This week, the remaining eight finalists bid farewell to the Manhattan rush and head to the sun-soaked beaches of Miami. While some of the contestants are still straddling in the middle, perhaps a change of scenery will help some reach their Star potential (Ippy in particular seems more than ready for a warmer climate and some sunshine).

Star Challenge: Throw a Beach Party for the Deens
Everyone arrives in beach-ready attire and the producers announce their Star Challenge this week: they’re throwing a “Welcome to Sobe Beach” party for the VIP families attending the wine and food festival and… Paula Deen (plus her husband and son, Bobby Deen)! They need to create one dish for the adults and one for their kids under 10 and a 30-second beach party tip on camera. Plus, as additional incentive, the finalist with the best performance will receive a Target gift certificate–worth $20,000! (Doesn’t that seem a bit excessive? How many TV’s and toiletries can you buy?)

The teams have a brief pow-wow with their producer mentors, go shopping for food and party decorations, film their segments, decorate (i.e. the guys build sand castles and leave the sophisticated decor to the ladies) and then it’s finally time to cook. Everyone’s food is looking palatable and bright, particularly Ippy’s seared misoyaki Chilean sea bass. The only one who seems to be struggling is Michele, who is stuck spending most of her time painfully extracting her crab meat. Also of note is Justin’s chilled sweet corn soup, which seems a bit pedestrian for the culinary rebel, though he does manage to make it completely vegan, nut-free and wheat-free.

Then Paula and Bobby Deen show up and the FNS hopefuls are enamored. Martie in particular is having a star struck moment with her food idol. Giada’s team (perhaps as the relatable, likable bunch) really warm to Paula. The queen of Southern cooking also takes to Justin, nicknaming him “Elvis” for his quirky hair style.

It’s time for the presentations in front of the network, producers, the Deens and the VIP families (who are not named, but are obviously very important). Justin starts off in trouble when Paula and Susie literally choke on his soup due to the spicy chipotle oil, but Paula still loves him for being so outside the box. When Martie miscalculates her timing yet again, Paula understands (“It’s hard for us Southern girls to do anything in 30 seconds.) and Susie tears because Martie “touches her so.”

Uptight Nikki is fearing the judgment from the kids (last time her healthy green smoothie didn’t go over so well) more than their VIP parents, but her on-camera tip on making simple candle holders finally showed a more natural, warm side the network has been waiting for. Malcolm, who seems to have a hearing problem because he still won’t accept the fact that he has to specify his culinary POV, gets into it with Susie when he bridles at being “pigeon-holed” by anyone. Bobby’s final contestant is Michele, who sadly commits a party no-no by failing to remove all the pits of crab shell from her crab roll (Alton says, “You’re done” in his deadpan way).

On the other end of the spectrum, Ippy finally shines on camera and in front of an audience. Clearly, the sun and sand helped this uncompromising candidate move to the next level (unlike Malcolm). Paula finds the chipper Yvan “adorable” and the network is impressed that he took his food up a sophisticated notch. Martita seems to be the only one who’s still unable to be herself in front of the camera, though there have been glimmers of promise. Mama Giada steps in to argue that her finalist’s POV is a “younger, healthier, fresher” spin on Mexican food.

Producers Challenge: Cocktail Hour
The top performances were Justin, Ippy and Nikki. But Justin had that chipotle oil hiccup and Nikki’s food got mixed results, so the exorbitant Target certificate goes to Ippy! No one is happier about this news than Giada, who smothers the carefree Ippy with an uncontainable embrace. After calling out Martie, Yvan and Martita as safe, it’s obvious that the bottom two are from Bobby’s team: Malcolm (aka Refuses to Designate a POV) and Michele (aka Created a Safety Hazard at a Beach Party with VIPs and Their Kids). Their Producers Challenge is to create a beach party cocktail that represents them. In lieu of a taped segment, they’ll be pitching their cocktails “live” (meaning they’ll be presenting to Bobby and the network).

Michele makes a Matituck Mystery from her favorite New England island Nantucket, while Malcolm magically discovers his POV instantaneously (and it’s still not really clear; all he says is his soul food point of view comes from his mother). But he does create an apple cobbler inspired cocktail with caramelized apples that looks quite appetizing.

The Pitch Room
It’s Miami, so nothing can be indoors and so the pitch room is the same outdoor table. Bobby understandably has nothing to add, as he doesn’t want to play favorites for either of his mentees. When Michele describes the inspiration behind her drink, the network is impressed with the “deeper, richer and more original” New England she describes, rather than the one-note seafood creations she’s been putting forth so far. Next, Malcolm attempts to feign a more realized POV without actually clarifying anything–but his apple cobbler drink is well received.

Michele’s new New England vision is intriguing to the network, though it still needs to be developed and while Malcolm’s perspective is still confusing, he’s still one of the best chefs in the competition. But Bob and Susie aren’t fooling us–we know the POV is just as (if not more) important than sheer culinary expertise and it’s no surprise when Malcolm is named the one to go home.

Next week it looks like there are a lot of blunders at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival and someone from Team Giada (the only team with three remaining) will most likely be on the bottom (if the past weeks are any indication). Of Ippy, Yvan and Martita, who do you think should go home? Did you think Malcolm was the right choice this week?

(Image courtesy of Food Network)

Jenn Lee

Staff Writer, BuddyTV

Jenn grew up in Ohio before moving to Seoul, Korea, where she attended international school and failed to learn Korean. From there she went on to earn a BA in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania before settling in Seattle, where she now spends too much time pondering the power of narrative in TV shows and novels. While she loves a good smart comedy (a la Community or Parks and Recreation), her favorite current show is Breaking Bad; all-time mentions include Arrested DevelopmentLost and Friends. When she’s not consuming television or literature, she’s savoring pastries and searching for the city’s ultimate sandwich.