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What does 'The Bear' restaurant review say? We take our best guess

Jeremy Allen White as Carmy Berzatto.
Jeremy Allen White as Carmy Berzatto.

Haven’t watched the season finale of The Bear yet? Then you probably don’t want to read this. Don’t blame us for spoilers. 

So what does that review say?

At the end of the third season of The Bear, Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) looks at his phone late one night and sees a review of his new restaurant, The Bear, in the Chicago Tribune. All we see are flashes of words and phrases, some seemingly good and some seemingly bad, and then Carmy says, "mother------," and that's the season.

And look: The idea is to leave you uncertain about what the review says, and to be clear, the review could say a lot of things. Trying to decode the words we can see and come up with an idea of whether this is a good or a bad review is rank speculation. Rank, I say! So let's speculate.

I'm really not excited to reveal how long I spent doing this, but what I am about to show you is the best rendering I can manage of the words (and parts of words) that they show in this little sequence. I present them in the form of a poem, since I can't offer you screenshots. (These groups of words, of course, are undoubtedly not in this order in the actual review. And yes, I think this is a show that's probably playing fair; I think these probably are all consistent with the actual review that we will eventually learn much more about.)

of flavors both d
the confusing mis
any apprehension

an almost sloppy fas
f innovative d
nu was a testa
complex array
, as each dish arrived, there
were excellent, sho
rt, leaving me fee

focus on pushing
true culinary gem
my experience at

tto, offering a
palpable dissonance b
ng the chef’s brilliant cr
disappointed and craving
Feeling disapp

and downs, t
as resting on

undeniable inco
of delicious pe
tchen couldn’t

e. However,
was simple an
s the potential

Berzatto p

s not subtract f

felt overdone

Carmen Berzatto

re tired a

t stale a

Clear as day, right?

For my money, the most interesting phrase comes from the screen that highlights the word "delicious." Below that, you can see "tchen couldn't." My guess is that the full review uses the words "kitchen couldn't." And I'm going to further guess that "undeniable inco" is part of something like "undeniable inconsistency" or "undeniable incompleteness" — in other words, something negative. And in the middle, the word "delicious."

So: what if the review is basically saying that there is an inconsistency in the operation because the kitchen isn't doing a solid enough job?

That would also fit with this bit right here:

tto, offering a
palpable dissonance b
ng the chef’s brilliant cr
disappointed and craving
Feeling disapp

Now, the "tto" is probably the end of Carmy's name (although I suppose a word like "risotto" is possible). But right in the middle, you have "the chef's brilliant cr," which might be "the chef's brilliant creations" or "the chef's brilliant creativity" or something like that. And before that, you have "dissonance." And after it, "disappointed." Again, what if this is saying Carmy is a brilliant genius, but something is amiss in the staffing and the execution?

Could this also be what "an almost sloppy fas" is about? What if that says the dining room — Richie's beloved dining room — operates in an almost sloppy fashion? It also occurred to me that it could be a reference to The Beef, that The Beef was "almost sloppy fast food" or something. Or perhaps Neil Fak is a little too sloppy for this reviewer's refined tastes.

Here's another interesting part:

f innovative d
nu was a testa
complex array

That middle line should be "menu was a testament," right? The menu is a testament to something? Probably Carmy's brilliance? The changing menu he's been obsessed with? And that would fit with "f innovative d," which could be, say, "of innovative dishes."

A prediction

Go back and read it all, like a poem, all together, and let it wash over you. Here's what I think the review might say: Carmy is an amazing chef, full of potential, creative and amazing. But the rest of the team is not living up to his great ideas. In other words, I think the review says everybody else at The Bear needs to get on Carmy's level.

If it says that, then that would explain why, after reading a review that (probably) calls him "brilliant," he swears angrily. It would also complicate his obsession with his own standards to see the system he insisted on (the changing menu especially) wind up making him look good, but interfering so much with how the place runs that other people look bad.

I want to stress that if this is all completely and totally wrong, it will be no surprise. The whole thing could be a misdirect, every word could be misleading — "the chef" might not be Carmy, "nu" could be "Keanu" instead of "menu," you get the idea.

But to me, it would be consistent with this season if Carmy had the most pyrrhic of pyrrhic victories, and this review gave him what he wanted at the expense of the people he works with.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.