Chris Hodgson's ketchup pitch was a drip. (Food Network )
There's no place to hide. The pack has thinned down so much that every cut from here on out is going to hurt. Badly.
This week's bloodletting victim? Chris. To be sure, it could have been any of the four competitors on the chopping block this week after a stellar competition in which everyone had to brand themselves into a product that could be sold at your local supermarket or Target.
As intended, it brought out the best and worst in everyone, unveiling misguided notions about self, about food and even about one's projected place in the network's culinary kingdom. Russell was the big surprise, finally turning his twist on "sins" into an appealing, inviting pitch that had the all-female judging panel leaning so as not to miss a thing. To quote Bob Tuschman: "That's the guy" the network wants to see more of.
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Stacey and Damaris skated on through to the next round on the strength of their products. I'd like to snap up a few jars of Hot Momma Butterscotch and whiskey-spiked peach jam, wouldn't you? But their pitches fell flat. Too rehearsed, too restrained.
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That left Nikki, the Pie Guy, Chris and Chad on the chopping block, each with a seemingly equal shot at being sent home. That's quite an unfamiliar place for some, like Nikki and Chad, who started the competition strong but have struggled to wow.
If the competition were just based on fairness, the Pie Guy should have been sent packing. After all, he knows better than all the judges, right? Again and again, he has been given direction -- speak slowly, keep it simple, make sure we can understand, keep it simple! -- and has refused again and again to heed that feedback.
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If he knows all there is to know, then he should just pitch a pilot to the network and let the chips fall where they may. The rest of the competitors have been trying to incorporate the judge's feedback. It feels disrespectful to do otherwise, no?
Chris, ostensibly, was eliminated because he failed to grasp the heart of the pitch. He should have explained that his product -- a smoked apple ketchup -- was inspired by his family's apple orchard and its mammoth on-site smoker. Instead, he had some car salesman-like pitch that included a weird charity mention.
Weird, because isn't it traditional to at least say who you're raising money for? Failing to do so makes it sound flim-flamy.
The reality, though, is that Chris had the least clear-cut vision of everyone who ended up on the chopping block this week. Nikki, Chad and Pie Guy are all able to give you a show pitch in a single sentence. (Well, the Pie Guy would also include a jarring, fast-talking tune, but at least it's something.) Chris never really came up with a sharp, focused angle, and, let's face it, today's food shows are all about a niche.
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For better or worse.
Chris didn't go the distance, but he went beyond 99.9% of the dreamers out there who never took the first step. And he probably had no intention of revealing his background as a one-time, down-and-out alcoholic who managed to turn his life around. No, he didn't win the life-changing prize. But it's not hyperbole to say he probably changed the life of at least one person who was watching, moved at least one person to get help, inspired at least one person to think, "If that guy could do it, so can I."
And that's a pretty good prize in and of itself.
Best of luck, Chris. And bottle that smoked apple ketchup, will ya? I want a jug of that, too.