Top Chef Masters - Ketchup! Volume 4

I'm just gonna come out and say it: Marcus Samuelsson is too pretty to be Top Chef Master. And I totally want his Critics' Table outfit. But dude takes it seriously; turning a Simpsons Quickfire Challenge into a discussion of immigration and ethnic pride? Jeez, guy. Lighten up.

Yes, it was a very Kyle episode of Top Chef Masters, back on May 12 (I know, sorry!). The Quickfire Challenge was, as I mentioned, Simpsons-themed. The dishes were based on characters, and Matt Groening and Hank Azaria (along with some writer who wasn't Conan O'Brien) provided the criticism.

Gotta love Susur Lee pronouncing Marge as 'MAR-guh,' and creating a dish in the image of Marge's face and hairdo. Poor guy had no idea, and ended up rebuilding Hung's Smurf village. I thought Jonathan Waxman had the winning dish, a no-frills spaghetti and meatball dish for Bart. But the win went to Rick Moonen for his shrimp-based Sloppy (annoyed grunt).

At this point, I was thinking that Tony Mantuano was looking like the straggler most likely to be eliminated. For Susur's lack of Simpsons knowledge, the theme of the Elimination Challenge certainly seemed to play right into his wheelhouse: the return of Season 3's Scary Surf and Turf challenge.

Enter Andrew Zimmern and my boy Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining. The proteins: geoduck, monkfish liver, jumbo squid, sea cucumber, goat leg, duck tongue, black chicken, and kangaroo. That, my friends, is a solid list of crazy-ass animal kingdom.

I thought Rick, with his first pick, would go monkfish (I nailed that) and duck, but he took black chicken over the tongue. Each ingredient could only be chosen twice, which guaranteed that the last pick would almost assuredly have to deal with sea cucumber. Poor Susan Feniger.

Jon's in a fog, but everyone else seems to have a bit of comfort, whether it's from having eaten weird shit with Zimmern before (Tony) or feeling intuitive about clams (Jody Adams). Rick got a massage at the Asian grocery, so he's clearly feeling all right. Marcus, for being a very heady chef, is still swimming around in the "I had tuberculosis and did I mention I was an orphan" pool.

When food hits plate, Marcus' inability to separate a TV show from a TB childhood comes through in a plate crammed with interfering elements. For Jody's confidence, her geoduck is irreverently tasty but her goat is too rare. Susan comes through with surprising and tasty sea cucumber, while Rick and Susur continue to perform well.

At Critics' Table, Susur comes correct with another 19 star performance, and the win. There's a clear divide between the top two (Susur, Rick) and the bottom three (Marcus, Jonathan, and Jody). Marcus' over-intense flavors and Jon's slight lack of refinement still come out ahead of Jody's universally low scores, mostly for the botched goat. Bye, Jody! You seem like everyone's favorite aunt, jocular and a little mischievous.

Tailgating comes next, and as soon as I watch that episode, I'll have something to say about it.