The cheftestants are split into two teams for the Elimination Challenge -- Team Korea and Team Vietnam -- and tasked with preparing two dishes using the flavors of their particular country. They will serve those dishes to a thousand Los Angelenos at a Project by Project charity event. Team Vietnam starts off strong with Josie and her "the better to eat you with, my dear" teeth fully in charge. On the other hand, Team Korea gets dinged with the Loser Music as they get drunk on sangria while attempting to plan their menu. Well, I should note that the boys of the team get drunk while Marisa and Elia just get annoyed.
The next day, the teams shop for their food and while Team Vietnam clearly rocks, Team Korea gives us the first (and hopefully not last) scandal of the season -- they steal food! Well, not really, but almost. They get fixated on having lychees in one of their dishes, and manage to leave the Korean grocery store without paying for an entire case of them. Otto mentions this to the ENTIRE team as they load up the car, and I want it RIGOROUSLY NOTED that NOT ONE of his teammates suggested they go back in and pay for the lychees. NOT ONE! Instead, somehow the whole debacle gets pinned on Otto's shoulders when it all comes out later. During the preparation of her panna cotta dessert, Marisa is so overcome with lychee guilt that she tattles to Colicchio. Not that I think they shouldn't have told him, mind you, I simply think that more than just Otto were complicit in Lycheegate. Colicchio gets pissed and sends Otto off to return the purloined lychees, and Team Korea is down one as they scurry to complete their dishes.
Ming Tsai arrives as guest judge, and Team Vietnam -- dry and mispronounced pho aside -- is the winner. The individual winner is Betty for the rather singular reason that she smiles largely and a lot. In an unprecedented move of handing out gifts to winners, Ming presents Betty with an expensive and very rare sashimi knife, so it's nice that she got a good return on that capped-teeth investment.
As Team Korea appears before the judges and everyone throws Otto to the wolves for Lycheegate, Elia proves herself to be far and away my favorite cheftestant of the entire lot. She tells Otto quietly that what he (should be "they," but whatever) tried to get away with was dishonest, but she also tells him how much she likes him and apologizes for having to come out against him. And you can tell she's really sorry. The same cannot be said for Marisa, who is so worried she will be thrown out for making a panna cotta you could bounce a quarter off, she viciously lights into Otto faster than unattended caramel burns. In the end, Otto elects to take full responsibility for Lycheegate and take himself out of the competition. The judges sadly accept this and Otto goes sadly home. I sadly (but loudly) call bullshit on this. Otto was not solely responsible for Lycheegate -- all of Team Korea heard him say they walked out with free lychees and any one of them could have taken them back in to rectify the situation. Poor Otto and poor Marisa, because I fear that this sets her up as the Wicked Witch of the West. Will someone shove her into her own convection oven? Should be interesting.
Oh, what a night! You know something scandalous happened on this show when the episode thread swells to sixteen pages in a matter of just a few days. The best part? The sourcing of California Bar exam study sheets to try and decide if what Otto did is considered a felony. Awesome.
Mad props to whirlingdervish for the most excellent homepage headline. So, after this episode, I am convinced that while Padmadala may look all kinds of hot -- although her eyes are a bit too far a part, giving her a fish look -- her line delivery has not improved since Enterprise. You know what that means, don't you? It's time for emphasis transcription. For example, "Previously on Top Chef, FIFteen of the country's most talented chefs SHARPEN their knives for battle" and "At stake for the winner? STATE of the ART Kenmore Pro kitchen furnished by Sears. An EDITORIAL feature in FOOD & Wine MAGazine, a chance to SHOWcase their culinary talent at the TWENTY-fifth Anniversary FOOD and Wine Classic in Aspen, and one hundred-thousand dollars to KICKstart their culinary careers, furnished by the makers of the GLAD family products." You get me?
In the LA loft, the cheftestants talk about Suyai's packing-her-knives-and-going. You know, there's gotta be a better term for that. Project Runway has the awesome "auf'd," what about the foodists getting oeuf'd? Could it work? Otto tells us, "And that's what it's all going to come down to: who can improvise, adapt, and overcome." And steal?
Next morning, Colicchio rouses the cheftestants at four-thirty in the morning, telling them they're going to the fish market. Mia, dressed but slumped on a couch, tells us she's not feeling well at all. At the fish market, Padmadala -- all braided and boobed up -- bids them an overly cheerful "good morning" for that early hour. She tells them they will be preparing sushi for the Quickfire. Mia looks like she's about to throw up, but she mashes her lips together and pats them so delicately with her fingertips, it doesn't strike me as genuine nausea. I wonder if they had to go back and get a pick up of that because the camera didn't know to be on her for her reaction. Marcel tells us, "I'm not a sushi guru by any means, so I was feeling a little nervous." Can you really be a "sushi guru"? There's no real intersection between Japan and India. Maybe you can be a sushi yokozuna or a poppadum guru, but not really a sushi guru. Michael is scared and tells us, "How am I going to stay in the middle on this one?" Just don't choose flounder. Padmadala tells them they have an hour to shop for fish and thirty minutes back in the kitchen to prepare a sushi plate. Mia turns away, her hand over her mouth and quickly walks away from the group. She squats near a dumpster, where she appears to be throwing up. However, she tells us, "I'm not going home. If I'm sick, I get to be sick at work." Ew, not if you're preparing food -- RAW FOOD! -- that people are going to eat!