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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Married at First Sight Dallas: Episode 13

I can’t believe we’re only on Episode 13. I feel like we’ve been watching this season for 6 years. My friend told me the season isn’t due to end until October 14. I need it to end NOW. I’d rather be watching This is Us. Waaaaa.

Ok. That’s it. Head on straight. Time to watch. 

Only 2 weeks remain until Decision Day. Dr. Pepper says it’s time the couples start talking seriously about their futures. 

Dave and Amber facetime Amber’s mom and sister. Dave notes that it’s only been 6 weeks, despite it sometimes feeling longer. I feel that, Dave. I sooooooo feel that. Amber says that she and Dave seem to be focusing more on the positives in their relationship. Dave says he’s never viewed this as only an 8-week experiment. He wants to try to keep working.

Mia and Tristan are talking about how stressed out Mia is. She’s got a lot to do with work and moving and so forth. Tristan is upset because Mia and he are going back and forth about health insurance. Tristan explains that he canceled his insurance so he could go on Mia’s but is annoyed Mia didn’t add him yet. Mia explains she didn’t realize he canceled his already and is concerned they never had a full conversation about that prior to him doing it. Tristan thinks it’s a common sense issue and Mia should have realized. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m with Mia on this one.

Bobby is having dinner with his friend since Danielle is out of town on a business trip. His friend tells Bobby to expect lows to come, even though they’re still in the honeymoon phase now. Bobby says he’s anticipating it coming down at some point (and Danielle has said similar) but I don’t think either of them really believe it.  

Mia tells Tristan she’s still hurt that he canceled his insurance without talking to her first. She thinks they should have had a conversation about costs and so forth before he took action. Tristan tries turning it around on her, saying she’s been so stressed, he thought he’d take care of it himself. Mia’s eyes look super bloodshot. Mia also tells him that he’s been talking over her and not letting her voice her opinion, that he wants to have the upper hand. This is the most I’ve ever seen her say. I’m sort of impressed. Tristan, though, is not. He rolls his eyes like my 10 year old. Mia points out that she feels like she’s making a lot of sacrifices to move to Houston and here he is making decisions without her. Is this how it’s going to be, she wants to know? Tristan tells her, fine, if you don’t want to come, don’t come. He’s doesn’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with him. He mutters, “I’m done…” and walks toward the door. (This is not the first time he’s said and done this. But it’s the first time I think he’s in the wrong for it.)

Amber and Dave are on the rooftop planting a miniature garden. He surprised Amber with flowers and planters and gloves. She’s excited at the prospect of putting down roots. They start talking about traditions and Christmas. Matching pajamas. Stuffed toys. They are excited for the future. Dave asks about Thanksgiving. He wants to do Friendsgiving. Amber says ok. She doesn’t usually go home for Easter so Dave suggests going to his family’s place for that. Amber says ok. They like having things to look forward to. (That might have been the most productive conversation they’ve ever had.)

Bobby is taking care of the dogs. He misses Danielle. She has left him a note. It says how much she appreciates him and finds him perfect, but it doesn’t say she loves him. He’s satisfied with that. He finds it “awesome.” Danielle Facetimes him. They have a robotic conversation. They each miss each other a “10.” The dog is going to take Danielle’s spot in bed tonight. I want to make a joke about that fact, but I don’t have the energy to bother.

Mia reports that she and Tristan had a “heated” discussion about the insurance and that Tristan gave her an ultimatum to come to Houston with him or else get out. (I can’t quite tell if the discussion escalated from what we saw on camera or if what we saw is all there was to it, but Tristan has just reached his breaking point.) Tristan has packed Mia’s belongings and deposited them in the hallway and said she can no longer live there. Mia is standing in the hallway among her things, presumably as confused as we all are in this moment. 

Tristan says if Mia is having second thoughts about moving to Houston, maybe she was never fully committed. I think that’s unfair of him (and I resent being forced to side with Mia so many times in one hour!) He is the one who dropped the Houston bomb on her and he shouldn’t expect her to have no reservations about uprooting her existence simply because that’s what he wants to do. I understand she put him through the ringer with the arrest and the Tinder snafu, but he claimed to be over them. I think he’s just trying to punish her as much as he can in an effort to even the score a bit. Which makes him a jerk because he could have left any number of times now.

Tristan points out that he didn’t say the marriage is over. He just told her she can’t stay at his house so he’s sent her back to her own condo. I’m not sure Mia realizes the distinction there. That theory is bolstered when she says, “This changes everything” as she drives away.

Mia skypes with Dr. Jessica. Dr. Jessica expresses sympathy, then warns Mia that she and Tristan, who bonded over a crisis, may feel they need to create a series of mini-crises to feel connected to one another moving forward, and that’s something they should guard against doing. 

Danielle gets home from her trip. She makes out with the dogs and Bobby stands to the side and waits his turn. Danielle notices Bobby got a haircut and remarks (to camera—not to Bobby) that she knew she’d miss the dogs, but is surprised how much she missed Bobby. Then she pets the dogs some more. Because of course she does.

Amber and Dave are sitting down to dinner. Dave seems to have made an elaborate looking salad and, possibly, some kind of fish taco. Amber is all, “Oh my gosh! What did you do??” because, of course, Amber can’t cook at all so any edible meal is very impressive. Dave responds, “I hooked us up.” Yes, bravo, Dave. Amber tells camera it’s nice to be in this great place right now. Which, of course, means rocky times are imminent. Dave puts too much food in his mouth and asks Amber a question and chews throughout the discussion. At a couple points it looks like he’s got food stuffed in his cheeks that he’s holding in there for another time. It’s distracting. Amber says she feels more secure in their relationship now than before. Finally. (Let’s put it to the test. Cue the brunette!)

Danielle and Bobby are talking about their future. Danielle sets short and long term goals at the beginning of each calendar year. Now she’d like to discuss goals with Bobby. They want to have a kid by age 30. Bobby doesn’t want to retire until he’s 75. Danielle wants it to be near a lake. Watching paint dry would be more interesting than watching these two awkward robots discussing their dull future.

Amber and Dave are writing their goals on a white board. They take turns. It’s weird to watch. He writes one in green. She writes one in pink. His turn. Her turn. Dumb goal after dumb goal. Amber wants to retire at age 55, spend her days doing fun things like sitting by the pool with her other friends her age, being all cool. Will she have grandkids by then? Wait. Will her kids be in college? How old would they even be? Dave stands by smirking and then hits her with a totally Dave-esque comment of, “Well it’s pretty simple math!” Amber does the simple math and realizes she’ll have a 15 year old at that time. How did this happen, she wants to know? She only just realized how old she is. 

I’d like to sit here and make fun of her for that, but I’ve had similar realizations in my own life (especially lately), wherein I don’t realize how old I am and what it means for the future or how old I’ll be on X date or how old I am in relation to other people, etc. So in this instance, all I can do is say, Amber, I feel ya, girl.

Dave clearly thinks Amber is absurd. He looks like he’s containing a laugh. He comments to camera about enjoying her “quirks.” That’s good to see.

Mia and Tristan don’t have a goals discussion since it’s understood that their goal is to make it through this 6 week experiment…

Instead, Rev Cal talks to Tristan. Tristan shares his version of events. Cal tells Tristan the types of comments Mia made—“I feel like I don’t have a voice” or “You make all the decisions for me”—are types that need sensitivity. He acknowledges that Tristan has been solid in his understanding to date with this relationship, but still he must be careful not to use the relationship as leverage or a bargaining tool. He also wants to know about Tristan and Mia and the feelings they expressed before—were they wrong then or are they wrong now? Tristan isn’t sure it’s salvageable. Dude, I tried telling him that week 2!

Amber and Dave and Danielle and Bobby are doing a Field Day. Mia and Tristan are absent. As usual. Amber doesn’t know what Field Day is, but she is excited to compete with her hubs.

They begin with an egg walk. Amber and Dave win. Next up is a tug of love. Amber and Dave win again. Danielle thinks it’s unfair because Dave is big and Amber works out a lot. Get over it. Dave gloats to camera that “maybe the perfect 10 isn’t so perfect.” The next activity is a feeler challenge wherein the wives walk blindfolded to chairs occupied by Bobby, Dave, and the ref. The ladies feel the heads of the men and are supposed to pick out their own husband. Amber touches Bobby and the ref (doesn’t even make it over to Dave) and incorrectly identifies Bobby as her husband. Dave is disappointed. They have sex every day, he notes. Maybe they need to institute more touching and blindfolds. On Danielle’s turn, she also touches Bobby and the ref (again skipping Dave) and chooses the ref as her husband. Dude, the referee has a PONYTAIL. She didn’t even try! Her program must be broken! Dave and Amber win the day and a trophy. Danielle says she’d rather lose at Field Day and win at marriage. Spoken like a true Field Day loser.

I’m confused why this episode is so long today. I need it to be over and it looks like there’s 20 more minutes! Why, god, whyyyyyy?????

The couples are eating lunch and Danielle is telling everyone about Mia and Tristan. Everyone agrees that Tristan moving Mia’s stuff out of the apartment was a low (and sort of fatal) blow. How can he expect Mia to move with him or carry on a relationship together if at any point in time he’d just kick her out? 

Now Rev Cal is moderating a discussion between Mia and Tristan. Mia expresses that she’s hurt and confused at how things escalated three days prior, and she wonders if he’d kick her out here in Dallas, would he do the same in Houston? Tristan tells camera that Mia is under the impression that he kicked her out, but he didn’t. He says she gave up on them. (Sounds like some bullshit to me!) He says some other things, too, but it means nothing with these two. They’re headed for divorce. After some blathering about how he feels like a bad husband, Tristan gets up and walks out after, again, saying he’s done. After the commercial break, Cal goes off and gets him. Cal wants to know if Tristan still cares about and loves Mia. He says yes. Mia says she still cares about him. Cal makes Tristan tell Mia how he feels. He’s competitive and wants to be the World’s Best Husband. He has a passion for Mia. It’s deep and scary and he wants to be better. But sometimes he gets overwhelmed and needs to step out. Mia says she loves him and they need to listen with open hearts and not repeat past mistakes. They kiss and make up. Again. Till next time. Still, Rev Cal gets a raise. 

Amber and Dave toast to their victory. They find a place for their dumb trophy which they’re planning to get engraved. They send a pic of it to Bobby and Danielle. Dave wants to send it with #suckit. Amber suggests #MAFSfielddaychamps instead. They go with the tact.

Mia and her things roll back in the apartment. She and Tristan make awkward conversation in bed. Mia hopes this is the worst fight they ever have so it’s behind them. (Mia: sorry, no.) 

Hmm. Seems like it’s about time to end the show with Bobby and Danielle in bed, not saying I love you back. 

But no! They don’t go there this week. That’s a first. I wonder if they were sore over their pathetic Field Day loss and refused to be taped. Lol. 

Next week: mini-moons. And another breakup for Mia and Tristan. 






Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Married at First Sight Dallas: Episode 12

First, for those of you who logged on yesterday hoping to kill some time at work, I apologize for the delayed synopsis. Tuesday night was a bit hectic (although, tbh, Wednesday is shaping up to be even worse in that regard) and I didn’t have the energy to watch the show. 

The couples have been married 5 weeks. 

Amber and Dave go to their gym together for the first time. If you recall, they are members at the same gym, but never saw each other prior to their marriage. When they arrive, Dave goes off to lift weights and Amber goes into a giant fishbowl wherein she does some exercise class called “Dance Jams.” She’s clearly an expert at this class. She tells camera she wants to be on point for her husband. Dave looks in on occasion and thinks she looks good. After class, Dave comes in and Amber introduces him to two of her gym pals. Amber gives the side eye as her brunette friend talks to Dave. The viewing audience gives a collective groan as we all know where this is headed. That’s right. Amber is insecure. Because this girl is Dave’s “type.” At least Amber acknowledges to camera that it’s stupid and she needs to get over it.

Bobby and Danielle head out to Bobby’s family’s house to celebrate his mom’s birthday. While there, his family wants to know how things are going. Anything about either of you bother the other? Nope, nothin’, they report. Bobby’s mom is all, “Really? Nothing? Because usually when people move in together they have different habits—one of them is messier or something—and it can sometimes cause friction. A lot of times it’s the small stuff that becomes the large stuff.” Bobby says something about them resolving at the onset “not to sweat the small stuff.” His mom isn’t buying it. She’s concerned something will come up at some point—as it inevitably does—and wonders how they’ll deal. 

Tristan (again wrapped in a blanket—seriously, why the hell don’t they adjust the AC if it’s that cold in there?) and Mia are, as usual, sitting on the couch doing nothing. They’re looking forward to their upcoming meeting with Dr. Jessica, excited that this time they aren’t “in crisis.” Tristan says he and Mia are in a really good place right now. Enter Dr. Jessica with a plan to show Tristan and Mia how wrong they are. She shows them video footage of a recent conflict so they can see how they’re communicating. This is a recipe for disaster. Within the footage, Tristan is telling Mia he doesn’t trust her and that he’s “done.” Mia is wearing a tee shirt that says “Lord, have your way.” During the argument, Mia stands there dumbly. Mia confesses to Dr. Jessica that, historically, she checks out when she is scolded. She explains that her parents were “traditional” and her dad would give a concentrated “death stare” with eye contact, so now she’s intimidated by eye contact. And her mom would raise her voice in anger, so Mia learned to  shut down to protect herself. As she’s explaining this to Dr. Jessica, Tristan becomes upset. He tells camera he didn’t know about Mia’s past and he feels badly that he raised his voice to her, especially as it is a stressor for her. Tristan then has to excuse himself from the room. Presumably because he feels guilty? Not sure. 

Dr. Jessica counsels Mia in his absence that it’s good she told Tristan because it can help them grow closer. Tristan returns and Dr. Jessica tells them how to handle future situations if one of them needs a break. Something about putting a hand on a heart and promising to come back. Blah blah. Who even cares with these two idiots?

Dr. Jessica moves along to Bobby and Danielle. Bobby’s coral shirt looks flesh-colored and it’s distracting. Dr. Jessica comes armed with video footage of their communication. It’s a scene of Bobby saying he loves Danielle and her responding, “mmm hmm.” Dr. Jessica tells Danielle she needs to work on being more verbally expressive and using her words to tell Bobby how she feels. Danielle, though, is a robot, so it will be a challenge. Still, she’s up for it because she loves to do whatever the experts say to do. Bobby looks excited that Danielle has been told to write him a love note and then read it to him. 

Now Dr. Jessica is with Amber and Dave. Dave shares there’s been more “ups and downs.” Then he reports that after he and Amber talked with the brunette at the gym, Amber was upset about it. She is quick to interject that she wasn’t upset. Dave says, “Yes, you were,” and then Amber admits, “Well it’s because she’s more your type than I am.” Dr. Jessica deadpans, “Because of a hair color…” and Amber says, “It’s not like I’m overly sensitive about it. I’m just a little sensitive about it.” Um, Amber? It’s all you effing talk about. It’s tiresome. It’s lame. It’s going to kill your marriage. Dr. Jessica, knowing this discussion is a waste of time, takes out her video footage. The footage is, naturally, of the day they were out to dinner and had the argument about Amber dyeing her hair blond (and how it was making her hair fall out.) Oh my god, how did they know?????? Oh right, because, as I said, it’s all Amber effing talks about! Amber realizes watching it back that she did put words in Dave’s mouth. Dave realizes that he shut down a bit in his frustration. 

Mia and Tristan are going to bed early. It’s been an emotional day. All they want to do is curl up and talk. That’s funny. All I want to do is curl up and NOT LISTEN TO THEM TALK. They talk but I’m tuning out. Tristan says something Mia likes because she says, “awwwww.” I could rewind it to see what it was, but I simply don’t care enough to bother. Especially because I know these two are not going to stay married. 

Danielle is having a girls night out with Bobby’s mom and sister. Bobby’s sister wants to know if Danielle wants kids. She does. Then Sissy wants to know if Danielle would continue to work or would she stay at home with the kids. I’m sorry, what? How about none of your damned business? Robot Danielle shows a crack. She’s nervous about answering this question honestly because she doesn’t want to offend them. See, Danielle does want to keep her career, but both Bobby’s mom and sister were/are stay-at-home moms. (The show reminds us with video footage from the honeymoon bike ride wherein Bobby talks of his traditional upbringing and wants to know if Danielle would be open to that, and she told him she values her career.) Danielle does, I think, an admirable job answering the bold-as-shit question and says she’s sure things are different or can change when one has an actual baby (as opposed to a hypothetical one), but she’s always envisioned going back to work, and, even if she took some time off to stay home with her baby, she would eventually return to the workplace. It’s clear Bobby’s kinfolk don’t like that answer, even though they joke that it’s of course up to Danielle to choose what’s right for her. But the reassurance falls flat when accompanied by Bobby’s mom pointing out that she’s so happy with how her kids turned out but she wonders, had she not been there to do that important work, would they have turned out so well? She just doesn’t know. And then Bobby’s sister adds that, for her, it was a question of who did she want doing the bulk of “rearing” her child—someone else or herself? Right, well, I guess we all know where they stand on that matter. 

Dave and Amber are still struggling with their communication so the experts have set them up for failure with an exercise wherein Dave and Amber are on a ropes course 15 feet in the air and Dave is blindfolded. He needs to rely on Amber to guide him through the course that, frankly, would be challenging with two working eyes. Dave gets frustrated and is clearly uncomfortable not seeing, but he manages to make it across. Dave realizes that he doesn’t always listen to Amber, but he was hanging on every word while in the air. Nice, Dave. Amber feels like this brought them closer together. You know, until Dave walks by another brunette.

Danielle is packing for a work trip to Houston. Danielle asks how much Bobby will miss her. Bobby says he will miss her a 10 because he loves their time together. Danielle seems uncomfortable because she knows she’s supposed to say something back. After an awkward pause, she remarks how she’ll miss the dog. Right. That’s not what Bobby had in mind, I bet. Then she excuses herself to the kitchen to write a note to Bobby so she can give him some indication of her feelings for him. She is verydiligent at doing her homework assignments. 

Back to Dave and Amber. They are building a dresser. Dave assigns Amber “Part 5.” She looks dubious. Not surprisingly, they have difficulty. It’s been 2 hours and they’re only a quarter through. Paisley the cat lounges mockingly nearby. Dave has had enough. He brings in shots and says he “has a guy” who can do the dresser. So instead of bonding over building the dresser, they bond over NOT building it. Hey, whatever works.

Mia and Tristan are going out to dinner. He wants to check in with her about the move—is it moving too fast? Is she ready? She says she is and views moving as an adventure. She tells camera she’s happy to have a husband who checks in with her about that sort of thing. This is ending in disaster, yo, and we all know it. Speaking of ending, the ep is over.

Next time: With only 2 weeks remaining until decision day, things are heating up. (Of course.) Bobby and Danielle discuss their timeline for having kids. Dave and Amber discuss retirement plans (spoiler alert: they’re not on the same page with their vision). Mia and Tristan have a big fight about the move and Tristan throws her out. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Married at First Sight Dallas: Episode 11

Today’s episode finds the couples just past the halfway point. (And finds me despairing that it’s only just past the halfway point because omigod how is this season not over yet??) Anyway, that means it’s time for their check-ins with Dr. Pepper.

Dave and Amber kick things off. Dave tells Dr. Pepper sometimes he doesn’t know how to react to Amber’s emotions, like this morning when she became upset because she didn’t have any clean socks. (I guess this means she hasn’t been doing her laundry, even though she’d volunteered to be responsible for wash when they were divvying out the chores some weeks back, and had a subsequent fight about it because she wasn’t doing Dave’s wash.) Amber admits she is quite transparent with her emotions, while Dave is more subdued. She feels like she annoys him. (I’m pretty sure she’s right. Also? She is starting to annoy me.) Dave shares that while the 5-minute-sock-debacle was “on Amber,” the next two hours were “on him” as, evidently, he didn’t react well to her spazzing out. Dr. Pepper suggests that in the future, if either one of them feels too angry and/or reactive in the moment, they should stop, say, “I’m too angry to discuss this right now but let’s revisit it at X time,” and take a break. The couple feels duly counseled and thus ends the good doctor’s visit. 

Next, Dr. Pepper heads to the high rise where they obviously keep the AC way too high as both Tristan and Mia are hunkering down in blankets. Jay-T is good enough to remove his animal-skin-rug covering when Dr. P arrives, but Mia seems contented to channel her inner Violet Beauregard and, thus, remains in her blue body bag. Shocker: the couple is not in crisis at the moment (though never fear, the episode is young), so everyone is in fine spirits. Tristan shares a sad tale of dire losses at his Houston business as a way to broach their need to move to Houston. Luckily, the risk-benefit chart seems to have helped Mia get on board so they’re both excited to move. Dr. Pepper says picking out a new place together will be good for them.

Finally, Dr. Pepper visits Danielle and Bobby. She wants to know what their biggest trial has been and Danielle explains how she didn’t grow up in a touchy-feely household so not seeming cold and aloof has sometimes been challenging with Bobby. But she feels like she’s been making great strides in that regard. Dr. Pepper says that’s great, then informs Danielle she’d like her and Bobby to go do a tantra lesson. As in tantric sex. Danielle admits to camera how that is past her boundaries, but says she’ll try to keep an open mind because she wants to be able to say she’s done every task she’s been assigned. A dog barks outside which introduces the issue of their pet fostering. Danielle shares how Bobby has graciously taken on Dog-Doodie Duty. Dr. Pepper says, “Wow, are you going for sainthood? Do you have any issues with this?” And Bobby says he’s okay with it. Then admits it’s a “beatdown” every time he’s had to do it. Dr. Pepper says she’d usually be concerned when one spouse does so much more than the other, but in Bobby’s case, she feels he’s just trying to show his love. He notes, “If the worst thing I have to do in a day is clean up dog poop, it’s a good day.” Hmm. There’s some zen in there, for sure.

Next up: the phone swap exercise. It tests personal boundaries and trust. Mia and Tristan both opt not to swap phones. Tristan claims he trusts Mia (how that’s possible, I don’t know) and doesn’t need to look through her phone. I suspect he simply doesn’t want to stumble upon another of her lies. Regardless of the true reason, Mia responds in kind and opts not to look at Tristan’s phone. Danielle and Bobby dutifully swap phones because the experts assigned it as an exercise, not because they seem at all concerned about or particularly interested in anything they might find on the other’s phone. Danielle likes Bobby’s photos of the dogs. Bobby remarks that Danielle has a lot of apps. After those inane comments, they replace the phones on the table. Bobby yawns. So do I. Finally, it’s Amber and Dave’s turn. Amber says she’s ok with Dave going through her phone, though she thinks it’s weird and isn’t sure what’s even in her phone. Dave tells Amber he has no desire to look through her phone as he trusts her and doesn’t believe there’s any cause to look through it. He adds that he hopes she feels the same. Amber admits that she’s had trust issues in the past and, with any other guy, she’d jump at the chance to nose around in his phone. But with Dave, she gets the sense he’s loyal and trustworthy and feels no need to swap phones. He’s the first man she’s ever trusted like this, she says. She’s happy to note the difference and feels it’s a great sign for their relationship.

Dave, however, is concerned that she’s never been in a relationship before where she felt she could trust her partner. Amber tells camera Dave is judgey (he is!), and asks Dave in a world-weary voice why he’s concerned. He explains that he doesn’t like that his wife has been so consistently drawn to this wrong type of guy. He tells camera that he knows he’s being negative, but adds that it’s in the past so he wants to focus on the future instead. Someone needs to tell Dave to get off his high horse.

Danielle and Bobby go to their tantra lesson. They’re uncomfortable but I give them props for hanging in there as the instructor repeatedly says the word “orgasm” and asks them sexual questions. They participate as well as they are able and are almost as relieved as the viewers when the experience is over.

Obvs MAFS is wise to their ratings GOLD, because Reverend Cal explains to camera the next activity: a cooking class! Yessss. Show me some inept cooks, please! All three couples are participating at the same time. In all three relationships the wives are the non-cooks. That becomes quickly evident as all three of them seem challenged to do the tasks being asked of them (Mia is cutting up chicken; Danielle is scraping cut green onion into a bowl; Amber is attempting to smash garlic.) Amber starts freaking out a bit because she gets in her head and worries her kitchen ineptitude will make her “not good enough” for Dave. Her frustration bothers him a lot, but he remembers what Dr. Pepper told them and so he helps guide her through it and she successfully crushes the garlic. She’s excited, but even more excited when Mia lights a towel on fire because now Amber is no longer the biggest disaster in the kitchen. 

The couples enjoy the fruits of their labor and eat dinner. They take turns sharing their marital struggles—well, everyone but Bobby and Danielle who, of course, have none. The other couples look at them sideways, Dave jokingly asks them to make up a problem just to make the rest of them feel better, and the party breaks up soon after. (One thing of note: After hearing how Tristan and Mia are moving to Houston, Danielle tells camera if Mia wants to go with him, ok, but she better have a Plan B in case it doesn’t work out. Ouch. But also true, especially as there’s NO WAY this is working out!)

Bobby and Danielle go out to dinner alone. They stare at each other like robots, then delve into the scintillating top of dog poop. It’s amazing how much of their marital conversation revolves around shit. Danielle tells Bobby please not to hold in feelings if he’s getting frustrated. He says he’ll let her know if he needs a break, but he has no plans to interfere with her passion for fostering. Danielle promises she’ll wake up with the dog tonight. Bobby tells camera that Danielle is a pretty heavy sleeper and likely won’t hear the dog, and he’s not going to wake her to do it. And so it goes.

Amber and Dave talk about their future. Amber is feeling good about their relationship in the wake of the cooking class, and she hopes Dave is on the same page. Amber asks what he envisions and Dave admits he wants them to have experiences as a couple before starting a family. But Amber wants to have a baby ASAP. She makes the requisite comments about losing more eggs by the year. Dave reminds her that people are safely having babies older and older these days. He asks what she’s most concerned about (I guess with having a family?) and she admits it’s the lack of sleep. Then she jokes that she’s not so much looking forward to the hard work of babyhood but can’t wait until their child turns 5. Dave is put out by that statement. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He is looking forward to holding their infant and thinks Amber wanting to skip past a big portion of a kid’s life is not a good sign. Further, he notes that she’s not great at dealing with stress and sleep deprivation, and that’s a big part of having babies. Amber notes those are things everyone struggles with and it’s unfair of him to judge her. He says he’s not judging her. (He clearly is.) I’m thinking this isn’t how Amber pictured this discussion going. 

Mia and Tristin are frolicking on the bed. Tristan says he’s feeling very optimistic about their plans. Mia is clearly not as optimistic, but she is trying to keep a positive outlook. 

Danielle and Bobby are kissing. It’s bedtime again. It seems like the show closes the same way every week. Zzz… Bobby tells Danielle how happy he is with her and how he’ll do anything he can to make her happy. She’s smiling at him. He tells her he loves her. She kisses him but doesn’t say it back. 

Next week, there’s some drama resulting from the characters showing no growth whatsoever. Danielle is a cold fish. Tristan discovers something else about Mia’s past he didn’t know. Amber is insecure when one of her friends is more Dave’s “type.” 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Are Premium Ingredients Worth the Splurge? Or, The Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste Test


The other day one of my friends texted me to say she’d tried this new butter and it was a “game changer.” What is this butter, I asked, and why is it so great? She said it’s a European style butter called Plugra, and it’s creamier than regular butter. 

(Side note: if you don't have a friend with whom you discuss butter and bake times and fun giant-cupcake-shaped pans, you really must get one!)

Game changing ingredients, you say? Tell me more!

According to their website, Plugra butter claims it’s not only better than regular table butter, but it’s also better than other European style butters. The reason is kinda like a fairy tale classic with an unknown fourth act. It goes something like this: Once upon a time there was a girl who was big into breaking and entering. After burning her mouth on some mush, ruining some furniture, and napping, she decided to venture back to the kitchen for a sweet snack. 

First she went to Papa Bear’s cookie jar and took out a treat that had been baked with those “other” European style butters. She cringed and declared, “Ugh! Too rich! This clearly has 83% butterfat and that’s too much!” Next, she helped herself to a cookie from Mama Bear’s jar, but found that equally unappealing. “Oh no! This cookie was baked with table butter which only has 80% butterfat and that is too little!” Finally, she reached into Baby Bear’s cookie jar and smiled with glee as soon as she bit into the cookie baked with Plugra. “Hot damn! This cookie has the EXACT PERFECT amount of butterfat in it. 82% is the sweet spot. Not too much, not too little, but juuuuuuust right! Thank you, Plugra butter!” And that wretch proceeded to eat every last cookie in that jar and had no regrets until later when she had a killer stomach ache because eating that many cookies is never a good call. The end.

Gimme some butter!!!
“How much is it and where do you get it?” I asked my friend. Regular market with the other butters, $3.99 per half pound. I told her I’d keep my eyes peeled for it next time I went shopping. A few days later, she texted me a pic of Plugra on sale for $2.79 and I thought, “I need to get on this now.” I went out and bought 3. (Fun fact: I told my mom the story of this butter and she said, “But what if you don’t like it?” I said, “Mom, it’s butter. How bad could it be?” Then I said, “Oooh! Touch√©!” Yes, I gave myself a touch√© because, well, hello, I think that’s obvious.) 

So now that I’d acquired this butter that claims to be the best butter, I couldn’t simply bake with it in any humdrum way. I knew I had to do something extra special with it to test the claim that it IS better. Is it worth the extra money, more than double the price of the butter I usually buy? Can one taste the difference? And, while I’m at it, I thought, I’ve been kinda curious to find out if so-called “premium” chocolate chips are actually any better than the other kinds. Why not taste two birds with one cookie, if you will? 
The ultimate showdown : Premium vs Everyday Ingredients
These questions, ladies and gents, are how a star was born. And by a star, of course I mean my Great Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste Test. 

Here’s what I did. 

I used the same base recipe to make two batches of chocolate chip cookies. I chose the recipe my family has used forever (minus ground pecans because, while I adore the taste of them in the cookies, I wanted to keep these more “pure” for taste-testing purposes). This recipe just so happens to be the same as the one on the back of the Ghiradelli chocolate chip bag. (Another fun fact: The recipe on the Hershey chip bag is nearly identical, except it uses only half the amount of vanilla. To me, more vanilla is always better.) 


Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour (I use Pillsbury Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated white sugar 
2 eggs (I use Egglands Best
2 tsp vanilla 
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt 
2 cups chocolate chips (I added 2 extra Tablespoons per batter batch just so they’d be extra chippy

Directions (a combo of what it said on the bag and what I always do):

1.     Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. 
2.     In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes), scraping down bowl as needed.
3.     With mixer on low, add eggs one at a time and then vanilla. 
4.     Next, gradually add the flour mixture until combined. 
5.     Fold in chocolate chips. (Note: Because of my experiment, I didn't fold in my chocolate chips until after I'd weighed and divided my batter. Then I used 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon per batter batch.)
6.     Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Chilling the dough helps prevent spreading.) 
7.     Drop by rounded tablespoons (I use my small sized OXO scoop and scooped it to heaping which is about a tablespoon) onto a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet.
8.     Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges. (I left mine in for 10 minutes, but I rotated the pans at 8.) Allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Enter variables: In one batch, I used regular store-brand butter (in my case, Giant brand.) In the other batch, I used Plugra. Then I halved the batter for each of those batches and added “regular” chocolate chips to one half (as my “regular” I used Hershey’s Semi-Sweet chips because that’s my preferred brand and the one I use on the regular. I actually prefer it to Nestle Toll House chips, personally) and as the “premium” chips I used Ghiradelli brand semi-sweet chips. 
Again, here are the "variables"
That means my taste test features four cookies:

No Premium: Store butter, Hershey chip
Premium chip only: Store butter, Ghiradelli chip
Premium butter only: Plugra butter, Hershey chip 
Premium x2: Plugra butter, Ghiradelli chip 

I measured. I portioned. I congratulated myself on my exact measurements since my regular butter dough weighed 872g and my Plugra butter dough weighed 868g (only a 4g difference? Amazeballs!) I mixed in chips. I refrigerated my batter (careful to stagger everything so that the various batches spent an equal amount of time chilling-- an hour, in this case) to keep the spreading to a minimum. (If you don't chill your dough before baking, I do recommend it.) I scooped dough (with my trusty OXO small scoop). I baked. I removed. I cooled. I labeled with numbers, so the tastings would be blind. 

By and large, I didn't notice too much of a difference working with the ingredients themselves. Though I did enjoy working with the Plugra butter as it was less yellow in color and produced a slightly lighter batter (both in color and "fluff"). The Ghirardelli chips were firmer than the Hershey chips (which were softer to bite into in raw form.) Unbaked, the Hershey chips were more snackable than the Ghiradelli. Interestingly, once cooked, there was no notable textural difference between either the batters or the chips. Baking seemed to level the playing field once more.  
Store butter batter
Premium butter batter
See the fluffy lightness?
Chocolate chip cookie dough GOODNESS
This process took a while and I felt like a mad scientist. It was fun! (What isn't fun is that because I did this at night, the lighting in my kitchen was terrible for picture-taking. My apologies.) 




I forgot to take a photo of Batch 4 on the tray. Sorry!
This batch spread the least, despite almost uniform chill times between batches.
The next morning, it was time for the taste testing to begin. I made official taste testing plates, portioned into quadrants so tasters could keep their cookies straight. 

My first testers were my kids who’d been forced to smell cookies baking all night yet were denied a taste until morning. (“Too cruel any where. / Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict / thyself, / And say it is not so.”) But yes, Banquo, I DID make them wait. (Ah, how I miss teaching Macbeth.)   

The cookie rankings were mixed. 

My older daughter ranked them 4, 1 (with 4&1 a near-tie) 2, 3. She claimed to hate 3. I think she exaggerated. 

My younger daughter—a professional Eater of Sweets—ranked them 3, 4 (with 3&4 a near-tie), 1, 2. 

My own ranking was 4, 3 (with another near-tie, but I felt 4 edged it out), 1, 2. 

My husband, who tasted about an hour later, voted 1, 4, 2, 3.

After these tests, I took to the streets, foisting cookies onto family members, neighbors, and people at my gym. What? Isn't that what everyone does with baked goods?

The full list of rankings (including a repeat of the ones I just noted) are as follows (I denoted near ties with a “ / ” symbol, with the first number reflecting the taster’s ultimate favorite.)

4 / 1, 2, 3
3 / 4, 1, 2
4 / 3, 1, 2
1, 4, 2, 3
2, 3, 1, 4
3 / 4, 2, 1
1, 3, 4, 2
1, 3, 2, 4
2, 3, 4, 1
3, 2, 4, 1
4, 3, 2, 1 

Yeah, yeah, you’re saying. I see lots of random numbers. But what does it MEAN? What were the results? Is the damned Plugra butter worth the added expense? What about the so-called premium chips? 

Sadly, I can’t answer that definitively. Because, it turns out, it depends

On various things. 

Before I outline those things for you fellow cookie nerds, though, I need to say this: all the cookies were delicious. The difference in the overall flavor was negligible. If you weren’t tasting them back to back specifically intending to determine a winner, you would not notice much of a difference at all among them. That was an almost universal comment—some variation of, “Uh, they all taste kinda the same.” (Except for my daughter who made much ado about hating Batch 3.) So in that regard, perhaps the short answer for those questions of the butter and the chips is no, you don’t have to splurge. 

On the other hand, I still found it interesting to examine the data and search for clues, and there did seem to be some issues that arose out of this little experiment. (Any other data-lovers out there?) 

For one, how much do tasters enjoy chocolate in general? For another, what’s their preferred chip-to-dough ratio? Although I used the exact same amount of chocolate chips in each batch of cookies, as anyone who has made cookies knows, sometimes a particular cookie ends up more chip-filled than another cookie. Unless I were to have hand-placed chips into each cookie, there was no getting around that discrepancy. But even if I had done so, it’s possible the taster would have preferred more or fewer chips than I placed into the cookie. Feedback I received from a few tasters noted that their rankings were due to either liking (or not liking) a sweeter cookie, and they cited the chip quantity and their effect on the cookie’s sweetness level as a determining factor.

My instinct not to complicate things by adding nuts to the cookies was a good one, but, it turns out, I should also have considered that any add-in would muddy the waters of the butter test. (I might need to try this experiment again with shortbread. Mmm.) 

The most interesting thing I found was that with only two exceptions, testers seemed to rank cookies such that clear pairings emerged. That is, cookies 3 & 4, or 2 & 3, or 1 & 4 came up together quite often. And THAT is telling. To me, it indicates that, for some people, certain ingredients do make a difference. Some tasters did seem to prefer the Plugra butter (those who chose 3 & 4 as their top choices.) Some tasters seemed to prefer the premium chocolate (those who chose 1 & 4 as their top choices.) Some tasters seemed to prefer the Hershey’s chocolate (those who chose 2 & 3 as their top choices.) 

The Plugra butter was in cookies 3 & 4. (Giant was in 1 & 2.) The Ghiradelli chips were in cookies 1 & 4. (Hershey’s were in 2 & 3.) 

If we crunch the numbers and consider people’s top choices only, there’s practically a 4-way tie between individual cookies. 

3 votes - No Premium: Store butter, Hershey chip
2 votes - Premium chip only: Store butter, Ghiradelli chip
3 votes - Premium butter only: Plugra butter, Hershey chip 
3 votes - Premium x2: Plugra butter, Ghiradelli chip 

When we consider groupings of ingredients as outlined above and consider only people’s first choices, we again don’t see much of a spread. Things are quite close, though the premium ingredients get the edge.

5 votes – Giant butter 
6 votes – Plugra butter
5 votes – Hershey chips
6 votes – Ghiradelli chips

However, when we consider the top two rankings for each—which I think is fair, especially as several tasters expressed near-ties for 1st/2ndplace—we get a clearer picture of preferences for ingredients, particularly on the matter of the butter (which is good since the butter is what started this journey in the first place!).

7 votes – Giant butter
15 votes – Plugra butter
12 votes – Hershey chips
10 votes – Ghiradelli chips

In that case, Plugra is a clear winner. The chips are another matter, it seems, though Hershey edges out Ghiradelli. 

So there you have it, friends. A chocolate chip cookie showdown for the history books. Wasn’t that fun? I vote yes!

Finally, I'd be remiss if I let an entire post dealing with the matter of butter in batter to pass me by without including my favorite tongue twister, the one I recited to impress my students during our rhyme work:

Betty Botter bought some butter
"But," she said, "My butter's bitter.
If I put it in my batter, 
it will make my batter bitter." 
So she bought a bit of butter
better than her bitter butter,
and she put it in her batter,
and her batter was not bitter.
So it 'twas that better Betty Botter
bought a bit of better butter.

Now go forth and be like Betty: buy thee premium ingredients. (Or don’t. As we kind of established, that’s really okay, too.) 

**I have no affiliation or relationship with any of the brands mentioned or linked in this post. All opinions and experiences expressed herein are my own.**