Because everyone is confused, Padma explains in voice-over that the finalists will prepare their best five dishes and compete in rounds. The first one to win three rounds wins the competition. Wait, so if someone sweeps the first three, they just win? The last two dishes just get scrapped? What about the idea of making a whole meal where one dish flows into the next? No one cares? This is weird.
Brooke voice-overs that she's selected team LA, since all of her sous chefs are from the West Coast. She chose Stefan because he's quick, CJ for his palate, and Kuniko for her precision. Kristen chose her sous chefs because they're "good people" with "no egos." Well, I guess we know why she didn't choose Stefan. If she even had the chance. Kristen and Brooke explain the dishes to their sous chefs. I'm not going to go through them because we might not even get to see the last two, so why bother? Brooke interviews that they have to use scallops in the second round and snapper in the fourth round. So there are conditions to the challenge. Good to know.
Padma introduces the judges (Emeril, Hugh, Tom, and Gail) as they enter through the kitchen. They stop and look at what the cheftestants are making but we don't get to hear any of their comments or what they think, because why would that be interesting or illuminating? Padma also explains that all nine former winners have returned to dine. I'm sure they will fully take advantage of that unusual circumstance as well. Gail tells Stephanie that they will finally have another female winner to join her at the table, and Stephanie says it's about time. Hear, hear.
Now we jump back to the "present" as there are five minutes left before serving the first course. Brooke explains her pig's ear dish to CJ; it seems like the same dish we saw her making in her restaurant in the previous episode while she was on break before the finale. CJ seems to be making most of the elements so that Brooke can focus on plating it. Meanwhile, Kristen is making a chicken liver mousse, which she explains that she's made a million times before. She's concerned about the number of plates that she needs to put out, since that isn't her experience.
Brooke smells something burning and the judges note that CJ is completely burning the pigs' ears and it's not like he's distracted - he's just standing there watching them burn. That seems like something to follow up on, right? Like was he daydreaming or did he think they needed to be blackened? Anyway, the audience is raucous and wild and it's not really adding much to the show if you ask me, although I'm sure it is making the cheftestants feel even more tense. And finally, it's time to serve the first course.