Surrounded by desert (not dessert, but the actual Mojave Desert) Leslie tells us, “I could have been surfing in Malibu.” He sees plenty of beach but no tasty waves and immediately realizes that he’s wearing the wrong vest for this challenge. In fact, everyone is comically mis-dressed. Daniel’s in a leather jacket. Willie’s wearing a scarf. It's almost as if the producers instructed them to wear “something you wouldn’t want to wear in the desert.”
“I’m Scottish,” declares Francis, revealing the biggest Mystery Box of the season so far. “What are we doing here? Are we going to cook an egg on a rock?” Of course, we’re not. Although some of those rocks do look pretty incredible. And if those incoming military helicopters and trucks are filled with the most stunning eggs, then…well, maybe.
Cutter’s adrenaline is pumping when he sees the helicopters fly overhead. He feels the urge to dive out of one like back in the day when he was a search and rescue diver for the military. He wonders to himself if his experience as a petroleum landman would help him accomplish risky desert dives.
The judges gracefully fall out of the back of the trucks to thunderous applause from the Home Cooks. It’s officially time for the first Team Challenge of the season.
Frankie (Francis B) gets to pick his red team. He surveys all the land around him and wisely chooses the first petroleum landman he sees. Next, he calls out Tyler’s name. He doesn’t actually see Tyler due to the camouflage, but he assumes he’s there somewhere. And he is. Frankie calls up the rest of his team including Francis who has adorned himself with silver wings for this challenge.
The Leftovers, coming this summer only on HBO, form the blue team. “We’re doomed,” says Christian, and I couldn’t agree more. Joe instructs them that they immediately have to choose a captain. They each look to their right, and at the end of the line is Daniel, the new blue team captain.
The trucks are going to take them to a new location, so they all hop in, except for Francis who decides to fly.
While driving through a mock-city that our military mock-destroys for practice, the Home Cooks are given their commands. They’ll be cooking for 500 troops. That’s right. They’ll have to #feedourtroops. A motion-sick-looking Graham recites his big line, “You’ll be out of YOUR element, and you will have to cook in THE element.” He nails it and is awarded the Bronze Star.
Seriously, let’s #feedourtroops. What do our troops like to eat? Normally, they like to eat one grilled meat, one side, and an amazing sauce, which is perfect because that happens to be the challenge for today.
The teams choose between pork, beef, and chicken for their proteins. The red team picks the pork chops, so the blue team obviously goes with the beef, because this is America and we honor our troops by feeding them beef. What’s that? Oh, apparently they decide to #dishonorourtroops with chicken instead.
Leslie knows his team is making a mistake by choosing chicken but he’s a trooper, and troopers gonna troop. Did you know that Leslie is Melissa Joan Hart’s stepdad? Sorry, I mean stay-at-home-stepdad. Leslie is, of course, his own man whose identity is not tied to being the stepfather of celebrity Melissa Joan Hart of Clarissa Explains It All; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; and Melissa and Joey fame. However, I do happen to have a personal Melissa Joan Hart story. Would you like to hear it? I think I’ll save it for another week.
Cutter is applying a gentle warm breeze to the red team’s pork chops, and over on the blue team, Stephani has already finished chilling her chicken breasts and has put them in the freezer, ready to serve. Gordon pulls the chicken out of the freezer and demands to know who didn’t cook them. Stephani confessanies, and Gordon gives her a look that ensures that, one way or another, her chicken will soon be cooked.
Gordon tastes Frankie’s Mac & ShitTM and is not a fan, but Frankie has shown the ability to listen to the judges before, and he pivots once again. Christine and Kira take to their mandolins with a bunch of cabbage to make last minute coleslaw. “Keep shaving, ladies,” instructs Joe Bastianich.
Cook, cook, cook.
The 500 troops arrive, and the teams begin to #feedourtroops. The red team has trouble getting their pork chops cooked, so for a while they don’t #feedourtroops. Next they do #feedourtroops but they the poor decision to #feedourtroops raw pork. Gordon gives them a pep talk, and they bounce back, butterflying the meat. Eventually, they #feedourtroops the “best pork chop I’ve ever had in my life,” according to one happy #fedtroop.
Feed, feed, feed.
The soldiers line up in front of their favorite team, and the red team wins big. “I was shocked,” says a shocked Daniel. “Was their dish that significantly better than ours?” The red team, whose dish was significantly better than the blue team’s, celebrates with their troops. “I don’t know how they won. That doesn’t make sense to me. I am really confused right now,” says Stephani while sucking on a chicken popsicle. “Welcome to the Real World,” says Leslie, also confused.
Time for the Dreaded Pressure Test. I’ve been dreading it all year. In a good way.
“We gotta come out swinging, and we gotta knock each other out,” says Daniel who can save three people. He chooses Christian, who might actually be a sneakily strong competitor. He also picks Other Gordon, whose defining trait so far this season is that his name is Gordon. Lastly, Daniel saves the wrong Dan. What are you doing, Daniel? Trying to have honor? Always save yourself! This is MasterChef. There is no honor in MasterChef.
They each have to make a blueberry pie. Daniel regrets everything.
“I don’t bake a lot…I want to show the judges that I think outside of the box,” says Stephani who doesn’t think the purple lipstick is enough to drive that message home by itself.
Jaimee has a blueberry pie tattooed to her neck, which is an advantage for the chefs to her left who can use it as a guide.
Cook, cook, cook.
Elise has to make another pie, so this should go well. Though she’s never made one before, Stephani feels good about her blueberry pie and throws handfuls of pecans onto a tray. Jaimee is going to make the best pie New Joisey has to offer. Meanwhile, Daniel is shaping his pastry dough into a map of Asia.
“Hands in the air. Well done. Right.” –Gordon Ramsay
Tasting time, and Jaimee is first. She has a neck blueberry pie tattoo and knuckle tats that read: BAKE CARL. And who’s Carl, you ask? Well, that’s what she named her pie. Carl is beautifully baked, and his blueberry orange filling is “impressive,” says Joe.
Elisa brings her dozenth pie forward. Gordon lifts the glass dish to reveal the raw crust underneath. “The only chance you have is somebody else being worse than yours,” says Graham. So a pretty good chance.
Jordan brings up his blueberry pie with lemon zest and brandy. Who gave this kid brandy? These teen celebrities are getting out of control. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was already doing blow with Lindsay Lohan in the MasterChef Bathroom during breaks. Joe cuts into his pie and spots what he thinks is white flour. “Yep. Totally. White flour,” nods a sweaty, nervous Jordan.
Courtney swings down from the ceiling with her pie. It’s delicious.
Next are Leslie and his blueberry cinnamon pie. It’s also delicious. “He’s been around for a while,” says Daniel. “So he probably knew Betty Crocker.” He did, Daniel. He knew her. Is that okay? He worked hard to know her. He worked his ass off to get to know Betty Crocker!
Stephani brings up her pecan-drenched pie. It’s falling apart and too sweet. “You think this is better than Elise’s?” asks Joe. She responds, “Considering that Elise is a baker, I thi—” “WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK!!” screams Joe, slamming the rest of Stephani’s pie into her face.
Daniel made a very classic, very simple, probably terrible blueberry pie, adding a little bit of ginger to the filling. Gordon points out a huge crack in his pastry, and Daniel explains that the crack is supposed to be the Yangtze River. Gordon tastes a slice, and it’s not bad actually. When it comes to baking, Daniel knows his geography.
Judgment time. Jaimee, Courtney, and Leslie had the best pies and head to the MasterChef Balcony. Daniel and Jordan had not the worst pies and follow them upstairs.
That leaves Elise and Stephani.
“It’s embarrassing to fail at something that people know that you can do,” says a tear-soaked Elise. Gordon calls her forward.
“Elise, I’m sorry. Your pie was bad,” says Gordon as Graham press a stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “Unfortunately, Stephani’s was worse. Make your way up to the balcony.”
Stephani does not appear thrilled with this decision.
Well, this is a strange ending. There’s no exit interview with Stephani, and instead, we hear from Elise about how sad she is that her good friend is leaving. Did Stephani blow up at the producers after her elimination? I’ll have to check back to see if there were any signs of her being upset.
Oh, well. Goodbye to Stephani. I’m going to leap to the conclusion that she feels wronged in being eliminated when Elise, a baker, made her second bad pie of the competition already. And maybe she feels wronged for other reasons, too. And if she feels that way, she might have a point.
But when you are in the bottom two for two weeks-in-a-row, odds say you’re going home. Or under an oven or wherever.