Good morning. My name is Joshua David Stein. Please join me in a discussion of the most important (reality television competitive culinary) show of our time (between 10 and 11 pm on Wednesdays), Bravo's Top Chef Like a bunch of drunken bums we've stumbled into Week Two of Season Five, full of giddy apprehension, eager to feel and having to pee. What would await us? What could possibly surprise us? Why is Padma still single? Has Tom lost weight? Why does Gail Simmons looks like a train wreck? Soon enough, the annoying shhhhhSHHHHHP knife sound signaled that all our questions would be answered. From the outset, the episode looked pretty good. The quickfire challenge was hot dogs. I, who at this point was actually quite drunk, had just eaten the Chang Dog and the Wylie Dog at PDT (the former, a bacon-wrapped hot dog with kimchi, the latter a "deep-fried Crif Dog wiener nestled against a baton of WD-50 deep-fried mayo with tomato molasses and freeze-dried onions") so was already juiced for wieners. Instead of pimping out the quickfire like some James Lipton-like mac to Oscar Mayer, the segment featured Angelina D'Angelo, an independent Queens hot dog cart purveyor. The hot dogs were okay. Fake Italian Fabio I think won? (Maybe it was the little tattooed blonde lesbian.) Lex Luthor made a stab at a world dog that fell flat. You like that, Thomas Friedman, you jealous ignoble Ionic fifth columnist? [OH! Before I forget: Did anyone catch that weird mini-segment hidden inside a commercial break where Leah, the lady from Centro, clearly wants to hump Hoseah "Far Side" Rosenberg? She says something like, "I am into relationships. I'm boy-crazy!" and then she is cuddling with him on the sofa and being coquettish? "I want to sit here!" she says. The moment lasted all of thirty seconds then went straight back to some Housewives commercial. Transmission screw up or uncanny foreshadowing of love to come?] Anyway, ever onwards. Those sadistic and cynical Top Chef producers are, let's admit it, sometimes genius. Their ability to milk, nourish and capture human misery rivals Dante's formulations of contrapasso in the Inferno. In this week's episode, the contestants had to cook for the 50 failed contestant/chefs, the people who didn't even make it on to Top Chef. Needless to say, they were all—save one or two—vindictive anal worms. It was like when corrupt cops go to jail. One upside: The chefs worked out of the restaurant Craft which Chef Tom Colicchio owns so the man was in the kitchen, expediting. It is always a pleasure to see actual cheffery happening on the show. He's no-nonsense, exacting and demanding and at the same time level-headed, doesn't yell and is well-organized. So dishes and mistakes were made by the dozen. At the end of the day, Gail Simmons looked bad but made up for it by calling Jersey housewife Arianne Aryan. Aryan, for her part, totally blew it with her "cherry surprise" (Trust me, I've had a lot better cherry surprises—some courtesy of James Lipton!). It was so sweet even Padma (as seen above) expectorated the sweet load from her mouth into her napkin. It takes a lot to laugh, a train to cry, and one overly-sweet bite to make Padma spit. Strangely, it wasn't Aryan who went back to Jerz but rather it was the female Stephen Malkmus who was sent packing back to B-more [(Do you want to see her in a bikini? Click here) Maybe there'll be a sixth season of the Wire and it'll be about illegal kitchens and she can have a second career. Here's to hoping.] To sum up: I'm really excited for this season. I think it'll be great. It is already pretty wonderful. It's true, I despise Toby Young who replaces Ted Allen as judge and everything that he does. He'll be cruel and witty because that's what he does and he'll do it for the camera and without the slightest thought that what he says actually has consequences for the contestants, so deep is his narcissism. But Padma will be there to be drunk and cute and slurry and Tom is always there to slice through the bullshit with his limpid eyes. As far as the contestants go, Emile from Ratatouille, the guy with the horrendous facial hair, might actually be sweet. Fabio and Stefan actually seem to be in love. Urkel—though to be fair, she more closely resembles Where's Waldo?—is crazy town and God Bless Her for it. And shorty-wanna-hump Leah is so clingy that one wonders if she was brought to us by the makers of Glad. All in all, the ingredients are there for a well seasoned season. Let's just hope Bravo doesn't fuck it up too much.