The Illustrious Top Ten walk onto the Thousand Oaks high school football field under threatening skies, but they ignore the doom the overhead clouds portend. And why wouldn't they? All but one of them will eventually have to lose, so why not enjoy themselves while they’re here?
Cutter flashes back to his glory days, those Friday nights underneath the bright lights with the rabid fans cheering from the stands as he lines up between the hash marks, tightly gripping his clarinet.
“It doesn’t get any more American that this,” says Graham about the football field, but really summing up MasterChef itself. It’s another Team Challenge, and the Home Cooks will be splitting into two teams of five and cooking concessions for all of the fans.
Courtney comes from a long line of concessioners, so she feels that she has an advantage in this challenge. She’ll be one of the team captains along with Jaimee, who isn’t someone I’d peg as the leader type. “My biggest concern is being able to be loud,” she quietly tells us. You don’t need to be loud to be a good leader, Jaimee. In fact, you only need to ever say three words: Talk. To. Me.
As an added twist, Jaimee and Courtney get to pick who is on each other’s teams. Jaimee begins by giving Leslie to Courtney, who devises a counter strategy: keep everyone who can’t get along with Leslie off of her team. It seems to work out that way, and I have to say that I’m shocked that Jaimee not only didn’t put Daniel with Leslie, but she did put Leslie's bestie Ahran with him. So far this season, Courtney has been the best pregame strategist, but MasterChef is decided out on the field—or in the concessions stand.
Blue Team: Courtney (Captain), Leslie, Christian, Ahran, and Victoria
Red Team: Jaimee (Captain), Cutter, Daniel, Willie, and Elizabeth
The teams will be making turkey burgers and fish tacos. Ugh. Turkey burgers. Let’s take the driest meat there is, grind it up and grill it so it dries it out even more, and then slap two pieces of dry bread on either side. Why do you guys order these things? Yes, you guys. I know you order turkey burgers. You order them, you eat them, and then you regret your decision. But then you turn around and do it all over again. What is it about turkey burgers that makes people forget how terrible they are? Like, right now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Turkey burgers aren’t terrible.” See what I mean?
“It’s time to meet the players,” says Gordon as a giant wave of screaming, privileged children come crashing through a MasterChef banner and onto the field. Victoria and Courtney completely lose their shit.
Hey, it’s football legend Eric Dickerson! The former running back joins the judges in the middle of the field. “He’s one of my football idols. What kid did not grow up and want to be him?” asks Leslie. Well, all of the kids kneeling on the field for starters. They just see another old guy. Eric’s here to fight childhood obesity, which explains the turkey burgers. If we all work to make food taste worse, together we can conquer childhood obesity.
They have one hour to prep and time begins.
Jaimee wants to put coleslaw on the burger, and her team hates the idea. Daniel wants to do “Thousand Island, grilled onions, and simple lettuce.” And then he makes this humongous blunder and says “Thousand Oaks” sauce instead of Thousand Island. He’s probably at home thinking that no one caught his massive mistake, but I did. Busted, Daniel. Meanwhile, Jaimee just got mutinied faster than anyone in the history of the show.
Courtney has control of her team. Her plan is to mask the terrible flavor of the turkey burger with guacamole.
Prep, prep, prep.
Christian is hyper aware of the horrible dryness of ground turkey but overcorrects by adding too many eggs to the meat. Now the turkey meat is too wet. Too moist. Too juicy. Too delicious.
Over on the Red Team, Cutter is destroying their fish with his spatula. His bear claws weren’t made to gently flip fish with a spatula; they were made to drink beer and catch fish as they attempt to spawn upstream.
At some point a bunch of screaming teenagers came and filled the bleachers. I’ve been ignoring them. Now there’s a marching band. And cheerleaders. The teenagers won’t stop screaming. Now the Blue Team is screaming. God, please make everyone stop screaming. The football players take the field. The announcer makes an announcement. The game begins. The teenagers line up for food. The teams serve food. I begin screaming.
Courtney is excited about how her team is working together. Everyone has a job and is doing it well. “Victoria’s got buns coming for me,” she tells us.
The Red Team is pure chaos. They’re losing customers, and I’m losing concentration. Team Challenges just suck the life out of me.
Daniel tells Cutter, “Just smile and be happy," before greeting a teen, "Hey! A burger?” (This is my new mantra.) Cutter insists that Daniel tell him where he needs him, and Daniel gives us his best impression on the season yet: the Mayor of Halloween Town. “I need you on the grill! The whole time, I’ve needed you on the grill!”
The gods also voice their displeasure with Team Challenges as rain begins to pour.
Mercifully the challenge ends, and the Home Cooks line up in the rain to hear the results. Leslie is hoping to hear that he’s no longer a freakin’ loser. It’s the closest result in the history of MasterChef. With 51% of the votes, the winning team is the Red Team, and Leslie is still a freakin’ loser.
The Blue Team files into the MasterChef Kitchen for the Dreaded Pressure Test, and Victoria is “pretty worried.” Courtney is given the opportunity to save herself, which she wisely does, and don't talk to me about honor. The judges then choose to save Christian for his wonderful wet turkey burgers.
This is Leslie’s fifth Dreaded Pressure Test, and Graham tells him that no one has ever survived five before. “Well,” says Leslie, “you haven’t met me yet.” We cut to a montage of Leslie cooking and defeating past cheftestants with sweet karate moves as “You’re the Best” plays in the background.
Graham pulls a large aquarium out of his pants. Inside are a bunch of still alive prawns, and Graham tells Leslie, Ahran, and Victoria that they will have to make a prawn ceviche. They head to their stations to start cooking—but wait. Joe wants them to also cook tempura-fried prawns. And even Gordon has a way that he’d like them to prepare prawns. Butterflied prawns stuffed and broiled. Can you believe it? They have one hour to cook all three. This Pressure Test is legitimately Dreaded.
As if that isn't enough, Gordon drops another bombshell. After this challenge, two people are going home. Victoria is sick to her stomach. I’m somewhat of an expert on reading her emotions, and this is the most upset I’ve ever seen Victoria. She might explode at any moment. Ahran looks to the MasterChef Balcony for someone to tell her that everything will be okay, but no one does because everything will not be okay. Leslie takes a deep, determined breath.
As bored as I was during the Team Challenge, I am just as amped right now. What a monster of a challenge. Live prawns. Three preparations. Two chefs go home. One hour. Is there time for stroganoff? No.
Ahran is cooking for her dreams of opening a Korean fusion restaurant. Mmm. Fusion.
25 minutes fly by. Joe visits Leslie who is buzzing around his station, chopping this and murdering that. Joe asks him if he feels that living in Malibu gives him an advantage. Leslie says that he does rent out his boathouse to a family of spot prawns but that doesn’t really mean he knows how to cook them.
Ahran is stressed out. She doesn’t know how to make ceviche, and she barely survives a Dreaded Prawn Attack. Everyone in the MasterChef Balcony is sure of two things: that they are lucky to not be cooking in this challenge and that Ahran is going home.
Gordon visits her station while she guts a prawn. He sees that Ahran is upset and gives her a #MCPepTalk. Gordon kind of phones it in, but it energizes her anyhow. She bites the heads off of her remaining prawns and then dives into Victoria’s tank for more.
Hands in the air. The three cheftestants bring their nine dishes to the front.
Graham tastes Leslie’s ceviche. It’s good. He moves on to Ahran, who says that she felt more stress tonight than when she took the SATs. Her ceviche is too liquidy, but she nails the verbal. Graham then inspects Victoria’s ceviche, which has the same problem as Ahran's.
Joe tries Leslie’s tempura. He likes Leslie’s light batter. Joe moves on to Ahran, who says that she thinks the color of her tempura is too dark for a Japanese restaurant, but Joe thinks they taste like they belong at a Japanese restaurant. He inspects Victoria's “very white” tempura. He likes hers, too. Maybe even better than the others.
Lastly, Gordon judges the stuffed prawns. He likes everything about Leslie’s except for the sauce he put in the breadcrumbs, making them soggy. It’s all about wetness on this episode of MoistureChef. Gordon tries Ahran’s stuffed prawns. He likes everything about them except for the lack of salt. He attempts to move on to Victoria, but he’s unable to locate her. She’s hiding somewhere inside a mountain of breadcrumbs. He does find her prawns, however, and they’re raw. Damn, damn, damn. Damn.
The judges have a whisper huddle in the back before lining the three Home Cooks up for final judgment.
This time it’s Joe who gets to crush someone’s dream. He says, “The first Home Cook that we are sorry to see leave the MasterChef Kitchen—,” Graham removes his glasses. “Please step forward and say goodbye—Victoria.” Her stuffed prawns were just too raw. Damn.
“It’s hard to say goodbye, but I’m excited to move on to what’s next,” Victoria tells us in her interview. “I’m ready to hit the ground running and burn it down.” Well, that sounds terrifying. Best of luck, Victoria. Thank you for all the denim and excitement.
She exits the MasterChef Kitchen, and Gordon continues, “Tough. Umm…” Somewhere a piano begins softly playing, and the gravity of the moment begins to sink in for Leslie. “Tonight, this is a tale of eldest…” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “…Versus our youngest. And how ironic is that? When I think back on the battles and the arguments you two have had, and yet you’ve both grown to put your head down and respect each other. Leslie, give us an insight to the journey. Is it everything you could’ve imagined it?”
“And more,” replies Leslie, fighting back tears. “I did not expect to meet as talented of people as I have, I did not expect to grow the way I have been growing, and to work out my differences with this young lady—‘cause she’s not a girl. She’s a young lady.”
“Ahran,” Gordon asks, “how’s the journey been for you?”
She replies, “You know, to really be able to achieve my dream and get coaching from you amazing mentors is such an honor.” Her voice begins to crack with emotion near the end of her sentence.
Gordon finishes, “Leslie and Ahran, it hurts all three of us to say this, more than you’ll ever know. The person leaving tonight is—,” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “Ahran.”
Leslie gives her a big hug before heading upstairs, and he cries while talking about Ahran in his interview. They formed a bond that will never be broken nor properly pronounced.
And so it ends for the youngest competitor this season. Ahran had quite the journey on MasterChef. She went from not getting any screen time at all to getting screen time for all the wrong reasons to eventually getting screen time for all the right reasons. Ultimately, her character arc was tied to Leslie, and once they became friends, it was only a matter of time before she had to leave.
Farewell, Ahran. You were a joy. I’m glad you’re back on social media, but please watch out for all the weirdoes. Like bloggers.