Top Chef: Episode 4.5 Predictions
Making a prediction for this episode of Top Chef 4 is making me a little nervous. It's been actually kind of easy so far to at least be in the ballpark of who would be going home. Too easy.

Top Chef 4: what do you have in store for us this week? Some kind of upsetting of our expectations?

Well, all I can go on is what I've seen before and what is in the previews, so here are some guesses.

My unofficial straw poll of some Top Chef viewers indicates that many think that Nikki Cascone needs to go. While her dish last episode wasn't a failure with the non-foodie guests, the judges weren't impressed with her pasta, which was supposed to be her strong point. This next episode will require the chefs to prepare food for around 300 people. Preparing food at that volume is going to require some catering-style skills, and we know this isn't her specialty. She seems like she could be at risk.

The previews show Jennifer Biesty and Spike Mendelsohn having some kind of confrontation, but the way Jennifer speaks to Spike makes it sound more like she is defending someone (mmm, her partner and fellow cheftestants Zoi Antonitsas, perhaps?) rather than fighting with him on her own behalf. Could Zoi be in trouble in the judging room again, arousing her partner's protective impulses? Or is something else entirely?

Personally, I wouldn't be incredibly upset to see Spike head home, and many thought it should be him and not Manuel Trevino who got kicked off last week. But something tells me he could be one of those cheftestants with just enough skills and chutzpah to stick around longer than the viewers might like.

Dale Talde is shown screaming at someone, but it's edited in such a way as to be ambiguous, so it could mean anything. I think it must mean he's on a losing team (no one ever gets into screaming fights when they're winning), but I doubt he'd get sent home. He's performed well, but not been edited to appear to be a superstar yet, so I don't think he's primed for a fall just yet.

Who could be? Richard Blaise has faltered, but otherwise been doing very well. So well, in fact, that it makes me suspicious. Is he being set up for an earlier exit than viewers might currently be expecting?

Andrew D'Ambrosi and Stephanie Izard have also been doing very well, but not necessarily getting the same kind of edit as Richard, so it seems unlikely that this episode would see them going home.

Lisa Fernandes had been flying under the radar, but her performance last week saw some improvement. Was it her, or her very strong teammate, Stephanie, though? She's big on Asian fusion, and this week's guest judge Ming Tsai specializes in a similar East/West combination in his cuisine. That's not necessarily a good thing. As we saw with Richard and guest judge/fellow molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne and Manuel and Mexican cuisine bigwig Rick Bayless, the pressure of a judge who knows your main cuisine inside and out can make a chef susceptible to faltering.

Ryan Scott and Mark Simmons were made out to be a little bumbling last episode, but their A Christmas Story dish was well-received and one of the few concepts that really tied the dish to the movie well. It was a nifty feat considering Ryan couldn't remember the name of the movie and Mark didn't know what he was talking about.

Antonia Lofaso has been on a team in the bottom and hasn't really seemed to distinguish herself since her initial positive call-out in the Quickfire. That said, I still think she might have some skills that we haven't seen, and I always recall how quiet Casey Thompson seemed last season until the field was narrowed enough to give her the chance to show what she could do. I'm curious to see if there might be a similar story arc for Antonia.

Whatever does happen, one thing certain in this next episode of Top Chef 4, and that is that we will see what could be the beginning of the end of the friendly rapport that several of the eliminated chefs have commented on in their interviews.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)