'MasterChef' recap: Head-to-Head-to-Head-to-Head

masterchef-judges-320.jpgPreviously on "Cry-on Chef America," ( "MasterChef") we somehow pared our way down to four final contestants. Now that we just have two hours of TV time together, let's meet them, shall we?

Lee's a bartender from Los Angeles, whom the pleasantly-voiced female narrator says was always a front-runner. Except for those early weeks where we totally ignored him. Then, there's Sheetal, who was upset about having to kill a crab until she wasn't, and so here she is. You may also remember David, who the pleasantly voiced narrator scolds for "his antics." And yet here he is. And then there's Whitney who is -- and I don't think we can over-emphasize this enough -- so terribly, disgustingly young. One of them's getting $250,000 in pre-tax prize money, a cookbook publishing deal, and the title of MasterChef. The rest will never be allowed to cook again under an obscure-yet-very-enforceable federal law.

Credits! Chop! Swoosh! Glare! Say, who were all these people again?

The Final Four walk into the "MasterChef" kitchen wearing their "MasterChef" cooking whites and prepare themselves to cook in the next "MasterChef" competition for a spot in the "MasterChef" finals. Also, "MasterChef."  But before they can reach the final, there will be two head-to-head cook-offs, with the contestants making three dishes in two hours. We draw names and learn that David will face Sheetal, which, by the process of elimination, means that Whitney will face Lee. We're sure it's Lee, right, and not Sharone wearing a Lee-mask? Because, seriously, I still can't tell the difference. Lee is worried about facing Whitney, who may be young but also appears to be well-nigh unkillable. David is thrilled to be going up against Sheetal, who is understandably pissed-off to be taken so lightly. Pissed-off enough to boil him alive like a crab? Possibly.

So, David-versus-Sheetal. But before we can get to that, we're first treated to a video montage of old clips, just in case you have no memory of the previous 11 episodes of this series. Oh, and then Gordon reveals that their friends and family are here to watch them, and there is much shrieking and hugging and carrying on and, Jesus Christ, we are six minutes into this episode already--won't somebody cook something? We may finally get our wish. Each judge gets to ask Sheetal and David to cook one classic dish to order. Not surprisingly, Joe's in the mood for Italian -- veal Milanese. Graham goes the Americana route and asks for "the greatest slice of Apple pie." Gordon wants clam chowder. David, who is from New England in case his shy and understated demeanor confused you, chuckles joyfully. "Crap, double crap, and oh, double pie," Sheetal says of her cooking challenges. Well, it sounds delicious! Let's get cooking, shall we?

David may be feeling confident about that clam chowder, but he has a confession to make -- he's never baked an apple pie before. And now he has to do it with mother staring down at him disapprovingly, and no, that's apparently not a euphemism. Sheetal, by contrast is very confident, in her apple pie -- it's headed into the oven while David is still futzing around with his crust. Instead of making a whole pie, David calls an audible and make a sort of apple crisp in an individual ramekin. You have to credit his inventiveness, even if you want to slap him upside the head.

That's one hour down, and two dishes left. The contestants turn their attention to the clam chowder. David is extremely confident in his chowder-fu: "If there's anything I know how to do right, it's clam chowder." Sheetal, meanwhile, is using a tip she apparently got from Joe and using shrimp shells to add flavor to her stock. Well, she's doomed here, isn't she?

That leaves us with veal Milanese. Sheetal's going the traditional route, which is pounding the veal, breading it, and pan-frying it. David decides to cook his veal in the oven, which, if the reactions of the other contestants are anything to go by, is the equivalent of crossing the streams at the end of "Ghostbusters." Do not attempt this at home, people -- that man is a not-all-that-trained non-professional. Joe calls David's efforts "pretty ballsy." Why do we think that Joe's Word-A-Day calendar is 365 entries worth of "ballsy?" Plus "restaurant-quality" for the leap year.

So after much scrambling and screaming from Gordon and commercial breaks, Sheetal and David finish their three dishes. Gordon would like to try the clam chowder first. David is confident; Sheetal imagines what an upset it would be if her clam chowder were to win. In a break from tradition, David has desired to drizzle olive oil over his chowder, telling Gordon that he's trying to be ballsy. Joe smiles, though it's unclear whether that's caused by the olive oil or the co-opting of his favorite word. Gordon decides to taste the more traditional-looking chowder first. That's yours, Sheetal. Gordon finds the seasoning precise. "Really good indeed," he says. And David's? It's got a thinner texture, but the clams are cooked perfectly. It's a difficult choice, but after much hemming and hawing, Gordon declares David the winner of Battle Chowder on account of the clam favor. "If he wins the next one," Gordon reminds Sheetal, "you're leaving 'MasterChef.'" Somehow, I think that's unlikely, and not just because the apple pie competition is next.

Graham saunters up for his turn to taste the two dishes. Sheetal's dish is traditional -- "My take is not traditional," David says. Or that appetizing, the recapper says, eyeing that charbroiled crust with a disdainful glare. Graham finds Sheetal's pie "beautiful in its simplicity" and thinks the crust is amazing. Graham warns David that his not-really-a-pie pie better be the most orgasmic experience ever. It's not. The crust is thick, the apple thin, and while it tastes more delicious than it apparently looks, Graham would prefer another piece of Sheetal's pie. So we're all tied up, as if there any doubt.

That means it all comes down to Sheetal's traditionally-prepared veal Milanese and David's apparent affront to God and nature and Mario Batalli ...

Photo credit: FOX