With just two episodes remaining until the big finale, things are getting a tad tense, if not in "The Taste" kitchens, then certainly at the judging table, where Nigella Lawson's team is down to the last competitor.
What will happen when she loses Lauren Scott? Will Nigella be out too? Or will she remain on deck to vote off the nine remaining cooks recruited by rival judges Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey and Ludo Lefebvre?
All we know at the start of this hour is that this week's theme is all things offal -- blood, guts and testicles -- and three cooks will be going home. The guest judges for this sweetbread, tongue and tripe feast are Frederic Morin and David McMillan, from Montreal's Joe Beef. We see saws and cleavers. We're guessing there will be blood.
The first challenge
There's plenty of sophomoric humor in store, as you might guess, given the bull body parts. We'll spare you that recap. But Gregg starts cutting a pig head in half, its nose wobbling madly -- the pig's, not Gregg's. Then he cranks up the heat on his pressure cooker, saying it's not doing it's job and -- Whoa! The pressure cooker explodes. Spectacularly.
Lauren, Uno, Christian and Gregg's spoons head for the guest judges. Gregg -- and his North Carolina head cheese -- wins immunity for the third time in a row, beating out Lauren's ham and lentil stew with a testicle fritter, Uno's tripe with cow tongue and pig tail, and Khristianne's pork tongue, sweetbreads and bone marrow.
"We can't even consider him for the bottom four," Bourdain says. "Not that we're bitter," Nigella adds. "We're bitter. Bitter. Bitter. Bitter!" Bourdain says.
The elimination challenge
Now the cooks start working. Ninamarie is grossed out, but Khristianne is in her element here. She says this kind of food was in her baby bottle. The editors cut back and forth between Diane snarking about Lauren's enthusiasm and giggling, and Lauren waxing enthusiastic and giggling. Suddenly Gregg cuts his finger -- badly enough that he has to bite down on a wooden spoon, still screaming, while a paramedic works on him. Seriously?
Meanwhile, Bourdain's team sips wine as they cook. Paul, the redhead with the supersized ego, ignores any advice from the guest judges, who are trying to warn him against overcooking the sweetbreads. And karma comes to bite him when his sweetbread and oxtail broth comes to the table and Ludo says, "Someone doesn't know how to cook sweetbreads."
Bourdain and the gang assemble at the table to start tasting spoons, 10 of them with everything from Veal Milanese with Sweetbreads (Ninamarie) to Pho with Oxtail (Gregg). Khristianne's Crispy Sweetbreads with Pig Ear and a Caper Beurre Blanc wins praise from the judges, as does Jeff's Rabbit Galantine with Pork and Chicken Livers.
Chutes and ladders
The chutes open and the winners and losers are revealed -- and Gregg, who has immunity, gets reamed for doing Asian flavors when Ludo had specifically told him not to. He's packed off to the safe room to stew as Ludo yells,"You do what I say!"
Khristianne snags the win with two judges' voting her their favorite. Jeff gets a winning vote too, as does Uno, who made a pork dumpling soup with fried shrimp heads. Oddly, Uno also gets a least-favorite vote, as does Ninamarie, Lauren (Thai pork cheeks and fried sweetbreads with rice) and Adam, the last Northern Californian in the competition, who made Thai-style sweetbreads with pork rinds and kabocha squash puree. Three of them will be going home.
The judges argue in their contestants' favor, Ludo mutters in French and the cooks wait, fretting and trying to reassure themselves. And bam -- Adam, Ninamarie and Uno are sent packing, Uno because her dish didn't embrace the challenge requirements.
Next week: The theme is seduction and just four cooks will survive to advance to the final round.