MASTERCHEF RECAP

Filippo prepares to share with the team ... MasterChef

Filippo prepares to share with the team ... MasterChef

It's time to rise in the MasterChef mansion, and as the sleepy heads get out of bed they find financial planner Filippo rolling in the dough. He likes to make bread every day, he tells us, because he's Italian. And I like to sleep in, presumably because I'm not.

Establishing shots established, we head over to MCHQ, and we find it's a mystery box day. "Today you'll get to have a crack at something you would never do," says George (sorry fellas, it's not wearing ladies' clothes). "Anyone want to have a crack at working out what's in the mystery box?"

Beau thinks he can smell butter. "Not a bad crack," says George, and with all this crack flying around I'm beginning to think Walter White is about to walk through that door and break bad any second. (And yes, pedants, I know Walter is in the meth business, but his sidekick Jesse is partial to a bit of base.)

The MasterChef judges - Gary, Matt and George Click for more photos

MasterChef 2012 Top 24

The MasterChef judges - Gary, Matt and George

The lids come off and it's crab, coconut, eggs, nuts – a bunch of stuff that needs cracking, in other words. Oh, ha ha. As the Irish would say, "What craic".

"This challenge is all in the spirit of that great Australian idea of having a crack," says Matt, and naturally they all crack up.

"A pun," says a delighted Alice, who had started the day by telling breadhead Filippo he was "bred to last". Sister, you deserve whatever pain is coming your way.

"Alice, you're having a cracker of a day already," says Matt, and by this stage anyone who's not hunting down the side of the couch for that pipe to dull the pain is a better man/woman/small child than I. (For the record, I'm an average man, a lousy woman, and a pretty good small child, though prone to bouts of sulkiness.) Gawd help us.

Gary tells them they've also got some staples under the bench. They could come in handy for binding the coconut to the crab, or possibly for punishing the next person to crack a crack-related pun.

Ouch. What was that for?

Deb has never cooked with crab, so naturally she's taking the opportunity to have a crack – hey, lay off those staples, willya? – today. A crab upside-down pudding. What the?

Young Matt takes the madness a step further, planning a crab-flavoured dessert. When we get a shot of the finished dish we realise it's not as mad an idea as it sounds. It's madder. He's stuck peas and pomegranates in it too.

The judges only want to taste three dishes. For some bizarre reason, Matt's is not among them.

Deb's upside-down crab pudding is, though. Gary loves it and Matt says it's damn fine, proving in the world of televisual cooking contests appearances can be deceptive. Until they invent 5D TV (with smell and taste thrown in), I guess we'll just have to take their word for it.

Mindy is up next with a delicate looking dish of crab salad and egg net. It looks nothing like the ostrich egg net thingy Kumar tried to make last year. In other words, it looks OK.

Filippo has made a lemon ciambella cake from his mum's recipe. (Hey, I thought tugging on Mummy's apron strings was only allowed on Junior MasterChef.) It's good enough to win the round. His prize? He goes back and joins the others for the next round, an invention test.

They'll be making one of Australia's most popular meals, Gary tells them. "Australians consume over 800 million of these meals a year."

What can it be? Is beer a meal? A bowl of cereal? "Bangers and mash, maybe," says Audra. "A chicken parma?" hazards Tregan.

Nope. "Today's challenge," Gary reveals, "is to make the perfect sandwich."

So this is what they meant when they talked about taking the show back to basics.

Aha. Here's Filippo's real prize. He gets to choose the secret ingredient they'll all have to use. Tomatoes.

Cunning play, there Fil. Who has ever seen a tomato in a sandwich before?

They've got two hours and they have to make their own bread. You might be thinking Filippo has an advantage here, and so does he. In fact, he's so confident he's making three types of bread: walnut, rosemary and thyme. "Bread's my thing," he says. "I hate to be too confident but all I need to do is get the composition of my toppings right and impress the  judges and I'll win."

Hubris, your time starts now.

Sam is making cheese sandwiches. Fried in duck fat. Elvis phones in to order a dozen.

George says there are "two ways we could go here. We could absolutely love this or we could keel over and die." How is that an either/or situation, George?

Dalvinder is making a naanwich with a tandoori chicken and tomato chutney filling. Gary quickly downs 12 pints of Tenants in preparation for the tasting, sometime just before midnight with a bunch of his lagered-up mates. "Where would you like the breads, sir?" "Just papadam down on the table, mate."

They're a kneady bunch, these bread makers. With all those buns in the oven the MasterChef kitchen is a bit like a pre-natal class. Expectations are high, but who will deliver? Hey, get away with that stapler.

There's polenta bread, bagels, a host of flat breads. Ladies and gentlemen, the United Nations of Carbs is now in session.

And of course, there's Filippo's bread. "I'm really confident that it's amazing," he humbly admits.

He's up first with a trio of open sandwiches. "This is your challenge to lose," says Gary, who says he likes his confidence. Matt, though, wonders if his "classic" approach might hold him back.

Sam is up next with his fat three ways, aka cheese sandwich fried in duck fat. Matt gets his cardiologist on standby on his carefully product-placed iPhone. But after taking a bite he makes a face like he's more inclined to book a room at the vomitorium; it's like a big fat cheese donut, he says. Surprisingly, he doesn't mean it as a compliment.

Lydia gets ticked off too for her polenta dish. It's not a sandwich, they say, unless you can pick it up (er, what about all those open sandwiches you were eating with a knife and fork?) Gary says it's too greasy. Since when did these guys get so oilophobic?

Alice's bagel scores a hole in one. Wade's pork bun is a pig of a thing. Dalvinder's curry naanwich is red hot. Debra's walnut sanger is such a nutty hit that Gary gives her a big hug and makes her cry. Beast.

The top three are Mindy, Debra and ... surely it's got to be Filippo? "I made the best bread on the day," he tells us, delving yet deeper into that sack of shy-and-retiring he carries around.

And it's Dalvinder. Filippo's head explodes in a ball of flame.

But wait, there's more. After the ad break Matt reveals they've decided to pick a fourth. And it's Filippo! His flaming scone miraculously douses itself.

But there can only be one winner. It's Mindy.

Now Filippo's head is ablaze again. He's like one of those trick birthday candles that keeps relighting itself when you blow it out.

But that was just the "good cop" bit of the judging. Now it's the "bad cop" bit, and they're after the three "dishes that didn't shine", says Gary.

It's the battle of the flat breads. TK, Wade and Lydia win. Which is to say, lose.

Matt's saying something all mock-sensitive but no one is paying any attention because in the background Amina is sobbing. "I've become really close to all these guys," she says. "I just need to get the boo-hoos out."

"We love the fact that you form those bonds," says Matt. "So we can callously tear them asunder and wreak havoc on your febrile emotions and toy with your fragile mental states while we have you in prolonged detention and under constant surveillance with no contact with the outside world. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha."

In the confession chamber, TK says it's her second elimination test and she's taking it so seriously that she's going to prepare by dancing with the girls. Nobody else reveals their plan, so we have to assume she's the only one who has one. Advantage TK.

The time machine flashes us forward to tomorrow, and we discover the three makers of not-shiny sandwiches will be facing off against Peter Gilmore, executive chef of Quay.

This one, he promises, will be even harder than in season two, when he got the contestants to make his famous snow egg dessert.

Given how they've struggled to make a sanger tonight, maybe a boiled egg would be more appropriate.