By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey
9:35 AM EST, February 14, 2013
Brooke, Josh, and Sheldon remain, splayed out on the sofas and clearly exhausted.
Brooke finds a note from Padma telling them to meet her at the Eagle Crest. Is that an Alaskan Leather Bar? I'm excited.
They drive up a long mountain and are stopped by a helicopter in the middle of the road. A lady approaches the car and announces she's their pilot and they'll be taking the bird up the rest of the way to meet Padma.
Brooke is not cool with this. The helicopter involves three of her biggest fears -- heights, being in an enclosed space, and having no control. Not to get all sappy, but as someone who struggles with anxiety issues myself, this sequence was so hard to watch. My heart physically ached for Brooke as you could hear her shaking breath as she wiped away her tears. I could so sympathize with her as she got into the chopper, saying, "I'll live. Can we just wait five minutes until this Xanax kicks in?"
I have wanted Brooke to win this competition for a while now, but now I can say with conviction that I think she and I are sister soul mates.
As the chopper lifts off, the chefs take it all in. Well, Sheldon and Josh do. Brooke is clinging to Josh and keeping her eyes sealed shut. Eventually, she opens her eyes. "Woah!" she shrieks as the smile cracks across her face. Hooray!
As they land on a glacier, with sled dogs to greet them, Sheldon admits at this moment he "would die for some good reefer." We're not surprised, bra. Maybe bogart one of Brooke's Xanax? The pack of dogs take the chefs via sled the rest of the way. Brooke is giddy and thrilled and the footage of her enjoying the ride is adorable.
Padma and Tom greet the chefs to introduce the quickfire. The challenge? To create a gourmet meal using what they can find in their rugged surroundings -- which is base camp for training for the Iditarod.
The chefs have a small cabin-like kitchen to work in and are forced to run back and forth between that and the supplies through the snow. Sheldon admits this is the first time his Hawaiian self has ever traipsed through snow like this, while Brooke keeps face planting and I'm worried her helicopter Xanax may be throwing her off her game.
Promotional consideration side note: This entire episode was clearly sponsored by Ray Bans as every single person on camera was wearing a pair for the entire episode. Seriously.
Padma and Tom make small talk with the Iditarod trainees as the chefs finish up. They are all struggling with the small burners and cold temperatures.
The chefs' quickfire dishes are pretty unsurprising -- Brooke did a pan roasted halibut with a vinaigrette, Sheldon also did a pan roasted halibut with asian influence. Josh did -- to no one's shock -- breakfast. With bacon.
Tom does the judging for each dish, noting that for what they had to work with, the chefs did a decent job. The winning dish was Brooke's pan-roasted halibut, panzanella salad with red currant & beet vinaigrette.
"Congratulations, Brooke -- you're on quite a roll," Padma says.
Brooke says that "conquering her fears" has been the thing she's most proud of during her time on "Top Chef."
Padma and the chefs pile into a Toyota, driven by Padma. "Step into my chariot," Padma coos.
"I've never seen Padma drive," Sheldon points out. "I think she gets chauffeured around so I hope she can actually get us home safely."
They head back to their posh B&B and are greeted in the kitchen by Emeril and this week's guest judge, Roy Choi, who is known for his Kogi food truck in LA. Emeril and Roy serve the chefs lunch. Roy speaks to how growing up, he was in a lot of trouble, but that one day he saw Emeril on TV cooking and it woke him up and changed his life. That was the moment he decided to be a chef.
Roy's speech is incredibly genuine and obviously unscripted -- you can see the surprise and awe on Emeril's face -- everyone's noses turn telltale red as they try to hold back tears. It was really one of the most honestly moving moments I've seen in this series, ever.
Well, it felt unscripted, but it wasn't totally. Padma announces, "Chefs, these amazing stories bring us to your elimination challenge. We want you to make a dish that represents the moment when you knew you wanted to be a chef."
The chefs will be presenting these dishes to the governor and first lady of Alaska, at the governor's mansion. "I would not hold back -- at all," Emeril says.
The chefs convene around the fireplace to talk about their dishes when Josh's phone goes off. It's his wife, with news that her water broke and she's heading to the hospital. Somewhere off camera, the show director is silently jumping up and down in joy. Real! Life! Drama!
It's hard to watch Josh wipe away the tears as he tells his wife he wishes he could be with her. Moments where Mary Alice actually cries while watching this episode: Two. So far.
Chefs start prep and discuss their dish's inspirations. Tom comes back to check in on everyone. Brooke is struggling with the concept of the challenge because she's known she wants to be a chef since she was a child -- she can't think of the "one moment" like the guys have. She's using her Mother's braised chicken as a starting point, but still figuring it out as she cooks.
The next morning, Josh Skypes with his wife in the hospital and she turns the camera so he can lay eyes for the first time onto his newborn baby daughter, Georgia. Mary Alice crying count update = Three.
Prep is getting finalized at the Governor's mansion. Sheldon is really worried about timing -- he doesn't want to cook his fish too early. With 20 minutes left he starts firing his fish, and at the same time realizes his broth has reduced too far and is way too salty. Uh oh.
The chefs serve their dishes to the Governor, First Lady, Wolfgang Puck, Gail Simmons, Roy Choi, Emeril, Tom and Padma.
Sheldon's dish: Pan roasted rockfish, spot prawns, baby vegetables & dashi.
The judges all agree the proteins were cooked perfectly but the over salty broth overtook the dish. Things don't look good for Sheldon.
Brooke's dish: Braised chicken, grilled quail with carrot barley & pickled vegetables.
"You always know when food's good when everyone is quiet," Tom points out as they're all silently inhaling Brooke's dish.
Josh's dish: Foie gras three ways: torchon, pan-seared & profiterole.
Tom and Gail agree the torchon is not set -- it's just not something one should attempt in one day. Everyone loves the other elements of his composition, though.
At Judges' table, Padma tells Josh she was surprised to get foie gras from him. "I really wanted to go -- excuse me -- balls to the wall." While they applaud his creativity, Tom and Gail criticize the torchon harshly.
Except for Wolfgang saying his quail was overcooked, the judges have nothing but rave reviews for Brooke's dish.
As for Sheldon, Wolfgang and Padma both point out how exquisite his fish and prawns were, but how much the salty broth took away from that.
The winner of today's challenge was unanimous: Brooke. She's all smiles. "I'm not here to gloat but it feels really good." she admits.
The judges hash out Sheldon's salty broth vs. Josh's failure at a dish that you just can't get accomplished in two hours.
Padma delivers the harsh, and shocking news: Josh is heading home (or actually, to Last Chance Kitchen). What the what? I for one was totally gobsmacked at this, Sheldon looked like the clear loser.
So our finale will match up Sheldon, Brooke ... and the winner of "Last Chance Kitchen." Oh and also "Save a Chef." Blarg. Bravo network, this is so convoluted. I'm still not clear on how all this works, but it's Kristen vs. Josh vs. Lizzie (who beat CJ in a popularity contest?).
Anyway, so they are asked by Tom to cook whatever they want, no restrictions. Skip to the end: We see that Josh gets eliminated and it's down to Lizzie vs. Kristen. They don't reveal the winner. Bravo, Bravo network, you tease.
Regardless of who it will be, for the record, I'm Team Brooke all the way.
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