Top Chef Recap-"Bike, Borrow and Steal"

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Place your bets Chef-heads…who’s going home tonight this close to the finale?  I’d say Paul’s the only lock, as the other four have all stumbled in the competition while he’s stayed strong the whole time.  Ed’s also a pretty sure thing, but the three ladies are running pretty even.  Lindsay wasn’t much of a presence early in the season, but has been good the last few weeks, while Sarah seems to turn out consistent food but is the most emotional contestant still standing.  Also, they’ve both convinced me that they are awful people.  Grayson seems to ascribe to the “go big or go home” philosophy, so she’s a wild card.  I’m gonna go head and predict Sarah taking the fall tonight, possibly after one more crying fit and bout of heat exhaustion.  And one last stab at her Bev voo-doo doll.  And if Gail isn’t guesting tonight, I’m going to have to make Emeril and Hugh voo-doo dolls.

Quickfire time!  Padma is there to present the chefs with a gigantic table of pancakes, which are apparently Pee-Wee Herman’s favorite food.  Paul Ruebens is doing the full Pee-Wee for his guest judging turn…it’s a little bizarre.  As far as challenges go, “make a pancake” isn’t exactly the most exciting or inspiring; maybe the producers just fell asleep in their planning meeting and forgot about this episode entirely.  Pee-Wee proceeds to tell each of the chefs that their pancake is the best he’s ever had in his life.  Insightful commentary, that.  There’s no bottom three this time around, but the top spot goes to Ed who wins $5,000.  This Quickfire was really, um…stupid.

Elimination challenge!  The chefs are going to head to the Alamo, where apparently Pee-Wee filmed Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in which he lost his bicycle.  Is this a good time to tell everyone that I’ve never seen Pee-Wee’s movies or shows?  Yes?  Consider it done.  With a complete lack of nostalgic enjoyment of the character, his presence is wearing thin already.  Bring back Theron! The chefs have to make a family-style lunch for Pee-Wee and the judges, with a few twists.  Each gets a bicycle and $100; it’s up to them to find the food and the restaurant to cook it in, though only one chef can cook in a restaurant at a time.  It’s a much more complicated challenge than the Quickfire, and hopefully will result in some much more interesting food.

The chefs head as a group to The Farmer’s Market, buy some basics and then head out to go restaurant hunting.  Lindsay is concerned that she spent too much, and will have to rely on whatever restaurant she winds up in for things like oil, salt and pepper.  Ed, meanwhile, doesn’t find a protein and hopes his destination will have something for him.  This challenge is interesting, but not particularly well explained.  Can the chefs rely on the kindness of the restauranteurs for items that they couldn’t afford, or do they have to buy them?  Also, if they’re cooking in five different restaurants, how exactly is service going to take place at the exact same time in five different places?  Gail obviously didn’t set up this challenge, she would never tolerate these unclear shenanigans.

Grayson swipes a restaurant out from under Paul’s nose, and explains that apparently the chefs have to prep in a restaurant and then get their food to the Alamo.  That makes sense now that she’s said it, but I don’t think it’s been explained prior.  The chefs biking around and Sarah getting lost is kind of reminding me of the go-see challenge in America’s Next Top Model; let’s throw these people into a situation that has nothing to do with their advertised skills and see if they can handle it for our own fun and amusement!  Meanwhile, Lindsay leaves her kitchen to scrounge for more ingredients and Sarah swipes her cooking spot out from under her.  Can you imagine if Bev had done that?  Knife fight!  Despite this set back, Lindsay and all of her fellow competitors make it to the Alamo in time which makes them all better time-managers than wannabe models.

The judges walk in and Gail is there!  Finally, I feel like it’s been ages!  Tom, Padma and Gail make painful conversation with their guest and all try very hard to pretend like Pee-Wee’s playhouse is an actual place where reality is a consideration.  This is like when Elmo and Cookie Monster judged a Quickfire, although at least Paul Ruebens can actually taste the food, but still…fictitious!  The chefs come out and serve their family style offerings, mostly consisting of chicken dishes though Lindsay stands out for using beef cheeks as her protein.  Sarah’s egg and chicken salad is a fun and simply dish lacking in salt and pepper.  Lindsay’s beef cheek-stuffed zucchini is judged to be a strong dish that’s too heavy on the goat cheese.  Ed’s chicken and grits suffers from an odd texture, which Tom diagnoses as the chicken being slightly under-cooked.  Grayson’s stuffed chicken breast is deemed delicious, but her summer salad confuses the dish and adds nothing.  Paul’s Thai chicken is the clear winner, when Padma’s complaint about the sauce being too sweet is countermanded by Tom pointing out that his pickled vegetables balance the flavor perfectly.

Padma calls all the chefs in at once, giving no clues as to who landed where on the scale.  The judges are generally complimentary and seem to realize that the challenge was borderline ridiculous.  They simply repeat their criticisms from the actual lunch and then Pee-Wee announces that Lindsay wins the challenge and that Paul is safe; based on what they said before I would have guessed the opposite, but hey, maybe they were tired of Paul winning.  That leaves Grayson, Ed and Sarah on the chopping block.  I’m going to guess that under-cooking chicken will be deemed the biggest sin here, but I’m really not sure.

Ultimately, Grayson takes the fall which really surprises me as it seemed like under-seasoning and under-cooking are worse than pairing tomatoes and butternut squash.  But hey, what do I know?

And some final thoughts:

-That’s some pretty awkward Schwinn product placement in Top Chef.

-Apparently, Grayson’s family game nights often result in tears.  That means they’re doing it right.

-Bed and Breakfasts are the weirdest places on earth.  How is there not a horror movie about them?

-Padma made a strong attempt to remain amused by Pee-Wee, and Gail put up a good face but, man, Tom was just barely holding himself together.  He looked thoroughly irritated the whole time, particularly because it was lunch which meant he wasn’t drinking.

-OMG, Carla’s on Watch What Happens Live tonight!  That’s almost enough to make me watch!

-I usually root for a woman to win this show on principle, but I’m totally Team Paul.

-Last Chance Kitchen Update: No update this week as they’re holding the reveal for next week, but come on…there’s no WAY they aren’t bringing Bev back.  The producers are wondering if they can make Sarah and Lindsay spontaneously combust simultaneously.

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