The episode begins with Spice Rack and Josette Eber lamenting the sudden drop in the show's estrogen level after both Josie and Marisa were eliminated on the previous episode.
Miss XaXa, however, disagrees. In her view, the net levels of estrogen have actually increased or at least remained even, since Josie was so butch that she created a dykerrific testosterone force field around her. As Miss XaXa put it, "She was more man than Marcel will ever be."
She doesn't seem to be the only one who holds this opinion. Several of the manly men cheftestants sit around mocking Marcel's business cards. It even looks like they've gone to the trouble of calling him a big bottom. On the back of one of Marcel's card there is a handwritten indication that seems to read, "Marcel Vigneron, the Non Top Chef." Miss Elia Aboumrad can't seem to understand why they all hate him so much. Sure, she says, he may be, ahem, "cocky," but she likes him. To us, the whole thing gives off the whiff of "Lord of the Flies" as rewritten by Jean Genet.
Marcel himself doesn't help matters by telling us, almost sounding like Sandra Dee in "Gidget," that it's like people got together, threw darts at a board and decided, "Let's hate him." This appears to warm Miss XaXa, who, harking back to her Texas roots, yells at the tv, "Don't worry, Marcel, honey. The higher the hair, the closer to God."
It's time for the Quickfire Challenge, and the cheftestants retire to the kitchen, where they are greeted by Padma in yet another ghastly outfit, and by mountains of tins, and the Tin Man himself, Tom Colicchio (yes, we sometimes think, "If he only had a heart..." but Miss XaXa replies, "Oh, I like him heartless, hard and shiny.")
Padma informs the cheftestants that Tom will be the guest judge, and she strains the joke of the head judge serving as the guest judge, as if it were some little mind bender worthy of Stephen Hawking. The challenge will involve canned goods, and Chef Colicchio tells them the object is to "take an unexciting ingredient and turn it into something fabulous." "Sort of like introducing Padma as the host," hisses Miss XaXa.
They have 15 minutes for the challenge, and the food preparation montage. Josette Eber makes an early play for the sympathy vote by telling us that she was homeless at one point and so is not "scared to cook out of a can." Our favorite part is when Chef Colicchio and Padma stand in front of Carlos to taste his dish, and he announces, with what we swear is a look at Padma, "Pasta puttanesca!" This means "whorish pasta" or "pasta, whore style." Given Padma's wardrobe during most of the season, we wouldn't be surprised if it were a sly reproach. And "Padma Puttanesca!" does sort of have a nice ring (we didn't forget that Padma allegedly speaks Italian and hosted a variety show on Italian television). But then we remembered that Carlos has been a gentleman from the first, and that he would never say anything of the sort, and we feel a little bad for thinking of such an allusion ourselves. Well, not really, but we thought we'd come off better if we wrote that.
In the end, Sam wins the Quickfire Challenge, and Josette Eber is upset because she thought that with her experience in out-of-the-can cooking and the sympathy vote for homelessness, she would be the winner. But then it turns out she is a winner. And Cliff. And Ilan. And Frankie the Bull!
Yes, indeedy, in an effort to up the "Lord of the Flies" atmosphere or replicate that Stanford experiment with the prisoners and guards, there are five winners, and thus five people with immunity, and the five "losers" will cook Thanskgiving dinner for the judges and the five winners. The fun is just beginning.