'Top Chef Masters' Season 2, Episode 4: Thanks for the Spoiler, Bravo

The last of the preliminary rounds wrapped up last night, with five chefs vying to advance to the semifinals. Competing this time around were Maria Hines (the organic chef), Debbie Gold from St. Louis, Rick Tramonto (a previous Top Chef judge who owned Spike for using frozen scallops), Jody Adams (the one who makes awkward but amusing sex/food analogies), and Susur Lee (the vaguely terrifying chef who was voted one of the best of the millennium).

A gust of wind blows the weightless Kelly Choi into the Top Chef kitchen, and she explains to the contestants that their quickfire challenge is to create a fancy fruit platter that's both delicious and photogenic. She then adds that this is a high stakes quickfire, but instead of getting a $10,000 chip from the M Resort and Casino, this time around the winner will get a fast-track pass to the semifinals.

Maria Hines makes a simple but elegant looking appetizer/entree/dessert combo of apple soup, grilled figs, and a berry mousse. Debbie Gold deep fries a fig that's stuffed with fruity goodness. It sounds delicious but doesn't look that great - something about a breaded brown lump that doesn't exactly scream "photograph me!" Rick Tramonto just slices up some fruit and assembles it onto a plate with a dixie cup and a stupid "Hang in there!" picture of a cat (or something equally schmaltzily inspirational).

Susur Lee makes a kaleidoscope of random fruit that fails to impress the judges due to its clutter and haphazardness. He gets the worst score of the five and looks like he's going to go O-Ren Ishii on someone's ass. Jody Adams continues with the fig trend and makes a fig tart/bread pudding thingy with some fruit and a mousse/yogurt. She pulls a Carmen Gonzalez and thinks she's got no chance of finishing after a too-cold fridge freezes some dough she just wanted to chill. However, the dish turns out pretty and receives accolades from the judges, with the exception that the cake/bread pudding part is slightly undercooked. Just like Carmen, Jody manages to pull of the win despite some setbacks and earns a semifinals spot.

The elimination challenge consists of putting a modern twist on a classic family dish and serving it to the cast and crew of the ABC comedy Modern Family. Jody's already won a spot but makes a dish anyway in hopes of winning money for her charity. She serves braised chicken thighs with mushrooms paired with a semolina gnocchi and an herb salad. I don't know what it's supposed to be a modern version of - maybe chicken and biscuits? The judges thought it was a wee bit salty, and one of the cast members of Modern Family couldn't tell the difference between the chicken and the mushrooms, which is either saying something good about the mushrooms or something bad about the chicken.

Debbie Gold does a twist on porkchops and applesauce and makes pork loin with apple butter and winter squash slaw. It looks foo foo-riffic but turns out a bit too sweet for some people's palates. Rick Tramonto makes a fancy bean and sausage soup with truffle oil and escarole. The consensus is that it's tasty but not much of a modern twist. Maria Hines, hailing from the Pacific Northwest, updates trout almondine and uses sockeye salmon and homemade almond milk. Her dish receives positive reviews, although the judges point out afterwards that the salmon got slightly dry from sitting out on the buffet line. Susur, fueled with anger from his poor quickfire showing, busts out an insane entree that doesn't seem to be a modern update of a classic family dish but looks ridiculously delicious nonetheless. He concocts a roasted chicken/curry/chutney/polenta/tomato jam thing that seems kind of Indian-esque. The cast loves the dish and the judges enjoy it, too, but worry that it may be a bit too spicy/exotic for some people.

At this point, the episode goes to a commercial break, and I'm rooting for Maria Hines to win since she's the third Seattle chef this season and I'm hoping she's the first to advance. During the break, Bravo shows a commercial for next week's episode of Top Chef Masters that shows Susur three different times and fucking spoils who wins this episode. WTF, Bravo! There's still 16 minutes left to air! You can't show this shit after the episode's done?!

After the spoiler, the dramatic judges' table is irritatingly anti-climatic. Maria takes second behind Susur, whose dish wins a record breaking 19½ stars out of 20. He's happy and decides not to go apeshit Samurai on everyone in the room.

Next week on Top Chef Masters, Bravo says "Oh fuck it, let's just tell you who wins the whole damn thing. It's the dude who's Obama's favorite chef."