Spike tries to act surprised that he called Rick out, but I think he just wants to talk about his big balls. He also tries to bring conviction to his assertion that he believes he belongs in the final four, but his heart doesn't seem in it. Oh, and by the way, no one wants to go home.
At the table, Colicchio expresses his approval of the challenge: "Each chef was totally self-contained. They had their station, their two dishes, and that's it. No excuses". Indeed -- this was one of my favorite episodes of the season. There wasn't much drama, and there wasn't much comedy, but there also weren't any gimmicks or team challenges -- just plenty of cooking. Gail agrees, pointing out that Harold, Hung and Ilan were all, at different points in the evening, impressed and excited by the cooking, and that there were several flavors never before tasted that were "really clever, really delicious, and a lot of fun". Rick chooses Stephanie as the best performer overall, with solid offerings for both course, and Gail praises her for delivering something new and memorable, which is what really excites her. Richard gets high marks for his innovative and delicious first course, but as Padma notes about his entrée, "the whole should be greater than all your parts", which was not the case. He's saved, however, by the first course, which Gail deems "the single best dish of the night".
Antonia won Rick's heart with her gratin, while Colicchio praises her main course as "my favorite of all the steak dishes". Gail appreciates Antonia's "insightful" cooking "from the heart", which shows on her plate, even if her (unmentioned) salad was a bit of a mess. Citing "big issues" with both of Spike's courses, Colicchio says that, like Spike, he's a huge fan of "simplicity in cooking", but that when one cooks "simple and naked", one needs to make every single thing taste divine. And using frozen scallops was a bonehead move. Rick says that he loves Spike's spunk (okay, there's a bit of comedy, of the gross-out variety) and his fire (for which they make antibiotics), but that he was expecting more based on Spike's handiness with a butcher knife and a grill.
Next, Colicchio drops the bomb that he thinks Lisa, with her cooking (especially in this challenge), is "slightly apathetic to what she's doing", which strikes me as one of the most insulting things one could say about a chef and, in the grand scheme of things, a greater offense than using frozen scallops (not that Spike isn't a turd in general). Padma's take is that Lisa "has an amazing palate", but that she focuses on flavor at the expense of technique. "But technique is how you make flavor", says Colicchio, which inspires Padma to skip a response and move straight to comparing the respective shortcomings of the people everyone knew would be in the bottom two.