David Moir/Bravo
Stephan Lee
February 28, 2013 AT 07:01 AM EST

May the odds be ever in your favor! The culinary war between our two talented female finalists became even more of a spectator sport, as 300 people packed into an arena to watch Brooke and Kristen hurl deadly weapons at each other in the form of immaculate and well-balanced dishes. Gamemakers erected obstacles before the warriors in the form of required ingredients. Previous Champions presided over the ceremony. Images of fallen competitors flashed on the screen  … Okay, I extended this Hunger Games metaphor for much longer, but I deleted most of it to spare all of you. Basically, this year’s Top Chef finale played out live in a setting that looked like Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium. Those giant knife decorations were weirdly ominous, though, like props from Stab 4. (By the way, it’s such B.S. that only 68 of the audience members were allowed to eat while the rest had to look on. Let them eat kumquats!)

I had a major concern before the episode even aired — I was a bit worried that the judges would try too hard to make up for the travesty that was Kristen’s untimely elimination by handing her an overly decisive win. We’ve been given plenty of time to see Brooke’s considerable talent, and I didn’t consider either one to be more deserving than the other coming in.

My fears were realized, I think, but that’s entirely speculation on my part. I’m not convinced that Brooke was given a fair shake. This was one of the most evenly matched Top Chef finales ever, but it didn’t feel that way from the very first minute of the episode. More on that later.

So the ladies went head-to-head in four rounds; the first chef to win three rounds would take the Top Chef crown — or, as Gail put it, the Top Chef tiara. When I spoke to Kristen after her elimination episode aired, she came across as so timid that it surprised me when she entered the stadium last night with so much verve and determination. “F— yeah, I want to beat her,” she said of Brooke. In terms of demeanor, Kristen looked much more like a winner from the very beginning. Perhaps Brooke should add a new phobia to her list, alongside helicopters and boats: cooking before a live studio audience.

NEXT: Which previous winner were you most excited to see? Harold gets my vote for most changed.

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