It's the morning of the Quick-Fire challenge and all through the "Top Chef" Vegas house, not a creature is stirring except Robin's mouth. The chefs are all mad that she's still there, but little ole Robin just doesn't seem to care! She's talking Laurine's ear off about her neighbors' wall o' rattlesnakes, whilst everyone is pondering how she keeps catching breaks. There is no love for Robin today -- the memory of Mattin and his neck scarves are here to stay.
It's an interesting start to a "Top Chef" episode. Nobody dyed their hair sultry black when hubba hubba Sam Talbot left in Season 2, but apparently the whole house was uber attached to Mattin and his little Frenchie squeals and giggles. They all march into the GE kitchen with red neck scarves under the guise of showing solidarity for their dearly departed Frenchman, but deep down they really just want to make it clear that they hate Robin.
Robin isn't scared though. She's like all fired up because her simple food is going to set her apart! Just like it did when she was in the bottom for her simply repulsive grilled romaine and drunken prawn salad. Mmmm chlorine.
The Quick-Fire challenge is relatively dull compared to past episodes. The loser doesn't have to go home, the audience doesn't have to worry about whiny Eli winning $15,000, and there are no weird or gooey ingredients to work with. The chefs are charged to make a duo of dishes that represents the constant battle between the devil on one shoulder (ie. Robin) and the angel on the other (ie. Michael). James Beard winner Michelle Bernstein will be the guest judge.
The cooking itself is a total yawn. Everyone starts making scallops because it's "Top Scallop" not "Top Chef," and Robin persists in her mission to make everyone hate her even more. While Michael is perfecting rilletes of salmon, Ash is screwing up complex custards, and Kevin Red Beard is doing something porkolicious as usual, Robin is making salad. And apple crisp (because she had to give up sugar when she was diagnosed with cancer). It's so blatantly counter to what everyone else is doing that it seems destined to win. And it does. And everyone glares. She's granted immunity and Eli the Evil one complains, "That's a great way to win a Quick-Fire -- tell everyone you had cancer."
Apparently he's vying to take over Mike Isabella's spot as most obnoxious contestant of the season. We sort of hate Eli now. (Mike's doing better, but is still on thin ice for comments like, "It's foreign to me!")
In keeping with the whole duo theme, Penn and Teller -- a dynamic duo -- enter the "Top Chef" kitchen where they will begin their roles of being completely useless. They start doing some weird trick with a lime (no idea), and then Padma tells the chefs they will be deconstructing a classic dish for the Elimination Challenge. Michael is like reallly excited because deconstruction is like is favorite thing in the whole wide world (aside from beating his brother), and everyone else is sort of scared because they can't rely on Robin's f-ups to get them through another round.
Mike Isabella and Jenn C. are particularly nervous. Mike doesn't know what eggs florentine is and keeps trying to get everyone to laugh at his bad joke (see: "they're foreign to me!"). Jenn C. is freaking out because she drew meat lasagna (like major ew!) and doesn't deconstruct things other than the egos of the male chefs who she makes cry. The rest of the crew seem to be fairing okay except for Ron who can't stop screaming "paella!" and poor Laurine who has to work next to motor mouth Robin. Laurine is already struggling to make chips for her fish and chips deconstruction, so is not amused when Robin narrates every single move she makes in the kitchen.
Laurine basically wants to kill her.
It's kind of nice to see some emotion bubbling up from the previously complacent lady chef. For a second, her angry eyes almost remind me of Jenn C. Except Jenn C. doesn't make soggy chips.
By the time Tom meanders into the kitchen to do his little Q&A's that make everyone super nervous instead of comforted like when Tim Gunn does them on "Project Runway," it's pretty clear how things are shaking out. Laurine is in the weeds, Ron is clueless and doesn't actually know what deconstruction means, Michael is going to clean-up at the Judge's Table, and Jenn will most likely overcome adversity and triumph over her demons. It's a nice little story arc that the "Top Chef" producers have been keen on in episodes past. Plus, she's Jenn C. She eats adversity (and fetuses) for breakfast.
The chefs will present their dishes in pairs to the judges for the evening -- Toby Young, who Ashley describes as the "meanest guy in food criticism;" Penn and Teller who are, as mentioned, completely useless; Michelle Bernstein; and Tom, Padma and Gail. The dinner is sort of a snore -- Toby seems to have left his claws back in Season 5 and Teller's mimes are almost as annoying as Robin's incessant chatter. The only redeeming moment comes courtesy of an awkward/slightly forced exchange regarding Eli's pork rilletes.
Toby Young: "They look like bull's testacles."
Padma: "I've actually had bull's testacles."
Penn (meaningfully): "I bet you have."
I know I'm meant to laugh out loud, but instead can only mime my reaction.
The Judge's Table plays out as suspected -- Michael makes waves with his fancy egg emulsion, homemade brioche bread and Parmesan jelly (a sore Bryan labels him a "show-off" for his efforts), and Jenn pulls out a mean, albeit messy, deconstructed meat lasagna.
The big surprise of the evening comes from Ashley, who despite being too poor to eat meat as a kid (wah wah), kicks ass on her pot roast. Kevin Red Beard also impresses the judges with his perfectly balanced chicken mole negro. The biggest shocker? The dish doesn't even contain pork! Sadly, he only receives some lame Calphalon Unison Nonstick cookware for his win. He pretends to be uber thrilled -- even squealing "Ta-da!" in slightly Mattin-esque fashion -- but the pans are clearly a product placement, not a prize.
Ash, Laurine and Ron are in the bottom for their failed attempts at shepard's pie, fish and chips, and paella, respectively, and even though Ash and Laurine screwed things up pretty bad, it doesn't take some crazy mind-reading voodoo to figure out who's going home. Ron is set out to sea for his overcooked, fully-constructed paella. As Michelle Bernstein aptly puts it, "It doesn't have to be genius; it just has to taste really good." Ron is no genius, and he certainly isn't turning heads with his overcooked seafood and mushy rice.
Next week I expect everyone to speak in gibberish in honor of his departure.