Manuel claims to view this challenge as an "opportunity for myself to learn something about Spike and what he does," and when Daniel wonders if it might be a little late for that, Manuel disagrees, saying he likes to learn every day. All well and good, but the judges hate it when someone cedes authority (well, they do when the end result is crap). "I don't play that way," answers Bro Spike to Padma's question of which one of them should go home, inspiring a row of annoyed looks from the judges, and they're all sent off to stew before the final decision is made. Beer in hand, Zoi returns to the " I can't compete with white chocolate and wasabi" conversation, emphatically stating "that's not me." Manuel's pretty certain that either he or Spike will be on their way, and I'm pretty certain with him -- as the judges offer their final assessments (Zoi and Antonia simply didn't match the story with the dish, while Spike and Manuel served a run-of-the-mill item), Manuel decides that it's he who will be leaving.
After explaining the challenge (again) and offering the general critique of each dish (for the umpteenth time), Colicchio tells Zoi and Antonia that they are safe. He also drops a precious nugget -- not only was the summer roll the least favorite dishes of the judges, it was the unanimous low-scorer among the other party guests, which has to hurt. Colicchio dings Spike for leading the team and botching "something that you are very comfortable working with," and faults Manuel for being "just happy to go along," an attitude devoid of the "drive and determination" that characterizes a Top Chef. Since neither was terribly forthcoming, adds Colicchio, the judges "had to make a decision in our own way." Uh, isn't that what they always do? In this case it probably means, "We let the producers tell us which one of you to kick to the curb," and the oracle Padma reveals that they selected Manuel. At least he'll get to go home and see his sons, and we'll have cocky Spike and his parade of hats around for at least one more week. Remember, around these parts it's better to lead a shitty effort than to follow it, especially if your partner has dominated the talking head segments to date. Manuel has plenty of kind, noble parting words for his fellow cheftestants, and the Top Chef experience, sentiments that contrast with the teasing promise of lots of yelling and tears next week. Yay!