It’s a tense time in Masterchef Land, as the victims of Tessa’s disastrous attempt at leadership are pitted against each other in a savage battle for the ultimate prize: being allowed to go home.
This being suburban week, the contestants gather once again at a drab, depressing location. This time it’s a house. Just a house. Not even a very nice house. The kind of house you might imagine one of the Masterchef contestants themselves might live in, but not one of the ones who’s done particularly well in their career.
They are greeted on the front lawn by the judges and the contestants who were good last night. “I guess you’re wondering why you’re in the front yard of a house in a suburban street,” says Andy. The answer is simple: an increasingly desperate search for novelty.
The other reason is that apparently this house is an exclusive dining experience called Enter Via Laundry, with a waiting list of over 1600 people: yet more evidence of the necessity of a cleansing fire to eliminate the human virus from the earth.
The proprietor of Enter Via Laundry emerges: Helly Naichura, a tech company employee who cooks weird food for snobs on the side, and who got her name from the fact she is a direct descendant of Satan. She quickly proves the truth of this by revealing the dish at the centre of today’s challenge. The contestants will have to taste the dish and name as many of the 20 ingredients within as they can. The three contestants who perform the worst in the taste test will go into round two, when they will have to cook the hellish concoction.
The dish in question is called “pasta not pasta”, a name that causes Laura’s heart to soar and then immediately plummet in a matter of a second. It looks like pasta, much like Helly’s house looks like a house, but just as Helly’s house is not actually pasta, neither is the pasta.
The contestants come forward and eat the weird pasta that is apparently not pasta. Emelia notes that the texture of the pasta is silky, and quickly writes down “silk” as one of the ingredients. Ben takes a bite and is confused: it doesn’t taste like ice-cream at all, yet it is edible. What could it be? They’ve been told it’s some kind of Indian dish, but Tessa notes that it doesn’t taste like any Indian dish she’s ever had. It also doesn’t look like any Indian dish. On what grounds it can be called “Indian” is a mystery that I have very little confidence in being solved anytime tonight.
Simon cleverly notes that in a taste test, “it’s not just your nose and your eyes: it’s the feel as well”. Some people believe that the tongue plays some part too, but Simon is operating at a higher level.
Meanwhile Poh cannot recognise anything in the dish at all, and says a silent prayer of thanks: today might be the day she finally gets to leave. She doesn’t even fill in the whole sheet with random guesses, not wanting to risk being accidentally correct about something.
Rose, who doesn’t want to leave because there is nothing for her in the outside world, is trying not to overthink it, a task that has never in her life proven beyond her.
With the taste test complete, Tessa has done the best, identifying ten ingredients. Simon is also safe, despite having not used his mouth at any point. Emelia is safe, her ruthless efficiency winning through yet again. Amina is safe due to her sunny demeanour, and so is Laura, who knows her pasta even when it’s not pasta.
This leaves four losers: Poh, who got four ingredients right, which is four more than she tried to; and Rose, Ben and Reece, who all identified six ingredients. There are only three spots in round two, so the latter three must play off to see which of them escapes further judgment.
The play-off requires them to taste another dish and name further ingredients. Biting into the little ball thing, Ben correctly names something I don’t understand because his mouth is full. Rose takes a bite and her mind goes blank – using a fairly loose definition of the word “goes”. “Almonds,” she says, for reasons unknown. There are no almonds. Rose is into round two. Reece takes a bite. “Salt,” he says, rather unoriginally. This is correct, because duh, obviously there’s salt. Ben takes another bite. “Curry leaf,” he says. He’s wrong. He’s into round two, even though he got one right and Reece got one right, so Ben shouldn’t lose until Reece gets another one right, but logic and fairness can go hang this season apparently. Disgraceful.
“You’re about to find out why it’s called Enter Via Laundry,” Jock tells the unhappy three, leading them around the house to the laundry, which they enter via. Fiendishly clever. “That was the famous laundry,” says Jock, of the laundry nobody had ever heard of before today. “Pretty cool, huh?” he asks, knowing full well it is not.
Inside the house, Helly waits with her pasta not pasta, which she orders the three losers to make. “Pasta is the most critical part of the dish,” she tells them, meaning the “not pasta” part of the name is a dirty lie. It’s not pasta not pasta, it’s just freaking pasta. Silky and shiny and made of chickpeas or not, it’s still pasta, goddammit.
Poh knows the elements are really tricky, and gets super excited as she anticipates sweet release. But she’s up against some formidable opposition: Ben, who can cook nothing that isn’t ice-cream; and Rose, who can cook nothing that isn’t a McCain frozen pizza.
Ben races around the kitchen gathering ingredients and utensils, while Rose bends over a piece of paper with furious concentration, making out her will. “I’m confident in this pressure test because I know that I can really motor,” says Ben in a clear demonstration of why he’s terrible at this.
Rose studies the recipe, pondering which parts of it she will ignore. Jock and Helly approach to find out what the hell she thinks she’s playing at. Rose admits she’s never ever cooked anything like this – i.e. appetising – before.
Poh prepares to make the pasta. “I know I have to nail this baby,” she says, getting out her hammer and looking around for the source of the crying that is distracting her. “I’ve managed to get my headspace into positive mode,” she goes on, determined that if she’s going to go down, she’s going to go down talking gibberish. Jock and Helly visit her too, Helly confiding that “following the recipe is quite crucial”. This isn’t one of those dishes where it doesn’t matter what you put into it or how you cook it: to make pasta not pasta you actually have to perform the actions that result in pasta not pasta being made.
At this point it starts to become clear that “pasta not pasta” is a stupid name and anyone saying it sounds like an idiot.
Rose correctly notes that Ben and Poh are moving quicker than she is, which is not difficult since she is standing stock still with a mixer in one hand, staring in mute horror at the recipe, which had petrified her with all its “words”.
Meanwhile Ben is in trouble as the colour of his mixture doesn’t look like Helly’s. “But I’m assuming when I cook it through the colour will change,” he says, forgetting that when you assume you make an ass out of U and Ben. “Missing anything,” smirks Helly like the earth-bound demon she is. Ben checks the recipe and realises he’s forgotten something crucial: cooking ability. Also he’s left out the turmeric, causing Khanh to give him a look of pure contempt from the sideline.
The judges convene with Helly and Andy tells them that making a complicated dish in a short amount of time is difficult. The others nod and pat him on the head.
Rose hasn’t got her coconut sauce started yet, but Helly told her not to walk away from her pot, which she interpreted as meaning, “fail to finish”. On the sideline, the judges ask Helly whether she will let one of these contestants help her in the kitchen if they successfully make her dish. “Absolutely,” Helly laughs nervously, hoping this footage will not be seen as legally binding.
“I’m determined to make this silky-smooth, even if my arm drops off,” says Poh as she stirs her pot, not realising that if her arm drops off the successful cooking of the pasta will be, at best, a Pyrrhic victory.
Ben has walked away from his pasta mixture, which Rose can tell you Helly told them not to do. Helly tells the judges this is bad because it will go lumpy. “It’ll be not pasta not pasta, it’ll just be not pasta!” Melissa guffaws, and everyone has a good laugh at this semi-joke. Ben returns to his pasta and finds it has indeed gone lumpy, which IS genuinely funny.
It’s time for Poh to spread her pasta dough on the bench and give it a damn good smearing. This she does, to wild applause from the onlookers who can only assume that what they are watching is roughly what is supposed to happen. “It looks fantastic,” says Reece, an expert in what things he’s never seen before should look like.
Ben begins spreading his pasta out, troubled by the lumps that have appeared and the failure of it to turn into ice-cream. “It’s a dog’s breakfast,” he says sadly, but no dog would touch this garbage. He decides to make the pasta again: as he has twenty minutes left and he needs to stir the pasta dough for twenty minutes, this should be a simple matter as long as he doesn’t also have to make coconut sauce at the same time and then plate up, which he does have to do. His only hope is Rose, who is even now spreading out her pasta in a way carefully calculated to bollocks everything up.
Poh is onto her coconut sauce and does not intend to let it get away. “Why are you not happy?” Jock asks her, as if he hasn’t been reading the news. World’s a sad place, man. Give her a break.
Meanwhile Ben is furiously stirring his pasta and making his coconut sauce and wishing Khanh would stop staring at him like that. “Do not give up,” Laura tells him while standing uncomfortably close to his bench. Ben makes a momentous decision: he will abandon his second batch of pasta and use the first batch which was lumpy and unpleasant. He pours it through a sieve, in clear violation of the recipe, infuriating Helly, who vows revenge. He spreads it out. Khanh lets out a grunt of triumph but there is no explanation.
Rose is feeling a little bit frantic right now, because it is a day of the week and she is awake. Suddenly she is shocked by the revelation that the saucepan on the stove is hot: she has learnt a valuable lesson today.
“My bench is such a disaster zone,” says Poh, while Tracy looms up behind her and shoves her face into her business. Poh rolls her pasta and it comes out perfectly – sadly, she may not be going home today.
Ben begins to spray his pasta with a powerful pesticide to rid it of weevils. He then rolls it, causing Helly to smile: though whether she’s smiling with approval or sadistic glee it is impossible to tell.
Rose has finished her coconut sauce and it is now time for her to roll up her pasta, or rather it was time for her to roll up her pasta ten minutes to go. There are only seconds left as everyone scrambles to finish and Melissa begins jumping around the kitchen, apparently desperately in need of a toilet break. Jock briefly starts joining in her bouncing, but quickly decides this is off-brand.
Time is up. Rose is sad. Her fellow contestants hug her just to rub it in. Poh is much happier. “I loved that cook,” she tells the judges, admitting that she performs best when looking forward to leaving the show forever.
Poh plates up her stupid pasta which is not pasta but in reality is pasta. It is reasonably good.
Rose is next to serve her dumb actually-pasta-in-fact. “Could this cook send you home?” asks Melissa. It’s a rhetorical question – every cook could send Rose home – but Rose answers anyway. Her dish is basically terrible. Her pasta is too thin and the sauce is too sweet and she left big hunks of chilli floating around. It sucks.
Ben brings in his dish that is definitely pasta. He is depressed because he doesn’t yet know how badly Rose fucked up. It’s much better than anyone expected because they’ve met Ben before. It’s actually pretty good and proves to Helly that her recipe is a complete sham.
This means, obviously, that Rose has been eliminated due to her crucial mistake in making a terrible dish that everyone hates. As she leaves the show, everyone stands in silent wonder at the fact that she lasted this long, or indeed made it onto the show in the first place. But eventually it was inevitable that the depth out of which she has always been would find her out, and today is the day that every Masterchef viewer’s dreams came true. Finally, she’s going home. A great sigh of relief rings out across the country.
Tune in tomorrow, when Melissa yells.