Tuesday, July 29, 2014

S5E10: Flying 6000 Miles to Suck Face on Reality TV. That's Love.

“I'm just thinking about how much I miss my husband, how much I miss cooking for him,” Elizabeth tells us as I unwrap a Clif Bar. The crinkling of the wrapper echoes off my walls and reverberates throughout my empty home. Her husband would be proud that she made it to the Top 12, and if she gets eliminated tonight, at least she’ll have his warm embrace to go home to.

It’s time for another Team Challenge. The Home Cooks won’t be leaving the MasterChef Kitchen this week, because why go anywhere when you have a “world-class restaurant” behind you? I'm, of course, talking about the world famous MasterChef Restaurant. “It’s as beautiful as any dining room you’ll find in America,” says Joe through gritted teeth.

“The theme of tonight’s challenge is love,” says a very serious Graham. He promises that the 17 couples dining tonight are all madly in love with each other. They'd better be. Or else.

Victoria has been with her girlfriend for four years, and if she gets eliminated tonight, at least she’ll have her warm embrace to go home to.

Each team will have to cook an entrée and a dessert, and Elizabeth and Ahran will be picking the teams. Ahran isn’t a fan of this challenge because, “I’ve never been on a date before.” Her Twitter mentions explode with notifications from assorted lonely acne-ridden teens and general creeps from across the internet.

Elizabeth’s Blue Team: Francis, Jaimee, Victoria and her protein rockin’ abilities, Courtney, and Daniel.

Ahran’s Red Team: Willie, Christine, Christian, new bestie Leslie, and Cutter.

They have 60 minutes to cook or something, I wasn’t really paying attention. Ahran tell us, “The menu that we planned is very romantic.” Yeah, like she’d know. They’re doing a lobster risotto that requires Leslie to murder dozens of lobsters. For dessert, they have planned a tiramisu because tiramisu is how Ahran got to be team captain in the first place.

On the Blue Team, they’re making a medium rare filet with a beet and potato puree. For dessert, a sponge cake with layer after layer after layer after layer of stuff on it. #MCLayers

Cook, cook, cook.

The judges discuss romance.

Cook, cook, cook.

“The MasterChef Restaurant is open!” announces Joe as a bunch of homeless people stumble in from off the street. Excuse me, this is NOT a Bastianich wine. Oh, they aren’t homeless after all. They are all couples celebrating anniversaries. This guy’s anniversary is extra special as he explains that it’s their 15th YEAR anniversary, emphasis on the YEAR. Do not think that they have only been together 15 months. That would be a huge mistake.

Gordon tells everyone that the final empty table in the MasterChef Restaurant will be taken by the single most important person in the world. Everyone stops what their doing, and their jaws hit the floor while they try to imagine who that might be. Well, everyone except for Jaimee who doesn’t give a shit who you are. She’s got fucking sponge cake to make.

It’s Gordon’s wife, Tanna or Turner or Tanya. (It’s Tana, says Google.) The Home Cooks go wild as she stands awkwardly, frozen in the MasterChef Doorway. She is everything Courtney admires in a woman, from her yellow high heel shoes to her—whatever else there is. This is a very strange sequence. Tana walks to the front to meet Gordon and is essentially paraded in front of the Home Cooks, the other judges, and all of America. Our respect for Gordon Ramsay grows as we gawk at the attractive woman he married. Oh, come on. There has to be more than one layer to #MrsRamsay. She flew over 6000 miles to come eat a great dinner and to meet the Home Cooks, and…Jaimee? Mind putting that down for a second?

Gordon and Tana take their seats in the MasterChef Restaurant and immediately start sucking face as the couple behind them approves. Gordon invites everyone else to join them, and all of the couples lean forward and kiss. Here is my favorite couple in the MasterChef Restaurant. Are they even a real couple? She refuses to budge and makes him lean all the way over the table to kiss her, and if you look closely, she even makes a tiny gesture with her hand for him to come to her. So yeah, I think that probably is a real couple.

The Blue Team’s filet is too rare. “Holy mother of god,” prays Victoria to Mary patron saint of cooking meat just a little longer.

Cook, cook, cook.

Plate, plate, plate.

Hands in the air. Here come the servers.

Victoria is horrified at the thought that #MrsRamsay might be served a rare steak. This is Victoria’s horrified face.

She does get served a rare steak. So does an elderly man who declares his to be the “best steak I’ve ever had.” What do you think about that, Joe

Meanwhile in the MasterChef Kitchen, Ahran’s tiramisu isn’t working out. Something’s wrong with the layers. She says that the finished result is beautiful, but I don’t know. It kind of looks like a turd moon pie

The romantic atmosphere in the MasterChef Restaurant overwhelms one man as he gets down on one knee and proposes to his girlfriend. Appropriately, she laughs in his stupid face

The diners vote on their favorite meal, and Gordon reads the results in front of everyone. It’s a walloping. The Blue Team gets over 75%. “It’s the craziest moment of my life,” says Elizabeth.

Back in the MasterChef Zen Garden, Leslie wonders aloud why so many lobsters had to die. He furiously scrubs at his blood-stained hands.

It’s time for the Dreaded Pressure Test. This isn’t Leslie’s first rodeo; it’s his fourth. It is, however, Christine’s first rodeo, and she’s dreading it. All six members of the losing Red Team will have to cook this time, and each of them must create a “glorious, decadent box of beautiful chocolates.” Cutter’s bear hands make steak and ribs and assist him with drinking beer. Those claws do not make delicate truffles.

They have one hour to make nine chocolates with at least three different varieties. As always, we skip the section where everyone is instructed on how to actually make chocolate truffles, because it’s fun to think that all of the Home Cooks just already have this knowledge. It kind of makes them gods.

Cook, cook, cook.

Christian is making an eggnog brandy truffle, and this saddens Graham deeply. Leslie usually goes to Beverly Hills to buy his truffles from this truffle discounter selling second hand truffles in the bad part of town. He’s says he’s adding cayenne pepper to his chocolate because, “When I’m throwing truffles in my wife’s mouth, I want her to feel hot.” This is one sexy episode of MasterChef.

Stop. Hands in the air.

Everyone brings their boxes to the front. Cutter has his chocolates judged first, and he’s praying he doesn’t get his ass chewed. Even the gods pray. Graham opens the box with a “wow,” and Cutter wants to know if that’s good or bad. His prayers worked (as prayers do all the time). The judges rave about his fudges. Even Gordon, who totally fakes everyone out by calling Cutter and his chocolates clumsy at first before revealing that he’s just kidding, loves them. It’s a big moment for Cutter, who’s normally a lumbering dessert disaster. Even the cool kids on the MasterChef Balcony are giving him a thumbs up. 

Next goes Christian. It’s uneventful.

Gordon tries Willie’s chocolates next. He’s expecting a “box of fireworks,” and opens it with a “wow.” It’s a bad wow this time. Willie got a little heavy handed with the sprinkles. His chocolate insides are good, but he’s overdressed his outsides with too many crazy colors.

Ahran’s look pretty good to me. Joe tries one of her hazelnut truffles. It’s not bad. She’s safe.

Next is Leslie’s romantic box of chocolates. “Wow,” says Gordon, “wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.” The MasterChef Balcony are also wowed. I mean, wow. They seem to taste okay, but visually—wow.

Christine’s look much better than Leslie’s, but Joe says her first truffle isn’t round enough and tastes “super bitter.” Gordon also finds his truffle to be bitter.

After a whisper huddle in the back, the judges are ready to judge. Joe gives his first (I think) you-proved-me-wrong speech of the season to Cutter and sends him to the MasterChef Balcony to feed the others his winning truffles.

Graham calls Willie, Ahran, and Christian forward to give them their reprieves.

That leaves Leslie and Christine. Gordon delivers the news. “…two completely different boxes of chocolates. One looks pretty decent but tastes inadequate. One looks a mess but tastes pretty decent. The person leaving the MasterChef Kitchen—“ Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “—tonight—that person is—Christine.”

He follows, “We are as shocked as you are.” That could be interpreted to mean that the judges are shocked that Christine had such a bad performance this early in the competition OR it could mean that they are shocked that the producers forced them into this decision. You take it however you want. Since I am absolutely 100% not a cynic, I choose to think that Christine’s truffles just weren’t good enough. The judges wanted to believe they weren’t bitter, but they sadly were.

Sure, this decision smells a little like Kira’s beautiful donuts that sent her home. Sure, Leslie is a more dynamic character than Christine, just like Courtney is a more dynamic character than Kira. But this is a legitimate cooking competition, and all eliminations are done with the integrity of the program in mind. Sure.

The remaining Home Cooks watch from the MasterChef Balcony as Christine hugs the judges, but all they can see is their own likely (and likely soon) fate.

In her exit interview, Christine tells us, “There are no words to describe how disappointed and frustrated I am with myself…I still can’t believe that I was cooking in the presence of culinary excellence. I’m just honored to have been here, and I look forward to using the knowledge and momentum I’ve gained here and entering into the culinary world.”

Good luck on your journey to and through the culinary world, Christine. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I’m guessing that your goal is to make a living through your cooking. And that’s an admirable goal, to support yourself through your art. Oh man, I’m just now thinking of the whole dichotomy of Christine the Business Woman and Christine the Artist Chef…I never got to explore it properly. But this is what happens on MasterChef. Just when you start gaining momentum, the closing bell rings.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

S5E9: This Week on EmotionalChef

There are only 13 Home Cooks remaining, and the challenges from here on will only get tougher and the Mystery Boxes will only get bigger. The judges stand in front of a giant steel Mystery Box and what’s inside could be anyone’s guess. Is it nine Eva Longorias? Is it one Paula Deen? Is it the rest of Graham?

Cutter is a Texan from Texas, and being from Texas he is contractually obligated to tell us that he, as a Texan, likes everything big. He sees the big box and he’s thinking, “Boom. Right off the bat. Advantage Cutter.” But what he surprisingly doesn’t see is Willie, also from Texas, and much bigger than himself. Advantage Big Willie.

Aaaaay! Check out Scottish Fonzie

After some wooden line reads from Joe and Graham, Gordon has the Home Cooks lift their wooden Mystery Boxes. Inside is a knife sticking out of a cutting board. “We’re all going to be hacking at the same giant dead creature under the giant box,” Elizabeth tells us. Who said anything about dead? Paula Deen’s not dead.

“Things are about to get a little cutthroat in here,” quips Elise before jamming her knife into Cutter’s throat. 12 chefs remain.

The giant Mystery Box slowly rises as vapor pours out from underneath. Inside are the “freshest, most incredible salmon that money can buy,” says Gordon. “Wild King Salmon, line caught from the pristine waters of Alaska.” Elizabeth likes the look of these giant dead creatures.

Christian tells us, “Oh, hell yeah. It’s time to show these clowns what I really really got.” Yo, I'll tell you what he got, what he really really got. So tell me what he got, what he really really got. I’ll tell you what he got, what he really really got. So tell me what he got, what he really really got. He gotta. He gotta. He gotta. He gotta. He gotta really really really gotta zigazig salmon.

“This fish is not something that you can buy at your grocery store,” says Courtney. Not even at Walmart? WTF, Gordon?

Daniel looks deeply into his salmon’s eyes. You’re a fish out of water, my scaly friend. I am the same. Let us leave this place and find our own stream. We’ll swim against the current together, and make sweet love beyond the frothy white waters. Our spawn may be hideous tattooed fish people, but they will be our hideous tattooed fish people.

There’s one fish left, and Gordon takes it. He’s going to fillet it, Graham’s going to cook it, and Joe’s going to throw it in the trash. Before time begins, Gordon reveals to them that each salmon is worth around $450. Leslie throws his into the trash.

Time begins, and the Home Cooks and Gordon get going. A lot of the Home Cooks have never filleted a fish before, yet no one seems to be watching Gordon do his. How hard can it be? 

Christian knows what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is showing these clowns what he really really got.

Courtney is basting her salmon in a miso butter and sautéing broccolini, because that is the key to never working in a gentleman’s club again. “Winning this can change not just my life but my family’s life,” she says in an interview, showing actual human emotion for the first time. Compare this moment to when she was “sad” for Willie. Now here is a contestant I can finally root for.

Christine is preparing pre-chewed salmon.

Graham finishes cooking well before everyone else, and serves Joe his beautiful dish with over 30 minutes left on the clock.

MEDIC! Elise is not doing so hot. During the airing of the episode, she tweeted that she has anxiety induced hypoglycemia. No jokes. It does not look like much fun. She probably won’t be able to finish her salmon pie. …ok, one joke.

Meanwhile, Joe keeps on eating. Dinner and a show? This is the life.

Elise recovers with 20 minutes remaining. “I’m embarrassed but ready to cook,” she says, giving a thumbs up. No reason to be embarrassed, Elise. I mean, at least you didn’t wear a pleather jacket.

Stop. Hands in the air.

First up is Christian who brings his dish forward to the applause of the clowns around him. He presents his blackened salmon with tomato puree and vegetables. Gordon says he has a lot of balls to blacken a salmon. “Is it a fluke? Or is this you?” asks Gordon. Christian responds, “This is me on a plate.” So, not a fluke. Or salmon, apparently.

Courtney gets the call next, and Elizabeth is not surprised. Graham loves her seared salmon, and she thanks him around a dozen times. Gordon also gets thanked a few times after enjoying her dish. No thanks to Joe, however.

Last is Elizabeth who does not seem surprised. Neither is Leslie, who calls her his "Wow Girl." You want compliments? Leslie will give you compliments! Elizabeth courageously baked her salmon, and even though Joe’s already on his fourth salmon of the evening, he still loves it.

Gordon moseys through his announcement of the winner. “They do it on purpose. They speak as slowly as they can,” says Courtney. “Put me out of my misery.” Same.

Gordon finally reveals the winner. “Congratulations—(commercial break)—Christian.” He celebrates with a dozen soft wows. Christian is his own Wow Boy.

In the MasterChef Pantry, the judges tell Christian that he won’t have to cook in the Elimination Challenge. Each of them pulls out an empty basket, which they fill with items from the MasterChef Pantry. Christian, self-proclaimed king, gets to choose which basket the other Home Cooks will have to cook from.

In Joe’s basket is the bounty of Italy, basically all booze and a little cheese. Graham’s got a bunch of veggies in his, doctor’s orders. Gordon’s has a taste of his home, the U.K., so no taste at all.

Back in the MasterChef Kitchen, Christian heads up to the MasterChef Balcony while the judges tell everyone else to go to the MasterChef Pantry to find out what they’ll be cooking. They get back there and discover—booze!

They each grab a basket and bring it back to his/her station, the most difficult portion of the challenge for diminutive Jaimee. Apparently, there’s more than wine and cheese in the basket. There’s also some prosciutto, artichokes, and a bunch of other stuff that neither I nor Jaimee can pronounce. 

They each get 60 minutes to cook except for one Home Cook who will only get 30. Christian gets to pick who that is, and he’s going to blow it. Everyone blows it when they get an advantage like this. How do they blow it? They always pick a strong chef. Why is this blowing it? Because no one in the history of MasterChef has ever lost after being handed a disadvantage! You should always give it to the weakest competitor, since that’s who you want to stay in the competition. Giving it to a strong cook is just giving them a free pass.

Christian blows it and picks Courtney. How do you go on this show without reading my recaps first? That’s just reckless.

The clock starts, and everyone gets cooking.

Joe asks the other judges who is going to struggle in this challenge. Gordon says that it’s Elise because—well, it’s pretty obvious that Elise has been living on borrowed time. He also thinks Ahran will struggle because she’s too young to drink wine. Graham thinks Courtney will struggle, because he doesn’t read my recaps. He reads the recaps that @chrislaker writes for the New York Observer, objectively inferior recaps.

Victoria pops the cork on a bottle of wine and scares Elizabeth to death. 11 chefs remain.

Elise is making pasta for only the second time ever, so she is not feeling confident. Christine, however, is to making pasta what she isn’t to filleting salmon.

Gordon visits Cutter, who is making little flatbread pizzas, because as a Texan, he likes everything small. “So it’s all about what Cutter likes and not what the judges want to see?” asks Gordon. Cutter responds with a quick and defiant yep. The yep is both small and big at the same time, a truly Texan yep.

Ahran is making a savory tiramisu. Joe is intrigued and excited and maybe a little drunk. Graham asks her who she thinks is most in danger to go home, and Ahran says Courtney because she is too young to read these foul recaps.

30 minutes pass, and Courtney swings in with confidence. Meanwhile, Elise is making a mountain out of her crumbling pasta dough in hopes that aliens will come to take her away. She fully admits that she is in the middle of a disaster, and the medics are on standby.

Leslie is in his comfort zone, guzzling wine. Joe warns him not to get tanked. “What are you kidding me?” he replies. “I’m 56. That’s all I do.” Joe and Graham love it, and so do I. I’m really hoping Leslie drunkenly hits on Wow Girl before this episode is over.

Wow Girl is making a breakfast lasagne, and Joe is excited. Big Willie is making a tomato soup with a fried egg on top and flatbread, and Gordon is bemused. “Sounds weird,” says Gordon. [Insert joke about Willie putting himself on the plate here.

Cook, cook, cook.

Plate, plate, plate.

Stop. Hands in the air. Well done. Great job.

First up is Courtney with her half-the-time-allotted spaghetti with mushroom ragu and artichokes. Gordon loves it. Graham loves it. Joe loves it. My 6-week course on How to Win MasterChef begins this October. Sign up now.

Next is Cutter with his artisan pizza—wait. Time out. “An artisan pizza?” asks an incredulous Gordon. This time, Cutter can only laugh at himself. Joe takes a bite just so he can spit it out. “It pissed Joe off. It pissed Gordon off,” Cutter tells us, “but I thought it tasted good.” How pizza is too pizza? Or rather, how pizza is not enough pizza?

Leslie stumbles forward with his dish, slapping Elizabeth’s ass on the way. He has prepared an artichoke ravioli with prosciutto and mushrooms. Graham thinks the ravioli is good, the sauce is just okay, and the plating is awful. It isn’t easy to make your dish look beautiful when the plate is spinning.

Willie presents his un-Italian tomato soup with fried egg and flatbread. He rates it an 8. Gordon rates it a 1. The fried egg may be floating on the tomato soup, but Gordon’s boat certainly is not.

Next are Christine and her mushroom caramelle with brown butter sage sauce. “I expected a lot,” says Joe, “and you delivered a lot. This is really quite good.” Sell your Christine fish stock and buy Christine pasta stock.

Gordon calls up Ahran and her savory tiramisu with mushroom prosciutto sauce. Gordon asks her if she’s been drinking, but she says she doesn’t even know how to open the bottle. Leslie steals her bottles. Gordon tries her crazy dish and is pleasantly surprised by how much he likes it.

Elizabeth brings forward her breakfast lasagne with artichoke heart salad. Joe declares his love for the dish before even tasting it. Then he tastes it. “Wow,” he says. “This is amazing.” Score another wow for Wow Girl.

Gordon calls up Elise. She makes it halfway to the front before the medics have to check on her. After a few minutes and many electrolytes, they give the go ahead for her to continue forward with her dish. She puts her plate in front of Gordon and can barely keep it together. “I’ve just lost some confidence in the kitchen, and it’s very difficult to get it back,” she confesses while choking back tears. She presents non-pie, sad ravioli in a red wine tomato sauce. Gordon asks if she’s given up, and she unconvincingly says she has not. “It tastes like it,” says Gordon.

That’s it for the tasting, and Graham announces that Ahran is the first winner for taking a huge risk and coming through. Joe announces the second winner, who is actually the winner winner, and that person is the Wow Girl herself, Elizabeth. They’ll both be the team captains next episode, but now it’s time for the loser losers.

The judges are only bringing two loser losers down, because their dishes were so much worse than everyone else’s. Gordon asks them to raise their hands, and Cutter, Elise, and Willie each raise their hands. Gordon once again asks for only two hands, and Cutter thinks that maybe his dish actually isn’t in the bottom two, so he lowers his. Wrong. Elise and Cutter, come on down.

Elise has already accepted that she’s going home, while Cutter feels that he is better than Elise.

Gordon delivers the news. “Elise, tonight’s ravioli was dreadful. Cutter, you’ve been in the bottom across five challenges, produced some good dishes, but it’s not your cooking ability, it’s your stubbornness that’s stopping you from taking it to the next stage. The unlucky thirteenth individual in this competition—the only that will be leaving the MasterChef Kitchen tonight—the one that we think we cannot work with any longer—” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips and nods in agreement. “That person is—Elise.”

Cutter survives again. He gives Elise a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Gordon gives her some words of encouragement, telling her not to be afraid of making mistakes, and that he’s made more than everyone in the room combined. She comes up to shake the hands of the judges, but Gordon gives her a big hug instead. How great is that? It even touches my horrible Grinch heart.

Elise was a little overmatched in this competition, and it is not a surprise to see her go home. But she gave it her best and cooked with emotion. Granted, her emotion may have been her enemy at times, but if given the choice, I’d rather feel too much than nothing at all.

Good luck and goodbye, Elise. I’m hoping you aren’t stuck at your crappy job anymore, and if you are, I hope they forgive you for calling your crappy job crappy. Don’t give up. Keep baking those pies. And if all else fails, tattoo one on your neck.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

S5E8: A Fine Diner Experience

The Top 14 are on a bus headed to beautiful Culver City, one of the last bastions of affordable housing on this side of the mountain that divides Los Angeles into the Valley and the Thank-God-This-Isn’t-The-Valley.

The MasterCream is starting to rise to the top as Elizabeth breaks down who she thinks are the best cooks remaining: Courtney, Christine, Willie, Jaimee, and herself. Of course, Leslie seems to know what he’s doing, too. And Victoria has put together some good dishes lately. Oh, and Ahran has matured into quite the contender. And let’s not forget about Daniel, who said some really nice things about me on Twitter. Cutter looks like he might be formidable if they stop making him bake desserts. Or there’s Christian who honestly impresses me more each episode. And then, of course, there is Francis who always has something up his sleeve, and it very well might be crazy knock out gas.

So, basically it’s down to everyone but Elise and Dan. They’re boned.

It’s another Team Challenge! “I don’t want to get too excited or too depressed,” says Leslie, summing up my personal feelings perfectly. Graham leads the Home Cooks into a diner named Dinah’s, and inside, Joe and Gordon are stuffing their gullets. They might as well be shoving Graham’s face into their plates of pancakes and bacon.

The Home Cooks will be making all of the food served at the diner today. It’s a pretty normal set up if you’ve ever seen MasterChef before, which Christian has not.

The judges (re: producers) will be picking the team captains. They’re picking based on the least amount of screen time lately, and Christine gets the red team. Christine is an investment director on Wall Street, and she’s here to work her ass off. Don’t sell her short or she will short sell you.

Gordon announces the leader of the blue team, “The second team captain has a big heart, big flavors, and a big—Willie!” The other Home Cooks cheer as Willie makes his way to the front to get his apron but trips over his gigantic penis on the way and crashes to the floor. Apparently, it wasn’t a joke. That thing is a monster.

The judges (re: producers) are also getting to pick the teams, and they decide to go with the classic (re: tired) Hell’s Kitchen format: the Willies versus the Won’ties—That’s no good. Let me try again.—The Willies versus the Inverted Willies? Ugh. Whatever, it’s boys versus girls.

“Boys versus girls is, like, the best idea ever,” says Courtney who’s never heard a good idea in her life, “because everybody knows that girls rule and boys drool.” Hey, MasterChef producers, do you need a writer? BECAUSE YOU NEED A WRITER.

It appears that Gordon is as bored with this episode as I am. He instructs each team to pick a member of the opposing side that they would like to have on their own team. The Wilhelminas choose Christian. “Me? By myself? All women? Who would not love that?” says Christian who is so getting laid. Poor Dan Wu. He also wanted to get laid.

The blue team selects Victoria who is also so getting laid.

The doors open, and each team will be playing for tips, so it’s bad news for whomever gets this table

Cook, cook, cook.

Christine has taken command of her team. She expedites with confidence, “Next ticket! Two fried chicken! Two club sandwiches! (Buy! Buy! Now sell! Sell it all!)”

Willie, meanwhile, is no Jordan Belfort. He’s probably never done cocaine in his life, let alone off a stripper’s ass, so expediting is going to be a difficult job for him. As Willie begins drowning in a sea of club sandwiches, notorious pirate mutineer Daniel offers to relieve Willie of his expeditionary duties. But Willie insists on two things: 1) Going down with his ship, and 2) Sinking his ship.

Gordon asks the elderly ladies how things are going. One lady replies, “We’re doing great. (Ethel died waiting for her food to come, but it was just her time to go.)”

The red team runs into some trouble with Elise who is making the club sandwiches. All she knows about clubs is what she learned from watching Jersey Shore, and on Jersey Shore, they went to clubs to smush. Ergo, she smushes all of her clubs.

It’s not much better on the blue team as Leslie has difficulty with the egg station. These are chicken eggs he working with, but he’s much more familiar with the quail and Fabergé varieties.

The blue team has so much trouble getting the food out that the extras hired to pretend to be diners are exasperated. They are so fed up—or not fed up, rather—that they leave in an over-the-top huff, and head straight to the craft service table. Yeah, these people are totally friends that love to go eat at diners together. 

The red team serves some raw chicken, the blue team continues to suck, and this man is just now noticing his wife’s hair for the first time. I’m over the diner challenge. Let’s skip ahead.

The judges grab the tip jars and leave to count them in private. I’m certain they’ll be completely fair about the count, but @calvinqlam isn’t so sure.

Back at the MasterChef Kitchen, the judges announce the winning team. It’s—commercial break—the red team! The blue team is handed the Dreaded Black Aprons for the Dreaded Pressure Test, but before they put them on, let’s have a look at Francis’s outfit for today. Would you believe I’m wearing the exact same thing while typing this? You shouldn’t. I’m actually wearing nothing but a terrycloth bathrobe while sitting on my hotel balcony, watching gentle morning waves roll into the Santa Monica shore. It’s not just Leslie living the good life, suckers.

Christine revels in the victory, claiming it as a win for women everywhere. She tells us, “That goes out to all the men that don’t want to pick a girl on their team. Boom!” Ouch. Right in our Willies.

Willie gets to save either three members of his team or just himself from the Dreaded Pressure Test. Of course, Willie decides to save three people because he has a big heart and an even bigger Willie. He saves Daniel first, and Daniel says it’s because he hasn’t made any enemies. Leslie disagrees with a laugh, and Daniel decides to increase the animosity between them. Harnessing his inner James Spader, Daniel tells Gordon, “(Leslie) doesn’t know how to be a grownup even though he’s the oldest man here. He’s a child.”

Willie also saves Francis and Victoria, leaving himself, Leslie, Dan, and Cutter to cook against each other in the Dreaded Pressure Test. For this challenge, they will be preparing a “beautiful, moist, delicious red velvet cake.” Another dessert? What is going on with all of the dessert challenges this season? Pastries must test well with Nielson families, and these Nielson families must not test well with their family doctors.

They have 90 minutes to make a red velvet cake with at least three delectable layers, and in each of these layers there must be stunning cake. Time begins, and they get baking.

“I’m not terribly happy about having to cook in a Pressure Test. I’m not happy about having to do cake. That’s for sure,” says Dan who’s not even certain what happiness feels like. Meanwhile, Cutter seems to have finally embraced either desserts or his fate.

Willie has made more than his fair share of red velvet cakes in his day. He says that the secret to making a moist cake is not over-working it. If not working is the key to this challenge, then Leslie should be great at it. He’s relaxed and cooking with ease, despite all of the knives in his back.

The judges are worried about Dan and Cutter. Dan’s batter was too thick going into the oven and his layers appear uneven. Cutter is really getting into decorating his cake. I mean, he is really getting into it

Cooking time ends, and tasting time begins.

Big Willie’s red velvet cake is topped with cream cheese frosting and dusted with toasted pecans. It’s sloping a little bit, but Gordon slices into it and pulls out a perfectly layered piece. It tastes as good as it looks, and the honorable Big Willie is safe for another week.

Joe inspects Leslie’s pistachio dusted cake next. Joe loves it and continues eating while asking Leslie why there’s so much antagonism toward him. Leslie says he doesn’t know, and Cutter laughs. Probably not a good idea to rip Leslie who just produced a safety-ensuring cake when his own cake is still to be judged. But Cutter has never been one for preserving his own skin. When he sees an issue—be it a drowning man in choppy seas or an oblivious man in wavy silver hair—he dives right in.

Dan’s cake is next, and he knows that he is in trouble. “I got off to a decent start,” he starts, “made a couple mistakes, got frazzled, did not level off the cake enough, so it’s a little uneven.” Meanwhile, Joe is having trouble pulling Excalibur out of Dan’s cake. He takes a bite and says it’s less of a red velvet cake and more of a “boiled wool cake.”

Last is Cutter’s cake. He’s draped an American flag of icing over the cake, so I can only assume that inside is one of our fallen heroes. Fortunately, this isn’t the case as Gordon cuts inside and instead discovers a “generous portion of frosting.” He takes a bite and says the cake is moist and delicious, but it’s way too sweet. Cutter has a bite himself, likes it, and decides to let the judges know, continually interrupting Graham and Joe in an attempt to talk his way out of a mess.

This time, it’s Cutter who is drowning in a sea of cream cheese frosting, but none of the Home Cooks on the balcony have the search-and-rescue training nor the desire to dive in and save him. At one point Joe infers that Cutter said Gordon’s palate is terrible, which he didn’t say. Cutter corrects him with the unfortunate choice of, “Don’t put words in my mouth.” This reaction from other Home Cooks best sums up how well that went over.

After a momentary whisper huddle, the judges are ready to make their decision. Proven baker Willie is saved first and heads up to the MasterChef Balcony. Leslie’s cake might have even tasted better than Willie’s, and he is saved next. That leaves Dan and Cutter, and Gordon delivers the news as always.

“Dan and Cutter, unfortunately one of you will be leaving this competition shortly,” says Gordon. “One of you has a humble approach,” he says about Dan, confusing silence with humility, “and one of you, a boisterous somewhat disrespectful approach, but ultimately it’s about what you put on a plate, how you cooked across this Pressure Test.”

The judges have another whisper huddle before Gordon continues, “Dan and Cutter, let’s be honest. Both cakes had their ups and downs. However, there was one that has the edge.” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “The person that will be safe—from elimination and not leaving the biggest culinary competition anywhere in the world tonight—Cutter—You are safe.” Cutter shakes the eliminated Dan Wu’s hand and walks upstairs.

Dan started off the season with a lot of promise, and his line of “I’ve had better, I expect better, and I will make better,” is still the best of the year. But he disappeared soon after that episode. His cooking in the challenges wasn’t good enough to overcome his lack of interview sound bites and general on-camera energy, and that will doom you every time on MasterChef.

Goodbye, Dan. I think we had a pretty good time together, didn't we? Yes, I think we did.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

S5E7: Protect Your Turf, But Mind the Surf

“It is Top 15, I’ve got my mojo back, and I feel like I’m walking a little taller—and it has nothing to do with how high my heels are,” says Courtney with a not-at-all evil laugh. Are we sure about that? Those heels do seem to get a little higher with each episode. I think she’s making a statement beyond the world of fashion, metaphorically standing upon the bodies of each Home Cook she has vanquished so far in the competition. By the end of it all, this aerial performer may no longer need her swing to dance among the rafters. She might be the first contestant heard from this episode, but I’m calling out Courtney as the official frontrunner. She could actually win this whole thing, and here’s the biggest clue: she won’t follow me on Twitter. Just like Luca.

Frankie (Francis B.) is a server from Orlando, and he tells us that he cooks Michelin-style. Is he referring to the Michelin Guide, listing the top restaurants in the world, or the rubber tires? It depends on the challenge, presenting stunning Michelin-style meatloaf one week and stupefying Michelin-style donuts the next.

No large teams for this Team Challenge. Today, they’ll be cooking in pairs.

“Leslie, the million-dollar question,” Gordon says to millionaire Leslie, cracking Willie up, “Who would you not want to work with?”

“I-Ron and I do not get along together,” replies Leslie. “Uh-Ron,” Ahran once again corrects. “Uh-Ron, yes. I-Ron,” he responds. Apologies to Joe and Graham, but these two are the new Abbott and Costello of MasterChef. How can anyone not love them?

Christian doesn’t want to cook with Courtney, because she’s not real. He’s from New Orleans and knows a specter when he’s sees one. However, he may have just brought the bad juju down upon his own head as Courtney, the winner from last episode, will get to pick every team.

At home once again in the MasterChef Balcony, Courtney won’t have to cook, leaving an even number of Home Cooks to split into teams. The two worst performing of those teams will have to cook in the Dreaded Pressure Test “that will send at LEAST one person home,” portends Joe. The judges want everyone to know that they don’t necessarily have to only eliminate one contestant at-a-time. Hell, they could send everyone home if they wanted to (let me get some sleep Monday nights).

The first team Courtney picks is Christian, who has been furiously attempting to get his witch doctor on the phone, and Frankie.

She pairs Jaimee with Elizabeth, Victoria with Christine, Cutter with Dan, Willie with Daniel, Ahran—who might “die in a hole because it’s so unfair”—with Leslie, and Francis with Elise. Courtney gives us some pretty fun teams to watch, and I imagine the producers feel like they couldn’t do better themselves.

Graham and Joe each wheel out a long MasterBin. In Graham’s bin is surf, and Joe has the turf. It’s surf & turf! The MasterCrowd goes wild. Victoria is “pretty amped up.” Former-search-and-rescue-diver-turned-petroleum-landman Cutter has knowledge of both surf and turf, so he’s not worried about this challenge.

They’ll have an hour to cook but only during the first five of those 60 minutes will they be allowed in the MasterChef Pantry to get everything they need, and they won’t be able to go back in once they surely blow it.

Time begins, and the Home Cooks run to the MasterChef Pantry with Florence Griffith Leslie (Flo-Lo) leading the way. “Yeah! Go, Leslie!” cheers Ahran. All it takes is a display of physical acumen from Leslie for all to be forgiven between the two. I’m going to try this in my own life. Next time I boorishly upset someone, I’ll drop and bang out 20 pushups as a token of apology.

Whisper, whisper, whisper.

The teams each quietly and quickly put together a plan. Dan and Cutter immediately start butting heads and continue to do so for the full five minutes. “We have two proteins that do not go together and seven items out of the pantry,” Cutter tells us. He’s praying that they can pull it off, but unfortunately for him, Courtney in the MasterChef Balcony is blocking each prayer before it can get to its respective deity.

Victoria and Christine are making a pork belly wrapped facehugger—I mean, monkfish. Christian and Frankie are working on a very American rib-eye steak and king crab cream sauce. “To be honest with you,” says Honest Christian, “Francis (Frankie) is awesome.” He thanks Courtney for making them partners and begs her not to haunt his progeny for the next 200 years.

Joe and Graham visit Scottish Francis’s station and inspect his various chemicals. “So are you making a frothy, bubbly action?” asks Graham. “I’m going to make a blood orange foam,” replies Francis. And then he’s going to cover Elise with said foam. From there, he’s not sure, but once Elise is completely coated in bubbly, frothy foam, things should clear up for him.

Graham visits Cutter and Dan Wu’s paradise of teamwork and friendship, but it doesn’t take him long to realize that these two are definitely not a couple of bronies. “I ain’t going to lie. I ain’t okay,” says Cutter. He tells us, “I know I’m probably going to a Pressure Test, because I have an idiot as a partner.” Is Dan an idiot? It’s hard to tell, since he has yet to say anything audible this episode. “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” said Abraham Lincoln…or maybe Confucius…or possibly the Bible. Let’s go with Confucius for this one.

“She feels we’re alpha males,” Christian gives as the reason Courtney paired him with Frankie. “Do you think that your personality’s intimidating or your cooking?” asks Graham, whose cooking is intimidating, while standing next to Joe, whose personality is intimidating. “Cooking,” replies Christian, “and my personality. ‘Cause I don’t take (bleep) from nobody.” He ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Ahran and Leslie are making a spicy pork belly and sweet crab stack. Gordon asks who the head chef is. “I-Ron. I-Ron is the head chef,” says Leslie. “A—Ah. Just shout, ‘Ah!’” pleads Gordon. Leslie does. 

Cook, cook, cook.

Time ends. Hugging begins. Judging quickly follows.

Ahran and Leslie are first. Their final creation is a pork belly tostada with crab guacamole and kimchi fried rice. It’s a masterpiece, and Taco Bell shutters its doors forever. Ahran and Leslie are besties now and head off to get matching henna tattoos.

Side note: On Twitter earlier this week, Ahran came back to tell us she’s gone. As if we didn’t know that. As if we didn’t know our own feed. I think it’s because all the creeps on Twitter couldn’t help but notice the way she brushed her hair from forehead.

Dan and Cutter are next, and Courtney does not think their plate is very pretty. Gordon is a little more blunt. “What in the fuck is that?” he asks them. Some people just don’t work well in teams. Lawd knows, I can be a difficult partner to work with. Is Dan to blame for this? Cutter certainly thinks so. I think five minutes just isn’t enough time for two strong personalities to get through the process of defending their own ideas before coming to either a compromise or for one to submit to the other. Gordon tries the tuna and hates it. Joe comes up and Cutter tells him he doesn’t have to eat it. “I’m a judge here,” says Joe, “so why don’t you let me figure out what I have to do and what I don’t have to do? I know how to do my job.” He then proceeds to have Cutter do his job and throw their dish into the trash.

Next are Francis and Elise. They prepared a rack of lamb with crab risotto, yogurt and caviar, and holy shit, if that isn’t the most Francis-looking dish… “Frog spawn,” Gordon calls it. And that’s why he’s Gordon Ramsay. No one can painfully describe a dish as concisely as the true master.

Jaimee and Elizabeth present their lamb and red snapper with carrots and kale. A red snapper! Mmm, very tasty! They made a wise choice and didn’t go for what’s in the box. Joe likes it, and they’re safe.

Next are Daniel and Willie with their seared ahi tuna with buttermilk miso fried chicken. It has creativity. It has character. It’s Daniel and Willie on the plate. High five.

Victoria and Christine present their pork belly and monkfish with green apple risotto to Graham who instantly remarks that it’s beautiful. If you make this look like this, then you get to move on.

Christian and Frankie bring forward their Moroccan spiced rib-eye with king crab. Gordon is not feeling it. “To be honest with you,” says Christiaham Lincoln, “you know, seeing those other dishes come up here and whatnot, I just feel we could have gave a little more creativity.” Gordon calls their dish a school dinner, one of the harshest insults one can receive on MasterChef, even worse than frog spawn.

The winning dish goes to Victoria and Christine, and they can’t believe it. They are almost as excited about winning this challenge as I am about the season premiere of Hotel Hell coming in two weeks only on FOX.

Jaimee & Elizabeth, Willie & Daniel, and Ahran & Leslie are also safe. The dregs of MasterSociety are brought to the front. One more team will be saved after these whispers.

Whisper, whisper, whisper.

“The team that are safe from that Dreaded Pressure Test—is—Christian and Francis B.,” Gordon says as Frankie breathes a sigh of relief, prematurely, “it’s not you.” There it is. The classic Gordon Ramsay fakeout. He’s on top of his game today. Elise and Francis get the reprieve, and it’s all too much for the leopard printed Highlander

Cutter, who I’m starting to think is one of Jason Sudeikis’s best characters yet, is pissed off at the whole situation. Let’s see if he can take that anger and bottle it into something delicious and incredible—or rather, wrap it into something delicious and incredible. For this Dreaded Pressure Test, they’ll have to make delicious and incredible spring rolls. If anyone has an advantage this challenge, I couldn’t tell you wu it is.

Christian, Frankie, Dan, and Cutter each put on their Dreaded black aprons and have 60 minutes to make six stunning spring rolls and a delicious dipping sauce. Time begins, and they get cooking. Dan and Frankie are confident; Christian and Cutter are not.

If Cutter doesn’t go home, he thinks Dan should. “Really? Dan Wu?” ask Gordon. “I mean, he lived in China for years.” I don’t think they actually make spring rolls in China, do they? Or is that egg rolls? Or are spring rolls and egg rolls the same thing? Someone help me here. I’m too tired to google.

“Dan Wu, Dan Wow!” says Elise, as she and Jaimee are enjoying the show from the MasterChef Balcony. Dan’s using the pasta maker to flatten his dough instead of a rolling pin. Daniel thinks it’s smart, Joe isn’t so sure. How do they do it or don’t in China?

Graham tries to give Frankie a pep talk by first reminding him of all of his recent failings. Perhaps, like most of the ladies in this competition, Graham has fallen for Frankie and has decided to make his move with a little negging.

Cook, cook, cook.

Whisper, whisper, whisper.

One of Cutter’s rolls bursts open in the deep fryer. He instinctively dives into the hot oil to rescue it. So brave.

Frankie’s rolls are looking anemic, according to Gordon. “Why so white?” he asks. Seriously, America. Why so white? Frankie tosses his already-fried spring rolls into a frying pan for a little of that double-fried, greasy goodness. Now, that’s the America I want to see.

Stop. Hands in the air.

Christian’s spring rolls go first. Graham takes a bite and looks up and to the left. There he finds his answer: the flavor is great. They aren’t perfect, but Christian will be safe.

Next, Joe examines Frankie’s rolls. “The ratio of filling is obviously way out of proportion,” he says. It’s the greasy goodness that’s the real problem. Joe takes the excess grease from the spring rolls and rubs it onto his head to get that extra sheen before conferring with the other judges.

Gordon tries Dan’s spring rolls, and he raves about the sauce. His casings are a little thick, so it appears using the pasta roller wasn’t so smart after all. Gordon is disappointed, but the sauce will probably get him through. I mean, they can’t really judge Dan’s spring rolls harder than the rest just because he’s Chinese. At least, they shouldn’t. I mean, spring rolls aren’t even from China! Or they are! I don’t know!

Cutter presents his spring rolls with a thimble of sauce to Joe. The rolls aren’t crispy and are heavy on the dough. “Very sweet. No acid at all,” declares Joe. Cutter put some vinegar in there to cut it, but perhaps he cuttered it too much.

It’s coming down to Frankie’s greasiness versus Cutter’s thickness as to who is going home. Or maybe they both are, as the judges keep warning us. Christian had the best spring rolls by far and gets sent to the MasterChef Balcony. Dan’s sauce saves him, and he follows Christian upstairs.

Graham removes his glasses, so we know the tough news is coming next. Gordon delivers it. “We said at least one of you will be leaving this kitchen tonight. Francis and Cutter, I’m afraid you are both—both, in big trouble.”

“Holy schnikies,” says Elizabeth.

“This is intense,” says Daniel.

Gordon continues, “Cutter—you’re leaving—the floor and joining the rest of them upstairs in the balcony. Say goodbye to Francis B.”

Joe sums up Frankie’s journey, “You were definitely a frontrunner, and then we saw the fall of Francis B…It’s kind of ironic that Courtney was really targeting Christian and put you as the anchor to his leg but you wound up being the one to sink.” Ironic, that. Anchors sinking.

In his interview, Frankie tells us that he doesn’t want to wait tables forever. “After being in the MasterChef Kitchen, you definitely leave inspired as a cook, and you hope for something more, something better.” Certainly, he’ll find something better than being a server for the rest of his life.

Well, Frankie, I didn’t expect to see you leave so soon. I’m sure the ladies are particularly sad to see you go, but I’m guessing your girlfriend is happy to no longer have me pointing out their attraction to you. You’re young and talented, and you have both the gifts and time to make your dreams a reality. Just remember, though, when people tell you that you’re great, don’t listen to them. Don’t get comfortable. Keep putting yourself in difficult situations and surround yourself with people you feel are better than you. This is how you'll get even better. You are going to make it on this road through life. Just, please, avoid the holes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

S5E6: "Panna Caughta" - An Honest Mistake

Tyler’s a self-proclaimed country boy from Wilmington, Ohio, and he’s already accomplished what no one else has in the history of MasterChef: make it to the Top 16 while wearing camouflage. How has he done it? Well, we haven’t seen much of him so far this season, so my guess is that the camo is working. However, the producers might as well have slapped an orange safety vest on him with the extended introduction to this episode he’s given. His only hope of avoiding detection is Ahran getting shot down first as she’s the second Home Cook we hear from.

It’s Mystery Box time, once again. Every contestant is hoping to see something in his or her comfort zone. For Tyler, that’s a squirrel or maybe a wascawy wabbit. Christine does eat meat AND she sure like the bone…marrow. “I could really get down and dirty with some bone marrow,” she says. Well, I think we’d all like to see that, but there isn’t bone marrow under the Mystery Box, nor squirrel, nor wabbit. Instead, there are a few dozen unlabeled Mystery Cans.

It’s the kind of challenge you love to see if you’re traveling down a road in a Cormac McCarthy novel or if you’re Willie. He tells us, “Where I’m from, everything we do is in a can.” It’s true. In Big Willie’s town, they eat from cans, they sleep in cans, they go to school in a can, and everyone has a can-do attitude. If you get canned from your job, it’s a good thing, and every person there has been blessed with a nice set of cans. Careful mentioning Kansas though. They’ll think you’re talking about the Son of God.

“This is like a doomsday preppers dream come true,” says Elizabeth, taking the wind out of my Cormac McCarthy joke. Each Home Cook has the same 52 cans, and they can open and either use or discard as many as they like. They also get a staple pantry box including milk, eggs, and flour “to help make your dishes shine,” says Graham. They have the usual 60 minutes, and the dishes will be judged on appearance, taste, and—most importantly—shininess.

Time begins, and the Home Cooks begin working those can openers. Suddenly, a horde of cats rush into the MasterChef Kitchen. Tyler begins collecting them, feeling fortunate that it’s cat season.

Gordon asks Joe what he would do for this challenge. “I would definitely take that spinach,” he says. “Wash it out good, lots of garlic to take the can flavor away, and (then take all of the cans and throw them in the garbage and then find a nice restaurant in the city, sit down, flag a waiter, and then) do maybe like an orechiette with garlic and spinach.”

Willie is making eggs Benedict while Elizabeth is preparing a creamy beet and potato soup with a crispy potted meat topping. “It’s going to be like a borscht,” she says. Before, it appeared that Willie had the advantage in this challenge, but now it looks like Elizabeth is in control due to her very sad “childhood filled with canned food.”

Ahran has never seen cans in her life, so after she manages to finally get one open and discovers fruit inside, she decides that that is enough can opening for one day. Jaimee is stumped and about to start crying. She opens another can to find it already filled with tears, leaving her basically nothing to offer.

Scottish Francis is experimenting. He’s taken the juice from every seafood can and mixed them all together. “Wow,” says Gordon. “Everyone’s discarded the juices, and you’re going…” He trails off as he looks up to see Francis sipping fish juice through a straw from a highball glass. “I’ve made an amazing seafood stock here,” he says to Gordon, who slowly backs away.

“Hello, Ahran,” says Joe as he and Graham approach her station. “What do you know about cooking with canned food? Making a little fruit salad?” First off, Joe, it’s pronounced Ahran, not Ahran. And secondly, she’s making a sponge cake, much to the delight of the judges. Desserts are all the rage on MasterChef this year.

Christine is working efficiently, two-fisting pitchers at her station, but Jaimee still hasn't finished naming her cans yet

At Victoria’s station, Gordon tells her, “We haven’t actually seen you shine yet.” She responds, “You know, I haven’t shown up like I wanted to show up.” Victoria hasn’t been able to pin down the perfect denim shirt for the competition, but tonight she’s sporting a sharp chambray number buttoned to the neck. “I want to be someone that people are looking out for,” she says.

Cook, cook, cook.

“They may be cans, but you can make a delicious meal,” quips Gordon. I can’t even. No, wait. I think I can even.

Stop. Hands in the air.

The top three are brought forward one-at-a-time, and the first is Elizabeth with her borscht. She got that creaminess she wanted, and the judges are impressed.

Next up is Victoria for the first time this season. She made a potted meat fritter with an artichoke and beet salad. She used eight cans, five meats, and one chambray shirt.

Last are Ahran and her sponge cake. “Certainly the smartest dish,” says Joe. “…the intelligence of making a dessert…this is brilliant.” I think he likes it. Gordon tells her that she has “the biggest set of balls in this competition.” Some credit should go to Leslie for encouraging her to grow those balls.

Elizabeth has the borscht with the morscht and gets the win. She joins the judges in the MasterChef Pantry. But they won’t be telling her what her competitors will be cooking. That honor goes to the latest winners of MasterChef and MasterChef Junior: Luca and Alexander.

Luca comes out and gives us the news that he and his wife are expecting a baby, and if you’re a MasterChef Theatre reader from last season, you’ll know that this means he finally has his very own cookbook. Joe presents it to Elizabeth, but she decides to wait to purchase it until the paperback comes out.

Next comes Alexander, who I’m convinced is the reincarnation of Julia Child. Ugh, this is the reason I don’t recap MasterChef Junior. I feel uncomfortable even making that Julia Child reference. The kids are too young to joke with. Now, if I could have written only about their fame-hungry parents, that would be a different story.

Both Luca and Alexander have each brought their signature dish, and Elizabeth gets to choose who cooks what while not having to cook herself. Luca presents his pancetta wrapped veal with radicchio and apples, and its beauty immediately intimidates Willie. Alexander reveals his passion fruit panna cotta with berry coulis and hazelnuts. Elizabeth’s strategy is to give the panna cotta to those she thinks have no finesse and the veal to the weak palates.

Cutter gets the panna cotta, because he has bear claws for hands, not exactly known for their dexterity. “Death by desserts,” he roars and lumbers to the front. The rest of the panna cotta coterie: Christian, Jaimee, Christine, Ahran—sorry, I mean Ahran, Frankie, Victoria, and Tyler.

That leaves the rest to make the veal, and I don’t have the time nor the patience to figure out who they are. Besides, it’s already very clear that the panna cotta is the dish that will be sending someone home.

They all come up to taste the dishes. Jaimee is mentally cataloging the flavor profiles in the panna cotta and is feeling very confident, unfamiliar territory for her. I don’t see a panna cotta tattoo either, so color me worried. Courtney chows down on the veal, and is also feeling confident, very familiar territory for her. “I guess I’m starting to realize that I have a really good palate, and I’m going to kick this dish’s ass,” she tells us. Is this the Dunning-Kruger effect in full effect?

They head to the MasterChef Pantry, and Willie has trouble finding the cans of radicchio.

Joe visits Christian’s station and asks him why Elizabeth gave him the panna cotta. He replies, “To be honest with you, I really don’t know. And honestly, I really don’t care. To be honest with you, I’m trying to learn as I go.” I think he’s being honest with us, but honestly, the more someone tells me they’re honest, the less honesty I expect from them. But that’s just me being honest.

Willie is searing the veal before wrapping it in pancetta. Gordon makes it very clear that this is a bad idea, but Willie Badger don’t care. Luca also thinks it’s a bad idea saying, “You need to learn how to walk before you start running.” But if Willie running is what he’s concerned about…I just don’t think Willie has plans to do much running.

Gordon visits Cutter’s war zone of a station. “It’s not panna cotta. It’s panic Cutter,” Gordon tells him. Where is Graham this episode? These are his lines that Gordon’s stealing, right? I’m guessing with the ending of Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon has decided that he needs a little more screen time here.

MasterSabotage! “What the f—,” exclaims Jaimee in her loudest—yet still very quiet—voice. Someone has removed one of her panna cotte from the blast chiller. That is so not chill. Her two remaining panna cotte look like puddles of goo, and she desperately wishes she had her third puddle of goo.

Stop. Hands in the air.

Gordon sends Luca and Alexander out of the MasterChef Kitchen and back to their MasterChef Holding Cells, and the tasting begins.

Courtney goes first with her “photo replication of Luca’s dish,” according to her. Gordon loves it. So does Graham. And so does—wait a minute. Why are we being shown Courtney’s shoes? Joe loves the dish, but I'm still thinking about those shoes. I mean, what? Why? We see her shoes once more as she goes back to her station.

Big Willie is next. Gordon says his veal is going to be dry. He tastes it, and it’s dry. This is a big disappointment for Willie, and I’m sure he feels—whoa! Look at his shoes! “Unfortunately, Big Willie’s was kind of a letdown, which made me really sad,” says Courtney, trying her hardest to imitate the emotion of empathy.

Christian presents his panna cotta, and it looks good. But Christian instantly admits that it is not. Will his honesty never cease? Graham says he used too much gelatin. The truth is in the pudding, but this is panna cotta we’re talking about.

Cutter finally nails a dessert. Someone give this bear a pic-a-nic basket.

Jaimee presents her sadness pile on a failure plate. Graham tastes the mush and says it tastes like a “really good pudding.” Truth.

Last is Tyler, and he requests three blindfolds. “Is there anything you want to tell me about this dish,” says Gordon. Uh oh. It looks like Gordon has found the panna cotta thief, and he’s trying to procure a confession. Tyler thinks he is referring to the goop on his plate and says that he had to “jackknife powerbomb” the ramekin to get the panna cotta out.

Gordon performs his own version of a jackknife powerbomb, “For the very first time in MasterChef history, I am sorry to tell you that someone has brought us a dish that they did not cook.” Tyler has no idea what he’s talking about. Gordon goes to the blast chiller and pulls out a tray of panna cotte, still with four full ramekins on it. Tyler instantly recognizes them as his. He is gutted and quickly apologizes. It’s obvious that Tyler did not take Jaimee’s panna cotta on purpose, with Gordon telling him, “For the record, I 100% believe you.” But that doesn’t really matter now. What’s done is done. And sadly, what’s done is Tyler.

Gordon delivers the bad news, “Tyler, I’m so sorry, but your journey is going to end—tonight.” Tyler takes it with calm maturity. He turns and gives Jaimee a personal apology before shaking the hands of the judges and putting his apron on his station.

“This is devastating,” Tyler tells us in his interview. “But I feel that the judges made a fair decision. You break the rules; you pay the price. I broke the rules.”

Courtney wins, but that doesn’t seem to matter much after what we just watched Tyler go through. He made a mistake, and it cost him the competition. But we all make mistakes, and his response to his mistake was more than admirable. 

I’m going to miss you, Tyler. Thank you for being so supportive of these recaps, and though it might be difficult with your penchant for cooking in camo, I will be looking for you in the future.