IMG_8222“They squirm so you don’t have to.”  With those words, Alex over at Brightest Young Things gave our TNFNS recaps a shout-out in her weekly round-up this week.  And that was BEFORE last night’s epsiode!

When it comes to competition cooking shows, this isn’t exactly our first rodeo.  We’ve been lucky enough to interview Spike from Top Chef Season 4 and finalist Carla Hall from the most recent season.  Each time, we’ve come away from the experience with the impression that – despite all the editing that you know goes into turning hours of footage into minutes of television – their television personalities were distilled versions of themselves.  Spike does have a swagger and a wink to him, and Carla is just that sweet and eccentric.

But we’re at a loss to figure out what’s going on with Teddy Folkman on The Next Food Network Star…this is DEFINITELY not the Teddy we know.  TV-Teddy wasn’t exactly making fans with his over-the-top performances; after tonight’s episode that may end up being the least of his worries.  Even with the friendly crowd at the Capitol Lounge rooting for him, this one had to be tough for Teddy to watch.

Details on the episode (so SPOILER ALERT) and some thoughts about what may lie ahead after the jump.

IMG_8223Right off the bat, there were signs that this wasn’t going to be a great episode for Teddy.  The editing of the “Previously On” footage cast Teddy’s role in the Melissa-bashing in a much more critical light than it appeared during last week’s episode.  As soon as the new episode begins, we’re told by Debbie that it was Teddy who “totally threw her under the bus” – not at all what the audience saw. (You may recall our note in last week’s recap that everyone in the Capitol Lounge breathed a sigh of relief last week when Teddy didn’t join Brett in criticizing Melissa).  Odd.

For the first challenge, the eight contestants visit Stew Leonard’s, a large grocery in Yonkers with “a farm-like retail environment.”  There Tyler Florence greets them and issues two challenges: Shop for a dinner party for 12 people on a budget of $60 ($5/person) and record a 30-second budget-stretching tip on camera while shopping.  While some of the contestants took to the challenge in fine fashion (it was right up Melissa’s alley, and Jeffrey was able to blend his culinary prowess with his personal side nicely), Teddy didn’t do so well.

It was a one-two punch.  First came his cut-away commentary: “This whole shopping on a budget thing is going to be a big challenge for me.  As a chef, if you go a little over budget on something, you just charge the customer.”  Ouch.  Then we watched Teddy give a “cartoonish” (Tyler Florence’s word) presentation for his 30-second standup.  He was hurried, frenetic…the ‘TV-Teddy’ we’ve been baffled by in each episode so far.  Short of showing Teddy wearing an eyepatch or with a goatee, there wasn’t much more that could have been done to reinforce the ‘bad guy’ role he seems to have been thrust into.

Jeffrey’s easy-going, likable persona once again carried the day, and he won the right to choose his partner in the second challenge of the episode: that 12 person budget dinner party is actually taking place in the East Hampton home of Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), and each pair of contestants is tasked with making a three-course meal.  They’ll handle one course each on their own and then collaborate on the third.

After Jeffrey selects Michael, the rest of the teams are assigned randomly.  Teddy is paired with Debbie (who has been sharing her distrust for Teddy pretty much every time the camera has been on her), Eddie teams up with Melissa, and Jamika gets to work with Katie.  The seeds are sown for some real clashes of personality, but Teddy and Debbie actually end up working pretty well together, as do Jamika and Katie. 

Eddie is barely able to conceal his contempt for Melissa, and they work in near-silence throughout the challenge.  At the Judges’ Table, Bobby Flay chastises Eddie for this with the advice that “a little chivalry in the kitchen goes a long way.”  Elizabeth’s immediate response was to wonder if chivalry (with its loaded, sexist connotations) was really what was needed in this situation – how about some basic respect for a fellow chef and competitor, regardless of gender?

IMG_8228We were pleased to see that things went pretty well overall for Teddy and Debbie.  Their shared dish, a ‘pan-Asian meatloaf,’ looks like a winner, and Debbie’s Asian-inflected vegetable pasta dish is a hit with the judges.  For some reason, Teddy took on dessert as his individual dish, despite admitting that he really didn’t have much experience with desserts.  As a result (and due in part to what appeared to be poor time management), his dessert was roundly criticized – Susie Fogelson called it “an abomination.”  But Debbie’s calm, engaging presentation to the dinner party seemed to rub off on Teddy…for once, ‘TV-Teddy’ was nowhere to be seen and he did his part in a similarly laid-back style.

The audience at the Capitol Lounge was thrilled to see Teddy finally being himself on camera, and the general tone was that things were looking up.  Then came the Judges’ Table.

It was pretty obvious that Teddy wasn’t in the running for the win – his individual dish pretty much guaranteed that.  The win went to Michael and Jeffrey (…again.  You have to respect his consistently strong showings.) for their combo of pepper-spiked tomato soup, broccoli raab and sausage crostini, and spicy nutella crepes.   But it looked like Teddy’s teamwork with Debbie and the Eddie-Melissa dynamic would combine to carry him through to another round.  So it seemed, that is, until Teddy tried to reframe the meatloaf as his dish (because he did the lion’s share of the work on it) and the dessert as their shared failure.  It was a collossally bad move.

IMG_8219There had to have been some significant compression of what went on in the room at that point, because Teddy goes from claiming the meatloaf to apologizing for claiming the meatloaf within the span of a minute, at which point Debbie says she is “so taken aback” and goes on to hit him with “nobody was comfortable working with you” and questioning his honesty and integrity (a bit of a glass house for her, considering her behavior in the first episode).  As aired, the entire exchange seemed very rushed.

One by one, the judges inform the contestants that they are safe, leaving only Teddy and Eddie behind.  Will they send home Teddy for his bad dessert and worse showing at the Judges’ Table, or will they dismiss Eddie for his consistently sub-par performances and his rude behavior toward Melissa?  While Teddy and Eddie are out of the room, the rest of the contestants discuss Teddy’s self-destruction, and Jamika joins the “Teddy threw Melissa under the bus” chorus in a one-on-one interview.  It was interesting to watch Teddy in person during this scene, as he had clearly not seen the footage before and the criticisms definitely stung.

In the end, Eddie was eliminated…perhaps Eddie’s argument that he “handled myself as good as I possibly could, every time” wasn’t the best one to make, considering his repeat appearances at the bottom of the pack.  Teddy seemed genuinely shaken by what went on; hopefully that’s a sign of better things to come.  The chants of “One More Week” were less a celebration this time around and more a sigh of relief.

There’s not much to share about what you didn’t see this week, though Teddy said the Debbie that kept bad-mouthing him on camera is definitely not the Debbie he got to know through the filming process.  It was a classy response to a tough episode that had several of Teddy’s fans at the Capitol Lounge venting their anger and frustration rather vocally.

TeddyFrom our perspective, there are a few things that could happen at this point in terms of Teddy’s future on TNFNS:

  • He could have an epiphany and turn himself around in a classic ‘redemption’ storyline.
  • He could get eliminated in the next week or two, especially if his cooking slips.
  • He could stick around as the ‘villain’ character, setting up a showdown scenario against a fan favorite later on.

It’s hard to say which way the producers will go with things from here, though we’re certainly pulling for a redemption.  We just started to see a glimmer of the Teddy Folkman we know in the presentation at the dinner party – it would be a shame if he didn’t have an opportunity to show the rest of the audience what kind of guy he really is.