The contestants enter the kitchen to find the usual array of mystery boxes waiting to vomit up their secrets. Opening the boxes, they discover that inside each one is a photograph of themselves, sent in by their loved ones, and they realise that the time has come: they are going to have to cook their families.
Bugger, that’s not the challenge. The challenge is to make a dish inspired by the memory shown in the photo. All of the memories are incredibly heartwarming and there are tears and laughter and all the kind of good solid overt sentimentality that every Masterchef fan loves to tune out during. Emelia, who doesn’t have to cook tonight due to winning immunity last night, watches from the balcony, glad she doesn’t have to pretend to know this thing you humans call “feelings”.
The best four dishes tonight will go into the immunity challenge tomorrow night for the chance to join Emelia as the untouchable gods of Sunday night.
The challenge starts. Outside, a bee crawls on a flower for mysterious and opaque reasons. Khanh tells the story of how his parents worked hard when they came to Australia to give him the chance to be a reality TV contestant. In honour of them he is making something that makes a chicken go further. A cannon, perhaps.
Jock and Melissa stand two metres apart, possibly because of the pandemic and possibly because they don’t like each other. Jock observes that the Covid crisis is making people emotional and he hates it because he despises weakness.
Poh reveals that her father is a dreamer, which she considers a tenuous link to her current profession. She’s going to fry scallops, because that’s what her father did in one of his dreams once. She tells Jock that her dad used to be a guitarist, which is what inspired her to be a chef. She refuses to elaborate and insists that Jock go away.
Sarah is making village food, reimagined. “Village food reimagined!” Andy exclaims, unable to come up with anything better than simply repeating words that are said to him. Meanwhile Reece reveals his sinister plan to macerate strawberries in an attempt to replicate the notorious feats of his Nanna, whose sponge cakes were famous for their suitability for heavy artillery.
Reynold is sad, thinking about how his family had to close their venues due to the pandemic. The photo reminded him of this, as the producers high-five each other over how successful their plan to traumatise Reynold has been. Jock asks him what he’s doing. Reynold explains that he is going to combine sixteen thousand different ingredients into a dessert so complicated that it will require a degree to eat. As Reynold works frantically against the clock, Jock goes above and beyond the call of duty in his efforts to distract him and slow him down, emphasising to Reynold just how difficult his task is and how likely he is to run out of time. Reynold thanks him for his psychological sabotage.
Callum is cooking a fish to honour his late father and remind everyone that yes, he is still on this show. He reflects on how coming second on Masterchef the first time around changed his life forever, and how this second chance has given him a fantastic opportunity to spend time away from his infant son.
Poh is worried about her timings, or to put it another way, she’s not worried at all about her timings, because every single cook sees her pushing her luck and almost running out of time because she doesn’t give a shit whether she gets eliminated or not.
Reynold is working on his pandang gel. “Ooh, green, Reynold!” Laura says as she passes by, revealing her hidden talent for identifying colours. Reynold pays her no mind as he is too sad.
Reece feels sad because he’s never cooked, in his words, “from his nostalgia”, as you can tell from his inability to coherently describe it. Andy visits his bench to demand that Reece provide him with some kind of justification for his judge’s pay packet. Reece kindly allows Andy to blather on about nothing for a few minutes.
Emelia watches from above, her face a mask of steely impassivity, as Jess fiddles with chocolate balls. “Jess, you are just too much,” Emelia snarls angrily, or possibly complimentarily, it’s hard to tell.
With 25 minutes to go, Poh has many things to do and is wondering whether she’s bitten off more than she can chew, as she has in every single episode so far, making it quite a tedious development in the narrative. Suddenly she discovers that her pressure cooker isn’t turned on, which is pretty funny. On the balcony, Emelia rubs her hands together gleefully, feeding off Poh’s panic like a mosquito off a vein. Poh’s dish has been blown out of the water and she has to forget her broth, which shouldn’t be too hard: I already have. “Come on Poh!” Emelia cries, possibly sarcastically.
Suddenly and without warning, Tessa is on the screen. She is cooking mussels because her father was a pretty buff dude. We cut away from her just before she gets unbearable.
Andy pops in to check on Laura, who is cooking sweet pastry as a tribute to her nonna, who was the original inspiration for the character of Sonny Corleone. If Laura doesn’t nail the dish, her nonna will be very upset and probably put a hit out on her.
Khanh’s doughnuts are looking great and he’s never been happier. To be honest that would have been a really nice moment to end the episode on: Khanh loves his doughnuts, fade to black.
The judges discuss how hilarious it is when Poh is unhappy. Melissa admires Brendan’s noodles and Reece’s cake. Jock cannot believe that Reece’s cake is an actual Victoria sponge. He has never heard such absurdity. “Stop it!” he snaps at Melissa, the pressure getting to him. Andy reveals that he’s looking forward to a sweet, which for him counts as conversation.
“I’m literally the worst person to have on the gantry,” says Emelia, spitting relentlessly at the contestants on the floor.
Reynold hasn’t cheered up. He wants to show how much he’s grown, but right now it doesn’t look like he’s grown at all: it just looks like he’s stayed at the same level of “freakish genius” his whole life. “Go and have a look at Reynold’s coconut,” Andy chuckles to his fellow judges, Sid James-style.
Sarah loves the flavour of her broth. “This dish is quintessentially my mother,” says Sarah, bringing a touch of black comedy to the show with this menacing declaration. Meanwhile Jess is running around being adorable as she does strange things with mousse. Her mousse isn’t frozen enough but that doesn’t in any way devalue her as a person.
With just three minutes of the cook left, we enter the final six hours of the episode. Jess’s balls have set, the proudest moment of any parent’s life. She dips her balls in gold leaf, determined to celebrate human greed in all its forms.
“It looks like it’s about to be a photo finish!” Melissa yells, cheapening herself and the show by her willingness to say that line. As the last few seconds ebb away, Jess sprinkles red stuff on her balls and Emelia comes close to climax watching her.
Time is up. Reece had a lot of fun making his cake, and that’s what’s important. Khanh says he is happy, but he is crying, which makes no sense because crying is what you do when you are sad.
Callum is first to plate up. “It does feel like there’s a bit more riding on it today,” he says, and it’s true: there is slightly more riding on it today than the usual nothing that is riding on it every other day. The judges taste his horror from the depths. Callum cries a bit. “That’s the way that I love to eat,” says Andy, referring to the distance the other judges have to stay away from him. Also the dish is good.
Brendan is next, with the noodles that we haven’t learnt much about tonight because his backstory isn’t interesting enough. As he plates up Melissa waves her hands around like Stevie Nicks, hoping to summon the spirits of spice to come to her aid. “It’s a plate of food that’s not really like you,” says Andy. “You’re softly spoken, really polite”. Brendan’s dish is loud and coarse with no manners at all. The judges say it’s great, strongly implying therefore that they think Brendan isn’t.
Poh is next, with a dish of pure artificial drama. She is disappointed she couldn’t serve the broth, but cheered by the reminder that she doesn’t care about this show even a little bit. She explains the story behind the dish: her father was a musician who had dreams and also ate noodles sometimes, so here are some noodles. The judges eat the noodles. Melissa and Andy momentarily stand much closer together than the rules allow. The noodles exceed Melissa’s expectations because they are not total and utter shit.
Jess is next and incredibly cute. She has written “Crack me open” in chocolate on her plate, which is so goddamn fucking cute of her. She tells the story of how her grandmother used to try to poison her by making her eat grass, which naturally inspired her to make a Ferrero chocolate ball with mousse inside. Andy cracks it open and briefly experiences a second childhood. “It’s like an egg!” he squeals, never having experienced joy like this. “I’ve gotta say it doesn’t taste anything like a Ferrero Rocher,” says Jock, which is a filthy lie: he didn’t have to say that at all. “It is one of the best desserts I’ve eaten this year,” he adds, sending mixed messages while also insulting every other contestant.
Khanh is next. He’s got congee and salad and doughnuts and it sounds awful but apparently isn’t which is just CRAZY. “We can tell that this meant a lot to you,” says Andy, leaving the unspoken addendum, “unlike Poh” hanging in the air. We are told that Khanh’s dish is packed with “emotional flavour”, which makes one worry for the dish’s stability. Khanh cries for the seventieth time today.
Laura serves her nonna’s sweet thingy. It passes very quickly because nobody is interested. Simon serves whatever the hell he’s made. It also passes quickly.
Sarah brings forth her fish soup, an idea she stole from her mother in a clear case of intellectual property theft. The judges compliment her with no regard to the litigation to come.
Tessa serves her mussels after briefly forgetting what they’re called. Then she goes away.
Next is Reece, who has a lovely cake just like his Nan used to make only probably better because let’s face it Nan was an amateur. It tastes lovely, apparently, which is a good thing for a cake. Jock is nearly brought to tears by the presence in his life of a cake.
Lastly, we have Reynold, who is sad and has made a fancy little coconut thingummy. He explains that the photo reminded him of how his parents worked so hard when he was a kid at their restaurant, and the struggles his family is having now, and the emotions this brings to the surface. The judges really do not care. They just want to cram their gullets full of coconut. Jock tells Reynold he can’t believe he made the dessert in just sixty minutes, and strongly suspects that he is a witch. The dish is essentially perfect, and nobody is surprised.
Although everyone has cooked from their heart and made dishes that have special meaning to them, the judges are still required to tell some that they are greatly inferior and that their families will therefore probably be ashamed of them. However, the judges have gone rogue, flouting the rules that they are sworn to uphold as officers of the kitchen. They have selected five cooks to go into the immunity challenge instead of four, which frankly makes a mockery of the whole process.
The five they have illicitly chosen are Jess, Brendan, Reynold, Khanh and, for some reason, fricking Poh. I know, I know – something screwy going on here.
Tune in tomorrow, when the judges will exaggerate shamelessly.