And then there were five:

– Art “I’m jolly, goddamit. JOLLY.” Smith
– Hubert “I’m so French, I’m practically fake” Keller
– Rick “No really, I went to Mexico for the food” Bayless
– Michael “If I had a nickel for every person who wanted to shove some NapaStyle up my ass I could buy the state of California” Chiarello
and

– Anita “The One Who’s Going to Win” Lo

The question is: will they make good television?

PREVIOUSLY: Watching Hubert dice an onion is like watching Astaire and Charisse. Michael Chiarello surpassed previous levels of dickery. Anita Lo was a silent killer. Suzanne Tracht’s animatronics failed and got her the boot.

10:02: QUICKFIRE: Gourmet burger cookoff, plus side dish.

Did Chiarello just say he wanted to suck out Keller’s soul? I think he did. Not in so many words, maybe, but I know what he’s up to.

10:03: Spike is a judge. I see he hasn’t learned any positive hat-related lessons since his time on the show. Then there’s the Supersize Me guy and other guy. Poor other guy. I’m sure he’s someone noteworthy, but now he’s just other guy.

10:06: Art’s secret weapon: delicious food. He’s a sneaky one, that Art. Don’t let the other chefs figure out your secret.

Keller’s got a gourmet burger joint, so the pressure’s on. Plus, he’s gotta fend off Chiarello the succubus.

10:08: Rick: A queso fundido burger with 3 guacamoles. Bayless is taken aback: “They have three totally different guacamoles, they can’t even perceive it!” Because two of the three are INVISIBLE, which is part of what makes the dish so exciting.

Burger wrapped in a hoecake: redemption for Art.

Terrifying burger the size of my head: overcompensation for Chiarello. What are you trying to say with that burger, Mike?

10:10: Chiarello ties with Rick, which means Chiarello’s soul-sucking proboscis now has a new target.

Anita Lo: 1.5 stars. Ouch. But I have faith.

10:12: Top Chef Vegas starts later this month. And already, Girl With Neck Tattoo is getting my panties in a wad. YOU ARE NOT EDGY. MY MOTHER-IN-LAW HAS TATTOOS.

10:14: ELIMINATION: A lunch party for Zooey Deschanel. There are just a couple things the chefs should know…

– vegan

– gluten intolerant

– no soy

So, carrots on a bed of grass, and a nice glass of water with lemon.

10:16:  Each chef gets a course. In order: Keller, Lo, Chiarello, Bayless, Smith.

Chiarello finds her off-putting because of the horribly unfair limits she puts on his culinary genius. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. I have a great idea, Mike: serve beef! Think outside the box! The judges will love it.

10:19: Bayless is like teacher’s little helper in the grocery store, explaining ingredients to everyone. Because once again, we’ve forgotten that WE ARE COMPETING WITH ONE ANOTHER.

10:21: I gotta say, a lot of this sounds good – white gazpacho, avocado timbale, tamales, spicy eggplant, lentils.

Some of it sounds not so interesting – quinoa pasta. Chiarello.

Lo is unsure about her lentils. You can do it! Stand behind the lentils! Or use your ninja powers to find better ones.

10:22: How do you make vegan almond brittle? I’m not being judgmental, I really want to know. Unless Art thinks butter is vegan, which is entirely possible. Also: pre-made rice milk frozen creamy dessert? Shenanigans: officially called.

10:24:  Chiarello: do you think the fake French accent is funny? Do it all you want, but you will never be Hubert Keller. YOU ARE NOT FIT TO BUS HIS TABLES.

10:27: I was right: she does find Chiarello off-putting. He doesn’t really help his case by being BEYOND SKEEVY. You are married and 20 years older than her. Also, she doesn’t give two shits about you.

Oh wait, that’s me. My bad.

10:29: Gael is trying something new this week, where the hat color matches the cardigan embroidery rather than going with an entire monotone outfit. I appreciate the effort! Or maybe it’s just laundry day at chez Greene.

Chiarello almost tips a whole table and is saved by…Keller. And whose table did he almost tip? Keller. Thank goodness that “accident” was averted!

10:30:  One waiter spills Hubert’s white gazpacho on his pants. I know I always enjoy being served by someone who appears to have been the target of a pigeon with irritable bowel syndrome.

10:32: Anita’s lentils are “too sturdy.” The doubt, she creeps in.

Everyone is charmed by Chiarello’s quinoa past. Zooey wants to hug him. Don’t do it, because he will totally cop a feel, and then you would feel yicky forever.

10:34:  I would go vegan for Rick Bayless’s tamales and greens. At least, for the time it took me to eat them. Then girlfriend wants some flan. And bacon.

10:35: Art is a NERVOUS WRECK when he is not being the court jester. And when his food doesn’t suck. A sigh of relief: I think Art sucks more than Lo…but I don’t trust the producers.

10:40: The next top chef is going have 17 chefs? I’m going to need a team of bloggers to cover this.

Interlude: Rick Bayless is anal and demands only the finest watercress. Fascinating! Thank you, show.

10:43: LOVE-FEST JUDGES’ TABLE: Okay, that’s not embroidery, it’s an ENORMOUS lizard broche. God bless this crazy woman.

10:45: Lo: “I put oil on the eggplant and let it sit overnight.” UnBalaban: “Oh, I see.” Which is UnBalaban code for “FAIL.”

UnBalaban’s button-down is the same color as Gael’s hat, confirming my suspicion that they call each other the night before. Also, they sit very close to one other, I think so they can have tickle-fests and fix each others’ hair during commercial breaks.

10:46: Chiarello: Artisan Pasta Love Celebration Italian Store Bought Excuses Excuses blah blah blah. UnBalaban will disappoint me if he buys that steaming pile of bullshit.

10:48: UnBalaban is also amazed at the butter-less brittle but NO ONE WILL EXPLAIN. God damn it.

Tousled-hair British judge and Art Smith lock horns over the store-bought rice milk frozen dessert product, as well they should.

10:49: I love how they keep referring to “the vegans.” Something about it is borderline offensive to me. “The vegans were so excited.” Vegans: they’re almost people!

British judge buys Chiarello’s excuse for buying store-bought pasta, but is ready to kick Art in the teeth for the store-bought rice milk frozen almost ice-cream like dessert food.

10:51: Art is universally panned, except for the brittle, which remains unexplained. Thanks for nothing, show.

10:55: Hubert, Chiarello and Bayless, predictably, have the highest scores. Keller, 19 stars. Chiarello, 22. Bayless, 19. GOD DAMN IT.

UnBalaban, on Chiarello’s pasta: “A comforting bowl of yumminess.” Really, UnB? You edit fucking Saveur. That’s the kind of crap I write when I’m cranky and drunk.

10:57: Bottom two: Lo, 13. Smith, 12.5 stars.

Thank god, the show gets something right.

10:59: And now Smith cries. And then the hugging. Always the hugging.

NEXT WEEK: Old Top Chef contestants come back, as sous? They clearly don’t like Chiarello any more than I do. Chiarello used to “eat three Dales for breakfast” with a sprinkling of gray salt.