Top Chef - "And I will put enmity between you and the woman."

Another week of Top Chef: Las Vegas, and another pair of challenges that kinda slurps the butt of Sin City. I'm starting to wonder if this season isn't a product placement buy for the Las Vegas Tourism Bureau. I'll go along with it for now just because there are so many chefs in the kitchen, you've got to hang the early episodes on something. But if it doesn't de-cutesify soon, I'll be displeased.

At the outset of this week's episode, Jesse is all fired up. She of the too-dry chicken is bound and determined to repair her reputation with the judges. Eve, on the other hand, is torn; go all-out, or play it safe? I'm torn, too; is she a moron, or just slow? When is this ever a question in professional advancement, let alone on a TV competition series? The Voltaggio brothers know what's up; they acknowledge that they're in full-on sibling rivalry mode.

The chefs arrive in the kitchen to come face to face with the granite outcropping that is Todd English. He and Padma stand next to a craps table, where the chefs will roll dice to determine the number of ingredients they'll be able to use in the Quickfire Challenge (salt, pepper, and oil notwithstanding). Kevin, aka Yukon Cornelius (hat tip to @popwilleatme), is no gambler and wants a low number because he likes simplicity. Jen is just thinking about how hot Chef English is.

Most chefs roll in the 8-11 range. No one rolls boxcars or snake-eyes, but Laurine throws a 3 (and barely registers a response through her Xanax haze); that's really the only standout low number. Jesse rolls 9, which makes her think scallops--naturally, I know! Anyway, this'll be another High Stakes Quickfire, with another $15,000 chip going to the winner. I'm sure they'll have plenty of time to gamble while they're in Vegas.

Clearly, production took place during a sale on asparagus. Laurine makes an asparagus leek soup with lemon, Eve makes a salad of asparagus and blue cheese. Jen's doing salmon with lemon, garlic and shallots, while Michael V. is busting out the liquid nitrogen for a wacky gazpacho.

There is some rare meat going on in this 30 minute challenge. Ashley's lamb chops: rare. Bryan's sous vide black cod: rare (also, ew). Kevin's is very pretty on the plate, and Todd likes it. He gets to Jesse, and seems to almost bash her for making a chimichurri--too trendy? It was odd.

Todd's bottoms: Jesse, whose scallops weren't seared enough (which she knew before plating but ran out of time). Eve, whose blue cheese was overpowering. Bryan, whose flavors could have been good but were overwhelmed by yuzu. Todd's tops: Michael V.'s classic and creative gazpacho. Jennifer's flavorful yet light salmon. Kevin's complex and well-prepared asparagus and celery salad. But for this QF, Michael takes the win, the immunity, and the chip.

The chefs gather 'round to be presented with one of the douchiest Elimination Challenges in Top Chef history. You'll be catering a bachelor/ette party. Poolside. And not only that, but here's the obnoxious happy couple to present you with the theme: SHOTS. Yes, they've gathered their three favorite shots, and you'll have to design an hors d'oeuvres to go with one of them. Girls will cook for the guy guests, guys will cook for the girl guests.

And the gays? Well, if Ashley's any indication, the gays will cook for whomever they're being told to cook but will imbue it with an equal rights-spawned bitterness that really has no place on this show--or any show aired on BRAVO OF ALL THE FRIGGIN NETWORKS. Come on. Do you really think Bravo's trying to rub it in your faces, gay chefs, that you can't legally marry in most states of the Union? It's a fucking TV competition, on a very gay-friendly network. Save your ire for the appropriate targets.

For example, the douchey couple, whose favorite shots are tequila, Moscow Mules, and Golden Deliciouses. The Golden Delicious, an appley shot that Ash describes as "sweet, gooey, and disgusting." Plus, the wife-to-be is a pescetarian, a word I'm shocked to discover actually exists and isn't some contrived vanity term that means "picky eater" (although ultimately, it kinda is).

With $800 per team, the chefs head to Whole Foods to do their shopping. Jen, who obviously didn't watch the rerun of the Rick Tramanto/frozen scallops episode of Top Chef that re-ran prior to last night's episode, decides to go with octopus even though it's frozen. Lots of seafood gets purchased, in fact--Eli's going with tuna, Eve with shrimp, plus Preeti, Mike I., Ron, and Mattin all going with one kind of seafaring critter or another.

This is kind of a surreal challenge, as the contestants are all forced through a metaphorical chinois of gender stereotypes. It's a false layer of competitiveness in a show that doesn't lack for it on its own. No one's coming out looking very good.

Ashley (who becomes, I believe, the first this season to utter the old standby "I'm not a pastry chef" as she inexplicably decides to do a second dish--a bay leaf panna cotta) is still pissed about the matrimonial nature of this challenge. She's trying to rally the troops to a certain extent, but Preeti's amazingly un-irritated by the fact that they're cooking for engaged breeders. Good for you, Preeti. Way to recognize it's just TV.

In a scene reminiscent of the Top Chef: Masters finale, the tables are set for an outdoor meal, in the blazing sun, replete with many seafoods and ceviches. (Did you hear me, Jennifer? SUH-VEE-CHAY. Ceviche.) The deja vu continues as Eve struggles to bring flavor to her dish. Ashley continues to harp on the inequities of American marital law. And Laurine, for what has to be the 17th time in the episode, drones on in her particularly dead-eyed way about how the women are doing familiar foods while the guys are doing crazy foods that everyone will hate and boys are stupid and let's run 'em out of town.

Mattin wants to flirt (he says with the girls, but that scarf says otherwise), but he's too much of a good soldier to let his attention waver from the food. And anyway, the judges are here. Padma slinks in with Gail (looking very uncomfortable) and Tom (wearing shades so he can ogle the ladies without anyone knowing), and a cigar store Indian--oh, that's Todd English.

The dishes, in a nutshell, were either good or bad. Nothing blah in this bunch. Robin made a duck molé with cocoa nibs. Laurine made a Moroccan lamb chop with pomegranate pine nut relish. Eve struggled to whip up a shrimp and avocado ceviche with a smoky tomato salsa, while Jen's ceviche consisted of octopus with a citrus vinaigrette. Ashley's watermelon carpaccio with ricotta was weighed down by her insistence on also making that bay leaf panna cotta. Preeti encrusted some tuna with coriander and sesame, and served it with eggplant on a shiso leaf alongside some wonton soup. Jesse cooked some mushrooms with shiso and ginger beer and plopped it into a lettuce cup (the ghost of Howie's mushroom duxelles can be heard yowling off in the desert).

The dudes' crazy foods went thusly. Michael V., with his immunity, prepared an apple sorbet atop a goat cheese cookie. Kevin has a chilled almond soup with king crab, cucumber and apple. Mike I. ran with Kevin's arctic char from last week, topping it with a smoky caper sauce and cara cara orange. Bryan did indeed make something crazy: a guacamole-filled sweet and sour macaroon. Ron cocktailed some lobster with a habanero tomato sauce. Hector made a ceviche of tofu with lemon, lime, and tequila. Eli's tuna was tartared in a Thai style with puffed wild rice. Mattin made a bouillabaise and an aioli crouton. Ash went for chicken wings, done Asian-style with pickled pearl onions.

Most of the boys, needing to calm themselves after all the female guests peeled off their poolwear to reveal bikinis underneath, jump into the pool. All the girls comment on how they're all fat and ugly (like I said, a strange episode), and Ash is just above it all. Mike, explaining in the vignette his tendency to give nicknames to people whose names he can't remember or pronounce, states that everyone will get tired of him soon enough. Yes. Yes we will. Although shockingly, no misogyny from him this of all weeks.

It's one dour-ass stew room, and no one looks excited to be there. Padma, with her patented dead-expression poker face, calls out Bryan, Hector, Eli, and Michael V. Lo and behold, they arrive at Judges' Table to congratulations; they're the best of the winning team's chefs.

Eli's tuna tartare excited Gail, who is bored with most tartares these days. Todd liked the ginger tie-in to the paired shot. Michael's sorbet and cookie was a great idea with equally great execution. Hector's tofu ceviche was a delicious dish made out of a balky ingredient. The judges all liked Bryan's guacamole-and-chips riff, with Todd in particular praising its whimsy. Todd tells the chefs it ultimately came down to the brothers, and in this Elimination Challenge, the winner is Bryan. I wouldn't be shocked if this wasn't the last time the brothers were tops in both challenges.

Hector tells everyone that Bryan is the hombre, and Eli gets to toll the bell for Eve, Jesse, Preeti, and Ashley. After they leave, Laurine, just waking up from her drug-induced haze, asks "So did the boys win?"

So ladies. Wha'happened? Jesse, who so wanted to impress this week, has found herself on the bottom of both challenges. Her food was watery; she blames the ginger beer. It was bland; the judges blame that on her recalcitrance towards using actual ginger. Muddled flavors, says Gail. Eve notes that she personally didn't love her shrimp, but wanted to go with the groom-to-be's wishes. The judges tasted little aside from the salsa, and her excuse for more bland shrimp is both lame and so pathetic as to not make it into my notes.

Preeti, on the other hand, was quite happy with her dish and thought the guests were too. Tom thought the tuna, which was marinated in oil and other strong ingredients, developed an overcured profile that was unpleasant. Padma thought it was poorly served. Tom was surprised, but maybe inspired to be a little lenient, by Preeti's explanation that she did indeed plate the shiso leaves right before service and that they still wilted in the sun. And Ashley, ya big grumpus: why make two dishes? Why not one great dish? For this, she's got stutters and silence. Tom takes her to school on the science of bay leaves, and Ashley gets dinged for having access to fresh leaves but using primarily dried ones. All this is with the acknowledgment that her watermelon dish was one of the best of the day.

At this point, it seems clear that they really wanted to yell at Ashley but that she'll be safe. Preeti's attempt at forethought with the shiso leaves will earn her a pass. In my mind, it's down to Jesse (who for two weeks has made mistakes she knows about as she's making them) and Eve (who has done bland shrimp twice in a row now). The Judges' Table reconvenes, and it is Eve who is kicked out of the Garden.

"I didn't feel like myself in this setting," she explains to the confessional. She's so avant garde, she thinks chefs like Tom Colicchio and Todd English couldn't figure her out. Hey, Eve: find Spike Mendelsohn. He's got a job for you.

Coming up next, the chefs cook for the US Air Force with a bunch of canned goods and possibly a limited kitchen? And some kind of confrontation between bubble-ditz Jen and big surly Hector! Drama!