Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cheers for Fears!

Dexter wrapped up its fourth season on Sunday, delivering Showtime its highest ratings ever and giving a gruesome Christmas present to most Dexter fans.

This season again followed the formula by bringing in a Big Bad nemesis for Dexter and stirring ambivalent feelings within him. However, they managed to up the creepy factor by bringing in John Lithgow as the Trinity killer, a psycho who slips into bathtubs to slice open womens' femoral arteries, then forces housewives to plunge to their death, and in his spare time, he also enjoys clubbing men to death with framing hammers. Not exactly pina coladas and getting caught in the rain as personal ads go, but hey. And oh yeah, if that wasn't enough, he also does some unspeakable (and unshowable on even Showtime) things to ten year old boys. Still not convinced he's a monster? He called his wife a cunt at Thanksgiving dinner! Oh yes he did! It was quite possibly the quote of fall TV. "Shut up, Cunt."

Dexter certainly does want to kill this guy as one of his trophy targets. But it's the discovery that Trinity does have a wife, and a couple of children, that throws Dexter off his game as he feels compelled to "learn" from this guy to see how exactly he pulls off this balancing act of being a bloodthirsty psycho while incorporating a family life as cover. Along the way this season, Dexter made some uncharacteristic mistakes while trying to juggle all his responsibilities as a father, husband, blood spatter analyst, brother, and an accomplished serial killer in his own right.

I'll admit, the pace of this season did test me at times, but in every episode were some hidden delights. Michael C. Hall's portrayal of Dexter is still absolutely riveting. And John Lithgow was...well, John Lithgow. He was terrifying like no other adversary and brought a level of revulsion previously missing. The big delight of the season, though, was Jennifer Carpenter as Deb, Dex's sister. She had a trying season, as always, but she was absolutely heartbreaking in some of her scenes and seems to have really upped her game.

This year, the show fixed one of its finale flaws. In seasons past, the penultimate episode generally had the big shocks while the finale was often a letdown. This year, they saved the best for last, and for most hardcore fans, it wasn't just seeing Dexter ultimately dispose of the deranged Trinity. It was the big final twist, which really had been speculated since mid-season, but I don't think anyone really thought they'd actually do it. Dexter did get Trinity on his table, but unbeknownst to him, Trinity beat him to the punch and paid a visit to Dexter's home. When Dexter returned from his Trinity kill, feeling refreshed and reinvigorated and newly devoted to his family, he discovered his wife Rita dead in the bathtub.

At this moment, normal audiences would've gasped in horror. But we're Dexter fans here, people. We're allowed to take the joy and squeal as though we just opened a present on Christmas Eve. I mean, come on. It's RITA. She's just always been a dirge and fucking annoying and cramping Dexter's style, and this season she became insufferable. And since she's not a real person, but just a character in a show, I squealed with reckless abandon, loving every second of it. I even applauded.

Well done, Dexter. Well done.

Flesh for Fantasy

In other show news, are you watching Chef Academy still? If not, here's what you missed: Emmanuel naked! That's right, this week was literally the battle of French Ass. Chef Novelli, who simply is an ass, and Emmanuel, who showed his. Oh, you knew it was coming, right? Yeah, they made him strip down to just his apron to serve a special dessert to another classmate, and he even let her fondle his ass for an extremely prolonged period. Again, totally contrived show. But it's a contrived show with a great ass!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best Top Chef, Ever!

Not only does Michael Voltaggio become Top Chef, he bests his older brother and overcomes both the reality TV car curse and the dreaded "douchebag edit" to do so.

For their final challenge, Bryan, Mike, and Kevin got assigned a Chopped-like basket for one of their courses where they had to utilize rock fish, crab, lemon, squash, matsutake mushroom, and anise hyssop (WTF?) in their dish. Then, they were allowed to cook whatever they wanted for a second course, and then a mandatory dessert.

First they drew knives, and Kevin obviously got the dull knife when he pulled Preeti as his first sous chef, and he simmered in rage about it and lost a lot of time the first day due to her sub-par skills. This was strikingly reminiscent of the first episode when Preeti bombed out on the relay race by being unable to shuck clams. Luckily for Kevin, he had Ash for the second day, and Ash was superstar for him. Bryan, meanwhile, drew Ashley and Jennifer, so he was set up perfectly, and Mike got Jessie and Eli, which worked out well for him.

The twist arrived early on the second morning of their prep when their mothers showed up at their hotel. Kevin's mother was absolutely lovely. A redhead, natch, and southern lady who obviously adores her son and they were just too cute for words. Then we got the requisite comments about how poor Mom Voltaggio must feel proud but also torn, seeing her kids compete against each other. Seriously? This isn't something to cry about, producers. They're competing against each other in a cooking show, not fighting against each other in fucking World War II. This angle was also exploited later at the dinner table. When the chefs arrived at the kitchen, they were told that they now had to do four courses, and the first one must be be reminiscent of their childhood, and their mothers ended up at the table to taste the first course. It was like Sophie's Choice when Padma asked Mom V which of her son's dish was better. But, unlike Meryl Streep, Mom V just wouldn't choose.

Kevin stayed true to his roots all through the meal, serving up a first course of crispy chicken skin with tomato and squash soup which was well received, while Bryan served up ostensibly under-seasoned sardine with panko to honor his mom's tuna casserole. Meanwhile, the dish that Mike served was textures of broccoli with a spot prawn, which looked characteristically goofy and interesting, which is another way of saying it had Mike V seasoned all over it. These spot prawns are also rapidly becoming a Top Chef suicide dish, as the entire table never agrees if they're cooked properly. Someone is always bitching about undercooked while someone else likes it.

But as much as the dish itself was interesting, what grabbed my attention was something that Michael finally articulated, which I'd somewhat suspected, and which is probably why I tended to connect with his food ideas from the start. He said he had always been a picky eater and doesn't really like a lot of food, so he approaches a lot of cooking as a way to create the ingredient in a manner that he'll like. I just totally get that. I love food and I love to eat, but I've also been somewhat narrow in my likes/dislikes, so I really respond to different interpretations that can introduce me to ingredients. It's like when someone says, "I don't like tuna." Okay. So you don't like tuna from a can, but how about seared ahi? Whole different world. And that's what he does with food -- opens up new and unexpected avenues.

So then they kicked the moms off the table so that they could talk nasty about their children's food without making the moms feel bad. Or, perhaps, they just sent them away because they sadistically like to keep people hungry. Either way, the moms made a trip to the kitchen, hugged goodbye, and were sent away without any supper. Second course came, the one with the rock fish and mushroom, and everyone agreed that Bryan's was nice, if slightly underseasoned again. Kevin fucked up his matsutake mushroom and made it tough. And Mike seemed to do the best overall by crisping the mushroom and making the lemon pop and cooking the fish correctly.

The third course was probably the most indicative of each chef's true culinary personality. Bryan cooked a venison saddle that was extremely well received. Not the least bit shocking, Kevin cooked pork belly, which, completely shocking, didn't go over exceptionally well. Some of the judges thought it was a bit undercooked, or just didn't pop. At this point, I knew Kevin wasn't going to win. He's got a pig tattoo for Chrissakes, so if his slab of bacon in this dish didn't connect with everyone, he was a goner.

Mike served fennel squab with pistacchio cassoulet and real and fake mushrooms, and there was, as is customary for his dishes, both high praise and some criticism. Donatella Arpaia dinged him for his mushroom puree that was shaped into a mushroom and called it a gimmick, and it was at this exact point that I realized I was really rooting for Mike because I wanted to pop her in the face for it. I don't mind her when she's contrary to Jeffrey Steingarten on Iron Chef, but otherwise, she generally bugs me. Nevertheless, it's not even just Mike's cooking in general that polarizes, or even specific dishes, but even elements within each dish that causes dissent in opinion, and that's when I knew that he was definitely going to win.

When dessert came down, Bryan's was the most well received, as it was the most balanced and sophisticated with his dulce de leche cheesecake with a fig sorbet. Kevin then delivered himself the death blow by serving a chocolate-bacon sauce along with roasted banana and bacon sprinkles. Okay, look. This is what sums it up for me with Kevin. An awesome chef and cook, he most certainly is. But I never connected with his dishes, and a big part of that is because -- go ahead and get ready to hiss at me here -- I don't really like bacon. I know, that seems like an unreasonable statement, but it's true. I don't mind pork belly, per say. Sometimes I like some pancetta. But American bacon is always too smoky and too salty and I dislike it as an element in dishes because it's all I end up tasting. Most people say that any dish can be improved with bacon, whereas I think it ruins most stuff. And though I do enjoy sweet-salty flavor combos for some dessert, I don't ever want bacon near my chocolate. And, apparently, Stephen Starr of Buddakan agrees with me on that point, so he dinged Kevin's dessert.

Michael's dessert looked like it could be his undoing. It was a chocolate cake with a caramel-lava filling accompanied by pumpkin ice cream and candied pumpkin seeds. He fretted about overcooking it, and, indeed, everyone agreed that the cake was too dry. However, everyone also went to great lengths to rave about the flavor combos and the idea of it and the candied pumpkin seeds and it was all over except for handing out the prize money.

At judges' table, they were asked to speak about why they should be chosen Top Chef. Again, a bullshit little factor for television sake, as I don't care if the chef is sometimes a dickhead (obviously) or if he/she can eloquently argue their worth. The decision should come from the food. Bryan looked flustered at having to give this speech, and he rambled on a bit about his reasons with the usual stuff that should be said.

Then, when they asked Michael why he should be Top Chef, he said, "Because I don't want Bryan to be Top Chef." Outstanding! It was funny alright, and Bryan got cracked up, and finally one of his "tacky" cocky comments came off the way it was intended.

Then Kevin said something, but he was mostly feeling sad that his bacon wasn't well received, and I think he knew at that point that he was going to pack his knives. And, indeed, it seems as though poor Kevin may have paid the price for drawing Preeti as his sous on the first day and having to do too much himself and therefore not having the perfection factor that he usually had. So he was dismissed in third place, leaving the brothers. Kevin was, again, adorable, as he put his head on his mom's shoulder in consolation.

Bryan was squirming like crazy. Usually so composed, the tension just oozed out of him by this point, and that's when I felt a little bad for him. At least Kevin had wracked up some nice cash and prizes along the way, and he's definitely a shoo-in for fan favorite. Meanwhile, Bryan got the goose egg all season, and I'd actually peg him as my fan favorite at this point, but he doesn't have a shot in hell at it. He picked up that stuffed shark for his son and is going home empty handed other than that. On the upside? I wasn't kidding about wanting to dine at his joint, Volt, but it seems I can't get a reservation until 2011. 2011. He says his restaurant is now operating at 100% capacity, every night. Good for him. Fucking, good for him. I guess maybe that goose egg was actually the goose that keeps laying golden eggs for him. (too forced a metaphor? tough shit, it's all food related, so cut me some slack!)

So then Padma said, "Michael, you are top chef." And the hugs ensued and I don't think she ever got to tell Bryan to pack his knives, because Mom V was there, hugging Michael but giving the cow eyes to Bryan over Mike's shoulder. Bryan was super-classy and stoked for his brother, and meanwhile, Mike cried and said he wished that they could have both won!

I shit you not. And it was totally believable. After all the trash talk all season and pumping himself up to beat Bryan, it was as though he hadn't finally slayed the sibling birth order disorder, but instead was just watching his beloved brother lose. Awwwww. I have a feeling that within three seconds he was over that, though, and rubbing Bryan's face in it, which is exactly as it should be.

And, finally, the bitter taste of last season is washed away. I know, I know Michael gave a couple of quotes that gave people the ammunition to dislike him personally. But, seriously, he split up his $10k prize and shared it with his teammates. Would a genuine asshole do that? There are a lot of nice people who wouldn't do that. In the "actions speak louder than words" department, that was pretty damn generous of him.

The knives are all packed up now, and save for the reunion next week, we don't have to see Tom's twatty face for another year, and we won't hear Padma's slow-talking, or see Gail's boobs or horrible dresses.

Mike Voltaggio was a perfect match for the flash and sass of the Vegas setting with his sexy and often funny plates. But, also like Vegas demands, it was his willingness to take big risks that put him over the top to cash in with the big reward.

Friday, December 04, 2009

With a Grain of Salt

Alas, our darling damsel Jennifer ducks out of the final competition that'll be between Bryan V, Mike V, and Kevin. Though twat-Tom was pleased with the duckiness of her dish, her braised duck legs, confit duck breast and foie gras vinaigrette ducked up her shot at the big prize. Though Bravo makes certain to edit the judges table with as much ambiguity as possible, they coyly dropped the hint at the start of the episode when they featured Jen saying how "even an extra grain of salt" can get you eliminated at this point. And it was, ultimately, the fact that her dishes were oversalted that caused her to leave.

Or, for those amongst us more jaded and who saw the new promo showcasing the brothers jousting/fencing with rolling pins and a spatula, Jennifer finally had to go because we had to have this final three. Salt, drama, siblings, bacon, grapes, whatever. I felt bad when she had to do the Jeff Lewis head turn to avoid crying right at the camera, though.

There can't even be any debate at this point that this leaves the very strongest three cooks and chefs in the competition, and that this final three is, by a wide margin, the most talented group ever on Top Chef. So relax, fans, there will be no sneaky, sucktastic Hoseaing of the final. Whoever wins is a worthy winner. Kevin cooks great food and always seems to please the judges' palates. Bryan combines creativity and cooking to serve up some of the most succulent and sophisticated dishes ever displayed on this show. And Michael, well, plenty of people will be gnashing their teeth and pissed if he wins, but not because he doesn't have the culinary chops. He's twice been tagged as Picasso, and as of last night, he also got his second "genius" comment. His cooking is innovative and challenging, combining technique and unusual flavor profiles with often flirty or fanciful results. What would upset viewers about him winning is that he's simply been portrayed as an asshole.

Jen was darling just before her swan song. I loved the little visit to the Rutherford Hill wine caves with Tony Terlato himself for a private tasting. Jen, of course, whimsically asks the big guy how much alcohol is in the juice! I will refrain from commenting on her newly permed hairdo out of kindness for the cutie. (This is a courtesy that I will not extend to Padma's bangs. What. The. Fuck. Padma? Between her hair and Gail's boobs unceremoniously falling out all over during the crush party it was a strange moment for feminine wiles.) Also cute about Jen? How badly she wanted to win the Prius in the quickfire challenge. She admitted that she didn't even have a CD player in her car and that she still listens to her high school mix tapes. Though endearing, I certainly wouldn't have begrudged her upgrading and winning. But, alas, was not to be. They had 30 minutes to cook something that showcased grapes while on the moving Napa train with Michael Chiarello judging.

Anyone watch Top Chef Masters? I've always liked Chiarello and I think he can cook. But he was such an asshole on that show that I was wondering if he was going to dish out more shit to these contestants. Instead, he was jovial and kind, complimenting them all, save for his disain with Bryan for using concord grapes, as they aren't local. Fuckers. If they didn't want him to use concords, why put them out there? As a trap? Fuckers. Kevin struggled with motion sickness on the train and Bryan, well, besides the concord thing, he always bombs on quickfires, so it was Mike V who won the Prius by using not just the grape in his scallop-grape kabob thingy, but also the leaf and stems in other elements of his plate. This fact should actually thrill those are now thoroughly reVOLTed by him, because, as you probably know, there's some Reality Show Rule where those who win the car don't win the grand prize. Don't believe me? Just ask Colby Donaldson, or Richard Blais, or Memphis or on and on and on.

But it naturally just made Mike more cocky entering the elimination challenge where they ended up having to cook two dishes for the crush party. Mike, for his vegetarian dish, made a 63 degree egg with vegetable pistou and I was shocked by this not because his idea was that when you'd break and mix the egg, it would become a pseudo-custard, but because I had no idea that eggs were vegetarian. Can someone out there please explain to me what exactly is vegetarian about an egg without striking other political cords? Anyhow, though Padma made some noise about how her egg could've been cooked more, that didn't go very far, because I think Tom was like, "pregnant shmegnant don't eat the raw egg Padma, yours is already fertilized as we can all see and I'm sick of people thinking I'm the baby-daddy and then laughing like that'd be absurd cuz you're too hot for me and I'm just hot in a gay-bear way but even though I'm soo over that it doesn't make me gay to notice your awful bangs even if I'm not banging you" so that he could devour more of Mike's turnip soup with foie gras and poached pear.

Kevin, meanwhile, as usual, cooked at the opposite spectrum by serving up roasted carrots and beets over a carrot top puree for his veggie dish and brisket over pumpkin polenta for his other dish. He got called out for his brisket not being tender enough, but he tried to talk his way out of it, saying that it needed to be more "toothsome" because it was over soft polenta and whatever. Ok. Look. I like Kevin. I think he's adorable and can cook. But, personally? I don't want to eat his food. Admittedly, southern cooking isn't my favorite genre anyhow, but it's just not really interesting sounding to me. On top of that, I go against the grain for those who think that Kevin is infallible in his wonderfulness. His talking game here was fine, and I have come to understand that part of the unfairness of Top Chef is that, sometimes, people can put up a good enough fight at judges' table defending their dish and they don't end up leaving. This sucks for the less eloquent or less inclined to verbally joust, but it's part of Bravo TV, you know? I had no problem with his defense of his meat here this time, but it reminded me of Restaurant Wars and his idiotic defense of his too rare lamb when he admitted that Laurine wanted "medium-rare" to be cooked more and then he said he didn't think either of them was right or wrong. Uh, that was talking in circles and there is a right and wrong when it comes to temperature of meat, and it was him talking around his major screw up. He never admits when he muffs it.

Add to that, I wondered if his rare-lamb wasn't a silent sabotage on Laurine, and now this week, he's the woodfire grill expert, and we see him giving Jen advice, but then the grill gets all fucked up and it's all Jen's fault. Granted, it was her dish and was her fault, but she thought Kevin was looking out for her. Kevin's the dude who point-blank asked Bryan Voltaggio temperature and technique questions and got them answered properly and it helped him win. But when he "helps" someone it generally leads to their downfall. I wouldn't mind that if he'd own it and take a little glee in it. Then again, perhaps the grill was just a bad coincidence and Jen was going home for a salt issue anyhow and it wasn't predetermined because of her previous faltering and Bravo's need for the battle of the brothers and kewpie doll Kevin. Salt, people, she oversalted!

For his part, Bryan Voltaggio has pretty much risen to become a really lovely guy on the show.

He speaks about how much he wants to go to the finals with Mike, and they give the contrasting shot of Mike saying that the "right" thing to say is that he wishes Bryan luck, but that he really wants to beat him and would be "relieved" if Bryan got booted out now! So there it goes for sure -- he does know the right thing to say, but then says what he really thinks anyhow! I love it. I have a feeling he'll NEVER have that kind of candor in front of a camera after watching this season air and hearing people's reactions to him, though. Anyhow, Bryan made fig-glazed short ribs and for his vegetarian dish a goat cheese ravioli with squash and fennel that "swept-away" Gail and made me want to lick my screen. Though there were some nitpicks about not enough salt and not enough fig flavor, he ended up winning the elim challenge, though this brought him no hard currency nor car.

So, the tally as I have it for the final three so far is:
Mike V -- $15k in a quickfire, $10k for Restaurant Wars, and a Prius
Kevin -- $15k in a quickfire, $30k in an elim challenge, a set of Calphalon, and GE appliances (which everyone agrees suck, but, still)
Bryan -- $0. So far, I think he's been bageled. He even refused the $2.5k his brother tried to give him from Restaurant Wars.

Who looks like the big winner? Yeah, I don't see Bryan leaving empty handed, and I have no trouble with that. I would love to eat at his joint someday. But, in this triumvirate, I have no trouble with Kevin winning, either. Just cause his food is not my thing doesn't mean I don't see the care, thoughtfulness, and yum factor for others in it. And Mike, of course, asshole he may be, but a badass cook he also most certainly is.

Now, I also want to talk about Bravo's new, other cooking show, Chef Academy. If you haven't watched it yet, it's much more Bravo-y than Top Chef. By that, I mean to warn you that the spontaneous drama is totally scripted, and the Michelin star Star Chef is Jean Christoph Novelli, whom the New York Times proclaimed the "world's sexiest chef," and who absolutely loves to be totally tan, totally French and totally psycho on TV. His histrionics and jerking around of the nine students is Machiavellian and sometimes borderline malicious, and you won't learn a thing about cooking by watching this show. It's all centered around food, but they exclude major ingredients so that his dishes can't be replicated at home and it's much more competition than classroom. As for the contestants, there's an OC Housewife chick and even a bona-fide porn star.

In other words, this show is pretty effing entertaining! I'll be watching it.

In contrast? Bravo's new design show, Launch My Line. Trainwreck. From the creepy twin gay hosts who want to be known as D-Squared but will definitely be known as Double Ds to the "dandy" and his dandy expert and the entire concept of there being a designer from another field getting paired up with an expert in fashion and they're going to only use 10 fabrics all season and whatever the fuck else strange constrictions get placed on them, Bravo is contorting itself to replace Project Runway, but I think Heidi and Tim can rest easy for a while. Trainwreck. In other words, I'll be watching it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

SANTA Sale at Mundania Press

Mundania Press is now offering a special holiday sale for all their imprints. When you purchase direct from them, simply enter the discount code SANTA when checking out, and you get a 20% discount on the entire order. This runs from now through New Year’s Day, January 1, 2010 on Mundania, Awe-Struck, and Phaze Books.

You can take advantage of this for a couple of items of mine. My book, Trattoria is available in paperback for $15 (that's $12 after the discount), or e-book format for $4.99 (that's $4 after the discount), and it's right here in both formats:
Trattoria at Mundania

I also have a special, extra-smutty, Christmas themed snuggler available for just one dollar, so with the 20% discount, that's an 80 cent read. That's available right here:
'Twas the Night After Christmas at Phaze


Friday, November 20, 2009

The Silence of the Lambs

So the mini Bocuse d'Or, presided over by Thomas Keller and other Bocuse cookerati, was just the challenge to knock out Eli and his undercooked lamb, leaving us with the most solid final four in the history of Top Chef. Since the start of the season, Jen, Michael, Brian, and Kevin have dominated this competition. Between them, the foodie four has managed to win every single elimination challenge, with Jen logging one, Bryan and Michael three wins each, and Kevin five, including taking top honors at this Bocuse challenge. In doing so, he locked up a chance to compete for a spot on the 2010 American Bocuse team, along with a crisp 30k.

Kevin's only failure this season came during restaurant wars, when he notoriously served bloody "jello" lamb, but managed to get Laurine kicked out instead because the dish was ultimately hers and it was her responsibility to have sent the lamb dishes back to him to cook properly. But if that one challenge faux pas on redbeard's record haunted him at all, he was given the opportunity to silence the screaming of those lambs when he chose lamb over salmon as his protein for the mock-Bocuse. But just like Clarice Starling, he couldn't take on the tricky task without consulting a more seasoned pro for advice on how to properly sous vide his piece of meat.

And we all know by now exactly who knows all the culinary tricks on this season's Top Chef. Whether you want to emulsify eggs, dehydrate garlic, or flambe a flower, look no further than the Voltaggio brothers, who've turned more tricks on a day in a Vegas kitchen than Airforce Annie does on each episode of "Cathouse." Lucky for Kevin -- though potentially a missed opportunity for us sadistic viewers -- he chose to consult the non-sociopathic, non-overwhelmingly ego-saturated younger brother Michael and instead asked Bryan how to prepare his protein. Honestly, I thought this was pretty ballsy of Kevin at this point, because this is a competition, and if he'd have asked me, I'd have been torn between being a competitor and telling him to fuck off and being a "good sport" and helping him out. (A third option, which would've been incredibly naughty, would've been to give him improper directions and sabotage him. Which, by the way, I've wondered in passing isn't what Kevin did to Laurine -- fucked up her dish, even if it was subconsciously.) Bryan, of course, had this dilemma cross his mind, but it was merely a passing thought, and as he explained, cooking is about learning and teaching others, so he told Kevin exactly what to do. In doing so, he ironically probably lost out on the 30 grand himself and the opportunity to Bocuse it up, because Bryan's dish was, overall, much more intricate and beautiful and showcased a couple of culinary clever twists that the judges appreciated. But Bryan's lamb didn't cook exactly correctly, and Kevin's did. So even though the judges agreed that Kevin's dish was "too simplistic" they awarded him the win for a lack of any mistakes. Have the lambs stopped screaming, Kevin?

Also cooking lamb with Kevin and Bryan was big loser Eli. Lamb is quickly joining panna cotta as a dish of death for this program, as over the past couple of seasons, bad lamb has claimed a lot of decent cooks. Eli managed to turn out an interesting looking dish, but his arugula coulis couldn't cover up his way-bloody lamb. It puts the sauces on its meat! But it still manages to go home, leaving viewers to rejoice at the best final four ever!

Meanwhile, while Kevin chose the lamb for "sustainability" reasons -- most definitely the buzzword and social conscience of this season's Top Chef, Jen managed to climb back on the horse and take the win at the quickfire challenge when she made a seafood ballotine with calamari that looked pretty damn tasty. Kevin also racked up cute karma points when he winked at her in happiness after she got her good review from Padma and guest judge and former Bocuse chef, Gavin Kaysen. However, in the elimination challenge, she undercooked some of her salmon which kept her out of the running for the win. But she made good looking dishes that most of the judges agreed tasted really good, and it seems like she's pulled her shit together to head into the semi-finals. Also notable is that Jen also showed a lot of class and paid back Bryan's Kevin-helping karma by helping Bryan get his plates together in time.

And that gives us the perfect segue to talk about the one who has not wracked up good karma or been shown to display a lot of class. I have tried. I really tried and initially got behind Mike V's swagger because he could cook his ass off. But it hits a point where enough is enough, and I know they're editing him to make him look like a perfect jackass, but it's also not like they're making him say some of the shit he's saying and with the attitude he's saying it. Talk about Silence of the Lambs, fuck, It's now hit the point where he really shouldn't be allowed to sit down and give his confessionals unless he's outfitted with a contraption like this:

I mean, seriously, this dude manages to always say something obnoxious anymore. It actually hit the point where even I was exasperated with him when he mouthed off about Jen hitting a wall and having nothing left to offer in the competition. (This was shown just before Jen won the quickfire, making him look even assier.) But, lucky for him, I enjoy rooting for the villain and I actually found his assholery funny by the time he idiotcially whined about not winning the quickfire by saying that they never specifically said they were supposed to make a ballotine, when in fact that was specifically stated, and that if he had known he was supposed to do that, he could've made a better one than Kayson could ever make. I mean, I actually laughed at this point because they're getting such great asshole material from this guy. It would be one thing if he was spouting off saying this stuff with a light attitude or smirky swagger a la Stefan, but instead he's devolved into actually saying this stuff with a serious, smug, and sneering edge to it, which just makes it so damn obnoxious. Worse, it makes him look so small and petty, as though he's going out of his way to cut down not just Kevin now, but absolutely everyone who anyone might perceive as being a good cook, because Chef Michael just must be the smartest and most technically gifted chef ever. He's actually comical with it, though, sadly for him, unintentionally comical, much like Kristen Wiig's weirdo character who one-ups everyone she speaks to.

He's at the point where I don't think there's any possibility of a redemption edit for his "character" on the show. I seriously cannot wait for the reunion show to see Andy Cohen start picking at this scab and to see how Mike is going to react to it all. Will he be able to laugh at how he was portrayed? Or is he going to bring his sourpuss along and whine about how unfair it was and reinforce the perception of him being a self-serious shit and make Andy's "Jackhole of the week" list?

That said, though, his dish wasn't a judge favorite this week because Alex Stratta found a bone in his piece of salmon, and no one was a fan of his cucumber-tzatziki garnish, but, overall, he still managed to turn out one of the more interesting dishes. But the question is, is he also getting wound tighter and will his hubris do him in? If he can show up in Napa and cook the way he's capable, he could still win. But if he shows up and serves his ego with some fava beans and a nice chianti, he might just get knocked out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Life isn't always fair, and neither are all the challenges on Top Chef. This week, after a breakfast-in-bed quickfire featuring Nigella Lawson, the six remaining chefs got shipped off to different hotels from which they were supposed to draw their inspiration. The unfair part? One gets sent to Bellagio, while another gets sent to Circus Circus. For non Vegas-philes, that's the equivalent of giving one contestant foie gras to work with and the other one cat food. But cooking ability is a hell of an equalizer, and it turned out that both of those chefs landed in the bottom.

Surprisingly, the most disturbing part of the show wasn't the freakishly bad Circus Circus themed dish offered by Eli -- a weird caramel apple/peanut soup with crushed popcorn garnish and raspberry dome. As off-putting as that was, it was still just profoundly sad to see Jen struggle again. The girl can cook, we all know that by now. But the competition portion doesn't seem to be her forte, and while I don't blame her for that, I can't help but feel bad for her, because it's obvious that she's embarrassed and nearly mortified every time she does something less-than-perfect on national TV. What is slightly charming though is how she makes pleas for affection with each successive failure. In the "Glad" sorrow pantry after restaurant wars, she sadly asked if anyone wanted to cuddle with her before she met her fate with the judges. Last week, after being assigned "The Flintstones" tv show for inspiration, she spoke of how she relates to Pebbles, because she has a big strong boyfriend who pulls her by her hair, which could be fun. This week, she again got a shit draw as she was forced to go to the Excalibur Casino for her assignment. Talk about a shithole. But Jen made the best of it by drinking beer and then reinforced the idea that she embraces brutish behavior when she asked Mike V. if he'd want to be her prince charming.

It's a testament to how adorable Jen is that I felt instant animosity toward Nigella when she made a lame-but-catty remark about Jen's food. Also interesting was how the other three judges fell completely silent and neither agreed with nor encouraged Nigella's remarks. Once again in this strange, enjoyable season, my Colicchio disdain clicked down another level when he tried to reign the bitch in. I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way, with all the fun he's been having this year, I've come to actually sort Tom now. As for Lawson, I'd always thought Nigella was gorgeous, and she still is, but her commentary seemed pathetically rehearsed and cloying. Saying that panna cotta should "jiggle like a 17th century courtesan's inner thigh" is just a little over the edge with supposed cutesy factor and ends up sounding lame. The woman has traded on her looks as a mistress of food porn for a long time now, but when those sorts of quips are neither sexy nor clever, and I kind of hoped she'd choke on some of Eli's popcorn soup by the end of the show.

What wasn't lame was Toby's comments in the winner's circle. Once again, Kevin and the Voltaggio brothers had the cuisine that reigned supreme. Kevin had visited the Mirage and was too cute playing with the dolphins and he turned out a salmon dish that looked damn good. Bryan V had a hilarious moment this week when he called home and said hello to his 2 year-old son and the kid hollered, "Bryan!" Not "Dad." "Bryan!" Bryan sort of laughed at it though and said, "Yeah, it's...okay, it's Bryan. Sure." He then visited Mandalay Bay and Shark Reef, bought a little stuffed shark for his obviously precocious child and cooked up something, I don't know, I think it was halibut and polenta, because he always cooks halibut and polenta and he ended up in the top of the challenge after once again bombing out in the quickfire, after serving, I don't know, I think it was halibut and polenta with a vanilla cream sauce or something.

But the high entertainment again came due to the younger brother, Michael Voltaggio. He made the winning dish of a de-boned chicken wing that was inspired by New York, New York Casino. It was cooked confit in a curry flavor and served with a blue cheese semifreddo and it did seem interesting and looked tasty. But Toby busted out this gem, then. He told Michael that it seemed very representative of Mike's cooking style, which is generally rather "delicate, and sometimes even effeminate." Oh Ho! That comment, I'd assume, would really get under Mike's skin, but I think that either he didn't hear the "effeminate" crack, or he didn't understand the "effeminate" crack, or the editors had a little more fun with him, because Mike responded by enthusiastically smiling, nodding and saying, "I'm a big believer that the personality should come across on the plate." That is just too funny to imagine that Mike Voltaggio happily agrees that he's effeminate. Something tells me that while he may be extremely smart about food, when he's out of the kitchen he just may not be playing with a full knife set. Meanwhile, we got treated to a whole new brother reaction shot to that whole exchange as Bryan just smirked like all shit with it. Yep, it takes a real man to be called "Bryan" by his toddler son and understand the implications of cooking effeminate food. I guess halibut and polenta is at least three ticks higher on the macho scale than confit chicken. I'm telling you, not since Frasier and Niles have we had so much fun with fucked up brothers on TV.

As the recent Top Chef reunion dinner just showed, though, people don't forget if you're a slamming cook, but they also really don't forget if you come across like a jizz on this show. I know Bravo expected us all to think that season five's Stefan was douchebag numero uno for his season, but that never panned out, as his lesbian love and amazing culinary chops overshadowed his ego. And though he did show a propensity for arrogance, he was pretty funny about it and never once took himself seriously. I mean, he called himself a twat a couple times. So he was actually kind of lovable, and it's still a travesty that he didn't take the title, and it was great to see him again. Also at the dinner, though? Season two's Marcel and Ilan. What the fuck. If you didn't watch that season, I can't even begin to talk about the assholery that ensued to explain it to you. Which is why the Bravo wizards forced poor Fabio to try and rehash all the distasteful -- no, actually borderline disgusting -- behavior that erupted that season. And if Michael V doesn't chill out a bit with his blatant self-serving comments and quick temper, he could easily end up filling one of the seats at Bravo's "notorious" table at the next reunion show. At the very least, Andy Cohen is gonna have his ugly way with him when the season ends.

But, as much as the production team pokes the bear with Michael, and for as strange as Eli's dish sounded this week, it was Robin who finally, mercifully, got the axe. She was the one who was sent to the Bellagio for inspiration and she ended up making the panna cotta that didn't jiggle like a courtesan's whatever, and her "stained glass" sugar decoration didn't work out, so she bit the dust. First of all, panna cotta will always get you into trouble on Top Chef, presumably because it's not a difficult dish to turn out, but the chefs inevitably fuck it up, which makes it less forgivable than someone like Eli who takes a leap with his apple-peanut soup and screws it up. But Robin's big downfall is that she fell into the trap of feeling "less than" in this competition. She got sucked in by watching the Voltaggio brothers perform culinary pyrotechnics and so she kept trying to do some cool things that she'd never done before and would fail at execution of both the tricky shit and the simple shit. If she's just made food that tasted good, maybe she could've persevered. But instead of playing her game and cooking her food, she tried to cook V-bro food and failed. Man, I love to cook, but I would never attempt to cook like those V brothers at home, because I know it'd turn out a hot mess. Also, I don't have liquid nitrogen at my disposal. (Here's hoping for some for Christmas!)

So, next week, the final five get to compete in the lauded Bocuse d'Or, with Thomas Keller judging. Will he be cool? Will Tom continue his good guy gracious ways? Will the brothers and Kevin keep dominating? Will Michael figure out what "effeminate" means and give an on-camera confessional shrugging it off like a cool guy while he then abuses some cooking utensils and curses when he thinks he's not being filmed? Will Jen pull herself out of funk, or will she continue to self-destruct while throwing herself into the arms of another random waiting man? Will Bryan's son come to accept him as his father? And Eli? Well, who gives a shit about Eli. It's always been about Kevin, Jen and the Volts, and hopefully they'll all make through the B d'Or to hit final four.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sibling Revelry

This week on Top Chef we had Natalie Portman show up to give us the required vegetarian challenge. This inspired some of the chefs to wacky new heights while inspiring Gail to wear this bizarre green number that I can only assume was supposed to be the sartorial interpretation of bib lettuce that'd make any bridesmaid weep.

Once again this week, taking top honors was Kevin. His dish of smoked kale, turnip puree and roasted mushrooms made the diners not miss the meat. I don't understand how anyone could dislike this guy. He's good tempered, a great competitor, and an excellent cook and chef. Up until this week, he's been the meat guru who loves pork so much he's actually got a pig tattooed on his arm. He cooks comfort food with class, and has absolutely dominated this season while being humble and homey about it all. I loved the little bonus clip this week that had the chefs eating at Bartolotta. (On a side note, every single food show I've ever seen with Paul B in it, he treats the people to dine at his joint and treats them like kings. This is most definitely not a perk to be scoffed at, unlike the GE appliances that Kevin won this week that just made him giggle and say, "Okay.") But as Kevin's eating with the rest of the gang, he is going to town on the food, man, and actually comes out and says that it's not an accident that he's chubby, but that it's a personal choice. And that he once ate 130 wings in an hour. Oh my God, I love him.

On the downside, it seems that the Restaurant Wars loss has really crushed Jen's confidence. Instead of putting out an entree, she seemed to produce a plate that resembled a crudite. Interestingly, a couple weeks back when she was sick, she stated that she didn't think a person's mood should affect their food. Spoken like a true professional who doesn't want to make excuses and tries to focus and perform. However, once confidence gets shaken, that's different than just trying to overcome a bad mood. The spark of creativity can get dimmed with self-doubt and desperation never tastes good on a plate. It was almost sad to watch her shake as she struggled to ladle sauce onto the plates. I feel for her and I really hope she pulls out of her funk because it'd be disgusting for Robin or Eli to outlast her.

Robin did her customary crappy job of things. These chefs were let loose in Colicchio's Craftsteak and allowed to check out all the tantalizing proteins before having the pan pulled out from under them and being informed of the vegetarian restrictions. But when they then rushed into the veggie pantry, it was utterly stuffed with incredible stuff to make their jobs easier. Going for eggplants or mushrooms is a no-brainer if you're going to try to go for meat replacement therapy. Kevin found his success in mushrooms and Eli finally hit the upper echelon with eggplant. But Robin was her typical unfocused self who couldn't decide and grabbed everything and was attracted to fresh garbanzo beans which she'd never used, along with squash blossoms that she'd never used, so she used both of those!

Seriously Robin? I would like to feel sympathy for her, or at least feel sorry for her always being in the bottom and being treated poorly in the house and getting snapped at in the kitchen while everyone fumes that she sticks around while "better chefs" leave. But at this point, I do wonder if they're just dragging her along for the drama factor, and she even annoys me as a viewer and I only have to hear her prattle on for about 20 minutes a week. Cripes.

Nevertheless, it certainly did make for good, dramatic TV to watch her outlast big braggart Mike Isabella. That was some funny shit, yo! Since this season started, Mike I has been blowing on about how awesome he is while we've never really seen that in his food choices or cooking techniques. And it just chapped his ass to be outlasted by Robin. I just can't muster much sympathy for a guy who's a professional chef and doesn't know what eggs florentine is, nor for someone of my age who proudly claims to have never seen an episode of Seinfeld. That's either some "I'm too hip for that sitcom shit" outright lying going on, or some seriously self-absorbed, unhip cave-dwelling going on.

Speaking of blowing on, the prolonged blow job banter at the table was pretty funny. Even better lulz than Gail's dress, actually. Padma: "It was like a tiny prick on my tongue." Natalie, giggling: "Oh, don't say that." Padma, explaining: "It was big in my mouth." Tom: "So it went from a little prick on your tongue to a big in your mouth." Random Natalie friend: "That's what usually happens." That's why I love Bravo TV, right there. It's those tacky touches that make this show the superior plate to "Next Iron Chef."

And so that brings me to my favorite chefs, the Voltaggio brothers.

Fuckin' A the dysfunction is reaching near epic levels at this point, with baby bro Michael now transferring his Bryan frustration onto Kevin. Bryan, for his part, landed in the middle after struggling with time for the first time. More notably, he cracked a smile a few times. This was weird. Remember the scene in Edward Scissorhands where they teach Johnny Depp to smile and it's this nearly pained, contorted exercise and his face looks bizarre, like it might crack apart from the unnaturalness of it? That. That's what it seemed like to see Bryan smile.

Meanwhile, Michael also cracked a smile, but it got wiped off his face right quick. First, Bryan placed high in the quickfire, which kept the sullen pout firmly on Michael's face. Then, he produced this whimsical dish for the veggie challenge using asparagus and banana polenta which landed him very favorable comments, including his second comparison to Picasso. But in the end, Kevin's dish bested his.

This did not sit well with Chef Michael Voltaggio, but it seemed to set even less well with Michael Voltaggio, the younger brother. He snarked that he "could've made Kevin's dish in twenty minutes in his second year of apprenticeship." Oof. Then, in the stew room, he managed to shake Kevin's hand but had to look away has his own frustration stewed...and festered. It's so hilarious that "Glad" sponsors that stew room considering the general mood in there is generally the polar opposite of "glad." Eli even managed to kick something this week after Mike I's dismissal.

Michael V has often spoken about his take on food and cooking and how he approaches it artistically and enjoys taking risks. In striking contrast to Mike Isabella and his blowhardy and arrogant tones, this attitude and sometimes cockiness on Michael V's part always played okay because he more than backs it up and proves it with his food. It is different and risky and often artful and playful. Also, previously, the times we saw him get bitchy was with his older brother, where there was very clearly a long stewing sibling dynamic at work that'd often make the relationship between Cain and Abel seem cheerful by comparison. But now, with Kevin so clearly dominating this season and controlling the wins, it seems like a little bit of Michael V's snideness is actually frustration at not being top dog coming out and it's pushing all his "little brother" buttons. All this time, he arrogantly thought his biggest competition was Bryan, and now that he finally realizes it might be the portly redbeard, it's like all his long buried but suddenly re-awakened, birth order resentment got shifted onto the plump pork king. Or, maybe Michael V is just a dick who's sour grapes when he's not top dog.

After this episode, Michael V is now most certainly the villain of the season and easily takes the title of "Top Douche." At the very least, we can safely assume that he's not taking the Fan Favorite title. However, he's also now officially my favorite of the year.

I am not an apologist and make no excuses. He is a sullen, sneering, skate-punk who's often snide, snippy, and short-tempered. But he is also undeniably smoldering. His older brother Bryan is a bit taller and is more traditionally good looking. But Michael is just sexy. That snotty little perma-pout on his lips makes me want to just smack his bitchy face -- and then start making out with him. He's got that hyper-intense stare and he channels all his guts into his dishes, which end up these surprising and sexy creations. He's got the fire in his belly, and it ends up as passion on the plate.

While Bryan, and Kevin, for that matter, make more traditional and recognizable food, Michael's is more brash and complex, definitely in-your-face, just like his personality. Bryan and Kevin cook the kind of food you want to settle down with: Dependably top-notch and satisfying. But Michael's is the kind you'd really want to spend a wild weekend in Vegas with -- a bit volatile and unexpected and doing completely new things that can make you giggle or sigh. I don't need the Top Chef to be picked on the basis of having a genial disposition. Asshole or not, the winner should serve the best tasting, most innovative, thoughtful, and passionate plates. If the ingredients for success happen to be a long simmering rivalry paired with a sexy if snarky swagger and then finished with a dash of vain but innovative coulis, then so be it.

The nice guy who reliably cooks excellent bacon is never a bad choice. But this season is set in Vegas, where you're supposed to take the gamble, suffer the lows and celebrate the highs, enjoy the excess, soak up the sex, and, ultimately, reward the risk.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

High Voltag-gio

The sixth season of Top Chef, set in Vegas, continues to roll along. It lacks the lovable personalities of last season. There is no kooky Carly or fabulous Fabio (who's scored himself his own TV show on Bravo) but it is using some nice Vegas inspired twists such as high stakes quickfires. Though it lacks the cuddly factor, the food being put out by some of the chefs seems outlandishly refined, innovative, and inspired. The downside to watching a food competition like this is that there's no certainty in being able to form an opinion, because, obviously, I can't actually taste the food. Add to that, that I don't really trust twatface Tom Colicchio's opinion about the taste of the food, it's really impossible to get an accurate read. But, judging from what I can see put on the plates and descriptions of the ingredients used, I can get a sense of what's going on, and it certainly appears as though they truly have tapped into some serious talent.

There are four bonafide competitors this year who consistently put out plates that look delectable and interesting. There's redbeard Kevin, who looks exactly like the claymation Kris Kringle from those Christmas specials from when we were kids. He whomps out mole and meat like it's a celebration, and even though he stumbled this week during restaurant wars and undercooked lamb, it was a misstep that was tempered by him also producing another pork plate that looked succulent. Then there's Jen, who looks like she's grimacing even when she smiles. She's Eric Ripert's handpicked protege who mistook black cod for trout (whoops!) and screwed up a real trout dish this week when her sauce broke, but who also has taken top honors in a couple quickfires and eliminations.

And, then, of course, there's the Voltaggio brothers. By their general demeanor it'd be easy to tag them as the Brothers Grimm, with their scowls and sourpusses, but then I look at their food and it makes my mouth water even on screen. And, as the season has worn on, the dynamic between them has become even funnier to watch. The younger one, Michael, is so completely transparent and brutally obvious in his sibling rivalry one-upmanship. And though the slightly older Bryan seemed to be more even-keeled on the surface, there's no mistaking his reaction this week when he told Michael he didn't want to share his prize. The best is the look on the other's face when one of the them wins a challenge. There's this internal duality going on where they're half pleased for their sibling, and half seething that they were bested. It's great!

All the other contestants this year fall way below the top four's skill sets, and I'm really hoping we don't get a "shocking" elimination due to a screw up this year, thus opening the door for a bullshit winner like last year's Hosea. Stefan got totally robbed last year, and if these four don't make it to the end to battle it out against each other, it'll be rather shitty. Mike Isabella's overblown ego is worth a couple of laffos each week, as is watching the fuckery commence between Robin and Eli. But V is for villain and the Voltaggio bros, I think, also get to take top honors in that category. They really aren't bad guys, but it is funny watching Michael snap at Bryan and act like a typical, bratty younger brother regressing to six years old. It's even better to watch him take over the kitchen and bark out orders to everyone while they intercut that footage with him giving a monologue about he's a really great guy. And it's even better to watch him wear down Bryan week-by-week, leaving me to wonder if it's not a bit of gameplay to sabotage his biggest competition by making him lose focus.

In all fairness, I don't really think Michael is a bad guy. He's got sibling issues, oh yeah. (I bet Thanksgiving and Christmas is a real circus around that family table) But he probably is a nice enough fellow who happens to be a control freak in the kitchen. Thing is, I've worked in kitchens, and they can work just fine with someone in charge who's on an even keel, but someone most certainly does need to be in charge, and if they get snippy and bark orders, that's pretty much par.

In other reality/competition TV villain area, since the advent of DVRs, I picked up watching the old horse Survivor again. They're shoving Russell down our throats as a "villain" but I just don't see it. A real villain doesn't know they're an asshole. (Please see last year's Coach as a prime example of someone without a lick of self-awareness of their own douchery.) Russell is just a guy who's saying that he's a villain because he's taking credit for kicking everyone out so that he can look like a master gamer. Bleh. Given the focus they're putting on him, though, I assume he wins.

Speaking of villains who sort of aren't, Dexter murders all other current dramas, retaining its groove for this year. The thing is, even when I see certain twists telegraphed, it still manages to surprise me with how it's carried out, or it still manages to keep the tension high. And this week Michael C. Hall was inspired. I love it when he turns all evil and excited when he's ready to plunge the knife into some real asshole. This week, he had to trick his prey into hunting him before he turned the tables and, well, got her on his table, all wrapped up in cellophane and tape. When she made her second insouciant rape comment, he cracked me up with his, "What is it with you and rape? Nobody's raping anyone!"

Someone else who's not at all lacking in his own knowledge of what constitutes an asshole is Larry David. This year's Curb Your Enthusiasm is on fire! Oh. My. God. This show is cracking me up every week. Wheelchairs, blow jobs, pie, packaging, cancer -- all those things that make for high comedy. Larry never minded playing an asshole or villain, but this year he's also reveling in playing the buffoon. He's mixing in more physical and screwball comedy this year, while retaining the rapid-fire, improv dialogue and genius intertwined plots that come full circle. Meanwhile, he's always got enough dysfunction splashing around to make even the Voltaggio brothers humbled. All of that combines to make a concoction so outstanding that even twatface Tom Colicchio would have to bow down to it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Last Sunday was the first episode in the much ballyhooed Curb Your Enthusiasm reunion of the Seinfeld cast. In it, potshots were taken at the Seinfeld finale, and we even got a few scenes set in Jerry's apartment, 5A. It was pretty funny and interesting, because in his scenes and dialogue, Jerry brought his lighthearted glibness to the generally acrimonious air of Curb, so it really did change things up a bit. But on the whole, it was extremely Curb as opposed to Seinfeld, and that's just how I like it. Enjoyable as it was though, I highly doubt that they're going to be able to top the previous week's episode, "Vehicular Fellatio." It was one of those wacky, crazy episodes that could only be aired on HBO, and yet, even though it was some pretty risque material, it never really felt dirty, it was just outlandish, hilarious, and perfectly constructed.

Also last week, Entourage finished up for the season, though it really felt a lot more like a series finale. Nearly everyone reached a major turning point. At the start of the season, I said it felt like this season was going to be about growing up, and Ari, Lloyd, Eric, and Drama all reached major milestones that'll alter their lives, and they all leapt into them with exuberant Entourage joy, which was only fitting, seeing as how they were goals they'd all longed for for several seasons. Only Turtle suffered a setback. And Vince, same as he was for the whole season, was basically a cypher with absolutely nothing going on. It was thanks to Vince, though, that we got the season's best star appearance in Matt Damon, who played himself as a class A prick. You've probably seen the viral video of him shooting a promo for his One by One charity and berating the shit out of Adrian/Vince during it. But I bet a lot of viewers missed his best part in the episode, as it actually aired after the conclusion of the final credits. So here it is in case you want to see it, it's definitely worth the lulz.

Meanwhile, over on Showtime, Dexter has returned and they haven't missed a beat with creating intensely suspenseful episodes. This year, the added responsibilities of Dexter's baby are pulling him in one direction while his dark passenger pulls him in another, and the severe sleep deprivation causes these things to collide with potentially catastrophic results for Dexter. Meanwhile, the living Carradine has returned to Miami to track a new serial killer. This year's competition for Dexter is played by John Lithgow, and he's most definitely the creepiest and scariest villain they've had so far. I can't wait for Dexter to dismember him!

Also, I was pretty much detoxed from True Blood until two things arrived in the mail this week. The first was Charlaine Harris's A Touch of Dead, which is a newly released collection of Sookie Stackhouse short stories. (YAY!) I'd been waiting on this delivery since about March, so it was nice to have it arrive, but I did manage to put it aside for now until I finish the current book I'm reading. TOLD you I was detoxed. However, the second delivery came as a bit of a pleasant surprise, as I'd ordered it over the summer but then forgot about it. It was a case of Tru Blood, the beverage. Unlike the short story collection, I tore into this immediately.

Now, here's a little personal tidbit about me. I don't drink soda. Almost never. I just don't really like it. In fact, the only things I really do drink are: water, juice, and vodka. That said, I tried the Tru Blood straight up, and it is a carbonated blood orange beverage with a fun red color and a nice sweet-tart balance. So, I'd guess most people would really like it, and it's a pretty cute novelty for Halloween, or freaky fans of the show like me. But for my taste? I found a way to improve it. Simply add this.

I add a lot of it, but your tastes my vary.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Literary Road Trip

Voracious book reading blogger Beth Fish was kind enough to allow me a guest post as a fellow Pennsylvania writer on her Literary Road Trip feature. So you can check out what I read all summer over there. Readers of my blog here won't be surprised at my mainstay for summer page-turning this year, but I hope Beth didn't think I was just sucking up since she's just as big a fan of the series. But I did manage to pull my nose out of Lousiana for a while to also read some other PA writers, such as Robin Slick and Michael Chabon, and a little twist of erotica, too. (Just keeping up with trends, yo!) So check it out over at Beth Fish reads!

Friday, September 25, 2009

American HomicIdol

Well, vampire season is over, so now I can have my Sunday nights back to devote to something more humane and domestic -- a serial killer! Yay, Dexter returns this week to quench my bloodlust!

I was a bit surprised that Jimmy Smits didn't take the Emmy award for his turn as DA-turned-killer last season, but what can you expect? I won't even bother to mention the ricockulousness of Jon Cryer winning over Kevin Dillon or NPH. Just...weird. But it's slightly funny that they felt obliged to actually invent an entire new category to atone for overlooking True Blood after the enormous wave of popularity it achieved this summer. Fucking dipshits. Dexter also gets very little "official" love, but fans know that it's wonderfully episodic viewing, and this year looks as though they're going to deviate from the seasons 1 through 3 arc of Dexter finding a killer soulmate and then having to turn on them. It's a good trick, but now that the pony has performed it so many times, I think it's good that we're seeing Dexter move to the struggles of domesticity and fatherhood so that we can see what problems that'll present.

Speaking of dangerous men with a nasty streak, Larry David has also returned to Sunday nights with another season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Thank God. Nothing really speaks to a misanthrope like Larry David's humor. I'd been missing him, but when they started airing the simple promo of a random woman passing him on the street and cheerily saying, "Smile!" to him, I realized just how badly I was looking forward to Curb's return. Larry, in true Larry style, stops and turns around and glares at the woman and yells after her, "Mind your own business!" It's a simple, stupid promo, but it sums up Larry pretty well, and the premier episode didn't disappoint. It was filled with the minutiae of manners, with Larry being the Dirty Harry enforcer and renegade bad-taste outlaw also. Never one to back down from trying wring comedy from the taboo, (he's previously desecrated the sanctity of support groups, funerals (a couple times) and pedophilia) Larry is this year going to go for the uncomfortable and inappropriate laughs at the expense of cancer. Good on you, Larry.

Meanwhile, Entourage trudges along, with Ari actually being nearly too nasty to Lloyd for me to stomach, which is why I was glad Johnny Drama stuck with our unlikely underdog hero of this season. Drama and Lloyd -- now that's a dream team of misfortune if ever there was one. Eric has finally figured out that his chick is crazy bitch, though I never for a second believed he'd have picked her over Sloan anyhow. I mean, Alexis Dziena is totally cutte, and I'm totally straight, but Emmanuelle Chriqui -- yeah, even I'd hit that. I just wish there'd been something for Vince to do this year. The season just lacked big time without the forward momentum created by an overarching storyline.

In TV news regarding other days of the week, I am again into Top Chef, of course. It's in Vegas, baby, what's not to love? Well, other than Tom Colicchio, whom I still loathe. And I can't recall another season where there was such a disparity between the "top" chefs and the ones who suck, but I don't really care about that.

Besides some lame TV observations, I'm not sure that I have much to post about here, so no need to be alarmed if I fall silent for some long stretches. I will have a new book coming out soon (YAY!) so I'll apologize in advance, but I will have to try to post and promote it here a bit. Was that a good enough segue to actually start to promote? Good. It's not a sequel, but if you liked 24/7 at all, this is a bit of a follow up in that Marina and Miguel are back and it's set in Vegas and it's a fast little caper. Kinda like if the "Sex and the City" girls were Soprano's kin and decided to go all "Ocean's Eleven" on someone's ass. So there you go with the first of that unseemly self-congratulatory business. It's called House Money and you can read some about it here and check out the cool cover, which I will be shamelessly posting numerous times in the future, cause I love it. (Thank you, Don!) And, so that this blog post has a symmetry to it, I will also just mention that there is, indeed, some blood and killing in this book. Yay!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Donna Does Full Monty

My pal Donna George Storey has an incredibly sensual, sexy, and smart story up at The Erotic Woman. It's called "All Eyes Upon Her," and it takes the premise of striptease from the days of Sally Rand and updates it to suburbia. I can't imagine anyone wouldn't love it. She's even got one turn of phrase in there that is so good it sort of pissed me off and made me jealous -- and that, for me, is the mark of a great writer -- someone who just makes me both seethe and applaud because it's so good.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Last Drop

Well. Shit. Summer really is coming to an end. Though this weak season of Entourage limps along without any clear purpose, I'll gladly keep watching to see what dumb shit Drama does next. But Hung called it a wrap last night, and it wasn't quick enough for me. Just, I just didn't hang in there with this show. I watched, and disliked it more with each passing week, with the major exception of Jane Adams. But Sunday was, most notably, the season finale of True Blood. Naturally, this is how I feel about it all being over until next summer.

I am perhaps the only one, but I loved the episode. A couple observations:

Along with knowing that the "third waitress at Merlotte's" is a fatal job, future Bon Temps denizens should also be armed with this nugget of knowledge. If you are black, and if the season is hurtling to an end, you should not, under any circumstances, be caught in Merlotte's parking lot. Most specifically, you should not be near Andy Bellefleur's car in Merlotte's parking lot if there is less than 10 minutes to go in the season. If you are out in the parking lot of Merlotte's at this witching hour, and particularly if you are a person of color, you can kiss your ass goodbye. Pray for syndication, cause that's the only way you'll be seen again on this show.

That said, I was glad to see Eggs get whacked, because I'd come to loathe Eggs. The actor who plays him, Mehcad Brooks, is incredibly pretty, but that's about it. In fact, he's quite the mimbo, without much personality or appeal other than this abs. I wish him well, but I'm glad he's gone from my screen.

In stark contrast is Michelle Forbes. She rocked Maryann so hard and was mesmerizing at times.

And yet, still not sad to see her go. It wasn't just the cathartic "evil vanquished" kind of happiness at seeing her gored, either. That plot ran way too long and really tried my patience, so, though I'm loathe to lose Forbes, I was thrilled to see Maryann messing with the bull and ending up getting the horns. One observation on that, though, and I only make it because the show has made this point, on a few occasions: Sam MUST get an imprint of an animal to be able to shift into it. Exactly WHERE in his travels did he come across an albino bull before, huh?

That was a little bit silly, but if not for that quibble, it was clever, and I was really glad to see Sam being the one to stick it to the vibrating bitch! And Sam Trammell again delivered with a kickass performance.

But let's rewind just a bit. Sookie's house, this week, took another startling turn. It'd gone from Blair Witch Frat Party to Rob Zombie movie set, and this week it looked like they'd soon be filming "Land of the Lost." Fuuuhcked Up! And I love that Sookie just shrugs and says, "We'll clean everything the monster touched." Um. Sook? There are VINES growing out your walls, this is beyond the capabilities of a Swiffer, baby. Also? How did Sookie contain herself when she spotted Maryann in Gran's wedding dress? Sookie went absolutely batshit last year on Maxine Fortenberry over "GRAN'S PIE!" And yet this episode she wasn't peeved enough about the dress to let the sparks fly out of her hands at Maryann? Lafayette actually owned the bridesmaid reveal scenes a couple of times, first with his tiny clap at the announcement, and then by being dressed as a bridesmaid! I love Laff so, and am so glad he survived the season.

Someone else I love who survived? Eric. Though he was barely in the episode, I have to say that thanks to him, I give new consideration to Evan Rachel Wood's queen. She was threatening this episode. And playful. And I dug her. Maybe it really was just Bill dragging her down! She scored a Yahtzee for sure, though this week.

Best couple of the whole season? Jason and Andy.

And Andy inspired the best line of the night, coming from Sheriff Dearborn: "You've got a lot of faults, Andy. But at least you've got pants on." And I just love Chris Bauer's voice and delivery. He's a funny fuck, alright. Not to mention him publicly calling out Jane Bodehouse about seeing her taking it from behind by Mike Spencer! That was hilarious! Other post-zombie revelry gone bad? I love that Lafayette doesn't even question how he's dressed, he just questions how the fuck he got there. Another tiny detail that I loved? Scrambled Terry's shirt, announcing his brain scrambledness. And Arlene's kids being just a wee bit more precocious than she knows. And they love Eric!

I also love that they polished off this season and then transitioned right into next season. I mean, I see no downside at all to having Bill dragged off in silver chains! YAY to kidnapped Bill!

But before the kidnapping, Bill did show a glimmer of hope when he took Sook to the fancy dinner, and for the dancing portion, instead of a stuffy waltz that I'd expected him to bust out, he got groovy with a... was that a hustle? (All those seasons of DWTS and I still can't tell, but I know it wasn't a pasodoble.) There was, in that one, brief scene, a delicious and terribly sexy, playful vibe from both Bill and Sookie, enough so that I was actually like, "Yeah! That's why they're a couple!" Something about this, however, also made me picture Bill in the late '80s, at a Gilley's knock-off, taking line dancing classes.

On the Bad Bill side, he continues to be, and I quote Jessica here, The Worst Maker Ever! I know he's been busy, but he's really blown off Jessica these past couple weeks and she is all sorts of fucked up, and instead of stopping and talking to her, he waltzes (two-steps) off to his fancy dinner with Sookie. I feel bad for Jessica.

And I feel bad for Jason. I've come to absolutely adore Jason this year. And his poor feeble mind is not gonna handle this whole "cracking eggs wide open" thing well. Oh the irony, huh? Andy used to dog Jason and accuse him of being a murderer. Now Jason does kill someone, and Andy covers it up for him. Oh, that Andy.

I also feel bad for Tara, and particularly bad for us, the viewers. I miss our bad-ass Tara of the past, and I'm worried that this whole Eggs thing is just gonna wonk her worse for next season. She needs to take lessons in resiliency from Sookie. Sitting and crying one minute as all the stress of the season catches up to her. And then, a quick trip to the loo, a glance in the mirror -- and at her shiny new diamond -- not shocking that a Stackhouse can be totally fascinated by shiny objects! -- and suddenly Sookie is right as rain again, ready to marry Bill!

But oh yeah, Bill's been kidnapped! Dragged off in silver chains! Around his neck! Did I mention that already?

I'm sure some will assume it's Eric behind the 'napping, but my money is on Lorena, but I'm not sure. But I do know this -- the Blood will flow again next summer! But until then, this season was good to the last bloody drop!

Pics this week from phoenixothon.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Southern Gentleman vs. Viking

So, it appears as though it's not just me who's trying to fill the two week void until the Blood finale, and the news this week is sure to break a million fangirly hearts. Seems as though everyone jumped the gun with their dislike of Evan Rachel Wood's portrayl of the crazy Queen, as we now have a layer of festering jealousy to slather onto our disappointment. Seems that she and Alexander Skarsgard are doing it!

First, I have to say that she has definitely upgraded. I applaud her, definitely.

Second -- WHAT, exactly, sort of crazy pheromones are flying around that True Blood set? I'm starting to get the idea that the set is more sex-soaked off camera than one of Maryann's crazy orgies! First Anna and Stephen, and now these two. I guess if you sign up for a True Blood scene, you'd best be prepared to do some off camera sexing with a co-star. In other words, even MORE reason to love the show, now from an actor's standpoint. The funniest part, though? Why does Ryan "Jason Fuckin' Stackhouse" Kwanten not seem to be getting any onset? Or did he hook up with Lizzy Caplan? (I still miss her.) Then again, considering this was the summer of Skarsgard, with everyone from Entertainment Weekly to TV Guide losing their minds (and panties) to him, I guess it's not so surprising that we'd be getting info about his hookups.

Third -- and the perfect segue here -- here's hoping that ERW as the Queen brings it more in her scenes with Eric next week, given that there probably was some actual chemistry already sparking at that time. Perhaps she, too, was just in Viking thrall and that's why her scenes with Bill fell flat.

As for the show, I don't really care at this point who Sookie hooks up with, Bill or Eric. She can stay with Bill as long as she keeps having crazy (and graphic) sex dreams about Eric. But as a general Team Bill vs. Team Eric comparison, I figured that I'd lay out the pros and cons of each one. Because even though it's probably already obvious who I favor, I think there are a some interesting details to consider. Therefore...


Keeps a clean house, and is even currently trying to get the furnishings and electrical codes updated to a more recent century.

Is a considerate host, always quick with Frescas or fireside toast, even if the Fresca isn't served cold. (some of those furnishings/appliances still haven't been updated to the early 20th century yet, let alone 21st.)

Is devoted enough to Sookie to turn down ramdom, one-off, steamy dressing-room sex, even if it makes him come off like a homosexual. (though, who would mind being thought of as gay if your assumed partner is, well, this:)

Is a very attractive man, even if, and I quote Bridget Jones here, he should seriously reconsider the length of his sideburns.

Though he flirts awkwardly by making inappropriately suggestive cracks about the femoral artery, he's always willing to open his own wrist when his mate is...dying.


Like I said, Eric is something akin to Tony Soprano. He's an upper-middle management vampire who's accumulated quite a bit of power and fortune over the years, yes. But he accomplished that by taking no shit. It's always prudent to keep in mind that your potential boyfriend does have his own personal dungeon. Worse, if he's provoked, he's likely to literally rip you into pieces.

However, on the upside, Eric, though he claims inability to comprehend the popular vernacular which describes the feelings -- and, in fact, even claims to no longer have feelings, he has shown a propensity for love that spills over into reverence.

If you are pondering cumbersome baggage, Bill comes equipped with the ex from hell. Meanwhile, Eric comes with the greatest undead accessory ever -- Pam! Yay Pam!

Now, let's talk for a minute about their courting techniques. Both share a grotesque affinity for getting their romantic prospects interested in them by having them drink their blood. However, let's examine the way in which they convince their crush to ingest.

Bill. This "old fashioned southern gentleman" was inexplicably late to meet Sookie one very dark evening and she got nearly beaten to death. He did, of course, open his vein to save her life.

Eric, on the other hand, intentionally placed himself between a bomb and Sookie and took shrapnel/silver bullets for her that could have actually killed him. Then, while wounded, he tricked her into sucking out the bullets so that she would swallow his blood. Unseemly, yes. But at least he didn't let her come to grave physical harm.

Also, Eric can fly. Literally. Fly. That's pretty fucken cool!

However, in the Bill column, when he was exposed to Arlene's kids, Bill displayed patience and a gentle indulgence. Eric, however, looked at them with an unsettling mixture of fascination and...hunger. Then again, if you're not a kid person, I suppose this one could go in the Eric column.

On the downside for Eric, he has displayed a certain amount of vanity. Two words: highlight foils.

On the upside for Eric, his careful grooming habits result in him looking like this:

Whereas, once again, Bill and those goddamn sideburns:

Then again, in the big plus side for Bill, once he does fall in love, he's obviously willing to sacrifice himself to help Sookie at any cost. Even letting this happen to himself:

Unfortunately for Bill, while he looks like a charred hot mess, this is what Eric looks like.

I think the choice is obvious.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Building the Perfect Beast

So, here's dumb post number one to help pass the time as we wait this whole week for the True Blood finale.

I know it's way past time to let it go, but really, when it comes to anti-heroes they really sort of took it to a new heights with Tony Soprano -- another HBO character that managed to capture the imagination (and hearts) of plenty of faithful viewers. Right now, Alexander Skarsgard is nominated for a Scream Best Villain award. Very cool. (Go vote early and often, Team Skarsgard Shirtless friends.) But it also jarred me, because I didn't really realize that Eric was a villain. I always saw him as more of an anti-hero like Tony Soprano. Sure, he does some pretty bad shit, but you can't help but root for him, either. And they have plenty of other things in common, too. In fact, I think Eric is the new Tony Soprano. Witness the amazing similarities.

Tony had the Bada Bing. Eric has Fangtasia.

Tony had a strong father he was always trying to live up to, even though his father was already dead.
Eric also worships his father-figure, Godric, who is undead.

Tony always had to deal with Uncle June -- his relative, but also a cloying underling who was a constant nag because of his insecurity.
Eric deals with Bill. 'Nuff said.

Tony had Carm. Eric has Pam.

Tony confided in and had a thing for Dr. Melfi, a brain-shrink, who brought out his softer side.
Eric has a thing for Sookie, a mind-reader, who brings out his uh, sexy side.

Tony carried a big gun. Eric has big guns.

Tony once read "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu.
Eric probably partied with Sun Tzu back in the day and gave him pointers.

Fangbangers? Fuhgedaboudit!

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Pungent Hint of Madness

Alan Ball wrote the penultimate episode of this second season, and though it was, again, a lot of filler, his very sharp wit was juxtaposed with some very biting nastiness. (pun intended, yes)

First, Hoyt-Maxine-Jessica. It was hilarious that Hoyt's mama actually enjoyed the bloodsucking that Jessica laid on her, and also sad to see Jessica's remorse when she realized she'd upset Hoyt, and then downright awful to see her reaction when she realized the depth of Hoyt's anger. Much as I like Jessica, and dislike how rotten Maxine is to both Hoyt and Jess, it really is going to be hard to recover from the faux pas of fang sinking your potential mother-in-law. Things got pretty damn funny again when Maxine was back in the kitchen, preparing a feast for "the god who comes." (This phrase has become the new "Godric is 2,000 years old" phrase of the show -- they just can't repeat it enough.) It's now established that when Mama Fortenberry putters around the kitchen, Ruffles will play a significant role, and this week she whipped out her "frenzy" masterpiece of a casserole that included Ruffles, cheese, candy bars, and hot sauce.

I changed my mind about her. She may look like a deranged Paula Dean, but she cooks just like Sandra Lee.

Then we've got Tara, and although she's been released from Maryann's mental stranglehold by Bill and Sookie, she won't shut the fuck up about needing to rescue Eggs. I do not care for this, because I can't understand why she thinks she's in love with Eggs, because it's only been two weeks, and because I fucking hate Eggs and think he's a cypher. So she then proceeds to spew some shit that's even nastier than the mindfuck load that Maxine dumped on Hoyt, but she reverses the process and mindfucks her mother. Along the way, she also berates Lafayette and Sookie, and suddenly I ardently dislike Tara. But the funniest part of this scene is unintentional. We have Tara played by Rutina Wesley, whose upper body is more ripped than Bon Jovi's pants circa 1986, and we're supposed to believe that she's held captive by being handcuffed to a fucking coffee table!

Look at those damn arms! A STUPID GLASS TOP COFFEE TABLE is keeping this girl down! How about at least the sofa, or a sturdy armoire! Gah.

But at least we had Lafayette, producing all sorts of wonderful scenes. First, Nelsan Ellis looked as hot as a Louisiana summer.

Second, with him PTSDing on the porch, we got treated to another scene of him hallucinating Eric. This was wonderful, because Alexander Skarsgard got to show off his Generation Kill training as he went a little bit Iceman Colbert on Laf, holding him in his sights with the rifle. But though it's mighty sexy, even if he was dressed in drag, it does make me feel bad for Lafayette, admitting that he's so terrified of and hateful of Eric, and yet, due to the blood bond, he had incredible sex dreams about him. Well, shit. Given that last week's episode drew a record 5 million viewers, Lafayette, I think it's extremely safe to assume at this point that you are not the only one having sex fantasies about Eric/Alex S. (More on this later, of course.) The tables turned when Lafayette took the gun to Maryann, but, unfortunately for him, and for manservant Carl, Maryann was able to deflect the bullet with all sorts of "magic bullet" shit that'd make Arlen Specter cream himself and poor Carl went quietly into the dark night. Seriously, inspect this:

I can't understand it. Lafayette was directly in front of her and he fired, and she deflected it with her hand. But, as you can CLEARLY see, Carl was to her left and BEHIND her. How did the bullet manage that sort of fucken trajectory, huh?

Still working the buddy system, Jason and Andy had to work past their differences. When Sam declared Jason a "damn fool," Andy had a bit of sympathy and welcomed him to his world. But when they raided the police station for ammo, Andy denied Jason kevlar and then got testy with him. The best was Jason then explaining that he didn't have it easy in life. It's such hard work to have to watch so much porn to keep informed and keep the ladies happy! But we did also find out that even horndog Jason has standards -- the ladies must be conscious for him to have sex with them... at least, they have to start out conscious. That is Jason Fuckin' Stackhouse, alright! He can fuck you comatose!

I felt bad for poor Sookie. Her house has leapfrogged again and is past the point of a Blair Witch frat party and has catapulted into Rob Zombie movie set territory. I mean, when you're greeted at the door with Jane Bodehouse dismembering her own finger while singing the "lo lo" chant to the row-row-your-boat melody, it's not a good sign. And, speaking of Jane, I'm gonna have to cross her off my "to party with" list after that little stunt. A bit too far, Jane. Too far. How you gonna drunk dial Peanut now? But aside from the spinetingling creepiness of some of this shit, it also strikes me that these episodes of Blood had to be some of the funnest sets on Hollywood when being filmed. Random people running in their undies and trailing toilet paper and fingerless crazies just have to be a riot during breaks. And this is probably evidenced by Arlene, guarding Sookie's house, and demanding an entrance fee of "100 million dollars... and your pants!"

We also finally met the madcap Queen Sophie-Anne, played by Evan Rachel Wood. She looked gorgeous in her '40s attire, lounging poolside listening to "The Good Life."

It brings up a strange question, though. Why did Bill go from chalky white last episode to semi-decent looking at the start of this, to looking downright tan at the pool? Also, I, being the shallow viewer that I am, noticed that his chest hair grew back completely from the first and second episode of this season, which was really only in Blood time about 10 days. Count on me to keep track of these things, always.

Also in the nitpick department, I am, sadly, not yet sold on Wood's performance. Michelle Forbes as Maryann has been killing the "deranged female" slot this season, and Lorena was no slacker, either. But there is a line between campy and hammy, and I'm not quite sure Wood landed on the right side of this line. Her scene partner, Stephen Moyer as Bill, I believe had the same reaction to her skills. Consider this reaction shot of his as proof.

But I'm willing to give her another shot, particularly because the Queen's lines amused me, what with even her being aware of the Bill-Eric animosity dynamic, wishing they'd just fuck each other and get it over with.

And we did get treated to some of that Bill-Eric verbal parry-thrust again. Bill getting all scoldy, high and mighty with Eric over feeding Sookie his blood again, and I loved how Eric rammed it right back up Bill's sanctimonious ass about that! At least Eric only did trick her into sucking his blood. Bill damn near got Sookie killed just to pump himself into her veins.

And it was wonderful to see Eric back in fine form. Though Team Skarsgard Shirtless was shut out this week, the costume department deserves a huge hand. First, the return of Ginger, screaming at the mere appearance of Sam outside the door of Fangtasia, with that fantastic "Sorry, we're Dead" closed sign on the door. That chick has definitely been glamored one time too many. But then, again thanks to Sam, the greatest duo on the show were reunited -- Eric and Pam. Pam was rocking what looked to be an outrageous early '80 "Studio 54" vintage red sequined Halston jumpsuit and she was looking divalicous in it.

By the way, Seinfeld fans, have you recognized Pam yet? She's Manhands! Yes she is! Anyhow, then we got her exasperated expression when Eric again tipped his hand about his Sookie fascination. And even better was her reaction to children: "I hate them." I love Pam! But the best was Eric in that gigolo suit.

Hot. So hot. And then it got hilarious when he was toying with Arlene's kids. Though Pam was only disgusted with them, Eric found the "tiny humans" intriguing. Teacup humans! And we all got yet another Swedish word burned into our linguistic palette. "Delicota -- delicious." Might not be spelled that way, but phonetically, delicota is what Eric thinks of children, and what I'd assume about 4.9 million of the 5 million viewers think about Eric in that suit. Then, in his playfully evil way, he winked at the kids and then literally flew away, totally exciting the kids and completely freaking Sam the fuck out. And his windblown hair when he arrived in front of Bill, antagonistically asking, "Soo, has Sookie mentioned me?" was damn near true love.

It is now a two week wait for the finale, and I think we all know how I feel about that.

But never fear. In the interim, I think I might do my official Bill v. Eric comparison on here, if for no other reason than it's a great excuse to post more random picspam of A.S.

Photo credits this week go to once again to marishna, and the gif of Eric screwing with his hair I totally filched from a poster at Sucks.