Ben Pobjie July 05, 2012
It is finally time to stop crying and get cooking, which will probably lead to more crying.
As we get further and further towards the pointy end of the MasterChef asparagus spear, the eliminations become more and more poignant. Tonight, members of the blue team pay for their failure to run a pop-up restaurant without degenerating into a vicious, Lord of the Flies-esque dysfunctional family by facing a double elimination, wherein they will attempt, in a culinary sense, to tear the still-beating hearts from their erstwhile teammates' chests and show them to them before they die.
Every episode of this season of Masterchef available on demand.
The day begins with the bluesies donning the black aprons, to mourn the death of their self-esteem. At the MasterChef kitchen, Wade declares that for the first time he is his own man, his eyebrows bristling with fiery defiance, before then bursting into tears and completely destroying the effect. The viewers on the balcony laugh uproariously at his pain, and we turn to Amina, who is determined not to go home. She doesn't actually say, "I will rip off Debra's head and vomit down her neck", but it's heavily implied. She then dissolves into a torrent of Wade-ish tears, saying, "I'm lovin' it". Alice nods understandingly, for she too has been to McDonald's.
"Welcome to MasterChef," says George, his short-term memory loss playing up again, and it is finally time to stop crying and get cooking, which will probably lead to more crying. Gary introduces today's mentor – "it doesn't get any better than this," he intones, causing the kitchen to be consumed by a fever of anticipation at the imminent appearance of Iain Hewitson. However, disappointingly, it is just Marco Pierre White, who strides into the kitchen looking like John Wayne with an Alan Davies wig, causing a succession of contestants to cry, "Marco!" in their cutaways, which will surely earn the editor a Logie.
"Mother Nature is the true artist," says Marco, suggesting that today's key ingredient will be peyote. "Show us the complete package," adds George leeringly, having been indulging for several hours already.
It turns out the challenge is to cook a three-course meal, a concept that sends the amateurs reeling. THREE courses? Can such a thing really be DONE? They mutter amongst themselves, unsure whether attempting this Herculean feat is really worth the candle.
Marco offers his advice: "Keep it simple", which is a bit of a let-down, since that's what everyone says. Just once it'd be good to see a chef advise the contestants to complicate things.
Marco then threatens to look into everyone's souls and devour what he finds within, and starts a huge fire. We quickly cut to a commercial wherein he recommends using Continental Stock Pot, which fairly effectively crushes the image he's tried to build up.
When we return to the kitchen, the power in my house has gone off, meaning I don't see what happens immediately after, but I feel fairly safe in saying that Audra and Deb engage in a nude wrestling match. As vision returns, Jules is telling us that she plans a lemon and tarragon butter, which seems to just be spitting in the face of Marco's instruction to keep it simple.
For Marco's part, he is leaning suggestively on Amina's bench and gazing at her with his kitchen-table eyes. Meanwhile Gary approaches Wade and mocks his decision to use sprouts mercilessly. He is right to do so, for sprouts are pointless and one of God's greatest mistakes. Wade confesses that his aim in the entrée is to "avoid cooking at all costs", which seems a counter-intuitive strategy. In direct opposition to this, Andy plans to cook a whole lot, so much that he turns his heat up too much and Marco tell him he's scorching his meat in chillingly doom-laden tones. Being told you're scorching your meat by Marco Pierre White is the closest you’ll get in modern Australia to being sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.
"Who wants to make it through to the top ten?" yells George, still struggling to understand the show's premise. Marco, by now completely out of control, declares that "judges eat with their eyes first", demonstrating by thrusting slices of apple pie repeatedly into his sockets.
Time is up for entrees, and Amina is really happy. But isn't she always? She's a little ray of sunshine that woman.
First up is Deb, who's cooked a bruschetta despite her crippling battle with menopause. Marco likes the dish, and mentally undresses Deb. Gary wonders whether the dish is too simple, which is blatantly unfair given the famous chef TOLD them to do it simple.
Jules steps up with a dish that she’s never done before. Marco notes what a risk that is, and bites off a prawn's head as if to say, "You’re next".
Sure, Jules' dish looks good, but does it have as many antioxidants as Uncle Toby's Plus? Only the animated dolphin rider will tell.
Back at the kitchen, Amina has done an ocean trout carpaccio, Middle Eastern-style (yeah Amina, we get it). Marco tells her he wants to taste everything, his gourmet megalomania knowing no bounds, and then tells her to ignore him, his macho head-games continuing to mess with his victims.
Up steps Handsome Andy, who has been too aggressive, though Marco is one to talk.
Next is Wade, who has made a Brussels sprout and anchovy salad because he likes making food that tastes terrible. George shovels it in, pulls a face suggestive of a digestive system in severe crisis, and then blasphemes. This means it's good, apparently. Marco indicates his approval by naming several foods that could be euphemisms for Wade's genitalia, and calling him a genius, leaving the viewer to wonder if there is a single amateur whom Marco will not have in bed by the end of tonight's episode.
Audra's dish is a success, although Marco tells her "for three big boys, it's not big enough", waggling his eyebrows to an extent sufficient to impregnate half the room.
After the entrée, three contestants are safe: Audra, Wade and Deb, who is mightily relieved that her tragic battle against menopause and everyone hating her will continue into another week.
Now it is time for Andy, Amina and Jules to face the wrath of Marco, who stands before them lovingly fingering a large knife. They must cook a main course and dessert in one hour, or Marco will gut them and use their skins as sails on his yacht. Gary asks Marco to provide some advice. "You haven't got long," says Marco, and he is quite obviously not talking about cooking. Someone is going home in a bin-liner tonight.
A quick interlude during which we muse on the advisability of buying kitchen appliances from a shop staffed by sentient saucepans, and then back to the action, as Jules says, "I have 60 minutes to cook a main and a dessert!" in the voice of a woman who thinks we weren't watching before the ad break.
The amateurs choose their ingredients while Marco continues to play with his mighty blade. "I need to be in this competition, I can't go home," says Amina, hinting at some kind of house fire or violation of tenancy agreement. She then describes what she's going to cook which is fairly boring, but will contain loads of orange blossom for reasons that remain a closed book.
Jules is receiving some advice from Marco, who demonstrates correct knife technique to her as an example of what will happen to contestants who fail to please him. At this stage the show has utterly ceased to have anything to do with food, and is now purely and simply a show about Marco Pierre White's efforts to have sex with and murder everyone he meets.
Ben, on the balcony, is worried about Andy's chances. He doesn't want Andy to leave the competition. He doesn't want to be in the top ten without Andy. He can't live without Andy. Andy is kind of like the male Emma, and Ben's life will be ashes if he's not there to share a joke over a taco with.
Gary tells his fellow judges he'd be panicking if he were the contestants. Marco responds by waving his knife around psychotically. It seems incredible that Channel Ten's health and safety officer is willing to let such a powerfully built man be in possession of a deadly weapon in such close proximity to George Calombaris.
Amina continues to cook. She's cooking something red. Tomato stuff I guess. Does anyone care? She's going to put fish in it. This will make the fish red. Jules has to make a vinaigrette for her salad and make sure there's enough acidity in her dressing. She knows that acidity is important because for four years the MasterChef judges have never stopped banging on about it.
The ladies seem calm, but Andy declares that his dish is "a disaster" as Marco is "breathing down my neck" and he is distracted by the powerful erotic charge this sends crackling down his spine. In a panic, Andy begins hurling sauce willy-nilly about the kitchen, as Marco points and shouts and dreams of blood running in the streets. Time ticks away. Cooks rush. Food sizzles. Marco gesticulates. The universe trudges implacably on. The kitchen bursts into flames. Lara Bingle goes to India or something. The kid from Old El Paso suggests making crispy chicken. Offensive ethnic stereotypes rejoice. We return to the kitchen.
Darkness falls outside the kitchen, and Marco's passions run wild, as Andy declares himself "absolutely devo about my plating up", which is, objectively, a very silly phrase. The mains are finished, and the amateurs, exhausted, relax, only to realise that they still had to make their desserts – weren't they listening to Jules when she explained the rules earlier?
As the amateurs rush to get their dessert on, the judges begin to eat the mains. Marco criticises Andy's big plate and small duck, which is a needlessly personal remark. Gary doesn't like Andy's mucky plate, but the duck is cooked superbly, and George explains how a well-cooked duck can make the sun shine in our hearts.
Amina is making rice pudding, which usually takes over two hours, demonstrating that she really hasn't thought this through. The judges are eating her mains. She ran out of time to add the cherry tomatoes. "What did I do to you?" asks Marco, wounded to his core by this betrayal. She will pay for this.
Gary wishes Amina's couscous had more flavour. "I'm with you Gary!" yelps George, afraid of his fellow judge's renowned mean streak. George disapproves of using tomato from a bottle, even though it was from Coles, where there is no freshness like it.
It is time for the judges to taste Jules' fish, although only in Marco's case will this turn out to be an innuendo. "It lacks a bit of salt," says George, determined to ruin the health of the nation's youth.
"I've gotta pull this off!" cries Andy, not wanting to allow Marco a monopoly on dirty minds. The balcony, as obnoxious as ever, counts down the end of the dessert phase of the challenge, and Jules starts crying in accordance with the rules of the competition.
First to be tasted will be Amina's rice pudding, which kind of looks like it has already been eaten at least once. Gary loves it because it tastes great, but it's not quite cooked. The audience is left to make up its own mind as to what the hell he's babbling about. As Jules' dessert is brought in, Gary lets us know that he's salivating, possibly because of the food, or possibly because he just does that a lot. Gary is disappointed with Jules' cream, which is a shame, but someday she will find a man who will appreciate her cream for what it is.
Andy has made grilled figs, because why the hell not, I suppose. "If you're a fruit-driven person, you'd love this," says Gary, but sadly nobody on earth is a fruit-driven person. George thinks it's too simple. FOR GOD'S SAKE GUYS MARCO TOLD THEM TO KEEP IT SIMPLE! He said the more you do to food the more you wreck it! This competition is a farce! Shut it down! Where's Maggie Beer? She'll bring some sanity back.
Anyway now there's the fireball and we watch the Italian guy have sex with his pizza cheese in a state of deep depression, realising there is a 66 percent chance of Amina being eliminated and life ceasing to have any meaning whatsoever. And yet Andy and Jules are so attractive too – we don't want anyone to go home! What mischievous demon conspired to allow Debra to escape tonight? This is a tragic time in our lives. I wish Marco was here to cut my throat.
Back in the kitchen, George speaks extremely slowly for a while, and then asks Marco for some more advice which is fairly futile given the challenge is over. Luckily, Marco appreciates the stupidity of the question and sardonically gives just as stupid an answer, telling them to "keep it simple" once more, before leaving to wander the streets in search of lovers/prey.
As everyone in the room bursts into tears, even Julia, who affixed small water-spouts to her glasses frames before the show, Gary announces the result …
Andy! Andy did the best! Andy stays! Andy will continue! Andy will go to Italy! Amina and Jules will go home! Amina! Amina is leaving! No! Amina!
And so a country collapsed to its knees, weeping and rending its garments. The woman we loved, the woman who sustained us in our darkest hours and gave us hope that there might be a better future for us all, is gone, and nothing now can come to any good.
Without Amina, what will we do? How can we sit through more weeks of Alice's stupid glasses and dumb giggling, and Julia's remorseless ambition, and Deb's hot flushes, and Ben's freaking tacos, without Amina there? What is the POINT anymore, MasterChef?
On the other hand, it's just a TV show, get over it everyone.
As Jules and Amina say goodbye, Jules reads a letter written to her by Julia's emotion simulator, and Amina and Audra embrace and sob, the producers apparently having led the contestants to believe that those who are eliminated are killed upon leaving the kitchen. Audra will be so relieved when she finds out Amina is still alive.
"I'm going to slap you," says Gary, but sadly he doesn't. Then George tells them they're going to Italy, and like magic, Amina and Jules don't matter anymore! Ah, fabulous overseas trips, you have the power to heal any wounds.
Cut to Jules' house, where she instructs everyone to celebrate, an inappropriate reaction to her devastating failure. She is now doing work experience at two fine dining restaurants, which is, clearly, overkill. For her part, Amina is developing a line of spices, because that's what you do after being eliminated from MasterChef despite being much better than everyone else.
And so the most emotional of MasterChefs come to an end. All that remains is to see a quick glimpse of the Master Class that nobody wants to watch tomorrow night, and a brief preview of next week in Italy, where delicious cuisine will be cooked and a beautiful language mangled beyond all recognition.
And now, to the hankies.
Ben is the author of Superchef – A Parody, published by Allen and Unwin.