By Helin Jung
January 18, 2007 at 08:56 PM EST

Any consumer of reality television will tell you that living in close quarters with strangers in an exhausting, competitive situation (especially one where the names of sponsors are so often repeated that you can’t hear the directions through the product placement) can put a strain on a person’s general good nature. Still, years of reality experience could not have prepared us for last night’s holy !!! of !!! with a side of …. OMG, it’s a hazing.

The episode was practically Freudian, wouldn’t you say? Like one big unconscious going a little crazy. Usually, they’re fairly well-behaved, but last night, they shaved their heads, they physically abused each other, they got orgasmic over guest judge Eric Ripert, and Padma narrated the whole thing as if it were a soft-core porn movie.

addCredit(“Top Chef: Carin Baer”)

They cooked, too, like they were fighting for their lives. Thejudges said it was some of the best work they’d seen. I like that. Ilike that, despite the fact that they probably are mentally fragile,and they just want to win the darn thing, the remaining chefs have gotsomething of a bond going. There are only four left, and I bet it’sgetting lonely up there… in Hawaii… and Santa Barbara… and afancy pair of lofts in downtown Los Angeles.

Well, I’m rooting for Elia (pictured pre-shave) now; something aboutSam’s deflecting/blaming/chickening out bugs me. What about you?