Oh, Howie. It's not like this offing was a surprise, but I'm still sorta sad over it. I mean, he went from endearing to crabby to mean to martyr in ten loooooong sweaty episodes.
But first! To the Quickfire! Armed with only ten dollars and strict grocery store aisle assignments, the cheftestants have to come up with delectable dishes. The two most memorable are produced by the Brians, who had some sort of religious awakening brought on by cans of Spam, and Hung, who had some sort of acid trip brought on by neon boxes of Frankenberry and Fruit Loops. The Brians do manage to whip up something impressive with the Spam and end up winning the Quickfire, but Hung channels Frank from Season Two and makes some sort of miniature play land with fried egg suns and cereal rivers and meringue mountains. After getting his salt and sugar all confused in his risotto dish, CJ ends up on the bottom and is joined by Howie, who didn't even do anything. Declaring that he wasn't happy with what he was making, Howie defends his reasoning for presenting an empty plate to Padma and guest judge Michael Schwartz by saying he won't have them eat something he's not proud of.
Moving on to the Elimination Challenge, the Brians declare themselves leader (the Quickfire win gave them this power) and attempt to shepherd the other cheftestants through the task of preparing high-class eats for underweight fashionistas with a total of $350. Not per person, you understand -- $350 total. They plan, they shop, and they prepare their passed hors d'oeuvres in the tiny galley of a big boat. The judges are not impressed, and after a very contentious Judges' Table where Hung attempts to cite historic precedent to defend his various failures (did you know bread pudding was an appetizer 800 years ago? It's true -- King John used to serve it to the Sheriff of Nottingham as they plotted against Robin Hood), Brian finds his leadership under fire, and Howie nominates himself off the kitchen island. And even though Padma makes a big show of informing Howie that the decision is not his to make, the judges do decide to make good on Howie's offer, and send him home.
I think I shall miss the dried-out pork most of all.
CJ looks disconsolately at Tre's empty and made bed and tells us it sucks that Tre is gone. He goes on that he made the right decision for the team when he named Tre executive chef of Restaurant April and that Tre knew what he was getting himself into. Hung gets dressed and tells us that Tre is the first chef he "actually feels bad about" going home. Furthermore, Hung would rather lose to Tre than anyone else. If he has to lose, he adds. The Brians are missing wife and dog and home and restaurant. Casey thinks it would be cool to be one of the only girls to make it to the top four since they've lost so many "females." When she says it like that, I somehow think of Worf and mating rituals and how humans are too fragile.
On the way to the Quickfire, Padma clearly had to stop off at marching band practice, which is the only way explain her odd blue vest with the horizontal stripes and decorative buttons. She blows a mean sousaphone. Padma introduces the guest judge of the day, Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink (hard as it is to tell from the name, that's not an olde timey grocery store, it's a restaurant), and announces that their Quickfire theme is about "looking good and making the most of what you have." "So, Michael," Padma says, turning to him, "What are the things to consider about this town when you're serving food here?" "It's gotta be fabulous, it's gotta look great, and it's gotta taste great," Michael says. Yeah, Miami is really unique in that way. I know that San Francisco is all about tasting great and looking shitty whereas New York is all about looking great and tasting abysmal. It's good to know there's one city in the country that has managed to put the two together. Padma informs the cheftestants, "And that's what we want from you and your Quickfire Challenge." Because they never want it at any other time? These themes are really getting as thin and lame as whipped egg whites on a humid day. The cheftestants draw knives, and Padma tells them the "Aisle Trial" (ugh!) Quickfire assigns them to specific grocery store aisles, and it is from those aisles and those alone that they can pull their ingredients. They will have access to certain things in the pantry that have already being pulled for them -- citrus, flour, eggs, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin, cornstarch, etc. -- and they will only be allowed to spend ten dollars in ten minutes.