Top Chef gives eliminated chefs a chance to return

For its penultimate episode, Top Chef 5 threw the final four a curve ball by allowing one of the three previously eliminated chefs–Jamie Lauren, Leah Cohen, and Jeff McInnis–to re-enter the competition by competing in a quickfire challenge.

Fabio said it best: “These guys got kicked out, all of them. Now, they’re going to be part of the finale again? Give me a break, please.” Tom Colicchio said that they were being given a second chance because it was an “incredibly close season” and they were each “consistently in the top,” although maybe he forgot that he was talking to Leah, too.

Although I like Jamie and she’s less aggrieved than Jeff, I was glad Jeff won just because it allowed me to continue to do double-takes and DVR rewinds every time the editors included the name of his restaurant (The Dilido Beach Club) on the screen. That second “I” always managed to disappear in the all-caps font they use.

Just like The Amazing Race used to do, there was a twist: He had to win the elimination challenge to make the finale. However, Carla won the elimination challenge, winning some product placement and forcing Jeff out of the competition.

In the bottom two were the European contestants, Fabio and Stefan, who the judges said was “cocky” and “overconfident,” but they dumped Fabio instead. “Some of your flavors weren’t layered correctly and just missed the mark,” Tom told Fabio in an after-the-fact voice-over (i.e., we need to explain his elimination more clearly because there’s no way we could eliminate Stefan even though we needed to ramp up the drama by pretending that he was really close to going home).

That leaves Carla, Hosea, and Stefan as the final three for next week’s finale. They’re all good chefs, and while Stefan seems to still be marching toward an inevitable victory, I’m thinking there may be a Carla upset, considering how the editing has shifted from making her look like a fool to showing how her crazy comes with a significant amount of talent.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.