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.