Guest judge Daniel Boulud presides over this round -- which starts with a Quickfire designed to showcase technique. Specifically, a vegetable plate. Nikki, Lisa and Manuel are the bottom three, while Zoi, Richard and Dale take the top slots. Dale wins with a vegan sashimi platter that highlights his impressive knife skills. Turns out Ryan and Richard have both worked at Daniel's restaurants. Guess which one liked it.
Movies provide the theme for Elimination -- a dinner hosted by de-thumbed movie critic Richard Roeper for multiple hat-wearer Aisha Tyler. Six courses, cooked in pairs, each based on the duo's favorite film. Knives are drawn by everyone except Dale, who gets to join any team he chooses, and bring with him a 33% increase in that team's competitive advantage. Oddly enough, the teams are split precisely along gender lines. Six same-sex teams of two, and…Dale. Dale chooses to work with the predictably random, knife-selected team of Andrew and Richard, transforming a competitive duo into a curious threesome.
Though the movie selection tends west, several groups incorporate Asian flavors. The judges are surprised by how good some of the dishes are, and the party guests like them even better. Richard, riffing on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory , leads his team to victory with a controversial dish using salmon, wasabi, chocolate and celery. Lisa and Stephanie round out the top with New York strip/short rib potsticker a la Top Secret.
Zoi and Antonia choose Talk to Her, and end up in the bottom for (ironically enough) talking the talk but not walking the walk, but Spike and Manuel get the lowest score for sticking afterthought Good Morning, Vietnam to a run-of-the-mill summer roll. Spike drove the entire disappointing effort, but he's also dominated this season's talking-head time, and Manuel goes home for being, uh, a "follower."
As day breaks in Chicago, the cheftestants prepare themselves for another grueling Quickfire/Elimination combo. Things are quieter than they have been, says Manuel -- Erik is "a big guy with a big heart," and his absence can be felt around the house. Each elimination ratchets up the intensity, which is starting to take its toll. Manuel misses his sons something fierce, but he understands that it's all part of the game.
Jennifer's trying to be hyper-conscious of the uniqueness of her situation with Zoi -- as everyone talks about how much "they miss their boyfriend, or their girlfriend, or their kids" -- she and Zoi have each other to lean on, to talk to, to touch. She reiterates that she's trying to be as fair as she can, and that she's making an effort to keep some distance out of respect for the rest of the group. While thoughtful, I'm not sure how far that respect will go toward ameliorating the other people distanced from their support systems. It does feel like we're inching ever-so-slowly toward a situation in which, cards on table, we'll see Jennifer and Zoi's true colors -- I'll be let down if that moment never comes, since they've been setting us up for some fireworks since the first episode.
Spike, never without an opinion, professes his "love" for the girls and his belief that they complement each other wonderfully, but states that he's ready for one of them to go. Says he: "It is a competition, and having two people in the house that are kind of working together and understand each others thought process, it puts the rest of us at a slight disadvantage, and that's all it takes in this competition is a slight disadvantage." Wordy, but potentially valid -- if indeed that's how it plays out. Jennifer's gone to bat for Zoi in the talking-head segments, but the jury's still out about how things will go if the do compete against one another. Which I think I already said -- so, moving on, Spike's ubiquitous porkpie hat is getting a little tedious. It feels a bit forced, and in that way it's a nice encapsulation of his general persona.
Padma, rocking the cobalt blue yet again (looks like she's decided it her color of the season), introduces this week's guest judge by saying, "If you guys don't know who he is, you should just leave the kitchen now." It's Daniel Boulud, multiple restaurant owner, After Hours star, and extraordinary French chef, who's definitely one of the stars in the culinary firmament. I've never had the pleasure of dining at one of his establishments, but I gather he generally lives up to the hype. He also seems like a fairly genial fellow, although I'll bet he can be right nasty when provoked (or when he feels like it).