This is it. The grand final. The big dance. The last stand. The night that separates those who can make an edible dish to certain specifications from those who are unable to do that to the same degree.
It’s a clash of titans. Emelia versus Laura. Sweet versus savoury. Lipstick versus linguini. A good cook versus Laura.
We begin with the traditional overlong recap of every single thing that has happened in the series so far. Remember when Andy said things? Remember when Reece was like OMG? Remember when Reynold was better than everyone else but still didn’t make the final because he helped Laura beat him? Remember whatsherface? Looking back, it’s amazing to think that so many of our favourites feigned interest for so long.
Obviously, the final requires the contestants to dig deeper than ever before and find something within themselves that is able to put exactly the right amount of garlic in. This will be a challenge so difficult that Laura may not be able to find any opponent to help her cheat.
On the way to the kitchen, Emelia reflects on how much she believes in herself, while Laura reflects on how good it is to be friends with a judge. “Who would’ve thought that two girls from Season Six, who are best friends, who have such different styles of cooking, would be here?” muses Emelia, as if this is a wildly unlikely thing to happen when those two girls are both selected as contestants in the show.
Jock welcomes Laura and Emelia to the finale. Everyone claps for no reason. Jock explains that this is the best season ever, stamping vigorously on the graves of Matt, George and Gary. After Jock tells them for the fiftieth time this year what the prize is, Andy takes over and everyone tunes out.
Speaking about her last experience on Masterchef, Emelia begins crying, a tactically sound move: cry early, cry often, is the golden rule on this show. Laura says she grew up on the show, opened her own restaurant and wrote a cookbook, making it quite clear that she doesn’t need to be on this show and that selecting her ahead of Reynold was grossly unjust. She also explains that Emelia used to be sassy, but now she is sassier than Emelia, which is immediately the most annoying thing anyone has ever said on Masterchef.
“This is the moment you have both been waiting for,” says Melissa, even though the actual moment they’ve been waiting for is the end of this episode. The challenge is a service challenge: a three course meal served to the judges and all the eliminated contestants. The best service wins. Simple, elegant, and thankfully free from any requirement to recreate a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale with spun sugar.
“I’m just a little old cake-maker,” says Emelia, coyly simpering to hide the vicious killer within. She claims to be daunted by being opposed to Laura, as Laura runs a restaurant and does service for a living. On the other hand, it’s only Laura.
Jock asks Emelia what she’s making. Emelia explains that she is making various kinds of food, the details of which are irrelevant as always. It involves turnips, which seems wrong on a fundamental level, but she’s the expert.
“Time management is everything with this challenge,” Emelia says, explaining why she has decided to completely ignore taste. “Four hours might sound like a lot of time, but it’s not”. Tell that to Kenneth Branagh.
Meanwhile Laura breaks down a fish, using traditional Mossad techniques. She pours water onto some roots, refusing to explain why. “Good one doll, you’re on it,” says Reece, still tragically failing to realise how little anyone ever wants to hear from him.
Jock asks Laura what she’s making. Laura says she’s not making pasta, trusting in quality indigenous ingredients and the fact Jock likes her the best. She’s also making artichoke ice-cream, just to rub our faces in the fact that you can succeed on this show no matter how disgusting you make your food.
Laura has put a to-do list on the fridge. At the bottom it says, “GET IT GIRL”, and if you need any more reason to desperately hope she loses, I don’t know what to tell you.
Andy notes that Emelia is not used to cooking for 60 people. “I’m Macedonian!” she replies, which sounds a lot like a threat. Andy laughs nervously, knowing his life is forfeit. Emelia has had her ribs cooking for fifty minutes, which is a bit suspicious because the challenge only started half an hour ago. She is disturbed because the ribs are not cooked yet. She doesn’t understand why the ribs are not cooked. Maybe she should ask Laura to come cook them for her, since getting other cooks to do the work for you is apparently how this show works now.
Emelia thinks the ribs might need another twenty minutes, but she can’t afford another twenty minutes, for technical cooking reasons that are unimportant. She decides to get on with her dessert, which sounds absolutely delicious, particularly when compared to artichoke ice-cream.
Just noticed that Jock is wearing a kilt. Come on, man. Come on.
Laura is tossing big piles of green crap into pots. “I love how diverse indigenous ingredients are,” she says, the big suck. She says that she’s inspired by dishes she made with her husband. We get it, Laura: you’re married. You don’t need to brag about it. Stirring the green crap in a colander, she produces green liquid, which she will use to make some green stuff. She also has some brown stuff.
“Only just starting the pork?” Jock asks Laura, in the tone one might use to ask, “Sticking your penis in the light socket?” Laura’s reputation as a tardy pork-starter is coming back to haunt her.
Meanwhile Emelia’s ribs still aren’t cooked, and the possibility that ribs just can’t be cooked has to be considered. Andy comes over to give some helpful advice, which can be summarised as: you have a lot of stuff to do and you can’t do it. Andy is always a huge comfort. He suggests that Emelia make something else. Emelia tells him to go fuck himself.
Emelia reflects on her elimination on her last Masterchef stint, when she tried a “Plan B” and lost. Today she refuses to consider a Plan B, all the more determined to go her own way knowing that it is what Andy wouldn’t do. Even if she has to serve these ribs raw, she will stick to her guns. Andy tells Jock and Melissa what Emelia is up to. Jock puts his head in his hands, revolted beyond reason by Emelia’s self-belief.
Meanwhile, Laura severely burns herself.
“This is the most excruciating burn I’ve ever had,” says Laura, proving that she doesn’t read Twitter much. The Masterchef nurse squirts some cream onto her hand, making the burn delicious. “I’ve lost this competition,” says Laura, but there’s still more than an hour to go, so she hasn’t really.
“How bad is it?” asks Jock. “Pretty bad,” says Laura. “You OK?” asks Jock. “Yep,” says Laura, unable to make her mind up. Jock forces Laura to stop working and listen to his advice, which is to think about things before she does them. Such wisdom.
“I have been multi-tasking like an absolute maniac,” says Emelia, raising the question: how does an absolute maniac multi-task? Urinating in public and screaming about chemtrails simultaneously? There doesn’t seem to be anything all that maniacal about her multi-tasking: mainly it’s just cooking stuff and putting other stuff in fridges.
Emelia takes out her ribs yet again. They are cooked. She is mightily relieved and moves on, proving that earlier on, when she said she couldn’t afford another twenty minutes, she was lying. She puts the meat in a tray, fills it up with stock, and covers with clingwrap so she can use it for school lunch tomorrow.
Meanwhile Laura is in pain. “You can do it,” says Tessa, but how would she know? Her very presence as a spectator illustrates the fact that she couldn’t do it, so her opinion on whether anyone else can do it is meaningless.
The diners take their seats and begin to get drunk, while the judges convene to tell each other things they already know. Jock explains that there is a lot of pressure. Melissa informs Jock and Andy that the two cooks are good at cooking and that food is nice. Jock asks Andy whether the thought of the prize weighed on him when he was in the Masterchef final. “Nah,” says Andy, as everyone tunes out.
Emelia asks Laura how she’s doing. Laura shows Emelia her bandaged hand. Emelia strives impressively to pretend to be concerned, but she has to concentrate on her scallops. “There’s nothing worse than an overcooked scallop,” says Emelia, callously ignoring the international scourge of child soldiery.
The judges take their seats as the clock ticks down to service time. “Two great cooks, two great-looking menus…we’re about to taste!” says Melissa, who seems to be stuck in a loop. “I’m so proud of them,” says Andy, as if he had anything to do with making them good.
Laura and Emelia begin plating up their entrees, or as Americans call them, “the dish that comes before the entree”. Emelia describes in detail what she’s doing, which is unnecessary because this is television rather than radio.
Emelia’s entree is scallops with turnip and celeriac cream and fresh apple. It’s a brave choice, when she could so easily have just served some garlic bread, but fortune favours the brave. Jock immediately shoves his nose in the dish like a pig, before the judges eat. They are all agreed that eating Emelia’s entree is an experience that is better than not eating anything. Andy describes how he loves getting a little surprise from the apple and the turnip. Jock and Melissa give him a pat on the head and a lolly.
Emelia’s entree was brilliant, but will Laura’s entree disappoint us all by also being brilliant? She has made Bonito with lilly pilly and saltbush. “Very sophisticated, very Laura-esque,” says Andy, stringing words together randomly as usual. There is no doubt that Laura has made a dish with both pink and green things in it. “It just screams Australia,” says Jock, which sounds horrifying, but apparently he means this as a compliment. The judges like the dish, sadly, and don’t even mind that “lilly pilly” is obviously not a real thing.
Emelia is rushing to get her main course plated up, hoping against hope that her ribs are moist enough – or rather, that the ribs she has cooked are moist enough. Meanwhile Laura has her turnips in the oven, if you get my drift.
“My burnt hand has been distracting me, and I’m running the risk of overcooking it,” says Laura, but she ends up triumphant as she discovers that her hand has been cooked to perfection.
Mains begin going out. “I can see that trophy, it’s literally right in front of me,” says Laura. Well…yeah. It is. So?
“Well, well, well,” says Andy as he is served Laura’s main, as if it has come as a huge surprise to him to be given more food. Laura has made Wessex saddleback pork with turnips, muntries and trio of sauces. Sounds very pretentious and, again, she has made up a word – in this case, “muntries”, which do not exist. Jock again sticks his nose in his food – maybe it’s a Scottish thing.
Andy has a go at detailed criticism. “Normally we associate Laura with simple done well. This is simple but done really sophisticated,” he says, getting tangled up in his gallant attempt to know what words mean. The verdict of the judges is that Laura’s main is good and “muntries” are a kind of mystical elf.
Emelia sends her mains out. “I can see the judges,” she says, before the editor cuts her off. She might’ve been saying “I can see the judges vomiting” or “I can see the judges’ nipples”. We’ll never know, thanks very much Masterchef. Anyway she has made beef short rib with pepper and onion. She may have made a misstep by not including any fictional ingredients in her dish. The judges eat. “Huge props to Emelia for keeping her head,” says Andy, conveniently omitting the bit where “keeping her head” actually means “not listening to Andy’s stupid advice”. Andy proclaims that the dish has “the perfect amount of doneness”, and frankly, we’re about there ourselves, Andy. Jock claims to have transformed into a cat, the ultimate compliment.
“It’s funny how these two are best buds, but how different their food is!” Andy exclaims, and it’s true: usually when people are best friends they cook exactly the same things all the time.
We take a brief detour around the dining room to hear what the eliminated contestants have to say about the food, and to discover that ginger Sarah, thinking the finale is a fancy-dress party, has come as the Queen.
Dessert time, and Emelia describes how she is haunted by the memory of the dessert that sent her home. “I’ve spent the last six years making cakes,” she says, which is also the plot of The English Patient. “I’ve never wanted anything more in my life than I’ve wanted Masterchef,” she adds, proving her disturbing lack of perspective. She pours her mousse onto her cakes, vengeance in her heart and blood in her nostrils.
“My dessert tonight is going to be very savoury,” says Laura, having seemingly forgotten what a dessert is. What she’s made is not so much a dessert as perversion of natural law. She emits a series of sentence fragments removed from their context by the editor, to emphasise how desperate she is to win and how desperate the producers are to misrepresent her. “I just want to go out on a bang,” she notes, incorrectly.
The kitchen suddenly is beset by a beeping noise. Nobody knows what it is. The possibility that the building is about to explode is considered, before Laura discovers that it’s the freezer with her gelato in, beeping because the door has been left open. LOL.
Amazingly and against all expectations, it all comes down to the last course, an unprecedented development in Masterchef history. Laura gets her desserts out. She has made Jerusalem artichoke gelato, caramel, crispy skin and cumquat gel. There is no doubt whatsoever that this is utterly foul. The judges eat. The ice-cream is icy. Jock says the texture is like sand. Andy says he loves the flavour profile, but he is lying, because it is utterly foul. “There’s a couple of things that haven’t gone right,” he admits, possibly referring to the fact that it’s artichoke ice-cream. The judges are agreed: the textures are all wrong, but they will maintain the obvious fiction that the flavours are good. The dessert is foul and everyone goddamn knows it.
“I think that Laura’s menu is an accurate reflection of who she is,” Melissa says: Laura is a hybrid fish-pig creature who can’t remember to shut the fridge.
Time for Emelia, the good one, to serve her dessert. She has made pistachio financier with Davidson plum and raspberry sorbet and meringue. The question on everyone’s lips is of course, “financier? What?” But apparently it is acceptable practice in the culinary world to call a cake “financier” and not even acknowledge how weird you’re being. But despite the stupid name, Emelia’s dessert has the virtue of not being utterly foul. “Really enjoyed that dessert,” says Jock, without at any point saying that it tastes like sand. Melissa and Andy both agree that they have creamed their jeans.
It’s pretty obvious whose three courses are the best, but uncertainty still lingers, because we have to remember that Laura is Jock’s favourite. In the kitchen Laura and Emelia cry because they want the relentless hell of Masterchef to continue forever. They walk out to a huge round of applause from the diners. Reynold smiles at them as he thinks about how much better he is than anyone else here.
The judges line up to deliver their verdict. “You had to cook us a three course meal worthy of the grand finale,” says Andy, thinking perhaps they’d forgotten already. He tells Laura her fish was good. He tells Emelia her scallops were good. Jock tells Laura her pork was good. Jock tells Emelia her beef was good. Everyone tries to concentrate on what he’s saying but finds it difficult because they can’t stop staring at Sarah’s hat.
Melissa is tasked with delivering the news about dessert. She tells Laura that her dessert was “delicious”, with the slight caveat that it was deeply unpleasant to eat. She tells Emelia that her dessert was good. She breaks the news that Laura fucked up and Emelia didn’t, and so Emelia has won.
Everyone claps and cheers and tells Laura to suck it under their breath. Sarah waves to her subjects. The music swells. No confetti falls from the ceiling because it is a choking hazard. Emelia cries tears of joy and superiority. She graciously gives credit to Laura who does not deserve it. Laura cries tears of being a loser. Andy tells her that it was extremely close, continuing tonight’s theme of lying. “I’m pretty gutted,” says Laura, and that’s all we ever wanted to hear. Jock tells her that she’s getting $30,000 as a reward for being a teacher’s pet. Reynold will get $20,000 in recognition of his inner beauty.
Oh, NOW there’s confetti.
And so we bid farewell to Masterchef: Back To Win, having learnt many things: that a change is as good as a holiday; that sometimes bad things DO happen to bad people; that Andy is technically an adult; and that Reynold was the best cook in the competition but lost because the judges hate justice. We simply cannot wait for next year, when Melissa’s outfits will be even more mesmeric.
But before then, we’ll be treated to JUNIOR MASTERCHEF, when the best child cooks in the country will have their chances at a normal healthy childhood destroyed by the greedy maw of commercial television.