Season Two hottie Sam Talbot returns as guest judge and winces through Padma's "bringing sexy salad back" Quickfire. Spike wins with his sensual combination of beef, mint and pineapple, while Antonia comes second with a spinach salad topped with a silky poached egg and tarty bacon vinaigrette. Stephanie fails to plate her artichoke chip, so her fall-inspired salad feels naked in a bad way, while Richard disappoints with a frigid vegetable ceviche and Lisa fails to tame her banana.
After these sexy salads, the segue to Chicago cops and healthy boxed lunches is a no-brainer. Elimination requires a nutritious boxed lunch that reinterprets classic cop fare and integrates a whole grain, a lean protein, a fruit and a vegetable (it also has to be healthy, hearty, satisfying, low carb, low cholesterol and low sugar). Spike's significant advantage, in addition to a 10-minute jump on the shopping, is the choice of one ingredient from each of the four required food groups that only he can use.
Spike chooses bread, chicken, lettuce, and tomatoes, effectively scuttling any easy ways out for his teammates. Lisa suspects sabotage when her brown rice ends up on high heat and burns, but everyone else thinks she's just pointing fingers to cover her own inattentive ass.
Stephanie receives kudos for her rib-sticking mushroom meatball soup, and Dale wins a big bottle of Rutherford wine and two tickets to the winery (airfare and lodging not included, see rules for details) for his bison and lettuce cups, which embodied the challenge with a combination of substance and nutrition.
Spike's so hopped up on smugness from his Quickfire win, his defensive shopping, and his silly marketing strategies that he neglects the product itself and turns out a lame chicken salad, with an odd combination of olives and grapes, along with a flaccid trio of tomato, lettuce and bread that wouldn't look out of place in a dumpster. He ends up in the bottom three, along with Lisa, with her stir fry that was neither, and her undercooked everything, and Andrew, with his uber-healthy raw salmon roll.
When Lisa discovers that claims of sabotage don't automatically excuse one from dismissal, she sacrifices Andrew by exposing his failure to follow the rules -- instead of a whole grain, Andrew used a combination of pine nuts and parsnips to simulate rice in a raw salmon roll, because he's some sort of wizard nutrologist who scoffs at the rules. For this transgression, and for making something that was neither satisfying nor delicious, Andrew and his knives depart.
As Season Four accelerates toward the finale, it's great to see all of the long-forgotten faces in the credits -- Valerie Who? -- before getting down to business with the remaining seven chef-testants. Stephanie, tweezing away at her eyebrows, expresses sadness that Nikki went "down in flames" for eschewing leadership of and contributing substandard fare to the Italian wedding feast (after a decent showing in the Common Thread challenge). Whatever, she totally deserved the ax (I can't believe she made it as far as she did). Now if we could just get rid of Spike. Repeating the opening vignette mantra, Stephanie explains that (join in the chorus, everyone) the remaining chefs are good, and the competition will continue to get harder.
Richard, who apparently sleeps fully dressed (including his infuriating pink shoes), perches on the side of his rumpled bed, rubs his eyes, and reminds the audience at home that, prior to a few hours of sleep, they were up for more than 40 hours straight, and are about to wade right back into competition. Everyone's still exhausted and, according to Spike, Dale's still a bitch. Spike, doesn't understand Dale's "asshole," I'm-not-here-to-make-friends approach, and thinks it will follow and haunt Dale at some juncture of his career. I think Spike's deluded pot is calling Dale's kettle black. Also, he might want to consider cleaning up his bottle-strewn nightstand. Dale just wants to get away from the drama, the emotions, and the tension that emanates from his housemates -- they all think he's being a dick, he says, and he just wants some peace and quiet. To find it, he'll focus on the task at hand, and not on anyone around him.
Andrew seconds Richard's observation that everyone's still fatigued after the wedding challenge -- except for him. Still enjoying his long-lasting, Cialis-style culinary boner, Andrew's got a fire in his belly that's egging him on to either stab someone or make some amazing food. Well, enjoy that feeling while it lasts, my friend.
All nine towering feet (and hopefully as many inches) of Season Two studmuffin Sam Talbot have joined Padma in the kitchen for the Quickfire. "Tall dark and handsome, and he can cook -- sign me up," says Antonia. The line starts here, sister. Sam's rocking nouveau-military chic with a structured olive jacket, t-shirt and jeans, while Padma's chosen an understated off-the-shoulder, asymmetrical midnight blue number. Sam will be acting as guest judge today -- based on what accomplishments I'm not entirely sure (although eye candy is justification enough) -- for a challenge that restores the oft-maligned salad to glory. Dale believes that making salad can be as difficult as roasting a perfect filet or crafting the perfect sauce -- "its finesse, its vision" -- as Sam encourages the gang to put some "sexy back" into salads. Paging Jen and her erect asparagus! For Andrew, a strong salad isn't just a bunch of vegetables thrown onto a plate -- it has to be creative. He's the proud recipient of today's Young Visionary Award.