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Paula Deen's 'MasterChef' appearance divides viewers

Image: Gordon Ramsay and Paula Deen.
Gordon Ramsay welcomed guest Paula Deen to "MasterChef" in an episode that was filmed long before scandal rocked her career.Today

Outside of post-scandal mea culpas, Paula Deen hasn't graced the small screen much since the public outcry and business backlash that followed her admission of using racial slurs in a May deposition. But on Wednesday night, Deen was back.

The celebrity chef appeared on the latest episode of Fox's culinary competition "MasterChef," but that appearance wasn't exactly meant to be a comeback — a point that was clear early in the episode.

"When I see Paula Deen, the first thing that comes in my head is Southern food," contestant Luca Manfe said when the mystery guest was announced.

The fact that he didn't add "and the scandal that cost her both her reputation and career" gave an important clue about the guest spot. The "MasterChef" episode was actually filmed in March, long before Deen's woes were ever an issue.

Ultimately, that detail didn't really matter to viewers. The important thing was just seeing her on TV again. But it was important to them for different reasons, as "MasterChef" fans soon revealed on Twitter.

Some were happy:





Some seemed less excited:





And others were simply perplexed by the timing of Deen's episode:





As for the official "MasterChef" Twitter account, there was no mention of Deen at all.

While watchers continued to tweet their reactions to Deen's appearance during and after the show, by the end of the second hour of "MasterChef," the on-screen focus wasn't on Deen anymore. Contestants took the spotlight as the final five went down to four. (So long, James Nelson!)

"MasterChef" airs Wednesdays at 8 on FOX.