Last night’s “Top Chef Las Vegas” on Bravo returned after a two-week absence, and admittedly I needed those “previously on…” highlights to catch up myself. Oh yeah, Ron was sent home last time….thankfully, because I couldn’t understand much of what that guy was saying.

Anyway, this episode began with The Food Network’s Tyler Florence as a guest judge, but I don’t think they mentioned Food Network by name. A bit petty, no? Or maybe a legality. Anyway, the quick fire challenge was in the vein of, where each contestant had to use three background descriptions to create a meal in 30 minutes. They used a slot machine to choose mood, flavor profile and type of cuisine–for example, romantic/salty/Asian. Florence would be the judge of each dish. Note: one of the flavor profiles was umami, a newer description to the palate world that I don’t fully comprehend, but it’s definitely a buzzword in the cooking industry–I think it means like tangy or something.

Anyway, the bottom 3 and least favorite dishes were by Robin, who made some sort of curry and tried to pass it off for Middle Eastern; Eli, whose umami flavor drowned everything else; and Jennifer, who tried to top scallops with caviar. It was Jen’s first time in the bottom 3 and she was concerned.

Tyler’s favorites were Mike Isabella, who I think made some sort of fish that Florence deemed “light and fresh”; Kris Kringle (Kevin), who made something Asian inspired for maybe the first time in his life; and Michael V, who made a dessert with some sort of seaweed cracker. The winner? Kris Kringle, who chose $15K over immunity. Bold move, but smart move, because he has what it takes to win it all.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs had to host a dinner party at the house they were living in for Florence and his cohorts with Macy’s who are involved in a hunger drive campaign, as well as judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and that obnoxious Toby dude. Each one had to draw knives to see which corresponding bag of groceries they would be using, as well as which chef they would be teaming with for this challenge. The teams were Michael V. and Ash, Mike I. and Robin, Jen and Kris Kringle, Eli and Ben Folds (Ashley), and Laurine and Brian.

The fight to get to the kitchen and claim prime real estate there was funny, and some of them were tripping over their own feet. But Ben and Eli nailed the prime space next to the stove. Meanwhile, Ash and Mike V. wound up in the dining room with a wok they had to plug into a wall outlet. They made some sort of halibut with egg yolk ravioli. Mike Isabella and Robin had Asian ingredients, including mushrooms, and it was clear that Mike not only didn’t want Robin as a teammate, but he was a douche in saying “I” and “me” when cooking and presenting his dish.

Jen and Kevin made a Korean BBQ beef with a cardomom and tomato broth; Eli and Ben Folds made gnocchi topped with spot prawns and red beet creme fraiche; and Laurine and Brian made halibut with avocado mousse.

At judgment time, they called in Laurine, Brian, Jen and Kris Kringle who made the favorite dishes. The top dish was Jen and Kris Kringle, but only one chef could win this week’s prize, which was a Macy’s $10K gift card. Jen won that for her broth that went with the beef, as the judges loved it, and Toby said he couldn’t stop eating the dish.

The least favorites? Michael and Ash; and Eli and Ben Folds. Michael and Ash had to deal with their power going out for the wok, which made cooking fish difficult, and it didn’t come out right. Florence argued that they shouldn’t use that as an excuse, but what he failed to realize was that these guys had no time to fix the problem at that point. The judges wanted to blame Michael, but Ash kept defending and propping up his teammate, which made the judges realize that Ash was throwing himself under the bus in the big picture. Was he not good enough to win? Colicchio came right out and asked him that, and Ash backpedaled a bit.

Then they talked about Eli’s salty gnocchi and Ben Folds’ under-cooked shrimp. She made them on the grill, and kept saying it was important not to over-cook them. Well, she didn’t cook them enough and that was enough to have her sent home.

So we’re down to nine chefs–the brothers Michael and Brian, Eli, Kris Kringle, Jennifer, Robin, Laurine, Mike Isabella and Ash. You can bet Laurine, Robin, Ash and Eli will be next to go. Then Mike Isa-douche-a. It’s going to come down to Jen, Kris Kringle and the has to.

What do you all think? See you next week….