Okay, Top Chef is finally getting into the manageable numbers. Almost everyone received a little screen time, and instead of flashing each dish for a few milliseconds, the camera hovered over each plate long enough to suck them fully in. And what tasty looking plates they were...

Last night's episode started off with the cheftestants bonding in their fancy digs (honestly, season 1 and 2, you got the short end of the stick). Hung goes on about how it's all about "finesse, style, grace and elegance." Which of course, if you haven't figured out the Bravo school of editing by now, means that Hung's actions are going to somehow contradict his statement. To find out if they do,

When they arrive to the kitchen, Padma and guest judge Maria Frumkin present them with frozen pie crusts. They are then told that they have 90 minutes to come up with some creative and tasty dish using the crust in any way that they want. Of course Dale finds it hysterical - as do I - that the week before he almost went home because they said he wasn't a pastry chef, and now they're asking him to be one. The contestants whip out some mighty fine looking treats, some savory and some sweet. Lia and Dale are in the bottom three, however Hung's entry looks the most questionable. Instead of deconstructing the crust, Hung decides to leave it intact and makes a banana-chocolate-nut mousse. His end result never sets up and it comes out looking like something you would find on Semi-Home Made (although I did like how he used the fresh strawberries to try and hide the rough goopy edges). With the worst dishes identified, Maria announces that the best dishes come from Tre, Sara M. and Joey. In the end it's Joey who wins immunity with an elegant trio of tarts.

After the quickfire, they are told that they will be cooking for the cast of Telemundo's Dame Chocolate and they have 30 minutes to shop, $125 to spend and 3
hours to cook. Oh and the twist? They have to cook Latin inspired food. I could be wrong, but I think this may be the first time a specific type of food was given as a challenge. The contestants plan their menus, go shopping and bond. It's funny to me to see how Joey & Howie are bff now, as are Casey and Lia.

The next morning they begin prepping their dishes only to have Chef Tom come in and throw them a real curveball: lunch has been moved up! Instead of 3 hours, they now only have 1 1/2 hours to cook and the pressure is on! Hung flies around wielding a knife like a mad man (how's that for "finesse"?) and Howie sweats into his dish like crazy. Once the time is up the cheftestants pack up their food (in gladware of course) and head off to the Telemundo set where they serve their dishes buffet style.

After all is said and done - or should that be served and eaten? - the judges decide that Howie and Joey have the top dishes and ultimately Howie's Braised Pork with Yuca is the winner. At this point I am starting to think there is something magical about Howie's sweat. Perhaps it seasons the dishes in the most amazing way?

If there are winners, then of course there are losers. The bottom four are Lia, Casey, Sara N. and - the ever so shocked - Hung. Hung cannot believe he is there, which makes the judges hate him even more, Sara N.'s dish is compared to just plain guacamole, Casey's was overcooked and dry and Lia's was bland and had no texture. Padma calls it "inedible," but Chef Tom cannot believe she said that and feels that Pamda is being "a little harsh." However, it must not have been that harsh, as sadly - I was starting to root for her - Lia was asked to pack her knives up and go.

What did you guys think of this episode? Were you surprised that Lia went home? What about Howie giving Joey his prize? How touching was that?! And Padma's braids - love them or hate them? I loved them!

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