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.