Sam and Padma begin with Andrew, who's created a "Thai fruit salad" with mangoes, strawberries, raspberries and a sriracha dressing (and what looks like a bit of cilantro and chives sprinkled on top). Sam likes the flavor imparted by the dressing. Spike, with his "sensual beef salad" of pineapple, radish, cucumber, skirt steak and mint, gets points from Sam for its contrast, while Lisa's "sexy banana salad" with grilled squid and lobster tail, bananas and yuzu vinaigrette strikes Sam as not spicy enough and Padma as too heavy on the banana. Stephanie's "fall duet" of pear vinaigrette, poached pear and marinated artichokes (she cops to the chip debacle) elicits nary a comment. Antonia's "poached egg and wild mushroom salad" with bacon vinaigrette and squash blossoms (and mache, hello), looks mighty tasty and impresses Sam with its "great flavor."
Richard's "fresh and clean salad" with a ceviche of meticulously cubed fruits and vegetables looks too bland and sedate to inspire any naughty salad fantasies. Dale thinks his "poached chicken salad" (seriously, each of these salads has a "name") with nori paste, mirin, sake, rice wine vinegar and what appear to be brussels sprout leaves and radishes (??) includes the "fifth flavor element" -- presumably umami. It looks like a bit of a mess on the plate, but Sam likes the moistness of the poached chicken (which can often be too dry).
Delivering his overall opinions of the salad, Sam chooses Richard as his first disappointment, as the ceviche didn't pack ceviche's hallmark acidic punch. Stephanie's pear vinaigrette was underwhelming, and 45 minutes should have been ample time for her to get that chip on the plate. While Sam did like Lisa's use of squid and lobster, he didn't like the fact that the banana overwhelmed what was ultimately more "a hodgepodge" than a well-executed salad. Nice to see some relatively high wattage relegated to the bottom three, but, as Stephanie said earlier, the dreck is almost gone. Almost. In terms of the standouts, Sam selects Spike's well-balanced beef and pineapple mÃ©lange, Antonia's effort (cutting into a poached egg and watching the yolk ooze over the plate is, as Sam correctly observes, sexy), and Dale's innovative use of nori puree. But there can only be one victor, and when Sam chooses Spike, you can almost see Spike's hat expand as his head gets even bigger. No more immunity, Padma reminds him, but he will get "a significant advantage" in the upcoming elimination challenge.