The judges cluster around a table to deliver their first-impression debrief. After Colicchio gives the macro view -- "very good tonight" with "some great dishes" -- they move in for specifics. Team Bear's mushroom was forgettable -- according to Colicchio, the mushrooms and the fruit "were kind of okay, but the pecorino really clashed." Team Lion's tartare and beet salad gets good marks -- Wylie mentions the Ras al Hanout (sounds like we should get used to it), as well as the squid from Team Penguin, which he calls "maybe my favorite dish." Padma liked the tapioca. Team Vulture gets pretty unanimous praise, with everyone mentioning Mark's anchovy as the standout. With "cold" blinis and "watery" crab salad, Team Gorilla ranks as everyone's least favorite -- and with that, Padma seems pleased with the "good breakdown of who's on top and who's on bottom" (it's always tops and bottoms for that one) and takes off for the judges tables.
Padma calls Team Vulture and Team Penguin first. Even though it's pretty clear they're the best, everyone looks tense until Padma actually says, "Congratulations." In answer to the division-of-labor question , Manuel (wow, he speaks!) explains that he did the chicken, Zoi did the meatball, and Mark did the anchovy, which was definitely one of the hits. Colicchio elaborates: "The cake was nice and crispy and then the fish came through. It was a really great bite." He also praises Zoi's well-executed meatball, and Manuel gets nothing. Regarding Team Penguin, Colicchio thought the glacier "fun," and liked the fact that they worked a black and white theme of the table. What? I completely missed that...there was a penguin graphic on the table, but I didn't notice anything resembling a black and white theme. Oh, charred squid. But salad? Whatever. Anyway, they liked the glacier, for which Andrew gets credit, as well as the squid dish. Also Andrew's. Jennifer's and Lisa's dishes merit nary a mention, so even before guest judge Wylie announces the winner, it's obvious: Andrew. His pleasure, I'm sure, is partly due to the fact that Richard, in a moment or two, will die inside a little (yeah, Richard doesn't clap at all during Andrew's moment of glory).
Andrew sends Team Gorilla and "Da Bears" to the takedown round, saving Richard the humiliation of being raked over the coals for a second time by Wylie. Colicchio explains that these two teams were chosen because they offered the "three dishes that we thought were the worst dishes of the evening." All together now: the mushrooms, the blini, and the crab salad. Dale's first to speak for Team Bear -- he doesn't "think we executed the mushrooms properly." No shit. Gail wonders about the fact that the mushrooms were on the table one second, gone the next, and Nikki chalks up the failure of the dish to the "holding" pattern. Then Dale cops to topping them with the pecorino in order to make them look better. The real problem? NO ONE TASTED THEM AFTER THE CHEESE WAS ADDED. And the cheese, apparently, transformed the mushrooms from the party's wallflower to the wasted girl all over on the dance floor.