Top Chef: Episode 4.10 Predictions
This week, many swoony Top Chef fans will be thrilled to see chef Sam Talbot return to the Top Chef kitchens, this time as a judge instead of a cheftestant. Always a hit with the viewers who like the pretty boys, Talbot also had real cooking skills on Top Chef and so his return visit isn't entirely just to help be the male counterpart to Padma Lakshmi's eye candy.

For Sam, it must be a relief to be back in the Top Chef universe without the lingering threat of elimination, but for the rest of the chefs, it's just another couple of challenges with the possibility of heading home at the end. Add to that the remaining exhaustion from the ridiculous workload and lack of sleep on last week's Wedding Wars episode, and our chefs are looking a little worse for wear. Maybe that's the real reason they brought back Sam for this particular episode.

So who could head home this week? Normally, I can see a spectrum of possibilities, knowing how editing and pacing can change the trajectory of even a previously-successful cheftestant. However, reflecting on recent episodes, I have a couple of stronger-than-normal suspicions on who could be heading home this week, based mainly on which contestants seem to be in process of a story arc in the editing and which just seem to be ancillary characters without a narrative in the works.

For one, I am wondering about Lisa Fernandes. While she has done well in some challenges (and her cake last week seemed to be the best thing about her team's efforts), her screen time has been rather low compared to the other chefs. It's kind of late in the season to be building her “character,” so to speak, and other than her conflict with Dale Talde, she really hasn't gotten much exposure. Sometimes editors do tip their hand; in crafting a bigger story down the road, they give more air time earlier to a particular person up front and ergo other folks get less time. I can't help but wonder if this is the situation for Lisa as well.

Despite the fact that I've really grown to appreciate Andrew D'Ambrosi, and despite the fact that he is clearly a deep manic well of excellent sound bites, he, too, hasn't really gotten a ton of screen time compared to some other chefs. We get bits and pieces, but other than the minor personal detail he gave in the kids challenge about his previous weight issues and his funny off-the-cuff remarks, Andrew hasn't really yet been crafted into a story, per se. His edit seems more comic sidekick and less protagonist. Could this change this week? I enjoy having him around so I hope my hunch is wrong.

As to the others, Spike Mendelsohn just seems to be getting so much screen time, I can't imagine he's going home just yet. Ditto for Dale Talde. (However, I have also seen a trend that anytime I write "I can't imagine X is going home this week," X goes home that week so there's always that.)  Richard Blais has seemed to regain his strong footing. Stephanie Izard continues to be the scrappy competitor, fighting her way back from a disastrous dish on the kids episode to building an entire wedding cake in 14 hours on Wedding Wars. Antonia Lofaso seems to be a strong chef; although she hasn't necessarily performed as well as she seems capable of, somehow either her actual personal presentation or her edit makes me feel like she has the skills to stick around for a bit, barring any major misstep. We'll see if that's the case on this week's Top Chef.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesyo of Bravo)