Remembering the Best Episode of Nailed It

There's nothing quite like season one of Nailed It! Nicole Byer and Jacques and the terrible cakes!

This week, we ran an especially excellent older episode on You Love To See It: a review of Mortal Kombat (1995) by my incredible co-host Fernanda Prates and her excellent husband Rodrigo del Campo. As Fernanda mentioned in that episode, it wasn’t the original intention to close out Spring Fling Month with Mortal Kombat (but it worked out, because she has the hots for Shang Tsung, as portrayed in the movie by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa!)

Before I came down with some kind of wild virus (half a dozen rapid tests and a PCR say it’s not Covid again! Thankfully!), we had a grand plan to revisit my all-time favorite episode of Nailed It, Season One’s “Fantasyland.” If you, too, are a fan of early Nailed It, you may remember this as the episode with a wonderful older lady, Amanda, who herself developed a big crush on professional chocolatier and co-host Jacques Torres. She also made “tired, psychedelic pirates” in a donut challenge, and just generally was an adorable, endearing, funny contestant.

It also features my all-time favorite sequence from the whole show, where contestant Toni gives her best “princess voice” when discussing her “slightly” terrifying princess cake. I show this clip every time I teach a film class, because I genuinely think it has pitch-perfect editing for this kind of gimmicky, goofy, funny reality show. It’s not “too much,” with goofy sound effects and animation, it just adds that tiny little bit of spice to a hilarious moment.

Now, this all fit in for Spring Fling month because my crush in this whole shebang is, obviously, Nicole Byer. She is uproariously funny, multi-talented, and just a beautiful person. It’s hard not to have a crush on her, in my opinion.

Sadly, we didn’t get to record the episode. I had a… “princess voice” similar to what Toni was effecting above, and I probably wouldn’t have lated very long even with that hoarse whisper. But Fernanda, in her own warmth and humor, completed some lovely show notes for the episode, and I want to share those with the world in this post. This really is a magical episode of a wonderful, joyful show, perhaps the peak of it’s more innocent early days, and Fernanda’s reactions here simply made me smile.

nailed it nicole and jacques

Fernanda’s must-discuss items:

  • Not to go all “early in the pandemic…” on you but already going all “early in the pandemic” on you… I started watching this show early in the pandemic, shortly after I moved here to Mexico City. Rodrigo and I were locked in all day, I knew NO one and barely spoke the language, I was stressed about my job, the whole situation was a stressful mess (as it was for pretty much everyone who isn’t a multimillionaire who built their empires off of other people’s hard work and misfortunes, I suppose), and I remember how “Nailed It” just felt like a small little vacation. It was something I looked forward to, to get done with work so we could cuddle up in bed and just have a nice little laugh without having to contemplate the crushing weight of existing as a person in the world. It holds a very dear place in my heart because of that.
  • It’s interesting cause this is not exactly my type of escapist TV — I’m more of a “I want to get to the bottom of this triple homicide” kind of gal myself — so it did take me a little while to even give it a chance, but Nicole Byer won me over immediately. I’ve ventured into similar shows since (The Floor is Lava, Is it Cake, or even the one with the little kids doing chores) but none of them really grabbed me, and I think that speaks to the many small things that make Nailed It particularly endearing. The humor, the editing, the chemistry between Nicole and Jacques, their choice of contestants. It’s wholesome and uplifting, but the humor has got just enough built and mockery to push it out of sappiness. It’s got just enough time to make you engage and sympathize with the contestants, but not enough that you get tired of them. It truly is a perfect little capsule of joy.
  • On a personal level, I have a much easier time connecting with a show about people being bad a things. Shows about people being good at things have been around forever, we’ve seen enough of those. I can’t relate to those people. Doing things well? In this economy? Hard pass. Attempting to do things in and then failing in a hilariously spectacular way, however? That I can get behind. Realistically aspirational. 
  • And that, to me, also speaks to a kind of cultural shift in the way we deal with failure. This could be me reading way too much into this — as per ~ush — but I can see a bit of a shift in the way we observe failure. Take, for instance, American Idol — a lot of its early success was based on our enjoyment of watching people be really bad at things, but the way we observed that was much different. The same with shows involving Gordon Ramsay yelling at people, etc. There was some distancing, a kind of “look at this clueless clown doing something I, a self-aware person, would never do.” It was an obviously meaner, but I think more voyeuristic approach. When we watch a show like Nailed It, my feeling is that, rather than being placed there as these dum-dums for our mocking pleasure, the contestants are put there as people just like every one of us, much more relatable than those who can actually succeed at making beautiful cakes. Like, baking nice shit is hard. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to bake nice shit. And you can also enjoy trying to bake nice shit even if you’re not good at it. Again, I may be tripping wildly here, but I do feel like this more empathetic view is sort of a newer concept. Have we definitively departed the age of enjoying watching angry British men being mean to people who did nothing but try their best? I do have hope.Nailed It princess cake
  •  I love basically every iteration of Nicole, but the one that gets vodka sprayed into her mouth by Jacques and says “I like airbrushing!” is probably my all-time favorite.
  • Also, Jacque provocatively saying “You can spray cooking spray anywhere you want”? Just a perfect nugget of television, honestly. Can you blame Amanda for being a little horny for Jacques? I can’t. I love him. I cherish him. I will protect him with my life. I will take a bullet for Jacques. Both Nicole and Jacques are very crush-worthy, IMO.
  • Like Nicole, I love the part where the contestants try to improvise. I think a lot of people probably do the same exercise as I do, which is to think about how I would try to get shit done my way when the conventional ways are no longer an option. That’s obviously what the show tries to stimulate (two hours, I’m guessing, is NOTHING, even for people who actually know how to make this stuff) but it truly is when people shine. It is a testament to human ingenuity that there is *always* something waiting to be presented under that dome, no matter how janky and unappealing.