Carnie and Dean have a love-in before heading to Beverly Hills for their final challenge. As a reminder, the prize is a $50,000 donation to the winning celebrity’s charity. Carnie’s is the Autism Research Institute, and Dean’s is Miracle Babies, which raises funds to help parents who have used or need to use neo-natal intensive care units (NICU).

They’ll be throwing a dinner party for 11 guests: Rachel and Guy, six chefs from L.A.’s hottest eateries, a representative from each charity, and someone whom Rachel describes as internationally known and the funniest woman she knows. Guy says that she won’t pull any punches, and Dean starts cracking up because he’s already guessed it’s Kathy Griffin. Carnie hollers in dismay.

The twist is that they’ll be walking into the kitchen completely blind. They won’t know what equipment they get, or what the pantry holds. They’ll be doing three courses, and the chefs and Kathy will determine the winner. They’ll have 30 minutes to make an appetizer, forty for the main course, and 20 for dessert. It sounds like they’re getting some surprise help, and I’m quite sure it’ll be the eliminated contestants. It’ll be interesting to see who they pick. Rachel is obviously reading her lines off the cards in her hand and it’s a little distracting.

Guy and Rachel take their chefs off to strategize. Since they don’t know what food they’ll have, Guy tells Dean to pick a theme. Dean says light, bright, airy and elegant. Guy likes elegant, and decadent! They’re not synonyms, Guy. But that’s the path he leads Dean down. Well, it worked with the lunch trucks. Carnie’s freaking out, thinking she doesn’t have any ideas in her head. Rachel helps her see that in fact, she does.

When they discuss the main course, Guy tells Dean that short of tackling Carnie, he needs to nail down his proteins. Carnie suggests chicken cutlets to Rachel. Rachel says OK, but she needs a back-up in case there aren’t any cutlets. Carnie says she can butcher a chicken if need be. Rachel replies that there might not be ANY chicken. Carnie freaks.

The two head into the kitchen and put on their well-earned official chef coats and start to prep for the appetizer. Carnie’s in a lather because she can’t seem to focus enough to actually see what’s on the shelves in front of her. Dean finds the scallops and lobster he was hoping for. He’ll make seared scallops, butter-poached lobster tail, and a mango gastrique. Carnie wants to make tuna dip but can’t seem to find any tuna.

Rachel and Guy walk in and start taunting them about giving/getting them some help. Dean’s the freaked out one, now. Probably because they’re on the clock and those two clowns are screwing around with this. Better than eliminated chefs are Dean’s BFF Scout and Carnie’s BFF, whose name I can’t understand. It sounds like Stany. Stany calms Carnie down to where the latter can find the tuna for her dip. Those of you who watch Tori and Dean’s shows know that Scout is one of the kids’ guncles.

Dean’s got so much going on, he’s completely taken over the kitchen and Carnie has to plate on the pantry floor. With one minute left, Dean starts plating. The producers’ trick of showing clips of unrelated things patched together to make it seem like something else has happened has got me worried. One of the chefs is saying “It’s too much” and a) for this course, Carnie kept saying she was following the K.I.S.S. rule, while b) Dean has an interview where he says he should’ve and didn’t.

The chefs introduce their dishes, and while I would swear I saw Dean chopping a mango, he says his dressing is orange-tarragon.  The too much comment turns out to be because Carnie served what looked like a soup bowl of dip with four chips and three celery stalks. Kathy says it’s not overwhelmed with tuna taste, though, and I want to try it. Obviously, I want to try Dean’s, too.

Dean and Carnie rush back to start their main course. Carnie’s in the pantry and talking her dish choices over with Stany, trying to keep the K.I.S.S. rule in mind. She dumps the chicken picatta idea for jalapeno and lime shrimp with pesto pasta. I’d cut out the jalapeno, but other than that, it sounds good. Dean can’t find a bone-in meat like Guy recommended, so he decides to do a flank steak-wrapped petite filet on top of smashed red potatoes. I always thought this was just a different name for mashed potatoes, but after they’re boiled, we see Dean actually smashing each one with his fist. Then he says he’s going to make asparagus tips sauteeed with pancetta and finished with a brandy flambe. Then he decides it would be good with a mushroom gravy, and hey, he likes cauliflower, so a curried cauliflower puree would show he can also work with curry and cumin. Oh dear. Talk about not keeping it simple. He agrees that the curry will probably make it disjointed. I’m cringing, knowing how well this type of thing would go over on Top Chef or even Masterchef. Sure enough, when we come back from commercial, there’s left than seven minutes on the clock and his filets aren’t even on the grill.  Carnie adds some tequila to deglaze her pan, and Stany stops her when she thinks she’s poured in enough.

With a minute left, both sous chefs start plating. Carnie’s happy with her dish. Dean says his steaks aren’t consistent and he acknowledges the puree was too much. He explains to the diners that he wrapped the filet because he didn’t have access to fat. They head off to make dessert. The judges do find Dean’s offering disjointed, although they like his execution and flavors. One of the chefs compliments Carnie for taking the time to seed the tomatoes. But they didn’t taste enough of the peppers and tequila.

Back in the kitchen, Carnie’s peeling Granny Smiths for her Baby Apple Fritter Balls. Sounds good. Then she says she’s made donuts but not fritters, and she usually bakes them, but she knows the judges will want the real thing, so she’s deep-frying them. That can be tricky. I think Dean’s finally back to K.I.S.S. — he’s making grilled pound cake with macerated berries, caramel sauce, and syllabub. Well, that’s decadent! Carnie decides to serve her fritters with ice cream. I’d eat every dish at this dinner.

When the two present their desserts, Dean explains that the grilled pound cake was inspired by Kathy Najimy, who used that technique in her last battle. Very classy shout out, Dean.  Interesting, half the chefs think Dean’s dessert was too much, especially the amount of alcohol in the syllabub. The other half think it was perfect. Rachel and Guy leave them and Kathy Griffin to vote.

Final judgement. Rachel and Guy say the Food Network will give the other charity $10,000 and Carnie and Dean are thrilled. That is truly awesome. Then they bring out friends and family for the announcement. I don’t see Tori.

AND DEAN WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! By one vote. Yeehaw!

See ya next season.

Nina Lisa