You know when you're feeling frustrated with something, like your job or boyfriend or roommates or whatever, and you go on a short vacation and you come back and realize that the thing that was bothering you isn't so bad after all? This season of Top Chef is not one of those things.
Despite what Alan thought last week, your trusty recapper really was away on vacation, though I — excuse me while I break from the usual "we" for a second — understand why he thinks I may have just run away: I'm in the process of updating Wikipedia's entry for "The Worst" to include a screenshot from this season. As you know, a previously booted chef is coming back because someone had to win that web series that nobody watched. This is where last night's episode picked up, and not at the start of the finale, which should have happened like 90 episodes ago.
And the person who gets to come back was Beverly! Sarah, naturally, was pissed as the Quickfire began. Tom and Padma handed out blindfolds and explained that the chefs had to pick their ingredients blindfolded, and use everything they chose. Anyone know where we can get one of blindfolds? They looked like they don't let one speck of light in and we'd love to use one as an eye mask in our east-facing bedroom. Anyway, everyone looked like an idiot as they walked into walls, knocked things over, and felt each other up by accident, causing us to smile for the first time this season. Dear producers, please make them look like fools more often, kthxbai.
The only person who ended up with something he didn't really want was Ed, who grabbed pork casings thinking they were pancetta. We never quite got to find out what he ended up making with them, as Bravo HD, just as it does every week, crapped out for a while and wouldn't let us switch to non-HD until Sarah explained her corn soup with onion, red chile, mushrooms, and peach. This ended up being enough to see, though, because she won the challenge, and was given the option of a free product placement mobile or a guaranteed spot in the final four. She chose the finals (duh), causing the other chefs to whine behind her back. She still cooked better food than them in a challenge, so we didn't really see what the problem was other than sour grapes (P.S. producers, make the losers cook with actual sour grapes next season).
For the elimination challenge, everyone's mentors came in, causing all the chefs and mentor chefs to cry. Well, almost all. The further along this episode went, the clearer it became that Beverly and her mentor Sarah Stegner didn't have much of a relationship at all. While Michelle Bernstein called Lindsay a part of her and Paul couldn't even talk through all the crying, Sarah spoke about Bev the way we'd speak about someone we met at a bar one time: They really couldn't find anyone with a connection, or who could fake a connection?
Beverly clearly cooked for herself, making Gulf shrimp and barbecue pork with Singapore noodles. Paul also stuck to the simple things, making a sunchoke and dashi soup with summer vegetables. The judges were quite impressed with Bev's ability to wok-cook a dish for so many people and have it be flavorful and not greasy, and Tom was impressed by Paul's nerve — not many chefs could successfully serve something so simple, but he did it extremely well. Paul impressed more, and grabbed the win and a product placement mobile, while Bev got a trip with him to the finals.
Lindsay's seafood stew and Ed's braised pork belly with smoked-oyster crema ended up in the bottom. Hugh's eyebrow hated the dried herbs in Lindsay's dish, and Gail didn't understand the addition of cream. Everyone loved Ed's pickles, but no one could get over his use of canned oysters in his sauce, so they sent him packing, meaning this year's Top Chef finale will feature mostly women. Too bad none of them are that likeable; we're rooting for Paul anyway!
Next week: Part one of who-knows-how-many episodes of the finale! Canada! Ice sculptures! Guns! Judges table in a ski lodge!