I guess they shortened the season by one episode, because another three go home tonight, leaving four for the finale. The mudges want sex on a spoon. Should be right up Ludo’s alley, n’est ce pas? And now that I just saw the “coming up on”, I know his team wins again. I guess Gregg wins four in a row. Because Paul is talking to the guest mudge, Ingrid Hoffman. At least Diane will know it was her spoon that lost. The winner doesn’t get immunity, because this is for the finale. They do get a “mountain” of the top-of-the-line cookware they’ve been using on the show, which evidently didn’t also cough up enough $$ to be actually named.

Nigella’s five sexy ingredients are: Figs, pancetta, sea salt, sambuca (an elderberry-licorice liqueur), beef. I guess a nice bloody steak could be sexy. For me, at least. If you like yours well-done, you might not see it that way.

Tony: Caviar, prosciutto, buckwheat flour (what?), truffles (not the chocolate kind), prawns.

Ludo: Lobster, Dover sole, champagne, caviar, truffles (again not the chocolate kind).

Brian: Oysters, lobster, caviar, abalone, grapes. The last ingredient is listed on the screen as simply grapes, but I see that they’re actually a red grape. I don’t think they’re Concord, but they’re definitely not white (green). Those probably aren’t considered sexy at all, but I say it depends on who’s doing the teeth-peeling.

Brian picks Jeff, and Ludo picks Sarah. Yay! Now I’m glad I know they win, because he picked the home cook over three-time champ and (douche) culinary instructor Gregg. Ingrid says she’s ready to be seduced, but does not break into song. I have the earworm now anyway.

Jeff: Oyster with passionfruit and caviar. She likes it.

Diane: Grilled prawn with a butter bisque and shaved truffle. Ingrid thinks the “lobster” is being covered by the truffle.

Sarah: Panna cotta with caviar and caramel sauce. I’m not usually one for salted caramel, and I don’t care for caviar, but that does sound good. Ingrid dips a finger into the caramel and tastes it. She makes a face. She says, “I’m not a fan of caramel, sorry.” before tipping the whole bite into her mouth. Her surprised expression pleases me. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!

Lauren – Italian kisses with blackberry and chocolate sauce. This is a dish I need to add to my repertoire. Ingrid can’t tell what the protein is. Maybe because there isn’t one?

As we know, Ingrid picks up the plate with Ludo’s name on the bottom. Before they start cooking they have to run to the farmer’s market in product-placed cars. They’re a little more awkward at showing off the features than the group of chefs on Top Chef, I think it was. Or maybe The Amazing Race. Same car manufacturer, at any rate. I’m not sure why they’re going to the farmer’s market because Ludo’s talking and all I catch is the word organic. I guess it’s for produce, because I don’t think anyone buys anything other than fruits and veggies. More time is spent on the cars, one of which is evidently among the prizes the winner gets.

Back at the kitchen, they have the usual hour. They also get to pair their spoon with a drink of their choice. The mudges are always drinking freely in both the kitchen and their dressing room, so I don’t think there’s much point in trying to get them drunker than they already are.

Anthony says spicy isn’t sexy, so they cut to virginal Lauren planning on preparing a spicy Mexican octopus dish. He was really complaining about garlic. Tony, if both people eat it, the breath doesn’t matter. Then Nigella says most people think dessert is sexy (I do! At least, chocolate is.) and Tony vehemently says it isn’t, so we cut to the last member of his team chopping up chocolate with cartons of berries on her station.

OK, now I know he’s getting fed his lines. Ludo says French food is sexy (what about the garlic?) and Tony says he’d make angel hair pasta in a uni butter with caviar on top. “That’s hot!” he says. Cut to Gregg telling Ingrid he’s making fresh pasta in a uni butter and caviar. It does sound good.

Brian and Ludo are touting seafood. Brian was touting spice earlier, so I hope he at least likes Lauren’s dish. I bet they’re going to cut to the other seafood chef (that was all Uno tended to do), Khristianne. She’s making seafood because that’s what her girlfriend always asks for. No, they cut to Sarah. She’s telling Ingrid she’s doing mussels. She’s going to serve it with sangria instead of white wine, which is what most people serve seafood with. Sounds reasonable to me; I think mussels could handle that. Gumboots certainly could. (They’re a kind of limpet.)

Jeff’s doing sashimi. Raw fish is not sexy, sorry. He’s making a cocktail to go with it. I don’t drink, so I wouldn’t serve alcohol; anything I made would have to go with coffee. Ah, there it is: A sexy chocolate dessert that goes with coffee: Tiramisu. And iced lattes. Or maybe an iced cappuccino.

Here we are with Khristianne now. Uni, crab, and eggs 63, which she says is just a sous vide poach. She’ll pair it with either champagne or sake.

Paul’s doing something with king crab and octopus, artichokes and deep-fried butter. But the butter leaks, so he switches to a lemongrass and ginger buerre blanc.

Lauren’s pairing her dish with tequila. Oh, Lauren. Anthony and Ludo are going to hate this, aren’t they? Oh, dear, she says her octopus is tougher than she anticipated and maybe she should’ve done something she knew how to cook. YES! You should’ve. Go big or go home doesn’t apply to cooking something completely unfamiliar for the semi-finals. And it’s two or twenty, Lauren.

Jeff: Snapper and uni sashimi and a sake gimlet. Mixed reviews. Raw fish is a cop-out, since all you have to do is slice it.

Lauren: Spicy octopus stew and tequila. Surprisingly, Brian doesn’t like it but Tony does. So does Ludo, who appears to be veering close to Hodges territory.

Diane: Chocolate pate with cherries and a malbec. Chocolate and red wine is too obvious for the mudges. And I am not alone!!!! Tony doesn’t like chocolate and fruit together, either! (I do make an exception for milk chocolate-dipped strawberries.)

Paul: King crab, artichoke, and octopus. Verbena champagne cocktail. I’m not sure, but I think Brian doesn’t think he nailed the octopus. The cocktail is pretty, though.

Khristianne: The mudges evince much glee at the very sight of her spoon. She chose to serve the uni, king crab, and egg 63 with champagne. There’s caviar in there, too. The reactions after the taste are not suitable for a PG-13 blog.

Gregg’s worried now, because his dish has similar ingredients. It’s the caviar and uni pasta and he’s also serving it with champagne. Tony likes it (of course), but Nigella and Ludo want a touch more salt.

Sarah: Mussels with leeks and sangria. The mudges can’t believe she’d serve sangria. They like the dish, but not everyone thinks it was a good pairing.

The hatches reveal Jeff, Lauren, Diane, Paul, and Khristianne. This means Gregg and Sarah are through to the finals. They hug, and Gregg congratulates her like he really means it.

Anthony – Best: Khristianne. Worst: Paul

Brian’s hoping he picked Jeff as his best, but it’s Khristianne. His worst is Lauren. Oh, dear.

Nigella’s best is Jeff. Her worst is Diane. She tells Diane she’s not happy to see that.

Ludo – Best: Khristianne. Worst: Jeff. Another one and one, and it didn’t go so well for Uno last time, Jeff. Khristianne has what I think (and is later revealed to be true) the first three star dish, and Ludo gives her a standing ovation. See, Malarkey? That’s called being gracious. Try to learn something from it, mmmkay? She’s sent to join the other two finalists.

Jeff’s dish has the judges split two and two. Well, I doubt Diane screwed up too much other than in serving a dessert to these four, so he’s probably gone.

Lauren’s dish was too spicy, but the octopus turned out well. Glad to hear it, but yeah, too much hot can ruin  your palate, and then you won’t be able to taste the rest of the dishes. Of course, I think they should’ve had palate cleansers on standby.

Diane’s dish had great texture but was too ordinary. How can a pate have great texture?

Paul’s octopus was not done well, and the mudges think it was too intellectual to be sexy. I bet he’s gone. About time, too. Past, maybe.

The judges argue too much for me to even attempt to keep track of positive and negative comments, but I do note that Nigella’s arguing hard for Diane, so I’m guessing Lauren’s gone.

Two unanimous votes, one for Ludo to send Paul home, and one for Brian to send Lauren home. Tony psyches Diane out by saying her name, pausing, and then telling her she’s staying. Brian’s obviously pissed off that Jeff went. I have to agree, both dishes were very simple, but at least Dianne did something with the chocolate and Jeff just sliced up some fish and put it on the spoon. Contestants on both Top Chef and Chopped have gone home for crap like that, when the idea is to transform the ingredients.

Ludo still has two team members and Nigella’s out.

See you some time after the finale.

Nina Lisa