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Top Chef All-Stars Episode 9: It Gets Harder and Harder

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To thoroughly enjoy the glory that is Top Chef All-Stars, we welcome comedian Max Silvestri, who will be here every week to take us through the season.

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Saddled up to the bar at Cafe Superfake, the chefs regroup about last week's episode. Fabio still can't believe Antonia won an Italian challenge with such an un-Italian dish. Fennel and mussels? His great-grandmother is surely rolling over in her piazza just thinking about it. And Tre is gone? That guy was such a rock. "Solid as a Tre." That should be the slogan of the Ford Foodie, a car I imagine they will get around to building. With a note of sadness in her voice, like so many women before her Carla sighs and says, "it gets harder and harder." It does, until it doesn't.

The chefs find a sea of fondue pots greeting them in the kitchen. Blais says, "When I see the fondue pots, I'm thinking of bell bottoms, heels, being naked." Uh, go on? What? I understand fondue conjures parties in the 70's, and parties in the 70's makes one think of swinger parties, but I'm not sure all three ever went together? "Man, all that CHEESE for DINNER sure makes me want to peel off my bell bottoms and heels and get naked with all you good people. Wait until you see my cheese and bread-stuffed body. It's like I'm pregnant with two babies and both are trying to birth out my butt smell-first. My tongue is slicked with cheese." Heels? Good stuff.

It's a fondue Quick Fire, and the chefs will be judging each other. Everyone is undermining everyone! It's psychic warfare, in the least valid sense of "warfare" ever. Antonia says, "I never know where my ideas come from." Barf, Antonia. Does the Greek Muse of television cookery whisper in your ear each night while you sleep? Congratulations, you should be in Percy Jackson and the Olympians 2. That's your PUNISHMENT.

Padma and the chefs move from table to table tasting all the food. It's just like a real party, like the sort of party where your far better-dressed hostess stands across the table from you and you all make her food that she deigned to allow you to taste near her. Some of the things are really good, and Mike remarks to Padma, "You have a tough job. Tougher than we thought." No, she doesn't. How tough do you think her job was? Whatever the answer, it's easier than that. After they all vote, Padma says, "I tallied all the votes" and haha no you didn't Padma. You tallied NOTHING. You didn't even manage to look perfectly put together while eating, which I think is your one job.

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Yes, they vote. And the votes aren't secret! Not even in the least. Padma, tired from so much "tallying," announces the three least favorites: Fabio's caviar and blini fondue, Tiffany's Dunkin' Donuts, and Mike's grilled lamb in melted feta. Devilishly and randomly, Padma calls out Dale for voting for Mike on the bottom. Mike laughs and calls Dale a fucking monkey, which, come on, let's just not call people monkeys anymore.

The voters' favorites are Antonia's deli, Angelo's deconstructed beet salad, and Dale's pho-ndue. Blais, who made a liquid nitrogen banana chocolate thing, thinks everybody is AFRAID of him. Blais, maybe they are afraid of how often you make this face?

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Because his dish had the best pun in the title, Dale is this week's winner. Pungratulations. He gets a three-day trip to Napa Valley, a bottle of wine, and a tour of a vineyard. Want a link to that vineyard's website? No.

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The Elimination Challenge is a very special magical treat. The chefs are headed to Rockefeller Center, in the heart of New York City's historic Fat-or-European-Tourists-Walking-Slowly District. Maybe the treat is they get to go to the Cosi in the basement and eat buffalo chicken wraps until they all get sick and die. Oh, wait, no, it's Jimmy Fallon, host of the popular late night program The Jimmy Show.

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Carla is very excited to see Jimmy Fallon. He really brings out the best in her PHYSICALLY. She screams for nine hours.

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On set, the chefs get a shot to play Cell Phone Shootout. Using their cell phone cameras, they get a random shot at snapping a picture of one of Jimmy's favorite foods. Off a screen? I don't know. Whichever one they get they have to cook at his birthday lunch. OK.

Bravo gets how annoying this sort of thing is to recap, so they blow through the challenge very quickly. Dishes are doled out, etc. Carla gets chicken pot pie, which has a lot of meaning to her spiritually, and she has this reaction.

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Carla, you're physical! Never change. Also, I feel like Angelo's dancing is VERY important to this clip.

The chefs have two hours to prep. Antonia, who has neither tasted nor cooked beef tongue before, worries that it's not enough time for a notoriously time-intensive dish. Blais helps her with the pressure cooker because his parents raised him correctly, unlike Mike, who was clearly raised in a barn at a zoo. Why does that zoo even have a barn? Who knows. Dale seems psyched out by his Philly Cheesesteak. Last week his dish was called bland and that's his GREATEST fear. (Mine is to be molested to death by the Large Marge from Pee Wee's Big Adventure while my entire high school watches, so me and Dale are similar.)

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The diners file in to Colicchio & Sons, the site of Jimmy's birthday lunch. We've got Tom, Padma, Gail, Jimmy and his wife, his parents, his sister, his parents-in-law, Late Night and SNL producer Steve Higgins, and wonderful comedy person (and Late Night head writer) AD Miles. Hi team! There is lots of joking and riffing and fun having and this lunch looks great. Tom mostly keeps his mouth shut because it's much more fun watching Fallon, Higgins, and Miles riff about their album titles (Girth of a Nation) than it is to hear Tom critique cheese sauces.

Fallon is a super-fan of the show, and he seems genuinely excited to be a part of this whole process. That guy! Boundless enthusiasm! Good for him. It's INFECTIOUS. Like the Rage virus. Blais's simple ramen disappoints him; he's a total Blais-head, and he wanted smoke and exploding shit. Oh well. As much as he likes how Fabio says "burger" as "booger" again and again, it is still meatloaf. Fabio has never made a burger? Crazy.

Steve Higgins makes lots of funny jokes about loving men and penis stuff, and everybody has a laugh. "Well I love Mike's sausage. I experimented with sausage in college, and I found it was good." "Usually, I pull my own pork, but if Angelo wants to pull pork for me, then..." Haha, I probably find this a lot more charming than most people, but hey NO APOLOGIES and NO FEAR.

The chefs wait for the judges' decision in the Gladware Closet. Mike does a very good Carla impression.

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Padma calls in Carla, Angelo, and Antonia as this challenge's favorites. How very exciting! Carla made a mean chicken pot pie, as promised, Angelo hit a home run with his uniquely spiced pulled pork, and Antonia nailed the curve ball of beef tongue. If you are wondering why I'm using so many baseball metaphors, it's because Jimmy Fallon is a BIG fan of them. He said "home run" a lot last night. Oh, also, those three had composed a song about beef tongue? And they do a quick rendition of it.

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Jimmy has many nice things to say, and being nice is something Jimmy really seems to enjoy. So many smiles! And Carla wins. She gets to cook with Jimmy on his show and then take a trip to Tokyo! This is her third trip this season that she's won? Wow. She flips out and hugs Jimmy. My GIF machine is getting tired.

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Carla sends back Tiffany, Fabio, and Dale. It breaks Jimmy's heart to have to be mean. Tiffany's spin on chicken and dumplings missed both the rich sauce and the light dough balls, Fabio's burger was nothing like one, and Dale's cheese steak was over-salted. I feel like if it was Jimmy's job to announce the loser, his head would fall off. It's not in his makeup. But it is in Padma's. Fabio, pack your knives.

Oh poor Fabio. How I will miss you. I will say, for his all oddities, he remains a charmer. I have never seen a classier exit. Despite being eliminated from the show, he leaves like a candidate just having been elected to the Senate. He's kissing cheeks, hugging people, one-liners, Fabio-isms, waves, winks, pinches, laughs. It's wonderful. Bye Fabio! I hope you are President of America one day.

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