Luckily for her, Spike's using frozen scallops -- while he may have mad butcher skills, he did choose the waterlogged seafood. Colicchio mentions that no one else seemed particularly fazed by Spike's choice of the scallops, since they wouldn't touch frozen ones with a ten-foot pole. Yes, I'm disappointed in them, says Spike, but only after I opened them, because I don't have a problem with using frozen stuff (Colicchio shudders at this heresy, with appropriate sound effect). The quivering pale hunks of scallop do look pretty unappetizing. He'll sear them slowly, with the hope that they won't fall apart. "If I make these things look good, I think I can make anything look good after that". True dat, agrees Colicchio, before assembling the group to let them know that sixty or so guests will arrive in about an hour. Rick, Gail and Padma, along with three V.I.P. guests, will be in the dining room, while Colicchio "will be expediting this meal". For those of us not in trained in restaurant kitchens, that means coordinating the timing of the dishes -- he wants all appetizers out in ten minutes, with entrees following after an all-clear from the servers.
Colicchio's visit screwed with Spike's head -- he's worried, as he should be, about the scallops, but since his scallop mindset drove him to make a bad choice, he's going to do the best he can with what he's got. "It's kind of ironic that I get an advantage and it ends up just biting me in the ass." Doubly ironic since it resembles the chicken salad lunchbox fiasco, except that it's Spike, and not the "advantage", that made the stupid decision, illustrating once again the perils of making selections based on an idea, as opposed to what actually looks good. As Spike struggles to save his scallops, Antonia explains that, with ten minutes to go before service starts, she's grilling her steaks -- they are huge -- and will put them in the oven as orders arrive. Smart girl. Richard reiterates that he wants to make it to the final four -- this time because his wife is at home working hard, and he doesn't want to add Top Chef loser to his list of failures.
Tensions run high as the clock counts down, and just before service begins, Colicchio the expediter summons the gang to introduce them to the three V.I.P. guests, who need no introduction at all. It's Harold, Ilan and Hung, winners of Top Chef seasons one, two and three! Way to build the TC brand. After reminding us that these guys have been in this position in seasons past, Colicchio asks each of them to offer some advice to the nervous cheftestants. Harold, looking uncomfortable as usual, suggests, "Cook your style and just be true to yourself". Hung, espousing his competitive credo, reminds them, "You're here to win, not be fan favorite". Ilan, dressed down for the occasion, counsels, "Don't shave anybody's head tonight". Yeah, and don't be a total douche. Spike's got some competition! Antonia wonders if their experience on the show will make them more or less gentle when it comes to judging, but she also gets that sitting at the judges' table can easily corrupt one with power.