Bam! Emeril Lagasse makes his return to "Top Chef" this week, pushing one competitor to finally reach for the brass ring and sending one of Dean Acheson's picks home.
We open with an obscene commercial for Toyota -- "I have so much space back here!" "Oooh, hybrid!" and so forth -- as the chefs are sent on a road trip to a mystery spot to harvest fresh oysters for their Quickfire Challenge. The competitors sinking into the tidal marsh, along with the accompanying pratfalls, provided some genuine laughs if only because I've been there. Unsurprisingly, oysters on the half shell is the name of the game this week -- never been my thing, but I'll gladly take the numerous shots of Padma sucking the meat off the shell any day. Micah finally finds his stride, winning the $5000 but perhaps more meaningful getting to wow his culinary idol Emeril Lagasse.
For their Elimination Challenge, Padma states "You'll be cooking for one of the hottest sports teams in Seattle!" and I immediately thought "...but aren't they all awful? The Mariners? The Seahawks?" Well, evidently their roller derby team is faring decently, and the chefs will cater their season wrap-up party. Also, evidently roller derby is still a thing. Also also, Padma on roller skates = pure win. John Tesar teams with Brooke to take home the big win; we're treated to the phoniest of confessionals ever as Tesar claims to see Brooke like he sees his estranged daughter, who was torn from his life after a messy divorce. As if it wasn't blatantly obvious that he was playing to the cameras, Tesar later remarks how the win would have been sweeter had he won it alone and... I mean, dude, YOU JUST COMPARED YOUR TEAMMATE TO YOUR DAUGHTER. Sheesh.
The theme of the episode, if there is one, is "Everybody Hates Josie." She's always come off as one of the more annoying personalities on the show -- obnoxiously cheerful, goofy, etc -- so it's nice to see that this isn't just the editing that's painting her this way. See Josie sink in the mud! See Josie scream and hoot and holler at the roller derby game! See Josie... out one of her competitors? Sort of? All signs seem to point to Micah being straight, including Micah himself, but that doesn't convince Josie.
All signs seem to point to Josie going home, but in the end its her charming Belgian teammate Bart who has to pack up his knives, shove off this mortal coil, and endure the purgatory that is Last Chance Kitchen.
All in all, another great episode in a season that has managed to ably mix the reality television melodrama with a great competition. I again am puzzled at the lack of seasonality this week, but it's hard to be too upset when Padma is riding around on roller skates.
Final Grade: A-