Seth’s meltdown leads producers to break the fourth wall on insane Top Chef Just Desserts

Top Chef Just Desserts broke the fourth wall last night to show us Seth Caro’s meltdown, which led producers to remove him from the competition. Producers brought back Heather, who contemplated quitting, although later, another chef, Malika Ameen, quit. Yes, the chefs on this show are all a big mess, and it’s awesome.

The editing of Top Chef usually suggests that the contestants start the challenge immediately after it’s described to them; in reality, as with show’s like Survivor, there’s a period of time first for the crew to reset and for the contestants to review the rules. Last night’s episode cut from Gail Simmons introducing an ice cream sundae quickfire challenge, which left Seth pacing and freaking out, apparently because he couldn’t make his own ice cream. (As an aside, how hilarious/pathetic was it that the producers had one of the other contestants talk about how they “love Breyers” ice cream, as if the sponsor would get mad at Seth’s behavior.)

After that, we saw the contestants go to the stew room, flipping through pages of typed rules, in order to witness Seth breaking down. That included footage of a producer reviewing the rules with the contestants, and another producer telling Seth that he wasn’t going to get his way after he threw a temper-tantrum about some paper cups he discarded. It was all very weird, but cool to see something we’ve never seen before.

But the most frustrating and annoying part is that the editors (and/or network) left out Seth’s actual freak-out and cut from him complaining about fairness to him walking out, leaving the other contestants to explain that he’d started yelling and freaked out. That’s bullshit; if you’re going to show behind-the-scenes footage, don’t leave out the big moment.

The next time we saw Seth, he was lying on the ground being treated by paramedics. In an interview afterwords, Seth said, “I just got very upset, got into an argument, and it just kind of spiraled out of control until I was not able to catch my breath and ended up having what they call an anxiety attack. Fainted.” He explained that he’d been removed from the competition: “At this point, at producer’s discrection, I’m not cleared to compete any further and I’m done. This is crushing; this is the worst thing ever.”

That wasn’t the end of the unusual exits for the competition. First, returning Heather C. was upset about being eliminated and then returning, so Heather H. told returning Heather C., “You’re letting your teammates down” and called her “a spoiled brat. She needs to suck it up.” She did, but another chef left. After complaining for the past few weeks that she was going to leave, Malika decided to quit, and at judges’ table said, “it’s the right thing for me.” Gail pointed out her dessert was “exceptional,” but that didn’t sway Malika.

Since no one was eliminated after she quit, Top Chef Just Desserts has the same number of contestants as it otherwise would have at this point and thus is still on track, if you ignore this episode’s derailment.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.