Masterchef Recap: Hot Buttered, Check It And See

After the disaster of last night’s elimination, which saw Olivia sent home and the number of Alicia Silverstone lookalikes in the kitchen reduced to zero, it’s time for the immunity challenge, with Anastasia, Nicolette and Con competing for the chance to stretch the judges’ ability to pretend they don’t know which dish was cooked by a professional chef with a straight face to its very limit.

We begin, as is traditional, with Katy Perry’s musical commentary on the difficulties of recognising any of the contestants. Then the black cars arrive at Masterchef HQ, as always generating an atmosphere reminiscent of a Mafia family heads conference.

Shannon Bennett is in the house to help the amateurs in their quest for immunity, and it’s worth noting that this year he seems to have taken the nation’s advice to heart and started tying his hair back, which means the average amount of dirty hair in a Masterchef contestant’s dish has plummeted in 2016.

Nicolette says that in order to win immunity she’ll need to “believe in herself”, though it’s important to remember that almost every Masterchef contestant ever has believed in themselves and turned out to be wrong.

Anyway, time for the invention test, and today’s mystery ingredient is…popcorn! Obviously the only good way to serve popcorn is to put it in a cardboard bucket, slather it with butter and salt, and put a movie on: and therein lies the challenge — how can a human being possibly turn popcorn into anything more complicated than just “popcorn” without looking like a total wanker? And furthermore, why would anyone want to avoid looking like a total wanker when on Masterchef? Being a wanker is half the challenge.

“We have sixty minutes to make our dish pop with popcorn,” says Con, his skin crawling with the shame of his capitulation to the producer’s demand that he say that line. George and Gary come to Con’s bench to ask him what he’s making. He tells them he doesn’t know. Con doesn’t eat popcorn. He’s that guy at the movies opening a packet of dried fruit. Con has already proven he doesn’t deserve an immunity pin.

Anastasia thinks the biggest risk with her dish is running out of time, but actually the biggest risk is a gas leak that kills them all. Still, priorities. Shannon comes to Nicolette’s bench to tell her she has a filthy bench and should be ashamed of herself. Since he stopped dropping his hair in everyone’s pots he’s become really self-righteous.

Con is going to use unpopped popcorn in his dish. I think he doesn’t actually know what popcorn is.

Anastasia is coating her chicken breast in popcorn but has insufficient time and is probably going to give everyone salmonella. Gary points out the clock is ticking, which probably everyone kind of took as read.

Meanwhile Con has decided to just make whatever he feels like and throw popcorn in it all. He’s making mousse, he’s making jelly, he’s sticking bits of popcorn in, he has no real ideas at all because he thinks popcorn is a kind of fish.

He’s still doing better than Anastasia, who has raw chicken on her bench and whose only hope is that she can barbecue it in the ad-break fireball.

A tantalising glimpse at this week’s Living Room later, and we’re back to Anastasia, who claims all of her worst nightmares have come true, meaning she has some extremely mild nightmares.

Anastasia’s second-worst nightmare.

Meanwhile Nicolette is happy with her weird popcorn crumb thing, and Anastasia has managed to cook her chicken, but in the process has cooked all the popcorn off, which is an objectively good thing because coating chicken in popcorn is weird, but for her is a bad thing because she is under the perverse thumb of the Masterchef overlords.

Time for tasting, and Con steps up to babble some gibberish. “Is there enough popcorn flavour in this dish?” asks George, who knows full well that popcorn has no flavour and is simply revelling in his sadistic flaying of Con’s soul. Amazingly it turns out that the judges can’t taste the popcorn in Con’s dish, and he has failed miserably as we knew he would. But at least this time he has the excuse that he was given a very silly task.

Anastasia is next, and like Con her dish doesn’t taste like popcorn, because like Con she is unable to magically create the hitherto non-existence “popcorn flavour” out of nowhere.

Nicolette’s crumby parfait thingummajig is next, and impresses the judges by making her dish taste like butter and salt, which is what popcorn tastes like, because popcorn doesn’t taste like anything. So she wins because she was the least creative of the three contestants, embodying the Masterchef spirit in the best way possible.

Nicolette will now cook off for her immunity pin against a guy called Braden White, who is a professional chef you’ve never heard of. Nicolette has the advantage of choosing the ingredients, and must decide between fish or shellfish, which is not much of a choice, but does give George the chance to show off his talent for crab-naming for a minute or two.

Nicolette wastes time sourcing her ingredients.

Nicolette is flummoxed because her forte is desserts — you know, like everyone else on the show this year — and prawn ice cream is a dubious dish. In the end she chooses fish, on the basis that removing tiny bones is a fun activity that can really relax you if you’re feeling under pressure. She enjoys it so much she spends the first fifteen minutes filleting her fish, and thus completely loses her headstart over Braden before she’s even pinboned it, whatever “pinboning” is. Shannon releases Braden from his pantry prison, and it is on like Donkey Kong.

Braden alleges that he cooks with fish often, and demonstrates his expertise by correctly identifying the challenge of cooking the fish as the most important part of the fish-cooking process.

Shannon asks Nicolette what else is in her dish besides fish, and she is startled by the question, having hoped that all that would be required of her would be the successful removal of bones. However, she dutifully pushes the boundaries of culinary possibility by making a salad.

Anastasia says Nicolette has caused trouble for herself but guess what Anastasia nobody asked you.

Shannon asks Braden how he’s going. Braden sarcastically mentions the “help” he’s getting from the Boneheads’ Balcony. “If I win today, I get to walk out of the kitchen with my head held high,” he says, the unspoken implication being that if he does not win he will be hogtied and kicked to death by George.

“If that salmon isn’t cooked perfectly, there’s no way I’m getting that pin,” says Nicolette, so I don’t know why she’s bothering, as she knows full well she will definitely not cook the salmon perfectly. Meanwhile Braden isn’t just cooking his fish, he’s bragging about it to the balcony, the smug bastard.

Shannon is so impressed with Nicolette’s crispy skin he takes it over to show to Brayden, as a sort of threat. Oh, I mean the crispy skin of her fish, not her actual skin. I don’t even know whether Nicolette’s skin is crispy or not. It looks OK.

Nicolette’s perfectly crisped skin.

Some old guy on the balcony is banging on about Brayden’s fish and I don’t even know who he is. Probably one of the contestants’ grandfather.

“How you going over there Nicolette?” asks Brayden even though it’s none of his business. “Any pressure points over there?”

“None,” says Nicolette because in this timeslot she can’t say “fuck off”.

With two minutes to go Braden is seasoning his fish with fennel dust, in order to grant it the ability to fly. Nicolette is placing a bundle of salad next to her fish, in order to make the fish look better by contrast.

It is time for tasting, and Nicolette’s dish is brought in first. “That’s a pretty little dish,” says Matt, the code word for “Ah, this is the amateur’s trashpit dish, I see”. “How do you think it’s been cooked?” he goes on to ask, knowing the answer already because he tasted it while it was hot. Then he catches on fire and we get to see those stupid women pay with their phone.

Back in the dining room, and the salmon looks wonderful, apart from being salmon. Gary is mightily impressed, but is disappointed that some brown fat has been left on the fish, revealing himself as a fat-shaming racist.

Braden’s ridiculously fancy dish is brought in, and even the plate it’s on is more pretentious than Nicolette’s. It’s got flowers on it, for god’s sake. There is no way that the judges can’t tell which cook prepared a dish this wanky. On the other hand, the fish is overcooked, causing the soundtrack guy to press the cymbal button on his Casio. But it’s “only a minute overcooked”, according to Gary the Timelord, and it’s possible that Braden compensated for that minute by covering it in inedible flowers.

Braden gets eight from Gary, eight from Matt, and nine from George, who literally does not care how his food tastes as long as it is buried under a pile of leaves.

Nicolette gets nine from Matt, eight from Gary, and from George she receives a ball of flame. A quick very lengthy break later, and it’s a nine!

Nicolette wins the immunity pin, which by the rules of Masterchef she can now stick into the thigh of any contestant who she feels is getting the better of her during the competition.

Matt thanks Braden for coming in and sharing his wisdom with the other contestants, but then he’s clearly not much of a cook, having just lost to a 19-year-old amateur, so they probably should forget everything he just taught them.

“You don’t understand the power of this pin till you’re wearing it,” George tells Nicolette, and it’s true:

Nicolette dons the immunity pin for the first time.

Tune in tomorrow night, when the amateurs will have to cook a mirror or some stupid thing.

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