In solidarity with the spirit of adventure that drives Around the World in 80 Plates, I’m recapping this week’s episode from my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn, one of the most famous boroughs in all of New York. I'm a long way from home! And at the risk of blowing your mind even wider open: By the time you read this recap, I will be on an airplane flying to yet ANOTHER distant city — the city of Los Angeles, currently located all the way over there on the other side of the continent in the sun-dappled, doomed social experiment known as California. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m a bit of a jet-setter. My only home is the open road; my only love is the smell of airplanes in flight; my only allegiance is to the next vista on my horizon. Basically, what I’m saying is: I might literally be the only person in America who appreciates what our friends are going through as they compete on Around the World in 80 Plates. As far as I can tell, I am definitely the only person in America who is watching the show.
This week’s episode kicks off in grand fashion as our gang flies from Barcelona to Morocco. They’re on a tiny airplane — maybe it’s a private jet? At first I’m impressed: “Private jet! They’re pulling out all the stops!” Then I notice ungodly stains all over the seat covers and think, “What kind of low-budget show hires an old grimy jet with stained-ass seats to fly its contestants around? Is this GG Allin’s private jet? I’m no longer impressed.” However, as soon as I’m done being no longer impressed, I realize the “stains” are actually artistic patterns sewn into the seat fabric and I’m right back where I started: being impressed! So that’s what happened in my mind during the first ten seconds of the show.
(You should know that I spent the entire episode apologizing to my Brooklyn friends for bringing this TV show into their living room.)
The chefs walk out of the airport in Marrakesh, Morocco — and who do they see? Curtis Stone and Cat Cora (not a type of jewelry only available in an in-flight catalog). Curtis Stone’s shirt is amazing; it’s aqua-ish colored, and seems to be made of a fabric that hasn’t been invented yet. I’m also noticing a certain anarchic, devil-may-fart quality to Curtis’s hair. It looks unruly, if not unhinged — I approve! I’m very tuned in to hair these days — I’m disappointed in my most recent haircut, and I keep complaining about it to everyone, and recently a friend told me it makes me look like a fifties gym teacher.
Anyway, our gang of chefs are in one of the world’s great food cities, boasting a regional cuisine that dates back hundreds and hundreds of years and relies on subtleties of flavor and texture that are without parallel — so obviously it’s time for them to all race around from place to place completing inane tasks like a bunch of dumb screeching monkeys before they’re allowed to learn or cook anything. And so we spend twenty minutes watching our friends stumble, run, and yell. Here is the extent of my notes: “The teams have to go to a famous market. Winner will get lots of money! $15 grand! Good luck in the crazy market.”
While all this chaos goes down, my hostess and I debate whether the diamond stuck in Avery’s cheek is a piercing, or an adhesive bauble. I pray it’s the latter, though I fear it’s the former. I officially WITHDRAW my recapper’s crush on Avery.
So now I have an Avery–sized hole in my heart. Who can fill it? Turns out Nookie can! I have to say, this guy has really been a revelation to me. When we first met Nookie and learned of his job cooking for the Boston Red Sox, how many of us assumed he was maybe not the most cosmopolitan man to ever roam the earth? And yet he’s been everywhere! He’s traveled to Morocco before, and insists that his “spice knowledge is bangin’.”
Our three teams (three teams this week, it’s going crazy) must find the spices used in the traditional ras el hanout spice blend, which they eventually do. Then they must locate the famous El Waha restaurant, which they do. Then they must race to see who can pour the most tea in the proper Moroccan style (straight down, from low to high, arm locked), which they do.
One of the teams wins. Which one? Fuck if I know: The goddamn team names are Red Team, Black Team, and White Team. How am I supposed to keep those team names separated in my mind? Not only are they the most generic team names in all of history, there’s no logic driving the nomenclature. It makes me sick, it really does, and I’m afraid my mind is so stubborn and resentful it won’t allow me to remember which team won, although I’m pretty sure it’s the team with Gary on it, though I could be wrong, because fuck those team names.
This week’s cook-off will take place in the storied restaurant Dar Moha, the brainchild of chef Moha, who will be sharing a meal with Curtis and Cat. The restaurant’s dining room looks dreamlike with all its colorful tiles and Reservoir Dogs posters (JOKE), but the kitchen is very basic: “A big, flat grill and a couple burners and that’s it,” as Nookie put it.
Everybody starts cooking their dishes. Basically, it’s like last week’s show except with Moroccan food instead of — jeez, where were we last week? France? Spain? I can’t remember anymore — but, yeah, whatever food they cooked in a blind rush last week, only this week they definitely have to make a tagine.
IMPORTANT: The highlight of this week’s show was when Avery’s pan of roasted beets went missing. (My notes: “Where are Avery’s beets?”) Did someone steal Avery’s beets? Who took them? Avery starts calling out for her beets. She wants answers! Without her beets, Avery’s dish will fall apart! (My notes: “Avery is screwed.”) Nookie starts looking around at the other teams and asks: “Who took the beets?” — the perfect question, given the circumstances. Guys, I’m not kidding: Even I was wondering who took those beets. Avery thinks it was the White Team. After all, Chaz and Gary seem a little cagey — did their earlier conversation about Avery’s “being a threat” lead them down the dark path of sabotage? I can’t tell yet — I need more clues. You see, when you’re trying to solve the Case of the Missing Avery’s Beets, you need to be patient while you assemble all the information possible. Only then can you accuse someone — and administer justice by chopping off their beet-stained hands ... or hadn’t you noticed they’d been wearing black gloves for the past two hours? (The gloves covered their beet-stained hands, duh.)
As a gesture of good faith (or just to get Avery to shut up about her goddamn precious missing beets) Gary deploys his French to ask the waiters if they know what happened to Avery’s beets, which are missing. Sure enough, one of the waiters removed the pan of beets! Because it was cooling in an area of the kitchen known as “No-Beets-May-Rest-Here-Ville,” I suppose. Who can understand the mind of a Moroccan waiter on an American reality show? It must be like trying to solve a Sudoku using Scrabble tiles underwater. Long story short, Avery got her missing beets back. All that’s left is for her and Chaz to snap at each other about false beet-theft accusations. Which they do.
The diners pour in; the dishes come out. It’s all a jumble to me, as the producers of this show don’t give us time to learn anything about the logic behind our chef’s meals, because they’d rather waste valuable programming time showing us chefs getting lost in alleyways, which is a shame.
However, one detail about the meal stands out for me, and that’s when Curtis Stone says, “I must admit, I find the couscous very strange,” which is a wonderful thing to hear Curtis Stone say, for some reason.
When all is said and done and eaten and ruminated upon, Red Team (Liz, Jenna, and Nicole) win the night. Liz wins immunity — her dessert was an absolute smash hit among the diners.
Black Team and White Team have to decide which of their fellows to throw under the bus. Chaz and Avery yell at each other, continuing their dynamic from earlier, when Avery’s beets went missing. (If you don’t remember that part, I recapped it above, and you should read it again, because it’s amazing). Chaz is still annoyed that Avery wasted his team’s precious time with her missing beet accusations, and admits to the camera, “If you wrong me, I’m gonna wrong you back.” (In response I literally say out loud, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!” before thinking, “Who am I?”)
While Chaz and Avery continue to tear each other’s entrails out through their eye sockets (metaphorically), Nookie tries to sow discord among the White Team, talking smack about how it took Chaz forever just to cook couscous, and what kind of chef can’t make a pot of couscous in five minutes? (Or however long it takes.) Gary seems to fall for Nookie’s divide-and-conquer strategy.
Time to vote. Who’s going home this week? Chaz and Avery both get three votes — Chaz, because he sucks; and Avery, because she’s good. As this week’s winner, it falls to Liz to cast the tie-breaking vote. At first I fear she’s going to wilt into nothingness on the spot, but she stiffens her spine and chooses Chaz.
It is done. Curtis Stone turns to Chaz and delivers his traditional kiss-off, perhaps the most poetic line in all of reality-showdom: “Chaz, I’m sorry, but your journey is over. It’s time to go home.”
And — poof! Just like that, Chaz is booted off Around the World in 80 Plates and everyone who watched this week’s episode is exactly one hour wiser and more cosmopolitan.
David Rees is an artisanal pencil sharpener.