Shannon Bennett's peach melba.

Shannon Bennett's peach melba.

We're nearing the end of our first week and the top 24 is taking shape. So, who'll make it through tonight? Whose culinary dream will go up in flames?

Speaking of flames, it's the MasterChef logo. Time to begin.

Six aprons are up for grabs and, in true MasterChef spirit, the remaining hopefuls are being set up for a spectacular fall, meaning they'll have to recreate a "three-hatted dish" to earn a spot in the top 24. Sounds fair. Amateur chefs should be able to cook a "three-hatted dish", shouldn't they? 

It's Shannon Bennett's dish, no less. The acclaimed chef (and owner of Vue de Monde) is bringing "the pain" tonight, we're told. 

Our contestants enter kitchen stadium ... wait, wrong show ... as the chosen ones (those already in the top 24) lord it over them with some self-satisfied cheering. George gleefully breaks the news that "today's a special day", our contestants will face their first pressure test. It comes as a shock and the contestants pull faces that suggest the task is akin to water torture.

Just wait until they find out Beau, who won last night's butter challenge, got the recipe and the ingredients to practise the dish. Proving they're almost better actors than they are cooks, the contestants laugh it off. Beau, meanwhile, pulls the knives from his back. He's "absolutely spent" after a late night, so maybe he won't be much of a threat after all.

Beau then reveals he didn't know what the dish was when he saw it anyway, so it's a good thing he's not in a cooking competition. Oh wait, he is. That's awkward.

"On MasterChef, terror comes hidden under a cloche," Matt Preston tells the contestants, suggesting they've really cut costs this year. Cue Shannon Bennett, whose entrance elicits maniacal, ear-piercing screams from the wannabes - apparently the producers didn't think the episode had enough hype already. Bennett, who seems alarmed at what he's just seen and heard, offers a few words of warning. "I don't know if you'll be laughing later," he says.

The cloche is lifted and the contestants will be cooking a peach Melba - "a modern version of peach Melba," no less. It's a dish with strong links to the Royal Exhibition Building (the setting for this Battle Royale), says Matt. Such a shame, then, that we're about to witness a peach Melba massacre.

The amateurs are set loose in the kitchen, but WA mum Lydia is suddenly struck with amnesia. She reads the recipe and gets cooking, then reveals something truly alarming - "I'm thinking 'where do I start and how on earth do you make it? And how many pages are the recipe?'"

We cut to Beau who, despite being "absolutely spent", has found enough energy to get off to a flying start, so Gary decides to hold him up by paying a visit. "Across all the series, everybody gets an advantage at some stage, but this is a cracker," he tells Beau, who apparently loves wearing bicycle helmets inside and confesses that he "quite often" zones out at work (a job that involves using machinery) to think about cooking.

Dom, meanwhile, is so excited that her milk has boiled over and has flooded the stovetop. Gary tells Shannon and George that he's thinks it's one of the hardest top 50 challenges they've had on MasterChef, so they really are going back to basics, as promised.

Gary's observation proves to be apt - everyone is having trouble with their creamer gun. "Did you put something in it?" one of the contestants asks Dom, who seems grateful for the help. "Yeah, I've got something in it. Hilarious guys," she shoots back. But it seems the joke's on her - Shannon thinks she's made her cream anglaise with double cream. "Do you think you're out of your depth here?" George asks. "Yes," comes the reply and George pulls a face that suggests Dom may have discovered a new use for her creamer gun and slapped him across the face with it.

Nice to see the judges nurturing the contestants' dreams in these early stages.

It's the great balls of fire as we cut to an ad break and catch Matt Preston seducing the camera with his steely gaze as Curtis Stone puts some fruit and vegetables from one supermarket chain to the fresh test. "Life's full of interruptions," we're told in another ad. So is MasterChef.

Back in the kitchen, Kylie decides a bit of flattery might help. "I just know how much effort goes into such a beautiful piece of artwork," she tells Shannon, batting her eyelashes. Kylie's also written the word 'dream' on her hand. "Sweet dreams tonight, hopefully," she adds. Her culinary dream, we're told, is to open a cafe and dessert bar. Snap! Tania, better known to her friends as Mamma T, also dreams of opening a food bar, but admits she "could be in a world of trouble". "It is what it is," she says, offering one of the most insightful comments of the night.

Meanwhile, electrician Andy, who's your go-to man in a blackout, has a blowout and splits his pants. He shares a moment with Emma, who stares just a moment too long and says "that's made my whole day".

We're still trying to get our head around who's who in the makeshift MasterChef kitchen, when Gary announces "there is a whole lot of uncertainty in this room". Right on, Gary!

"What's interesting is we're gonna get chalk and cheese," says George, which frightens both Gary and Shannon who were sure the task was to recreate a peach Melba. Shannon loves the way Andy's working (minus the blowout), while Gary admires Beau's focus.

Now to Julia, but Gary doesn't understand why she's there at all - "you have a little pastry thing going outside of your normal job. You're already doing what a lot of people do after MasterChef. Why the hell are you doing this?" Geez, Gary.

Julia's not fazed. "Well, I want a shop. I don't want to just go to the markets every second week and cook out of a rented kitchen. I want my own place. I want ovens, I want utensils," she answers. Has anyone told her what the prize is this year?

Gary's not satisfied and grills her further. Nobody's "noticed you" in the top 50, he says before walking off.

The flaming logo tells us it's time for another ad break. Gary pops up to tell us that oregano, roast garlic and lemon can really spice up a chicken. That's two judges now - an ad featuring George is bound to appear soon enough.

We're back in the kitchen with Tania, who's made a block of white cement and tries to blitz it in a food processor. Matt arrives to offer some support and advises her to show off a skill "so we can, you know, fall in love with your cooking". Tania seems to have misheard and settles on a new tactic - "I didn't realise his eyes were quite so blue. They matched his beautiful suit today," she tells us.

George asks Gary whether they've given the amateurs a dessert that's out of their league. There is no doubt in Gary's mind. "Yeah, absolutely," he replies, leaving everyone in the room and at home dumbfounded.

Quick, last few minutes for the contestants to assemble their dishes. Time's up.

It's tasting time and electrician Andy is up first. "Are you hoping for an apron today?" asks George, undermining the whole concept of the top 50. He tucks into the dish and does his best Bruce McAvaney impersonation - "that's special" - before mentioning the words "fresh" and "clean". Shannon is a fan of the dish too, and Matt invites Andy to join a group huddle before handing him a makeshift apron. "Try that on for size, see how you feel, because I reckon you might be getting a real one of those in a minute," says Matt.

Kylie rocks up to the tasting table to face Gary's critique. While tasting, Gary spots something on the ceiling and loses his focus. He forgets he's on MasterChef and waltzes back into line without delivering a verdict. Matt is glowing in his praise, though. So glowing, in fact, that he unleashes the flaming logo.

Cut to an ad break and what do you know, George is sharing some tips about butter.

Back to MasterChef and it's Lydia's turn to present her dish. Gary says she's "nailed the mousse" and the peach flavour. We race through the tastings for Emma, Mario ("It's not the most beautiful," says Gary), Ben and Dom. Beau thinks he's "going back to digging holes" and Gary decides to antagonise Julia further, even though the judges end up drooling over her dish.

James, Tatum and Keen present their desserts to varying success. Last to walk up to the tasting table is Beau, who is pretty happy with his efforts, announcing "I've got everything on the plate that I wanted to". Food, for starters.

Shannon announces that the judges are after six "perfect" peach Melbas, leaving the contestants to think no aprons will be handed out tonight. Hold on, they're about to give one to ...

... the flaming logo.

We return as the judges present aprons to electrician Andy, Julia, Kylie, Lydia and Ben. Wait, there's one more.

The last apron goes to Beau, who shocks everyone when he confides that "I'm just a bit worried about one thing though - I'll probably get punched in the face," he says, revealing just how ruthless MasterChef is these days, before adding "by my mates when they find out I got in on something called a peach Melba". Oh, that's OK then.

Matt reveals that there's one final chance to earn an apron, but not today. The judges will decide who gets to stick around and try their luck another day. The rest will going home. "Steel yourselves, it'll be a bumpy ride," Matt announces.

Change of scenery and it appears as though the remaining contestants have been locked in a room on death row.

Kath is the only one through from the first group of contestants. Next up are Mario and Harvey. Both go through and Mario gives a high-five hard enough to break Harvey's hand and render him incapable of competing in the next challenge. That's one down, many more to go.

Filippo's "both confident and apprehensive", if that's even possible. Gary says that Filippo would make a great contestant, but questions whether he's "the Sunday lunch guy", which causes Filippo to spontaneously combust, meaning it's time for an ad break.

It's that time of the night - 'MasterChef extra taste' anyone? No thanks. But wait, we're being fed one anyway and in this helping Dom tells us that she's "shaking with nervousness" and is "so nervous I can't even put words together". Insightful.

We're back with Filippo, who's awaiting his fate and makes an impassioned plea to stay in the competition. "You talk a lot don't you?" asks George. Filippo's through anyway. "Respect," he snaps, before pounding his fist on his chest and flashing a gangster sign.

Deb lives to see another day in the MasterChef kitchen, as do Keen and Mindy.

Next up is Yukio, who tells us he "felt like time just lagged and lagged" while making his way to the headmasters ... sorry, judges. So it's not just us then?

"Yukio, are you a pretender?" asks George.

No, Yukio assures us.

"Can you cook?"

Yes, he can. (That's fortunate).

But George wants to know whether Yukio's just good with that classic combination of "meat with fruit". He's not, and George reveals that the judges "want to see more" of Yukio. He's through.

James is out, while Emma and Dom live to fight another day. Emma is determined to earn an apron, announcing that "nothing can stop me now". Except a trip to Daylesford for a masterclass, which, we're told, is an episode for another day.