Masterchef Recap: Balloonatics.

Sweet Week — the week when the air smells sweet and the whole world is your insulin dose — continues, with a fight to avoid elimination for the bottom three from the invention test: Samuel, Trent and of course Bryan, who has fallen victim to the food reality show curse: if you are at any time acclaimed as particularly good at any one thing, you will fail at it.

“Three very serious-looking fellows,” says Gary, disappointed in the trio’s lack of bubbly joie de vivre. At the end of the day, one of the three will be going home, and it should probably be Trent, because he seems so miserable already it couldn’t make it any worse.

Today’s challenge is set by someone calls Kristy Tanya, who apparently makes ice-cream. Not normal ice-cream though: expensive ice-cream. Matt says the dish is so difficult you’d normally find it in a finale, but doesn’t explain why the hell, in that case, it’s being given to them now. What’s the point? Just to crush all self-esteem that remains in these poor bastards?

Anyway the dish is a balloon. There’s an ice cream and then there’s a balloon floating above it. The balloon is one of those edible balloons that you see in most restaurants nowadays. “I’m a whole new world of pain,” says Bryan, whose gout is acting up. The three losers are intimidated by the insanely complicated dessert, but George assures them, “I know you can do this”, and if they’ve never met George before they will take his opinion as gospel.

Apparently the ice-cream is actually a semifreddo, or in other words, an ice cream. The rules of the challenge are: they have three hours, and if they just want to leave and never come back that’s fair enough.

Cut to footage of Samuel stroking a dead squid, to illustrate his poignant backstory as a man who enjoys stroking dead squids. His food dream is to own his own squid-stroking venue, where people can come for an affordable squid-stroke in a relaxed atmosphere. But this dream will be dead if he can’t make this dumb ice cream semifreddo balloon thingummy.

George and Kristy come to Bryan’s bench to ask him passive-aggressively about the many ways in which he is failing. His mixture is wrong and his semifreddo isn’t in the freezer and George wants him to calm down and hurry up at the same time and it doesn’t look like either of those will be possible. It now becomes clear that when people talked about how brilliant Bryan was at desserts they were being sarcastic. George also wants him to “be precise”, currently at no. 4 on the George’s Most Useless Advisory Phrases Chart.

On the balcony the other amateurs call out encouragement to Bryan, distracting him and making his failure more likely. Meanwhile Samuel is frantically researching “semifreddo” and hoping he can find a recipe on Taste.com.au.

We suddenly cut to Trent, of whom we’ve seen little today because he’s neither incompetent nor unrealistically sweaty. He’s doing well but is concerned about the balloon. “The balloon is the main element of this dish, and it’s concerning,” he says, and he’s right — it is VERY concerning that the main element of this dish is a frigging balloon.

Meanwhile Bryan has icy orbs, a pain all men know too well. He crosses his fingers and hopes that the obviously bad things will turn out to be good. He has to get on with tempering his chocolate, which as all Masterchef viewers know, is something that nobody on earth knows how to do.

Suddenly Gary drops a bombshell. “There is no way any of you is going to finish!” he bellows. Ah, sweet relief, we think: he’s going to tell them to go home and get some sleep.

No! He tells them to keep going! But why? He has already made it clear that none of them will finish. Why is he keeping them there? What sadism is this? Does he just enjoy observing human suffering?

If so, then Bryan is giving him a real treat. Samuel and Trent are moving methodically on with their dishes, while Bryan is still struggling with his tempered chocolate, as well as a more general sense of existential futility. He wants his food dream to come true, but then lots of us want our dreams to come true and we too are inadequate in every way. Anyway we’ve reached the point of the show where the worst performer wanders around in tears for a few minutes and then gets a second wind and returns to the bench and everyone on the balcony claps.

Trent is spinning his ice cream ball around on a potter’s wheel-type thingy and squirting pink stuff onto it. Why he does this, who can tell? The ways of chefs are strange and inscrutable. In any case he’s not very good at it. Bryan is good at it though: somehow while the camera wasn’t on him he’s done a whole bunch of stuff and now he has a nice big ice-cream ball and he’s spinning it and squirting on it and everything is fine.

Meanwhile Samuel retains only a vague sense of what he’s doing, and that’s working for him. He does something with a Thermomix and suffers a weird moment when the editor cuts the “Thermo” out of the word “Thermomix” to make sure he doesn’t accidentally promote a non-sponsor. Promotion karma strikes swiftly and terribly, as he puts his chocolate into his cones but it’s too hot and everything falls apart. Let this be a lesson to you youngsters: never temper chocolate. Up on the balcony, the others look shocked and saddened and also kind of happy that they’re on the balcony far away from the mess.

With less than five minutes remaining I haven’t seen anyone making a balloon, so what the hell is going on here?

Seconds tick down. Bryan runs frantically around the kitchen, his apron spattered with what is hopefully chocolate and a mysterious bandaid around one finger. Trent is emotionally drained and looks more like Will Graham than ever. He’s running out of time. Kristy is yelling at him. For lack of anything better to do he runs to the microwave.

Chocolate is breaking up in Samuel’s hand. “I’m thinking at this point I’m a lost cause,” he says. Took you long enough. Everyone is yelling at the cooks. With thirty seconds to go, several minutes pass. Finally time is up and what do you know, the three cooks who according to Gary could not possibly finish, have finished.

In the tasting room, Gary notes that the three cooks each finished a dessert. George agrees that they did — he was there at the time.

Oh, now they make the balloon. So there’s a whole extra bit now. Samuel makes his balloon. The balloon is made by a process where you wiggle a pipe around in a bunch of grey stuff, and then you slowly pull it out and it turns into a balloon and then it pops and you have to do it all over again. Eventually an actual balloon is made and attached to the ice cream and the ice cream floats in the air so I guess magic is real. Then the balloon goes flat and looks depressing.

The judges taste Samuel’s dessert, as if that matters in any way.

Trent has a go at his balloon, and it’s not working. “I’m starting to feel really deflated,” he says, so it’s good that even when the odds are against him, he never stops making puns. He should win just for that. Somehow, a tiny balloon is successfully produced, and Trent does not need to go back to the FBI quite yet. Soon, though: when he tries to attach the balloon to the ice-cream it collapses and all his work was for nothing: it’s a microcosm of the show in general.

“Why did you put so much into the challenge?” asks Gary. Trent is too polite to give the correct answer — “why the fuck do you think, dickhead?” — and instead says the usual: “I’m not ready to go home”.

The judges taste Trent’s dessert and find it delightful apart from the deflated balloon, a criterion which demonstrates the madness of the modern world.

Bryan now attempts his balloon and finds that his mixture is very un-balloon-like. “I’m feeling devastated,” he says for about the fiftieth time today. “Gimme a little balloon,” urges Kristy in a decidedly erotic way. But he can’t: his time is up and no balloon is present.

“You OK?” asks George. Bryan says he is and then explains why he’s not. “Put it into perspective, mate — it’s so difficult!” George replies, but of course putting it into perspective would require recognising that the other two men are better than him. Kristy gives him a meaningless pep talk about how her parents want him to be happy but he has to stop listening to them. It’s really confusing but the upshot is Bryan will never give up on his dessert bar dream even though it’s a weird one and to be honest the number of Masterchef contestants who want to open dessert bars is several magnitudes greater than the number of dessert bars that will ever exist.

Anyway they taste Bryan’s dessert and it’s pretty crap obviously. So Bryan goes home. “I’m gutted,” says Samuel, “he’s got more spark and spirit than anyone else here”. Obviously if Samuel had any decency he’d offer to go home instead, but he is a cad and a bounder and stays put. Bryan goes home to keep chasing his dream and buckling under the overwhelming pressure.

Tune in tomorrow when Reynold returns and Callan looks shiny and red.

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