Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, friends and family. Today President Obama renewed his oath of office and began another four years in the White House, and here I am writing so many words about the second “term” (season) of Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, widely considered the President of quality television. This is exactly the future Dr. King was dreaming about. Let’s take today to remember his most enduring legacy, a world where Carnie Wilson and Hines Ward could work together at a theme diner serving free sandwiches to bused-in tourists.
Cornelia has been eliminated, and I hope that she still has Sylvester Stallone’s phone number; he is famously good at comforting the defeated with his silver tongue. A lot of people call his words “mouth poems” because they are so beautiful and also come out of his mouth. Conveniently, the loss of one of Team Guy leaves the two teams even at three members apiece. This happened last season as well, and it’s a little hard to buy that the diners’ votes at the end of each challenge truly add up the way they do. These challenges are not built to handle a team of four versus a team of two, and I for one would like to see some accountability. What we need on set is one of those PricewaterhouseCoopers guys from the Oscars, with a briefcase in his hand. He is very trustworthy, and hopefully we could trust him to open up his briefcase and take a hammer out and then destroy all the camera equipment on set.
The challenge in Episode 3 of Rachael vs. Guy is all about “adaptability as a chef,” and strangely everybody does not immediately forfeit and go home. They’re at Mel’s Drive-In, and each team must run their own diner. It would be fun if they had to run it for the rest of their lives, as it’s only three employees, and each episode of the show checked up with them seven years later, like the “7 Up” documentaries. That’d be a very interesting challenge. Instead, they are in charge of it for about an hour, serving only their spins on a tuna melt, a cheeseburger, and a club sandwich. They’ll get help from a line cook and from Piper, a burly pro of a diner waitress. Piper looks like participating in this television show is a condition of her parole for a crime she did not commit. I’m not saying she’s innocent, just that the whole thing was a setup. She is gonna work each of these contestants like a puppet.
As last week’s winner, Team Rachael gets an advantage: They assign Team Guy its dishes. Dean is stuck with a tuna melt, Johnny will make a club sandwich, and Chilli has to prepare a cheeseburger. She is not happy with that. She hates the grill. “I don’t like to step outside of the box.” Especially if there is mud or poop outside of the box, as we learned last week. How’d she get to the box in the first place? Maybe she was already standing inside the box, and someone carried it out onto the field through all the mud. Hines did not carry it, though, because he also hates mud and poop.
The team members consult with their mentors, which is a very funny word to describe Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. “My mentor Guy Fieri has taught me so much, like how just because my toes are small doesn’t mean I have to fit just one ring on each toe. As Yung Chris once rapped, ‘What you got? Rings on rings on rings.'” Presumably, he was talking about Guy’s toes. Guy still has raccoon eyes from spending all of last episode outdoors with his terrible sunglasses on. It seems like his sunglasses are always facing backward, so this is hard to sort out. He challenges the limits of physics and also good taste.
Rachael is much pushier with her wards than Guy is. Hines hates using a food processor, but she insists he process some bacon in it to mix with his ground beef. He’s exasperated. “I don’t even know what a ‘food processor’ is.” Carnie has a tuna recipe that is “scrumptdalipschitz,” as she calls it. “I made up a word!” Kathy will cook the chicken club, a challenge because, she says, “I’m not working with meat.” I’m still confused why she is cooking vegetarian for her daughter. Her daughter is fine. It’d be one thing if her daughter were bedridden on account of pork poisoning, but she’s not. She just doesn’t like meat, and I don’t see the need to reward that. “On this season’s Rachael vs. Guy, I will not be doing my own laundry or learning how to leave a room without slamming the door, in honor of my daughter.”
In the span of about three seconds, Johnny Weir manages to challenge all that Guy holds sacred, namely a Google-suggested dislike for eggs, gays, and Jews. Johnny suggests making an egg club sandwich, and Fieri’s eyes harden. He just barely keeps it together. “I like turkey,” he forcefully counters. Guy writes turkey up on the board, ending the discussion. I doubt he’d even be able to write down “egg” if he had to. Guy stresses that this challenge isn’t only about the meal and that Johnny, as the host, will have to perform. Johnny assures him, “I’m gonna be real gay.” Guy stays quiet, but he blinks way too fast, nearly betraying his true feelings. Imagine if he read Johnny Weir’s Wikipedia entry like I did and saw this: “In February 2012, Weir stated that he was considering converting to Judaism.” Close call, Guy.
As Team Guy preps for service, Dean learns that Johnny is this week’s captain in name only. Dean gets stuck dealing with everybody else’s problems again, as Chilli and Johnny do not seem very smart in the kitchen. Dean is struggling with his own tuna melt while he answers Chilli’s and Johnny’s questions, questions like, “Do burgers have tomatoes on them?” and “When cutting things, should I hold the knife by the handle or by the blade?” Chilli makes a special sauce and Guy, being a professional in the kitchen, tastes the sauce by dipping his pinky in the bowl and then licking it. It is terrifying, especially when you stop to think about where that finger hasn’t been.
With the diners seated, a glitter-jacketed Johnny Weir comes out wearing leather shorts and riding Piper. She’s as happy as you’d expect a waitress being ridden like a hobby horse to be. Rachael asks Johnny Weir to shake, so he dances in a circle shaking his butt. I feel bad for her asking and for him obeying. Dean is so depressed about his tuna melt. “My dish sucks,” he moans. He ran out of cheese, so it doesn’t have enough cheese. Everyone eats it and agrees. There’s footage of a dozen people saying, “Where’s the cheese? It needed more cheese.” I love and respect tuna melts, but there is something distinctly American and depressing about a score of TV fans eating a free meal and flipping out over how their tuna sandwich only had a quarter pound of cheese. Chilli is overwhelmed by grilling burgers using Guy’s flatten-dome-steam method. “Where does the water go?” she asks no one. Dean ends up both cooking Chilli’s burgers and Johnny’s club. To distract from the slow service, Johnny roller-skates around the diner, which I agree is very distracting.
It’s time for Team Rachael to serve their three sandwiches, and Carnie is 100 percent Carnie. She goes looking for bread and knocks a hundred loaves all over the floor. She’s talking, constantly, to no one. She starts counting her bread slices and stacking and restacking them and she is so overwhelmed it’s like someone just poured out a giant jar of jelly beans all over the floor in front of Rain Man.
Kathy, being full of integrity and hocus-pocus, will not serve bitter vegan bacon on her grilled cheese club. “I’m not sending out food I don’t like,” she proclaims. She’s just sending out food she hopes her daughter will like, for no real reason. Hines, once he conquers his fear of the food processor, is a new man. He is pulsing bacon like it is his job, which at this very moment it is. “I don’t know what I’ve been doing my whole life without this food processor,” he says, which I think is also the famous last line from An Officer and a Gentleman.
Once service begins, Kathy puts on a front-of-house show by screaming. One of her main talents is yelling a lot. Carnie, as she stands in a diner preparing and serving food, says, “I feel like I’m actually in a diner serving!” Of course you are, Carnie, because this would be the lamest use of virtual reality ever. Hines burns himself over and over again, and he does not appreciate all the work he has to do. While Kathy is out screaming, he and Carnie are doing “the blood, sweat, and tears work.” Kathy’s seven-layer club sandwich is a challenge for Carnie to assemble. Anything over the number four and Carnie’s brain seems to shut down. The diners love Carnie’s tuna sandwich and Hines’s bacon-on-bacon burger, but they miss the bacon in Kathy’s club, and there is too much bread.
As Hines comes out at the end to greet diners, he talks to a young couple in a car in the parking lot. The gentleman says, “We saw you dancing in the kitchen in there,” as Hines is walking away. It’s hard to see into the car, but the guy says, “Can we get that again?” and the way he says it is kind of threatening and serious, and when Hines obliges and dances for the couple as he walks away, it makes me feel dirty, like I’m watching the scene at the end of Boogie Nights with Mark Wahlberg in that pickup truck in a parking lot.
Votes are tallied, and Rachael tearfully announces her own team as this week’s winner. The diners’ favorite dish was a tie between Carnie’s tuna and Hines’s bacon. Team Guy takes a drubbing for the second episode in a row, and once again Dean is on the bottom, this time joined by Chilli. Dean, this does not bode well for your culinary career. Dean is maybe spending too much time helping out his teammates and not enough time making food that tastes good. No one is harder on Dean than Dean. Gollum-Dean says to Sméagol-Dean, “You are not living up to who you say you are,” and then he smacks himself on the face.
To see who goes home, Chilli and Dean have five minutes to make a milkshake. Dean is angry that he might get eliminated over a milkshake. Chilli goes traditional, tossing peanut butter, cookies, chocolate, and ice cream in a blender and hoping it works out. Dean attempts to elevate his dessert. He reaches for oranges, and there are whipped egg whites and zest and Grand Marnier–infused Twinkie garnishes. Chilli is skeptical. She says, “He’s got the devil’s juice, a.k.a. alcohol.” Does Chilli not drink? I’m fine if she does not drink, for personal or religious reasons, but please don’t call it “the devil’s juice.” That’s enough to drive a man to drink. The judges like Chilli’s traditional throwback of a shake, but Guy and Rachael light up at the Grand Marnier in Dean’s orange Creamsicle shake. There was probably half a teaspoon of liqueur in the Twinkie, but Guy’s eyes widen, and his smirk-hole curls into a grin. It does not take a lot of booze to bring out Guy Plus, and he looks raring to go. “My pinky is hungry for more sauce-dipping!” Rachael and Guy give it to the Creamsicle, and Chilli is going home. Dean’s self-pity once again makes the loser express relief that Dean can stay. Dean says, “It’s a shallow victory.” Eesh. Take a breath.