Elimination episodes are the most enjoyable episodes because you know that at the end somebody is going to be sad, and tonight is no exception. Nine cooks enter: one cook leaves: the worst cook.
Reece has won immunity and is celebrating by wearing shorts. The judges mock him for his shorts, as they mock anyone who does not conform to their view of normalcy.
The remaining eight cooks are to be forced to cook in the Masterchef garden, due to an infestation of bird lice in the kitchen. They will be making “street food”, meaning “food with dirt in it”. There are four market stalls set up, labelled Mexican, Chinese, Indian and Lebanese. The cooks will be pairing up, each pair to cook two dishes of the street food they draw. Whoever shames a proud culture the least wins. The worst two teams go into round two to fight for redemption.
There is a guest judge tonight because it adds a few minutes to the runtime. It is Charlie Carrington, who according to Callum is incredibly knowledgeable about Mexico and China and India and Lebanon. Every four months his restaurants changes the menu depending on which country he’s just been to, which sounds like the most annoying way to run a restaurant ever.
Brendan and Tessa are making Mexican food, which they only just heard of this morning. They decide to make tacos, because that’s a word they heard once. Laura and Emelia are making Indian, which excites Laura because it starts with the same letter as Italian. Laura and Emelia once visited India together for two weeks so they are fairly sure their knowledge of Indian cuisine is encyclopaedic. Emelia is wearing her most combative lipstick and clearly means business.
Callum and Poh are making Lebanese food. Callum tells Jock they’re making a lamb shoulder. Jock finds this idea ludicrous, but it’s all part of Poh’s long-term plan to make a mockery of the competition. What they haven’t taken into account is that lambs don’t have shoulders.
Meanwhile, Khanh and Reynold are cooking Chinese and are not particularly interesting. They tell Melissa they’re making dumplings and fried rice. Melissa asks Charlie what he reckons. Charlie agrees that these are, in theory, Chinese foods.
Tessa is feeling intimidated because, while Reynold is half-Chinese and Laura and Emelia have been to India, neither Brendan nor she has ever been to Mexico, which combined with her general ineptitude may cost her. She tells Melissa that she is cooking quail. Melissa searches for a polite way to let Tessa know that she’s a moron. Not only are quails not used in Mexican cuisine, they are actually banned by the Mexican government because of their tendency to trigger insurrections. Both Melissa and Charlie stare at Tessa with deep sadness. “Make it work and make it delicious,” says Melissa, her advice as detailed and practical as ever. Meanwhile, Brendan admits that he is out of his depth because tacos are not technically dumplings. “Keep it up Brendan, focus on what you’re doing please,” says Reece snottily, his interjection the reason Brendan wasn’t focusing in the first place.
Laura lists some spices. Emelia tells her to stop because she’s not listening, and who can blame her? Emelia is feeling nervous because her panipuri are turning out like little pappadums, which is a different thing. She is sad because she wants to pay homage to Indian cuisine and her friendship with Laura, although there are some obvious edits in her speech, so it’s possible she actually said, “I want to pay homage to Indian cuisine, but everything has been ruined by my horrible destructive friendship with Laura”.
The judges gather to make noises at each other, while Callum compliments Poh on her ability to make flatbread slightly brown. He is concerned about getting his lamb shoulder done in time, but Poh tells him not to be nervous because she has a deal with the producers.
Laura asks Emelia whether she’s on track. Emelia admits that she is not, as her panipuri continues to refuse to puff, in protest at her cultural appropriation. Laura tells her not to panic. Emelia is getting sick of Laura telling her what to do. All of a sudden, her panipuri puffs, and joy is unconfined. Reece comes over to have a look and show everyone his shorts some more. It is now time for Emelia to shove her prawns in the tandoor, a process known as “sending sea monsters to hell”.
Meanwhile, Callum has to get his lamb out and reduce his sauce. Cooking can be very dull sometimes. “I think if you were watching from afar, you’d think Poh and I are on different teams,” he says, as Poh repeatedly punches him in the stomach.
Five minutes to go and Andy is overjoyed at being able to use his outside voice. Brendan frantically sputters, “taco taco taco taco taco taco taco taco,” hoping that the more he says the word, the less his inability to make one will matter. Melissa comes over and quotes Kenny Rogers at him to ensure he is completely confused.
Reynold makes Khanh taste his fried rice. Khanh thinks it’s too greasy. Reynold adds coriander and chilli, believing that this might possibly be good in some way.
Emelia is stuffing her panipuri which is tough because only one of them is any good. “Everything about the panipuri is beautiful except the panipuri,” she says cryptically, challenging us, the audience, to solve her riddle.
Time is up. Charlie Carrington wanders around in the background, asking the crew why he’s there. “What a cook! Epic energy! Heaps of smiles!” Andy chirps, using up his entire vocabulary.
The first to be judged are Tessa and Brendan, the Mexican quail weirdos. “You’ve accidentally fallen into some authenticity because in the south they’re known for grilled quail,” says Melissa, revealing herself as a devious douche, because beforehand she was really snide about them doing quail. Charlie is surprised that Tessa’s quail is good, because he’d assumed she was awful at everything as he’s watched this show previously. But the quail, and Brendan’s tacos, are much better than you’d think to look at their blank, uncomprehending faces.
Emelia and Laura bring forth their homage to brief visits to foreign cultures. It is fine, but Andy notices that the prawns don’t taste like prawns. Bizarrely, he considers this a criticism. Also, Emelia’s panipuri, as foretold in the prophecy, sucks.
Reynold and Khanh present their tedious Chinese feast. It’s not very good. The rice is too greasy, just like Khanh thought. But Khanh’s dumplings are nice, proving that when it comes to Chinese cooking, the less Chinese you are, the better.
Finally, Callum and Poh and their Lebanese etc. The lamb is dry. Melissa doesn’t know why Callum chose to cook lamb shoulder in 75 minutes, but she suspects it’s a brain chemistry issue.
It’s a disappointing day so far, but especially so for Reynold and Khanh and Emelia and Laura. In a shock development, Poh is safe again. Laura is gutted, as she doesn’t want to say goodbye to any of her closest vague acquaintances.
Inside the kitchen, the four losers find a map of the world. “What does this mean?” asks Khanh. “It’s a map of the world,” says Emelia. “I know,” Khanh snaps back, sick of her bullshit.
Melissa explains that round two of the challenge requires the cooks to do what Charlie does at Atlas: run a multimillion-dollar business successfully for many years. Also, they have to choose one of the eleven countries Charlie has been to and cook something from there. I mean, not FROM there – something that is kind of similar to something from there. “You guys can cook anything you want,” says Andy, obviously lying: they can’t cook a horse or a motorbike or Sara-Marie from Big Brother, to name just three.
The dishes must be fine dining, rather than street food, which will be a challenge for the final four who are all total plebs. Charlie believes that the greatest challenge will be for him to find a way to seem charismatic on-screen.
Khanh thinks it will be difficult to make a Vietnamese fine dining dish, because Vietnamese cuisine doesn’t lend itself to fine dining, which might make one wonder why he decided to cook Vietnamese cuisine. But Khanh has decided to play to his strengths, which are apparently doing things he doesn’t know how to do.
Laura has chosen France, the Italy of Europe. She is making coq au vin, which is French for “a cock in a van”. She is using quail instead of chicken. Khanh is also using quail instead of chicken. It is becoming clear that the extent of the contestants’ knowledge of fine dining is putting quail in stuff.
“As soon as I hear the words fine dining, I think perfection,” says Emelia. Unfortunately, as soon as she hears the word Masterchef, she thinks balls-up. She has also chosen French, and has decided to do a pastry. She is making a petit-four, which is French for “quail”.
Reynold has also chosen French, and at this stage Khanh has to be feeling a bit nervous, as French is clearly the way to go. Reynold is cooking fish. Jock reminds him that last time he was on the show, he was eliminated on a fish dish. Reynold acknowledges this, but also thinks one has to take into account the fact that Jock is being a dick. In any case, this time Reynold has an ace up his sleeve: instead of fish, he’s using quail.
Reynold puts his fish in a bag and then in a water bath, having seen the same thing in one of the Saw movies. Jock tells the other judges that he doesn’t understand why Reynold isn’t making a dessert. They all agree that Reynold’s decision has ruined their whole day. Charlie explains that Laura is making coq au vin, but with quail in cognac, which is dumb.
Emelia is making a mix between a cream and a buttercream, like some kind of demented Frankenstein figure. Her pastries sit in the oven while the soundtrack turns to sad plinky piano, as if we’re supposed to believe the pastry has recently lost a loved one. Jock asks Emelia who the hell she thinks she is. Emelia explains that pastry is who she is. She breaks down and cries as she recalls how last time she failed because she couldn’t admit that she was made of pastry. “This is my passion in life,” she sobs – it’s not clear whether she means pastry or crying in public.
Laura adds bone marrow to her quail and cognac jus, and why not? It’s a free country. From the balcony, Reece shouts unhelpfully. Laura complains about how many bones are in a quail, like someone held a gun to her head and forced her to cook a stupid horrid tiny bird.
Meanwhile, Khanh is cooking quail on the hibachi. He explains this is how they cook things on the street in Vietnam, having still not really grasped the concept of “fine dining”. But Khanh wants to champion Vietnamese cuisine. “This is what I’m about,” he says. Vietnamese food is to him what crying is to Emelia.
Emelia opens the oven, wherein are held all the sins of mankind. Her pastry is beautiful. Overwhelmed with relief, she begins squirting mush into her petits-four. “Only one minute to go, come on guys!” Andy roars, hoping for a big effort in the final quarter.
Time is up. Emelia starts crying again. “I wish I could convey how stressful and emotional (Masterchef) becomes,” she says through her tears. She tries her best, but even after her heartfelt outburst, it still seems pretty easy to be honest. They all need to harden up, eh.
The judges sit down to table, the three regulars refusing to tell Charlie why he’s on the show. Reynold brings in a small piece of fish that does not even come close to being one-fifth of a complete meal. Jock asks whether he’s overcooked his fish again, like he always does. Reynold says he might have undercooked it. The game of cat and mouse continues. The judges eat his pathetic little scrap of fish. It tastes exactly like a piece of fish, as recommended by all French chefs.
Khanh comes in. “I one hundred per cent think this dish represents Vietnam,” he says, though he’s not sure whether he’s met the fine dining brief because he didn’t try to. “What would your mum say about this dish?” asks Melissa. Khanh replies that she would hate it, and everyone in this room. The judges taste his sort-of-fine-dining quail. Jock finds a ribcage in his, left there as a sinister warning, lest he cross Khanh again. Charlie says the sauce is garbage. Melissa says her meat was dry. Jock says that his ribcage was unpleasant. Andy says nothing, dazzled by the fancy decor.
Laura brings in her coq au vin without either coq or vin. Andy asks her whether it gets easier or harder when you suck so bad that you keep coming up for elimination. Laura says it’s hard when you keep having to make things that aren’t pasta. The judges agree that Laura’s quail au cognac looks rustic, like cow manure. Charlie says the plating sucked, but the dish tastes basically edible.
Finally, it is time for Laura and her tiny little pastries. She has staked her place in the competition on a dish that is literally a single bite of pastry, and all agree that this bravery tantamount to brain damage. “How would you feel if you went out on a dish that is choux pastry?” asks Andy, with great insensitivity. Emelia replies that that would mean there was more for her to learn, which would be a good thing, which makes no sense. The judges eat their petits-four. “Hm,” says Andy, and means it. Jock says that he could feel the pastry in his brain, which is what pastry is all about. The judges think Emelia’s single bite is just spiffing, and Emelia will survive to pleasure us again.
Time for judgment to be doled out. Andy thanks Charlie Carrington for coming in and doing whatever he’s done. Jock says that Reynold is safe because his fish was pretentious enough, and Emelia is safe because she’s awesome. But Laura’s quail looked like a barnyard and Khanh’s tasted like a cesspit. Khanh’s rejection of social mores has caused him to be booted from the competition. He congratulates Laura on being a big fat teacher’s pet, and bursts into tears.
“You are loved, life gets better,” says Khanh. He is speaking to the people around the world who are struggling, but the way it’s framed it looks like he’s saying it directly the Masterchef judges and it gets a bit weird. The fact they have to farewell him by bumping elbows doesn’t help either. As Khanh leaves he reveals that he is proud of his heritage, which comes as a bit of a bombshell. “It’s been an amazing ride, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it,” he says, which makes you wonder why he looked so sad when he was eliminated. You know, given that he apparently enjoyed it so much.
Tune in tomorrow, when the contestants are each given a machete and told that all laws have been suspended.