And then there were four! And then there were five again, and okay now back to four. Top Chef Texas slimmed down to near-finale weight in the previous episode, only to bloat itself up again with a returned contestant on last night's episode. All season long, eliminated contestants have battled it out on Last Chance Kitchen, a thing on the Internet that exists so that a vice-president somewhere can say "social media" and "uniques" in a meeting and then eat a really expensive salad. How's that salad? Is it worth having Tom have to say "BravoTV.com" out loud a couple dozen times? I am sure it is.
Ed, Sarah, Paul, and Lindsay arrive at the kitchen to find five cloches. Ed realizes there are four chefs and five cloches, and I realize how much I hate having to hear the word "cloches." I say "buenos cloches, mi amor." Everybody's got bets on who's coming back, and Tom reveals that Beverly defeated Grayson (and a few others) to return to the Top Chef kitchen. She is extremely excited (spastic), but she does not receive a warm welcome. Sarah is mad both because she doesn't like Beverly and because she lost a bet to Ed about who would come back. Beverly now has to give Ed a pack a cigarettes and a banana. Cool bet! Sarah says that "sounds like a fun night." What do you mean, Sarah? If I get your drift, and I think I do, the idea of you having sex with a banana and chain-smoking cigarettes all night is one of the least fun things I can imagine.
The Quickfire Challenge is a blind-folded pantry race. Under the cloches are blind-folds, and the chefs have to head into the pantry sightless and grab ingredients for their dish using only the senses that aren't in their eyeballs. They've got 30 minutes, and the catch is they have to use everything they take. The winner gets either a brand new Prius or a guaranteed spot in the finale, foregoing cooking in the Elimination Challenge altogether. Everybody discusses what'd they do. Paul says he'd take the car, because he's already made like a half a million dollars so far this season so why stop now. Lindsay and Sarah would both take the immunity, because they are weak-hearted people.
I experience genuine joy as everyone fumbles around the pantry. Cruelly, the producers don't even start them by the shelves, so Beverly spends about half her allotted time tip-toeing around an empty fridge and apologizing to the wall. Has no one ever even turned out a light on her? How is she so bad blind? I half expect her to tell her a tearful story about how hard her Dad worked to pay for electricity and that's why as a matter of pride they never turned out the lights and also she'll never let a man treat her like that again and that nice wall reminds her of her son.
Lest the entire clock be eaten up by fumbling blind chefs, Padma provides some assistance and directs Beverly to the pantry. Her voice drips with whatever the opposite of generosity is, and you can see that she'd much rather be pushing these chefs onto the ground than helping them. Can you high-low someone if they're blind? That is the sort of question Padma would happily find the answer to. Everybody struggles to smell proteins through their shrink wrap. We all know real chefs can tell the difference between a filet and a hanger steak through two layers of a cryo-vac bag.
Were chefs allowed to use spices or oils or anything not grabbed blind? That's unclear. I wish it showed them smelling pans and also oven temperatures. "This stove smells like it's 600 degrees and my eyebrows smell like they burned off four minutes ago." Ed gets stuck with pork casings, a tough ingredient to incorporate into anything but sausage. What did he think he was getting? Pork casings are gross. "I was disappointed to find I hadn't grabbed a used condom." Beverly is "stuck" with an avocado. Yuck! Avocados aren't good with anything, Beverly, so you should probably just jump out a window.
The avocado turns out to be Tom's favorite part of Beverly's striped bass with lime and jalapeño, but the fish is undercooked. Paul makes a sautéed prawn with Thai-style tomato salad, and Ed fashions a broth for his zucchini ribbon "udon" out of the pork casings. Padma takes more than one bite, which is always a good sign, except in that Hardee's commercial she did that one time. Lindsay cooked a whole fish with bulgur wheat, mascarpone and tomato sauce, and Sarah made a corn soup. Wisely, she went in knowing she'd do soup, as that's a dish that can work in nearly any ingredient. Unwisely, she has a really rude and judgmental personality.
Ed's close, but Sarah's soup gets her her first Quickfire win. This is a good one to win, you jerk. Faced with a free car and having to earn her way to the finale, she votes for a day off. Go change into your comfy sweats, girlfriend, today you're doing you. She'll sit out the Elimination Challenge, which is the last chance for everyone to earn a spot in the final 4. Remember when there already was a final 4? Oh well. Tom and Padma announce that they'll be working with the mentors that inspired their cooking, and Bev guesses it will be her son. Her son taught her everything she knows in the kitchen? That explains the Last Chance Kitchen dish she won with, "Pizza Butter & Jelly Sandwiches with a side of Pictures of Katy Perry Makes It Feel Like There's Soda in My Neener."
As the mentors are marched, out, the cheftestapants immediately get emotional. Paul starts bawling. I didn't think I could love him any more, but now I do. Paul I want you to win it so hard. Everyone gives a sentence or two on what their mentors did for them, and Paul can barely choke out his thanks to Tyson Cole at Uchi. It is very nice and I nearly cried while watching, but then my DVR broke because honestly fuck this show and its recording this season.
The chefs convene with their mentors to brainstorm, though it's unclear what the mentor role is in this Elimination Challenge, besides providing anecdotes at the dinner table. Are the chefs cooking things their mentors would like, things their mentors taught them, or things their mentors told them to took during the brainstorming? It seems like a little bit of all three. As the chefs head to Whole Foods to shop, Sarah gets to chill out with Tony Mantuano, who has aged quite a bit since the end of Scarface. They enjoy tequila and champagne. Ed settles on smoked oysters and Beverly runs around like a crazy person.
With their prep complete, the chefs only have an hour to cook at the Hotel Valencia. Paul's soup is completely prepped, and he's only got to plate all the elements right at the end. He paces around nervously and worries about overdoing the elements on his plate. Luckily he has a hot girlfriend, we found out. She seems nice. Beverly is doing a wok dish, which we learn is very difficult for a large service. She's got multiple woks going at once, and it seems like hard wok. Is that joke racist? I don't know. I'm white, so I'll assume it is. Now it's time for service.
Each chef's mentor is nervous for their protege. Chef Michelle Bernstein says, "Lindsay is an extension of me," which alright that's enough. Settle down. Appropriately, Beverly's mentor Sarah Stegner seems last attached to Beverly. Their hug was awkward, and their bond seems to consist of definitely having met once. They are two peas in a pod. Beverly serves gulf shrimp and BBQ pork with Singapore noodles, and it looks incredible.
Lindsay serves a deconstructed seafood stew with toasted couscous. At the last second she emulsifies the broth with cream, and she'll regret it.
Chef Tyson Cole is equally emotional talking about Chef Paul. Paul was the first guy he ever worked with who after learning something would come back a few days later and already be doing it better. At first Chef Cole was threatened, but then he learned how to exploit Paul. Paul makes a chilled sunchoke and dashi soup with summer vegetables.
Ed's got a very ball-bustery relationship with Frank Crispo, his first boss. Frank Crispo is a big guy, and we don't get to meet the guy inside his robot body actually operating the controls. Ed makes a braised pork belly with a smoked oyster cream and pickled vegetables. Ed's oysters taste off to the judges, but they go crazy for his pickled vegetables. Michelle says something complicated about her wanting Ed to open a store and then she'd be his customer. Just ask him for the recipe.
After service, the chefs stew. Sarah comes back, and Ed says, "You look well rested," though she doesn't. She gets to just hang out while everyone else wears aprons and clogs. The judges ask to see everybody but Sarah, and that is usually who I want to see.
Paul and Beverly are immediately singled out as the judges' favorites. Pulling off the wok dish was tough, and Beverly nailed the flavors. Paul had a lot of nerve to do a soup and not overdo the flavors, and that he didn't, and nailed it, is the sign of a mature chefs. He and Beverly will both be moving on to the finals, but first, Paul wins a new Prius. This guy is so fucking rich at this point. "From a tax point of view, I've made too MUCH money."
Lindsay's mix of herbs was too overpowering, and it threw the balance of the whole dish off. She knew it as soon as she brought it out. She starts weeping and speaking as if she's been eliminated. "There's no crying in fine dining," she says, while she continues the trend of people crying and saying there's no crying. It certainly looks like there's crying! Also, she should stop crying, because she's safe. Not getting fresh oysters when oysters are the central component of your dish is Ed's downfall, and he's sent home. He handles it like a champ, telling Lindsay she deserves it, gritting his teeth all the way (like always). But inside, he's mad that he made it to the final four, only to have Beverly brought back and take his spot. He's correct to be mad. But he shouldn't have used those smoked oysters.
Next week the final four head to British Columbia, and somebody gives Beverly a gun. Will they be hunting their own dinner? I certainly hope so.