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 FabergĂ© 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.


  1. Excellent recap, thanks Joel!

    I caught that stuff about the multi-generational group with a token black dude too. What are they thinking?

    I like that the baker who can't bake, Elise, was giving Cutter baking advice. I mean, she seems sweet, but is also demonstrably incompetent. Dan Wu's been a long time coming I think. Daniel is my favorite, he seems like a stand-up dude with great cooking skills.

    I don't like that you can't say anything bad about Leslie because of conflicting interests though. SELL OUT!

    1. I think I rip on Leslie pretty good. I mean I AM a sell out, but this was my edgiest recap in a while, I thought.

  2. "I ordered the red team's club sandwich and it was really good. I enjoyed it," she says, as the entire sandwich remains uneaten on her plate.

  3. Damnit, I was gonna make fun of Gordon's frosting as well. Made a damn image and everything, but then I noticed you beat me to it.

    So a present for you: http://i.imgur.com/5HmS5FY.png

    1. So that's Cutter's slice next to Gordon's? Wowza.