Alcohol, drugs and being a reality show contestant can seriously impair your judgment.

Unfortunately, Cliff Crooks found that out the hard way when a prank gone wrong cost him the title of Top Chef. I have to admit, his manhandling of Marcel crossed that line from stupid to scary-wrong in a hurry.

How did this all happen?

After a particularly arduous elimination challenge, the five remaining contestants deservedly blew off some steam by partaking in some alcohol. Elia finally gave in to a lifetime temptation to shave her head, and in a show of solidarity, Ilan did the same, leaving their pal Sam to chicken out and keep his curly locks.

Somehow, someone thought it would be funny to forcibly shave Marcel’s bouffant Wolverine ‘do. Cliff took it upon himself to wake Marcel and then hold him prone on the carpet to do the deed. Fortunately, no one followed through — maybe because everyone suddenly felt how wrong the situation was — and Marcel escaped shaken but unshorn.

It’s not often that a reality show can shock me, but I have no tolerance for aggressive physical violence or bullies. Cliff is a big, burly guy, and Marcel … well, he’s the frickin’ avant garde molecular gastronomist. It was like an episode of Cops in which they actually got the wrong guy. For perhaps the first time in the show, Marcel was truly the victim.

But what really scared me wasn’t just the possibility that Cliff could have snapped Marcel like a desiccated twig. No, it was the fact that no one else actually put a stop to it. Sam and Elia didn’t participate but looked on, while Ilan (who was recording the whole thing with a video camera) could be heard saying, "You mean we have him held down for nothing?"

The incident was born from the same mob mentality that fosters hazing, prisoner abuse, Lord of the Flies-type killings or 1984′s two-minute hate. Well, you can probably extrapolate from there.

Am I overreacting? Absolutely. Did the judges? Not at all.

Don’t get me wrong. Violence has its place, especially in a boxing ring or in anything fiction (written or on screen). But this is reality TV, where you’re supposedly safe from everything except for starvation, exhaustion, humiliation, nausea or racism.

What’s your take on the incident? Do you agree with Cliff getting the boot?

Posted by:Hanh Nguyen