Spoilers for, in order, "Top Chef," "Weeds" and "Saving Grace" coming up just as soon as I teach Casey the proper pretentious pronunciation of "coq au vin"...
"Top Chef" ditched the gimmicks last night and was much more interesting for it. Not that the roach coach challenges don't make for interesting TV, but this late in the competition, it's really time to see who has the serious cooking skills, and both challenges were more about pure kitchen talent than seeing who could work best within a set of artificial constraints. Not surprisingly, the top two in both challenges were Hung and Casey, who are clearly the two best chefs remaining. Hung has the best technical skills (even though he coasted for a lot of weeks when he didn't respect the challenge or the guest judge), Casey seems to have more artistry and a sophisticated palate (even though she's only been showing off both the last few weeks), while Dale has a penchant for crippling errors within some good ideas and Malarkey has been flying by the seat of his pants for a couple of months. (Not that Tre didn't deserve to go home for screwing up royally during Restaurant Wars, but it feels wrong that he's gone and Malarkey's in the top four.)
Interesting that in both the Quickfire and the Elimination, there was early talk of Casey's dish tasting the best, but Hung won the first for reasons unknown (the Le Cirque owner's joke about wanting to pick her because she's hot was skirting the edge of being charming, and only because he's an old European guy) and the second in part because she called her otherwise great dish coq au vin when it wasn't exactly that. I can see Colicchio's point -- if you order a dish off a restaurant menu, you should get the dish as named/described -- but I don't know that it's a worse sin than Hung's non-puffy potatoes. Still, Hung's got skills, and I look forward to seeing what the two of them make in the next two episodes, and what ways Dale and Brian choose to implode on the way to the finale.
I've been keeping up with "Weeds" all season but only feel compelled to write about it on occasion -- in this case, because the writers finally decided to send U-Turn to the crack den in the sky. With all due respect to Paige Kennedy's performance, I couldn't wait to be rid of the guy. I don't want Nancy's career to be completely consequence-free, but being an indentured servant to this psycho was too far to the other extreme, especially since I still don't quite understand how she and Conrad wound up in debt to him in the first place.
I look forward to the inevitable Nancy/Conrad/Heylia reconciliation, though the highlight of the series continues to be Doug vs. Celia. Doug demonstrated not only uncanny accuracy with the five-iron, as Matthew Modine noted, but had me laughing hysterically when he showed up at the construction site wearing the dirt weasel (or whatever it is) t-shirt. Why was Kevin Nealon so rarely this funny on SNL?
One downside to the episode was the arrival of Olsen Twin #1 (or #2, I forget) as Silas' latest love interest. I have no idea whether she was any good or not, because my eyes start to hurt anytime I look directly at the screen when she's on it. Anyone else have a similar reaction?
Speaking of people I'm sometimes afraid to look at, Holly Hunter spends the first 10 minutes or so of the "Saving Grace" finale showing off her toned glutes, but the episode's overall focus is on a different part of Grace's anatomy: the scar on her shoulder that's been the subject of so many ominous close-ups in the past. The revelation of how she got it doesn't exactly unlock the puzzle of Grace -- she was already engaging in reckless sexual behavior when Devil/Evil guy stabbed her, after all -- but the idea of Grace exposing herself emotionally, if not physically, to all of her co-workers with that interrogation is a positive step on her road to redemption. The first step towards solving a problem is admitting that you have onem, and all that.
Because the police story was tied so intimately to Grace -- a fact that was obvious long before she went into the interrogation room -- it was more compelling than previous cases have been, but that's a trick you can only pull once or twice a season, if that, before it gets old. (Last week's eeeevil druglord episode, which I didn't blog on, at least featured the awesome visual of Early flying in to stop Grace from going to The Light.) When the show comes back next year, I hope Nancy Miller and the other writers give up the ghost on the cop thing -- not necessarily by giving Grace a new career, but by making the cases at best a background detail as Grace deals with Earl, her family and all the men in her life. Because those procedural stories are as big a waste of Holly Hunter's time as they are mine.
What did everybody else think?