Poor Ariane. Just as this season's ultimate underdog was really starting to impress us by winning several challenges and redeeming herself after a few so-so services early in the season, Padma told our Jersey girl to pack her knives and go home to the land of tomatoes, sandy beaches, and Bon Jovi. Not that she really deserved to stay — her poorly-butchered lamb was the central component to her team's menu. But it still doesn't seem entirely fair. By giving Ariane the main responsibility during last night's service, her teammates — Leah and Hosea — all but guaranteed themselves another week in the competition, even if they bombed their service. And the lovebirds' burgeoning relationship certainly didn't make things much easier for Ariane, who appeared to be less of a teammate than a third wheel. She couldn't even voice an opinion without Hosea and Leah immediately disagreeing with her, even if Leah expressed reservations about Hosea's plans in her confessional. But for Leah, if Hosea says, ''Jump!'' she asks, ''How high?'' And if Hosea says, ''Reference the Glad company!'' Leah asks, ''How many times?''
But let's rewind to the beginning. First, the chefs gathered together for their quickfire challenge, which really seemed more like a date challenge for A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (the key difference being the winner of the quickfire wouldn't be awarded an itchy crotch). Our Top Chef contestants were instructed to cook a dish in only 15 minutes using unappealing ingredients that were apparently pulled from the cupboard of my Uncle Pete, whose entire diet consists of Spam, Tabasco sauce, and beans. And our guest judge? Poor, poor season 3 winner Hung, who must have stolen some Keebler cookies from the Magical Elves' treehouse. Why else would he agree to judge such an unappetizing challenge? Of course, it was smart for the producers to bring Hung back — since the season has been sorely lacking in drama, why not recruit the polarizing chef as a judge? (Between Toby and Hung, I'm wondering who they'll bring in next. The ghost of Joe McCarthy?)
Unfortunately, Hung played it all very civilized, acting entirely different from the semi-villain he played two seasons ago. Hung named the three dishes he didn't like (Leah's too-crispy waffles, Radhika's incomplete spicy red bean dip, and Jamie's messy bruschetta) before announcing the top three: Hosea, who prepared a sweet pea soup; Dr. Jeff, who deep-fried baby conch (does anyone other than Piggy keep conch in their cupboard?); and eventual winner Stefan, who cooked a baked bean and spam soup that Hung said he would gladly eat at 3 A.M. (since, you know, he wouldn't want anyone else to be around to witness him go all Blazing Saddles after that dish).
On to the elimination challenge. The chefs drew knives and were divided up into three teams before learning they would be cooking seasonal dishes each using one of the following proteins: lamb, pork, and chicken. Immediately, two of the teams sensed trouble within their threesomes: Though Team Pork — Dr. Jeff, Fabio and Radhika — quickly developed a suitable menu, Team Lamb's Ariane realized she'd have to play monkey in the middle with Leah and Hosea, and Team Chicken's planning session devolved into one giant argument that went something like this: The immune and bossy Stefan took the lead on the menu, Jamie told Stefan she wanted to change it, someone called someone else a douchebag, Carla plugged her ears and found peace with the voices (Hootie-Hoo!), and Stefan decided to kiss and make-up with Jamie by giving her a Dr. Pepper dressed in a Calphalon dish towel.
NEXT: Ariane gets shafted