We’re down to the final four — Courtland, Emily, Casey and Michael — and Vern invites the contestants to brunch at Aarón Sanchez’s Centrico. He wants them to take the morning and relax. Everyone is exhausted and so happy to indulge after all the pressure leading up to this point. I mean, I’d need some rest after being subjected to all those wall murals, am I right?
First course is a tropical fruit salad, second is huevos rancheros, third is an elegant corn tamale and fourth is rice pudding empanadas with a mango chutney. They gulp it all down while patting each other on the back. Suddenly Vern walks in with the chef. Like I’ve said before, you never want to see Vern walk in. It’s almost always bad news.
Turns out chef Aarón Sanchez has one of the biggest hits on the Food Network, Chefs vs. City. The contestants are to choose one of the dishes they’ve just devoured as inspiration for this week’s challenge: to create a dining room space. Casey chooses the tamale, Courtland goes with the empanadas, Emily chooses huevos rancheros, which means Michael is left with the fruit salad. The twist is that they have to start with a very lived-in space and must repurpose furniture and materials to create their designs. As if deriving design inspiration from the taste of a meal isn’t hard enough.
The designers break into teams of two, and Michael and Emily show up to their space where it looks like it hasn’t been touched in over 40 years: florals, ruffles and probably the smell of moth balls everywhere. There are angel tchotchkes and Christmas decorations littered throughout the space. I think that used to be my grandmother’s apartment, actually.
Casey and Courtland’s room isn’t much better, full of banged-up furniture that wouldn’t even sell at a swap meet, orange and brown and yuck everywhere. Courtland decides to rebuild the table while Casey upholsters the head chairs of the dining table to reflect the elegance and sophistication of her dish. Courtland is taking his inspiration, the empanadas and painting two lamp bases red and white to reflect the dish’s spiciness.
Michael grabs a coffee table and turns it into a bench, and to reflect his inspiration, “the pop in your mouth of the fruit salad,” he first spray paints it yellow, and then he covers it with white so the yellow will poke through. Emily decides to paint the ceiling green, saying they have to go for it, have to take the risk because it will look like a really great explosion in the room. Or, you know, it could look like Kermit exploded all over the ceiling.
Emily explains that she chose huevos rancheros because of the crazy textures and flavors. Then she takes a bunch of plastic flowers, spray paints them white and attaches them to a giant box to create a chandelier. She really wants to shake things up and go big. Meanwhile Michael is destroying all the angels with a hammer and screwdriver and plans to use the pieces to make a really ornate neo-Baroque mirror: “Off with your heads, you are now a mirror frame!”
He is going to have to go to confession for that one.
Back at the other team we see Courtland doing a giant faux finish on his focal wall, thinking that somehow this is going to translate into the sophisticated taste of his dish? Oh, Courtland. This is me shaking my head. Are you out of your mind? You obviously are, because the only thing that paint resembles is a diaper inspired by baby food.
Casey decides to create an ottoman out of a side table and an area rug, combining the roughness of the area rug with the newness of the finish on the table. Courtland makes two elegant sconces out of copper piping set up against the exposed brick in the room. Not enough, however, to distract anyone’s attention from that disastrous faux finish. How many times have I said that this season?
Emily is using her prop styling experience to create cake and candle stands out of all the tchotchkes while Michael has an absolute freak out about his bench. He’s ripping things and throwing things, and suddenly I miss Tom and his heavy breathing.
Judges show up to do their walkthrough, and up first: Emily and Michael’s room. We hear Genevieve say, “That’s beautiful.” Candice says Michael’s mirror looks like it could cost a thousand dollars, and then they all note the risk of the color on the ceiling. Vern notes they did a lot of editing with this design.
Next up: Courtland and Casey. First words are, “That’s orange.” And you can only guess what they are talking about, although they do love the sconces. Vern loves the end table, but you can tell they are a little underwhelmed by the space. All the contestants then head back up to record host presentations since they are all now competing as individuals.
At the judging studio Vern announces that they will be weighing design and hosting equally in their decision, meaning we get to see everyone’s presentation. Casey nails her presentation, is authoritative and very relatable. Vern tells her there were so many elements in the room from her that put a smile on his face.
Emily is a bit wordy in her presentation, although her quirkiness totally shines through. Genevieve tells her she used the room very well, and Vern loves the light fixture. Courtland doesn’t even get the chef’s name right in his presentation, and it’s just all over the place. And then Vern slams the faux finish, telling him it looks horrible against the beautiful exposed brick. Michael is adorable in his tape, although Candice tells him to reign in his flirtatiousness. Vern compliments the mirror, but he didn’t see enough of Michael in the space.
Bottom two: Courtland and Michael, although they faked us out by bringing the girls down first. Mean, Vern! Courtland has been inspirational, but he’s also delivered things that have been huge disappointments. Michael hasn’t yet won a single challenge, and he has to show more than one piece in a room. Judgment is delivered, and Courtland is going home! No more faux finishing! But then again, no more ogling!