I must reluctantly admit that this season is just not living up to last season. This has a lot to do with the contestants. Last season there were the ones that we loved to cheer for (Lee Anne, Harold, David, even Miguel), the ones we loved to hate (Tiffani, Stephen) and so on. This season I don't see anyone anywhere near as cute and fiesty as Lee Anne, or as cool as Harold, or even over-the-top emotional and sincere as Dave. And despite all the attempts to make Marcel hateable, he just isn't that much of a personality compared to the determined-as-grit Tiffani and the theatrical Stephen.
Actually there is someone I really can't stand any more and that is Baddabing Betty. She is just annoying. Annoying, annoying, annoying. Such chirpiness in someone 20 years younger than her would be grating, but coming from a 40-something woman...it's just too much to bear.
I guess I still like Ilan a lot (I loved the Channukah cocktail comment) and Sam is cool. Cliff is okay but he has shown about as much personality as a rock. Elia is growing on me a little bit but she is rather fragile. I hate seeing people cry on TV at the drop of a hat - it makes me squirm.
What about the quitter, Mia? Her uncalled-for outburst at Cliff clearly showed that she was way stressed out, and she was probably out of her depth anyway. It's too bad that she didn't act with more grace because I'm sure doing so would have enhanced her business (which seems to have been her main objective for participating on the show in the first placed) rather more. As we know Mia 'sacrificed' herself for Elia by saying she was going instead of her, making herself look noble and all. But Padma did not actually announce that Elia was going home so...we don't know for sure if she was the one going home or if Mia was the one going anyway. I have a feeling Mia was the one going in any case...but we'll never know. (edit: as Shannon points out in the comments Tom Colicchio does say in his blog  that they were ready to send Elia home, but there was no indication of this in the show itself. They even cut it so that you see Padma open her mouth about to say something, then Mia cuts in to say she's quitting.) That whole sequence at the end was dramatic but not in a good way - the bleep-bleep was quite unexpected, and while I have no objections against those bleeped words, in that context (edited that way I'm sure) it made Mia look very bad. I felt sorry for her.
There's another thing I hated about this episode, and that's that fake snow. I've seen this at parties and other venues in southern California and Florida (Disneyworld does this kind of thing a lot around this time of the year) and it's just...so...fake! You're in a sub-tropical climate, and you're filling the air with soap bubbles or dandruff or whatever to make it look like snow. There's the Eat Local challenge, what about a Embrace Your Local Climate one?
Now onto the challenges themselves - they were pretty interesting actually. I don't have that much to say about the Quickfire challenge, because in the end I think the choice of winner came down to the personal preference of the guest judge mixologist woman. All the cocktails, except for Betty's coagulated mess, looked pretty good to me...though I am not a big fan of Bailey's. But hey, mini-burgers are very trendy so Cliff was as good a winner as any.
The cocktail party challenge was interesting because there were two very different approaches taken. Do you try to serve a big variety of nibbles at such a party, or go for a few 'great' items? I would tend to go for the variety option, since that way everyone gets to eat something they like. I think that for this particular challenge, something like 7 or 8 really great items would have surely won it without any question - 13 seems a bit too much (and there were a couple of 'filler' items there), while 4 is too few. But the big sin committed by the losing team was that they kept running out of nibbles, so that guests were faced with empty trays. Given that they only had to concentrate on four items, this was quite unforgivable. However, the one dish that make me sit up and say "hmm...must try it" was the strawberry thing by the losing Black team. (One of my favorite guilty snacks is a strawberry jam and bacon sandwich. Just spread good strawberry jam on soft white bread, and cover with crispy bacon. Yummy, yummy.)
So on we go to week 9 - and the previews show Marcel acting like a spoiled brat. Oh well.