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'Food Network Star': The dearly departed Justin D.

July 4, 2011 |  1:49 pm

Justin D. with 'Food Network Star' cast

Season 7 of "Food Network Star" is turning into one big Rorschach test. Sure, you need to be able to cook, relate and connect with the camera. But most importantly, you have to know thyself. That failure undid Justin D. Was he channeling Pee-wee Herman? A rapper? A wannabe Guy Fieri? A ... Southerner? A Southern wannabe Guy Fieri rapper who resembled Pee-wee Herman?

With his departure, we are down to single digits -- nine competitors remain -- and we start racing toward the finale.

So, let's regroup. Who's looking like a winner here?

Justin D.Orchid, as we've discussed before, is suffering from Jeffrey-itis. Even she admits that she came out of the gate strong, but now everyone else is catching up to her. She's just not improving week to week and not letting the audience into her personality. And her cooking is struggling as well.

Jyll is coming off like a perky, polished blond newscaster. That puts her at a disadvantage. While everyone else needs to learn polish, she needs to unlearn that plastic performance and then relearn some warmth and genuineness. Does she have the time to do that? And even if she does that ... can she bring it with her cooking?

Jeff is getting better and better. I love his sandwich P.O.V. He is starting to look like a contender.

Chris: He is getting better as well, but he still reeking that frat-boy vibe. I don't see him lasting that much longer.

Whitney: She did much better in this week's Fourth of July challenge. But she still comes off a bit wooden. I think the jury is still out on her. And question: Was she joking that she would like to see the Flayman without his pants? Or was she telling him to please keep his pants on? Either way, it was funny.

Susie: She's bringing it. She still needs a lot of polish but she is on her way. I just don't see her as a Mexican food authority. But I could see her doing some kind of Latin American travelogue.

Ah, Penny. Is she starting to implode? She claims again and again that she just doesn't care about the others, is just in it to win it, blah, blah blah. But then it's "Wah, wah, wah!" in front of the judges. I was half-expecting her to start crying, "The other girls are being mean to me and pulling my pigtail!" You need to own it, Penny. Either you care about the others or you don't. And if you don't, how can you be surprised when they isolate you?

Vic: I was blown away by his performance this week. He really is a diamond in the rough.

Mary Beth: I run hot and cold on her. I think she showed off her terrific personality this week, but I just don't know what her P.O.V. is. What would she bring to a show? Is that anything I want to watch? I don't want another travelogue show and I feel like that's what she's offering -- to be a guide. I'm not sure I have room on the DVR for that.


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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photos: Food Network