So after a week of fun and frolics, Masterchef tonight gets serious. I mean, not actually serious. Not serious in the sense of something that matters: serious in the sense of “one of the people cooking on TV won’t get to cook on TV again for a while”. But within those parameters, it’s very serious indeed, as this is the first elimination challenge of the new season.
We begin with those immortal words of Katy Perry: “You’re hot then you’re cold/You’re toast then you’re mold/You’re in then you’re out/You’ve got severe gout”. And thus to Masterchef HQ, where Callum ascends the stairs to the balcony, to indicate his status as the Good One.
The judges instruct the contestants to stand at their benches and not touch the boxes thereon. Rose immediately starts to open her box and has to be yelled at, because she is Rose.
Andy notes that there is an elephant in the room: his lack of qualifications for his job. But also, there is Dani’s immunity pin: will she use it at the first opportunity to ensure a few more days? No, she won’t. That was cleared up quickly.
Melissa brings up the other elephant in the room: the gift box that Gordon Ramsay left behind as he scurried out of the kitchen to have a shower. It is generally assumed that within the box lies the ultimate ingredient: the preserved penis of Napoleon Bonaparte. Sadly, this is not true: instead, Gordon has left behind perhaps the least interesting gift possible. Inside each contestant’s box is a timer, with ninety minutes on it.
Jock explains the significance of this tedious item: they have ninety minutes available for the challenge, but the challenge will take place over two rounds. They can use as much of the ninety minutes as they like in the first round, but if they fail to make themselves safe in round one and have to cook in round two, they only have the remainder of those ninety minutes to do it in. Eighteen cooks will be safe after round one: only the five absolute worst losers will have to cook in round two.
Poh declares herself a risk-taker, and plans to use up all ninety minutes in round one as part of her long-term plan to get off the show as soon as possible. Reece is thinking about strategy: so far in the show his strategy has been to draw attention away from the fact that he has never been on Masterchef and is not actually on this season either, but tonight he’s changing tack and risking everything by letting the audience see his personality.
“Let’s talk strategy, gentlemen,” says Melissa to the other two judges, who groan inwardly. Andy says his food is better when it’s quick, fast and punchy, and it’s true — nobody enjoys Andy’s food when they have a chance to think about it.
Above, Callum stalks the balcony like a panther, looking for people to spit on. His eye lights on Lynton, who is pulling apart a large fish for want of any better ideas. Callum and Lynton engage in a little bit of banter, but you can tell that deep down they genuinely loathe each other. “No one wants to be the first person to go,” says Lynton, making the basic mistake of foreshadowing.
Melissa drops by Dani’s bench to make patronising remarks about the immunity pin and engage in foreplay with a pineapple. The pineapple forms the central plank of Dani’s plan to put pineapple in everything she cooks for the entire series.
Chris is doing a beef tartare, AKA raw meat, AKA what you give to animals at the zoo and not humans. Last week Chris had a bad experience with cooking pork and has decided that applying heat to food is a mug’s game
Meanwhile Courtney informs Melissa that she needs to cook the prawns perfectly and Melissa applauds her depth of understanding of the nuances of the culinary art.
Jock and Andy visit Brendan and quickly decide this was a mistake. They move on to Reynold, who intends to use forty-five minutes to cook a slow-roasted quail, which, since this is Reynold, I assume is some kind of sorbet.
Fifteen minutes are gone and Andy is doing what he does best: yelling that fifteen minutes are gone. Laura is complaining about the heat in the kitchen, not knowing the famous saying. Meanwhile Rose is still trying to open her box.
Callum looks concerned as Poh gazes into the middle distance and unconvincingly assures us she’s OK. She tells the judges she’s making a strawberry and lychee chiffon cake, and has allowed ninety minutes for it. Jock and Andy are shocked: they’d assumed it would take at least three weeks for Poh to deliberately try to get herself eliminated. She’s taking a huge risk, but she reassures the boys that she doesn’t give a shit.
Poh takes some time out of her busy schedule to explain the premise of the episode for those who came in late or anyone who just enjoys unnecessarily long TV shows. She is surprised nobody else is planning to use the whole ninety minutes, as she’d assumed at least a few of her rivals were complete idiots.
Inside, Amina and Tessa sniff their saucepans and are cut away from immediately. Simon takes a taste of something and is thrown off his rhythm by the unprovoked arrival of Melissa. They bond over their mutual incorrect belief in the tastiness of vegetables. “The idea is to punch a lot of flavour into this,” Simon says, pig-headedly refusing to recognise that the best way to do this is with meat.
Hayden plans to keep it simple, because he’s not Reynold and will therefore not be rewarded for over-complicating things. We are treated to a brief slow-motion scene of Hayden putting meat on a barbecue in a field somewhere, which presumably will pay off later in the episode when Edward James Olmos leaves behind an origami steak, indicating that Hayden is a replicant.
Reece has made a dessert in 28 minutes. “Maybe I’m the Usain Bolt of desserts,” he chortles, not realising that he’s actually the Matt Shirvington of reality TV contestants that nobody remembers. He serves his ultra-fast dessert to the judges, who find his combination of white stuff and brown stuff very impressive.
With one hour left, Laura is feeling the heat, Poh is having a nap, and Rose is trying to find the oven’s on switch. Khanh finishes his dish and pleases the judges, as does some guy called Harry who I have never seen before in my life. Chris does not please the judges, and goes off the cry in bed.
Simon brings forward his burnt soy cabbage, which would appear to be three words that all mean “do not eat”. Yet somehow the judges enjoy it, proving that being involved in the catering industry destroys the neural connections between tongue and brain. Simon is sent directly to the balcony for being so good at burning cabbage.
Laura is still very hot and won’t shut up about how stressed she is. She comes forward and serves a plate of yellow worms. Melissa delivers some heavily-edited compliments. Jock looks at Laura with a dark, angry expression, which is confusing because he then tells her it was great and she can go straight to the balcony.
At the halfway mark Rose starts to stress out: it’s usually about forty-five minutes in that she remembers she doesn’t know how to cook.
Courtney brings forward a dish that sucks, as does Lynton, as does Hayden. Jock tells Hayden he needs to taste his food, which Hayden recognises as one of the elements of the Voight-Kampff test.
Meanwhile, Rose declares that she’s checking her pastries the way you’d check a newborn baby: she keeps poking them to make sure they’re breathing and sniffing them to see whether they’ve soiled themselves. Her pastries refuse to cook, because they never liked Rose in the first place.
Brendan declares that it’s very stressful knowing that today might be his last day in the Masterchef kitchen, but he needs to look at the bright side: if he goes home, nobody in the viewing public will care.
Time is running out as Poh strolls thoughtfully around the kitchen, waiting for her cake to bake and planning her week once she gets out. She takes her cake out of the oven and puts it in the blast chiller, which is a thing people do on Masterchef. Normally this cake takes two hours to cool down, but Poh is hoping that in this case fifteen minutes will be enough for her to completely fuck everything up.
Tessa serves prawns which are fine. Brendan serves some kind of weird pie which makes Jock spurt joyfully from his mouth. Andy sends Brendan to the balcony, an unexpected twist in the story of Brendan and his middling cooking.
Dani comes to the front to fill the judges with soup. The soup has too much pineapple in it. Andy seems extrenely happy that Dani has failed.
The finished cooks gather to watch Poh decorate her failure cake, while Rose brings forth her Moroccan tart and makes a stupid joke. The pastry is underbaked and her flavours are terrible, so it’s a classic Rose dish.
Andy’s friend Ben finishes and brings forth his various mushes. They are good mushes. Reynold serves his quail sorbet. It’s OK I guess.
Poh is the only person still cooking, and she’s not really cooking, she’s just fucking around with a cake. But then: what is cooking, if not cake-fuckery? Everyone else is watching intently to see what catastrophe is about to befall Australia’s sweetheart.
The cake is cool on the outside, but hot in the middle, making it impossible to put cream in it. She puts it back in the blast chiller, which frankly isn’t living up to its name. There are fifteen minutes to go and Poh begins frantically icing the bottom layer of the cake, which has cooled fast than the other layers because of its greater proximity to Antarctica.
Ten minutes to go. The blast chiller has finally pulled its finger out. Poh puts the layers together and sticks all the fancy crap on the cake. She stops the clock with six minutes left. Sadly, we are denied the hilarious sight of Poh trying to cook something in less than six minutes in round two, as the cake is disappointingly good. “I think it’s safe to say that Australia thinks you are a pure joy,” says Melissa, completely ignoring the old maxim “loose lips sink ships”. Surely it is up to security professionals to determine what it is safe to say: not food bloggers.
Time for round two, which will be fought out by the most inept cooks from round one: Chris, Lynton, Hayden, Rose and Courtney. Dani has dodged a bullet and need not take to the bottle to blot out her regrets.
“There’s no way to sugarcoat this,” Melissa tells the contestants, which is unfair because earlier they were told they’d have an open pantry.
Chris, who cleverly saved time by not actually cooking anything in round one, starts first. His time advantage is quickly reduced by Jock following him into the pantry and pestering him. Chris is going to make a cheesecake, having completely lost confidence in his ability to handle flesh. It’s a dish his grandmother and mother used to make, another example of how hidebound tradition holds back the progress of Australian cuisine.
Courtney starts next, immediately collecting a variety of pots and pans to secrete about her person when she leaves. First, though, she has to talk to Andy, as punishment. “Big, bold flavours,” says Andy, on autopilot.
The judges gather to say adjectives at each other, while Chris continues to not put his cheesecake in the oven. He tells Jock he’s doing small ones, which is frankly too much information.
Lynton starts his incredible journey. “He’s like a boxer before a fight,” says Melissa, watching Lynton as he dons a shiny robe and puts in his mouthguard. Andy goes into the pantry to get in Lynton’s way and distract him from the task at hand. Lynton gets to work, cooking what appear to be jawbones on a grill.
As Hayden begins, Rose proclaims that it’s torture watching everyone cook, so now she knows what it’s like for us when she does. Finally she gets to go to her bench and make a dish that she says she’s never made in thirty-six minutes, so great planning as usual.
“Rose has got a big challenge ahead of her, but if anyone can do it I’m sure Rose can,” says Tessa, who has apparently never seen or heard of Rose before now.
“I feel like I’ve got a football team descending on me for lunch,” says Courtney, cryptically. She steadfastly refuses to explain what she’s talking about, instead coyly cooking cauliflower not very much.
Rose is going to do whole roasted eggplant, if anyone’s interested.
Hayden is cutting his squid. Jock observes that his hands are shaking. Hayden replies that he’s always had shaky hands. Shouldn’t he see a doctor about this? Hayden is making squid carbonara, which is like normal carbonara but instead of pasta it is a sea monster.
Suddenly Lynton forgets which bench he’s on, which frankly is not a promising development. Andy demands Lynton talk to him, even though he’s actually pretty busy. Tasting his sauce, Andy asks if Lynton is happy with it. Lynton says he’s happy with it. “If you’re happy with it, I trust you,” says Andy, by which he means, “You fucking idiot, this is disgusting, change it right now for fuck’s sake.”
Meanwhile Rose runs to the pantry to find some fruit to balance out the revoltingness of her eggplant. She still has a lot to do and very little time to do it in, but luckily she can always count on Lynton’s dubious miso.
Chris’s cheesecakes are rising, and who can blame them. They look weird, but I guess that’s how Chris rolls. Meanwhile, with one minute to go everyone is spooning various substances over various other substances. “It is so good,” says Rose of her dish, but experience has taught us all to take anything Rose says with a grain of salt, and anything she cooks with a bucket.
Time is up and a sense of foreboding pervades the kitchen. Lynton is first to be judged. “I’m looking forward to tasting it,” Jock lies. The judges think Lynton’s dish looks like garbage. Andy has lost all his zest for life. They taste it. They hate it. It’s so dull and featureless you’d think Harry had cooked it.
Hayden comes in and relates how last time he was kicked off the show for salty daikon. “My mates rubbed that in for a while,” he says, which sounds very painful. His squid carbonara will not have to be rubbed in because it is great.
And Chris’s cheesecake is great. And Courtney’s gross cauliflower thing is, bewilderingly, great. And Rose’s eggplant is, of course, pretty crap, but it’s slightly less pretty crap than Lynton’s, so Lynton goes home even though he is objectively the best human being on the show. If only he hadn’t foreshadowed.
Tune in tomorrow, when nothing now can come to any good.