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A week ago we watched the culinary sabotages of Cutthroat Kitchen get the better of the remaining finalists. Fast-casual Kenny’s wonky breakfast parfait sent him to Star Salvation. On the other side of the spectrum of success, Christopher and Emma were scoring high marks for their Bloody Mary Pasta and ChocoBacoBurrataBomb, respectively. With nine finalists left, tensions are high.
The gang gets hand-held cameras with the assignment of making a video incorporating their POV from their POV. The whole set is opened up to the contestants, and they can shoot what they please. Who will get the most "likes" from Chef Flay? Read on.
Nicole: The Star de la mar channels a surfer bro for the first half of her selfie, calling the kitchen "sick." It was pretty refreshing to see her drop the "professional" shtick for a second, but a typhoon of "polish" wipes her out in the end.
Reuben: A sofrito is a pretty cool thing to know about, but Reuben falls into his old (meaning from birth) habit of speaking with the same clarity as Miami Sound Machine's "Conga."
Sarah: A self-proclaimed Star superfan, Sarah is super comfortable showing the world how those evil doors work. It's a smart move, but her egg-cooking tip is a no-brainer.
Chris: Having suffered in the past for timing issues, Chris energetically shows us around the Star set, but he forgets to make his presentation personal. Without the context of knowing that he's a contestant, it might as well have been a PA showing us how to cut a bell pepper.
Lenny: Maybe not the best candidate for selfie-director of the year, Lenny is nearly out of breath by the time he gets to his tip, which I guess was about seasoning a cast-iron pan. Maybe it was actually about washing dishes. It's hard to tell, and Bobby was lost as well.
Emma: NPR-voiced Emma calmly crushes the challenge. She's quick, creative and comedic. Read on to see what the victory earns her in the next challenge!
Christopher: "Never gonna be a Lenny or Loreal," Chris doesn't need song and dance to get his POV across. He confidently assembles a spice rub with much authority. The "never" statement, though, does not a Star make.
Loreal: Delightfully weird, Loreal shows us how to literally break down a bird. The tip is perfect. It's actually how I learned to break down birds. Where did she learn this? Nobody knows, because when she was putting on lipstick, she could have been telling us that she's the butcher babe of our dreams.
Aryen: Although she's polished from her work in broadcast journalism, Aryen sets up the camera for an IMAX-like presentation from Chef Godzilla. She has none of the confidence of the kaiju, and she's even more nervous going into the next round.
YouTube Space LA
The hopefuls pile into Buicks and roll up on YouTube's LA outpost. They are split into teams of three and tasked with creating a marketing video for a Hershey product. For those of you who remember, I'm a huge fan of Hershey, and I would have loved to be on team PayDay. I actually eat a PayDay before any big gig. Are you listening, Hershey? Anyway, Emma gets to pick the teams, which means she is going to put all the nuts on team PayDay and Team Almond Joy, and she'll recruit the silky-smooth types for her own team: Reese's. Lastly, they will be mentored by Shay Carl, a YouTube legend.
Team Reese's: Emma, Reuben and Nicole end up in a classroom setting. They quickly sketch out a skit involving a Spanish teacher and two very different students. Reuben has trouble getting wacky, but Shay shows up and defibrillates the whole team.
Team PayDay: Assigned to what looks like the set of Good Eats 2 is Lenny, Christopher and Aryen. The gang makes Lenny into PayDay-stein, taping my favorite candy bar all over his body. Christopher has problems loosening up in front of the camera, perhaps because there is a half-naked Lenny on a table in front of him, and Aryen is Igoring all over the place. Shay reminds them to make the last line stick and make PayDay the star.
Team Almond Joy/Mounds': Chris wants the lead role real bad — to the point that he looks like a rejected character from an early Dave Chappelle Show. Sarah wants to present the classic angel/devil/shoulder routine. Nothing gets done until Shay shows up and organizes them into a wacky dating scenario.
The Review: Bigwigs from YouTube are brought in to weigh in with Giada, Bobby and Alton. Team Rrrreese's fares well, as Nicole delivered like Food Network's Sarah Silverman. Reuben and Emma did fine, but Reuben's face was obscured with his massive beard (not his real massive beard), and Emma's role was more of a supporting one.
Team Almond Joy/Mounds nonsensical "we date candy bars" sketch is weirdly funny, but Loreal and Sarah play second and third fiddle to Chris. Unfortunately the candy bars were fourth.
Back in the lab, team PayDay shocks the judging panel with nekkid Lenny, but Chris looks more like a Tribble in a lab coat. There's a lot of yelling and screaming, which makes for a largely inaudible show.
Cue the Scary Music: Team Reese's gets dinged for not getting to the point, but the finalists earn safety with their funny Spanish sketch. Team Almond Joy/Mounds didn't share enough spotlight with the product, and the rivals' lack of teamwork was evident. Somehow, they are spared. The PayDay gang made an impression, but it was too "cray cray" and inaudible. Out of Christopher, Lenny and Aryen, the judges felt like the biggest fault landed on Aryen for not nailing the tagline at the end.
The Moral of the Story: Just like the Adidas slogan for the World Cup says, if you are going to compete on Food Network Star, you have to be #ALLIN. Aryen never brought it all, and Food Network just doesn’t have a recipe for weak sauce. Her POV was interesting, and she was pleasant and polished, but without the oomph and enthusiasm, it became an old geography textbook. There is nothing textbook about being a Food Network Star.