The sixth episode of Rachael Vs Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off was also its last. Perhaps Food Network is modeling this season after the British model of short “series,” and that makes sense considering the show’s intense commitment to quality. But it’s a bad omen that the season finale begins with lie after lie. Guy says that he and Rachael knew they were in for some “amazing cooking” this season and Dean replies, “There are some really talented people here.” Neither are true, liars. You might as well call this show House of Lies. Oh, that’s already a show? What is it about? Really? Why would anyone want to watch that? Oh, they don’t. Anyway, OK, then how about House of Cards? No, I said House of Carns, which is maybe a nickname for Carnie Wilson, which is already a nickname for Carnthony Wilson.
Dean and Carnie have LOL (lots of love) for one another, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t ruthlessly gunning to win that 50 grand for their respective charities. Dean is playing for Miracle Babies, an NICU charity, and Carnie is playing for an autism charity. When Carnie tells the judges that, Guy smiles and says, “Awesome, awesome,” under his breath, but it kind of sounds like he’s saying, “Autism, autism,” like he’s a (fat) alien hearing the word for the first time and trying to fit in by repeating it. The central theme of this finale is that Carnie is nervous but focused on simple foods that play to her strengths, and Dean puts pressure on himself and ends up over-thinking everything. Carnie says, “I’m a little clammy.” Did you know that Wilson Phillips was nominated for four Clammy Awards but never won one? They’ve still got a shot. Dean says that once they get in that kitchen, he’s going to cut Carnie’s throat out. Dean uses a lot of violent metaphors in this episode. He says, “There’s blood in the water, and I’m going in for the kill.” Oh, I think that’s actually Carnie’s hair dye. She went in the pool without a swimcap.
The final challenge is to “throw the most important dinner party” of their lives, for 11 of the most important people in the entire universe, as well as “international superstar” Kathy Griffin. Twice this episode refers to Kathy Griffin as an international superstar. Kathy Griffin is very famous and also good at what she does, but I do not think of her rapid-fire, ankle-biting, pop-culture–obsessed riffs as having broad foreign appeal. But maybe I’m very wrong. Maybe she does an 18-night stand in Macau every January and tickets sell out in minutes. “Do that bit where you try to kiss Anderson Cooper!” they scream. Carnie is shaking at the mere thought of the guest list. “I can’t even think about who I’m cooking for,” she says, “because I will throw up.”
Carnie and Dean will have about an hour and a half to cook all three courses of their meal. The twist is that they’ll be working out of a “mystery kitchen.” What is a mystery kitchen? Maybe it means that there will only be one burner, but it makes things cold. And all the cabinets are locked, and they have to search for the magic key to open them. (It was in their hearts this whole time.) I’m disappointed, though; what “mystery kitchen” means is that Carnie and Dean won’t know what they have to work with until they walk into the kitchen to start cooking. Carnie’s heart is pounding. Dean says, “There’s certain things I need to do certain things.” Man, that’s so true and is rendered all the more profound by the poetry of his words. “But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and to cook da foods, I need da foods.” Amen.
Rachael and Guy strategize with their team members, but it’s pointless, on account of nobody knowing what they’ll find in the kitchen. Most of Rachael’s strategy tips center on Carnie needing to chill the eff out. Carnie babbles, “I can’t think of anything! There is nothing in my head!” This woman needs a lot of managing. Rachael says, “Calm down,” as sweat pours out of Carnie’s ears. Carnie is thinking about doing a chicken cutlet for the entree until Rachael tells her, “There may not be chicken.” Carnie’s eyeballs fall out of her head. Meanwhile, Dean makes more references to ripping out Carnie’s throat. Guy has an idea of a theme. “What about elegance or decadence?” What about them, Guy? Guy is, of course, a master of elegance. He is the little black dress of television food personalities. Guy’s biggest tip: “Secure the proteins.” Nothing is more important than securing the proteins. I hate how often Dean and he say “proteins.” “Protein” would be a good Secret Service nickname for the President. “The Protein is secure.” I bet Guy says, “The Protein has landed” when he “finishes.”
Dean secures his proteins so hard, and he lands them on the counter of the kitchen. Carnie frantically searches the pantry for tuna for her tuna dip. “Please God, let there be tuna.” I know that He is listening, Carnie, so don’t you worry. Carnie’s appetizer is canned tuna fish, mayo, herbs, and lemon juice, served with tortilla chips. She is truly redefining the kind of food it’s OK to publicly admit you eat. “My appetizer is a jar of jelly served with a spoon eaten standing up in front of an open refrigerator at 2 in the morning. For my entree, we’ll be dipping parmesan-garlic pita chips in ranch dressing and Sriracha. For the dessert, let’s go back to the jelly again.” Carnie’s accelerated heart rate is starting to affect her health. “I feel like I can’t see correctly or something, like I’m overloaded.” You have too much load on, Carnie, and your brain is shutting down. She’s like the woman-disguise Arnold wears in the original Total Recall, repeating “Two weeks!” again and again until she explodes.
Carnie and Dean find relief when Rachael and Guy show up with some secret assistance in the form of Carnie and Dean’s friends Scout and Anee. At first, I thought they said “Amy,” which is a normal name, but I’m almost positive Carnie kept pronouncing it “Ay-nee,” like it was slang for anal in the face-tattoo part of Cloud Atlas. “You gleek any ay-nee, big zop?” Scout, according to Dean, is one of the “Guncles,” as in gay uncles. We aren’t really told whether these people are qualified to cook or even of their connection to the contestants. Carnie does cry when she sees “Anee,” but Carnie cries anytime she’s told anything. Anee, knowing her friend well, says to Carnie, “You have to calm down. It’s not good for you.” Carnie takes a few deep breaths, re-enters the pantry, and finds her blessed tuna. She’s on track for her dip, one of her favorite foods. “It’s a staple in my life that makes people happy,” much like, “It’s a staple in my stomach that makes people skinny.”
Dean’s dish is complicated; there’s a seared scallop and a butter-poached lobster and a mango gastrique and grilled bread and also micro greens. He takes up the entire kitchen plating it, and Carnie is forced to plate on the floor of the pantry like an orphan child. She’s bending over a lot. “Thank God I’m limber!” she yells. Carnie is really bullish on God’s involvement with this cooking show. Carnie doesn’t really need much serving space because she’s just putting a pound of dip in every bowl and then throwing in some chips and some celery. It’s an insane amount of dip. One of the bowls would feed the whole table. Is that standard portioning in a restaurant? Like, is an appetizer usually two cups of dip per person? A good rule of thumb is to look at the size of your palm and then look at your other palm and then multiply them both by two and then give people that much tuna dip.
It being L.A., most of the “great chefs” at the table are pretty low-rent. Also, it being L.A., people are dressed terribly and also excited to be around international superstar Kathy Griffin. I’m surprised they were able to keep this filming location secret from the Hollywood Foreign Press; the show is lucky the Chinese and Indian paparazzi did not bulldoze the fence in order to get but a single picture of the Great and Beautiful Kathy Griffin. One photo of Kathy Griffin is enough to make their families at home wealthier than the most powerful sultan. The table likes Carnie’s tuna dip, but can’t get over their family-sized portion. Dean’s dish was ambitious, and the scallop was well-cooked, but it was a bit disjointed. Guy says that Dean needs to learn that “less is more,” which is something else coming from a guy wearing eight skull-shaped toe rings underneath his camouflage loafers. Guy always remembers that Coco Channel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” And then he unscrews the ninth and the 10th rings from his big toes and drives his monster truck to the spray-tan place. I’m sure Guy has the most intense toe-ring tan lines.
Dean doesn’t do any less for either of his next courses. Carnie’s menu sticks solidly to airport express-style cuisine. She cooks a pesto pasta with tequila shrimp, and then she makes a cinnamon apple doughnut with ice cream. She calls them her “baby apple fritter balls,” which is just a very appetizing name for a food. Carnie says, “This is to me the ultimate of life.” I think that’s a line from Conan the Barbarian. Kathy Griffin is very hilarious and says, “As you know, I love sweets, I love doughnuts, and I love balls.” The whole table laughs in an extremely real way. Dean serves more super-complicated, technically capable stuff. He puts down a flank-steak–wrapped filet steak with smashed potatoes and a roasted vegetable curry sauce and asparagus with pancetta and probably 15 other things. I have never seen a steak wrapped in a steak. He wanted to use bacon, but Dean says, “I didn’t have access to fat.” Carnie offers him her butt, and it gets awkward. His dessert is grilled pound cake with macerated berries and caramel and a brown sugar glaze, all covered in a syllabub, which is a traditional English dessert of booze and cream. One of the judges, a huge, tattooed, V-neck-wearing chef who looks like if Ed Hardy ate all four of the Entourage, says that he couldn’t handle all the booze in it, and for him that’s a first.
The table votes on their favorites. Carnie’s simple food came from her heart, and while Dean’s complex dishes were ambitious, he might have pushed the bar too high and overreached. Guy compliments him on his bravery, though. “One person doing it is worth a thousand people talking about it,” which is also what Guy said when he decided to serve sashimi with blue cheese dressing. The (11) votes tallied, Carnie and Dean face Guy and Rachael. Carnie and Dean are holding hands, as they have through much of the episode, and honestly I’ve dated people for years and not held their hands as much in total as these two do in one hour. Carnie’s and Dean’s friends and family surprise-greet them to await the announcement, but strangely Tori Spelling is not there. A lot of talk about Tori this season, and she is nowhere to be found. I hope she’s OK.
This year’s winner, by one vote, is the Gourmet Dad himself, big Daddy Dean. He is extremely happy, both to help his charity, Miracle Babies, and also to have kick-started his career as the Gourmet Dad. Carnie is a good sport, and she walks away with 10 grand for her charity. Dean is over the moon. He says, “This is the hardest I’ve ever worked for something.” Really? Six days of filming is the hardest you’ve ever worked? You should work harder. I worked harder on these recaps than you worked on winning this show. But congratulations. As Guy says, you now have the “bragging rights” to tell people you are the winner of Rachael Vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off. Cool brag.