Top Chef

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Laurine and Jen hang out by the pool. Laurine has just rolled up her pants and is dipping her feet, while Jen is in a really cute striped bikini. It's a little shocking to see so much flesh on this show, though. I do appreciate that it's not staged as "Jen puts on her bikini to show off for the dudes" but instead just seems like "Jen went swimming and this is the bathing suit she brought." She jokes that she's going to cook in her bathing suit. Laurine interviews that the numbers are dwindling and she's proud to still be left, so she's trying to just forget her poor performance in the last Challenge and move forward.

In the kitchen, some of the dudes drink coffee and eat breakfast. Kevin interviews that they'll all miss Ash for many reasons, but one of them is because he lightened up the mood in the house, and now they have to hang out with the Dueling Volts, who just argue all the time. I feel like we haven't seen a ton of that arguing -- they've bickered a bit in the kitchen, I guess, but most of the arguments in the house have been between someone and Robin. Michael V. makes himself a delicious-looking breakfast burrito. I appreciate that he cuts it at an angle and plates it nicely even though he's just going to eat it. Michael interviews that he's the instigator and Bryan looks out for others, and that's how it's always been. And as if on cue, Bryan comes out and rallies the troops to head to the kitchen for the next challenge. All the little ducklings follow him out of the house.

They arrive at the kitchen to find Padma joined by Rick Moonen, the king of sustainable cooking. Kevin explains that sustainable cooking is making sure that your food doesn't have a huge impact on the environment, like not using fish that has been overfished and thus is in danger of shortages or extinction, and thinking about all of your ingredients in the same way. Padma reminds them that there are only eight people left, and only three will go to the finale. Jen seems surprised by this. Did she not know how many people were left? Or did she think more people were going to the finale? Or did they pull a reaction shot from a completely different moment?

Padma announces that this Quickfire will be a Tag Team Cook-Off. The cheftestants draw knives, and strangely, most of the knives are blank. Jen's says First Choice and Mike V's says Second Choice, but the rest are blank. Turns out that those two are the captains and it's going to be a schoolyard pick to split into two teams. Jen gets to pick first, and she can't decide whether or not to split up the brothers, but ultimately goes with Kevin. Mike picks his brother immediately. Jen takes Mike I. and Michael takes Eli. So the big losers are Robin and Laurine, no surprise. Jen takes Laurine, so Robin has to go with her nemesis Eli and the Brothers Volt. Robin pretends to be happy about it because she thinks they can "face the demons." I don't know that the Quickfire is the time to work out your personal issues.

Now that the teams are ready (Jen's team is Blue and Michael's team is Red), Padma explains the competition. Each cheftestant will cook for ten minutes and then pass their food on to a teammate, for a total of forty minutes of cooking. When not cooking, they have to wear blindfolds and they can't speak to each other at all. So basically, they have to try to figure out what their teammate was trying to do just based on what they see happening. This is a super cool challenge, and really could only happen this late in the season, because now the chefs know a little bit about each other's cooking style. Padma says that the winning team will get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge, and also get $10,000 to split. They have thirty seconds to determine their order, but Padma puts on her mom voice and orders them not to discuss WHAT they will cook. She's pretty good at that mom voice.

Michael V. just announces that Eli will be first, Robin will be second, Bryan will be third, and he'll be last. He interviews his reasoning: Eli will pull good ingredients, and if Robin screws up, Bryan can fix it. Mike is confident he can finish what his brother starts, so he's going last. Everyone agrees quickly.

Over on the Blue Team, Kevin kind of takes over and says that Jen should start because then it's her idea. Laurine should go second. Kevin and Mike I. aren't sure who should finish, but they agree that Kevin plates food better, so he'll go last and Mike will go third. Mike interviews that Jen is fast and organized, so she's a good choice to go first.

Everyone puts on blindfolds and time starts. Jen and Eli run for the fridge and the pantry. Jen says that her game plan was to choose the proteins and start a sauce. She got black cod and scallops, and she wanted to olive oil poach the fish and use mushrooms to make a sauce. Eli planned to just cook up some basic ingredients so he doesn't commit his team to a flavor profile, but they have some cooked ingredients to work with. He grills up some beef and cleans some vegetables.

The whistle blows and Laurine and Robin run to the cooking area for their turns, also known as "The Weak Link," because seriously. Jen and Eli have to just stand there and watch their food be improved upon or screwed up. Laurine finds the fish and scallops, and lets Jen's sauce simmer. She can't figure out what's up with the olive oil, and by the time she does figure it out, the oil may be too hot (at least that's my interpretation,) so she turns down the heat. Robin starts making a salad dressing with yuzu and shallots for the shaved fennel, and that's pretty much it.

Time! Mike I. and Bryan run in. Mike I. is confused at first, trying to figure out what's going on. Jen interviews that she had a hard time just watching. Finally, he figures out that there's a sauce reducing and some oil that's too hot, so he puts on a new pot of oil and starts sautéing mushrooms. Bryan thinks they may be moving in an Asian direction so he just makes some sauces and even sets his brother up to make a froth.

And, time! The final two, Kevin and Mike V., hurry in. Kevin thinks he has the hardest job because he has to come up with a finished plate. He examines what's on the table and decides not to use the scallop. He realizes that they probably wanted him to poach the fish in oil, but he decides to butter roast it instead. Mike isn't used to finishing other people's food. He tastes all the food to see what it is. He cooks the beef some more and uses one of the sauces to make a miso sauce, and then finishes up an avocado mousse that's in the food processor. They both manage to plate their food as time runs out.

Padma and Rick taste the Red Team's food first: Pan roasted NY strip with whipped miso, avocado puree, and pickled vegetables. Mike V. explains that the miso is a little salty but the meat is underseasoned, so you're supposed to mix the two together. Padma asks Eli if this is what he imagined when he started, and he says he thought they would serve the beef raw, but otherwise that's pretty much it.

Jen describes the Blue Team's dish as "pan-seared trout" (although the caption says sablefish) with sautéed mushrooms, shiitake broth, and radish salad in yuzu vinaigrette. When Rick starts eating, he says that he's pretty sure it's sablefish or black cod, which he loves because it's so sustainable. Jen is embarrassed at her gaffe.

Overall, Rick thought both teams did a great job. He liked the Red Team's food, but he thought the Blue Team's dish had a better finish, mostly due to the broth they made. So he picks the Blue Team for the win. Laurine is especially excited because this is her first win of the competition. Mike V. doesn't like to lose challenges at all, but especially when parts of it were out of his control.

Padma announces that it's time for Restaurant Wars! And they will stay in the same teams for this Elimination Challenge. Rick is giving them use of his restaurant, where each team will take over a floor and a kitchen, and it also means that they're not responsible for the décor

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