Top Chef Masters - Do you, Chesty, take Bland...

I hope I didn't lose too many of you to the silliness of three weeks of extraordinarily late recaps dressed up as concept art. I do think that I'll retain some of the brevity of the Ketchup! Editions, however; it seemed to work with the subject matter. Please tell me if I'm wrong.
 
Our Champions Round chefs (Tony, Jody, Marcus, Rick, Jonathan, Susur, Carmen, and Susan) do the usual Top Chef Masters greet-n-grab, which I actually find kind of charming. They're lined up by a bizarrely-frocked Kelly Choi and divided into two teams. The Quickfire Challenge will reprise Top Chef Season 6's cooking relay, which Rick Moonen guest-judged. He's duly horrified by the prospect of competing in this challenge. Marcus, not so much: "I'm the best, so it's simple; I go last."
 
With ten minutes per chef to cook, with the chefs-on-deck blindfolded (and in the case of Jonathan Waxman, nauseated and claustrophobic), both teams arrive at mussels and scallops. Team Red adds prosciutto and sea bass, while Team Blue leans toward a seafood stew. This challenge accelerated in the back half of the race, with Susur Lee scrambling to add ingredients and Marcus Samuelsson deciding (erroneously, as it turned out) to separate the seared bass from the shellfish. Team Blue's Rick Moonen, Mister Seafood, took the lead from his predecessors exactly as they meant it, and then grinned and waited for Jedi Master Waxman to groovily arrive at the final piece of the puzzle. We all got to see that epiphany happen, exactly as Moonen assured his teammates it would, and it was both amusing and impressive.
 
Between Marcus' bad decision to separate the two halves of the dish, and a slightly grayed-out prosciutto, Team Red suffers a slim defeat to Team Blue's flavorful, if bitter, bouillabaise. Iconoclasts Susur and Marcus are both pissed to have lost the Quickfire; one of them is much less annoying than the other about it. Guess which one.
 
No secret as to the Elimination Challenge, if you saw the title of the episode: it's Wedding Wars. 150 guests, two course-minimum, and ya gotta make a cake for lovely couple Elizabeth and Aaron, who would out-food-dumb the cast and crew of Modern Family if they were given a TV show. Aaron, shockingly, is a meat-and-potatoes guy who doesn't like foie gras or spicy food, and is Jewish so won't eat pork. Elizabeth likes Asian and French food, but doesn't like shellfish or lamb. DOPE SLAP. Broaden your horizons, children.
 
Team Something Blue (Feniger/Moonen/Adams/Waxman) picks the bride, and decides to blow her anti-lamb demands out of the water with lamb shanks. Jonathan crafts red pepper pancakes and roast chicken. Susan makes a spicy potato fritter and Egyptian semolina wedding cake. Jody's dishes include pancetta raclette tarts, the lamb shanks, and bananas Foster (the bride's favorite dessert). Rick stakes his night on a seafood mixed grill.
 
Red Team (Samuelsson/Lee/Mantuano/Gonzalez) spurns the groom as well, letting Marcus run a little wild with the spices and seasonings on their beef tenderloin. Carmen assumes the den mother role, cooking up crab cakes and a roasted corn salad/relish/thing. Marcus works on lobster rolls, cured tuna, and the tenderloin. Tony offers flaming ouzo shrimp, a penne with feta, and potatoes gratin. Susur, looking to take it easy tonight, tackles the groom's requested carrot cake, raisin bread pudding, chocolate profiteroles, and a mountainous French wedding cake (croque-en-bouche).
 
Service goes pretty smoothly, no one makes any huge errors. Rick notices how strong Carmen's leadership and organizational skills are, and figures that Red Team has the advantage because of her. But as the judges eat (and you can't eat organizational skill), they see that Team Something Blue has a stronger cohesive element to the dishes themselves--the exception being Rick's seafood grill, which is overcooked and too sweetly dressed. Team Something Blue does also have the most pathetic wedding cake not currently featured on Cake Wrecks, thanks to Jonathan's…modest decorating skills.
 
Red Team has the Dessert Ninja, and everyone agrees that Susur's pastry output is tremendous; the critics are not as universal in their praise of the quality of the desserts. Also a liability for the critics is Marcus' tenderloin, sogged out from too much sauce and mushy to boot. (It's interesting to note, though, that the critics realize this will translate as tenderness to the diners, and that they'll likely reward it.) Poor Carmen, meanwhile, is taken to task by every single critic for not putting very much work onto a plate. Her crab cakes are fine, and so is the corn (once you accept that it really doesn't have a place in the overall scheme), but for 12 hours of prep, the critics expect more.
 
Team Something Blue comes out first, and Kelly cuts right to the chase: you win! And of those winning chefs (including a lucky, lucky Rick Moonen, tired of weddings and definitely up for elimination otherwise), the overall win goes to Jody Adams, who pretty well nailed all three of her dishes--even winning over the woefully unsupported bride with her lamb. Another 10k for you, madame, and here's a little of that sweet, sweet mo' going into the next challenge.
 
Red Team trudges somberly to Critics' Table, standing in an odd, tight huddle like threatened meerkats before the lioness Gael Greene and her pride. Tony and Marcus defend Carmen's role in the team, praising her leadership skills while she complains mildly of the groom's limiting palate and her stymied desires to go all Puerto Rican on his boring ass. Tony takes some flak for overdone pasta, while Marcus hears it over his mushy beef. Susur Lee takes the win in this de facto consolation bracket, racking up 16 stars. Tony lands 15 stars and a safe ticket to next week. It comes down to Marcus and Carmen, and Marcus is mostly saved--just like the critics said he would be--by a lack of diner sophistication. While Marcus scores straight threes from the critics, the diners give him four and a half stars. He beats Carmen by 2 and a half, sending her home.
 
Carmen is an endearing personality, and clearly a skilled chef, but her seat-of-the-pants win in the opening round just didn't do her any favors in terms of confidence or momentum. Marcus, on the other hand, didn't appear to say anything awful to this week's departing chef--and the producers definitely turned up the input on his mic just in case.
 
NEXT WEEK: Hank Azaria and Simpsons voices, and then Andrew Zimmern, Deep End Dining's Eddie Lin, and GEODUCK. It's a very Fringe Foods Top Chef Masters, and I couldn't be happier.