MasterChef this week has become like a sort of surreal dream, ghosts of the past flitting through the kitchen, figures robed in black and white weaving in and out of vision, gravy being flung about with wild abandon. Amazing how a show comes to life when it introduces the completely fresh and original concept of bringing eliminated contestants back for a second chance.
Tonight we open on the MasterChef house at night, where Kelty sits thinking his dark thoughts and planning his unsavoury retribution on those who have wronged him. Cut to Vern, who plans to run as hard as he can in a fundamental misunderstanding of the competition. Cut to Jules, who says she deserves another chance. Cut to Liliana, who says she deserves another chance. Cut to Nicky, who isn’t quite so shameless.
In the kitchen there is a wall dividing two long benches, and immediately one thing becomes very obvious: Neha is remarkably small. Gary explains the premise of this week again for those who somehow weren’t present yesterday, as slowly as he possibly he can, because there isn’t a lot of useable footage.
George lets the contestants know they are to be “let off the leash”. They jump for joy, thinking they’re going to get to go for a run at the park, but actually what it means is that they get to cook whatever they like. Though obviously that’s not strictly true, because they’re cooking in pairs, so no individual gets to choose by themselves. Also each pair has to cook exactly the same dish. Also they don’t get to look at or taste the other person’s dish.
There are times, I confess, when this show seems a little bit gimmicky.
Still, any foodie will tell you that you can’t be a great chef without the ability to cook something identical to someone standing on the other side of the wall.
Straight away, Kelty suggests to Jules that they make her won ton soup. Jules is impressed by his generosity. Kelty then demands that Jules make his broth. Classic fake-generosity, Kelty! Kelty and Jules then briefly re-enact the scene from Seinfeld where George and Elaine are arguing about what lie to tell Susan so George can date Marisa Tomei. It’s sort of cute, but also sort of very annoying.
Noelene begins doling out instructions to Dan, who doesn’t understand her baffling old-lady argot. She is disgusted by the younger generation’s use of textbooks, while the younger generation is disgusted by her failure to recognise that “a handful” is a meaningless measure to someone who has different hands to you.
And so everyone begins getting their ingredients together. Vern and Nicky are making something with peas – why does everyone always put peas in everything? MasterChef is surely responsible for the nationwide overrating of peas as a food.
As the cooking begins, Dan assures us that he trusts Noelene, thus proving that he doesn’t watch this show. He is instantly proven to be wrong to have trusted her, as she has given him different spices to the ones that he has. She tells him to trust her. He doesn’t trust her anymore. Their relationship is irrevocably damaged. They go into counselling.
George asks Gary what approach he would take. Gary would not leave anything to chance, which is helpful. He would also not go too crazy, but sadly for this bunch, that ship has sailed. Matt notes that it is like Chinese whispers, but nobody points out to him that it’s nothing like Chinese whispers.
The judges ask Samira what she’s doing. She’s making something raw, which is a bit of a cop-out. The main element of her dish is yelling at Rishi.
Here Liliana notes that “it’s not normal cooking”, which comes as a bit of a shock.
Meanwhile Pip has broken Daniel’s spirit and he is doing as she commands. At least he’s trying to – he can’t hear her and they have no idea what the other is doing. “It’s going to be the small details which stuff us up,” says Pip, wrongly – everyone is so incompetent that it’ll be the team who only get the small details wrong that wins easily.
Vern and Nicky are going strong, their partnership enhanced by Vern’s natural obsessive compulsive disorder. On the other hand, they’re making pasta, which they’re both terrible at. But I guess as long as they’re both terrible in exactly the same way, they’ll be fine.
“Nicky, talk to me!” Vern begs, but Nicky is too stunned to reply – nobody’s ever asked him to talk to them before.
After an ad break, Vern explains that they have to make two identical dishes, but they’re not allowed to see each other. Suddenly the last half hour makes a lot more sense now that that’s been explained. “Maybe we might have redeemed ourselves with this pasta, but we’ve got to taste it and see,” says Vern, holding his hand to his mouth in case we don’t know what “tasting” is.
Meanwhile Jules and Kelty are working well together, Jules finding that, as we expected, the most pleasurable way to work with Kelty is with a wall between you and him. George and Gary shatter their domestic bliss, though, by revealing they’ve been using different blenders. Catastrophe! But then they use the same blender and it’s fine.
Meanwhile Noelene has set something on fire and is claiming it’s by accident.
Pip and Daniel continue to yell pointlessly at each other and fail to hear anything. Pip is bellowing names of foods as loud as she can, and Daniel is yelling “what?” It’s like watching a cooking class at a nursing home.
Speaking of nursing homes, Noelene wants Dan to put his rice in a frying pan. This causes Dan’s rice to dry out and stick to the bottom. He therefore goes back to his own method of cooking rice, thus ensuring his own destruction.
It’s time for Lynton, and so we all look and sigh with longing and lust. “It’s sacrilegious to overcook a steak,” he says, and honestly Lynton is the only man on earth handsome enough to get away with saying something that idiotic. Lynton and Liliana begin discussing plating. They pretend their plate is a clock: it’s what Play School would do. Matt covers his face with his hand, fed up with these bleating imbeciles.
“Is it the blind leading the blind? We’ll find out!” calls George, but no, we won’t. Because that’s not actually a relevant question at all.
Kelty is feeling confident and calm, which is good because it makes him less likely to shiv anyone. He and Jules discuss how to plate up. He begins instructing her to face bits of her food north and south, and Jules, showing superhuman self-control, does not push the wall over on top of him. Neither does she leap over the wall and strangle Kelty with her thighs. I don’t know how she does it.
Meanwhile Noelene is emphasising that she is cooking a fish, not building a bridge. Everyone is glad to have this cleared up.
Over at Pip and Daniel’s, Pip and Daniel can’t hear each other. It is yet to be determined whether Pip has a tiny mousey voice, or Daniel’s hair has grown into his ears. “Dan! Dan! Dan!” Pip shrieks. Daniel does not respond – maybe because he is Daniel and Dan is the other guy, so he thinks that’s who she’s talking to. Pip’s failure to respect the designated names as displayed on screen could be her downfall.
Nicky has a case of the Daniels too – he won’t respond to Vern. Vern’s voice is definitely loud enough though – Nicky must just be holding a grudge.
Time is up and everyone claps and Pip is hoping to be able to murder someone at some point today.
First to offer their dishes are Vern and Nicky. Vern explains that they don’t know what each other’s plates look like, thus solving the mystery of what this episode is about that had been plaguing us all this time. As it turns out, their plates look extremely similar. Not very good, but similar. The judges taste, George as usual making it hard to tell whether he’s eating the food, or whether the editor is rolling footage of him vomiting in reverse. The dishes taste slightly different, but “come on man, you were cooking blind, literally,” says George, who doesn’t know what words mean.
Kelty and Jules are next, and their dishes look the same. Kind of. Not really. Kelty had his lid on and his broth is the wrong colour. Or maybe Jules’s is the wrong colour. They’re both the wrong colour. But they have identical spicing. However, the rest of them are quite different. “Well done,” says George. “Thank you,” says Jules, clearly wanting to kick Kelty in the crotch.
In come Daniel and Pip. Weirdly, the judges seem able to hear Pip’s voice. Gary asks Pip how much she wants to get back into the competition. Pip tells him she needs it, embracing her masochism. Pip breaks down and cries. Gary tells her he wants to see more of this passion – he likes watching women cry. Pip and Daniel uncover their plates, and burst into flames.
And no wonder, because their plates look extremely different. Specifically, Pip’s looks great, and Daniel’s looks like he had a fatal stroke halfway through. “What we have here is two plates of food that share the same DNA, but are totally different,” says Matt, finally putting to rest the nature vs nurture debate once and for all. Pip and Daniel leave the room, Daniel’s hand on Pip’s shoulder even though she probably doesn’t want that given how he has betrayed her.
Next up are Neha and whatshisname with the dreadlocks, who we haven’t seen much of this episode, and are not about to. Next are Samira and Rishi, who are also very uninteresting.
In come Lynton and Liliana, who have cooked dishes that closely resemble each other, as symmetrical as Lynton’s perfect, perfect face.
Time for Noelene and Dan. Matt asks her how Dan went. She says she “hopes” he did well, eager to let Dan know just how little faith she has in him. The plates are uncovered. “Whooooaaaa!” cry the judges for no reason. Their verdict is Noelene’s rice has flavour and Dan’s doesn’t – nice call on the rice there, idiot. Also the sauce is different. And the fish is different. And their upbringing was different, and they have different dress sense. It’s basically the Odd Couple but with more fish and less charm.
As judging looms, the soundtrack plays a twangy sad guitar solo, indicating that we are supposed to be Feeling Something. God knows what.
The dish of the day was Vern and Nicky, the combination of anal retentiveness and incompetence proving a winning blend. The bottom two pairs were Dan and Noelene, and Pip and Daniel, thus showing both that men called Daniel are terrible, and that Noelene is cursed. “The people that stand before us tried their best,” says Gary, giving them an enormous benefit of the doubt, and also using “that” instead of “who” to indicate he considers all four to be less than human.
In the end it all came down to how the dishes looked, which is about as grossly unfair as you’d expect from MasterChef, and this means that Daniel and Pip loses, and Pip is going home, and the judges have once more gleefully destroyed a young woman’s dreams. Gary tells Pip that her dish was one of the best dishes of the day, but if the judges went around rewarding people for cooking great dishes, MasterChef would become some kind of cooking competition, and descend into farce.
“Pip, I’d employ you any day of the week,” George lies, and everyone claps, knowing they have witnessed a hideous injustice. Everyone leaves the kitchen, with Daniel in particular walking slowly under the weight of the guilt that will surely crush him within days.
Tune in tomorrow night, when the contestants will apparently be making cakes inside an Alaskan meat locker.