I don't think Malarkey's serving was producer manipulation. I just think the waiter(s) assigned to deliver to that side of the judges' table screwed up.
However, LCK? I would have bet my next paycheck before anyone cooked, that 1) Kevin would ultimately win whoever he cooked against, and 2) the order of judging would go, "Kevin wins. Kevin loses. Kevin wins.", again regardless of who he cooked against and what they made. Top Chef is probably the only competition show, besides The Great British Baking Show, where I normally think it's above producer manipulation (sob stories not withstanding), but for some reason I just don't buy that LCK.
Like some others, I've also cooled on Kevin this season. I think it's the whiff of entitlement I get from him.
I will miss Malarkey's snide facial expressions, I must admit. During the QF, I was right there with him in being rather disgusted with Kevin's blatant ignoring the rules and the judges blatantly ignoring it too. Kevin should have squashed his own meatballs and served it that way.