On the previous episode of Feed the Beast, a shooting outside Thirio cast a dark shadow over the restaurant's impending opening night.
Would anyone still want to eat dinner at this elegant, expensive restaurant in the Bronx after seeing its sign looming over dead bodies on the news?
On Feed the Beast Season 1 Episode 7, "Tabula Rasa," the answer is no. The only people who wander in on opening night are lost yuppies looking for a bar mitzvah in Westchester. Turn out, no one wants to pay hundreds of dollars for a high-end meal that may be interrupted by gunfire before the main course has been served.
This latest episode stands out for a few reasons. The first is that the Beast of the title, Thirio, has finally awakened, first with a whisper but by the end of the episode with a roar.
The hour is chock full of well-crafted cooking scenes that made my mouth water. The montage-style editing in these sequences highlights the various intricate, delicate steps required to create such elaborate meals, reminding us that the culinary arts are just that – arts.
And Sturgess does a reasonably good job at pretending to be a master of such arts, his brow wrinkled in concentration as he scatters herbs and arranges garnishes with the help of a very eager TJ.
For me, the highlight was watching Dion take a discarded chocolate torte out of the trash and turn it into an elegant T-shaped delicacy covered in chocolate ganache and dotted with fresh-made cream. It looked so delectable that I didn't even mind knowing that it had just been in the trash – I would totally have eaten it anyway. (Five second rule? Anyone? Bueller?)
"Tabula Rasa" is the also first episode in quite some time that allows David Schwimmer to have some fun. Once Dion manages to convince Tommy that he never slept with Rie, Tommy starts to lighten up a bit.
Do you know how many times you made me suck it up and talk to my dad? It's your turn, buddy. Eyes on the prize.Tommy, to Dion
Tommy convinces Dion to visit an old mentor, now a famous chef and food blogger, to ask him for help getting publicity for Thirio. Said mentor, Dante DiPaolo, is a total caricature of a jackass spouting the kind of stupid, sexist dialogue that only a stoned frat boy could find funny.
He is everything that is bad about Feed the Beast wrapped up in an expensive sport coat and garnished with stubble and a smirk.
Dante might be king of the douchebags, but Tommy's wry way of brushing off his insults – not to mention the snarky glee he takes in seeing Dion grovel before him – is pretty amusing. It's nice to see Tommy show a side of his personality that is not defined by his grief.
Dion: Tommy and me are opening up a restaurant in the Bronx.
Dante: The Bronx? Why not Fallujah?
I was even touched when Tommy surprised Pilar with candles and flowers in the greenhouse, mostly because even though I find their relationship lacking in chemistry, it was good to see him pick himself up off the ground, dust himself off and make an effort for someone.
Dion and Tommy essentially switch places in this episode. Instead of Tommy constantly panicking over the restaurant and grieving over Rie, he is the voice of reason when the usually confident Dion nearly blows a gasket rushing around the kitchen trying to impress DiPaolo.
Maybe if I had a vagina you could have screwed your way to get me up to the Bronx. But, I have a penis.Dante
Watching Tommy massage Dion's fragile ego in his moment of need was a lovely moment between two men who generally spend more time yelling at each other than supporting each other. The whole scene feels like an older brother reassuring the young one that he doesn't have spinach in his teeth before he goes to pick up the most popular girl in school for prom.
Of course, by the end of the episode their friendship is once again on the rocks thanks to the accidental revelation from DiPaolo that Dion did in fact sleep with Rie – or, in his words, "some hot black chick."
You can almost see a physical wall of tension rise up, brick by brick, during that moment, shutting out the ray of light that streamed in when the phone started ringing as a result of DiPaolo's rave reviews.
As usual, the mobster scenes were barely able to hold my attention. The Tooth Fairy and Detective Giordano threatened each other a bit, culminating in the Tooth Fairy leaving a tooth under Marisa's pillow as a warning.
Now the detective wants Dion to help him kill the Tooth Fairy, the Tooth Fairy wants Dion to leave Thirio to open a different restaurant with him on the waterfront, and I don't care one bit about any of it.
He's got four plates to go. He's pacing himself. Relax.Tommy [to Dion]
More disturbing than any of the tooth-related shenanigans was the terrible phone call TJ received from school bully Andre. My heart actually broke for him. At least, it cracked quite a bit.
My money is now on Andre being the one who gets shot by TJ. Though, based on the threats issued by Andre over the phone, I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up being in total self-defense as opposed to revenge.
So, what did you think of "Tabula Rasa"? Do you think Tommy and Pilar's relationship will start picking up steam? How do you think Tommy will react when he finds out that Dion slept with her as well? And will Tommy be able to work side by side with Dion now that he knows the truth about his relationship with Rie?
If you're hungry for more, you can watch Feed the Beast online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.