Masterchef Recap: Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?

Previously on Masterchef Australia: a big bunch of people auditioned, and some got through. Then some of those people auditioned again, and some of them got through. Tonight, some of the leftovers will audition for a third time, and one of them will get through. It’s a much more exhaustive audition process than My Kitchen Rules, where the producers just stake out checkout queues and pick anyone who starts a fight.

The people you feel sorry for are the ones who already have their aprons, who just have to stand and watch. Someone give them a chair for God’s sake.

Gary greets the six hopefuls by informing them that today is their last chance to qualify for the top 24, although deep in their hearts they know there’s a chance that someone will have a stroke or turn out to own a chain of seafood restaurants or be Mark Latham in disguise or something, and another spot will open up.

The task is to cook an insanely difficult dessert created by Anna Polyviou, who you will remember from previous Masterchef seasons as the woman with the big mohawk who makes ridiculously complex desserts from no motivation beyond simple sadism. Specifically, these amateurs, who weren’t even good enough to qualify on the first or second day, will have to make a firecracker.

Emily describes the firecracker: “It’s a tube of chocolate, but inside me I know it’s not just a tube of chocolate”. Emily is a real sharp one, to be able to figure out that the task might be a little bit difficult than making a single cylinder of solid chocolate. Indeed, the firecracker is a chocolate tube full of all kinds of crazy stuff — mousse and coulis and etc — with a burning fuse inserted in one end for no reason whatsoever.

The wise thing for the six amateurs to do, obviously, would be unionise, go on strike and refuse to return to the set until an easier task is set. But Masterchef excels in setting the working class against itself, and so like good little slaves, they go ahead and try to make this cruellest of desserts.

They do get a recipe, which I guess must be helpful. I’d like to see them just shown a photo of the dish, and then make them guess what’s inside. It’d make judging a lot more interesting, in my opinion. But sure, let’s just aim for stultifying conformity, shall we? We shall.

Incidentally, Masterchef gives a recipe to its contestants, but still refuses to put their names up on screen, so I’ll just have to rely on my memory to determine who each person is. And I don’t really remember much, so here we go. For a start, the young guy with glasses is “really hoping to wow” Anna Polyviou — don’t be a fool, kid: she never cared about you.

Two of the onlookers are having a discussion. “What does pectin do?” a woman asks a man. We never get to find out. Cliffhanger! I do hope at some point this year we learn what pectin does, because I’m on tenterhooks here.

“Hustle, hustle!” cries Polyviou, having learned Unhelpful Yelling at the Calombaris College Of Pointless Admonitions and HR Dodges.

Blond scruffy guy has hit a snag: his milk has split, probably in protest at his personal hygiene. Anna comes over to advise him to “read the recipe”, which seems an obvious thing to tell someone, but half of all Masterchef contestants don’t, because they’re there for their cooking ability, not their literacy.

All of a sudden, blond scruffy guy’s milk splits again. “I don’t have time to be having setbacks like this,” he says in his unpatriotic accent. He tries a third time, and there is a moment of grand triumph as he manages to successfully heat milk in a pan.

“Look at me!” yells George, voicing his unending inner monologue. “Listen! Forty-five minutes gone already!” Of course the amateurs can see the clock for themselves, and don’t need George to tell them, but when you’re working to a tight deadline nothing helps more than a little bald twat shouting at you and making you stop work so he can tell you to hurry up.

Young glasses guy is doing very well, and says he’s “excited”, although his “excited” voice is very similar to his “nervous” voice and his “just woken up” voice and his “in the middle of sex” voice.

Meanwhile, Emily, whose name I know, melts the chocolate and combines it with milk and glucose. “I melt the chocolate and combine it with milk and glucose,” she corroborates.

Glasses kid — his name’s Brandon! — takes his roasted chocolate out of the oven and finds it too grainy. Anna says it looks OK, but then that it doesn’t. Her mind games are intolerable. Brandon sounds extremely stressed. By which I mean he sounds excited, or depressed, or angry.

Halfway through the task, the onlookers begin clapping and hooting like morons in order to distract the competitors from their extremely difficult jobs. Scruffy man is making his sponge, and describing the making of a sponge. I don’t know why they do this blow-by-blow commentary — do they think we’re taking notes? How can we be taking notes when we’re writing recaps? Think this through, Channel Ten.

I think scruffy guy might be called Aaron.

Pretty young lady has stuffed up something with her cocoa powder, and asks Anna for help. “Read the recipe,” Anna says. Pretty young lady reads the recipe and discovers that she wasn’t supposed to use cocoa powder. She’ll have to start this bit again. It’s one of those moments that is terribly moving and also very funny.

I think her name is Christina.

The number of stuff-ups going on makes you wonder: what would happen if nobody finishes in time? It’d be wonderful, is what would happen. Christina says she needs to focus and not let it get the best of her. “You’re doing well,” says Anna, but it’s already been made crystal clear that she’s doing horribly. Maybe Anna is speaking relatively: everyone is doing pretty badly by the looks, especially the couple of amateurs who are so dreadful we haven’t even got to hear them talk this episode.

Gary tells the contestants it’s time to “put the pedal to the metal”. The contestants tearfully flick through the recipe, trying to find where it mentions pedals or metals. Gary and Anna check out Aaron’s sponge, and are either impressed or sarcastic. Aaron is extremely relieved and disreputable.

We are suddenly forced to watch a montage of Emily’s home life that, let’s be frank, we did not request in any way whatsoever. Emily is a teacher, but has grown to loathe children, so she’s hoping to escape the hell of education.

Back to the kitchen. “Is it bad if the pop rocks are big?” Emily asks, sounding like a letter to Dolly Doctor. She smashes her pop rocks with a saucepan, blind fury lending her superhuman strength.

The music is getting a little hyperactive as we reach that point of the episode known as “the bit where everyone is putting stuff on other stuff”. Matt booms at them that it’s important to read the recipe and put all the elements together in the right order. Suddenly it dawns on Emily that she’s missing the bottom layer of her crunch, a mistake that cannot be fixed. It’s really amazing how often failing to read a recipe can cause a person to not make a dish properly: it’s a stark reminder of the harsh world of cookery, where even a minor thing like completely ignoring instructions from a professional can cost you.

Matt comforts Emily by telling her it’s her first pressure test, which is not comforting at all because it’s probably going to be her last.

Meanwhile Christina is confused by what the recipe is telling her to do with the acetate. At a loss, she puts the transfer wrap that goes on the outside of the firecracker into her tube. The onlookers are all fairly sure that this is wrong, but they don’t tell Christina this: they’re willing to annoy people with their frigging hooting, but god forbid they help in any way.

On the other hand, they ARE willing to help Emily, by pointing out to her the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius, which explains why her chocolate wasn’t tempering right and also why reading is not her forte.

Meanwhile Christina, who nobody wanted to help, has put her transfer around her mousse, which means she can’t put it on the outside of the firecracker, which means it’s all gone tits-up. Suddenly Christina realises the bleeding obvious, and works frantically to correct the error before…

TIME IS UP.

Everyone hugs everyone else even though they’re all total strangers. “I want that apron so badly today, I fought so hard to get it,” says Emily, grossly insulting all the other contestants by implying that they didn’t.

Christina is now in tears, having realised that she’s left plastic all over her dessert. George, employing his famous “babble meaningless nonsense to get young women to touch me” technique, comforts her by telling her, “If you had this recipe at home it’d be so different”. And he’s right: if she had this recipe at home she’d throw it away and make something more sensible. Then George forces her to hug him. He’s got his for the day.

Judging time. First up is Brandon. He lights his firecracker and places his flaming slab of decadence in front of the judges. They cut it open and it oozes like a murder victim. Apparently that’s how it is supposed to look, so good-o. Brandon’s is good, but is it GREAT? I dunno, maybe.

Next is Christina. She’s really proud of what she’s done today, but we all know she shouldn’t be. “Are you all right?” asks George, angling for another uninvited hug. Gary comforts her by telling her that acetate sheets are known to be served with desserts. Then he ruins the comfort by telling her it doesn’t happen very often. Anyway, once the acetate is carefully peeled off the firecracker, Christina’s tastes really good and the soundtrack pianist gets all emotional. She says again that she’s really proud. She’s protesting too much.

Next is some blonde woman who we’ve barely seen a glimpse of all episode and therefore has absolutely no hope. Her firecracker is clearly very mediocre.

Next is the one who looks like Phoebe Cates, who says she “loved every minute of that challenge”, which is a weird thing to say because she fucked it up royally. “You had a go,” says Gary, and may as well have said, “You will burn in hell” for all the affirmation the words contain.

And here is Emily, who has to be the frontrunner given she got a home montage. Brandon watches with a look of quiet hatred in his eyes. Emily’s firecracker is outstanding. “That’s the best mousse I’ve tasted so far,” says Anna. Brandon’s expression turns homicidal. It’s a beautiful thing to see a Masterchef contestant being completely honest and not pretending to be happy for his opponent. They should let Brandon through just for his facial expressions.

Last up is Aaron, who needs to clean himself up a bit, but has at least made a fairly good-looking firecracker. As George cuts it open, the soundtrack pianist goes completely mental. The music sounds like the score to a movie about a haunted psychiatric hospital. Yet all that happens is it’s cut open, it looks good, and yay. “That looks like a pastry chef has created that,” says Anna, but to be fair, all of them look like a pastry chef has created them: it’s just that some of them looked like it was a bad pastry chef.

Aaron’s is Anna’s favourite so far, despite his slightly thick crunch or something — must she nitpick so? It’s going to be very close — Aaron or Emily? Or maybe Brandon? Ha, nah, it’s not Brandon. He has to go home and punch his bedroom walls.

The moment of truth. Christina and the two nonentities are forced to line up with the rest even though they know they’ve failed and are being slowly consumed by shame. “Two of you really excelled,” says Matt, code for “Piss off Brandon”.

Emily and Aaron step forward. Matt babbles dully for ages. Aaron wins. Emily’s montage was all for naught, and next time she will know to spend more time reading the recipe and less time editing footage of her family.

“The five of you should be extremely proud,” says George to the losers, but at best only two of them should be. “I’ve enjoyed my Masterchef experience so much,” says Emily, putting her sanity in grave doubt. The top 24 all give themselves a big smug round of applause.

Tune in tomorrow, when we start pruning this hedge.

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