'Top Chef All-Stars': We hardly junka-knew you

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It's Bahamas time! And in the months since the last judges' table, Richard has decided to prepare for fatherhood by growing a goatee. He looks like David Cook from "American Idol" -- but that competitive nature has him acting a bit more like Dane Cook. Hey-o!

Seriously, though. It's the first part of the "Top Chef" finale, so you know the elimination is going to be especially rough. The final five reflect on their previous finales -- at least those who made it that far -- and wait for Padma and guest judge/super-cutie Eric Ripert to come deliver their Quickfire.

They walk into the ruins of an old fort and find their respective season's champs waiting at al fresco cooking stations. Stephanie, Hosea, Michael V-V-V-V-Voltagio and Kevin. (Who's Kevin?)

New York winner Hosea immediately brings up redeeming himself in the eyes of the "haters," and we briefly make eye contact through the television. At least Kevin's unjust win was forgettable.

But enough editorializing. The all-stars have to go up against their respective victors in a rematch with their own mystery protein. It's such a fun concept, we sort of wish it wasn't wasted on a Quickfire.

Carla's burner doesn't work, and her no good, very bad weekend in the Bahama's commences. Everyone else's dish goes more or less according to plan.

When the winners are announced, Tiffany, Mike and Richard are the only ones to beat their season's champs. One is obvious and the other shocks us to our core. Michael Voltagio is no loser.

The chefs get their elimination challenge. Padma says they'll be cooking for Bahamian royalty! Everyone is so nervous, because apparently they don't realize that the only royal family overseeing the Bahamas is the one in England. And since they clearly didn't secure a cameo from Elizabeth -- Maybe the corgis? -- we smell a twist!

While they plan their meals, we're again reminded why "All-Stars" works so well. We're happy if any of these guys win. Except Mike. We're over him.

A police escort arrives to take the chefs to the "royal family" and it's a... Junkanoo band! For those of you not familiar with Bahamian pop culture, it's a steel-drum-toting parade of Mardi Gras-looking folks. Like that guy from "The Wire" who's now on "Treme."

So the meal they planned is for the king of Junkanoo -- who, we're guessing, is coming to the table with a different set of expectations. The chefs get to work and... catastrophe.

A deep fryer ignites, and despite their best efforts, the apathetic Bahamian fire fighters are called in. It's actually sort of serious -- so serious, in fact, it requires the intervention of Mr. Tom Colicchio.

Tom informs the final five that the fire trashed the kitchen and ruined all of their food. They'll have to start over tomorrow.

Just kidding. They're starting over now? We thought they'd give them a rain delay or something, but it turns out they're just going to have to pull an all-nighter. That's what you get for surviving the Great Bahamian Grease Fire of 2011.

They relocate to a much fancier kitchen, and most of the chefs take the opportunity to edit their dishes. Carla's edit? Deep-frying an entire pork tenderloin. We're nervous.

Service is not fit for a king, Junkanoo or otherwise -- and certainly not what we'd expect from an all-stars pre-finale. Carla's loin is underdone, Antonia's shrimp and grits are boring and Tiffany barely makes an impression.

This is not a night for the ladies.

At the judges' table, Tom is more or less giving everyone the stink eye -- even the chefs he liked. Eric Ripert, dear that he is, tries to make up for Carla's undercooked loin by saying his was perfect, but the writing is on the wall.

The winning dish? It's Jersey Mike, and we're sort of appalled. (Sorry, "All-Stars" is supposed to past competitors who were robbed of the crown... not some lame-o who came in seventh place in the best season EVER.)

Richard is safe too. And the judges deliberate before facing an all-ladies bottom three -- which is appropriate, given how sexist this franchise occasionally seems to be.

It's Carla. And we saw it coming. She got in her head -- again -- and it's really OK. She doesn't need to be "Top Chef" to be a winner to us.

We think we'll order a tin of her cookies to eat in one sitting while we watch the finale and pray that everyone pwns Mike.
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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