A deal with the devil? Manu offers Josh the chance to taste victory with (shock, horror) ... packet pasta.

A deal with the devil? Manu offers Josh the chance to taste victory with (shock, horror) ... packet pasta.

Soon, Elle, Jake and Jake's apple-Danish hairdo will battle it out with gladiators, lions and a couple of amateur chefs in the Colosseum that is your TV set, and all because they squished a bit too much mango into their canapé at the Melbourne Cup on Monday. (Yes, there's some weird time warp factor at play in MKR. You're actually reading this in the year 2067.)

Life is cruel, isn't it? If it weren't, Jake and Elle would have been eliminated weeks back.

Much as we'd all love to see that man go, this is a battle in many stages. First we have to discover which pair they'll be facing off against.

Sam and Chris' pile of ... chocolate.

Sam and Chris' pile of ... chocolate.

But first-first, we have to discover which six pairs they won't be facing off against.

Australia has set the challenge for the first round. All 22 million of us voted, apparently, on Facebook for our favourite ingredients, and in news just in: we are a boring lot.

We picked pumpkin, prawns, eggplant and salmon (funny, though; I can't quite recall picking anything).

Despite having the Italian advantage, Brutus and Caesar are not impressed over Angela and Melina's dish.

Despite having the Italian advantage, Brutus and Caesar are not impressed over Angela and Melina's dish.

“We love cooking with salmon,” says the preternaturally smiley blonde NSW personal trainer Luke. “It's healthy but tastes amazing.”

Ker-ching. The cheque from John West is in the mail, boys.

Sophia and Ashlee are safe tonight (yes, life really is cruel), but the rest have to fight it out among themselves, choosing one insanely boring ingredient each with which to beat the opposition to death.

Kerrie and Craig are desperate not to get the eggplant, so of course they do. Dan and Steph want salmon but so do Sam and Chris, and as anyone who has ever missed out on the last slice of prosciutto at the deli counter will tell you passive-aggressive is no match for aggressive-aggressive. Dan and Steph get pumpkin.

The challenge is to make a pasta dish using the ingredient they've chosen (or not chosen, as the case may be; this episode is all about accentuating the negative). They have to make the pasta from scratch too. In 30 minutes.

It sounds terrifying to me but Angela and Melina think they've got it in the bag. “Well, if we don't, I'm embarrassed,” says Angela. “We're Italian.”

Well, they've sure been keeping that one quiet.

Joanna is all excited about pasta with prawns. So excited, in fact, that Jenna is overwhelmed by the urge to grab her hands to stop her flapping around like a person so excited about pasta and prawns that she might do someone serious bodily harm. A restraining order is surely only one missed prawny poo-shoot away.

Andi is tempting the sudden-death cook-off gods with the sort of fatal error that we've grown to recognise and love on this show.

“We're cooking this dish because I feel it's something people can make at home,” she says. “It's really not that hard.”

Oh, Andi. Has a decade of reality television taught you nothing?

Angela and Melina are making a creamy prawn sauce and Pete confesses: “That scares me a little bit.” It's all right, Pete. They'll be using activated prawns and hydrolysed cream, for sure.

Josh is doing his best to fulfil his destiny, making sure his pasta is past a joke. He's got that kneady look as he pummels it into crumbs over and over.

“Trust your gut,” Andi says, when what she really means is “trust my gut”.

“Do it again,” she barks. He does but it's no better.

In a complete about-face on the “that's cheating” front, Manu tells him he can grab a packet of pasta from the pantry.

It's a Christ-in-the-desert moment with the freaky Frenchman cast in the role of Satan (who'd have thunk?) and Josh valiantly resists. Somewhere in heaven, an angel just got its wings.

Joanna tells us she's starting on the cockles but she doesn't want to use too many cockles because this dish is about prawns, not cockles. She's so hyperactive I've pulled a mussel just listening to her.

Back in the wilderness, Josh is losing faith. “I'm falling apart,” he says, but he's transferring - it's his pasta that's breaking up.

“I need to think outside the box,” he says, reaching for a cardboard packet of dried pasta. “I need a saviour.”

Hallelujah! It's St Kerrie of Tagliatelle to the rescue. She hands over a ball of dough. Now if Josh can just crank it through the machine, that will count as making it. Right?

Over in the psychiatric ward, Joanna has decided she's way too comfortable. “Are we challenging ourselves enough,” she asks her invisible friends. “Are we pushing ourselves enough? My answer is no. Let's throw a spanner in the works.”

Sadly, there's neither crab nor toolkit in the pantry. But there is squid ink.

From the balcony Jake's coif says: “I think that's really going to be a 'wow' dish.” Surely if he were any kind of judge he and his sister wouldn't be about to face a fight to the death. Just saying.

Back to the arena and it's tasting time. Emperor Pete and Manu Maximus give nothing away, not so much as a thumbs up or down.

Why the squid ink, Pete asks Joanna. “Look, I can be quite crazy,” she says, whereupon she immediately pulls a bunch of faces that confirm her self-diagnosis beyond all reasonable doubt.

As four men carrying straitjackets enter left, Pete delivers his verdict. “That entire dish was genius.” The men turn around and leave, looking just a little disappointed.

“Who's crazy now,” Joanna asks, and I'd help her out there but I think she's speaking rhetorically. To her invisible friends, of course.

The verdict for Angela and Melina is not so good. In fact, the verdict is “not-safe”. Sophia is delighted. “Half of my dream has come true. The other half is they're eliminated.”

If only we knew what she was really thinking.

Sam and Chris are not-safe, too. Dan and Steph likewise.

Only pasta-disaster couple Josh and Andi and their saviours, Kerrie and Craig, are left. There's only one safe spot left. Who will get it?

The pasta dough was perfect, says Manu. So, Kerrie and Craig are safe, right? No.

Quelle drama! “No, I don't want to be safe,” says hipster Josh, who to be fair looks a lot like the most risk-averse man on the planet. “I want to cook again. It's not fair.”

As Josh the Dangerman continues to sob in the corner, Kerrie and Craig man up and head into the kitchen for round two.

Dear God, will it never end?

This time it's a team favourite face-off and Angela and Melina are making veal scaloppine, which gives Melina the perfect opportunity to take out her frustrations on a strip of barely-old-enough-to-stand cow meat.

Craig shows he's completely over any sense of injustice by meting out the same sort of treatment to a bit of fish. Blue eye? Blackeye more like.

Roughly a month before the dish is to be served, Angelina has her veal in the pan, layered beneath a forest floor of mushrooms. “That looks divine,” says Angela.

“That looks f---ing disgusting,” says Ashlee. Clearly, bitchiness is in the eye of the beholder.

Dan's attempt to elevate steak, egg and chips to the status of high art is on track.

His spuds are glassy after being in the freezer for 20 minutes, and that apparently is a good thing, though I prefer mine to be hot and not so likely to induce bleeding in the mouth.

After they've been quadruple double cooked, with a twist, it's time to plate up.

“Where do you want them?” Steph asks. “Wherever, just chuck them on,” Dan replies. A beat. “No, not there, there.” Easy-going Dan, the quiet control freak.

Once more it's time to taste and Pete and Manu remain all poker-face, which must be driving the cooks gaga. Manu asks tough leading questions, like: “Are you ah-pee with thees deesh?”

And the cooks immediately launch into self-flagellating confessions of failure of the “I could have done so much more” variety. It's like watching the end of Schind-ler's List over and over again.

Judgement time and it's a thumbs-up for Dan and Steph who have turned in the perfect steak. They are safe.

Kerrie and Craig's blue eye with parsley veloute is old-fashioned but terrific; Manu even does a strange little disco dance that has everyone thinking he's caught something from Joanna until Pete says: “It's cooking like that that will keep you stayin' alive.” Ah, ah, ah, ah. We get it.

The veal scaloppine gets a mixed review from Manu. “I pretty much enjoyed all of your dish until I got to the scaloppine,” he says. Which is a bit like saying I really liked that glass of water until I got to the water. They could be in trouble.

Sam and Chris are expecting a hiding for their really delicious lump of runny chocolate with bird blob on top, aka chocolate ganache tart.

“It looked like … hmmm, I'm not even going to say what it looked like,” says Manu. Miraculously they escape.

Which can mean only one thing: it's thumbs down for Angela and Melina.

“I'm looking forward to the sudden death,” says Ashlee. “Bang, it's the party of the year,” chips in Sophia.

“Yes, we can beat Angela and Melina,” says Jake, the gift of modesty for once eluding him.

“Mmhsqk,” says Elle, the gift of speech eluding her.

Bring on the lions.