Having demonstrated their contempt for the working class by cooking and eating gold the night before, four hopeful elitists walk into the Masterchef kitchen to prepare for their most challengey challenge yet. Immunity is on the line for Cuddly Reece, Boyish Callum, Endearingly Shy Brendan, and God Help Us Tessa. The judges stand in front of a number of mysterious shapes covered with sheets. Has the day finally come that we were all waiting for? Are the contestants, at last, going to be cooking ghosts?
Alas, no. “We’re looking forward to fireworks today,” says Jock, striking fear into the four hopefuls, given that making fireworks edible, let alone tasty, is an incredibly difficult task. Jock goes on to ask Callum how big an advantage it is to have immunity. Revealing an astonishing inside secret, Callum admits that having immunity is actually quite a big advantage, what with not being eliminated and everything. “Good luck to you all,” says Jock, but you can sense he doesn’t really mean it to Brendan.
“Cooking in this kitchen is basically about two things: what ingredients you have and how much time you have,” says Melissa, firmly believing that skill plays no part in cooking whatsoever. The challenge tonight involves the sheets being removed to reveal ingredients. Every five minutes, more ingredients will be revealed. The contestants may begin cooking whenever they like, but they can only cook with what’s been revealed at that time. It’s a daunting task, so daunting that Callum has now twice called the sheets “cloches”.
The ninety minutes start. The less time they have, the harder it’ll be. But the less ingredients they have, the harder it’ll be too. It’s a classic Catch-22, and in fact Joseph Heller’s war novel was mostly a metaphor for cooking.
Having revealed basic staples at the start of the challenge, with 85 minutes left Melissa pulls back the sheet and reveals beef and bones. Tessa is tempted by the beef – but then you’ve probably heard the rumours. She’s not willing to go balls-out and serve a big slab of slated bone marrow, though: she waits. Callum refuses to start cooking with no vegetables, the coward.
Five minutes later, Jock reveals some gin and juniper, which is a weird as hell set of ingredients. First milk, eggs and flour, then beef and bones, then gin and juniper. This is a challenge designed by a madman: possibly Rick Stein. Callum is tempted by gin and juniper, being both eccentric and alcoholic, but he keeps his powder, if not his pants, dry.
With 75 minutes left, Andy reveals roots and…allions? Allyans? Whatever, like, onions and garlic and stuff like that it is. Brendan is getting toey, but holds back. At the 70 minute mark, Melissa pulls back another sheet and shows them orchard fruits – apples, pears and various other cockney rhyming slang.
Reece leaps into action like a cat, if cats were heavily into quinces, since it’s apparently the quince that made his mind up. With a gin tart in mind, he snatches up some juniper berries and is immediately attacked by an elderly nude man who accuses him of stealing.
The rest of the cooks point and laugh at Reece and his insane ideas about tarts and quince. With 65 minutes left, Jock shows them leafy greens, arousing no interest whatsoever. Spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts…they are right to spurn these. Emelia finds their reticence baffling, but it’s easy for her, standing on the balcony like Scarlett O’Hara, making us all fall in love with her and her amazing lips. I…anyway, moving on.
One hour left and Andy presents…grains. Big, and I stress this, whoop. Brendan looks like a junkie having a bag of smack waved in front of him: he knows he shouldn’t, but that pearl barley looks so fine. Yet it’s Tessa who lunges forward, terrified of running out of time.
Tessa is making an elevated meat and three veg, which sounds as dull and uninspired as we’ve come to expect from Tessa. “I definitely think I can make an immunity winning dish,” she drones, sounding like Ralphie explaining why a BB gun is a good present for Christmas.
Callum and Brendan, having completely forgotten what’s going on, are still standing in front of the ingredients. Melissa whips a sheet off some herbs. That’s what Brendan’s been waiting for, but he still hesitates, because what if he starts now, and then the next group of ingredients is an already-cooked chicken pie? He’d be kicking himself. He holds out for some spice a la Kyle McLachlan.
Meanwhile, Reece explains that the secret to perfecting a tart is giving it love, which is after all the central theme of Pretty Woman. He flashes back to previous cooks that caused Melissa to dance erotically, and dreams of inspiring full-frontal nudity today. “Nice, Reecey,” Emelia calls from above, sarcastically.
Brendan, having held out for some spices, is overjoyed when the next set of ingredients turn out to be quail. That’s good, because we certainly haven’t had enough fucking quail in this series. Brendan can hold out no longer and bolts for the benches. He does not, however, take any quail, making the last five minutes an utter waste of time. He is going to make some dumplings, just to prove he’s capable of stretching his creative boundaries.
Tessa has her beef stock in the pressure cooker and it’s hard to imagine anyone caring.
Callum has still not begun – he’s sure that under one of the last two sheets is a bottle of pure LSD. What he gets, though, is shellfish. He has forty-five minutes left, and is sorely tempted by mussels, as any man might be. “That’s amazing,” says Poh, sounding as bored as anyone on television ever has.
Callum is excited about his shellfish and is sure he can make something truly delicious out of these revolting sea monsters in just forty-five minutes. He’s making something called an “eskabesh”. That’s what it sounds like anyway. I have no idea what that is and be honest, neither do you. It’s something with mussels though.
Everyone has begun, but with forty minutes left, Melissa reveals that if they’d waited till the end, they’d have had the entire garden at their disposal. Brendan is shattered, as he would’ve enjoyed wasting his time fucking around in the dirt outside instead of cooking.
The judges discuss the contestants’ choices. Jock tells the other judges that immunity is a good thing. Melissa and Andy find this difficult to argue with.
Melissa visits Brendan to ask what he’s cooking. Brendan says he’s making dumplings. Melissa is shocked by this news. Andy and Jock visit Callum and ask if he has any regrets. He regrets nothing except engaging Jock and Andy in conversation. Andy tells Callum that he’s worried about acid. Callum has only vinegar, but if he’d waited another five minutes he could have dipped into the enormous acid vat that is kept in the garden.
Callum flashes back to his time on Season 2, when his whole life was in front of him and he made delicious desserts instead of mucking around with gross mussels. Struck by a sudden inspiration, he grabs some pears and begins making something green and slimy.
Reece pulls his tart out of the oven as his ice-cream churns. He decides to add a juniper meringue shard, just to show that he understands that Masterchef is all about pointless pretension.
“Win immunity today and you’re one step closer to this!” Melissa cries, pointing to the Wimbledon Singles Trophy sitting beside her. Wildcard entry to the Championships is a part of the Masterchef prize that is often neglected, yet it has proven the most important element of all for numerous previous Masterchef winners such as Steffi Graf and Lleyton Hewitt.
Melissa asks Reece if he’s happy he started early, possibly referring to today’s challenge. Reece could not be happier: in fact his exuberance is so pronounced it almost certainly hides a deep inner sadness, and all are disturbed by the sight. Meanwhile, Brendan panics and begins hurling pots around the kitchen in a frenzy.
Callum’s emulsion is splitting, and who can blame it? He starts again, whisking by hand instead of using newfangled electricity. The powerful wrist muscles he developed in his childhood really pay off as he shows the emulsion who’s boss.
Five minutes left and Brendan has only just put his dumplings into his pan. Emelia orders him to breathe, but he does not have time to. “Come on Brendan,” calls Reynold, chuckling at what fools these mortals be. Brendan is sure he’s left it too late, and realises with a jolt that his life is over. “If my dumplings don’t turn out well, it could be my reputation on the line,” he says, although to be fair customers at his restaurant probably do understand that the menu there does not involve any idiotic arbitrary handicaps.
Melissa and Reece continue to flirt shamelessly with each other, insisting on saying “tart” an inordinate number of times. Reece says he needs immunity because being in the top seven would give him the confidence he needs to know that he’s in the top seven.
With two minutes to go, Tessa has lost track of time and the audience has lost interest in Tessa. Her ribeye is lush and pink, but so fucking what, you know? Meanwhile, Callum’s mussels are cooked perfectly, or so he says. There’s no way to know for sure, since mussels, whether cooked, raw or burnt, are always just horrible little lumps of sea mucus.
The judges scream the countdown as the cooks frantically hurl their disappointing dishes onto plates. Brendan’s dumplings look like an omelette, but he seems to think that’s how they should look.
Callum is first to serve, bringing in his vinegary mussels to the hapless judges. “How’d you go?” asks Andy. “Yeah, good,” says Callum, completing the ritual. The judges eat the thingummies. “I actually really enjoyed it,” says Andy, conveying as always the sense that good food has come as an enormous surprise to him. Jock thinks the mussels are too sweet, something nobody could ever accuse Jock of. “I guess time will tell,” says Melissa, the centrist scumbag.
Tessa comes in. “I hope this dish is good enough to win immunity,” she says, astonishing all. Her dish is a strip of meat and some vegetables and that is very much all. Apparently she has “elevated” meat and three veg by putting it on a plate, rather than serving it all mashed up in a garbage bag as she usually would. The judges taste her classic discount RSL meal and find it incredibly adequate. Sure, it could’ve been better, but they knew going in that it was Tessa.
Brendan serves his just-in-time dumpling omelette. “Brendan, you have not yet won immunity,” Melissa says, rubbing it in. Brendan tells the judges that he really wants to win immunity – apparently the producers are of the belief that the drama of the show is heightened by the contestants constantly reaffirming their desire to win every fifteen seconds. The judges eat the fruits of his panic, and find his dumplings technically qualify as food.
Finally, Reece brings forth juniper berries, thus becoming the object of worship for a fanatical crowd of local zealots. His fancy gin tart is a hell of a lot more sophisticated-looking than Brendan’s dumplings or Tessa’s beef slab, but that doesn’t mean anything: classical music is sophisticated too, and cellos taste terrible. Fortunately, Reece is what is known, in the business, as “a guy who can make food that is nice to eat”, and the judges all agree that putting the tart inside their bodies is not the worst thing that has happened to them today.
The judges and cooks gather for the solemn task of separating the contestants into the anointed and the disgraced. Callum and Reece are declared Good, while Brendan and Tessa are pronounced You Are Having A Laugh Mate. And Reece is declared the best of all, relegating Callum to merely Fairly OK. Reece is overjoyed, and so is Melissa, who still holds out hope of becoming Mrs Reece in the near future. Andy congratulates Reece on his victory and emphasises to the rest that they are a disappointment not just to him, but to Australia.
Tune in next week, when the contestant’s eyes are wide shut.