After last night’s elimination, in which Dani confirmed our suspicions that the awarding of an immunity pin for this season was indeed a completely pointless exercise, there is a mournful atmosphere around Masterchef HQ – or if not around Masterchef HQ, at least around my house, because I quite like Dani, despite her pigheaded refusal to do the bleeding obvious on BOTH occasions she’s been on the show.
To cheer everyone up, the cooks are allowed out of HQ. To bring everyone down again, they are taken to Ringwood. It’s not the most obvious location for a Masterchef challenge: Ringwood is to fine dining what Ringwood is to basically everything else. At a restaurant called Thai Ute – shocking waste of the humorous potential of the word “Thai” – they gather, to be told by Andy that they will be travelling through Melbourne’s suburbs for the whole week, presumably as a punishment.
Andy relates how his happiest food moments occurred out in the burbs, where he discovered “big flavours” – although it would be many more years before he discovered how to say “big flavours” as a substitute for coming up with anything meaningful.
Melissa demands to know what Poh’s favourite Thai dish. Then Reece’s. Reece says his favourite Thai dish is pad see ew and everyone laughs. I don’t get it. Maybe they’re just homophobic? Anyway, the point is, today is a team challenge in which Thai food will be cooked, so everyone will have to be at their culturally appropriative peak. Ginger Sarah will sit out the challenge because her team has one extra member, which is surprisingly fair of the show, although they balance this by being completely unfair, inasmuch as if her team loses, she’ll be up for elimination too.
The two teams – teal and orange, just to be different – will have to cook for fifty diners each, but the advantage they have is that the diners will be coming to a restaurant in Ringwood, so their expectations will be incredibly low.
Tessa is the captain of the teal team, and will be utilising her natural bossiness as well as her persistent delusion that she is Asian. “I’m not here to play, I want to show the judges some really great cooking,” she declares, already sensing that her teammates are going to fuck this up for her.
Captain of the orange team is Khanh, who states at the outset, “I might offend you” so that none of his team members are taken aback when he calls them stupid cunts.
The two teams are pressed tight together in the tiny kitchen. “How are you?” Poh asks Callum. “Fine,” replies Callum. The sexual tension is palpable: these two will be tearing each other’s clothes off by day’s end.
Callum begins with a bold call, claiming that his dish is “not about blowing people’s heads off”. Will the orange team’s no-murder policy cost them in the finish? Tessa makes no such promises: she is willing to kill whoever she has to to win this thing.
Although Tessa is the captain of the teal team, Poh is taking charge, keeping a close eye on Simon and Rose to ensure they don’t Simon-and-Rose the whole thing up as might be expected. It’s important that Poh takes the lead tactically, as Tessa is going to be busy fighting her inner rage for most of the time.
Outside the judges discuss their favourite Thai foods. Melissa and Jock reminisce about great meals had in Thailand, while Andy says, “Yeah” every now and then and pretends he knows what they’re on about. Andy says his favourite Thai food is “larb”, which I will never accept is a real thing. I don’t care what evidence you bring me, there is no dish called “larb” and I’m not going to be gaslit on this point.
On the orange team, Khanh declares that Thai food is similar to Vietnamese food, which he knows like the back of his hand. Examining the back of his hand closely, he discovers a freckle in the shape of a beef dumpling, and is struck with inspiration.
Tessa has decided that one of the teal team’s mains will be a sticky pork belly, which is an idea she got from the Kim Kardashian sex tape. One of the other mains is a chicken “larb”, which Tessa has given to Laura to make. “I wonder if she’s ever made larb before,” says Tessa, which is a reasonable thing to wonder because Laura has literally never made anything that isn’t pasta. If it doesn’t end up as tortellini it’ll be a miracle.
Laura confirms Tessa’s fears by admitting that she’s never made larb before, although she lies and claims to have eaten it, something that she could not actually have done because larb does not exist. She is determined to make her imaginary dish a winner, and begins looking for some garlic bread to serve with it.
Jock drops a bombshell by revealing that when he was growing up there was no Thai food in Scotland. He goes on to say that they did have fish, though, so…that’s something.
Andy moves into the cooking tent that has been set up so that the restaurant’s kitchen doesn’t become so crowded that everyone dies from body odour. He accosts Khanh in order to prevent him concentrating on his job. “My food is all about flavour,” Khanh tells him, thereby implying that all the other contestants don’t care about flavour and are deliberately cooking shit. Which, to be fair, is true for at least half a dozen of them.
The teal team has a taste of Poh’s rice balls. They all have orgasms. Tessa hugs her in a rare display of human feeling. Andy comes around to stick his oar in and notices that some of Poh’s balls are broken, which does accord with what we’ve all heard about her. Poh seems uncertain what to do with her broken balls. Andy, having caused chaos, flees the scene.
Amina is cooking a sauce which frankly looks frigging delicious, though sadly it’s going to be used on clams. She confesses that she’s not a master of Thai food, but at least her dish is a real thing and not “larb”.
“Now’s the time to think about service,” Andy yells at the cooks, assuming as always that they are brain-damaged kindergarten students. Everyone dutifully begins thinking about service. They think it sounds great. They continue cooking.
“Listen up, both teams,” calls Jock, and because it’s not Andy, they do actually listen. He draws their attention to the arrival of the 100 diners, who have come to Thai Ute for a meal that they don’t have to pay for and are therefore willing to go to Ringwood for. Jock lectures Tessa on how to be a good captain. Tessa says “yep” every two seconds, hoping this will cause Jock to go away and leave her alone. No such luck: Jock discovers that the pork is not cooked and lets Tessa know that her team is in deep trouble. “Yep,” Tessa replies.
Outside it is pouring with rain as God delivers His own judgment on the cooks’ efforts. Inside Tessa has ordered the pork cut into smaller pieces and fried to deliver her from evil. Meanwhile Poh is making extra rice balls to compensate for the broken-balls disaster, knowing that if she just leaves the broken balls as they are the rest of her team might catch on that she’s trying to get eliminated.
“Today we have to make two entrees and three mains that can be shared,” says Khanh, for the tenth time this episode. It seems that the episode was running short so the editor just chucked in Khanh saying this a few more times to get it to the right length. Either that or Khanh just finds the premise of the challenge incredibly interesting.
With one minute to go Jock is yelling at everyone. Tessa glances at the dining room. “They look ravenous,” she says, but from the shots we get of them they don’t really: they just look very unhappy with their lives.
Service begins. Khanh is in his element: as he explains, he runs his own restaurants and he loves being on the pass, because he considers himself better than other people. The judges sit at their table and tell each other they’re excited over and over until they almost believe it. “This is such an exciting place to be right now,” says Melissa, pretending to not be in Ringwood.
The teal team’s entrees arrive at the judges’ table. “I’m drawn to the bitter gourd,” says Andy, but the others are not interested in his personal proclivities and just get on with eating. The salad is excellent, if you take their word for it. Poh’s glutinous rice balls are also excellent, proving Tessa’s judgment to be awful.
The orange team’s entrees arrive. They are also good. The judges say many things about them, all of which mean that they are good. Jock declares it “hard to fault”, which is a copout, because it’s his JOB to fault it.
The kitchen is still a hive of activity, but not a very entertaining one because the main bit of the cooking is over. To add suspense, Tessa is concerned about her mains, particularly her pork, which she orders Emelia to remove the skin from in a last desperate attempt at redemption. Her task is made more difficult when the tent begins to flood. “I feel like I’m in Thailand with the rain,” says Tessa, who is apparently unaware that it rains outside Thailand as well. The teams move out of the rain and into the kitchen, which begins to resemble a refugee camp.
Khanh describes each member of his team in turn, waxing lyrical about how wonderful they are. Notably, Tessa does not do this with the members of her team. Instead, she offers the opinion, “I’m still stuck on the chicken larb.” As the teal team peers sadly at their inferior pork, the orange team is leaping about with delight, congratulating each other and showing signs of visible arousal as they serve up their perfect mains. The situation is ripe for a surprise twist, but it’s even riper for the orange team crushing the teal team like bugs.
The orange mains are delivered to the judges. Obviously they are all perfect, to the point where they risk having points taken off for cockiness.
Tessa is still desperately trying to find a reason to live. “Keep that energy up,” she calls in the voice of a sleepwalking Valium addict. The teal team’s mains arrive at the judges’ table, with disappointment wafting in their wake. Upon tasting the first dish, Jock’s first statement is “It’s a shame”: the man knows how to stick to the episode’s theme. That great sauce Amina made turns out to not be great at all. The theme continues: the pork is tough undercooked garbage and the larb is, as we have established, fictional.
There is no suspense whatsoever in the final announcement, but there is a sudden shock when the phone rings and Melissa takes a booking for the restaurant. Everyone applauds this weird and unnerving moment, and then it’s back to the fairly obvious results: the orange team cooked good food and the teal team cooked absolute poo, so it’s the teals going into the pressure test.
Tune in tomorrow, when Poh makes yet another heroic attempt to get kicked off the show.