I'm telling you there's no sign of a fish shop here ... MasterChef.
Charlie Pickering tells me that MasterChef is coming up, the voice of Ten says there are newly thin people being the winningest loser later and in other news something about a budget ... but really we all know that life is about cooking and losing weight tonight as Ten suffers a two show identity crisis.
On tonight's MasterChef, the MasterVoice tells us that the contestants will be racing through Victoria's food bowl. Geez, last night just dropping a chicken meant cancellation, tonight we can do athletics in the crockery.
Cue the flaming logo, oh how I've missed you.
The "magazine cover" moment.
The doors open on the MasterExhibitionCentre and 12 of the wannabe contestants walk in. The remaining wannabes, those who weren't good wannabes last night, but still have a chance to be good wannabes another night, cheer from the mezzanine like some sort of manic crowd revved up by a junior producer.
Gary points out Big Kev, his man-on-a-stool sample of where the contestants want to be. Kev has an apron. Six more aprons are up for grabs today. George wants to know what the contestants have to do to win it. Then he answers his own question: Cook something. It's lucky Kev's on that stool, the shock almost killed him.
Matt tells today's experiment subjects that they're off to the Mornington Peninsula. As we gaze at a montage of footage of the peninsula we hear a cheer, presumably from the remaining horde who get to stay inside on this rainy day, far from the Mornington crowd. Gary explains that the task is to split into pairs, get down there, find the best produce, get it, get back here, and cook it up, all in six hours. George fulfils the contractual obligations and points out that the sponsors dried products will also be available in the dry pantry. Just to be sure, we get some close ups on brand names.
But have you got any raspberries?
The teams split into pairs. Gary asks why they chose each other. As the eerily demographically-aligned pairs try to point at the producers who told them who to choose, one of the contestants regales a fascinating tale of how her uncle once carried her new partner's father across a desert for fourteen weeks without water or legs. Oh wait, no, they just know each other. Good story. Glad we stuck around for that.
Bald guy lacking a name strap hops into one of the waiting cars and instantly regrets partnering up with Sam. "Sam's a big unit," he explains in his best prison euphemism. We see footage of the two trying to squeeze into the one remaining seat in the back of their huge black SUV and see it is clearly Sam's fault, not the four production staffers and the massive camera stuck up their crotch.
Bald guy gets a name strap! It's Wade, he's a forklift operator. He says he has a fifty dollar budget to buy as much fresh food as possible. That's not a secret advantage though, everyone has the same.
And with one taste of a berry, Audra in Wonderland.
Lucy, a web developer who likes to smack her head comically with paper, has helpfully been handed a stack of same with words on it. Her partner is trying to read the words, which seem to be a cheat sheet to all the fresh food options of the Mornington Peninsula, but is distracted by Lucy's face-papering interspersed with the sort of mild-panic that bodes so well for team harmony.
In another car, the world's most intense chef, Filippo, explains he's making a Folding Trinity Pavlova. "When you put it in your mouth it tastes like God," he asserts. Insert your own joke that will send you to Hell. Meanwhile his partner, Amina, who is wearing a hijab, is planning “something seafood” and wondering why the producers are trying to start a religious war in southern Victoria.
Del and Audra arrive to buy lamb, which is entirely uninteresting, so we cut away. Let's face it, no one is killing a little lambsy divey today. Jules and Lucy, on the other hand, are catching fish at a trout farm. The trout are very excited to get their fifteen minutes of fame and thrash about for the camera. Lucy apologises to the fish before ruthlessly catching one and giving a big "yibidda, yibidda folks!" We cut away before she kisses the fish. Or actually kills it. In fact it's possibly still writhing on the pier.
Dal may not be amused at the absence of vegetables.
Down at the beach, Wade asks the local fishmonger for some fish, which seems reasonable, as well as for a lesson in how to scale it and perhaps a quick debrief on his life story as well. Sam generously offers to cook the fish for Wade using the steam coming out of his ears, as he senses the time ticking away and the producers instructing his driver to drive slowly.
Amina and Filippo are also at the beach, but fail to find the fishmonger (which we know is only just around the corner - we just saw Wade and Sam walk down this same path). Amina decides not to walk down the path, however, not for fear of interrupting an important lesson in scaling, but because as she points out, if this was the path, there'd be a sign. She says this while standing next to a big sign. It says FISH. It's just possible the producers won't have to work that hard today after all.
Being Lara Bingle is coming soon to Ten. Grammar is clearly not coming along for the ride.
Kev is VERY amused at the absence of vegetables, from his stool.
Our demographically senior pair, Andrew and Karen, are running along yet another pier to find mussels. Andrew gets to reiterate the challenge with three hours remaining, and a bemused captain hands over a handy hatful of mussels. The pair dash away because they're in a huge rush, particularly after the camera operator had to dry the lens and reset before they were allowed to leave.
Audra and Del arrive at a berry farm, point at the raspberries sitting in a punnet, and ask the man standing behind the raspberries sitting in a punnet if he has any "plump, beautiful raspberries". Yes he says. Let's go pick some, because these ones here, plump and beautiful as they are, are just for tourists. Oh and picking raspberries makes for better footage.
Audra starts picking raspberries, but then gives into temptation and tries one - it's delicious. Like Alice, Audra is instantly transported into a parallel universe where she is a woman trapped in her kitchen by a child wielding a video camera and asking inane questions. She is Audra in Auditiontapeland. Thankfully, her partner Del wakes her by screaming that they have to leave. Audra screams back as she trans-dimensionally jumps back to the torrential rain soaked peninsula, and together they scream out of there. Note this is not a reference to the driver's speed, they are both actually screaming. It's more than a little irritating.
Amina feels bad about missing the signs.
Next, the remaining pairs buy up the remainder of the Mornington Peninsula's fresh food supplies in a montage of cuisine capitalism. This seems a little ill-timed as the monsoonal weather is threatening to cut the peninsula off from society for weeks, but who cares, it's not like the show's coming back here.
We return to Audra who takes a moment to tell us that she has everything she needs. Everything. She's triple checked. "I think I'm going to be fine," she says while filming the piece to camera she did in her spare time. What's more, Del and Audra realise they're going to be the first team back. In fact, they're going to be "the first team in the Top 24". Audra is the happiest and most confident she has ever been in her life. Ever.
If you listen really closely, I think you can actually hear the crew snickering in the background.
Filippo and the throbbing forehead vein.
The pair jog into to McExhbition Centre to a huge cheer. Audra has raspberries. Del has lamb. They have just over an hour to cook, says Gary. What more could they possibly need? They have time for a hug. Audra runs to the pantry while her disembodied voice tells us she's making a chocolate frangipani tart and ...
... you won't believe it ...
... something goes wrong.
Amina smiles it off.
Audra needs eggs. Gary runs up. He confirms that she's a numpty. The dry pantry does not have eggs. The list of food items available in Mornington has eggs. "It's a disaster," he says with a near straight face.
Then Del runs up. To help? No. To realise that there were no onions, garlic or ginger to make a curry. She's a numpty too! There are no vegetables in the pantry. Well none bar big Kev who has been patiently sitting on his stool for three hours.
Del confirms to Kev that she doesn't even have potatoes. Big Kev does not keep a straight face. In fact he laughs in Del's face. She looks like a stunned mullet. So at least that's two ingredients.
Yukio and TK spring in carrying more than one item each. Bizarre. It's almost like they shopped with the faintest notion of how a recipe works. George checks whether Yukio wants an apron. He confirms he does. Glad we cleared that up.
Back in the car, Amina is staring at a vein throbbing on Filippo's forehead. He points out that it might actually have been the fishmonger back where they were. Amina says it didn't feel right, but realisng she's not a Jedi, puts down the Melways that stubbornly refuses to list beach shacks selling seafood and asks the driver to turn around.
They go back to the big sign that says fish and that's what they find. Wade isn't here anymore, so either his lesson ended or Sam has killed him and will be frying him up later.
Lucy and Jules arrive back with an hour and 10 minutes left to make a perfect dish. Jules is making pork belly and apparently only ten seconds of her audition tape were worth watching. She's from Darwin. It's humid. Her hair doesn't like it. That's all we get. Lucy is cooking trout and did you know she caught it? George is impressed and wants her to show off. Don't feed the beast George, there's a lot of MasterChef left.
Audra has decided to cook something that doesn't need eggs. It's a chocolate ganache tart with raspberries on top. Del has a new plan too - she has decided to make a dessert out of ingredients purely from the dry pantry. She's calling it Plan B, where the B stands for Bring Over Gary and Matt. Matt points out that this should actually be called a waste of time. "Build a dish out of these two ingredients," he suggests, pointing to her lamb and curry leaves. Bring on the leaning tower of lamb!
Wade and Sam arrive and Wade's got an hour to make a fish pie. He's not sure that's enough time. The three judges come together to mock the contestants, including Wade as they are sure it's enough time ... enough time to make something other than a fish pie.
Amina, Filippo and Filippo's throbbing vein are still in the car with less than an hour to go. "It's not looking good," Filippo tells us. That is confirmed by a shot out the windscreen of a rain soaked freeway. Amina starts thinking about what she has to do ... and isn't that sweet, matching throbbing veins.
After a brief word from Hayley Lewis about the losers soon to be finished off behind her, we're back, and learning about artichokes with Gary in a MasterChef "extra taste", which in this case is an extra taste of exactly how daft it is to choose to cook artichokes if you've only tasted them "once before" and in fact have no idea of what part of the artichoke is edible. Leaf soup anyone?
Next Kiefer Sutherland touches us up and we're back with Sam who is making a mussel custard. Mussel custard is a dish for which consistency is both key and hard to achieve, we are told. It's also a dish that no one would ever choose from a menu unless you gave it a fancy name. Sam isn't worried about that, but he is concerned about the consistency. He's going to cross his fingers, which surely won't help with the cooking. *COUGH* OK, I promise not to do that again.
Behind him, hairdresser Andrew is cooking his mussels in a non-custard fashion and feeling confident, which he says is surprising. Ahh that old non-custard confidence. Back in the car, Filippo is beginning to think he won't get a dish up. And right up the front of the room Filippo isn't in, Del is now making a lamb cashew nut curry. She's worried it will be a milder curry than usual, though it will also be a lambier dessert than she was planning so there's a plus.
Audra has decided to help the editor by providing a few minutes of footage of her needlessly carrying a tart with liquid cherry jelly towards the blast freezer as though it is a highly volatile explosive. Matt helps by looming over her telling her every second or so not to drop it. Big Kev also helps by opening the fridge door ... wait a minute, Big Kev left the stool? BIG KEV LEFT THE STOOL! Release the hounds!!!
Amina and Filippo arrive back with 44 minutes to cook some dishes. Filippo is making a meringue with three egg whites, which he is whipping entirely with the power of anger, though he's running a beater through it just so his piece to camera seems legit. He's then going to cook it on a very high temperature, so presumably we have a throbbing-forehead-vein powered oven around here somewhere. Amina is cooking fish, but is watching the clock and she's "not happy with it". Bad clock. She's stuffing the fish with mixed spices, having already stuffed Filippo with her excellent sign reading. Perhaps she should be watching her back.
With one minute to go, Matt demonstrates why Wade shouldn't be allowed to progress in the competition, as his excited shouts of "Wade, hurry hurry, Wade, hurry hurry!!!" see the other contestants waiting and hurrying with staccato results. Though I'd have loved it if he'd shouted that at Audra while she was carrying the liquid nitrogen tart to the freezer.
Time's up and Audra high-tens Del before doing her bit to shatter gender stereotypes by vowing that next time she is going to read the instructions. Hundreds of men sitting surrounded by half-assembled equipment in living rooms around Australia scoff at the very thought.
Andrew is up first with his Mussels with salsa verde and fried herb calzone, which he's happy with and which prompts George to suggest mussels are the "ultimate of the Mornington Peninsula" without clarifying if that is the ultimate taste or the ultimate folly. George then finds a beard on his mussel, so he smacks Andrew in the head with a piece of piping ... oh wait, we've gone to an ad for Bikie Wars.
Back at the show, George says the perfect mussel shouldn't have a beard. Which seems slightly inane. Then he points out Andrew is a hairdresser and should remove beard. That is actually inane. Then the judges eat the entire dish (except the beard) before George ponders if that's a good sign or not. I'm thinking it's not a bad sign.
Amina and her Alexandrian-style snapper are up. George sweeps aside half the bushland of Mornington to discover it's cooked perfectly, before getting excited by Amina being both Korean and Egyptian and looking forward to what else she can be. Amina returns to her workstation to determine how many nationalities she needs to adopt to please George for an entire series.
Lucy's pan-fried trout with abalone and artichokes is called Trevor. Yes it's Trevor the trout. Gary ironically points out Trevor was lucky. Then points out that Trevor is still raw. Trevor is a trouble maker and he kicks off a round of kick the contestants.
Wade has a seared snapper with broad beans, which is too simple for Gary. Karen has a tasting plate of trout, which doesn't grab Gary. Sam has a savoury mussel custard with local vegetables, which is served with a branch from a tree. Mat takes the proffered item and whips him with it, saying there is too much going on.
Audra brings up her chocolate ganache tart with cherry port jelly and raspberries and manages to follow all the instructions to get to the front of the room. George whistles at the tart, and our lawyers have asked me to confirm I mean the dish. The one on the plate. George doesn't want to cut the tart, he wants to look at it, and Matt describes it as a magazine cover. Guys you're not helping. They then taste it and Matt describes it as one of the best desserts they’ve ever had on the show. Matt then takes it up to the peanut gallery who are only able to scream the word "apron" over and over. Taking this as a sign of support for their fellow contestant, and not a symptom of mass hysteria from a crowd of people who have been locked in an exhibition hall with nothing to aspire to but aprons for six hours, Gary presents Audra with the second Top 24 apron.
Filippo practices some breathing exercises before presenting his summer berry marshmallow with chantilly cream which he explains was meant to be a pavlova. As his mouth politely says "everything that could go wrong went wrong", his eyes, his oh-so-intense eyes, scream "IT WAS AMINA! THE SIGN SAID FISH!!!"
George isn't impressed. He doesn't speak crazy eyes and Filippo's dish is like an omelette. Gary sends him back to his bench. And Filippo heads back to his station to plot their doom.
And now for the pork package, three dishes assessed in double time. Yukio's pork loin chop with cherry mustard is no good, TK’s crispy pork belly with sweet berry sauce is good, Jules’ pork belly with goat's cheese salad is even better.
Finally, Del delivers her cashew nut lamb curry and converts George the non curry eater with the "best curry I've ever eaten in my life". Matt wonders whether that will be enough, which as far as building the tension goes ... doesn't.
The remaining five aprons go to Amina, Andrew, Jules, TK and ... after Matt tries to build the tension more by making it completely obvious ... Del.
Gary promises a hell of a day tomorrow and MasterVoice promises a basic skills test and the challenge that is Matt Moran.