Now that the remaining contestants have been in the game for four weeks of intense back-to-back challenges, the three Food Network Star
mentors visit their apartment for a little one-on-one time to assess their progress. It is during these personal feedback sessions that I notice different categories developing amongst the hopefuls: there are those who are open to advice and attempt to grow; there are those who are set in their ways; and there are those who seem to hear advice, but make zero improvement. Obviously, I think those who fall in the first category have the best shot at winning. Here's a brief breakdown of the remaining finalists:
Open to Growing
He's perhaps a little too open to outside input; Yvan seems like the most malleable contestant on the show and is too eager to please.
Alton gives him his first piece of constructive criticism: be careful not to come off as too cocky, and Justin takes it.
Bobby doesn't sugarcoat Michele's chances - she may have started out as a frontrunner, but she is fading quickly and needs to get back in the game ASAP.
Giada tells her to give audiences more personal stories, and Martita seems willing to focus on that this week.
Falling on Deaf Ears
she's been told repeatedly that she sounds scripted, but in her interviews she simply says, "to them it sounds scripted; to me, it sounds polished."
I like Ippy, but I have to admit, every time someone tells him he needs to up his energy level, his response seems to be, "I'm not going to compromise who I am." Although this is admirable, being a little open to growth and self-improvement is needed in this game.
When Bobby tells Malcolm he needs to focus his culinary POV, Malcolm proudly states he doesn't need a POV, because his "overall presence" is enough.
Trying Without Results
Everyone knows Martie has a problem with rambling, but though she's tried earnestly to wrangle it in, there seems to be minimal improvement.
Though he knows he comes off as a spokesperson/salesman, he can't seem to reach the point of genuineness the network is looking for. (*see below)
There are also a couple people who seem to reach a breakthrough with their mentors: Linkie
finally addresses her confidence demons by admitting her struggles as an immigrant and constantly feeling like the underdog, and Judson
, who finally embraces his personal journey of significant weight loss as a necessary part of his culinary POV. Star Challenge: Hosting a Live Special in Front of a Studio Audience with Guy Fieri
The most successful Food Network Star
, Guy Fieri, joins the show this week to help the contestants host their first live segments based on themes assigned to their teams. Team Alton gets Halloween (very fitting), Team Giada gets game day and Team Bobby gets cooking for kids (Nikki's face at this moment is priceless).
Team Alton: Halloween
After a string of the usual kitchen mishaps, the teams are ready to host their live specials alongside Guy. Justin starts off Team Alton, but there's a period of silence when they begin, as both Justin and Guy seem to be expecting the other to take the hosting reigns. This isn't a great start and for the first time ever, Justin is noticeably nervous during his presentation. Martie is again too chatty and cuts into Emily's presentation time; thankfully, Emily manages to wrap up her shortened time presenting her canned applesauce (but on that note, I'm not sure how Halloween-y this team's food is: chicken wings, vegetarian chili and applesauce?) I personally liked Justin's sardine skeleton idea. Overall, Susie thought the team failed, personality-wise.
Team Giada: Game Day
I've felt Team Giada was lacking the most in terms of cooking expertise and standout personalities/POVs, but they did really well in this challenge. They all jive well with Guy and it seems like they're having a good time demo-ing and discussing their food. Yvan tells a nice story about his brother, Ippy talks about playing football as a kid, Martita brings out her Latina side and Linkie ups her confidence. Giada is so overjoyed she's on the verge of bursting from pride. The network is impressed as well, particularly with Yvan and Linkie's marked improvement and Martita's warmth.
Team Bobby: Cooking for Kids
Team Bobby seems to go the healthy route with their "mindful meals" for kids. Nikki takes way too long blending her green smoothie (which obviously elicits major "yuck" faces from the kids), but then Michele jumps in and cracks a good joke about being Guy's sister (their hair styles are remarkably similar). Malcolm gets creative by allowing kids to paint their plates with his different sauces for his chicken skewers, but he forgets to bring in his experience of being a father of two. What I took away from their special is that Michele is back and Nikki and kids don't mix well.
Producers Challenge: Versatility by Darts
Bob and Susie strut in and they have big news: this week, two teams will be safe and all the members of the bottom team will have to compete in the Producers Challenge to stay another week. It's no surprise the two top teams are Giada and Bobby's. Basically, it feels like the network was disappointed with Alton's team and wanted to apply the pressure. The challenge is to throw darts at a U.S. map and prepare a dish representing the state they land on. Judson gets Arkansas, Justin gets Nebraska, Emily gets Arizona and Martie is crushed when she gets Pennsylvania. The first three get started in the kitchen with their dishes, but Martie is obviously struggling when forced out of her Southern comfort zone. She haphazardly puts together a stuffed mushroom cap dish (incorporating cream cheese, as in Philadelphia cream cheese), which she admits she probably wouldn't eat herself. This is not looking good for Martie. The Pitch Room
It's clear from the segments and their record on the show, Justin and Emily will be safe. The network did point out that Justin could be a bit warmer and Bob in particular is trying to decide if the "retro rad" Emily is a character or her true self.
Obviously, it's down to Martie and Judson, who have both been in the Pitch Room before. Bob is impressed that Judson was able to focus his POV this week by bringing in his personal story of overcoming weight issues by changing the way he looked at flavors. Alton, having been heavy himself most of his life, jumps in to empathize with Judson, but also points out that people want someone to share that relatable experience, not sell it. Susie frankly calls Judson a little bit of a "bs artist."
With Martie, Bob thought she was chatty, but in a good, neighborly way, while Susie (who seems to be the critical voice this week) says she packed in too much information into the segment. She also mentioned this was something Martie has been told numerous times, but has failed to improve upon. This is a tough decision for the pair, but ultimately, they decide the person going home is... Judson!
Wow, this might be the first time I was genuinely surprised by the FNS
elimination. I thought Judson's new and inspiring POV would have gotten him through at least another week. Martie has not changed or improved in any way (see above categories). Perhaps they were so close to letting Judson go last week that he didn't have much of a chance this week to begin with. What did you all think of this elimination? Were you as surprised as I was?
(Image courtesy of Food Network)