Is it just me or does that last shot of Anthony Bourdain in the opening credits make him look like Simon Cowell?

The mudges introduce guest judge Gabrielle Hamilton. I was taking notes while watching this, and then the watching got interrupted, so I haven’t yet watched the rest of this episode. I’m merely typing up my notes so I have at least a draft. But what I think is happening is an immunity round. The mudges are taking turns to explain what’s going to happen, which is confusing enough without Ludo’s accent. You know, it annoys me when Iron Chef America always has a translator take over for Iron Chef Morimoto, because I can understand him pretty well, but Chef Ludo could use some subtitles.

As near as I can figure out, they have an hour to cook. Each person will make a bite using one of three ingredients, eggs, cheese, or bacon. Then the team will decide which spoon is the best, and that is the spoon Chef Hamilton will judge. The winning team gets to spend some time with her in the kitchen, and the winning spoon gets immunity.  This makes the chefs unhappy in various unlabeled talking heads, and here’s where I got side-tracked and then completely interrupted.

I got side-tracked because ABC doesn’t want to spend the $$ on identifying each person who’s talking each time they pop up. I guess we’re just expected to know who the hell everyone is already. And since I know that two of them are going home tonight, normally I just wouldn’t care.  But since I’m sharing my thoughts with an audience, I feel I should try to identify who’s saying/doing what. But whenever I paused the abc.go.com video, I got an ad screen, so I had to go find a different video site. Here’s what I was able to figure out:

Yellow Team – I recognize the lady on the far left as being the first one Nigella picked, and a quick review of my posts tells me her name is Renatta. Right next to her is Nigella’s second pick, Laurel. They couldn’t possibly be standing in the order they were picked, could they? No, no such luck because once I reread everything I realize Huda is on the far right even though she was picked third. And Erika rounds out the team. Either Huda got her hair cut or she’s wearing a different wig, which may be why I didn’t recognize her right away. Next!

Green Team – Well, Khristianne I recognize as well, although I had to reread my posts to get her name and find out it was Brian’s team. Therefore the other members are Michah, Jeff, and Adam. I think Micah’s the one with neither beard nor glasses. But he looks an awful lot like Gregg.

Pink Team – Again, I can spot someone I recognize, Shawn. That makes this Ludo’s team and the other three are Paul, Gregg, and Sarah, who is identifiable only because she’s the only girl on the pink team. Unfortunately, they don’t wear their aprons in the talking heads, so right now she’s one of two blondes (Erika being the other).

This leaves the four brunettes on Anthony’s team, the Blue Team. They have named themselves Team Fierce. And you know, I love me some Christian Siriano, but can we please take that word out of our vocabularies now? It’s overdone. As for learning this teams names, I’m not going to bother. They’re the only 4 brunette women in the competition, so until it’s pared down, they’re interchangeable AFAIC.

Now, on with the show!

Or not, since it’s taken me another six days to get around to finishing this post.

Anyway, once I started watching the video again, I finally noticed that when they do label the talking heads, there’s a circle with the appropriate color with the mudge’s name. Oh, I want to add that between the time I started watching this show and the time I finished watching it, I found out that Nigella has a cookbook out. But she’s not known as a chef, and mudges makes me think of muggles, so I’m keeping it.

Also, I’m realizing it’s a lot easier to differentiate Tony’s team than I thought.  Brian has the first “I didn’t come here to make friends line” of the episode. Drink! He’s talking to his team member with the glasses, who says he’s going to make grilled cheese with a bacon-tomato jam. Brian wants him to do a tomato soup, which first, the guy doesn’t want to because it’s not “him”, and second, it’s supposed to be one bite. Tomato soup is great with a grilled cheese sandwich, but in a separate bowl, not combined. The sandwich will get soggy.

OK, Jeff’s the one with neither beard nor glasses but whom I still can’t tell from Gregg.

Lauren (not Laurel like I said earlier) is making chicken stew with blood pudding sliced into it at Nigella’s behest. She thinks Gabrielle will like it. Erika’s making an egg-dipped croque monsiuer (grilled ham and cheese) with Gruyere.

Paul interviews that he’s making stuffed chicken breast with potato crouquettes, but Ludo tells him they’re too fancy and he should do mashed potatoes instead. Sarah’s making mac ‘n’ cheese, and Paul feels sorry for her having to compete with three professional chefs. Gregg’s making a ricotta something with almonds and orange and a fried sage leaf for something crunchy. I don’t even. He thinks he’s the only one who’s read Gabrielle’s book “from front to back”. Well, that’s usually how you read a book. Unless it’s in Hebrew. Or Chinese.

Someone on Anthony’s team is making toasted Israeli couscous with a walnut pesto. I think it’s Ninamarie, and really, with a name like that you’d think I’d remember it. Diane, whom I recognize from her yelling at Shawn, is making a meatball with pork and beef with a “red pepper sauce”. Is that red pepper like the roasted bell, or like the red chili? Sometimes the terms seem interchangeable, but I’m here to tell you the taste is completely different.

With less than ten minutes left, Brian wants his team to plate so they can choose, but it appears that he’s the one who rules it’ll be Jeff’s mac ‘n’ cheese. On Tony’s team, Diane hates Ninamarie’s couscous and votes for her own meatballs, but is overruled by Tony. I should note here that Diane admits she’s a bitch. You’ll understand why in a bit.

At 5:22 on the clock, Nigella tells her team to pick, and they unanimously go for Lauren’s chicken stew.  On Ludo’s team, Gregg says out loud that Sarah’s is the best dish, then whispers to the camera that it’s really his. Paul’s burnt his chicken skin, trying to do it Ludo’s way, and now he’s pissed that his dish doesn’t even have a chance. With 15 seconds remaining, Ludo makes the executive decision of using Sarah’s mac ‘n’ cheese and yells at her to plate it.

Gregg says he didn’t want to “be a douche” and argue for his dish because “it’s not time for that.” Too late. Shawn’s not happy with the decision, either, but he’s one of the cooks whose dishes we don’t get to see or hear about.

Gabrielle tastes “something plastic” in Sarah’s mac ‘n’ cheese, and the team looks confused because they just tasted it and it seemed fine. She says Jeff’s mac ‘n’ cheese is “on the light side”. That’s not a compliment. She comments that Sarah’s chicken stew had a really pleasant finish. She’s confused by Ninamarie’s couscous, and quickly chooses the stew. Diane’s a bitch about it.

Now it’s time for the solo taste test. No limits except time: one hour. Since the four mudges are blind tasting again, they have to leave. Now I see why winning Gabrielle’s help was so important. Now we hear from some of the cooks we didn’t get to before. Renatta’s making an apple butter crumble, even though it’s a risk because Anthony doesn’t like desserts. He’s not the only one, as I recall.  Erika can’t decide between beef stew and pasta. Gabrielle encourages her to go with the former when she finds out Erika’s mom made it a lot.

Uno, obviously prompted by a producer, asks Diane if she’s making a Korean dish, and Diane goes off on her. Shut up, Diane. I have a feeling I’m going to be saying that a lot. She describes her dish, but I didn’t catch the name and don’t care. Fast-forwarding.

Huda’s making a roasted chicken with a chimichurri sauce and a touch of citrus. Over on Brian’s team, Adam is the one with the beard, so that makes Micah the one with the glasses. (That’s how I was referred to at my last audition, and I got the gig, so shut up.) He says he and Jeff have become pals.  Sarah’s making shrimp and grits. Paul’s still worried about her not being a professional chef, and he also thinks she’s a damsel in distress. Hers is the dish that went forward, though, Paul, so shut up. (To be fair, right after they show him saying this, they show her accidentally light a paper towel on fire, and she just stands there holding it, asking, “What do I do?” until Gregg grabs it from her, runs over to the sink and throws it in, then runs water over it. After which he continues to be a douche in his talking head.) Shawn’s making West Indian curried chicken. As in, West Indies, not Native Americans. Shut up. Yes, I know I’m saying that a lot. Shut up.

Lauren’s doing shepherd’s pie for the first time. I wonder if Gabrielle will tell her she has to use lamb because if she uses beef it’s actually cottage pie? Not even Danny Boome made that distinction on his show Rescue Chef, though, IIRC. Gabrielle does tell her doing something for the first time on a show like this usually isn’t a good idea, but Lauren reminds her she has immunity.

Now Micah’s happy to make a tomato soup, because it’s Mediterranean and evidently it’s one his dad used to make. Khristianne’s making a seafood chowder that her mom used to make. There’s a lot of parental homages going on. Uno’s making sticky chicken and something I don’t catch, which she says is like a papaya salad. Everyone has obviously been asked by a producer to describe their dishes, and everyone has done so, including Diane, although it’s possible that they just aired her doing that first, because she immediately starts heckling Uno for talking too much. I am now hoping she gives herself food poisoning. SHUT UP, DIANE.

With 20 minutes left, Huda is talking about starting over because her dish is too acidic. Micah reminds us that he quit his job to be here. Everyone’s freaking out as time ticks down. Lauren’s helping Renatta plate. I like them both. Renatta’s giggle is infectious. I don’t know if I could handle Diane’s still being around without Renatta’s giggle to listen to.

Tasting time. Each mudge will taste every sppon and pick one best taste and one worst taste, which latter will form the bottom four. The contestants gather behind the judges so they’re able to see what’s being tasted and hear the comments. Slightly less humiliating than the way they do it on Masterchef, I suppose.

Huda’s chicken looks delicious, I hope she was able to cut the acidity.

Ninamarie made chicken scarpanelli.

Jeff: Braised short ribs.

Micah: Mediterranean Israeli chicken. I thought he was making tomato soup? Oh, well.

Gregg: Chicken and dumplings, with crispy chicken skin on top. This is the trick that Lauren used for her stew earlier, and the judges think he’s being derivative. He says they can’t put their “prejudgements” aside. It’s a blind judging, douche. Shut up.

Two for two on Lauren’s dish, and now Diane’s babbling again. Fast-forwarding, but not fast enough to miss her flipping Malarkey off behind his back because he’s the only one who doesn’t like hers. Ugh. She’s the worst.

Shawn: West Indian curried chicken and dumplings.

Khristianne: Uni seafood chowder. (Uni is sea urchin roe).

Adam: Fried chicken and coleslaw. He attempted to do the chicken differently than a home cook would. Which means what, exactly?

Paul: Potato-flaked halibut. That would be different than a home cook.

Mia: Rice pudding.

The judges thought all sixteen bites were good and they’re going to have a hard time deciding the bottom four. I just recounted and I think I’m missing a dish, but this is almost two weeks late now and I don’t care.

Evidently, they’re referring to those tube things as hatches. The seven people standing there are, in no particular order, Shawn, Lauren, Micah, Sarah, Khristianne, Diane (dammit) and Renatta.  The judges still don’t know who made what, so the fact that they’re separated four and three doesn’t mean anything.

Brian: Best – Khristianne (his team), Worst – Shawn (Ludo’s)

Ludo: Best – Sarah (his), Worst – Micah (Brian’s)

Tony: Best – Diane (his), Worst – Lauren (Nigella’s)

Nigella: Best – Diane, Worst – Renatta (hers)

Oh, dear. Lauren has immunity, so that means Renatta’s probably going to be one of the ones sent home. The three winners go back to the greenroom and tell the others a little bit about what the experience was like. Up above, Tony tells Renatta jaded palates like theirs don’t like sugar. I guess she used too much. OTOH, Nigella tells Micah his dish was bland. The only problem with Shawn’s dish was that it needed salt. Well, that pretty much seals Renatta’s fate, dagnabit.

Lauren used way too much cheese, but since she has immunity, they send her back downstairs. The others also go away, IIRC, so the judges can argue. Brian does try to defend Renatta’s dish as a cultural thing, but he’s outvoted. The remaining contestants gather on the catwalk behind the judges to hear the verdict. Jobless Micah is sent home first. So is Renatta. I really don’t know if I can deal with bitch-on-wheels Diane without her giggle or general placidity. Sigh.

Nina Lisa

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