It’s down to the final five, and the contest to remain trapped in the surreal oubliette that is Masterchef has never been hotter or more disturbing.
Another morning dawns, and a butterfly perches on a flower, reminding us of that old adage: when a butterfly flaps its wings in the garden, it causes a sous vide machine to explode inside. Callum, Reynold and Laura approach the kitchen and Laura voices the thoughts of all: “it’s such a good feeling to be close to the end”. Indeed, everyone is praying for death as they enter HQ and listen to Melissa bang on about finals week for what seems like hours. She asks Laura what’s different about now compared to her first time on Masterchef. Laura explains that back then she had yet to understand how bitter and meaningless life can be.
“I have a feeling we’re about to have a Battle Royale on our hands,” says Melissa, as she hands out crossbows and declares that the last person left alive shall be given rations. Andy, the good cop, explains that today they may cook anything they want. “Time to bring out every gun you have,” he says, with incredible insensitivity given the current sociopolitical situation.
Jock chimes in to tell the trio that they may choose how long they get to cook. “We could do a short one,” says Callum, on-brand as always. They could, if they wanted to, give themselves 48 hours, and if they had half a brain they would, but they decide on two hours, even though Reynold actually wants three hours as he is planning to make a sorbet from the breath of mermaids and has to have time to pop down the beach.
The cook begins. All three start by writing a list of all their most secret fears. Reynold reveals there is one dish he has been wanting to pull out, but is unsure where he’ll be able to source a suicidal German. He settles for cooking something “beautiful”, which is so unoriginal of him. He says he’s taking inspiration from Harry Potter. “I’m going to make the Snitch.” So he’s taking inspiration from the worst part of Harry Potter. Indeed, the Golden Snitch is the stupidest concept devised in the history of literature, so if the judges have any sense they will fail him as soon as they know what he’s making. Fortunately for Reynold, the judges have no sense.
Andy and Jock ask Laura what she’s making. Laura says she wants to make something reminiscent of family trips to the seaside and is therefore cooking rocks and seaweed and driftwood, having cunningly realised that the premise of the challenge in no way requires the cooks to make actual food.
Callum, meanwhile, has decided to make a chicken liver parfait, because he hates life and himself.
Reynold admits that though his dish should be amazing, if he screws it up, it won’t be. A real dilemma. It’s a lucky break for Reynold that he has never screwed anything up in his entire life, otherwise he might be in real trouble.
Andy and Jock visit Callum to distract him, slow him down and generally make his job more difficult. Callum tells the judges that he’s making a chicken liver parfait. They are so impressed by this idea that they can barely contain their apathy. Andy notes that if Callum gets it wrong, they’ll know it, because chicken liver parfait is one of those dishes that is only good when it’s good, unlike most dishes, which taste exactly the same no matter how well they’ve been cooked. Callum realises that he needs to elevate his parfait, so decides to put a brulee on top of it. It’s amazing how it’s often at the moments of greatest pressure that you have the stupidest ideas.
Reece, on the balcony because he’s inadequate, believes that there is a powerful metaphor in Reynold’s dish: in quidditch, when you catch the snitch the game is over, just as how in Masterchef, when someone begins making a snitch, nobody wants to watch anymore. Andy and Jock question Reynold about the snitch and find his answers confusing and unsatisfactory. Reynold gets busy on something called a tonga bean caramel which is a thing that you put in the middle of edible snitches. It’s just a food thing, not very interesting.
One hour is passed and one hour is to go and it is now time for the traditional close-ups of frying pans. Laura is thinking that she wants to pull out something the judges aren’t going to expect – she makes a snap decision to cook in the nude. She begins to shuck her oysters – if you know what I mean. “I really want the judges to experience being at the beach,” she says, but makes no attempt to take them on an outing.
The judges convene to discuss how weird and offputting Laura is. Andy is excited that Laura is cooking “from a memory”. “When she does that, man it’s banging,” he says, putting the seal on his reputation as “the superfluous judge”. Melissa tells the men that she loves Harry Potter and explains the concept of the snitch to Jock, who has to pretend he doesn’t think it’s the dumbest thing he ever heard.
Laura has made a number of small black balls that she will use to trick the judges into thinking she has served them coal. She begins to struggle to cut out circles of squid-ink meringue, which may be a blessing in disguise because have you ever heard of anything so foul? The circles are supposed to be the lid of the squid-ink pebble shell, and say what you like about Laura, you can’t deny those are some words.
Melissa discovers Laura is panicking. “Panic is also a choice,” she says smugly. Easy for her to say, she’s a food blogger. Laura needs to find a different way of making a lid for a squid-ink pebble shell. Melissa needs to find a different way to give advice.
Reynold dips the body of the snitch in chocolate, just because he can. He begins spraying the chocolate ball in chocolate to create a chocolatey effect. He proceeds to paint it gold, to really emphasise his contempt for the underclass.
Forty-five minutes to go. Reynold is still operating on a higher plane. Laura is still wondering what is the best way to make edible objects look as unappetising as possible. Callum is still fucking around with chicken livers as if that’s an answer to anything.
Laura runs through the kitchen with a tray of apples. She will top her pebbles off with pieces of apple because…I don’t know, seeking reasons at this point seems futile.
Reynold checks on his honey tuiles, which will be the wings of the snitch. His hands are shaking: meth is a hell of a drug. His first tuile breaks. His second tuile breaks. “This is an absolute disaster,” he cries, but it’s all relative: in some places there are people with actual problems. As Andy stares at him with murder in his heart, Reynold proceeds to break tuile after tuile. “No wings, no snitch,” he says sadly, questioning why he ever got into the edible snitch making business in the first place. However, he suddenly has an incredible brainwave: just keep trying to do it right. Miraculously, it works!
Melissa asks Reynold if he’s happy with how his wings are turning out. “Yep,” he says: the phrase “just unhappy with you snooping round my shit” is implied rather than spoken.
Meanwhile Callum is cutting his vile chicken liver muck into blocks so that they resemble Soviet housing estates as much as possible.
An idea has come to Laura: a green powder! This will make her dish look even more like things that are not food, which for some reason is what she’s going for. To make this powder she uses liquid nitrogen, which is the go-to technique for any contestant who wants the audience to know how big a wanker they are. Speaking of which, Reynold now begins using liquid nitrogen.
With four minutes the contestants are putting the last pretentious touches to their ostentatious displays of conspicuous knobbery. Laura has succeeded in making her dish look exactly like a bunch of inedible debris. Callum has succeeded in making his dish look exactly like several small brown sticks. Reynold has succeeded in making his dish look like a golden snitch except the wrong colour.
Time is up. “It’d be so nice to get into finals week on this dish,” says Laura, lost in nostalgia for childhood summers spent sitting by the sea, eating rocks.
The judges sit at the judging table, ready to pass judgment on their fellow human beings as if they are themselves gods. “The only rules were there are no rules,” says Melissa, totally inaccurately. The first to enter is Callum, who has some huge white plates with tiny little bits of brown stuff on them to present. The judges are extremely excited to try this pathetic excuse for a meal, and after eating the chicken liver parfait all are agreed: they have technically taken nutrients into their bodies. “Flavour-wise it was perfect,” says Andy, before losing control and sputtering a series of indecipherable noises. Melissa notes that being able to crack through the brulee on top made the dish especially fun for people like her who are far too easily entertained.
In comes Laura, with a plate full of seaweed and rocks and bits of wood, because nothing gets the mouth watering like looking at things you would never ever want to eat. “I know we were hoping for wow,” says Melissa, and then disappointingly says. “that was a wow”. Unfortunately for us all, Laura has made something the judges like, and our lust for her destruction will go unsated for another day.
Finally, in comes Reynold, who hopes that his dish tastes as amazing as it looks, i.e. “very fancy but also kind of weird and not really like food”. The judges are stunned by the mind-boggling aesthetic splendour of Reynold’s snitch and have to be physically restrained from leaping out of their seats and covering his face with a thousand burning kisses. Violating natural law, they ruin the whole thing by eating it. Melissa waxes lyrical about how brilliantly Reynold has shaped the wings so they look like they’re in motion, but is cut off by Jock barking “And crunchy” at her.
The judges speak at great length about the qualities of Reynold’s snitch, but all their speech can be summed up by simply noting that they all experience multiple orgasms on screen. It is time to announce the results of the challenge, but first they must head to the countryside to build a giant golden statue of Reynold and sacrifice several prisoners of war at its feet.
The cooks line up to find out who is first into finals week. The suspense is unbearable or would be if it weren’t for the fact that DUH obviously Reynold won. Laura may be good at making pebbles and Callum may be good at making small blocks of brown substances, but Reynold is good at making strong men weep at the sheer ineffable beauty of existence, so really, how could it be otherwise.
Tune in next week, when four people who are inferior to Reynold compete for the chance to see their families again.