Quo vadis, y'all? It's Joshua David Stein. I'm still emotionally shaken from the mental shipwreck of last night's Top Chef, a competitive alternate reality located somewhere in Las Vegas. Let's cry together.

There are eight chefs—Dirty Jen, Angel Kevin, Deadweight Laurine, Humanjunk Isabella, Cancer, Fatbaby Eli and the Brothers Voltaggio—left standing and a gaping hole in their hearts after Ass Fuck was booted off last episode. In the vacuum a new protagonist has entered. Her name is rancor and she's real mean. Everyone hates Cancer; Cancer hates everyone; Michael Voltaggio hasn't yet learned yelling "Relax!" at somebody does not make them obey—and conversely, yelling "Obey!" at someone doesn't make them relax. He continues to antagonize his older brother Bryan who is one day going to pummel Michael bloody. I personally feel a great deal of hatred for Mike Isabella who, if he expended as much effort on cooking well and not being such an ass as he does on whiny sycophantic writhing to avoid responsibility, might be a good chef.

At the M Resort kitchen—M Resort! M Resort! I get it, M Resort! It's like a series of small concussions that leave dangerous tau levels by the end of season—the Quickfire challenge is a culinary exquisite corpse. Actually, I think, along with the Mise en Place Relay Race, one of the best challenges. Padma is wearing some whack shirt with words printed on it and next to her is fish chef Rick Moonen, who looks like Brian Lehrer but plus thirty pounds. The challenge was essentially straightforward and on some levels a more apt metaphor for sustainability than the producer's intended (we are largely blind to the generations that have come and ignorant of the generations to follow. We inherit this Earth as guardians and do our best not to fuck it up too bad. At the end, a bearded angelic man will the eschatological janitor, trying to clean up the end of the world, approx. 2012.) A more trenchant moment, metaphorically, metaphysically and meta-y—is when the cheftestants were asked to pull knives out of an unknowable block and there was nothing written on them, save for two knives inscribed, First Choice and Second Choice, respectively. Isn't that almost Calvinism exactly? Calvinism mixed with Existentialism equals deep sadness. The knife has nothing on it. The knife has nothing on it. The knife has nothing on it. Then you die. Nothing, brought to you by the makers of You.


On to Restaurant Challenge! Well-advisedly, the producers decided to forego the dumbest part of the challenge: decorating. Perhaps five seasons of very ugly looking restaurants is enough. Instead the teams—The Great Blue Yonder (JenSexJen, Wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie Laurine, Stairway to Kevin, Meatus Murder) against The Bolsheviks (Volcanaggio, The Dad, Fatboy Fat, and Ask Me About Herb-a-Life)—had only to concentrate on the food. They went shopping. They talked about some shit. Kevin et al took their name—and to some extent their concept—from Mission style architecture, which was brainy. The Bolsheviks chose Revolt because, you see, R is for Robin, E is for Eli, and the first syllable of the last name of one half of the team is Volt. And then because Communism is cool and Yay for Stalin and Yippee for Castro and hats off to Mao (and while we're at it, kudos to Ceauşescu!). Intonation is no match for ideology.

Everyone who has read this far has seen the episode, I'm guessing so let's—as is by now tradition—Word Tivo to the outcome. Some quick notes before we press fast forward: Mike Voltaggio can be a real dick sometimes. Robin probably doesn't deserve the scorn heaped upon her. Bryan Voltaggio really faltered here but I wonder if—in the larger scheme of things—whether it is more important to be an okay person (or at least edited down to an okay person) with whom to work and a very very good chef than it is to be an excellent chef but a complete twatty tool. Eli is full of himself and not a great talker. Note to Eli: You are not a great talker. Kind of nasal. Thankyousomuch. Thankyousomuch. Thankyousomuch. Now take your 10K and put that toward getting your own place. Oh! And also, tuck in your fucking shirt, you knob. Just because your E is backwards doesn't mean you can dress down. Have you seen Young Stalin? Sure he had smallpox scars but he cut a dashing figure heisting banks in Georgia.

And now to the Mission! Misery Mission. Mission To Sad. In short, everything sucked. Nothing is sacred. Jen is in the weeds. And a liar. Molly Ringwald was In the Weeds. Eric Bogosian was In the Weeds. Jennifer Carroll was the all-night partier in Slacker. She couldn't cook her fish, but at least she could identify it. Her butter sauce broke which, in case you are wondering, means the fats and the oils separated (I made that up. If someone actually knows, please inform.) Kevin did one thing okay (pork, duh) and effed up the other (lamb). Fartdick sounding-enthusiast Mike Isabella made two boring dishes (ah, the embassy of mediocrity). Laurine just in general tarted about in the front of the house with few responsibilities and even less ability to fulfill them. In the end, she went home, of course. She probably shouldn't have based on one night's performance (the fault rested firmly at SexJenSex's feet) but we all know Top Chef's unities and rule of law credentials are hooey.

At 10:15pm, when the episode ended, some lessons had been learned: No one is infallible. Steaming clams to order is a bad idea. Sustainable fisheries are good. And when we finally do pull the cosmic knife from the block of life, on it will be written Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Thank you to Jonathan Lotan for the video. Mike Byhoff, feel better soon.