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Bates Motel Recap, Episode Six: The Truth

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Lots of stuff starting to unravel on Bates this week—including at least one plot line I figured would be in play for the whole season. Let’s get to it.

"Everybody Always Gets Away With Everything.”

We pick up exactly where we left off last week, with Norma sitting on the motel porch, stunned that her savior Officer Shelby was involved in a sex slave ring. While Emma and Norman are debating about how to handle his unresponsive mother—Emma desperately wants to get her some water—Norma takes off running. She jumps in her car with Norman in hot pursuit. When he can’t yank her out of the driver’s seat, Norman opts to leap through the open passenger window, grabbing the steering wheel. The car is careening wildly around the Bates Motel parking lot; they come dangerously close to taking out that iconic sign. Eventually, the vehicle comes to a halt and Norman tosses the car keys out the window.

“He can’t get away with it. Everybody always gets away with everything and it’s not fair!” Norma half screams, half sobs.

Norman promises her that they’re going to get the bad guy, they just have to do it the right way. This seems to appease her, and everyone calms down.

There’s a New Boss in Town

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Elsewhere in town, Dylan is telling Gil about his own bad guy justice. Gil is the same guy who “approved” adding Dylan to the team, so he’s pretty high up on the chain of this operation, if not at the top. Dylan recounts the story of the attack on Ethan; we learn Ethan died at the hospital.

“That’s a loss,” Gil says rather flatly, though his jaw is clenched. He asks if Dylan can ID the guy who did it, and Dylan reports that he already took him out by running him down in Ethan’s truck. “I smacked him with it,” is actually what he said, which is a bit of an understatement. Dylan apologizes and says he realizes that there are a lot of delicate politics to this whole shady business, and he’s very sorry if he screwed something up with his vigilante justice.

On the contrary, Gil is quite pleased.

“You handled things in the moment,” he says. “That’s good work. That means something to me.” Gil then gives Dylan detailed instructions on how to dispose of the murder vehicle. It basically amounts to driving it to a remote area and torching it using copious amounts of gasoline, which Dylan does. As he’s watching it burn, another guy approaches, saying he was sent to pick Dylan up. The two of them are going to be working together from now on.

Turns out “Remo” has been working for Gil for 23 years. Dylan kind of starts nervously rambling about how Remo must know everything since he’s been doing this for decades. Remo cops a weird attitude, getting irritated about their age difference and taking offense when Dylan calls him a seasoned pro. Dylan assumes the attitude is because of his age and inexperience, so he tries to explain that he’ll do his best.

“I’m pretty good at this, OK? I helped Ethan a lot. I pick stuff up fast. You’re not gonna be sorry that I’m working for you.”

“You’re not working for me,” Remo sneers. “I’m working for you.”

Let Sleeping Sex Slaves Lie

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At the motel, Norma goes to check on Jiao, the girl from Shelby’s basement. She’s presumably still under the effects of the drugs, because she’s out cold. As Norma pulls the covers up, she examines the bloody marks on Jiao’s wrists and the needle marks in her arm.

Emma is waiting for an update at the house.

“She needs to sleep,” Norma reports, almost tersely. Emma is being pretty persistent about getting Jiao to the police station ASAP; Norman, of course, takes his mother’s side about waiting a bit longer.

Undeterred, Emma demands that they call the FBI “right this second.”

“We’re not going to do that, Emma,” Norma snaps. Emma looks a little taken aback at the sharp tone, which makes Norma realize she needs to try a different tack. She comes up with a semi-convincing story about not wanting to traumatize the poor girl even further, and that when Jiao is feeling a little better, she’ll go down to the motel and “make a case to her” about why they need to go to the police—as if the victim is the one who needs convincing. As she’s saying all of this, she tucks a piece of Emma’s hair behind her ear, very motherly and caring.

Norma walks Emma to her car and asks if she’s okay to drive.

“Should I call your mom and tell her that you’re leaving now?” Translation: “Do I need to make sure that someone is expecting you home in the next few minutes so you don’t decide to make a rogue stop at the police station on your own?” The answer is no.

“I haven’t heard from my mom in 8 years,” Emma responds. “I guess taking care of a kid with CF isn’t the good time it’s cracked up to be.”

“You deserve better. You deserve so much better,” Norma sympathizes, and Emma launches herself at Norma for a huge, needy hug.

Norma hugs her back. It’s almost reluctant at first—a light, one-handed pat on the back. But then she really squeezes Emma tight with both arms and strokes her hair. My guess? Mid-hug, Norma pounced on the opportunity to become a trusted mother figure.

As Norman looks a little uncomfortable, Norma goes in for the kill. “You’re very brave. Had I been lucky enough to have a daughter, I would have wanted her to be exactly like you.”

“I just want to do the right thing,” Emma says.

“I know honey, and we will. Tomorrow.” She’s so syrupy sweet, honey is practically oozing from her pores. As soon as Emma leaves the parking lot, the “concerned” expression drops from Norma’s face, replaced by one of steely determination.

Brotherly Breaking and Entering

Norma is primping upstairs in her bedroom, getting ready to go over to Shelby’s house to look for the belt while he’s asleep. She suddenly apologizes to Norman for not believing him about the girl in Shelby’s basement, which makes Norman flash back to that original conversation—you know, the one where his mother told him that he sometimes lived in an alternate reality that didn’t exist? That one.

“Is there something wrong with me?” Norman asks. Norma says no, of course not, that was just something she said in the heat of the moment.

“You promise?”

Norma is in the process of evading the question when Dylan pops up behind them. Norman immediately fills him in on the latest—they found the sex slave girl on Summers’ boat, and Emma is “hell-bent” on taking her to the cops in the morning.

“If you turn him in, then he’s gonna turn in Norma,” Dylan says. “Take me to the boat. Don’t go anywhere. Don’t talk to anybody, and don’t do anything until we get back. We’re gonna get that belt. And you can wipe that lipstick off.”

On the way to the docks, Dylan tells Norman he got the beach bungalow and starts making the case for Norman to move in. Norman declines to comment.

Once they get to the boat, the brothers ransack everything. As they’re looking through cabinets and peeking in closets—with their bare hands, mind you, which seems like a bad idea when dealing with a cop who has access to fingerprinting equipment—Dylan abruptly asks Norman how he thinks his father died.

“You know. This huge shelf in the garage fell over on him,” Norman says.

“You really believe that? Pretty freak accident,” Dylan scoffs. “I think she killed him, if you ask me. She hated him. She was miserable.”

Norman, of course, says that it’s not possible. His mother would never have killed his father. As Dylan starts talking about insurance money, though, Norman doesn’t look like he stands quite so firm on that statement.

“She’s insane,” Dylan continues. “Dangerous, even. You need to see that.”

Just then, he jimmies open a panel in the ceiling. The missing belt miraculously drops from the sky and lands at their feet. “Stick with me, kid,” Dylan says, satisfied.

They pitch the belt into the harbor. Norman worries that the belt is going to float to the surface, much like Summers’ hand did.

“I promise no one’s ever gonna see this thing again,” Dylan swears, and that sounds like foreshadowing to me. “Now let’s go home and pack up your stuff.”

She’s Just Not That Into You

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At the Bates home, Norma hears someone pull up and runs outside, thinking it’s her sons, returning with good news. It’s not. It’s Shelby, and he’s on her like white on rice. She recoils, then tries to distract him with several excuses, telling him that they were trying to be careful not to be seen together, that her sons would be home soon, etc. He suggests going down to the motel. “You’re not gonna turn me away tonight,” he growls, and Norma reluctantly gives in.

Once they’re in the motel room, however, Norma can’t hide the fact that she’s not into it. Shelby calls her out on it. “I’m just worried about Norman,” she bluffs. “I’m sorry. Can we start again?” She starts to muster up her acting skills when Shelby hears running water.

“Who’s staying here?” Shelby asks, and Norma replies that no one is—it’s an old motel, and it’s probably just some weird plumbing issue.

“No. There’s somebody here,” Shelby insists, then grabs his gun, runs outside and starts pounding on doors. Jiao is in the shower—never a good omen in the Norman Bates canon—and misses the part where he yells “Police!” She only hears the knocking, so puts on a robe and opens the door, probably expecting to see one of her rescuers. It’s quite the opposite. When she sees Shelby, she screams and runs into the woods.

Shelby tries to shoot her, but Norma shoves him, throwing off his shot. He throws her against the wall and calls her a bitch, then takes off running after the girl. As Norma sits there crying, her sons pull up, triumphant about the belt.

After updating her on that situation, Dylan doesn’t give her time to respond. “Norman and I are going to the house and pack up his stuff. He’s leaving with me tonight. He’s not living with you anymore,” he says.

“Shelby’s here. He found the girl in the motel room and she ran off into the woods. He’s there right now chasing after her,” she says, tonelessly. There’s no urgency to her voice, and judging by the way her expression changed when Dylan dropped the beachhouse bombshell, the sex slave in the woods being hunted like game is definitely not Norma’s biggest concern right now.

“Norman, is what he just said true?”

“Yeah, I mean, if Shelby’s here, don’t we need to do something?” Norman says, alarmed.

“Answer me,” she demands. “Why would you do that, Norman?”

“We need to go, okay?” says Dylan, the voice of reason. “Let’s get in the truck.”

“I’m not gonna get in the truck!” Norma yells. “I don’t care if Shelby comes back and kills me. Why would you do that? Norman, why? Why?” Now she’s starting to cry, and Norman decides he needs to know the truth: he asks if she killed his father.

Her expression softens. “No honey. I didn’t.”

While they’ve been hashing this family drama out, Shelby apparently took care of his prey, because he’s back, and he’s got a gun on them. The corrupt cop directs them all up to the house to have a little chat.

Shootout at OK Motel

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Once they’re all settled around the kitchen table like the Golden Girls, Norma tries to convince Shelby that none of them are going to blow his cover. “Just shut up,” he tells her, then turns on Norman. “This is all your fault.” He shoves the barrel of his gun right up against Norman’s temple and cocks it. “This is a nightmare, what you’re making me do, here, Norma,” he says, and she assures him again that they won’t talk. “You’re just a lying bitch,” he yells, and slaps her across the face. Ummm, this is not how Blanche and Dorothy would have handled this kitchen pow-wow. For starters, someone forgot the cheesecake.

As his mother is getting smacked around, Norman’s hazy Psycho-vision is coming back. When Shelby hits her again, Norman leaps across the room at him. The impact knocks the gun out of Shelby’s hand, freeing it up to throw Norman through a glass cabinet. Dylan recovers the dropped weapon, but Shelby still has one on him. The pair stalk through the house like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, scarring up the antiques with bullets. Norma throws herself over Norman, who’s knocked out cold in the kitchen.

Shelby gets shot in the leg and Dylan gets shot in the arm. Shelby’s injury is worse, though, and Dylan is just about to finish him off when he runs out of bullets. He runs upstairs to retrieve more bullets from under a bed. While Shelby limps up the stairs after him, Norma drags Norman outside, stopping to grab her purse. He finally comes to on the porch, just as Norma is calling 911. Together, they hobble to the car, where Norma discovers that her keys are definitely not in her purse. She thinks she left them upstairs in the bedroom—the same bedroom that’s currently lighting up with gunshots. Then there’s silence. Seconds later, a figure comes hobbling out the front door. It’s Shelby.

As he comes into the light, we realize that he’s been shot through one eye. He’s pretty damn determined to take Norma out as his last act on Earth, though. He raises the gun, points it at her—and falls over, dead.

Dylan comes outside, and Norma hugs him, probably for the first time since he was a toddler. “You’re safe,” he tells her.

She says she called the cops, then wonders what they’re going to tell them.

“We’re going to tell them the truth, Norma,” Dylan says. “I’m done with this. I’m done with the craziness and the stories. I’m gonna tell them everything I know.”

She says that he doesn’t know the whole truth, then proceeds to tell him exactly what happened the night Norman’s dad died.

The Truth According to Norma

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While Norman was in the kitchen making himself a delicious beverage in the blender, his parents were having a heated fight about money. As the fight escalated, Sam slapped Norma in the face. Without even thinking, Norman dumped the smoothie down the drain, then used the empty blender container to clock his father in the back of the head (“[clang]” is what the closed captioning says).

Immediately after the skull-crushing blow, Norman retreated somewhere into his brain and refused to come out. Even as his mother begged him to answer, Norman stared at nothing, said nothing. She took him to his room, then dragged Sam out to the garage and pulled a shelf full of paint cans down on him.

We know what happens next—Norman came to, remembered that his parents were fighting and ran out to find them. He discovered his father dead in the garage, then ran to the bathroom to alert his mother, who, of course, already knew.

“Sam’s death was an accident, that’s what he believes,” Norma finishes telling Dylan.

Norma says she doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, but she intends to protect him. “You can either get out of my way, or you can help me,” she says, and a cop car pulls up behind an unblinking Norman, illuminating the bloody wound on his scalp.

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Mister Rogers Is Now a Funko Pop! and It’s Such a Good Feeling, a Very Good Feeling
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It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood for fans of Mister Rogers, as Funko has announced that, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the kindest soul to ever grace a television screen will be honored with a series of Funko toys, some of them limited-edition versions.

The news broke at the New York Toy Fair, where the pop culture-loving toy company revealed a new Pop Funko! in Fred Rogers’s likeness—he’ll be holding onto the Neighborhood Trolley—plus a Mister Rogers Pop! keychain and a SuperCute Plush.

In addition to the standard Pop! figurine, there will also be a Funko Shop exclusive version, in which everyone’s favorite neighbor will be wearing a special blue sweater. Barnes & Noble will also carry its own special edition, which will see Fred wearing a red cardigan and holding a King Friday puppet instead of the Neighborhood Trolley.

 

Barnes & Noble's special edition Mister Rogers Funko Pop!
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Mister Rogers’s seemingly endless supply of colored cardigans was an integral part of the show, and a sweet tribute to his mom (who knitted all of them). But don’t go running out to snatch up the whole collection just yet; Funko won’t release these sure-to-sell-out items until June 1, but you can pre-order your Pop! on Amazon right now.

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14 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hollywood Food Stylists
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Hollywood food stylists are little short of magicians—only instead of pulling rabbits out of hats, they’re turning piles of mashed potatoes into ice cream sundaes. Indeed, making food (or food-like products) appear photogenic and appetizing onscreen is a job for a true illusionist. Mental Floss spoke to a few food stylists working in TV, film, and commercials—from Game of Thrones to Taco Bell—to bring you the tricks of their magical trade.

1. MOST OF THE FOOD BEING FILMED IS REAL.

While food stylists are well-versed in the old-school swap tricks—using a pint of white glue to impersonate a glass of milk, for example—those are being phased out. Now, directors want actors to interact with their food, and high-definition camera lenses have made the fake stuff much more obvious. Plastic food props only appear in the background of scenes today, where they're less visible and susceptible to scrutiny.

“I only deal with real food,” says Chris Oliver, who has styled food for movies including Gone Girl (2014) and TV shows such as Seinfeld and Big Little Lies. “You also have to think about how a character would cook something or put a plate together. Realistic food is not all beautiful and perfect. I make ugly food and burnt food, too.”

There’s a trend in commercial food styling to present dishes that are less-than-perfect, too. Shellie Anderson, who styles food ads for clients including Burger King and Ragù, says it’s the consumers who are demanding food look more realistic and therefore more approachable.

“People are tired of seeing something in a TV commercial and then ordering it in a restaurant and it doesn't look the same,” she says. “You don’t want it to look staged anymore. You want a burger to look like the cheese naturally dripped off and landed on the plate.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF FOOD ...

Bowl of strawberry ice cream
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If a food stylist needs one sprig of parsley for a shoot, they’ll often order 10 bunches. They never know what the condition of the parsley is going to be when it arrives from the produce vendor, or if the shoot is going to require more than they originally planned for. Carving a turkey in a scene? That may require two dozen birds if an actor keeps flubbing his line.

“It really depends on how much of a story point the food is and how important the scene is for the director,” Oliver says.

Food stylists usually have relationships with produce vendors, who can look for products with the specific size, shape, and color that stylists need. No bruises or dents, and no frozen lettuce! But stylists can hide those things if they have to.

Ice cream is infamously hard to keep intact because it melts so quickly. Food stylists have been known to replace the scoops with dollops of meringue, which don’t melt, or butter rolled in sugar. Oliver makes her sundaes the day before and sticks them in the freezer, spoons and straws and all. If they freeze rock hard overnight, they can last a few hours on set the next day before being replaced with another sundae lined up in the deep-freeze. Anderson sprays her ice cream with cold spray, an aerosol can of super-chilled gas used for cooling electronics.

3. ... BUT THE FOOD RARELY GOES TO WASTE.

On film and TV shoots, there are rarely leftovers. In fact, good food stylists often compete with the caterers: Actors usually have to eat the food during their scenes, and the crew finishes off the scraps. While shooting a Chinese New Year scene for the show Fresh Off the Boat recently, actress Lucille Soong told Oliver, who was styling that episode, that she was going to skip lunch because she wanted to enjoy eating her food on camera. “That was pretty freaking flattering!” Oliver says.

Because Oliver works on multiple TV shows in a single day, if an item doesn’t get used on set and never comes out of her cooler, she can just take it back to her shop and recycle it for use on another show. If something can’t be used again, she’ll take it home and make salsa or jam. “When it gets really old, I'll just stick it in vodka,” she says.

Commercial shoots tend to have more unused food. Anderson says anything that’s still edible will be given to a food pantry. “I once donated an entire swordfish when we did a commercial for a fish restaurant,” she says. “We never even used it. So I kept it on ice and took it to a men's homeless shelter. They were thrilled to have it.”

4. THEY VALUE FOOD SAFETY.

Another reason food stylists swap out on-camera food so much is because of safety concerns—hot and cold foods need to be kept at certain temperatures that may not be practical on-set. Sushi-grade tuna may be replaced with watermelon, for example, because the fish spoils so easily.

Oliver requires all of her employees to have a food handler’s license. She also only works out of commercial kitchens (including the one on her fully-equipped food styling truck). But not every food styling team does; some prepare food in their homes. “The reason that I get so much work is that everybody knows I'm a chef and I have a real kitchen,” Oliver says. “People trust my food. I’ve done a bunch of movies with Reese [Witherspoon] because she knows that if I’m on set, the food is safe to eat.”

5. WOMEN DOMINATE THE FIELD.

woman styling food
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While there are a few well-known male food stylists, for the most part the key food stylists in the U.S. are women. (Both of Anderson’s daughters are food stylists, too.) The reason for this dates back decades.

Before food styling became its own career in the 1990s, it was up to network employees with home economics degrees (almost always women) to cook on-camera food. Then props departments became responsible. “But props guys can’t even make spaghetti,” Oliver says, laughing. So according to her, these guys would go home and ask their girlfriends or wives to make whatever food was required for the next day’s scene. “Eventually they would just hire their girlfriends or wives to do it; keep the money in the family,” she says. “I know five food stylists who at one time were in relationships with prop masters.”

Also in the 1990s, networks began making more multi-camera TV shows. A lot more food began appearing on screen, and actors openly discussed their dietary restrictions. They were vegan, sugar-free, and low-carb all of a sudden. Oliver trained at the Culinary Institute of America and had worked in restaurants and catering jobs before stumbling into this career. “Because I was a chef, and I understood how food works, I knew how to feed people and make food last on set,” she says. “And I could charge anything I wanted to.”

To get a job as a food stylist today, it helps to know someone already in the industry and have a culinary background. Everyone starts as an intern, and then may be able to work their way up to being an assistant and then a stylist. “Not everybody can be a food stylist,” Anderson says. “You have to be able to cook, but you still have to be creative. And you have to be able to work fast and under pressure.”

6. THEY LIVE OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES NOW.

Now that movies and TV shows are frequently filmed all over the world, instead of just on sets in Los Angeles, food stylists can be based anywhere. There is a concentration of stylists who live in Vancouver, British Columbia, for example, because that's where many shows are now filmed. Labor laws also often require production crews to hire locally, so residing outside of L.A. can be a real advantage.

Some commercial food stylists, like Anderson, are flown in for shoots. “Food stylists can make or break a commercial,” she says. “And if you have trouble and you don't know what you're doing, it can be a real problem for production.” This is especially true on out-of-the-country shoots, when stylists don't have the resources that they’re used to. So clients who know her and her skill level, such as Taco Bell, will fly her to wherever they're filming.

7. THEY TALK LIKE CHEFS AND FILMMAKERS.

hand styling pancakes
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Food stylists use a mix of back-of-the-house kitchen lingo and film jargon. Some examples: The “hero” is the food that is written into the script, is being shot, and must appear in front of the actor. “Bite and smile” is when an actor takes a bite of food and pretends to like it. “All day” is the total number of items needed; if they needed five turkeys on a set, they would say “five all day.”

8. NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE IN THE MOVIES.

Food stylists usually specialize in different media: film, TV, commercials, or print editorial. Stylists often prefer one over the other. Print editorial is shot in a controlled studio and tends to have more leeway for creativity. Commercials are tied to a brand’s specifications. Film and TV shoots on location are in unpredictable settings and can be physically demanding. But everyone tends to work long, 12- to 14-hour days. For commercials, it can often take three days to shoot one 30-second spot.

When working on a movie or TV show, the actors’ demands usually take precedence over the food needs. After working on one film, Anderson had had enough and dedicated herself to commercial work. “When I do commercials, the food is the star,” she says. “So [the directors] want to make sure I have everything I need. On a movie, they could care less about you.”

9. FOOD STYLISTS DON’T JUST MAKE FOOD.

Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal
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Sometimes food stylists are expected to create sci-fi props—what would a person eat in the year 3000?—or fantasy items that they have no experience with. While working on the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Oliver made gooey, edible slime from her imagination. “I also had to roll with the [actors’] different dietary needs,” she says. “I had to be able to make vegan slime, sugar-free slime, gluten-free slime, gelatin-free slime … Slime, any way you want it.”

Oliver also has to make items that you don’t really want to put in your mouth. While filming the TV show Big Little Lies, she made green-colored vomit for actress Reese Witherspoon of cucumbers and parsley. She says it was tasty, like green gazpacho. For a war film, she had to make 400 pounds of “dirt” for a group of prisoners of war to eat. She got Pakistani soil shipped to California so she could match it exactly. (Her recipe: ground-up Oreos and graham crackers, mixed with brown sugar and white sugar.)

Janice Poon, the food stylist behind the cannibal-centric TV show Hannibal, had a more challenging obstacle: how to make dishes that resembled human flesh. She refused to do research on cannibalism websites, she told HopesAndFears.com, but she studied a lot of anatomy books. “I’m just like Dr. Frankenstein,” Poon said. “I’m always stitching things, exchanging, putting one kind of meat on a different bone, patching stuff together. ... The key is to let the viewer’s imagination do more of your work.” She transformed veal shanks into human legs, and used prosciutto slices to mimic slivers of a human arm.

10. THEY PACK SOME SERIOUS GEAR.

When shooting, stylists need to be prepared for anything. They carry tools including tweezers, scissors, paint brushes, knives, offset spatulas, wet wipes, syringes, rulers, Q-tips, and spritz bottles.

“Think about your kitchen: all of your mixing bowls and utensils … I have that times 10 in my kit,” Anderson says. She also has a torch on hand for quick-cooking burgers and cold spray for extending the life of ice cream. Other stylists may have glycerin for adding shine or Kitchen Bouquet sauce for adding color. Poon often uses a white ceramic knife so she can see what she's doing on dark sets and work more quietly, so as not to disturb the acting process.

Food stylists sometimes work in erratic environments. Oliver brings her own 17-foot, cab-over truck to shoots. “It has a lift gate and everything's on wheels, so I can take everything out and have a kitchen in the middle of the desert, if I want,” she says. Inside, she has a full commercial kitchen: a six-burner stove, refrigerator, microwave, grill, freezer, prep tables, storage, TV, and a generator.

11. THEY’RE SKILLED AT IMPROV.

When production starts, the prop team sends memos to actors or their reps asking about food allergies and dietary restrictions. As trained chefs, most food stylists are happy to accommodate such limitations, cooking convincing swap-outs. “I find out what they will eat and make it happen,” Oliver says.

For example, Poon once made a convincing vegan “raw meat” on Hannibal using only grains. “I made lamb tongues out of bulgur and water,” Poon told HopesAndFears.com. “It’s like making a Lebanese kibbeh. You mix cracked wheat with water and it makes a kind of mush that holds together. The texture is a little 'nubbly,' so I added a pink food coloring, made little tongues out of kibbeh dough, steamed them up, and they were my little lambs’ tongues.”

Sometimes a director changes his or her mind at the last minute, and what was supposed to be a spaghetti dinner, for example, is now a breakfast spread. So the food stylist will squish down the meatballs and turn them into sausage patties. In an interview with NPR, food stylist Melissa McSorley recalled a time when a movie director suddenly decided to cut open a birthday cake she had made. The problem: It wasn’t real.

“So we had to cut the cake that was made out of Styrofoam, and I had to use a saw in order to do it because none of my knives could get through it,” McSorley said. “And then we had to layer in cake so it did look like it was real and then we had to send people scurrying to many markets to find white layer cake so it looked like people in the background could be actually be eating the cake.”

12. THERE’S ALWAYS THE SPIT BUCKET OPTION.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, David Bradley in Game of Thrones
HBO

Professional actors will often pick at the food in front of them, but not eat it because they know their scenes are going to require a lot of takes; they could be eating birthday cake for eight hours straight. Others dive right in. For a scene in The Guilt Trip (2012), actress Barbra Streisand had to pretend she was in a steak-eating contest. Oliver says they went through more than 300 pounds of meat for that scene’s three-day shoot and Streisand was totally game.

“But there’s a part towards the end where she has to eat really quickly and do a line without, you know, choking and dying,” Oliver says. “So I switched out the steak with seared watermelon. She took one bite and it sort of dissolved in her mouth, so she could do her line. If you watch it, and you really listen, you can hear the crunch of the watermelon.”

Sometimes, though, the spit bucket is the only option. In season one of Game of Thrones, the character Daenerys Targaryen had to eat a whole horse heart. But the actress who plays her, Emilia Clarke, actually had to eat 28. They were made of solidified jam, which tasted like “bleach and raw pasta,” she told The Mirror. “It was very helpful to be given something so truly disgusting to eat, so there wasn’t much acting required. Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.”

13. SOMETIMES THEY’RE SURPRISED BY THE FINAL PRODUCT.

Food stylists who work on multiple projects at a time, like Oliver, can’t always stick around to see how their food will be used. They may later find out that a gorgeous spread was relegated to the background, or worse. For a scene in Seinfeld, Oliver was once asked to prepare a perfect, glistening turkey. “Later I was home watching the episode and they had put the turkey on Kramer!” she says. “I was literally crying I was laughing so hard. Never in a million years did I think my turkey was going to end up with a guy’s head.”

14. THEY THROW EPIC DINNER PARTIES.

Food stylist preparing vegetables
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You’d think that being around food all day would make food stylists tired of making things look nice. But most food stylists love to cook, and on the days they aren’t working, they love to throw parties. “People always expect to have beautiful food,” Anderson says. “And I don't disappoint.”

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