In front of the judges, Michael starts right up by saying that he knows his fish was overcooked and explains about the technical problems. The judges don't care about the technical problems. Tom thinks they picked the wrong type of fish to start out with. Ash feels like Michael is being attacked a bit and steps up and says that he thought the dish's concept was great and better than anything he could ever come up with. He even says that working with Michael was "like washing paint brushes for Picasso." Dude. You basically just told the judges, "This guy is a way better chef than I could ever even hope to be, so if you're going to send someone home, send me." Then again, he also kind of told them, "I didn't have much to do with this dish, so if you hated it, send him home." Tom points out that Ash just said he kind of sucks, and Ash says that he realizes that even a better chef can make mistakes in execution, so he thinks his own skill in execution will take him far. Except he's made mistakes in execution in the past.
Moving on to Ashley and Eli, Tom asks Eli to talk about what was good with the dish. Eli liked the concept of beets with prawns. Toby adds that the prawns weren't cooked, and Ashley takes responsibility for that. Padma points out that Eli is responsible for the dish they sent out too. Toby thinks gnocchi is a little heavy for an outdoor summer meal, and Ashley is forced to agree. She tries to explain that she knew they were overly salted without coming right out and saying that Eli was the one that salted them. Eli still thinks it was a great dish and doesn't get it, while Ashley is practically crying because she knows their dish was bad, and it wasn't entirely her fault, but she also has some integrity and doesn't want to screw her teammate over. And of course, as far as we know, Eli doesn't step up and take credit for his mistakes.
Back in the Stew Room, Ash chuckles that he might have talked the judges into sending him home. The judges discuss this very thing, and wonder if Ash was even at the level of Michael's sous chef, or lower. Back in the Stew Room, Michael thanks Ash for saying such nice things about him. Colicchio thinks Michael is obviously responsible for the dish, and the dish had problems. In the Stew Room, Michael agrees with the judges about the technical problems not being an excuse, because if equipment fails in your restaurant, you can't go out to the patrons and use that as an excuse for bad food. Then again, in a restaurant, you could presumably remake the dish or offer a substitute. So I don't think Michael and Ash should get a pass, but I think it should be taken into account.
The judges talk about Ashley and Eli's dish. Tom points out that Ashley was responsible for most of the dish, having had a hand in the prawns and the gnocchi both. They sort of suss out that Eli was probably responsible for oversalting the gnocchi, though. So for both teams, it comes down to figuring out the worse sin: taking on more responsibility and then serving a bad dish, or serving as a sous chef and not abdicating responsibility for the dish as a whole?
The bottom four come back out to face the judges. I wonder how long they are made to stand there and stare at each other until production gets their establishing shots. Tom points out that team challenges are difficult but usually it is one person responsible for a dish's failure, even on a team. Ashley was responsible for the undercooked shrimp, and had a hand in the gnocchi. Michael was responsible for a concept that was only okay, and overcooked halibut. So who's going home? Ashley is told to pack her knives and go. Michael lets out a breath and looks incredibly relieved. I'm bummed that Ashley made such a comeback in the past few weeks and is going home ahead of Robin, Ash, and Eli, all of whom I think she is better than. Also possibly Laurine. Well, she wasn't going to win, so I guess it doesn't matter in the end. And I still hate her hair. And her tuxedo T-shirt. But she was starting to grow on me.