Welcome to week three of this summer’s season of Food Network Star! With only two episodes behind us, we’ve already come a long way. Frontrunners have already materialized in Jeff, Orchid and Whitney. We have our villain: the mischievous, calculating Penny. We’ve had double-eliminations, crazy challenges (last week’s recipe re-imagining was awesome) and celebrity chefs aplenty. What will tonight’s episode bring? Will we see another double-elimination? Will Penny’s machinations get the best of her? Will Alicia get through a challenge without crying?

Stick around, food fans, and we’ll find out — together.

And if you missed last week, be sure and check out my recap, and our interview with Juba and Katy!

Our episode opens, and Chris is already annoying me and everyone at the house with his new attitude, which seems to be “talk a lot.” Penny asserts that she’s not here to make friends. Really? I didn’t get that last week when you openly admitted your plans to get frontrunners eliminated from the competition.

Vending Machines … for Dinner

Today’s Camera Challenge is ridiculous and awesome. Each contestant gets a random candy item from a vending machine, and has one hour to make dinner out of it. How creative is this? I’m loving this season’s challenges.

Jeff busts out his headband, because he sweated into his spring rolls last week. Funny, dude. Poor Vic has Hershey’s Kisses and has to unwrap them all. He melts the chocolate down and then dips some roasted asparagus into it. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to flavor combinations, but I don’t think so, Vic. I really don’t.

Jyll is using her Almond Joy to do coconut shrimp. Nice! Very creative. Maybe Jyll has some chops after all.

Time for presentations. Everyone has a minute in front of the camera.

The only judges today are Giada De Laurentiis and Bob Tuschman. Where’s Bobby Flay and Susie Fogelson? Bobby’s probably off shooting one of the dozen other shows he’s currently starring in. And Susie’s probably off producing those shows.

Chris is up first. He writes notes on his hand, which Justin D. thinks is pretty lame. Chris starts gesturing, and Giada totally notices the notes. It doesn’t help that Bob and Giada aren’t crazy about his food.

Jeff’s up next. He does well as usual, and the judges like his food. Vic does a lot better in front of the camera than last week (remember when he didn’t speak for like 30 seconds?), but the judges hate the chocolate-dipped asparagus. Justin B. blows it in front of the camera again (how long until he gets the boot?). Jyll knocks it out the park with the presentation and the meal, and Orchid follows that up with another killer performance. Mary Beth and Whitney kill it too.

Alicia gets nervous halfway through her presentation and starts yammering, and the judges don’t like her meal, which they find too sweet.

Jyll wins the Camera Challenge!

Chris and Vic are pretty down on their performances.

Dessert First

It’s Star Challenge time! Chefs Robert Irvine and Duff Goldman will be heading this challenge. The contestants are going to be split into teams. They’re not only going to be cooking for Robert and Duff, but for 150 other guests. They have a budget of $2000 to create these epic dessert spreads.

As the winner of the last challenge, Jyll gets to choose her team. She elects to be on Team Duff, and selects Susie, Whitney, Orchid, Mary Beth and Alicia, and they all jump around and chitter like a bunch of middle-schoolers. What the hell is this, some kind of sleepover?

Penny gets all hurt because she’s the only woman on Team Robert, which consists of Chris, Vic, Jeff and the Justins. The teams head to the store to pick up ingredients for their desserts.

On Team Robert, Chris decides to take charge, which doesn’t go over well. Justin B. is tuning him out. On Team Duff, Whitney tries to take charge because she’s “a little bit of a control freak.” Penny snaps at Mary Beth like a territorial pit bull over some cardboard boxes.

The next morning, Alicia is feeling a lot of pressure, given her pastry chef background.

Team Robert’s goal is sophisticated desserts for adults. Chris is talking a mile-a-minute, and is annoying pretty much everyone except Vic. Vic and Chris are total bros, man. But Chris isn’t just annoying his team…

Team Duff is on the other side of the kitchen, and they’re a little irked with the boisterous Team Robert. Alicia is borderline shutting down in the kitchen, to the point where she can’t even speak when Whitney’s asks about her dessert.

Team Duff is doing cupcakes, some cookies and pecan pie bites. It’s all pretty standard.

I feel really bad saying this, but I forget Susie is even on this show until she’s on the screen. And then I’m like, “Oh yeah.”

Duff comes by to check on his team, and he seems pretty impressed with the ladies.

But then Robert Irvine comes strutting in, and he’s not a happy camper. His team’s kitchen is a disaster, and Chris is, in Penny’s words, “totally out of control.” You know what it is? Desperation. Chris is circling the drain in this competition, and I think he feels it. I wasn’t minding Chris last week, but he’s really upping it this week — in the worst way possible.

Robert demands to know who’s in charge. Chris owns up, and Robert says, “That doesn’t work for me.” Everyone nominates Justin B. simultaneously for leadership duties, which is probably awkward for Chris. Justin takes the reigns without hesitation.

Chris does not take the demotion well, despite the fact that Justin completely turns his team around, and is obviously better suited than Chris to take on a leadership role. The second round of Chris’ cakes are ruined, so Justin B. axes the cake idea. Am I the only one getting the inkling that Chris is going home tonight?

Cut back to Team Duff, and Alicia is still totally freaking out. Alicia, honey, chill out. You’re making me nervous. Mary Beth’s cookies are ruined. As Team Duff runs into more problems, Orchid is feeling like Jyll needs to take charge. But Jyll isn’t saying a word.

Chris takes his pies out of the oven and drops them on the ground. He drops his pies, people. So, let’s take note of what Chris has accomplished during this challenge: he designated himself leader, ran around and yelled, ruined two batches of cakes and dropped his pies. We up to speed? Good.

The teams head out and set up their desserts. Both teams have pretty awesome presentations. But how does the stuff taste?

And here come the guests! Team Duff is doing a good job interacting with people. Over at Team Robert, everyone’s doing a good job with the crowd (even Justin B.). According to the guests, Alicia and Susie’s food is downright awful. Alicia’s cupcakes go over terribly. People are spitting them out and tossing them in the garbage. Alicia was supposed to be the keystone in this challenge. I mean, good lord, didn’t she own a cake business?

“The proof is in the pudding,” Jeff says, “and the pudding’s in the garbage.”

Jeff is on fire tonight. I love this guy.

Bob, Susie and Bobby show up to partake in the desserts. They sit down with Robert and Duff and sample Team Duff’s desserts. Of course Whitney and Orchid do well, and the judges are rightly impressed. They hate both cupcakes, and aren’t too crazy about Mary Beth’s milkshake or Susie’s churro pancake disaster.

Team Robert time. Everyone does pretty well presenting the dishes, except for Chris, who talks at Bobby the whole time, causing Susie to go, “Chris, there are five of us here.” Ouch. They’re not too crazy about Jeff’s whoopie pies, but love Justin B.’s caramel corn. And, huzzah, they like Vic’s dish. Looks like Vic is finally safe for once. I don’t imagine him being in the bottom three this week. They’re also really digging Justin D.’s pudding and Penny’s saffron rice pudding. Holy crap, is Team Robert winning this challenge?

They hate Chris’ apple tart, and Bob is downright offended that he “only had eyes for Bobby.”

Team Robert wins this challenge, hands-down.

Definitely did not call that.

The teams head home, and the women drown their sorrows in some boxed wine.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Judgment time! Team Robert is up first for the judges’ critiques. They’re liking Penny this week, so she’s definitely safe. Jeff is definitely safe, though they ask him to turn up his passion a bit. Justin B. gets the standard Justin B. critiques: you’re a good chef, but you need a personality. They loved Justin D.’s pudding, but ask him to let his personality shine through a bit more. Vic gets lots of props for his dish and his presentation. As much as I disliked Vic at the beginning of this competition, it’s nice to see him do well this week after struggling in weeks one and two.

Chris gets the brunt of the judges’ criticism. Bobby describes him as a “one-year-old horse that needs to be broken.” OK, Bobby, kind of creepy, but also spot-on.

But … Team Robert won. So guess what? Chris is safe. They’re all safe.

So that means someone from Team Duff is going home. I’m gonna say Alicia, and I’m pretty sure I’m right. (But didn’t I predict that Chris would be going home like five paragraphs ago? I’m obviously out of my mind.)

Susie Fogelson says the team probably needed a leader. I think she’s right-on. Team Duff was doing great until everything fell apart, and Jyll just ignored it. Team Robert triumphed because when things went south, Justin B. stepped up and got it done.

Orchid is falling into the same problem that Aria Kagan had last season — an early frontrunner not progressing. Remember when we all thought Aria was going to win it, and then she just sucked like three weeks in a row? Let’s hope Orchid can keep growing, or she’ll fall hard, just like Aria.

Alicia is crying during the judges’ critiques. The judges tell Whitney that she needs to be OK when things aren’t totally under her control. I want Whitney to stay in this competition. And it’s not just because I have a major crush on her (OK, but that does have a lot to do with it).

Seriously, this episode is over. Alicia has to be going home.

Jyll is safe. Orchid is safe. Whitney is safe.

No surprises here. The bottom three is Mary Beth, Susie and Alicia.

Susie is safe. Mary Beth is safe.

Alicia is going home.

Annnnd … she’s not crying. What the huh? She cries over cupcakes, but not over being eliminated? Maybe she’s relieved…

Chris recognizes that he just barely got by this week. Your number might be up come next Sunday, buddy.

Next week, we’ve got Paula Deen, the cast of Cougar Town and — gasp! — what’s this? A new Penny rivalry? Looks like with Alicia gone, Penny has her sights set on the unassuming Mary Beth.

Tune in next week for Food Network Star, and then stop by BuddyTV to read my recap.

Until next week, food fans.

Matt Click

Staff Writer, BuddyTV