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‘Top Chef’ – ‘Finale’: Depends on what your definition of ‘Iz’ is

Still catching up on TV that I missed while flying to and from New Mexico. The “Top Chef” finale was going down when I was somewhere between Houston and Newark, and fortunately HitFix’s Liane Bonin got her finale recap up quickly. I have a few belated thoughts on the finale, and the winner, coming up just as soon as I have a jet skiing appointment…

So Richard Blais won, narrowly averting a complete mental breakdown and justifying his status as one of the season’s heavy favorites.

Though I never liked Mike, I was glad he brought his A-game for the finale. Though Mike was an unlikely finalist, he’d been cooking terrifically for a while, even before the long break between Ellis Island and the Bahamas, and it was much more satisfying to see Richard win over another chef who made great dishes than to get a lopsided result where it was as much about one chef losing as the other winning.
At the same time, having such a close result makes for tricky television, and this was one of those episodes where Colicchio’s blog did a much better job of explaining the outcome – short version: the two were roughly equal on number of rounds won, but Richard’s win was by a much bigger margin than Mike’s – than the show itself did. That’s also as much a factor of keeping the result a surprise for the final act, and once Richard was crying and being hugged and Mike was upset, there really wasn’t an opportunity for Tom to step in and explain the results a bit more.

Still, good result, and an entertaining finale. These weren’t necessarily all of the sous-chefs these two would have picked, but nobody half-assed it (not even Jamie!), and Spike was able to put his shady ways to brilliant use in playing spy for Richard, pumping him up with compliments from the judges so that Richard was able to fight off his sometimes crippling self-doubt.

In all, my enthusiasm for this season waned the deeper we got into it, less because of the results than because too many of the challenges (particularly in the Bahamas phase) had too many built-in obstacles to let the chefs cook at their best, but things went well in the end.

What did everybody else think of the finale? And the season as a whole?

By Alan Sepinwall – Richard and Mike cooked their tails off in the ‘All-Stars’ finale



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