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Top Chef: Texas – Ep. 14 – So Much For Pork Casings

In the last episode of Top Chef: Texas before the finale, the show delivered a fun Quickfire, a stellar Elimination challenge, and a really unfortunate side effect to the RILCK twist. Next week, the Final Four take to the snowy streets of Vancouver. In the immortal words of Canadian comedy gods (yeah, i said it) The Frantics – Vancouver? Beeeeauuutifull! I’ve never been there. But I’ve seen it, on the “Beachcombers” with Bruno Gerussi, and it’s beautiful. One think you gotta remember about Vancouver…it’s on the West Coast! If you can remember that, you won’t end up wandering the Eastern Seaboard for three days looking for Vancouver. Worst three days I ever spent.”

If you don’t know that routine – find it. And if you do, send it to me, because I cannot find it anywhere on the interwebs.

Anyway, after a short scene where Edward predicts that Bev is going to win the last RILCK challenge, and Sarah (not surprisingly) goes wtith Grayson…or should I say, Not Bev, we head right to the reveal. Sadly for us Grayson fans, Beverly comes through the doors and into the Quickfire. Edward wins Sarah’s banana. And that’s a very strange sentence.

Based on the season’s editing, you had to assume that Beverly was not only rejoining the show, but was heading to the Finale. And in fact, good for her. She lost on a technicality and thanks to the twist got another chance. She beat Nyesha who was rolling, and then beat Chris and Grayson. Three do or die wins before getting back in. Anyone who thinks Beverly can’t win hasn’t been paying attention to the amount of screen time her little print out declaring her the winner has gotten this season.

Personally, I say that Qui-Gon has this in the bag, but you never know. I just think back to Season 4 Richard Blais. He too supposedly had it in the bag, but faltered at the last challenge. Or DC’s Angelo – who fell apart in Singapore. You just don’t know. All of these chefs are capable of putting together a great meal and just need a Qui-Gon misstep.

The side effect of RILCK existing is that one of the four chefs was likely going to go from elation one moment – assuming to be Final Four – to deflation the next day upon losing that slot to someone who already lost. The second side effect is that ending it now means that the loser this week – the last loser before the Finale – is the only chef this season NOT to get a second chance. It’s a tough, bitter pill to swallow.

And poor Edward had to swallow the pill. Interesting that the last two to make the cut from 29 to 16 (Grayson and Ed) go out in back to back episodes at the end. And like Bev’s defeat three weeks ago, Edward was so close to having immunity. He also went out during what was obviously a very personal challenge. It was tough to be Edward this week. And through it all – he went out with an immense amount of class. I wasn’t sure about him to start the season, but boy, did he grow on me over time.

Quickfire Challenge – Tom and Padma greet the chefs, and bring Beverly back into the fray. The challenge they present is to blindfold the chefs and have them fumble their way in the kitchen to gather ingredients. They had to use everything they blindly find. The winner gets to choose between winning a Prius or taking a rare late-season immunity. Good challenge.

Here’s the dilemma – do you want to get to the Finals based on your food, or based on your food from a previous challenge? Do you feel confident that you can win, or at least not lose, the Elimination Challenge and thus take the free car, or do you play it safe and go to the Finals. Remember, that going to the Finals does not guarantee anything – the winner could just be delaying elimination for a week and passing up a free car. Let’s not even bring up the Survivor Car Curse.

Personally, I think I would’ve taken the car. And funny thing, if it was Survivor, I would take immunity. Part of it is that we are talking about a difference of $875,000 in prize money between the two shows. The car is worth 20-30 grand on its own. Plus, Survivor losers often amount to nothing other than potential All-Stars contestants. Top Chef losers can often parlay the attention into a successful restaurant. I just went to Spike’s burger joint in DC again last week – and visited Mike Isabella’s amazing Italian restaurant. Neither of them won anything.

But that’s just my opinion, and I can’t cook.

The show threw a second twist at them in this challenge – all of the meat were packed in sealed bags – no using your nose this time. The chefs stumbled and bumbled their way around the kitchen. Beverly got lost and Padma – wearing her costume from Gladiator – had to help her into the pantry. I loved when Ed told Lindsay of the Corn (I think) after getting pawed and asked who he was, “Does it matter, it’s another person!” Bev spilled some liquid on the floor after almost taking Qui-Gon down.

Sarah’s plan to make soup is a wise one – you can mask surprise ingredients better that way if you need to. Bev winds up with an unexpected avocado, but Edward was worse off as he got pork casings rather than pancetta. He tried to boil them, but there was no use. However, the broth that resulted was helpful. The difficulty of this almost led him to victory.

Beverly – Striped Bass with Avocado, Lime and Jalapeno – Padma says the fish was undercooked – stunning since Bev gave it a whole five minutes to clean and cook the fish.

Edward – “Udon” with Ribbons of Zucchini and Mushrooms – He is happy to see Padma take more than one bite.

Lindsay of the Corn – Fish with Bulgur Wheat, Mascarpone and Broccoli Rabe – Her highlight was walking into a wall.

Qui-Gon – Sauteed Prawn with Thai Tomato Soup – He says the prawn is cooked the way he wants, Tom looks skeptical.

Sarah – Corn Soup with Onion, Red Chili and Peaches – She put mushrooms and peaches together. Yuck.

Tom does not agree with my yuck. He puts Ed’s diffucult and flavorful dish and Sarah’s forced ingredient to the top of the list. Lindsay’s perfect fish and nice greens, Bev’s undercooked fish, and Qui-Gon’s undercooked prawn at the bottom. Sarah earns the win, and gives a half-assed hug to Beverly. She takes the spot in the Finals. The choice means, no Elimination Challenge for her.

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