilliant. He’s afraid he’s going to die, but he’s glad this was his last supper. Joe wants to make a reservation at his restaurant already. Graham is also complimentary. The chefs return to the station while the judges discuss, and this time, I can see there’s definitely an audience there. I’ll have to check into getting tickets next season.

When the judges come out, Gordon tells them their dishes are better than any finale to date, and they’re basically tied. They have an hour for dessert, and it turns out they’re both making panna cotta. Natasha’s making two, so I hope that doesn’t work. I’m a bit more worried about Luca, who’s putting a salad into his. There’s some kerfuffle about his forgetting to strain something green before the commercial break.

Evidently it’s the whole panna cotta, and he has to start over. He claims there’s enough time for it to set. Natasha’s already set her base in the fridge, but later has to toss one because it didn’t set. She’s actually cut them, whereas his looks like soup in his bowl.

What Natasha didn’t toss is a coconut yogurt panna cotta with passion fruit coulis and edible flower arrangements. Gordon scrapes his plate clean and reaches for Graham’s.  He says it’s the perfect ending to her meal, and Joe agrees that the yogurt helps clear the palate after the spicy monkfish. He does wonder if it’s a little too simple, though.

Luca has a basil panna cotta with tomato jam and honey mascarpone. He says there’s also granulate basil. Gordon thinks it looks like an appetizer and not a dessert. Gordon says the texture is sublime, and seems savory but not sweet unless you add the tomato jam, which makes it explode. Graham knows it’s Luca on a plate. Joe thinks he should’ve structured the dish differently and layered it so they were sure to get all the flavors in every bite.

Well, I think there’ve been a couple technical difficulties with Luca’s dishes, and I suspect that those minor quibbles may cost him the title. We go to break with the judges pretending they’re going to have a draw for the first time.

When we come back, Gordon repeats that question, and Joe says they can’t. Graham says one person has the slightest of edges, and they head back out. I’m going to stop typing and cross my fingers. And Luca wins! Yay! The moment is only spoiled by my friend’s undying cynicism, but I don’t want to get into that right now. I’m just counting myself lucky I could actually live blog this instead of having to watch it tomorrow, especially since I have yet to see the SYTYCD finale.

I’m starting a bit late with this. Luca just picked Natasha as his teammate for tonight’s first ever team mystery box challenge. Three dishes from 50 ingredients; one from each state, and 60 minutes to do it in.

It doesn’t sound like either member of either team is listening to the other one, especially when Krissi comes up with an ingredient Jessie wasn’t aware of. Luca’s idea doesn’t sound like it’s going over well with the judges, either.

Krissi continues screwing up everything she touches, which pisses Jessie off. She gave up on the lobster salad, so Jessie takes over and asks her to do the lamb and dessert. But the crust Jessie gives her hasn’t been chilled or anything, so she asks about making a crepe. Except she doesn’t know how to make crepes, so while Jessie tries to talk her through it, she says she’s not comfortable. Which makes Jessie retort, “Babe, you abandoned me on the lobster, so you gotta pick something you can cook.” Best line of the night! Of course, it sets Krissi off in her usual threats of physical harm, and she stomps off in a huff. Oh, please, eliminate her for that! Especially because she left the lamb too rare, and Jessie has to sear them to finish them with two minutes left. About then, Krissi grabs a mixer and whips up a dessert. It’s not a bad idea: Chantilly cream, toasted macadamia nuts, and chopped, cooked apples.

Blue team presents a seafood trio for their appetizer. It’s a lobster tail, a scanty piece of trout, and a fried oyster, with avocado puree and mango sauce. It looks like crap, and Joe calls them on it. He says it tastes good, but could’ve been great. The entrée is rack of lamb with parsnip puree and roasted beets. Gordon says the lamb is delicious and the puree is also good. Presentation and the beets, not so much. Their dessert is a deconstructed strawberry tart with vanilla pastry cream. As Graham says, it looks interesting. Since their crust wasn’t working and they were running short on time, that’s what they wound up with. Like their appetizer, it didn’t really work, though.

Red team brings up a cold lobster salad with citrus vinaigrette. There are no green beans on the plate. Krissi tells Joe what it is, but it turns out that Jessie redid the vinaigrette. Joe thinks it’s good, but could use something like a bit of mango or some more citrus. Their main dish is also rack of lamb, with Swiss chard, a red wine jus, and roasted beets. Jessie didn’t have time to cook the lamb, and when Gordon asks about it, she admits it. Krissi butts in with, “The lamb was not cooked properly, in my opinion.” FINALLY, Gordon calls her on it. “Krissi, why do you always let other members in your team take over and then say nothing, but then throw them under the bus when it comes to taking responsibility?” Yes! She claims it reflects on her, and that she had to go take five minutes to calm down. Jessie says she had to finish the lamb. Krissi claims she thought it was in the oven. I wish the losing team didn’t have to do a pressure test to determine who gets to go home, because it needs to be Krissi. She shouldn’t have even gotten this far.

Luckily, Jessie saved the lamb. Graham asks Krissi to walk him through her dessert. The chryon says it’s an apple tart with Chantilly cream, but we know there’s no crust. It’s not the restaurant quality dessert the judges were looking for, but he says it’s a good effort. They like how the blue team worked together, but Jessie almost saved the red team entirely on her own. But the blue team won, and Gordon compliments them on working well together and not giving up at any point. As usual, Krissi doesn’t take the blame for contributing to her team’s loss. Jessie goes upstairs to vent to Luca and Natasha, and Krissi comes up to confront them. We cut to commercial after plenty of producer pushed posturing.

The pressure test is a chocolate mousse, according to Graham, which puts a smile on Krissi’s face, and Jessie also feels quite confident. Until Joe steps forward, and reveals he wants a chocolate molten lava cake. Krissi still looks happy. Jessie still looks confident. Gordon’s dessert is a chocolate soufflé. The girls still look happy. They have 75 minutes to make all three desserts, which must be presented at the same time. The ingredients are at their stations, and after some minor insults, the girls get to work. Jessie even takes her shoes off to run around better. Natasha knows Krissi’s a baker, and can probably do this, but she notes Krissi’s mousse is a bit thick as the ladies put them in the fridge.

The judges think it’s going to be too close to call, but it looks like Krissi’s falling behind in time for the soufflés. Or at least, that’s what we’re supposed to think, as we cut to commercial with less than 15 minutes left as she puts them in the oven. Soon after we come back, it’s less than 5, and then there’s about two and she takes them out. The judges don’t think it’s done, but she’s confident. I’m pretty sure soufflés take longer than ten minutes, but they’ve got to do the lava cakes, and with one second left, she gets the lava cake down, which upsets me, Natasha, and Jessie.

Graham tries both soufflés, and says nothing. He tells the other judges Krissi’s was raw, then turns around and gives it to Jessie. Graham’s chocolate mousse is up next. I misunderstood the earlier comments; Jessie has the denser mousse, so it goes to Krissi. Now it’s up to Joe, and if I wasn’t eating, I’d hold my breath. Both lava cakes have fallen, but Jessie’s looks worse, and Joe calls it more raw than molten. We hear Joe tell the others that Jessie’s crust was just a bit better. He comes back out and says the decision was based on the most minute details, so I’d cross my fingers if I a) wasn’t busy typing and b) know a commercial break is coming up. Of course I fast forward, but have to stop and watch the trailer for MasterChef Junior. I’ll be watching that online.

When Joe talks about one having the crispiness and chewiness they were looking for, I’m very happy. After he says the person going to the semi-finals is Jessie, he claims it was the most difficult decision he’s made in his life. Gordon tells Krissi she has the right to her attitude, and Joe invites her and her son to dinner with him and his mother. She thinks Luca’s going to win. Ding dong!

I fast forward through the three remaining chefs’ journeys, and manage to catch up with the show. The judges show off the prizes under mystery boxes. Tonight’s final mystery box is interesting: they each have to make an elevated version of the dish that got them their apron. Of course, the winner gets, as Gordon calls it, “a life-changing” advantage.

Jessie says she’s elevating her plating. Luca thinks Graham will finally say yes to his dish. Natasha’s trying to enhance her flavors. Gordon tells Luca his sauce is off, and he has to start over. Luca’s panicking, as there’s less than ten minutes to go, and his freakish inability to make his national food under pressure is kicking in yet again. Natasha’s up first. Her audition dish was empanadas with skirt steak and what I can now recognize as a chimichurri sauce. The presentation on her final is gorgeous, and she also has a roasted corn puree. Gordon’s very happy with it. She tells Graham she put a little lard in the crust this time for flakiness, but it’s still a little thick. Joe tells her it was a smart dish, and he thinks she can win.

Graham calls Luca up. His broccoli rabe ravioli presentation also looks better, and Graham really likes it, but the sauce didn’t quite make it. Gordon asks him why cheese sauce? He says with the toasted pine nuts a brown butter sauce would’ve been better, but he knows Luca comes back from every knock he’s given. Jessie’s presentation of her sea bass en croute is also incredible, and she did a great job as well, according to Joe. Graham has a minor criticism on her presentation.

They’re ranking the dishes, and I’m not surprised to find Luca’s third. As usual, we have a commercial break before we find out who wins. It’s Jessie, but all three get to go into the pantry. Jessie will get to pick from three ingredients and Natasha gets to pick from the remaining two, which means she also picks for Luca. The three ingredients are a wheel of Grana Padano cheese, Kobe beef, and King crab. Crab is not a good ingredient for Luca, and both Jessie and Natasha know that. Jessie picks the beef, even tho she’s never worked with it. Gordon tells her it *is* similar to filet mignon, but more unforgiving. Joe asks Luca which of the two he’s most afraid of, and Luca asks Brer Fox not to throw him in that briar patch.

Natasha claims she knows what Jessie wants her to do but she’s got her own strategy. We have the obligatory commercial break before she reveals it, of course, and she hands Luca what he wanted, the Italian cheese. They have five minutes to pick out additional ingredients. I have no clue what I’d do with cheese. The judges tell us it’s very salty. Luca’s stuffing a veal cutlet with the cheese, and he’s also making a cheese and onion tart that Joe’s quite familiar with. That sounds good. Turns out Jessie’s forgotten to get butter. I know Luca would give it to her, but Gordon suggests Natasha, and she asks Natasha for a tablespoon. Natasha looks at her three sticks and back at Jessie before we cut to commercial. After, Natasha smirks and shakes her head. As Jessie heads back to her station, Luca throws her a stick. The judges make the obligatory comments about maybe he just threw away a quarter of a million dollars, but my respect for his chivalry has not diminished.

He’s up first. He presents Joe with pancetta wrapped veal with Grana Padano and sage and Frico (the cheese and onion dish). Joe tells him the Frico is exactly what it should be, but it’s very rich, and he should’ve added some acidity to cut through the fat. Gordon asks him if he seasoned the veal, but Luca knows the cheese was enough. Gordon says he bounced back after being knocked down. Graham commends him on showing a technique that he hasn’t done before, but isn’t thrilled with the presentation.

Gordon calls Natasha up with her King crab cold yakisoba salad with vegetables. She even has pickled radishes on the side. As she lists the ingredients, I wonder if she’s overpowered the crab meat, but Gordon says it’s incredible and bursts with flavor. He thinks it tastes even better than it looks, and if it weren’t for Joe and Graham having to have a taste, he’d just keep eating. Joe tells her she showcased the crab in a very, very smart way. Graham loves that she used Serrano peppers.

Jessie brings Joe her dish. He takes us out to commercial by asking her if she’s insane for picking an ingredient she’s never used before. When we come back, she describes her seared Kobe beef with ponzu butter and noodles. A quick Google search shows me ponzu sauce is a Japanese citrus sauce. And then Graham asks her to explain it to him, and she says she melted the butter with the ponzu in it, so I Google ponzu. Soy sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and fish flakes. Yeah, I wouldn’t put that on beef, and Graham agrees with me. She also made a papaya salad with those flavors, but chose to leave it off the plate. Gordon persuades her to let them try it, and tell her that choice was not a good one. I think it might be Luca and Natasha.  Gordon names Natasha first, and now I’m more certain than ever that Luca’s going through, and I’m right. The judges praise Jessie, and Joe offers her a job.

So, not only has my episode count been off (mainly because I was counting the two hour episodes as one, like tonight), but I’ve been unable to live blog for the past month. In that time, Bri came back and went home again, but not before Jordan finally walked out of the MasterChef kitchen for good.

The judges’ sons will be filling the mystery box. Joe’s sons are 13 and 11, Gordon’s is 13, and Graham’s is two-and-a-half. I’m not sure what he’s going to contribute, but he seems to know what he wants to do. So do the others. White chips, chocolate hazelnut spread, ketchup, a coconut, peanut-butter, rainbow marshmallows, passion fruit, baby pineapple, bacon, cheese slices, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, and puff pastry. It looks like there’s a jar of sprinkles there, too. I’d make a fruit pastry type thing – I saw a technique once where you did something to the middle of the puff pastry so it stayed flat; I recall scoring around the edges, and I think poking holes in the center with a fork. Probably the bananas, blueberries, and strawberries, with marshmallow cream topping. Another option would be to go tropical with the coconut, passion fruit, pineapple, and banana. I’d probably use the white chocolate with that, although I don’t consider white chocolate chocolate, since it’s not made with cocoa beans.

As time is called and we go to commercial, the judges have been worrying over Krissi’s problems, and she’s bleeped as they call time. It looks like she wasn’t able to finish. Fingers crossed! When we come back, the boys are sent off, which I’m a bit bummed by. I would’ve liked to have heard their commentary, too. Luca’s up first, with a pineapple napoleon with white chocolate. Gordon says it’s beautiful, and he loves the filling. Graham asks him about the passion fruit, and Luca says it was too sour. Graham congratulates him on editing. Joe likes it, as well.

Next is Jessie, presenting vanilla cream puffs with coconut and fruit. I forgot the mystery box challenge won’t send anyone home, so if Luca wins, I know he’ll target Krissi. Joe calls James forward, and he brings up a passion fruit turnover with blueberry mint puree. Hmm. I wonder if his passion fruit wasn’t as sour as Luca’s? I could see if the blueberries were very sweet, they’d offset it, and I think I could even see them with mint, but the three together? I just don’t know. But I haven’t been tasting these as they went along, either. He also has a whip of cinnamon sugar on the side. Bizarre. Joe likes it, though. He asks James who the best bakers in the competition are, and he says Krissi and Natasha. Joe points out they’re not up there. James is all happy about the judges’ comments until Krissi snarks, “You used pre-made puff pastry. Congratulations.” OK, if he wins, she’ll *definitely* have a target on her back, and I hope it goes better than it did when Luca tried last week. I don’t know about Jessie.

Krissi claims she’s offended because she made something from scratch. Well, you didn’t finish it, so no, you didn’t. Shut up, Krissi. Of course, we must go to commercial before Gordon announces James as the winner. It’s his first mystery box win. As they’ve been doing all season, the winner doesn’t have to take part in the elimination challenge. I like this new rule. The theme is the greatest dishes the three judges have ever eaten. Joe’s is marinated Botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar. Oooh, give that one to Krissi, that looks difficult. Luca might have problems with it, too. Graham’s dish was taught to him by his grandfather. It’s a soft-shelled crab sandwich. That could be difficult to reproduce exactly. Gordon’s dish, while served on a boat, is not seafood. It’s a Vietnamese noodle soup with slow cooked pork. That will be extremely difficult to pull off in an hour, but I suspect Krissi could do it, so I hope he doesn’t give it to her. Then it occurs to me that he may only get to pick one dish, so I’m going to stop typing now and hit play. He gets to taste all three dishes before choosing one. Turns out Luca’s his prime target, so I suspect he’ll pick either the soup or the sea urchin.

I’m right; he picked the soup. I’m not surprised, because his comments about the broth led me to suspect that it was simmered as long as the pork was cooked. The remaining contestants get to taste the dish before heading into the pantry. It sounds like they only have to recreate the broth. Both Luca and Krissi express concern. Natasha says she’ll use her palate. They only have five minutes in the pantry, though. Krissi hangs back enough to copy off the others just like she did in high school. As Gordon talks about not seasoning it all at once, we see everyone putting various seasonings in. I see star anise and what looks like coriander seeds. I also see vegetables being chopped, including what look like a green Serrano pepper. I can also see carrots and parsley in someone’s broth. Natasha reveals she forgot to grab garlic, which she feels is a requirement for this dish. Since it’s Vietnamese, probably. I hope Krissi copied off her.

She asks Luca for some, and the producers have told her to say he’s her biggest rival, and try to build up the tension with shots of people looking concerned before cutting to commercial. Luca gives her some, and I’m not surprised. He says that’s not how he wants to win, but Gordon thinks he might live to regret it. I doubt it. Luca’s pretty chivalrous, Gordon, maybe that’s something you should think about. Now we get to listen to Krissi whine, but I’m going to fast-forward as usual. James says he wants to see Luca leave “professionally” because he’s the best competitor, and Natasha “personally”. Joe tells Luca to salt his broth, and asks him about giving Natasha the garlic. Luca says if he goes home tonight, it’s not because he gave her the garlic. Gordon tries to boost Krissi’s ego, and Graham goes to critique Jessie, who’s just added some lime.

Jessie’s roasting cardamom and cinnamon and her ship experience is showing. The judges ask James to comment, and he says Luca’s looking the best. The countdown begins, and when it’s over, Natasha’s up first. Graham likes the color on the pork, but says the broth is a little sweet. Gordon says the pork is delicious, but she should’ve added more of the pork juices to it. He says it’s very good. Joe says it has good depth, but he thinks it’s under-salted, and that’s why it’s so sweet. Well, the pork stock would’ve been salty, so I can see that.

Luca brings his bowl up. Again, Graham likes the color. He says it’s perfect. He tells Luca he’s in the zone. Gordon tells him it’s so close, it takes him back and it’s mind-blowing. They high five. Joe calls Jessie up, and tells her it looks beautiful. He says it’s complex and has depth. He thinks it’s very close to Gordon’s dish. Gordon catches the too-soon addition of lime, but says it’s delicious. Last, and hopefully least, is Krissi.

As usual, she’s whinging in a voice over. Joe looks at it and says she got it all in there. He says the flavors are also all there, but it’s a bit over-spiced and not concentrated enough. He calls it a valiant effort. With two near perfect dishes, I’m not sure I see her going home over Jessie. Joe also says the broth is flavorful and says it’s an impressive effort. Gordon, of course, is the one who starts to point out all the flaws. He tells her the foundation’s there, though. He also says it’s a good effort. He also claims they’re all so good, it’s going to be a difficult decision. Since we hear the judges discussing technique before we go to commercial break, the only one I’m confident of is Luca.

When we come back, they’re discussing his technique. Graham calls him an alchemist. Jessie and Luca step forward first, and Luca is the winner. I won’t miss either Natasha or Krissi, but I’d rather Krissi went home first. Alas, it is not to be, and I don’t really understand. They just said Natasha’s techniques were worthy of a professional chef, and I thought from their comments her dish was better. As she breaks down in tears, Gordon tells her that yes, she did a very good job. Such a good job, that they decided it was too close to call, so she, too, is safe. Guess that explains the two hour special tonight.

In an attempt to catch up, I fast forward until I see everyone walking around a ranch that the narrator says is just outside of Los Angeles, and it kinda reminds me of the farm that the celebrity chefs on the Guy vs. Rachel cook off had to gather their own food from. A mystery guest is hosting a huge party, and they’ll be cooking. Very soon, Paula Dean rides up on a tractor, and I’m glad to see her. Luca’s concerned and Jessie is thrilled.

This is not a team challenge. Each one will be cooking one meal for ten guests. Paula picked five Southern proteins, and they’ll have to serve it with two sides. Now Natasha’s concerned. Kentucky chicken, Alabama pork chops, Georgia shrimp, Mississippi catfish, and alligator. I’m not surprised by the last two, though I only know one way to cook either of them, but frying is Southern.

As winner of the elimination challenge, Luca gets to assign the proteins. I’m not surprised that he picks pork chops for himself, but I don’t think he’ll be able to go Southern with it, unless he goes for Cajun blackened. His biggest targets are Natasha and Jessie, so I suspect Krissi will escape once again. I hope he doesn’t underestimate Jessie again. Remember, she’s from Paula’s home state, Luca! He knows that catfish and alligator are the two most problematic, and luckily, he hands Jessie the latter. Out of the remaining proteins, that was probably the best one he could’ve made, and it turns out she’s not familiar with it. Natasha, of course, gets the catfish, Krissi gets shrimp, which she’s happy about, and James gets the chicken. Paula will pick the two top chefs, and they’ll be safe. They have 90 minutes.

Gordon voices my thoughts about Luca underestimating James by giving him chicken. He tells the judges he picked the pork chop because he doesn’t want to play it safe. His side dishes are sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon. Jessie’s got coleslaw, and Krissi has fried green tomatoes. The guests start to show up as James shows off his dishes. They must be free-range chickens, because the chicken breasts are huge. Gordon cautions him to make sure they’re cooked through. After the break, he advises Natasha to take her fish off the grill and finish it in a pan on the stove, then checks one of James’ extra breasts. It’s not done, so James has to hope they can finish in the less than five minutes remaining. Both Luca and Krissi are confident in their plates.

Jessie deep-fried her alligator, which is exactly what I would’ve done with it. But I would’ve timed it like I’d time calamari. She’s serving it with Andouille mac and cheese, and garlic-buttered green beans. She says her alligator is Cajun, so I’m guessing she put a whole lot of red pepper in the coating.

Luca’s dish makes me hungry. It’s a spiced pork chop with Brussels sprouts and creamy mashed sweet potatoes. Krissi’s looks good, too. It’s citrus grilled shrimp with collard greens and fried green tomato. Natasha also went the “Cajun” route, and I can see the red pepper on the catfish. I admit, I would’ve done the cornmeal fry for that, although I guess one of the reasons they were sticking to the grill was buttermilk. It looks like she’s got a biscuit on the plate, but the chryon says it’s potato au gratin. Her second side is cabbage slaw. She also put Andouille sausage in her starch.

I’d try James bourbon BBQ chicken, but I don’t care for legumes or cooked carrots, so I wouldn’t touch the black-eyed peas and honey glazed carrots. Otherwise, I’d like to try all five dishes, even including Krissi’s fried green tomato. There’re a couple sides I wouldn’t have thought of, either. When James describes his chicken breast, he says it’s bone-in, which explains a lot. You always have to cook chicken with the bone in longer than you would normally think to. I hope he got them all finished okay.

The judges circulate. Gordon notices one of James’ breasts is underdone. He has to cut it apart and put it back on the grill, and when he does so, Joe says it’s raw. It turns out that Natasha’s fish was uniformly undercooked. I’m not surprised, what with her having to change heat sources. The judges sit down with Paula to discuss the dishes, and agree with me that some things (Natasha’s catfish) just have to be fried.

My guess for the top two is Luca and Jessie, and I’m right. They get a glass of champagne. The next day, they also get to go in the pantry with the judges, where they get to decide who has to cook one of the judges’ top dishes from one of their restaurants. Gordon’s dish is an appetizer, a sea scallop salad with confit potatoes and a truffle vinaigrette. Joe’s is a filet Rossini. Graham’s is a dessert, which got him his second Michelin star. It’s a Greek yogurt panna cotta. They are both targeting Natasha, so I’m kinda bummed.  Natasha gets the salad, of course, and Krissi gets Joe’s, so even though she claims she’s out of her element, I think she’ll manage it just like she did the soup. James, of course, is way out of his element. They get to taste the dish and are given 45 minutes.

The judges talk about the intricacies of each dish, most of which involve timing. Natasha’s confident with 30 minutes remaining. James puts the panna cotta in the fridge, not the blast chiller, which upsets Luca, because that’s a huge mistake, and he wants Natasha to go home. Krissi also makes what Jessie thinks is a mistake. Although James tells Graham he put the panna cotta in the fridge, Graham doesn’t tell him of his error, which is fair. It looks like it set, though. They agree with Jessie that Krissi might’ve overdone her filet, and worry about Natasha’s timing on the scallops, but she seems to do what they were hoping she would. Gordon likes her sear, and the uniformity of the sizes. He says it’s not perfect, but a bloody good effort. Graham tells her the scallops are perfect, and says it’s a good effort. Joe calls her out for not quite looking the same, which is the other thing they want in a duplication effort.

Joe is proud of Krissi’s presentation, but when he cuts into the meat, there’s a definite line where she cooked it on one side too long. She also left the skin on the pear, but Joe’s still impressed. Gordon likes the polenta, but thinks the filet is overcooked. James’ presentation doesn’t really look like Graham’s dish, and when Graham puts his spoon in, you can see the panna cotta has not set. Gordon says it tastes nice, but it’s not set properly. He calls it a shame. Krissi thinks James is going home and she’s safe, and I’m afraid I think so, too. Although I shouldn’t, I notice she’s wearing a different outfit in her interview, and he isn’t. To no-one’s real surprise, James is sent home. Gordon tells James to go marry his fiancée and get into a kitchen. James thinks Luca’s recent roll will take him to the end.

The nice thing about Bollywood as an opening number is Nigel can’t trot out his “I’m sure you’ve just insulted a lot of people with your hand movements” comment. We get it, Nigel. The hand movements have to be precise, and they seldom are. Move on.

Cat looks fab, but has to prod the audience to express more disappointment when she says she has bad news for the second week in a row. Why don’t you just tell us, Cat, and then we’ll know how disappointed to be? Yeah, I’m in a mood today.

The bad news is Tucker has a knee infection, so he wasn’t able to rehearse a lot. Does that mean he won’t be dancing tonight? Cat tells us it does mean he’s automatically in the bottom three next week. Not good; isn’t Top 10 when the judges’ save goes away? I don’t know.

Speaking of judges, Kenny Ortega is the guest judge tonight, and I have to pause here to ask why is it only the guest judges seem to remember to congratulate the choreographers? Although at least they never seem to blame the dancers for a poorly-choreographed routine. Anyway, yay, Kenny! I notice he’s not on Twitter. Smart man. My account is only active when I publish these blog entries these days. I always thought that if you joined Twitter, you’d get to follow your favorite celebs and they’d follow you back and you’d get to kinda tweet with them. But none of mine are following me back. C’est la vie.

Bottom three guys: Alan, Nico, Tucker. Oh, dear. I’m going to be losing a favorite if Tucker or Alan goes. Bottom three girls: Jenna, Malece, Amy. What? America, are you on drugs? Amy and Tucker are NOT who I thought I’d see there. Nigel confirms Tucker can dance tonight, then sends Nico and Jenna to the top ten. Why not Amy? The top ten separates the couples anyway.

Solos. I think Tucker truly is dancing for his life. So does Amy. Malece seems to be, too, but I liked Amy’s routine better. Alan’s certainly giving it his all, but I think if he doesn’t enter into whatever character he has later in the show, he’s gone.

Hayley and Nico – Broadway – Sean Cheeseman. It looks contemporary to me, so I don’t pay a lot of attention, which means when Nigel starts talking about the great lifts, I have to rewind, and holy crap! That one leg over the shoulder is incredible. Mary commends Nico’s passion and power. Kenny is equally effusive.

Malece and Alan – Jazz – Mandy Moore. I’m glad they drew this style; I think Alan’s comfortable in it, but I’m really not getting any chemistry from them. Kenny tells Malece she sparkled, but agrees with me about the lack of chemistry. Nigel does as well, and calls them on their technique. Mary feels like she’s on the hot seat, but agrees about the technique. She claims she saw chemistry, but I think these two are gone.

Jenna and Tucker – Paso Doble – Jean Marc. Evidently either Tucker’s solo screwed him up so he couldn’t dance this number, or he just missed too much rehearsal time, because Alex Wong is dancing in his place. I’m delighted to see Alex, but worried what this might mean for Tucker. I think I’d rather keep him than Alan. Jenna’s not doing too badly, but I can’t take my eyes off Alex, who’s busy proving why he’s an All Star. Our ballroom expert Mary loved it. Kenny says something in Spanish to Jenna which I think translates to “Jenna, Jenna, Jenna, I’ve never loved you more” except he says cara, which means heart. Then he says she’s at the top of his heart, so I guess that’s what it meant. Nigel makes a bad pirate joke (the theme of the routine) and reminds us Alex never had a chance to dance ballroom in his own season.

Makenzie and Paul – Contemporary – Mandy Moore. Gah. Can I just fast-forward through this? I’m watching it on Thursday afternoon, after all. OK, thanks! Well, everyone’s on their feet, so I guess it was good. I fast forward through him, too, when he starts complimenting them on their breathing, of all things (yeah, I know, breath control’s important). Mary’s full of praise for both of them and she calls out something that makes me rewind to try to catch it, but I can’t figure out what she’s seeing, if I got the right moment. I just couldn’t deal with it. Kenny makes them very happy when he tells them they’re two of his favorite dancers.

Amy and Fik-Shun – Viennese Waltz – Jean-Marc. JM has a very interesting concept for this piece. Since it’s their last dance together as a couple (the Top ten dance with All Stars from now on, in case you’ve never seen this show before), he tells them to dance it as themselves having a victory lap over how well they’ve done to get this far. And it’s simply beautiful. I think Fik-Shun’s shoulders might be a little high at times, but he is, as they say, there for her and has no trouble at all with some lifts that I’ve seen more powerfully built men struggle through. I’m looking forward to Mary’s critique, if she can get it out through her tears. She says there were some technique problems, but that Fik-Shun took the note about the shoulders. Kenny thinks Fik-Shun could figure out a way to fly if a choreographer asked him to. Nigel says he was transported to the Viennese palace with them and remarks on Fik-Shun’s improvement. He refrains from flat out telling Amy she’s safe, but I’m not too worried now.

Jasmine and Aaron – Hip hop – Tabitha and Napoleon. I love it. Hope the judges do, too. And America. Well, the judges are on their feet, along with the audience, so . . .

Kenny praises Nappy Tabs. Nigel tells Jasmine that he didn’t know the pelvic girdle could move like that anatomically. He’s always got something like that to say. Mary calls the routine money.

Boys Men – Hip Hop – Nappy Tabs. Tucker’s sitting this one out, too. It’s pretty fab, tho. Nigel calls Alan out, so I’m pretty sure he’s gone. Nigel just seems to have been against him from Day one. Mary and Kenny liked it, and Kenny commends Alan. I admit it; I don’t want any of the guys to go home.

Girls – Contemporary – Stacey Tookey. I’m sure it was fine. The judges are standing again, and Mary’s crying. No one says anything that makes me want to go back and actually watch the routine. Mary says they’re the top six girls out of all ten seasons. Kenny calls them divas in the making, which is a compliment when you know the original meaning. Nigel agrees with Mary and says they all looked like professional contemporary dancers. In this case, I wouldn’t mind if Malece went home.

Nigel agrees with what I saw during the solos: All four really fought to remain. Nigel says he doesn’t have a lot to do with the tour, but will recommend the two going home as alternates for it. He adds that it’s unanimous before he sends Malece and Alan home. I agree.

So many stories intertwine on this show that it’s easier to recount them story by story rather than the show from beginning to end.

Bay and Ty: Bay goes to visit Ty on base. While he looks damn good in that tank top, I’m not sure they’re allowed under the uniform shirt. I think they have to be T-shirts, and I don’t know if you can still wear black with desert cammys. At any rate, she has some lame ideas and one possible to get him out of his redeployment. He explains that it’s a commitment he made, and that’s part of dating someone in the military. He asks her to go camping the next day, and she plans to use the old “play one parent off against the other” ploy. I think that’s only going to work until Regina figures out she’s being used, but she surprises me by telling Bay to tell her she’s going camping with Mac and MaryBeth as well so she’s not lying when she tells John Bay said she was going camping with friends. Except she is, because she knows Bay’s only going camping with Ty. It’s similar to the Lie of Omission, Regina.

Of course, the camping trip goes about as well as I expected it would, but not in the way I expected it to. Turns out Ty’s still pissed over seeing Bay and Emmett’s onscreen kiss, so he takes her to a jump tower to find out what she’s made of. She jumps, but starts freaking out and waving her arms and legs, which makes him unable to hold the rope steady enough to belay her down safely. She lands hard and, when he admits he’s still jealous, limps off in a huff. I think she’ll wind up lost or something, but instead after about two hours (and well after dark), she limps back to camp. When Ty tells her he thought she was dead, she points out that was how she felt when she heard his chopper had gone down and she didn’t know if he was on it. And it’s how she’s going to feel every day while he’s redeployed. In a surprisingly mature move, she admits that despite this, it was stupid of her to make him worry like that and apologizes. It’s a straight out “I screwed up and I’m sorry” apology, too, none of this wishy washy “I’m sorry you feel that way” non-apologies that seem to be floating around these days.

She adds that her ankle is hurt more than she thought it was (that’s what comes of walking around for two hours on a sprained ankle without doing anything for it), and Ty decides to leave all their expensive camping equipment out so he can get her to an ER right away. After she’s gotten a boot on her foot and a pair of crutches, he says they can talk to her dad about getting him out of the redeployment.

Daphne/Jace/Senator Coto: Unexpectedly, Jace seems to be more into having a relationship with Daphne than I thought he would be. He views their fight as a milestone, not as the difference in values coming out as it truly is. Daphne tells him she still needs time to process it. At work, the intern who was having an affair with Senator Coto asks her if she told anyone, because Senator Coto knows it’s out there now. Then one of Senator Coto’s aides tells her she’s up for Intern of the Year, and Coto wants to interview her the next day. She fakes being sick, but Katherine’s not fooled by her fake cough. But instead of making Daphne go to work, she decides they should both play hooky at the club spa, instead. Wish I had a rich friend who’d take me there.

Unfortunately, they run into Senator Coto’s wife at the spa. While Daphne excuses herself to call Jace and freak out over the texts they sent him, Diana quizzes Katherine about anything Daphne might’ve said about her husband’s affair. Katherine freaks out, and practically accuses Daphne of having the affair. Daphne is horrified, and decides to go into work, since Jace persuaded her she needs to act like nothing’s wrong. Regrettably, Senator Coto makes it clear, without coming right out and saying so, that he knows Daphne’s behind the blackmail text she and Jace sent. Maybe they shouldn’t have used Jace’s phone? Jace is still power tripping over the fact they got him to change his vote on a sex education vs. abstinence bill, and while Daphne’s been scared straight, he wants to keep going. Daphne breaks up with him, so he decides to proceed on his own. This still won’t end well for her.

Toby and Nikki: While having lunch with her mother, Nikki asks if her father was a drug dealer. Her mother acknowledges this fact, and after Nikki runs off, tells Toby she couldn’t think of a way to tell her without getting that same reaction. Later, Nikki almost literally throws herself at Toby, telling him she doesn’t want to wait for marriage before they have sex. But since the Kennishes raised him right, Toby holds her off and talks to her about what she’s going through. They have a brief dispute about whether or not they should have the wedding in the church. Katherine, on her way to the spa with Toby, overhears him telling Nikki he doesn’t want to marry her when she’s like this. So it’s quite a letdown when he approaches her later with a request to hold the wedding at the house, instead of calling it off as I’m sure she’d hoped he would.

With all the downer storylines this episode, it was nice to have one that was quite positive. Emmett and Melody accompany Cameron and his girlfriend when Cameron gets his cochlear implant turned on. Sean Berdy does a wonderful job of portraying Emmett’s conflict over his feeling betrayed by his father’s step into the hearing world and perhaps a bit of envy, as Cameron hears himself talking for the first time. Later, at the house, as he’s getting ready to play the drums for his father, he asks him what the implant is like. He finds it hard to believe that just overnight, one can hear. Later, there’s a moment between Melody and Cam that he watches, and I’m afraid he thinks they might be getting back together, even as Cam hands over his audiologist’s phone number to Melody. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Anthony Natale (Cameron) has a CI in real life, but I was surprised to find out that most insurance companies consider it an elective surgery. Yes, it is in the sense that some deaf people are quite happy without it (as is Marlee Matlin herself, from what I understand), and yes, there are even others in the deaf community whose sense of self is threatened by all these advances to bring them into the hearing world, and I can understand that. But for those that want it, it can improve their quality of life, so I think it should be covered under any health insurance policy.

So, last week I was sick, and Bri went home. Put those two words together and you get homesick, which is probably what the contestants are right now. So it’s kinda cool that we know they’ll get to see their families tonight.

Unfortunately, Krissi’s family, her son, is the only one who can’t make it, but he made a video for her, and Gordon puts his arm around her as they watch it. She’s in tears and so is pretty much everyone else.  The families go up to the gallery, and the contestants have 60 minutes to run into the pantry and grab up to 15 items to cook a dish that is inspired by their families.

Luca’s making risotto, which is his wife’s favorite dish. I’m a bit concerned, as are the judges, given his track record. Jessie’s happiness over seeing her parents is a bit dampened when they turn the mezzanine into a peanut gallery and start critiquing her. Natasha forgot to grab chicken stock, but she’s got a lot of veggies and is making her own vegetable stock, which will probably add more flavor to her curry (and less salt) than the prepared stuff.

Natasha is the first called up. She presents a green curry with coconut, corn, and rice. The corn is roasted. Joe says it’s judiciously spiced and while the corn is not traditional, it works. Graham says it’s beautifully balanced and thinks she might win. Gordon says it’s delicious.

Graham calls forward Jessie. It’s seared duck breast with Brussels sprouts and blackberry reduction. That sounds good. She roasted them with a bit of pancetta and pecans. I’ll have to try that. I’ve done Brussels sprouts with butter, brown sugar and toasted pecans, but I haven’t gone savory with them that way.

And amazingly enough, Luca is called up. Traditional Italian dishes have been his downfall, but the judges were talking about his main component all night. He made pan seared halibut with white asparagus risotto. That sounds really yummy. White asparagus has a slightly more delicate flavor than green, so I can see it pairing well with white fish. (Green asparagus pairs well with salmon).

Gordon tells him he’s starting to think like a chef, and tells him well done. Joe, the fellow Italian, is up next. He says Luca delivered what they asked for. I have no idea who’s won, but as Gordon talks about amazing restraint, which I think he also said to Luca, I hold out hope. Of course, we have to have a commercial break before he says the name.

And my surmise is correct. The families have to say good-bye before Luca gets to see the ingredients. As the judges congratulate him and take him into the back, Jordon, Jessie and Natasha group up while Natasha whines about how he’s going to target her. She’s not wrong. Jordan, of course, is pissed Luca won instead of anyone else.

The judges tell Luca they’ve already picked what everyone else will be cooking, but he still has plenty of advantages. This will be the tag-team sushi challenge. Luca doesn’t have to compete, and will pick the teams. There’ll be three teams of two. This should be interesting.

I see some tempura, as well. Krissi’s not happy. And when Gordon tells them the good news is they won’t be working alone, none of them look happy. James will be working with Jordan. I’m surprised because I think they’ll do well together. Neither are sure what he’s thinking.

Luca confirms he’s got a target on Natasha, and he puts Krissi with her. But Natasha’s planning on using her for prep work, and Krissi’s just fine with that. This leaves Jessie with Eddie. And now Gordon reveals the tag-team twist. James, Eddie, and Krissi are all starting. They need to rinse the rice and get it started, then start on the tempura batter.

Jessie appears to also be using Eddie as a prep cook. The judges seem to think that the pairings are good; James and Jordan both have big egos (although James is quieter about it, which is why I like him and not Jordan), and the judges see that clashing. Eddie, it appears, doesn’t know what he’s doing, and they’re not sure Jessie’s strong enough to pull him through. The teams switch, and they’ve got sea urchins to deal with. Gordon has to come over and tell Jordan not to use his fingers, and not to rinse the umi. Commercials.

Natasha and Krissi review their plan before the next switch. Jessie claims she’s confident in Krissi’s ability to slice the tuna; the judges aren’t so sure. They’re switching every five minutes. Krissi is being amazingly subservient, so it’s working. Jordan and James appear to be falling apart, and Jessie and Eddie are also lagging. Another switch and it’s time to do the tempura. One switch left. Joe says he sees platters not even half done.

Natasha’s working super-fast, Jordan appears to be lost, and so does Jessie. 30 seconds left, and people, including Graham, are jumping up and down with the excitement. Even I’m typing faster. Time runs out. I’m not sure, from the grunt Jordan lets out, if they got the last piece on the plate or not, but I know we’ll rehash it after the break.

James tells him, “We did it.” so I guess so. Krissi and Natasha are up first.  Gordon tells them he’s impressed, because at 2:50, they had nothing on the plate. Graham asked if they’re taking 50-50 credit, and Natasha says yes. Joe asks Luca if he thinks his plan worked. Luca admits it didn’t. Natasha says he’s her next target.

Jordan and James are next. Evidently, they forgot salt a couple times, and their shrimp rolls look like crap as Joe shows it to them. They laugh, although I think it’s nervously (because I’ve done that), and Gordon gets upset at them for doing so. Then he gets to tear the plate apart himself. I can only hope that Jordan will be the one to go home if they’re the worst.

Eddie and Jessie bring up their tray, and it looks horrible. Graham confirms that Jessie has sushi experience, but the fish isn’t butchered well and that’s on Jessie. The rice, which Eddie did, is overpowered by vinegar. Eddie insists it was 50-50, and so does Jessie. Joe confirms their sentiments, but disagrees. He asks Eddie if he’d eat the umi roll, and as Eddie looks very uncomfortable, we head to commercial. I wouldn’t eat it, but I don’t eat a lot of sushi. I don’t particularly care for it. The closest I want to come to raw fish is ceviche. I don’t know if they’ll send Eddie home for incompetence, or Jessie for not being strong enough to pull him through. The latter choice doesn’t seem all that fair, but I’m not sure they won’t. As I suspected, Eddie refuses to eat it.

I’m also not surprised when Natasha and Krissi win. Gordon compliments Krissi on being humble and dedicated. James and Jordan are also safe, due to the technical ability on fileting the fish. And Eddie is gone. I don’t like it, but it’s fair.  Gordon tells him to open the gastro pub because he’s an amazing cook.

Next week:  Lynn, Bri, and Bemi, whose name I’ve forgotten how to spell, return for a second chance. I’d be happy to see any of them back. Jordan, of course, is pissed, and I’m sure Krissi and Natasha feel the same way, especially given how much they hate Bri. See you then. NT

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