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S10E12 – The Proof is in the Pudding

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Hi guys!

In the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, Well I’m Back. And to be honest, I feel like I’ve just gotten back from Mordor. The last two and a half months have been a bit of a time, but it passed and I’m back and it’s like two weeks until Eurovision. It will be okay guys.

To business!

JB is in New York, where she’s appearing on Chef Bernardo Bonelli’s cooking show. Would it surprise you to know that Bernardo is a bit temperamental? (Side note, Gordon Ramsay had a cooking show a while back where he explained how to do basic things and he was so calm and now I can make crispy skinned salmon like nobody’s business).

To be fair, Bernardo has a bit on his plate, boom tish. His soon-to-be-opened restaurant has just been vandalised again, but despite his nephew Philip’s pleas to go to the police and ask for protection, Bernardo won’t have a bar of it. This is what happens when you borrow money from a loan shark, he’ll find another way to deal with Paul Avoncino.

Meanwhile, a nervous JB is getting a tour of the set from station manager Alex Weaver. He promises her that if her screen presence is half as good as her writing, they are in for a great show. His wife, TV food critic Diane pops in to reassure Jess that Bernardo is a total softy really and that she should be flattered: in her experience station managers don’t have time to read or do anything that isn’t related to work.

Ouch.

JB Fletcher: deftly avoiding getting involved in marital problems since 1982.

On set, Bernardo scolds his assistant Manuel Ramirez for putting dried cilantro in the dish. Why is coriander cilantro in America? Answer by shouting out the nearest window, I’ll hear it eventually.

Manuel stomps backstage and runs into Lorna Thompson, who I think might be a producer on the show but honestly who knows. She tells him not to let Bernardo get to him, and he kisses her hand. Naww. Coriander brings people together you guys. I’ll defend it to the death.

The taping gets underway, with today’s special dish Sole with Pine Nuts and Raisins. Hard pass, I hate raisins. As the taping concludes, Bernardo announces his next day’s guest will be JB Fletcher, who will prove that cooking does not have to be murder.

As someone who almost certainly just ate some expired feta, that is fundamentally not true.

After the show, Lorna introduces JB to Bernardo who asks her what she thought of the dish. JB tells him she thought it looked tasty and was particularly interested to see he didn’t plump up the raisins in boiling water first, she assumes that is his personal preference.

Bernardo summons Manuel and berates him for the lack of raisin plumpness.

*puts on sunglasses, bellows yeahhhhh, scares the cat*

Bernardo then tells JB to take care when she’s on the show tomorrow, just as he would on a show she was hosting, and storms off. He runs into his niece-in-law Jeannine who tells him the insurance aren’t going to cover the most recent damage to his restaurant unless they go to the police. He tells her they will find the money some how. Jeannine leaves and Diane wanders in to bust some moves on Bernardo. He’s not having a bar of it, not even when Diane threatens to give his restaurant a bad review on her TV show.

Later, Bernardo is standing around in the street contemplating the marvels of coriander when one of Paul Avoncino’s goons appears, telling Bernardo that Paul wants a word. The word is that Paul is happy to make all of Bernardo’s worries disappear, as long as Bernardo signs over half the restaurant to him. Bernardo tells him nothing doing and storms off.

Paul isn’t done, however, and manages to bump into Lorna and JB on the street. Lorna, it turns out, has invested the inheritance she received from her grandmother into Bernardo’s restaurant, and Bernardo would like her help making Bernardo see sense. Lorna tells him she’d rather go bankrupt. Jessica, who was on the fence about doing Bernardo’s show after his tantrum, tells Lorna she won’t let her down.

Bernardo meets Lora, Philip and Jeannine at the restaurant to come up with a plan of attack. The bank won’t give them more money, so Philip decides Jeannine can be assistant, he’ll do front of house and they will borrow what they need to from the studio. Bernardo chucks another tantrum because of course he does.

The next day, JB rolls into the studio to tape her episode of the show. Bernardo is on best behaviour as he talks her through what they will do. Meanwhile, Manual is backstage preparing the dish that will be shown to the viewers and carefully sprinkles something into the pot.

Technically Buono Appertito but I forgot what language to google.

Naturally the show is a success, full of jokes about cyanide like all good cooking shows. While Bernardo closes the show out, Jess ponders the mouthful of risotto. Something doesn’t taste right.

Dramatic cut to adbreak, after which the mystery is solved – Manuel put turmeric in the risotto, it’s much cheaper than saffron and tastes basically the same. (Life Lesson #73) Jess thinks it’s a good idea (but not a great one – she’s fine with Manual messing with other recipes but not hers, because YOU DO NOT MESS WITH PERFECTION). Bernardo grumpily agrees.

Backstage, Jess and Alex watch a taping of Dining With Dianne in which Dianne destroys a cafe. Oh blessed where the times when restaurant reviews were on TV and not every second instagram post. Alex is delighted to hear Jess enjoyed herself and is in the middle of pitching a book talk show when Dianne appears demanding that he speak to the crew about her terrible lighting. Alex excuses himself and Dianne congratulates JB on her episode, saying that Lorna has earned her payrise, Bernardo is a pushover for a pretty face.

Back away not today

Back on set, Bernardo berates Manuel for the Great Spice Swap and fires him. Lorna pops up to tell Bernardo that she’s tried everything, including asking for a raise, but she can’t find any more money for the restaurant. Bernardo tells her not to worry about it.

JB returns home to her apartment to find 14 messages on her answering machine and the phone ringing. Everyone in Cabot Cove wants to hear about Chef Bernardo. And by everyone I mean the ladies.

Bernardo goes to see Alex to ask for more money. Alex is surprised Bernardo didn’t get Dianne to ask him for it, and Bernardo tells him there is nothing going on with him and Dianne except in Dianne’s head, and apparently Alex’s. Bernardo thinks Alex is looking for an excuse to say no to the money but Alex tells him he doesn’t need an excuse. Fresh out of options, Bernardo has no choice but to sign over half the restaurant to Paul Avoncino, who tells him his name is still on the door but to keep his eyes and ears shut. Bernardo declares that until he is carried out of the restaurant in a body bag, he will be the one giving the orders. As he storms off, Paul tells one of his minions that they won’t be needing Bernardo’s services much longer.

Subtle.

That night Bornelli’s Ristorante has its grand opening and Manual pops in to wish Lorna luck and to say goodbye. Without a job he has to return to El Salvador. Lorna says she’ll try and talk to Bernardo but he says it’s too late and not to worry. The man himself is wreaking havoc in the kitchen, yelling at anyone who crosses his path, including Philip who ordered the 1988 champagne instead of the 1986. JESUS PHILIP YOU HAD ONE JOB TO DO.  Lorna explains to JB who the last minute financial backer is. Dianne walks up to Bernardo and plants a giant wet one on him while Alex watches on. Those two need therapy.

After the launch winds down, Bernardo kicks back in the kitchen with some paperwork when he is stabbed to death. WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN SUCH A DEEPLY UPSETTING EVENT oh wait.

Jessica rolls in to the precinct to give a statement and bumps into Philip and Jeanine, who tell her that the restaurant will reopen as soon as the police have finished, and that they have recommended Manuel to Paul Avoncino as the new head chef. JB is called up to the detective’s office, but Paul Avoncino and his lawyer appear and try to jump the queue. The sergeant is inclined to let them until a speech from JB moves Paul to insist she go first. Inside, Jess tells Detective McKenzie what she knows, and McKenzie tells her that Lorna is in custody under suspicion of killing Bernardo – her fingerprints were on the knife.

Jess asks to speak to Lorna, who tells her she found Bernardo and pulled the knife out. The police weren’t interested in her reasons, especially after they learned she had an insurance policy that meant if Bernardo’s business failed she’d get her money back twice over.

JB fills Philip and Jeanine in, but is interrupted by the arrival of Paul Avoncino. Philip and Jeanine want to buy him out, which is hilarious because he was just coming over to offer to buy them out. And also to tell them a chef from one of this other restaurants is flying out from Miami. Jess decides to do some sleuthing of her own and talks her way into the crime scene. She manages to deduce that Bornelli was killed with a boning knife before Detective McKenzie arrives and orders her out.

Later that night, Avoncino pulls up to the restaurant and orders his minion to check to make sure it’s clear. While he’s gone, someone walks up to the car window and shoots Avoncino dead. Millions wept.

A few days later, JB is in the studio picking up her fan mail after her appearance on Bernardo’s show when she runs into Detective McKenzie, who is looking for Manuel. A gun has been found in his locker, recently fired. Alex says Manuel was also recently fired (boom tish), and he has no idea where he is.

But it doesn’t matter, because later that afternoon JB sees a commercial and solves the case. Look this episode wasn’t great you guys.

I have absolutely no opinion about this.

Apparently, Jeanine had an allergy to coriander something something killed her uncle, but if you’re watching this episode JB drops a Horatio Kane level pun so enjoy that.

I mean this episode wasn’t great but it’s so good to be back. Thank you for all your messages and emails, it really meant a lot. You guys are the best.

Later Fletcherfans!

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S04E17 – A Very Good Year For Murder

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Before everything else, I just want to point out JB’s outfit at the start of this episode.

You can't ride a horse without a neckerchief, that's just common sense

You can’t ride a horse without a neckerchief, that’s just common sense

That man giving JB side-eye is Marco Gambini, son of Salvatore Gambini and heir to the Gambini wine empire that he and Jess have been surveying. Jess is in town to celebrate Sal’s 75th birthday, who she appears to know after tutoring his grandson Paul in English so he could pass and get a football scholarship but never mind that because someone’s just pulled up in a fancy car…

Listen to your friend Billy Zane

Listen to your friend Billy Zane

Jess is unmoved.

JB and I made exactly the same face. I'm so happy!

JB and I made exactly the same face. I’m so happy!

Billy Zane is the younger brother of Paul Gambini, and a compulsive gambler (and heartbreaker). His aunt informs him that he’s had a phone call from Johnny in Tahoe and he excuses himself while JB goes in to see Salvatore.

The day I watched this episode was the day he passed away. What an amazing career he had though!

The day I watched this episode was the day he passed away. What an amazing career he had though!

Salvatore has been selecting wine for dinner, and asks JB her opinion.

This is also my reaction to most wines.

This is also my reaction to most wines.

Sal is feeling a bit maudlin in the face of his 75th birthday. He tells JB that soon Marco and his kids will inherit the vineyards but he worries that they won’t appreciate them the same way Sal and his late wife did. JB asks Stella, Sal’s daughter, what’s going on and she tells JB he’s stressed out because a company from back east is trying to buy the vineyard but Sal doesn’t want to sell, and while Marco loves the vineyards, his wife would prefer to live the fancy life in San Francisco. At that moment, Marco’s daughter Michele turns up with her latest man candy, a bloke from work called Ben Skylar who is as dumb as he looks.

After a night of feasting and toasting, Sal is a little bit weary the next morning when Your Friend Billy Zane Tony wakes him up to tell him that he has to go to Tahoe on business but will try to get back for the party. Sal agrees and asks Tony to go down to the wine cellar and decant the 68 Bordeaux. Unfortunately, on the way down one of the stairs snaps and Tony goes tumbling.

It’s okay though, he’s fine. While his aunt tries to dress the cut on his head and he fights with his father about going to Tahoe, Jess goes to investigate the Step of Death, which Paul is replacing. Jess thinks it’s been sawn through. Before JB  can elaborate Tony and Marco argue their way to the front of the house, where Tony is getting in his car and heading to the airport on his way to Tahoe.

That night Sal’s party is in full swing, despite the absence of Tony. While his girlfriend dances up a storm, Ben Skylar tells JB all about his childhood on a farm in Illinois, and how he used to write stories to escape the boredom. He’s been in California writing a thing about lost gold mines, and asks JB for advice on writing a novel and she tells him to “Read, read and read some more.” (Life Lesson #55). Jess mentions that she’s reading a great new novel from PD James and Ben says that he loves his work. JB explains that PD is a woman, P is for Phyllis. Ben shamfacedly goes to find his girlfriend.

While loading up at the buffet table, JB bumps into Thaddeus Kyle, Police Chief and friend of the family (an awesome name if ever I heard one). He’s heard about JB’s theory about the step being tampered with, and asks her if she has any suspects. JB’s got nothing, but is given food for thought when Thaddeus asks her to consider the possibility that someone in the family got annoyed at Sal’s rejection of the sale offer from back East. He excuses himself and goes on his way, leaving JB to watch Michele argue with Ben and flounce out.

The next morning Sal takes JB down to the wine cellar but finds the body of Ben Skylar on the floor. Literally the last person I expected to die in this episode to be honest.

While Thaddeus orders his men to stay on the property, at least for the time being, JB gives Michele her condolences, but Michele says she’d only known Ben for a couple of months. Thaddeus draws JB aside for a quick word and tells her the theory is Ben was poisoned. JB suggests going through Ben’s belongings and finds a receipt for a petrol station in Long Island City, New York which kind of contradicts the whole being in California for the last few months thing although Thaddeus points out that it’s not proof of anything. I hate to say it, but I kind of agree with the Thad to be honest. Thad is sticking to his theory that someone inside the house had something to do with it all, and despite JB’s attempts to prove otherwise, she has to agree.

While she’s investigating outside, Jess runs into Sal and tells him her suspicions about Ben – he wants to be a writer but has never heard of PD James? Inconceivable!

“Sure,” says Sal. “But there are even some people who’ve never heard of you.”

Precisely.

Precisely.

JB is also suspicious of the fact that Ben said he had no money, and yet drove a high-falutin sports car and wore expensive clothes. Sal thinks maybe he had a wealthy family, but JB remembers him saying he grew up on a farm in Illinois, so no. All further theorising is cut short by the arrival of Tony back from Tahoe. While father and son resume their argument, JB gets a call from Thaddeus (seriously, I love that name) to let her know that it was definitely poison, but that Ben Skylar wasn’t Ben Skylar – he was actually Benito Soriano a mob hitman.

Well this has taken a unexpected turn.

Thaddeus invites Michele down to the precinct and she tells him how she only met Ben at work 8 weeks ago when he came in looking for a job and one thing led to another. JB asks her if Ben quizzed her about any of her family but she claims no more so than usual. Marco, fed up with the questioning takes his daughter home and leaves JB and Thad to mull over the situation. Thad is convinced it’s one of the family and has started looking into Your Friend Billy Zane Tony’s interests in Tahoe but JB is starting to think that Ben(ito) was sent by the company trying to buy the Gambini vineyard.

Back at Casa Gambini Paul has received a visit from “investment advisor” Stephen Ridgely and has whisked him off for a chat while inside Sal and Marco are giving Your Friend Billy Zane Tony the third degree – seems someone has been writing cheques his bank account can’t cash. Marco is furious but Sal shoos him out and writes Tony a cheque, telling him he’s the one who should be running the vineyard. As Tony leaves Sal calls Jess in for a chat and yells at her for meddling in Gambini business, and to get the next plane home. Rude.

Upstairs, Jess spots Stephen Ridgely pawing through things and Paul tells her the truth – Stephen Ridgely is a special investigator hired by the football commissioner to investigate match fixing in Paul’s team. When news got out about the mob hitman’s death they panicked that it was related, although it made no sense to target Paul at his grandfather’s house. He was a sitting duck.

Exactly, Jess exclaims. And so is Tony. So they can’t be the target.

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

Salvatore found out his granddaughter was bringing a hitman to his birthday and was going to let Ben kill him, but when Tony was injured instead Sal decides the only way is out. Before Jess can stop him he drinks more of the poisoned wine that he gave Ben(ito) and collapses.  He’s rushed to hospital where the doctor says he’ll pull through, the family commits to keeping the winery and JB informs Thaddeus that if Salvatore confessed to killing anyone she certainly can’t remember it.

The bad guys lose, the good guys win. I think that seems fair enough. Listen to your friend JB Fletcher, she knows what’s up.

Later gang!

Later gang!