What happens when you take the two top adversaries and make them work together?
Credit: Greg Gayne/Fox
S6 E15
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Tommy and his bow tie the size of America are really happy to be in the top seven, we learn before tonight’s mystery box challenge. Up come the lids and it’s coffee. “Damn fine coffee,” Christina Tosi adds. Our chefs have an hour to make a “stunning coffee-inspired dish. Ready to put some pep in your step?” With that they’re off, though Stephen’s all, “Coffee? I drink it but very rarely do I do anything else with it.” So on those special occasions, what are you doing with it, buddy?

Graham Elliot says coffee dishes generally are sweet though you can go savory, but he’s expecting the former. Claudia’s confident, Stephen’s confident, Derrick is very confident—though do you expect anything less from our alpha male?—and he’s brought out his dessert guns. His regular guns are out, too, since he’s sans sleeves, as is tradition. While Derrick stirs a pot of raspberries, Graham stirs the proverbial pot by asking how Derrick is handling the rivalry with Stephen. (Answer: just fine, thank you.) Most are making dessert and most are sticking to their roots. Time is called and the top three are chosen.

First up, with a finesse in plating, is Derrick, who is obviously stoked. “Derrick annoys me, but I gotta give him the credit he deserves. That guy can cook,” Stephen tells us. Aww. That’s nice. Derrick’s caramel latte panna cotta, with raspberry sauce and spun sugar, looks sublime. It’s edible art in a glass. “It’s dessert, so it’s like the encore of the concert,” Derrick says, though I’ll let it slide since he hasn’t done one of these trite rock analogies in ages. Gordon declares the coffee to be the hero in the glass, and, “for the first time in this competition, I’d change nothing.” Graham heaps praise, Christina finds it “overall amazing, thought it could’ve been a little more tart.” Just give the guy his win, Christina.

Hetal is called next and this is “maybe a redemption” for her. She’s ecstatic about her dense coffee chocolate cake with espresso whipped cream, which she thinks “you’ll want to shove right in your face.” Graham abstains from that behavior, though he says it’s tasty but could’ve had more coffee flavor. Gordon disagrees, calling it “bloody delicious.” Last up is Nick, who’s yet to emerge victorious in a mystery box challenge. His vanilla coffee cake with coffee mascarpone and a crumble of espresso beans on top floors Christina, who lavishes the praise before rudely inquiring if this is “a fluke.” C’mon, Christina. Did you not have enough coffee this morning and you’re a little grumpy? Gordon thinks it’s so brilliant, Nick gets a high five.

The winner will be Derrick, Derrick thinks. He’s sure his dish is worlds beyond the other two. “I have a restaurant quality dish. It’s an undeniable win,” Derrick tells us. Which makes it all the more funny when Nick gets the win. Derrick, you hath been denied, homie. Nick compares his victory to “that girl in the club you just can’t get to, but I finally got to her and she’s talking to me.” …Mmkay.

For the elimination challenge, things will work differently tonight, Gordon says, but don’t they always this late in the competition? Nick won’t choose what the others will cook because the judges already have. It’s a summer party platter comprised of chicken wings, shrimp skewers, sliders, tortilla chips with salsa and guac, and pigs in a blanket, all made from scratch. Gordon assures us this simple comfort food is far more complicated to make than it looks, adding that “your tray has to look exactly like our tray.” It’s impossible to pull off alone, we’re told, so they’ll be in teams of two. Guess who gets to pick the teams. If you said Nick, you get a cookie.

Of this newfound power, his fellow contestants should “100 percent should be worried,” Nick says. Now we learn this is the tag team challenge, “just to add more misery,” sighs Stephen. Nick immediately pairs Derrick with Stephen and I immediately smile broadly. “If Derrick talks back, I’m going to crush him,” Stephen vows. Next, Nick pairs Katrina and her gaudy blue bow headpiece with Tommy and his gaudy white bow neckpiece. It’s just so much bow without any presents. At this pairing, which displeases both, Tommy thinks the shade Katrina’s throwing is like she’s “just been paired with Count Dracula.” For those keeping score at home, that means Hetal and Claudia are coupled up, and I kinda feel like they’ll do well together.

NEXT: The team that fights the most will surprise you.

We’re about to get underway, with half of each team behind the station; the other member standing on the side, looking anxious. “Give me popcorn and a six pack,” grins Nick, as he takes to the rafters. Less than one second after starting, Derrick’s snapping “Faster!” at Stephen, who disagrees with his commands and refuses to season the burger meat, flummoxing Derrick. Gordon walks us through the proper order of this meal, if only so that we can see no one is adhering to the protocol. Katrina’s contribution to this whole process seems to be freaking out and saying “nonononono” over and over in between screaming at Tommy.

In the back, Hetal and Claudia are getting along swimmingly. Gordon approaches Katrina (standing) and Tommy (cooking) to shake them up and alert them the shrimp is on the grill far too early. A lightbulb goes off above Katrina’s head bow. “Oh yeah! Take them off!” she barks at Tommy, who complies. Gordon tries to lead them into what they should be doing, but they’re clueless. Tommy begins to roll out pastry dough with a wine bottle, which angers Mr. Ramsay, as the dough is already rolled out. Now both Gordon and Katrina are yelling at Tommy, who seems far too calm during all of this.

(Sidenote: The judges said this would all be made from scratch, yet the contestants are clearly using Pillsbury dough from the tube. While I don’t expect them to, say, make hot dogs from scratch, I did think they’d have to make their own dough. Didn’t you?)

They switch. “You have to find your inner Mexican lady right now,” Claudia tells Hetal when it’s tortilla time. They appear to be working so smoothly and cohesively as a duo, which doesn’t surprise me. What does is that Stephen and Derrick also seem to be on the same page. The only twosome bickering is The Bows. Katrina screams. Tommy asks her to stop screaming. Again. “Hey, can you do me a favor?” Katrina calmly asks Tommy. Sure, comes the reply. “Go faster.” HA! Finally, platter assembly begins. Now everyone’s freaking out. Cold cheese is going on burgers, Hetal’s suddenly freaking over something, Derrick’s missing a bun, and Stephen’s screaming about chips getting on the board. Time is called and Stephen grunt-screams (greams? scrunts?) in his trademark fashion for a prolonged period of time and then throws a towel in… excitement? Anger? Jubilation?

Taste time for Derrick and Stephen. “There were times when they were out of control,” Gordon says, before imitating Stephen’s scrunts remarkably well, but says the plate looks good—despite missing the mustard. Everything is amazing and all the judges love it. “Nick’s recipe for disaster was really a recipe for success,” says Derrick. Rock on, alpha male.

Up come Hetal and Claudia, the latter of which believes this to be her poorest effort so far and would be totally fine with tossing this whole thing in the trash. They looked so smooth throughout—perhaps it was the edit—so it’s kind of shocking when they reach the judges and Christina says, “This looks like someone has already eaten it.” Yikes. The mushrooms were burned by Hetal, she admits. Worse, some of the shrimp are raw. Christina thinks “this isn’t a party platter, but a funeral platter.” Zing…? “Dreadful,” says Gordon. “You should be embarrassed.” I assume Gordon meant the platter and not Christina’s lame insult.

Last up come The Bows. Katrina would give this performance “a negative two,” and Gordon readily agrees. “Visually, it’s messy,” Gordon says, which is an understatement. Now The Bows start to throw blows, pointing fingers at each other. After a nanosecond, Katrina starts crying because, “I’m thinking about how we could’ve done better.” Everything’s wrong and Graham says the only good thing is the flavor on the burger. “Next time you guys throw a party, don’t invite me.” Oh snap. This is sad because Graham loves bow ties, so I feel like he’d fit right in, should these two actually ever throw a shindig.

Derrick and Stephen win, obviously. So who’ll go home? Hetal and Claudia “just did enough to stay safe,” so they’re off to the balcony. Which means it’s Katrina and Tommy fighting for a spot in the top six. “One of you who put more of an effort into the challenge,” says Gordon. “We’re saving Katrina.” She blubbers on her way up to the balcony, while Tommy and his flair and panache say their goodbyes to the judges. “We’ll remember you forever,” says Gordon. Of the remaining field, Tommy snarks, “Some of the most talented people are on that balcony. And some of the dumbest people standing up there, too.” Tommy casts his vote for Derrick to take the whole kit and caboodle and exits with a flourish.

Would you go to Katrina and Tommy’s party? Did you think the Pillsbury dough was weird? Did Tommy’s dismissal catch you by surprise?

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