Thursday, May 30, 2013

S4E4: A Potato to Remember

Welcome to the palatial MasterChef Kitchen. It has everything a Home Cook can dream of. “Top notch everything,” says Bime about the cooking equipment, Krissi wants to lock herself in the wine room, and Sasha Fox Honey sees a restaurant with a VIP section that’s calling her name, only we can’t hear it over the sound of her voice. “Anything and everything you could ever think of” is there according to Bri, including a library for who-the-fuck-knows-why?

The Home Cooks are all beaming, except for Bime who is biming. They go to their stations for the first Mystery Box Challenge. They lift their boxes to reveal a tomato, a potato, some chocolate, and according to Krissi, BACON!! Can we all stop it with the going nuts over bacon thing? I get it. Bacon is good. We’ve established that. But it’s quickly becoming the argyle sweater of food items: a little played out.

Luca thinks the box’s contents are a joke. He was hoping for a big nice fish-a. Or maybe some steak-a. Oh, Luc-a!

Graham describes the items, finishing with “the most incredible, single potato.” That potato is his spirit vegetable. It is the embodiment of all that is good and right in the world. It is not, as it appears to be, just a regular dumb old potato.

They begin cooking, and the judges walk around, watching and tasting. Johnny B is making chocolate mashed potatoes, which is stupid, and Gordon calls him stupid. Stupid, Johnny B. Quit being stupid!

Savannah is a new face, and she’s making a frittata. So is everyone else, but not all of them are pronouncing it “frittátá” like Savannah, so she may have an advantage.

Awful Natasha is making a tart, but more important, she’s eagerly embracing the role of villain this season. She’s decided that new face Kathy and Krissi need to go home, you know, just because.

Three Top Dishes: Bime, who is apparently a boxing coach, and his Poached Egg over Hash; Horrible Natasha, who can’t stop telling us she’s pretty, and her Lemon Pie Tart; and Krissi with her standout, non-staccato Bacon Potato Frittata.

Terrible Natasha wins without even using the single, most incredible potato. She follows the judges into the MasterChef Pantry where she gets to decide the main ingredient for the Elimination Challenge. Her options are langoustines, veal chops, and some million-dollar Stilton blue cheese. She goes with the langoustines, figuring that Krissi has never seen one before. Sans Boris Natasha also gets to sit out the challenge and chooses Savannah to also skip it, because she thinks Savannah sucks. Savannah doesn’t realize her own shame and is thrilled by the opportunity to continue being unknown.

Sasha Fox Honey is physically repulsed by the langoustines, picking one up by its antenna. Bri apologizes to her langoustine, but that means that she’ll be cooking it with care. I expect to soon see Sasha beating hers to smithereens with a frying pan.

Howard Huge’s confidence is a 9 out of 10, and he thinks mac ‘n cheese girl (Krissi) is going home. Krissi promptly gives him the finger and keeps on cooking. I think I love her.

Kathy and Jerkface Natasha get into a little verbal spat, which leads to nothing but clichés.

Krissi’s mac ‘n cheese gets tasted, and the judges like it, prompting an ass kiss from Krissi to Rotten Natasha. Jordan makes a delicious bisque. Then Howard Huge is called up and gets the background bells of death played over his arrival. He made a tiny spinach salad fit for a rabbit. If you should know anything about Gordon Ramsay, Howard, it’s that he’s no rabbit! Howard has tears in his eyes while getting dressed down by the judges, and it’s impossible not to feel bad for him. Pull your shit together, Howard. Stop getting cute with your dishes. And stop hanging out with Vile Natasha!

Luca brings up his Langoustine Fettuccine. It’s overcooked, and Gordon tells him he’s fucked. Male Lynn poached his langoustine and it’s good. Kathy made a tower of rice, and Joe feels that the langoustine is disrespected by it and thusly he himself is also disrespected being 1/4 langoustine. Sasha presents her dish with a “Voilà.” Gordon calls it “poop on a plate,” and Joe is unhappy that his langoustinian ancestors were massacred worse by Sasha than in the infamous Langoustine Genocide of 1837.

Jessie has made Tempura Langoustine, and Graham says “perfect” more than once, putting her on Evil Robot Natasha’s radar. The last dish we see is Malcolm’s, who overcooked his langoustine and stuffed it with disappointment.

The judges discuss among themselves. Malcolm thinks he’s going home. Everyone else thinks Howard is going home as he distances himself from the others, even refusing to talk to Natasha. Sasha rationalizes her dish by recalling that no judges spit her food out. Rules of reality editing point toward Sasha getting the ax. Malcolm and Howard are humbled and low while Sasha is prideful and set up for a fall.

First, the best dishes go to Jordan and Jessie, with Jessie pulling off the win with her tempura.

Predictably, the bottom three is Howard, Malcolm, and Sasha. Gordon thinks Sasha is a one-trick home cooking pony, he asks Malcolm if he’s peaked, and a choked-up Howard says he overthought things. Malcolm gets the quick reprieve, and it’s down to Howard Huge and Sasha Fox Honey.

Sasha is eliminated, having never gotten to enjoy the comforts of the VIP section. BYE, Y’ALL!!!1!

S4E3: I See Your True Colors. Now Get Out.

My MasterChef eyes are bigger than my MasterChef stomach, so I’ll be breaking down this two-hour behemoth into two separate episode recaps like before.

My disappointment in finding out that there are still auditions left is palpable. We meet a handful of new faces: a hot brunette, a young father with a chest tattoo, and a nerd who spews out the age-old reality cliché “I’m not here to make friends.” This from a girl who it looks like could use a few friends. Oh, and it’s funny that people still come on this show and are combative with the other Home Cooks. Two of the previous three winners were complete sweethearts throughout the entire competition. I’m glad they’re combative, though. I feed off their rage.

First up is Howard, army vet and bar back (actor). He repeatedly says, “This is huge,” and all I can think about is Howard Huge. He’ll be cooking for his 22 fallen comrades, which is a Howard Huge advantage over those only cooking for one or two dead parents. He’s making bourbon and amaretto with a hint of peach cobbler. Gordon becomes an angry drunk and is a No. Graham is a sloppy Yes. Joe and Howard Huge decide to walk if off, stumbling into Howard’s grandmother on the way. She gets the apron and is going to the next round.

Misfit Montage: Dessert Disguised as an Entrée Guy, Crazy Stuffed Animal Lady, Formal Firefighter, Sad Girl, Burning Boy, Argyle Sweater Wearer (I have an irrational hatred for these sweaters), and other forgettable faces.

Finally, it’s the last Home Cook. I’m tempted to jump ahead since he’s an obvious Yes. Johnny B is a carpenter who whittled a little mohawk for the competition. He’s making Lobster Crackerjacks and uses a beer bottle as a rolling pin, which admittedly is pretty cool. The judges love it. Yesses all around. Let’s get on with it. Shall we?

We briefly meet a couple competitors that didn’t get their auditions shown. These are Red Shirts, soon to be slaughtered in the next round. There are so many attractive girls that got through. I had no idea that being beautiful and a good cook went hand-in-hand. It must, because the only thing that matters is what they put on the plate.

Lamb stampede! LAMPEDE!!

To cut the contestants in half, they each have to cook a lamb dish. I hate this. It was more fun when the Home Cooks had to dice onions or perform some other knife skills to get through. That way we can actually see them succeed or fail. With this, we don’t really know what’s going on. Graham says, “People are showing their true colors, and they need to be dealt with.” Joe walks around and kicks people out. That’ll teach them to separate themselves from the herd.  

Why was the IT consultant wearing scrubs? We’ll never know, because he’s a Red Shirt. Clumsy Cornrows and Spicy Gabriella also get the boot.

The Home Cooks are split into two groups, and there is no tension for us, since all of the audition personalities that we already know are in the group on the right. They’re staying. A bunch of the hot chicks and the Unknown Pastor are in the group on the left and go home.

A few cooks remain to have their food tasted, two at a time.

First are a couple newbies, Malcolm Chest Tattoo vs. Seymira Purple Eyes. It’s boring. Chest Tattoo wins.

Johnny B vs. Crazy Eyes. Rangoons vs. Liver. Crazy Eyes talks smack for no reason and then says that it’s “the most beautiful dish he’s ever cooked” seconds after Gordon told him that his food looks like shit. Sadly, Crazy Eyes goes home to do crazy things like blowing up trees and eating road kill. That one must have been hard on the producers.

Hot Nancy vs. Nerdy Bri. Nancy’s dish looks pretty good. Bri makes four different lamb dishes, which as a vegetarian, is four more than she’s ever made. The show needs a vegetarian to move on, so Bri gets the nod.

And finally, Italian Luca vs. Quirky Beth. Luca shoved some sweetbreads into a loin, and Gordon thinks he’s playing a very dangerous game. It’s the Italian Roulette of dishes. Beth made Lavender Hay Roasted Loin. The judges love the hay idea, and everything else seems to suck. Beth moves on, because now her dish is “outstanding,” leaving Luca to sweat it out. Torturing Luca is Gordon’s favorite hobby.

Gordon: I know how much this means to you, but not everybody can come into the MasterChef Kitchen. You’re a great Home Cook, lot of passion. Keep cooking, please. Do not let this be the end of your culinary dream. (pause) Let it just be the beginning, because you’ve made it to the MasterChef Kitchen!

Luca: Ahhhh! Papa! Papa!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

S4E2: Aud Nauseum

It’s Day Two of the auditions, and this recap is way late because much like how the Home Cooks are pursuing their culinary dreams, I was pursuing my Memorial Day vacation dreams. I’ll do my best to be quicker once we’re finally done with the horrible auditions.

In the intro, we meet a gentle longhaired bearded fellow, a beautiful blonde, and an ex-NFL player whose football career was not successful enough to get him onto Dancing with the Stars.

Our first audition is Beamie (?). He brought a picture of his three daughters whom he loves so much that he joined a two-month reality competition. They’ll be staying with Child Protective Services while Daddy tries to become famous. He’s wearing a black fedora and has a goatee, which does not bode well for his creativity. Beamie cooks “Mofongo de Camarones” which loosely translates to Mothafuckin’ Shrimp, Mothafucka. Gordon makes Beamie taste his own dish, and he really likes it. Then he asks Beamie if he’ll be able to handle being away from his daughters, which turns Beamie into a blubbering mess. Joe calls Beamie a crybaby. Beamie says that he isn’t a crybaby but instead Joe’s rival, all through a waterfall of snot and tears. Graham is a Yes. Joe, non-crybaby sufferer, is a No. Gordon does the classic fakey No and gives the big baby an apron.

Next up is Jessie, “a small-town Southern belle who has some very big dreams” (to be an actor). Apparently, she’s a “Yacht Stewardess” which in no way sounds like a maritime prostitute. Jessie makes “Sea Bass en Croute.” Gordon negs her dish as being 80’s because he desperately wants a piece of that. Joe, also wanting a piece, plays it cool with a No. Graham tries to get a piece with the nice-guy routine and gives her a Yes. Gordon, sensing competition from Joe, decides to get hands on with the stunning Jessie. He brings out two huge fish for a filet-off. This is some serious foreplay. She nails it. They bang. Apron won. The judges all examine her tail filet as she walks off.

Misfit Montage: Fire Twirler, Tractor Driver, Magician, Pathetic Death Metal Guy, Biker Dude, An Idiot on a Pogo Stick, and a Robot. The Magician makes it through and maybe some others, though it isn’t clear. Graham gamely gets on the pogo stick, hoping word of his athleticism gets back to Jessie.

Next we meet James, who has beautiful long hair and a handsome beard. James’s struggles go beyond finding the perfect conditioner. He grew up poor. His dad died. His mom died. His wedding has been put on hold for the show, and his fiancée will probably die before it’s all over. He makes “Crispy Pork Belly with a Lentil Hash.” Graham likes it. He’s been a real teddy bear so far this episode. Gordon says it’s interesting. Auditioning for Shark Tank, Joe wants to know what he’ll get back on his investment. James promises more than 100%, an impossible answer that fairly matches the impossible question. Graham is a Yes. Joe says he doesn’t see passion. Unfavorite! He says No and begins writing his You Really Won Me Over speech for later this season. Gordon has his doubts. The editor kisses to black, and we see James walking out with an apron in hand – only it’s red, his own apron from before. But surprise, surprise! He’s hiding the white apron underneath it! The crowd goes wild. He celebrates by smashing his face into a blonde, formerly faced woman.

Misfit Montage: desperate, loud females. Joe tells one of them to shut up, and it’s deeply satisfying.

Now we meet Sasha Fox, Honey. She fits the Sassy Black Woman stereotype to a T. She’s brash, crass, and not going to get an apron. We haven’t had an audition No yet this episode, so she has to be it. A harp mockingly announces her entrance and is contrasted by her obnoxious HEY Y’ALL!!!1! She’s making fried chicken and some crepes and decides to scream a little song for the judges. Gordon likes the chicken but not the crepes. He’s a Yes. Graham is also a Yes. Joe is a big Yes. I am a big idiot. The editor fooled me again. I told you he/she is good.

Next up is Rudy, burn victim of the 2003 San Diego wildfire. Are they really going to say No to a burn victim? They have to. Time is running out. I’m predicting an inspirational No. Rudy makes a “Fry Bread Taco with Buffalo Meat,” and it looks horrible. Gordon says the buffalo is dry, which seems insensitive considering…well, you know. Joe is a No, because he doesn’t see that Rudy put himself on the plate. Graham, huge softy today, says the dry buffalo is Rudy on the plate. (!!!) He’s a Yes. Gordon says that Rudy is very inspirational, but he’s a No. And I’m back in the game!

Misfit Montage: regular, nice-looking people with (mostly) good-looking dishes. They all get No’s, giving the show some serious credibility.

Our next Home Cook is Eddie, ex-NFL player. He’s bringing a football with him, so Gordon won’t be confused about which football he’s referring to. Eddie throws the ball to Graham, who catches it for his contract-required second feat of athleticism. Jessie is not impressed. Eddie makes Jerk Meatloaf in homage to Joe and Graham. Joe’s a Yes. Graham likes the meatloaf but then he doesn’t like it (?) and is a No. Gordon thinks the meatloaf has balls. Footballs. He’s a Yes. I like Eddie, mostly because he doesn’t have a contrived sob story. I’ll be rooting for him even if he did play for the hated Patriots.

It's time for our final Home Cook audition. His name is Luca. He lives on the second chance. Last year, Gordon shot him down, but he’s back and he’s brought his Italian accent with him. He makes “Broccoli Rabe Ravioli,” and the dish looks bomb. Luca gives himself a 6.5 out of 10, which is very humble. Will the cocksure Gordon approve? Joe doesn’t love the dish, but he’s still a Yes. Graham hates the sauce and is a No. Gordon pulls one more fakey No and gives him the apron. Luca celebrates wildly and calls his father, who surprisingly doesn’t have an accent. Let’s hope this mystery is solved in the later rounds.

Next week: the auditions are over! Thank the merciful flying spaghetti monster in the sky!

Friday, May 24, 2013

S4E1: Let the Contrivance Begin

It’s time for another season of MasterChef, where hundreds of Home Cooks from around the country compete for validation, trying to give their pathetic lives some sort of meaning. This is my favorite reality show. It’s ridiculously contrived and many parts are obviously scripted, but it’s also expertly cast, beautifully edited, and goddamn entertaining.

Let’s meet the judges. First is Graham Elliot, the corpulent teddy bear of a chef who was so disappointed in coming off as a pushover in Season 1 that he has since overcompensated by being a hardass for the past two seasons. Will this pattern continue? His most entertaining attribute is being the worst actor of the three judges. I’ll be watching him closely, looking for tells.

Next is Joe Bastianich, restaurant owner and legitimate hardass. He has an inverse relationship with Graham, and thusly has softened since Season 1. I’ll be watching for him to play his favorite game Unfavorites, which is obviously the opposite of Favorites. He chooses a chef or chefs in the early rounds that he doesn’t think has the right stuff, so he can give his You Really Won Me Over speech near the finale.

And of course, Gordon Ramsay. This isn’t the yelly screamy insult dagger-throwing Gordon from Hell’s Kitchen. On MasterChef, he presents himself as a rational, caring person who only appears genuinely disappointed when the Home Cooks fail, which is a little disappointing for me as a viewer.

On to the episode. The Home Cooks walk through a maze of crated cantaloupes, onions, and peppers. We’re briefly introduced to a lovable young schlub, a priest, and a pair of gigantic cantaloupes. All of the Home Cooks evenly spread themselves out in a large room, and the judges come out to greet them. Many of the Home Cooks are brought to tears, due to self-awareness.

Joe says they’ll be competing for fame, notoriety, and a briefcase of $250,000. The fame and notoriety are bullshit considering the past three winners have neither of those things, but then Joe sautés some of the money, saying, “If you came here for the cash, leave now.” No one leaves, because they all came for the attention their fathers deprived them of.

Graham reveals a crystal phallus that is the MasterChef trophy. He presents it with what appears to be mock reverence, but it isn’t. He’s just being his worst actor self. God, I love him. He then lies to everyone, saying that the judges only care about what they put on the plate. Haha. Like this is a cooking show. Too good. Let’s get these auditions started.

First up is Cantaloupes – er, Natasha. While walking through the crate maze, she told us that she’s good looking. I hate her. She’s a stay-at-home mom (re: struggling actor). She fixes her lipstick before trotting out to the judges in her 5-inch heels. I really hate her. She serves the judges beer and describes herself as fiery, smoky, and hot. Her food looks and is apparently good, and Joe asks her if she cooks like that all the time, if this was just a rehearsed dish, and if she made her own pasta. She lies. They give her an apron, and in her post-audition interview, tells us she’s good-looking for the third time. I am really going to enjoy hating her so much.

Next is Christine. Uh oh. I can already tell this girl is screwed. She’s young, Asian, and very overweight. An Asian Christine won MasterChef last year, and she is blind. Heavy ain’t trumping blind. Also, no woman is going to win MasterChef at all this year after three straight female winners, so sorry ladies. Gordon says No to poor Christine. Joe says Yes. Graham pretends to think. He removes his glasses: a tell! After the commercial break, Graham says No. The hardass is back. He tells a sobbing Christine to use his rejection as inspiration like a thoughtful dick. The psychologist inside me thinks that maybe Graham doesn’t like fat people, and that’s because he has trouble loving himself. I’m also a thoughtful dick.

Misfit Montage #1. We get Rabbit Lady, Ostrich Boy, Camo-laden Bear Guy, and Water Bug Weirdo. Losers, each and every one. We’re treated to a trio of bear puns from the judges.

Our next Home Cook is Crazy-Eyes Bryan. He’s bubbling over with energy, so he’s definitely going to make it. He cooks beaver tail, giving us our first great innuendo of the season with the name of his dish, “Stripped & Shaved Beaver." After tasting it, Graham says one “could pass it off as beef.” Bryan gives a firm “I disagree” and shoots crazy-eyes at him, haunting Graham for the rest of his life. Joe likes performing cunnilingus as much as the next man, but gives this beaver a No. Gordon is a Yes. Graham fake thinks again. This time the glasses stay on: a tell! Crazy-Eyes Bryan gets the apron, and in celebration, stage dives into the crowd of Home Cooks, injuring dozens.

Preview: A tearful proposal. Oh god. Please say no. Please say no.

Misfit Montage #2. A bunch of uneventful No’s are paraded through. Apparently, camouflage is a bad look this year.

Our next Home Cook is Jordan, the lovable, young schlub from earlier. Jordan tells us he gave up everything for this, and he’s a delivery driver, so – a lot. His mom is dead, and he’s wearing the apron he once gave her. At his point, he could be cooking beaver turds and make it. His food looks very colorful, and he gives himself a 10 after Gordon asks. It somehow comes off as humble confidence, if that’s a real thing. Graham gives his ruling first and says he’s disappointed (pause) that there isn’t a plate for each of them. Acting! Brilliant! Yesses all around. Jordan is our early frontrunner.

Misfit Montage #3. The crazy breast milk eggs lady from all of the previews only gets a brief montage mention, because she’s been in all of the previews. Other montage members: struggling actors and LA weirdoes.

Next up is Adriana aka Cutie Patootie. She’s a New York resident (re: struggling actor) originally from Mexico. She grew up without a toilet and played in mud – well, let’s hope it was mud. She’ll be cooking cactus, and she brought a supportive cactus with her in lieu of her Mexican family being held up by border patrol. Just kidding. It’s actually the producers that are holding her family up to contrive a little drama. They release her family from their holding cell at the last second before Patootie heads to the judges. The cactus pretends to be happy for her. Graham gives her a Yes. Gordon is worried about how sweet she is, because it’s all about what you put on the plate. Joe is going to say Yes, but he exhales and says he’s not sure. She gives a half-assed attempt at begging, knowing he’s going to say Yes. There’s a commercial break, and she clomps out with an apron.

Winner Montage. The priest was surprisingly included, not given his own audition segment.

Our next Home Cook to audition is George, an average looking middle-aged bachelor. Prediction: a close No. He’s making Greek wedding soup and tells the judges that he wants to propose to his fiancée. I didn’t recognize him without all the tears and snot. Prediction: she says Yes, much to my cold heart’s chagrin. His meatballs are terrible, so Joe is a No. Graham pretends to like the broth enough to give a Yes. Gordon makes George go get his fiancée, so he can reject him in front of her, showing her what a loser he is before he proposes. It doesn’t matter. She still says yes. As they leave, the judges participate in the Greek tradition of throwing plates at the couple, killing them.

Preview: Stereotypical Philadelphians!

Our final Home Cook of the episode is Christy or Krissy. Nope, it’s Krissi. She’s a single mom with a fighting spirit, so she’s definitely getting an apron. She didn’t know her son was coming and breaks down in tears when she sees him. I feel nothing. He’s wearing camouflaged shorts, which hasn’t worked out so far, but something tells me the third time is the charm. This kid is adorable. It’s like he’s straight out of Central Casting. Krissi goes in front of the judges and introduces her home-style meatloaf dish. Then she makes air quotes while mentioning her “son.” I knew it! After tasting the dish, Gordon want to see this “son.” He wants to be a chef, just like Gordon and his “mother.” As a chef, the “son” rates his “mom” an 11. She breaks down again. Three Yesses from the judges, and – uh oh. Oh shit. Did the show get me? No way could it get me. That can’t be a tear in my eye. Damn you, MasterChef!

Joe legitimately tears up as well, and I feel a little better about my shameful weakness.

Until next episode! Which is right after this one.