Polishing forks

The Bear, Season 2 Episode 7 - Forks. Having consumed a fair share of shows, movies, anime, and whatnot, it rarely happens that I come across an episode that evokes so much emotion and thought. The first time I watched it, I got chills. The second time I watched it, I got chills. The second watch sealed it as a masterpiece for me. The great thing about it is that you don't have to be an all-knowing critic to appreciate it - it's an easy watch. I would wager that even if you don't know the series and watch it standalone - you will still be able to appreciate it. Though knowing Richie throughout the series does add a little more flavor which elevates it even further. Not to discount the subtleties - like those alarm clock scenes. 

"Fuck you, cousin," Richie groans and enters the world's best restaurant. A depressing, ominous background note.

"Every second counts" - a sign on the wall.

He meets Garrett, who promptly directs him to polish forks. 

"Does everyone polish forks on the first day?"

"First week."

"How long am I supposed to be here?"

"A week."

Oh, the face Richie makes - I don't have the words to express. He continues as he doesn't want this to be yet another fuck-up. He has caused enough trouble and disappointment as it is.

Three days in, boredom sets in, and Richie asks Garrett if he can do the dishes or something. To which Garrett replies that the forks are not cleaned properly. Richie argues that they are just forks.


Enter one of the best monologues I have heard in a long time. It reminded me of the speech Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) gave to his son. The sincerity with which Garrett speaks really moves you. He tells Richie that it's about respect. He needs Richie to respect him, the staff, the customers, and himself. He doesn't have to drink the Kool-Aid. 

"I can do respect."

Richie then calls his ex-wife, telling her that he was able to get the Taylor Swift concert tickets their daughter wanted. He also got one extra and wondered if she also wanted to come, only to learn that she was re-marrying. The way he mouths, "I love you," when a train rushes by is brilliantly executed. Talking of well-done - all the shots in the kitchen of cutting food, touching surfaces, and plating are so satisfying to watch. Oh, and the score, "Glass, Concrete, and Stones" by David Byrne - so good. Been listening to it almost every other day since the first watch. But I digress.

Back to the restaurant. Richie sees some delighted guests - the ones Garrett was talking about. And he just stares at them with a look of astonishment, understanding and realization. Have to give it to Moss-Bachrach for his acting. 

Cut to the next day - "No more forks, you are trailing today." The pace of the episode picks up. We are shown how a three michelin star kitchen operates. The minute attention to detail and military-platoon-like movement of taking and serving orders. Every little detail is noted - the guest's background, how fast they eat, or what they are talking about. Richie hears that one of the guests regrets not having the famous deep-dish pizza before leaving Chicago. And next thing you know - Richie is out to get the pizza. They make a dish out of it. Richie asks for the chance to serve. And he nails it. The guests are delighted and Richie is delighted.

The "Love Story" tune begins, and scenes of Richie prepping and answering restaurant trivia set the stage for the episode's most epic moment: Richie singing or rather shouting "Love Story". This scene is a symphony of emotion - heartwarming, electrifying, and cathartic all at once. You get this strong urge to sing along. Though I have heard "Love Story" before, this rendition transformed its meaning for me. Now, whenever I hear it, it will remind me of this scene.

The next day, the pace of the show slows down. From the electric scenes - we move to more tender ones. First, the talk with Garett on hospitality and then peeling mushrooms with Chef Terry. Oh, and before this - the scene that cements the character development - Jess asks Richie if he wants to observe staff reviews while he is in the middle of polishing forks. And he declines that he first gotta finish this. Respect. 

The conversation with Terry really delves into the philosophy of this episode. Richie asks why she is doing something as small as peeling mushrooms. She says it's about respect. Feels attached. Time spent doing this is time spent well. Richie asks if that's what it's all about. The chef thinks so. She then recounts her journey and the start of this restaurant, from a successful and arrogant upstart to a jobless hobbler on the streets - she saw a 'restaurant for lease' sign and started again. 

"Never too late to start over." 

In the end, she talks about her father, and how he used to write down every little detail of every strange, interesting thing he encountered in pocket notebooks. He signed off every entry in the same manner. As soon as she is about to tell what, she has to go. Richie and I are left in suspense about her father's signature sign-off until he glimpses it on the wall

 "Every second counts."

The episode makes you think of life in general. In an overly specialized world - things that we do seem so small. Especially more so with our feeds filled with people doing big spectacular things. Our jobs are boring. Our lives - much simpler. It is easy to feel lost and disconnected. But I think if we do our work, whatever it is, with respect, earnestness, and attention to detail - it can be fulfilling. Knowing that however small - it connects to a larger thing. And if we are patient - there come moments when it is showcased to us - how what we do connects and means something. Maybe we will stumble upon the cliched purpose. We don't have to drink the Kool-Aid but I wager it's better if we do. So, yeah, I am polishing forks and trying to stay put. I don't know how but what I do today will connect. And every now and then when there are moments of joy - I hope to laugh as heartily as Richie does. For this is life.