As the four cheftestants drive and "oooh" over the green Aspenol scenery, we learn that the Brians raised sheep as a kid. It's an admission that makes me inexplicably happy and also explains why MALARKEY! pleads, "KEEP THEM SCREAMING ALWAYS HAVE THEM SCREAMING!" while O'Brian is saying his morning matins. Brian also announces that he brought his cowboy hat to Aspen. Yeah, he did! The cheftestants pull up a "Top Chef"-emblazoned hot air balloon, and Casey, just like Elia and the Hawaiian helicopter, squeals that she doesn't want to go up in it. But she does. Hm, so either they all flew in super-early in the morning, or they've had a chance to sleep, it's the next morning, and they've been forced to wear the same clothes. Why do I know this? Because I remember from 3-2-1 Contact that you can only go hot air ballooning in the early morning when the air is cool. In the balloon and gently drifting over a small area, the cheftestants get glasses of Cook's sparkling wine -- the Cook's label isn't as loudly trumpeted as it was last year, but you can still see it -- and toast each other with mimosas. Brian says, "All right, no matter what happens, you guys, we're top four we've all had a great run, with great success in this one love you all [Brian changeover to MALARKEY!] BUT THERE'S STILL SOME MONEY ON THE LINE -- MWA HA HA HA HA!" Now it's time to check in with two of the cheftestants to rehash their raison d'êtres for wanting to win. Dale muses to us over the serene location and how over the past year he's had "cooking writer's block," had a restaurant close, and got dumped. "So I decided to enter this competition to see if I still could be a chef and now I know that my chef is back," he concludes. "My chef"? Is that his name for Little Dale? Hung reminds us about his Vietnamese background and tells us how his father came to America, started a restaurant, and was able to sponsor over the rest of Hung's family.
The balloon touches down and the cheftestants walk over to their crick-side Quickfire, where some random fly fisherman is doing his best impression of A River Runs Through It. However, since I'm still awake, it isn't a very good impression. Padma and an outdoorsy Eric Ripert are standing in a small clearing. We see a bunch of stumps and coolers. Padma welcomes them -- a bit coldly for her, but maybe she misunderstood "Rocky Mountain High" and didn't bring her usual stash -- and introduces Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. Dale reminds us that Ripert is "one of the premiere seafood chefs in the country," and that the four-starred Le Bernardin is one of the best restaurants in the country. Hung adds, "You don't mess with Eric Ripert." Well, unless he tells you he doesn't like your food; then you might say he has an "average" palate.