Top Chef Recap: And Then There Were Three…

After spending almost an entire season taping under a 105 degree sun, the final four cheftestants are now subjected to the cold extremes of Canadian weather. Maybe it’s the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno, and this is their own vision of hell? I get my own vision of hell after seeing Grueneberg with a Beiber cut, claiming that she’ll be a nicer person now after two months’ rest.  I call bullshit, and it’s readily apparent that she still wants to smash Beverly’s face into an open flame when she interrupts poor Bev’s Last Chance Kitchen report the minute they find themselves together in the back of another Sponsormobile, headed for the top of Vancouver’s Whistler mountain. Right now, they’re miles away from the Top Chef kitchen, and up to this point in the episode, there are neither stovetops nor weapons available to assist Sarah in her murderous ways. But that won’t last forever…

First, the cheftestants are challenged to a kind of culinary Olympics. The entry fee for this week’s guest judges is having competed in the real Olympics–which is better than being a muppet or a fashion designer (or Pee-Wee Herman), but not by much. Bravo wants to milk the season as much as possible, but they can only afford two more episodes, so one of the four has to be eliminated this week, and the best way to do so is more outlandish challenges–starting with making a meal on a moving gondola in sub-zero conditions, because that’s totally something a real chef typically has to deal with all the time. Armed with a couple induction burners and a surprisingly well-stocked pantry (for a gondola), the cheftestants fight nausea and cold to advance to the next round, and despite the constraints, they all put together decent dishes. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t totally know, because that was when my stupid cable decided to stop working. I suppose I should pay my bill more than once a year.

After a quick reset, I learn that Lindsay’s seared salmon atop red quinoa with chorizo & horseradish vinaigrette was the best of four surprisingly good dishes. It’s a victory for Lindsay, but a huge disappointment for me because nobody barfed in their respective gondolas. For her win, Lindsay earns a guaranteed spot in next week’s episode the final three (plus $10,000), and the other chef-cicles are on to the next round where they have to chisel through 6-inch thick ice blocks to get to their food. Genius!

Sadly, even armed with ice awls and with all the pent up aggression Bev and Sarah have toward each other, they’re totally useless. Paul has to step in to help both of them, and his good karma pays dividends in the form of king crab with toasted almonds and mango chutney that’s good enough to get him into the next installment of the finale (plus another $10,000). This leaves Sarah and Bev to face off against each other for the last remaining finale spot, and anyone else who is as jaded as me will agree that this was a total setup.  Not that this makes things less fun (because it makes things much more fun), but it’s obvious that this was always in the cards: one final battle to the death between the bully and the bullied. Which is why things get even better when it becomes apparent that they’re going to give both of these ladies rifles.

The final round of the culinary Olympics is hilarious. The Biathlon–an Olympic event whose cool factor of shooting guns is neutralized by its lame factor of cross-country skiing–is ready and waiting for the final two, and since neither of the cheftestants have the first clue about cross country skiing (let alone shooting), we’re guaranteed some awkward moments. Including Beverly “accidentally” tripping Sarah. And Sarah “accidentally” going all Uruguayan Rugby Player in the snow and eating Beverly. (Okay, I made that last one up.)

The lady chefs have to ski essentially in a circle, then grab their rifles (with just ten rounds apiece) and bullseye targets with the names of fancy-pantsy ingredients on them–all while resisting the temptation to fix their opponent in the crosshairs and just pull the trigger. Surprisingly (or maybe at this point completely-un-fucking-surprisingly) Bev turns out to be a fair shot, bangs out some char, beets, winter truffles and fennel, and gets her hustle on. Meanwhile, Sarah misses and misses and misses and misses, but finally manages to score some bunny rabbit and…I don’t know. It took her so long to actually hit anything (with an extra little break for ridiculously accusing Beverly of having gotten more shots than her) that I just walked away to get a snack.

When I came back, Bev had produced a lovely whole roasted arctic char with onion and beet compote, and Sarah had done a braised rabbit with cabbage puree and a hazelnut sauce. And even though the latter had overcooked her bunny, it was good enough to advance Ol’ Gummy to the next round of the finale (and earn her another $10,000)–which also meant it was enough to send poor Beverly packing once again. I thought she might have had Sarah bested (especially since all the judges seemed to be saying that she had Sarah pretty much fucking bested), but I guess the producers couldn’t REALLY keep advancing Bev at this point, especially after getting tossed once. It was just her time. She’d served her purpose.

And then there were three…

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