After an unexplained one-week hiatus (what is this, The Sopranos? OH MAN IT KIND OF IS), Top Chef is BACK for Episode 8, “An Offer They Can’t Refuse”. What awesome Quickfire are they gonna throw at us to make up for lost thyme?

Ut ohhh:

Guest Judge Isaac Mizrahi. Padma torturedly explains, “Just as a runway show is designed to attract the buyer, a plate is designed to entice the palate.” Meaning, we had to have Isaac Mizrahi on for some dumb cross promotional thing our producers agreed to and after this sentence let us never speak of this again.

Angelo is excited, saying “Two of my favorite things are food and fashion.” Haha, of course they are. We know what some of your other favorite things are too, and spelling “crocodile” is not one of them:

This week’s Quickfire will only focus on aesthetics, and whoever has the best looking plate wins immunity (no money though, cause it’s a New York OK Pretzel Regular Stakes Challenge). The judges won’t even be tasting the food, just like actual fashion models! BOOM! Out of the park. High five! Ooop! Broke your model arm cause it’s so thin! Out of the park again! Even further out of the park! Now boarding a train and leaving the city for another park!

Fabio is on board with the nonsensical high-art concept, saying (transcribed verbatim): “My inspiration is a beautiful woman walking in the rain, trying to don’t get messed up by the wodder. Now, how that will translate to the plate…” Forget the plate, Fabio, that didn’t even translate to whatever it just was.

When we finally see Fabio’s dish, holy crap, it is not trying to don’t get messed up:

After some meowy comments by Mizrahi (he should’ve been wearing a cat suit – too late to have this happen? CGI one in for the repeats), he throws Dale and Tre on the bottom alongside Angelo’s crocodile abortion. The Quickfire bottom still completely doesn’t matter, it’s just to insult them, right? Ok cool, just making sure that’s still the case after 8 seasons.

Antonia escapes being on the bottom despite literally making a tree, because The Giving Tree was a book, and Fabio not only escapes the bottom, he ends up in the Top 3 (along with Richard and Carla). Say what you will about the stupidity of this challenge (audience says “Ittt’s Stuuupid!” in unison), but it truly did capture the awful, arbitrary, faux high-mindedness of art and fashion.

Richard wins the challenge for his Black Chocolate Ice Cream, Menthol Crystals, Herbal Salad, and Mint Ice Cream Dots, so all is well. Top Chef purists (this guy) probably hated this challenge, and they’d be right to do so, but for those of us who make a monetary living off taking ridiculous screengrabs of culinary reality shows, this segment was basically porn.

It’s time for the Elimination Challenge, to Eliminate the memory of that first challenge from recorded history. The chefs draw knives, and the knives all have wacky Italian nicknames on them: Frankie ‘No, Frankie Junior, Dino The Chef, Mikey Maybes, Nicky Glands, Bobby The Couch, Ronnie The Reagan, Vinny The Physicist, and so on.

Looks like we’re headed for a PALLIES themed challenge:

The chefs meet Frankie No, his son Frankie Junior, and their chef pal Dino The Chef — three iconic caretakers of Rao’s Restaurant, a 100+ year old Italian restaurant oozing with old-world, 90s-mob-movie charm. The nine chefs will pair into three groups of three to prepare a traditional three-course Italian dinner, and whoever manages to yammer the most about how far this brings them back will win.

Sidenote: Is there anything more insufferable than people who really consciously whip out their heritage to give themselves entitled, uncriticizable privilege in nominally ethnic situations? I call this phenomenon “St. Patrick’s Day.”

Anyway, Mike Isabella is “Jersey Italian” so he grew up stealing meatballs like that Junior guy or whatever, and Antonia misses her family and wants to make food that takes everyone so far back they literally hop in a time machine and get hit on by their Lea Thompson moms, and Fabio, obviously, is reveling in his wet dream. It’s not looking good for the people without charming grandmotherly backstories — everyone read Strega Nona, QUICK.

They head to Rao’s and meet Guest Judge Lorraine Bracco, who was extremely in Goodfellas:

They also meet a cast of other amusing characters, including veteran Rao’s bartender Professor Sparklejacket:

The chefs cook in shifts, surprisingly free of manufactured kitchen drama (who stole my lime? I need my lime for the thing!), and present their courses three at a time. The Antipasti Ladies — Carla, Antonia, and Tiffany — are a big hit with the diners, but the pasta team of Michael, Tre, and Dale all get panned. Anthony Bourdain makes a witness protection program joke about Dale’s dish, then says that Tre covered the flavor in his risotto like someone would bury a body. He is on FIRE with the mafia jokes:

The ‘Secondi’ team of Richard, Fabio, and Angelo redeem things, and it becomes clear that someone from the pasta group is going home. Just a reminder, this Super Authentic Old World Flashback Italyfest is brought to you by Buitoni frozen pastas:

THE TOP FOUR: Tiffany, Antonia, Fabio, and Carla

Despite ripping on Michael Isabella the entire episode and kind of being a bigger jerk than he was (just like Michael was doing to Marcel), Antonia wins for her very simple Mussels with Fennel, White Wine, Garlic and Parsley Ciabatta.

What’s that ticket you’ve got there, Antonia?

Antonia returns to the waiting room to gloat, even though her powers of literal time travel clearly gave her an unfair edge. Michael Isabella gives her a look of utter contempt, not unlike those bitch ladies from Pretty Woman in the store who wouldn’t serve Julia Roberts then she came back and surprised them:

THE BOTTOM THREE: Michael, Tre, Dale (the entire Pasta Group)

Michael and Dale are both instantly apologetic and understanding to the judges, and Bourdain sympathizes with Michael, saying “If you’d used a ready-made pasta, you wouldn’t be here.” WHAT? You guys once criticized someone for using canned BEANS. Just couldn’t resist that dirty Buitoni money, could you?

Tre takes the most flak, however, because his risotto didn’t spread out on the plate:

Tre is asked to pack his knives and go. Mike pulls a white guy in the elevator and relates to him with a “Sorry brother.”

Tre wasn’t that bad this season, he just also wasn’t that good, and with 8 chefs remaining this seemed like a fair elimination. On his way out, Tre explains “I’m just glad that I came here with an open mind – even if I didn’t win this competition, I would win a lot of knowledge and a lot of new friends.”

WHAAAT? No wonder you lost, you clearly don’t know how reality shows work:

So that’s it for Ridiculous Arty Thing / Mafia Jokez episode. Lorraine Bracco, you may exit through the Jets locker room:

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