Mark, saddled with his charcoal grill, is having a rough time. He drops utensils while he's serving Padma, and he just looks sort of sad and lost as he does the best he can. Stephanie observes that "Mark is making a total mess," which she sees as a problem because "to work clean is very important as a chef -- your flavors can be great but it's got to look nice, too." Mark's chicken and scallion skewers with soy and onion glaze and New Zealand corn chowder (which they don't even show, although there is a bowl of some gloppy-looking brown liquid at his station), along with some sort of slaw, definitely fall short in the pretty department. "He's a mess," laughs Colicchio. "It's an absolute disaster over there." Oh, it's an apple and fennel salad.
Nikki's meticulous attention to the serving size of her "real man food" backfires, as she's run out of peppers and onions by the time the judges show up to sample her sausage and peppers, grilled shrimp with hot sauce, and spiced cider. She tries to chalk it up to repeat customers and a preponderance of New Yorkers, but she's clearly screwed. "Italian sweet pork," she answers when Kahan asks her about the type of sausage, and reveals that "we didn't have enough time" when he wonders if she made it herself. She's worried about how her dish will come across without the peppers and onions, and Kahan confirms her fears: "If you don't save some peppers and onions for the judges, number one, that's a problem." Furthermore, he thinks she had plenty of time to make her own sausage. "She's definitely having a bad day," says Colicchio.
As the food runs out and service nears an end, Richard Dent reveals that his favorite was Richard's burger, while The Refrigerator dug Lisa's skirt steak and Dale's ribs. Some white dude liked Stephanie's pork, but Gale Sayers chooses Dale's "great ribs" as the best as well. Mark knows he dropped the ball on his skewers, while Nikki's freaking out over her mismanagement of resources and the incomplete dish she served to the judges. She hopes that "positive feedback from the fans" will at least keep her out of the bottom group.
Back at the ranch, Padma calls Antonia, Dale, and Stephanie to the judges' table -- they were the three favorites of the fans. When Colicchio remarks that Stephanie's among the winners once again, she says, "It's a good place to be. I like it." She clearly knows what she's doing, but she does admit to getting nervous and doubting herself, so I'll be curious to see how she fares as the chaff gets sent home and it becomes as much about being a solid competitor as the food itself. When Padma wonders how they liked having the fans choose the three best dishes as opposed to the judges, Antonia pipes up in favor of the people: "It opens you up and you just kind of think differently."