Masterchef Recap: Under the Dome

What would you do, if you had an immunity pin? Probably you’d look at it and go, “Huh. This is a weird little pin, where’d it come from?” It’s the kind of thing that really needs context, to be honest.

For Nicolette, that context is that she can use her immunity pin to remove herself from tonight’s elimination test, and by doing so pitch Elise into the fray. Nicolette is torn, because as she says, “Elise is one of my closest friends in the house” — although it should be noted that this is what literally every Masterchef contestant ever has said about every other person in the house in every year, so take it with a grain of salt.

Nicolette makes the momentous decision to use her immunity pin and crush her close friend Elise. “It’s fine,” lies Elise, who will one day stab Nicolette in her sleep. She has no time to spend planning violence revenge right now though, as it is time to meet the guest chef who will be setting the elimination challenge.

The elders tell tales, in hushed and anxious tones, of the Evil One. The One who fell upon the people and laid waste to their hopes and dreams with her aggressive desserts and rebellious hair. The One they speak of is Anna Polyviou, the result of a terrible genetic experiment involving the DNA of Adriano Zumbo, Donna Hay and California pop-punk band Rancid.

I don’t really have the slightest idea what this is.

Polyviou enters the kitchen and reveals the challenge: a white ball with holes in it. Inside the ball is what I believe is technically called “other stuff”. The dish is called “Anna’s Mess”, the name apparently deriving from the fact that when Anna picks it up and drops it on the table, it breaks. Everyone gives the broken dessert a standing ovation, as if the real genius isn’t in making the insanely intricate dessert, but in Anna’s peerless ability to drop it.

Anna’s Mess, the complex yet breakable dessert beloved of high society and the underground screamcore scene alike, involves 74 steps, so the logical response to this challenge is to recognise the essential hollowness of the catering industry and walk out into a fresh new day. However, Elise, Charlie and Harry refuse to take the sensible way out, and begin attempting to construct this Dadaist absurdity.

Harry, who with elimination on the line has tied his hair in a bun, knowing that there is no room for shedding in desserts, believes it is important to not fall behind the other two, but rapidly does anyway — what a contrary fellow! His first mistake — first food mistake, that is — is putting his sponge — I’m assuming this means a sponge cake, not just a sponge, but hey, it’s Anna Polyviou, who knows? — in the oven without including the sugar that he measured out specifically for the purpose of putting into the sponge. Oh Harry, you do get yourself into scrapes with your endearingly impetuous yet incompetent nature!

Harry will have to redo his entire sponge, which will put him behind, but “I can make up for it,” he promises with very little supporting evidence.

Meanwhile Elise is doing something with raspberry something and sugar and eggs in a dome and something something it all holds the dish together and raspberry curd something something god only knows.

Charlie’s doing something with raspberry curd too. Raspberry curd must be important here. Charlie’s put his raspberry domes into the fridge without adding gelatin, which is a mistake mainly because you’re not supposed to do that and the recipe says to do the opposite of that.

Meanwhile Harry is languidly reading the recipe and stirring a mixture in a bowl, all humanity fled from his dull, empty eyes. He is now more blender than man.

He prays only for death

Elise needs to put a kilo of white chocolate into a bowl. I guess that’s part of the recipe, or else maybe Anna is just setting random tasks to test ordinary human subjects’ susceptibility to arbitrary authority.

“So many processes to get your head round!” Gary bellows, just to break everyone’s concentration. Charlie is watching his thermometer like a hawk, whatever that means. How does a hawk watch a thermometer? Wishfully, I guess, hoping against hope that the thermometer will turn into a fieldmouse. He is tempering his chocolate, but isn’t stirring it. He takes it over to the blast chiller and starts stirring it in front of the open blast chiller door, because he’s completely lost touch with reality.

As all Masterchef fans know, the secret to tempering chocolate well is to never try to do it because it’s hard. All three amateurs tonight have broken this cardinal rule, choosing instead to try this most difficult and futile of tasks.

Charlie pours his white chocolate into his moulds. It has the consistency of Jabba the Hutt. Apparently this is not desirable. Charlie thinks he might be in trouble. Wait till he realises he forgot the gelatin! Haha, dramatic irony is a blast.

It’s that most dreaded of junctures in an episode: the time to be shown an ominous closeup of the Vespa. The pressure is starting to get to Elise, which you can tell because she says “The pressure is starting to get to me”. It is time for her to start making the white chocolate discs that are attached to Anna’s Mess for literally no reason, I mean they add nothing, in either a culinary or aesthetic sense. As Elise rushes to make her dumb discs, Anna herself comes over to scold her about having a messy bench. Germophobia is not punk rock, Anna. Elise relieves some tension by hurling several bowls across the kitchen.

Harry has moved on to the mascarpone mousse and Jesus Christ this thing really does have an idiotic number of elements, doesn’t it. The CIA makes terrorism suspects make Anna’s Mess to break down their resistance to interrogation.

A former Masterchef contestant begs not to be sent back to the kitchen.

“You need to go, you need to push, you need to move!” yells George, really wanting to hammer home the message that with half an hour to go, he’s a jerk.

The balcony dwellers shout double entendres at Elise as she tips some foul-looking liquid into a bowl. Harry grabs his domes and find they’ve set. Elise can’t get her domes out. In the grip of full-blown dessert madness, she begins blowtorching her mould, no longer caring whether she lives or dies. Charlie pulls out his domes and finds that they’re not set, because of the gelatin that he didn’t put into them earlier — cool foreshadowing, right? No time to make them again though, so he’ll just have to hope that the judges enjoy things that suck.

Charlie claims his heart is beating a thousand miles an hour in what is clearly a pathetic lie, as he pulls out his white chocolate domes, which turned out so well that he decides he wants to be a pastry chef, although this isn’t actually pastry and a minute ago he was discovering how inept he is.

Meanwhile Elise cannot get her white chocolate domes out. They are stuck within the moulds. “Come on Elise!” Brett yells from the balcony, which helps a lot. Harry discovers that his white chocolate domes won’t come out either. It’s possible this was Anna’s plan all along — it seems entirely in keeping with her modus operandi to have written a recipe deliberately designed to produce domes that won’t come out in order to reduce the amateurs to shuddering wrecks. Masterchef resembles a psychological torture chamber at the best of times — when Polyviou struts in it veers into Saw territory.

As Harry bashes his mould on the benchtop like one of the apes from 2001 smashing a bone, and Elise desperately fondles her domes in the hopes of arousing them out of the moulds, Charlie smugly prepares his so-called “components” like a big fat teacher’s pet. Elise breaks one of her domes. Her life flashes before her eyes. The balcony offers advice. Harry tells them to shut the fuck up. He gets a blowtorch. Anna points out that if you use a blowtorch on chocolate, the chocolate will melt — it’s understandable Harry didn’t know this, as desserts aren’t really his thing.

Suddenly, an explosion of joy, as Harry somehow coaxes a dome out of a mould. The balcony erupts with applause, delighted to see that the task that they had attempted to sabotage with their distracting idiocy has been achieved. And then Elise gets hers out too. With seconds to spare. A bit suss, right?

After finishing, they have fifteen minutes to put all the bits together. Harry goes first. His Anna’s Mess looks pretty much like Anna’s Anna’s Mess, which really seems like it should be enough — it seems unfair to actually taste it.

“What will you go home to?” asks Gary, triggering one of the most depressing Masterchef moments ever. “Nothing,” Harry sobs, staring sadly ahead at a non-existent future. He has no job and no non-Masterchef prospects. There is a definite risk that if he gets eliminated he is going to walk out of the kitchen and straight into a crack house.

September, 2016: Harry remembers happier times.

After that brief descent into the darkest reaches of human misery, everyone cheers up as Harry smashes the dessert he spent three hours making, showcasing perfectly why the dessert industry is an obscenity. The judges enjoy eating the mess, which is lucky, because it is clear that eliminating Harry today would put them at real risk of charges of Reckless Endangerment.

In comes Elise, saying that if she loses, she’ll walk out with her head held high, not realising the fatal mistake she’s making in suggesting that she can handle rejection, in stark contrast to Harry’s nightmarish desperation. She’s made herself a target with her psychological equilibrium.

Elise’s mousse is runny, which is a problem affecting many young women today. But apart from that, all is well with her Anna’s Mess, and it’s important to recognise that while minor flaws might be identified, they are as nothing compared to the major flaws in the character of those who would force innocent people to go through this.

Charlie’s turn, and the gelatin-forgetting, chocolate-tempering-up-screwing professional golfer may be in trouble, as his chocolate dome is too thick and he isn’t crying at all. It doesn’t smash properly when he drops it. The judges sneer contemptuously at this feeble excuse for a dessert-maker, with his clumsy chocolate and soft curd.

“Geez I love these meringues,” says George, because he needs to find some positive to mention. Anna agrees about the meringues, but has clearly been driven almost to violence by Charlie’s disrespect for her lunatic dessert ball.

Judging time, and everyone waits with bated breath to see how long the judges can pretend this was a difficult decision. Harry is safe — he was the best. Elise was second-best, or to use the technical term, “better than Charlie”, and Charlie is to go home, leaving behind only the vague impression that he probably cooked some stuff during this series at some point I guess.

“With every negative there’s always a positive,” says Anna, pointing out that the negative of Charlie’s elimination is balanced by the positive of the competition standard being raised by Charlie not being there anymore. “My door is always open,” says Anna, assuring Charlie that he is always welcome to come to her kitchen and provide free labour for her.

“I’ve really learnt who I am,” says Charlie. “I am the pastry chef.” And with that unjustifiable claim, we move on.

Tune in tomorrow night, when Chloe will misuse the word “literally”.

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