The sun shines brightly on Masterchef HQ as the cooks arrive for another hard day’s self-promotion. It’s mystery box day, but this mystery box comes with a twist: everyone’s mystery box is different, with four ingredients each. Some have useful ingredients, some a box full of bullshit. For example, Emelia has leek, grapefruit, potato and tofu, and is ready to cut a bitch. However, the twist has a twist: the cooks may swap ingredients with each other, as long as they end up with four. It’s a clever twist, because it adds a new dimension to the challenge while also making each cook’s task less interesting. It’s not the ultimate twist, of course: that would be a mystery box filled with different kinds of metal, or live animals: but it passes the time, which is the only purpose of the mystery box.
Immediately divergent strategies emerge. Asian Sarah declares that she “loves to barter” because she’s a lawyer. This makes no sense, as bartering is not what a lawyer does, but whatever you reckon, Sarah. Meanwhile, Poh decides that she is not going to swap any ingredients at all, as her attempts to leave the show become ever more desperate.
Furious negotiations take place, with Simon wandering the kitchen waving a sprig of parsley in the air and Hayden frantically trying to give away his anchovies. Laura eagerly accepts Emelia’s offer of potatoes for chilli, but the look on Emelia’s face suggests that she is engaging in a subtle conspiracy. On the other hand, Emelia always kind of looks like that.
The top four dishes will give their makers a chance to cook off for immunity. The cooking begins. Ice-cream Ben decides he’s going to make ice-cream, his morbid terror of creativity showing through again. He says he had every intention of making a savoury dish today, but when he got to the kitchen and opened his mystery box he realised that he didn’t know how, so he changed his mind.
Dani has a sudden attack of flashbacks, remembering happy days at home with her children and her website. She is on a mission to convince people of the value of eating whole foods, which are foods that have not been cut into pieces.
Rose confides in Jess that she finds kneading dough weird. Jess tries her hardest to avoid a conversation, as she chops up a parsnip in preparation for a truly vile dessert. Meanwhile Reynold is cooking lobster, having cooked it for the first time only yesterday. His lack of experience means it’ll be a huge task to make something outstanding, but the fact he’s Reynold means he will anyway. Even with the massive handicap of having cabbage in his dish, he will find a way.
Callum has swapped capers for ginger, because he’s getting older and adventure is a young man’s game. Andy and Jock quiz him on his stupid plans. Callum is making okonomiyaki, but using carrots instead of cabbage. Jock stares at him with pure hatred: the very idea is making his blood boil.
Dani has pork, prawns, orange and tarragon, and is starting to get confused. “I’m not sure what to hero,” she says: a common problem for people who don’t know how to correctly use the word “hero”. She has no idea how to make pork, prawns, orange and tarragon elegant, though the answer seems obvious: put it all in a blender and make a milkshake. She starts to cry in the kitchen as she reminisces about the good old days when she knew how to cook. She also starts to cry in the cutaway, which frankly doesn’t bode well for the outcome of her confusing dish.
Melissa walks over to Dani to console her and give her a good old-fashioned Calombaris-style hug. “You can do this,” she tells Dani, with little to no evidence on her side. Re-energised, Dani asks Chris for advice on cooking pork, going along with the official narrative that Chris is good with meat. Chris doubts whether Dani’s pork is going to turn out well, but Dani takes heart from the fact that so far this season Chris has at no point had any idea what he’s on about.
Brendan describes his dish to Andy and Jock, who understandably fall asleep. They move on to Chris, who tells them that he believes warm avocado is “from the devil’s arsehole”. Musing on his original theology, they visit Ginger Sarah, who is cooking duck oesophagus as part of her DIY Becoming A Serial Killer course.
Asian Sarah takes some time out to boast about how great she is, and how much she loves her job even though she’s hoping to be able to quit it. She is making a coconut, mango and chilli ice-cream, because she wants to prove…something. It’s not really clear. Possibly something to do with lawyers.
Meanwhile Laura is concerned about apples, because usually she wouldn’t incorporate apples into a pasta dish, and she has never heard of any kind of food that isn’t pasta.
Poh believes she needs to start pushing herself to cook in an ingredient-driven way, a collection of words she selected at random from a dictionary earlier that day. She explains to Melissa her plan for making the worst possible dish and convincing the judges to finally release her from her contract. If making pies and cakes with nowhere near enough time to do so doesn’t do it, maybe something weird with three proteins and a fruit will.
Jess must combine parsnip, parsley, fennel and chocolate. She is making ice-cream with noodles, rather than the safer and more satisfying milkshake route. Alternatively, she could just serve a big block of Cadbury Dairy Milk with the other ingredients chopped very fine and left in a little pile next to it. There are all sorts of creative solutions to the problem of making something edible out of the stack of crap she’s been stuck with.
Ginger Sarah has failed to oil her stick and is therefore suffering whatever the consequences of not oiling your stick are. I think it has something to do with burnt duck oesophagus. Thankfully we don’t dwell on Sarah’s bench, because what is going on there is deeply disturbing.
Callum observes that okonomiyaki is a very textural dish, and he is therefore attempting to ensure that his version is also textural, rather than being frictionless or non-corporeal.
Laura has finally figured out how you can combine apple with gnocchi: by not caring how it tastes. Speaking of which, Jess has dried her parsley in the microwave as friends and family become concerned about her increasingly erratic behaviour.
“There are lots of really interesting dishes going on here,” Melissa tells Jock and Andy, apparently believing that they have no idea what’s happening.
Poh is not sure whether her elements will work together: all she can do is hope that they won’t. Certainly, venison, tuna, speck and cherries would normally not go together at all, but when you hear what she has in mind, you can’t help but think that they won’t this time either.
Jess is making parsley oil to go with her ice-cream, which is such a horrible idea even Ice-Cream Ben wouldn’t do it. She shows Melissa her parsnip noodles, forcing Melissa to fight like hell to find something nice to say. The best she can come up with is that they look like actual noodles.
Asian Sarah would like us to understand that she is constantly tasting her ice-cream, because she wishes her ice-cream to taste the way she wants it to taste, and the way to check how something tastes is to taste it. Handy hint, home cooks! She must also watch her coconut caramel “like a hawk” to ensure it doesn’t burn. In this case, it’s like a hawk who is watching one of its eggs so intently it doesn’t notice its other egg has been stolen by a lemur. While making sure her coconut caramel doesn’t burn, she’s let her chilli burn. Disaster! Luckily, it turns out she doesn’t care.
Time is almost up, and Dani remains clueless as to what the hell she’s doing. She gets some reassurance from Rose, which is such a depressing development she almost gives up right there and then. She has decided prawns are the hero, which is a slightly more correct way to use the word hero, although still pretty awful.
Jock and Andy visit Poh to make sure she hasn’t fled the premises. Poh doesn’t know what she’s doing, which is entirely according to plan. Andy observes that Poh is very chill. “Yeah I’m very chill,” Poh replies, dripping with sarcasm, her loathing for Andy impossible to conceal.
“Looking around, there’s so many beautiful dishes,” says Laura, fearing that her own butt-ugly effort might suffer from the comparison. Still, in her favour is the fact that everyone loves gnocchi with apples.
Reynold is removing the shell from his lobster tail at the last minute, like the reckless maverick he is. It’s a huge risk to take for anyone who isn’t Reynold. The tail looks perfect, duh.
Meanwhile, Chris is happy. “I started this challenge hating warm avocado,” he muses, but over the course of the day he’s come to realise that life is too short to hate fruits of a certain temperature. He’s gained perspective, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
Time is up. Dani knows she hasn’t done enough. “Maybe the pressure of the Masterchef kitchen just isn’t for me anymore,” she says sadly. Poh can only look on in envy at how effortlessly Dani manages to come up short every time.
Time to serve. First is Callum, with his blasphemous carrot okonimyaki. It’s good.
Next is Reynold, with his lobster. It’s good except for the goat’s cheese which sucks.
Next is Ginger Sarah, with her unsettling duck oesophagus. It’s bad. Who knew?
Next is Laura, with her gnocchi and apple. It’s good.
Next is Poh, with her weird venison-tuna-speck-cherry whatsit. To her bitter chagrin, it’s good.
Next is Hayden, with his balls. They’re good.
Next is Rose, with some gooey nonsense or other. It’s “good”.
Next is Emelia, with her…it’s something Macedonian I think. It’s good.
Next is Dani, with her prawns seasoned with low self-esteem. It’s bad, proving Dani’s judgment to be unerring as always.
Next is Asian Sarah, with her spicy ice-cream. It’s good.
Next is Reece, who all this time was cooking wallaby behind our backs. It’s good.
Next is Simon, with a pile of limp vegetables. It’s good.
Next is Brendan, with whatever he made. It’s good as far as I can remember.
Next is Chris, with his john dory and the avocado he’s learned to love. It’s sort of OK.
Next is Jess, with her utterly foul ice-cream and parsnip shreds. It’s repulsive, but the judges say it’s good because it’s hard to be mean to Jess.
Next is the cooks who aren’t good or bad enough to be worth televising, so we don’t see them. Straight to the naming of the winners instead. And the lucky four are: Callum’s weird okonimiyaki, Jess’s weird ice-cream, Laura’s weird gnocchi, and Asian Sarah’s slightly less weird ice-cream. These will cook off for immunity tomorrow, meaning Dani once again gets to do what she does best: not use her immunity pin.
Tune in tomorrow, when a very special guest arrives to disappoint everyone.