Previously on Masterchef Australia…the top ten gloated from atop their mountain of hubris.
Tonight on Masterchef Australia…tragedy strikes.
It’s a pressure test, with Reece, Sarah and Brendan competing to see who gets sent home instead of Poh. We begin with helicopter shots of Melbourne, strongly implying that some kind of devastating alien attack is about to be launched on the city. At Masterchef HQ, Poh declares that “I’m feeling really Zen…I’m in battle mode”, ensuring that she will not go home without letting the world know that she has no idea what Zen means.
In the kitchen, Brendan reveals that he has spoken to his mum and she has assured him that she will be supporting Poh. Jock tells the aspirants that they will be competing in one of the hardest versions of the pressure test: cooking without the use of your hands.
Nah, actually it’s just having to recreate a dish without a recipe, a challenge, like yesterday’s “twin” thing, designed to test the contestants’ ability to do something that no cook in real life would ever have to do. The challenge will be set by Benjamin Cooper, master of Thai cuisine and cultural appropriation. “Benjamin Cooper walked through the door, and I knew who he was definitely and I’ve heard of him and everything,” says Reece. Reece begins to freak out because he knows the dish will be complex and also the cook is about to start, so it’s the usual time when Reece starts freaking out.
Benjamin Cooper reveals that the dish he’s set is one that smacked him about the head. “He’s so passionate about this,” Andy chuckles, trying to lighten the mood of awkwardness that has settled over the kitchen as everyone realises they are in the presence of a mad man.
The dish is “jungle curry”. It has fish, and chillies, and big leaves that are not food, and other stuff. The contestants taste the curry. Brendan starts sweating, as the chilli is so intense that it has caused him to fear that his dreadful secret will be revealed. Benjamin tells them that fat is their friend, which is fairly insulting, and then laughs at them for a few minutes.
They have 90 minutes to recreate this hot, spicy, homicidal dish. Whoever cooks the worst dish, or in the event of Poh cooking the worst dish, the second-worst dish, will be sent home. The cook begins.
Brendan has a whole chicken on his bench. How it got there nobody knows. He is certain that it has been placed there to send him a message: expect retribution. He begins sweating again.
Sarah puts her stock in the pressure cooker to cook. “It’s going to take some time to cook,” she says, wise in the ways of physics. Benjamin comes by and looks at her pressure cooker with a smugness that is insufferable even by the standards of professional chefs. “What’s in there?” he smirks. Sarah tells him there are onions and leeks and chicken and so forth. “That’s good,” Benjamin replies, laughing on the inside at her insanity.
Tessa does not understand why Poh is making stock with nothing but chicken, but then nobody ever accused Tessa of being good at understanding things. The judges ask Benjamin about his stock. He points at the chickens. “We’re going to get four different variations!” Andy chirrups and every pats him on the head for being a good boy and using his words.
Poh explains that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, but is relying on her instincts and the contractual commitment Channel Ten has made to keep her on the show until the finale to see her through. Benjamin asks her what’s in her stock. She says it’s chicken and salt. Benjamin virtually spits in her face. Poh now realises that she should have put in leeks and onions and spring onions, but she doesn’t have time to restart her pressure cooker. If there were any chance of her being eliminated, this would be a real worry.
“Tasting Benjamin’s curry, I can tell that the aromatics are very fresh and bright,” Poh says, reasoning that there’s a camera on her, so she might as well say things, whether they mean anything or not.
Melissa yells at everyone to listen to Benjamin, like she’s his herald or something. Benjamin explains that “what you smell, you’ll end up tasting”. This is a revelation to the contestants, who had never before thought of smelling food. Benjamin instructs them to “use all their senses” – look at the curry, smell the curry, taste the curry, plunge your hand into the curry, listen to the curry as it whispers to you of its secret hatreds.
Laura starts yelling at Brendan about chillies. Benjamin tells her that there are forty chillies in the curry. Laura finds this ridiculous and doesn’t understand why nobody has started making their gnocchi yet. Or their garlic bread.
Reece is carefully tasting the curry. He’s torn: should he stress himself out trying to recreate the dish, or just spend the 90 minutes eating it and count himself lucky to have gained a free meal? He’s still freaking out, as he’s never made a curry like this before: usually when he makes curry he is nude.
Sarah knows how challenging it is to cook someone else’s dish without a recipe. In fact, it’s not only challenging, it’s stupid. Jock orders Sarah to stop and think about layers of flavours. Sarah nods and pretends to understand. Tasting the curry, she suddenly realises that Benjamin has cooked his curry paste in the pork fat. “The crazy son of a bitch,” she mutters underneath her breath.
Disaster strikes as Sarah discovers her curry paste has been fried off, and frankly she’s pretty fried off herself. “So you’ve had to start again with forty minutes to go?” Andy asks, his eyes wide as he gazes at all the shiny pots and pans. Sarah declares that she’s not going home because of this mistake, but the signs aren’t good: Brendan and Reece haven’t been on screen much, and Poh is…well. It’s ominous.
Brendan does now pop up though, fiddling with his fish. Benjamin asks if he’d like some advice. Brendan would actually just like some peace and quiet, but he feels he has to say yes. Benjamin asks if there’s a bit of cheekiness in him. “Yes,” says Brendan with the sombre earnestness of a pallbearer. Benjamin urges him to get cheeky with his curry: load it up with chilli, carve his initials in the fish, masturbate into the sauce – it’s all about having fun.
Poh thinks the sauce needs more turmeric, as Benjamin’s curry definitely boosted her immune system. Meanwhile, Khanh wants to know whether Sarah’s got this. Sarah refuses to dignify this with a response. “It’s hard to say at this point who’s nailing it,” says Khanh, and it’s even harder to care.
Reece is feeling panicky, and is starting to suspect the junk was cut with something dodgy. “I’m just going to back myself a hundred percent,” he says defiantly, refusing to accept that reality has a part to play in his life.
Benjamin makes an announcement. “In the restaurant, these ten minutes is when we start cooking the curry,” he says. “I want you to think about it.” The contestants think about it, and realise that he is subtly telling them that they are shit and will never be chefs. They’ve been cooking for eighty minutes, but if they were actually any good they would not have started until now. Benjamin despises them all and will see to it their dreams remain unfulfilled.
Crushed beneath the heel of Benjamin’s superiority, the contestants sag. “I’ve made a serious error here,” says Sarah, reflecting on her decision to come back on the show.
Reece’s stock is flavoursome and his paste “tastes very aromatic”, as his ability to distinguish between the senses breaks down completely. Meanwhile Poh is kicking herself that she didn’t demand more money from the producers before the series started. Her curry tastes like a Malaysian curry because she’s caramelised it too much: her only consolation is that she could not give less of a shit.
Sarah admits that she needs to edit her dish, but she has a problem: editing is not something you do to food. She’s at a loss. She desperately hits the spellcheck on her curry over and over again, but nothing happens. From the balcony Khanh shouts unhelpful suggestions and Sarah tells him to piss off.
Time is up. Benjamin smirks at the contestants’ pain. “I think the rice is fine,” says Sarah, powerfully expressing how depressed she is. Poh wonders if someone has nailed it more than her, but only idly, for want of anything better to do.
The judges sit down to laugh at how ineptly the contestants have performed their task. “This challenge was about how well they can replicate your dish, and whoever fails at that will be going home,” says Melissa. The other judges look at her. They already know that. They’ve been here the whole time, same as she has.
Brendan comes in and tells them that he hopes to finish better than ninth, his ambitions clearly out of control. The judges taste his curry. It’s basically fine.
Poh comes in. She knows she hasn’t replicated the dish at all, but is hoping she gets lucky by being guaranteed a spot in the final months ago. She explains that she caramelised her curry paste. Benjamin explains that this is something only a real dickhead would do. Poh says she’s hoping that cooking the dish completely wrongly won’t have an effect on its taste.
Andy thinks Poh’s rice is lovely, i.e. he hates the dish. Benjamin declares that the chilli is “not the joyful thing it should be”, but look who’s talking. The judges are agreed: Poh has stuffed up, but she can stay because she’s Poh and they will be sacked if they eliminate her.
Reece comes in. He explains to the judges that he sucks and he hates himself and nothing he does will ever be right. The judges nod understandingly. Reece leaves. The judges find that his curry is actually very close to Benjamin’s, but consider not telling Reece so as they find his depression amusing.
Last to come in is Sarah. She’s not confident because she knows she did the dish wrong, which is pretty logical really. “That’s probably the least confident we’ve ever seen Sarah,” says Melissa, finding the distress simply delicious. The judges eat Sarah’s poor curry and find it poor. Benjamin observes that while Poh’s dish was too heavy, Sarah’s is too light. “It’s a Goldilocks moment,” he says, releasing three bears into the waiting area. Andy thinks there are elements that are great, but then gets distracted by a butterfly and never finishes his thought.
In the end, Sarah’s dish just isn’t up to scratch. The best thing you could say about it is that it’s better than Poh’s, but “better than Poh” has never been enough to save anyone from elimination, and so Sarah has to go home, meaning that we now have Masterchef without Sarah OR Jess, so what the point of any of this is, I have no idea.
Tune in tomorrow when someone does something or whatever.