Tuesday, June 24, 2014

S5E5: The Extra Helping of Frankie

Relationships can be hard, and in a sense, the remaining 17 Home Cooks are in a relationship with one another. Together they walk across a rocky shore, helping each other cross the uneven ground yet needing to be careful to watch their own steps lest they stumble and be swept out to sea with all of us normals. It’s an analogy. It’s reality. It’s MasterChef.

Jordan learned to cook to save his life, telling us that he lost almost 100 pounds when he was only 14. Sadly, we’ll be losing somewhere around 200 pounds at the end of this episode when he’s most likely eliminated. Every relationship has to end, but if you only focus on the eventual separation, you’ll never enjoy the journey that you are currently on. For now, the Home Cooks are surrounded by a beautiful beach next to a stunning ocean with incredible waves rolling in under a phenomenal blue sky. This is the life. Actually, this is Leslie’s life, the bastard.

“Are we cooking for maybe surfers?” asks Ahran. No, they did that on the beach last season. This time it’s a wedding, which they didn’t do last year—on a beach. They did, however, have a wedding. Let’s just hope the lucky couple aren’t foodies that hate every type of food this time around.

Joplin and Mike, the bride and groom to be, want upscale ocean fare, the kind of high-end seafood dining you can only get from a reality television show. The Home Cooks will have to make a scallop appetizer and a sea bass entrée. There won’t be any voting this time as the producers will be deciding who goes to the Dreaded Pressure Test. I mean, the judges. Did I say the producers? I’ll have to go back and edit that later.

Francis L. and Leslie won the donut challenge, so they’ll be team captains. Leslie picks first, and Christian’s eyes quickly scan the sand beneath his feet. He’s spotted anyway and is Leslie’s first selection. Francis goes with Big Willie, because he’s Big Willie. Has Leslie met Willie yet? I guess not.

Leslie’s red team: Christian, Frankie (Francis B.), Tyler, Daniel, Christine, Ahran, Jordan, and Jaimee.

Francis’s blue team: Willie, Courtney, Cutter, Victoria, Elizabeth (who smells victory), Dan, and Elise.

Ahran is not happy to be chosen by Leslie, who pronounces her name as “I-Ron.” “It’s Uh-Ron,” she corrects. “I-Ran,” he attempts. “Uh-Ron! Uh-Ron!” she demands. Leslie apologizes, but Ahran isn’t having it. She takes the pronunciation of her unique and inscrutable name very seriously. Side note—I wasted no less than 20 minutes trying to make an Iran/Ahran :: Bombs Over Baghdad/Bombs Over Stay-At-Home-Dad joke. (Yes, I know Baghdad is in Iraq. I said I couldn't make it work.) Let this be a lesson to all of us. The Middle East is simply best avoided altogether.

Francis L. is confident in his team selection. “In my kitchen, they’re all going to be dancing around to classical music, and Leslie’s team will be like hardcore rock-n-roll.” Really? That’s strange. You’d think a guy who dresses like this would know how to party.

They have two hours to prep and cook, and that time apparently includes the six minutes spent getting dressed in the MasterChef Wardrobe Trailer.

Francis has a distinct vision for his blue team, but Leslie has a much different strategy. “I don’t want to take control of the situation,” he says, deciding instead to give his team no direction at all. “Let’s get to work,” he tells them, and they immediately begin wandering around in confusion. A couple members of the red team wade out into the ocean to try to catch some sea bass and scallops.

Meanwhile, Gordon claims his right of jus primae noctis with the bride. “You and Mike are huge foodies,” he says. Of course, they are.

Francis’s blue team is looking organized with a smart menu—except that it includes a purple cauliflower puree, which will never cease to sound disgusting to me.

Meanwhile, Leslie explains his menu to Gordon. “Scallops…uh uh uh…pea…uh uh…puree…” He obviously doesn’t quite have a grasp on the appetizer, but mercifully, Gordon moves on and asks him to describe the entrée instead. “Uhhhhhhh….” It’s suddenly become apparent to Leslie that he needs to display some leadership, which he hilariously does by telling everyone to talk to him over and over again. Daniel treats us to a very good Leslie impression.

We get our first look at Mike, the cuckolded groom, who is wearing his fanciest pork pie hat for the occasion. Pork pie? Elise comes down with a case of the pie sweats.

How high do those seas look to you? Because we have a #RedTeamMutiny on our hands. Frankie commandeers the red team, because he was a professional golfer for a week or two, so he understands how to win.

Cook, cook, cook.

Yell, yell, yell.

Serve, serve, serve.

The blue team’s scallops look pretty good, and the red team’s scallops don’t look too bad either. Just don’t go thinking the red team has any shot at winning this. “We might actually be able to pull this off,” says Ahran, who is about to be very disappointed.

On the red team, Jordan is still confused. He emerges from the ocean covered in seaweed and tells his team that scallops are much faster than he anticipated. Meanwhile, Christian screams at Tyler to stop eating all of their fish. It upsets him so much that he declares, “I don’t want to see nobody else eat!” He runs to the bride and groom’s table and slaps the fish out of their mouths.

Finally, the service ends, and Joplin announces the winner by throwing the blue bouquet over her shoulder. Francis catches it, and it looks like his years of always being the bridesmaid are coming to a end.

The red team takes the loss like mature adults. Or not.

“I’m not perfect,” half-apologizes Leslie to his team. “You have no communication, like, skills at all,” says Ahran, not one to accept even a full apology. That’s as friendly as this conversation gets as Leslie demeans Ahran for being a teenager, telling her to “Grow some balls.” She does just that, going off on him once again for mispronouncing her name. Leslie’s apologies get worse. “I’m sorry. S-O-R-R-Y,” says Leslie. “YOU’RE NOT SORRY AT ALL!” screams Ahran…this is getting ugly.

If you follow the Home Cooks on Twitter, you knew this was coming. Ahran pre-apologized for this fight a few days ago, and since her character first started speaking on the show, she has become mostly silent on social media, save for the apology and a Bible verse. She has proven to have the capacity to feel shame, which is quite strange for a reality contestant. Add that to her putting an “-ly” on her adverbs, and she’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Leslie’s also one of my favorites, and not just because he possibly holds the key to me getting a job writing for television in Hollywood. He’s good TV, and that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? After the kerfuffle, Leslie walks to the edge of the shore and looks out into the ocean, wondering how many fish are in it and if any of them will be his friend. Unfortunately for Leslie, there are no more fish in the sea. Tyler ate them all.

It’s time to head back into the MasterChef Kitchen for the Dreaded Pressure Test.

“It’s my second Pressure Test,” says Jordan. “I haven’t won a Team Challenge, and these are the consequences.”  That seals it. Jordan is boned.

Only three members of the losing red team will have to cook. That news is shocking

Gordon asks Leslie a carefully worded question, “Which three members of your team do you THINK should compete in tonight’s Pressure Test?” Leslie takes the bait. He chooses Christian, Daniel, and I-Ron. “Coward,” declares Elizabeth from the MasterChef Balcony. Everyone bemoans his lack of honor, which is pointless for two reasons: honor gets you sent home in MasterChef and Leslie doesn’t really get to pick who is cooking. That honor goes to the prod-judges.

“First they nail me to a cross on the beach. Now they’re going to burn me at the stake,” says Leslie, the first Home Cook picked. Jordan, who looks lost, is chosen next for looking lost. Last is Frankie for letting Daniel talk him into a mutiny that was destined to fail.

For the Dreaded Pressure Test, they’ll have to cook steak frites. “We want a steak that’s perfectly seasoned, perfectly seared, and perfectly medium-rare,” explains Graham, perfectly. “And don’t forget about those fries.” What the fuck are fries?

I can’t imagine Leslie will have much trouble with this challenge. The guy eats more steak than the Underhills.

“Francis, did you think about doing a compound butter?” asks Courtney from the MasterChef Balcony. She and Christine are helping Frankie from above. Once again, when it comes to Frankie, all of the ladies are thinking with their ovaries instead of their heads. Francis L. slithers between them and whispers, “Do not give your competition help.” But they can’t help it. When Frankie’s working his meat, all the girls turn into compound butter.

Even Jaimee joins the Frankie advisory committee, instructing him to put a glove on and dig in. Leslie sees this as potentially not working out well for—Moooooon Riverrrrrr… 

Courtney doesn’t like Leslie, Daniel thinks he’s a dick, and Elizabeth just can’t stand the guy. But Willie isn’t afraid to buck the trend. “Team Leslie all day, America,” he says. Willie is a man of the people. None of the other Home Cooks can match his lovability, nor can they keep up with his ability to retweet.

Jordan still has a lot of fat left on his steak, but give the guy a break; he lost 100 pounds of fat when he was only 14. Meanwhile, Frankie has completely befuddled Gordon as he torches his steak on the plate.

Time ends as Frankie finishes welding his meat, and now it’s time for tasting.

Leslie goes first. His secret ingredient is love, which he borrowed from Willie. Gordon cuts into his steak as Leslie confidently refuses to look away. “Nailed,” declares Gordon. The cook on the steak is perfect. His frites, however, are soft and limp. “Dreadful,” he calls them. Leslie is confused. This is the Dreadful Pressure Test, is it not?

Graham approaches Jordan and compliments his plating. The non-rendering of the fat, however, is a problem. Graham won’t be as forgiving on this as he has recently trimmed away well over 100 pounds himself. The steak is overcooked, and he says the frites have some “flaccid potato action going on.” Everything tastes good, though, so it isn’t over yet. (It’s over.)

Joe cuts into Frankie’s steak, and it’s—commercial break—medium. The sear is nice and so is the flavor, but this contest is coming down to frites. For the most part, Frankie’s frites are good, possibly granting him freedom from elimination. Whoa. Freedom frites.

Judgment time.

Leslie’s steak is easily the best, and he joins his fans in the MasterChef Balcony.

“Francis, Jordan, neither of you nailed that steak,” says Gordon. “You both overcooked the steak. However, there was actually one that tasted better. Better seasoning. Better fries. Almost in a way that it was cooking with confidence.” The Home Cooks in the MasterChef Balcony get bored, so they cuddle. “The person staying in MasterChef—is—Francis B.”

That spells the end for Jordan who does his best to put on a brave face. “I’m so happy to be here,” Jordan tells the judges. “Going back home, I can hold my head up high.” He sets his apron at his station and leaves the MasterChef Kitchen to the sounds of encouragement from his former competitors and judges.

The emotion gets to him in the exit interview as the tears flow freely. He tells us, “This competition has been the greatest experience of my life…It has laid the foundation for me to just grow even more.” Which is a frightening prospect considering his already enormous height.

Jordan seems like a genuinely sweet guy, and it hurts to watch his lip quiver as he wipes the tears from his eyes. He has a bright future ahead of himself, and he’s taking home with him priceless experience and instruction that, should he choose a culinary career, will give him a head start over his future actual-reality competition.

Goodbye, Jordan. Thank you for the sweaters, and good luck in the future. You certainly can go home with your head held high. Just remember to duck when going through the doorway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

S5E4: An Unfulfilling Episode Filled with Unfilled Donuts

“I’m at the top of the competition,” says Courtney. “If I’m not at THE top, I’m like the top two.” She’s not wrong. Courtney has been soaring high above most of the other Home Cooks in the early stages of this season, but like Icarus, she may just swing too close to one of the stage lights and take a tumble. And when you fall from the ceiling of a gentleman’s club, you end up on the floor of a gentleman’s club, and well, that’s just not a great place to be.

We begin with the news that Other Gordon has fallen ill and has left the competition. That’s sad, because it really looked like he was…named Gordon. I don’t know anything else about him, really. This does explain why he hasn’t used his MasterChef Twitter account. Oh, well. Other Gordon’s gone, and the remaining Home Cooks are one step closer to the title of MasterChef and their very own cookbook. Perhaps this means there won’t be an elimination today.

It’s Mystery Box time, and the One True Gordon warns everyone to be careful. Something is alive under there, and it’s prepared to fight for its life. Jaimee lets out a string of profanities so obscene that her mouth has been removed for the rest of the episode. 

“Is it a snake? Is it a snapping turtle?” wonders Christian. Nope. It’s a mesh bag filled with live seafood. “Crab, lobster, clams, phenomenal scallops, oysters, spot prawns, mussels, and a bit of seaweed,” explains Gordon, known scallop philanderer.

Something scurries on Francis’s station, giving him such a fright that he joins Courtney in the rafters. Kira also comes down with a case of the heebie jeebies. “Everything’s real fresh,” she says. “Maybe a little too fresh for my liking.” And just like that, she loses her Subway sponsorship.

They have 60 minutes and start cooking.

“The most intimidating Mystery Box ever,” says Gordon. “Ever,” agrees Graham. “You’re telling me!” says Francis, who has made his way to the roof and is now trying to flag down a helicopter.

Frankie’s doing some kind of tandoori something or other. Christian has all of New Orleans watching him, so he’s making shrimp and grits. Kira is also cooking seafood. Hell, they all are. This is so boring.

We finally get to meet Ahran, the youngest Home Cook in the competition. She thinks Willie is the strongest cook so far. Joe asks about Courtney, and Ahran replies, “Honestly, it’s just a little bit of favoritism with her…” Finally, something interesting happens this episode. “You’re saying that we’re favoring her?” Joe asks. Ahran backpedals, “No, I think that…” Joe isn’t having it. “That’s exactly what you said.” Ahran decides to own it with a “yes,” though she won’t say why they’re favoring her, leaving me to explain: Ahran thinks the judges are being seduced by Courtney. Do they want her to seduce them? Yeah, probably.

Cook, cook, cook.

Time ends and the judges walk around checking the dishes. Graham does a lot of wafting. Courtney thinks her dish is perfect, but Ahran thinks her dish is better than Courtney’s. “My dish is amazing. It’s beautiful. It looks elegant, and I deserve to be here.” But is it seductive enough? Let’s find out.

Frankie gets called forward first with his spicy seafood broth with seared phenomenal scallops. He’s got tandoori mixed with sake, a sort of Middle East meets Eastern East dish. “Normally, I’d call this fusion confusion,” quips Gordon. “But this is fusion at its best.” Joe likes it so much that he can barely stop stuffing his face to get a couple clichés out. “(chewing)…you hit the nail on the head…(sucking on a mussel)…firing on all cylinders…(slurping the dregs from the bowl)…one to watch, guys…(regurgitating into Graham’s mouth)”

Ahran gets called next. She prepared a spicy seafood stew with jasmine rice and a bunch of other stuff. Graham is utterly seduced. He takes a bite and looks to the ceiling where Francis and Courtney wave back. “You made like a seafood boy band,” he says. Quick! Seafood boy band name off: Backstreet Barnacles, ‘N Sink, Jonah Brothers, New Crabs on the Block…

Lastly, Christian makes all of New Orleans proud with his shrimp and grits. “Now y’all know I got a little flavor,” he tells us. “Now y’all know I’m one person that don’t need to be reckoned with.” I reckon Christian is right. Or wait, I don’t. I’m so confused. All I know is that shrimp and grits is probably my favorite food in the world, and his looks damn good.

“I want this so badly,” says Ahran, seducing me with her correct usage of an adverb. She wins and joins the judges in the MasterChef Pantry.

Graham explains, “The theme for this Elimination Challenge is Delicious Sweet Treats.” Ahran says, “Wow.”

Joe reveals a basket of perfectly baked, golden brown muffins. “Wow,” says Ahran.

Graham brings out a jar of delicious cookies. “Oh my gosh,” says Ahran. “I love cookies.”

Gordon pulls out a tray of all-American, beautiful donuts. “Wow,” says Ahran.

When Gordon asks her which competitor she wants to see leave, Ahran suddenly has much more to say. “Honestly, I want to take Courtney out…” Gordon asks her why, and she drops this bomb, “Maybe because I go to high school, and I deal with a lot of fake bitches all the time—” BOOM!! OH NO, SHE DIDN’T!! Not bad, thinks Graham. Joe is loving it. And so am I. This is what I came here for, not all that cooking crap. I want to see blood!

She goes with the donuts. Most of the Home Cooks applaud the choice, but Victoria is cautious. “It’s so technical. If you kill that yeast, you’re screwed. That’s the end of the game right there.” They have 90 minutes to fill a box with a dozen donuts. How many baking challenges have they had already this season? Seems like a lot. Jaimee attempts to shush me but can’t because she no longer has a mouth.

Francis is grabbing everything he can find in the MasterChef Pantry and has plans to make 12 different flavors. “It’s go big, or go biggah!” he says, having pretty much the same view on donuts as he does on fashion.

“You’ve got to scald the milk,” says Graham. “There’s an enzyme in there that will actually destroy the yeast, and you need that dough to almost double in volume.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. I’m not here to learn, Graham. I’m here for delicious donuts filled with blood.

Actually, that was interesting information. I’d like to hear more of this kind of stuff from the judges. Keep up the teaching, Graham. Oh, and unblock me on Twitter for Chrissakes. That’s like, the worst decision you’ve ever made. Only two MasterChef people have ever blocked me: Graham and Krissi. You don’t really want to be alone in a group with Krissi. Do you, Graham?

Courtney is screwed. She forgot to add eggs to her dough and needs to start over; only, she doesn’t have any more yeast. She begins begging the other Home Cooks for some, and one-by-one, they shoot her down. That is, until she asks Francis. Fortunately for Courtney, he is wearing his special orange pants that contain a secret yeast compartment. Technically, it’s a watch pocket, but he keeps yeast in there.

Cutter feels the pressure. Frankie’s donuts didn’t rise, so he rolls them up into balls, attempting to make donut holes instead. Kira is feeling terrible as she forgot to melt her shortening in with the milk. Francis has prosciutto cooking, which is just so Francis.

Cook, cook, cook.

Holy shit, look at Frankie’s donut holes. “They look like meatballs,” says Gordon. “I know I have the flavors, chef,” says Frankie. Meatloaf flavors.

Leslie is doing “unbelievably well.” Kira sneaks a peek at Leslie’s donuts and immediately regrets everything. Gordon calls Leslie a donut, and Leslie agrees, “I’m a donut.”

Time’s up. Hands in the air.

Ahran gets to save one of the cooks, and Frankie is praying that she chooses him. If not, his balls are going home.

“I need to be really strategic and pick out who I’m going to save,” says Ahran, but all strategy goes out the window when she takes one look into Frankie’s puppy dog eyes. The ladies love them some Frankie.

Courtney brings her donuts forward. They don’t look bad, but as for the taste… “They’re salty,” says Gordon, spitting his bite out. “It sounds like you’re sliding down the aerial faster than you got up there.” Okay, Gordon. Let’s leave the aerial dancer jokes to us professionals. Ahran has a lot to say about Courtney’s performance. Unfortunately, she can’t.

Leslie goes next, promising “Malibu sunshine” inside of his box. Elizabeth is really pulling for him. “O. M. G.,” praises Gordon after tasting the sunshine. Leslie nails the donut challenge and appears to be one of the best Home Cooks this season. Things are finally starting to look up for this hardscrabble kid from the mean beaches of Malibu.

Next is Kira. Joe opens the box and says, “Boom! Not too bad at all.” Her donuts look pretty damn good, but Joe cuts into one of her filled donuts to discover no filling. He dismisses them as Kaiser rolls, and we move on.

Victoria brings her box of donuts up, and Graham compliments their simplicity. She’s safe.

Christine presents her donuts. “We’ve got…some perfect-looking ones,” says Gordon. “And some ones that look like you sat on them.” Fortunately for Christine, she sat on them just long enough. They taste good, and she’s safe.

Daniel went to art school, so lets hope he wins this thing. Graham tastes one of his 16 donuts. “You, sir, are a beast with the sugar and yeast,” he says, offering his best line of the season so far.

Scottish Francis and his 12 different-flavored donuts are next. Inside his box are even more colors than we’ve seen him wear. One donut has prosciutto on it. Another has Fruity Pebbles. And another donut might just have Ecto-Cooler icing. Gordon tries the prosciutto donut that is also flavored with Guinness and maple syrup. He loves it. Francis killed this challenge.

Next comes petroleum landman Cutter. “What are they?” asks Joe, looking into the box with confusion. Let’s hope they’re donuts. Cutter promises a dark chocolate and peanut butter filling in one of the donuts, but Joe slices into it to reveal a nothing and nothing filling instead. He slices into another donut with the same result. Cutter instantly regrets not staying in his comfort zone and going with a petroleum filling.

The judges announce the two winners who will be captains in the Team Challenge next week. Francis and Leslie take the honors.

Now for the losers: Kira, Cutter, and Courtney. Joe says someone is going home, so that means that Other Gordon’s illness won’t be saving anyone this week.

Gordon calls Cutter forward. “Cutter. Please. Take your apron—and yourself back to the bench and get a grip.”

That leaves the two ladies. “Kira, we’re struggling to see the passion.” Uh oh. “Tonight’s donuts may have looked visually appealing, but honestly, there’s nothing more frustrating than biting inside and just feeling ten times more let down.” Oh dear.

“I have passion. You haven’t seen me do anything miraculous yet, but I have it. I can show you,” says Kira. We haven’t seen hardly any of her at all. And that’s a shame, because she’s really attractive, and I like looking at attractive people.

Gordon continues, “Courtney, um, you’ve shocked us on many occasions and delivered magic...” (re: seduction) “…but then tonight’s performance, not just lack lust, but one of the stupidest combinations with that level of salt in the dough. It just killed our palates.” Graham presses the stem of his glasses to pursed lips and then removes them. “The person leaving MasterChef tonight—is—” Ahran leans forward. “…Kira.”

With an “oh” and an “okay,” Kira accepts her fate and hugs an apologetic Courtney. With tears beginning to well in her eyes, she tells us, “I feel really sad because I thought there was so much more I could bring to the table…I hope people don’t see the last of me.”

No one wants to be forgotten, but it’s worse to never be known. We didn’t learn anything about Kira this season. There was no back-story of hers that I can recall. She was simply here for a while, and then she was gone. And that sucks. Was her story not worthy of a mention? Was she simply cannon fodder, brought on the show just to be eliminated?

I made a tweet during the show suggesting that the storywriter blew it this episode and then later deleted it because I’m a huge pussy. But, you know what? This was a shitty episode (and as a result, a shitty recap). I understand that it was about Courtney’s arc, but even a small subplot about Kira would have been appreciated. Not your best work, MasterChef producers. Take your aprons back to the bench and get a grip.

As for you, Kira, I’m sorry our time together was so short. They said you lacked passion, but my guess is that you’re just not an extrovert. And very often, Gordon mistakes introversion for a lack of passion. So let that be a lesson to all of you hopeful MasterChefs out there. If you want to make it, you’re going to have to learn to fake it. And then bake it. And then maybe put some prosciutto on it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

S5E3: Cold Chicken, Colder Eyes

Surrounded by desert (not dessert, but the actual Mojave Desert) Leslie tells us, “I could have been surfing in Malibu.” He sees plenty of beach but no tasty waves and immediately realizes that he’s wearing the wrong vest for this challenge. In fact, everyone is comically mis-dressed. Daniel’s in a leather jacket. Willie’s wearing a scarf. It's almost as if the producers instructed them to wear “something you wouldn’t want to wear in the desert.”

“I’m Scottish,” declares Francis, revealing the biggest Mystery Box of the season so far. “What are we doing here? Are we going to cook an egg on a rock?” Of course, we’re not. Although some of those rocks do look pretty incredible. And if those incoming military helicopters and trucks are filled with the most stunning eggs, then…well, maybe.

Cutter’s adrenaline is pumping when he sees the helicopters fly overhead. He feels the urge to dive out of one like back in the day when he was a search and rescue diver for the military. He wonders to himself if his experience as a petroleum landman would help him accomplish risky desert dives.

The judges gracefully fall out of the back of the trucks to thunderous applause from the Home Cooks. It’s officially time for the first Team Challenge of the season.

Frankie (Francis B) gets to pick his red team. He surveys all the land around him and wisely chooses the first petroleum landman he sees. Next, he calls out Tyler’s name. He doesn’t actually see Tyler due to the camouflage, but he assumes he’s there somewhere. And he is. Frankie calls up the rest of his team including Francis who has adorned himself with silver wings for this challenge.

The Leftovers, coming this summer only on HBO, form the blue team. “We’re doomed,” says Christian, and I couldn’t agree more. Joe instructs them that they immediately have to choose a captain. They each look to their right, and at the end of the line is Daniel, the new blue team captain.

The trucks are going to take them to a new location, so they all hop in, except for Francis who decides to fly.

While driving through a mock-city that our military mock-destroys for practice, the Home Cooks are given their commands. They’ll be cooking for 500 troops. That’s right. They’ll have to #feedourtroops. A motion-sick-looking Graham recites his big line, “You’ll be out of YOUR element, and you will have to cook in THE element.” He nails it and is awarded the Bronze Star.

Seriously, let’s #feedourtroops. What do our troops like to eat? Normally, they like to eat one grilled meat, one side, and an amazing sauce, which is perfect because that happens to be the challenge for today.

The teams choose between pork, beef, and chicken for their proteins. The red team picks the pork chops, so the blue team obviously goes with the beef, because this is America and we honor our troops by feeding them beef. What’s that? Oh, apparently they decide to #dishonorourtroops with chicken instead.

Leslie knows his team is making a mistake by choosing chicken but he’s a trooper, and troopers gonna troop. Did you know that Leslie is Melissa Joan Hart’s stepdad? Sorry, I mean stay-at-home-stepdad. Leslie is, of course, his own man whose identity is not tied to being the stepfather of celebrity Melissa Joan Hart of Clarissa Explains It All; Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; and Melissa and Joey fame. However, I do happen to have a personal Melissa Joan Hart story. Would you like to hear it? I think I’ll save it for another week.

Cutter is applying a gentle warm breeze to the red team’s pork chops, and over on the blue team, Stephani has already finished chilling her chicken breasts and has put them in the freezer, ready to serve. Gordon pulls the chicken out of the freezer and demands to know who didn’t cook them. Stephani confessanies, and Gordon gives her a look that ensures that, one way or another, her chicken will soon be cooked.

Gordon tastes Frankie’s Mac & ShitTM and is not a fan, but Frankie has shown the ability to listen to the judges before, and he pivots once again. Christine and Kira take to their mandolins with a bunch of cabbage to make last minute coleslaw. “Keep shaving, ladies,” instructs Joe Bastianich.

Cook, cook, cook.

The 500 troops arrive, and the teams begin to #feedourtroops. The red team has trouble getting their pork chops cooked, so for a while they don’t #feedourtroops. Next they do #feedourtroops but they the poor decision to #feedourtroops raw pork. Gordon gives them a pep talk, and they bounce back, butterflying the meat. Eventually, they #feedourtroops the “best pork chop I’ve ever had in my life,” according to one happy #fedtroop.

Feed, feed, feed.

The soldiers line up in front of their favorite team, and the red team wins big. “I was shocked,” says a shocked Daniel. “Was their dish that significantly better than ours?” The red team, whose dish was significantly better than the blue team’s, celebrates with their troops. “I don’t know how they won. That doesn’t make sense to me. I am really confused right now,” says Stephani while sucking on a chicken popsicle. “Welcome to the Real World,” says Leslie, also confused.

Time for the Dreaded Pressure Test. I’ve been dreading it all year. In a good way.

“We gotta come out swinging, and we gotta knock each other out,” says Daniel who can save three people. He chooses Christian, who might actually be a sneakily strong competitor. He also picks Other Gordon, whose defining trait so far this season is that his name is Gordon. Lastly, Daniel saves the wrong Dan. What are you doing, Daniel? Trying to have honor? Always save yourself! This is MasterChef. There is no honor in MasterChef. 

They each have to make a blueberry pie. Daniel regrets everything.

“I don’t bake a lot…I want to show the judges that I think outside of the box,” says Stephani who doesn’t think the purple lipstick is enough to drive that message home by itself.

Jaimee has a blueberry pie tattooed to her neck, which is an advantage for the chefs to her left who can use it as a guide.

Cook, cook, cook.

Elise has to make another pie, so this should go well. Though she’s never made one before, Stephani feels good about her blueberry pie and throws handfuls of pecans onto a tray. Jaimee is going to make the best pie New Joisey has to offer. Meanwhile, Daniel is shaping his pastry dough into a map of Asia.

“Hands in the air. Well done. Right.” –Gordon Ramsay

Tasting time, and Jaimee is first. She has a neck blueberry pie tattoo and knuckle tats that read: BAKE CARL. And who’s Carl, you ask? Well, that’s what she named her pie. Carl is beautifully baked, and his blueberry orange filling is “impressive,” says Joe.

Elisa brings her dozenth pie forward. Gordon lifts the glass dish to reveal the raw crust underneath. “The only chance you have is somebody else being worse than yours,” says Graham. So a pretty good chance.

Jordan brings up his blueberry pie with lemon zest and brandy. Who gave this kid brandy? These teen celebrities are getting out of control. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was already doing blow with Lindsay Lohan in the MasterChef Bathroom during breaks. Joe cuts into his pie and spots what he thinks is white flour. “Yep. Totally. White flour,” nods a sweaty, nervous Jordan.

Courtney swings down from the ceiling with her pie. It’s delicious.

Next are Leslie and his blueberry cinnamon pie. It’s also delicious. “He’s been around for a while,” says Daniel. “So he probably knew Betty Crocker.” He did, Daniel. He knew her. Is that okay? He worked hard to know her. He worked his ass off to get to know Betty Crocker!

Stephani brings up her pecan-drenched pie. It’s falling apart and too sweet. “You think this is better than Elise’s?” asks Joe. She responds, “Considering that Elise is a baker, I thi—” “WHO CARES WHAT YOU THINK!!” screams Joe, slamming the rest of Stephani’s pie into her face.

Daniel made a very classic, very simple, probably terrible blueberry pie, adding a little bit of ginger to the filling. Gordon points out a huge crack in his pastry, and Daniel explains that the crack is supposed to be the Yangtze River. Gordon tastes a slice, and it’s not bad actually. When it comes to baking, Daniel knows his geography.

Judgment time. Jaimee, Courtney, and Leslie had the best pies and head to the MasterChef Balcony. Daniel and Jordan had not the worst pies and follow them upstairs.

That leaves Elise and Stephani.

“It’s embarrassing to fail at something that people know that you can do,” says a tear-soaked Elise. Gordon calls her forward.

“Elise, I’m sorry. Your pie was bad,” says Gordon as Graham press a stem of his glasses to pursed lips. “Unfortunately, Stephani’s was worse. Make your way up to the balcony.”

Stephani does not appear thrilled with this decision.

Well, this is a strange ending. There’s no exit interview with Stephani, and instead, we hear from Elise about how sad she is that her good friend is leaving. Did Stephani blow up at the producers after her elimination? I’ll have to check back to see if there were any signs of her being upset.

Oh, well. Goodbye to Stephani. I’m going to leap to the conclusion that she feels wronged in being eliminated when Elise, a baker, made her second bad pie of the competition already. And maybe she feels wronged for other reasons, too. And if she feels that way, she might have a point.

But when you are in the bottom two for two weeks-in-a-row, odds say you’re going home. Or under an oven or wherever.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

S5E2: It's a Mouth Party, and You're Invited

We are finally ready for some real MasterChef action. Last week was just a MasterWarmUp as the viewer had nothing at stake with any of the eliminations. However, now that we know every single one of the Home Cooks intimately, it’s going to be difficult to see them go. For example, we begin with three familiar faces from last week. Here is fiery advertising executive Elizabeth, once more. She got into advertising with one goal in mind: become a MasterChef and write her very own cookbook. And here’s stay-at-home-dad Malibu Leslie who wants to upgrade his title and become a stay-at-restaurant-MasterChef. And here’s…uh, who’s this? A young woman with really great hair wants to open a small café, and she’ll be able to get started on that dream right after this episode, because the rule of reality television states that one of the first contestants you see in an episode is going home. Elizabeth and Leslie are all over the previews I’ve been desperately trying to avoid, so that means it’s going to be this girl whose name I’m looking up right now…Whitney.

But I’ve been wrong before, so let’s ignore that Sherlock Season 3 is available on Netflix and watch the episode anyway.

Gordon welcomes the Top 22 to the “biggest cooking competition in the entire world.” See, this is why Elizabeth really wants to get out of advertising and into the world of MasterChef. Here, you don’t need to put disclaimers on anything. You can embellish whatever you want. Once, Graham described a mango as being “the most beloved of fruits, chosen to sit at the right hand of God for all of eternity,” which led to three different cults forming in Florida alone.

It’s time for our first Mystery Box of the season. Using only the ingredients under their boxes, the Home Cooks will have 90 minutes to make something interesting enough to get themselves some screen time yet not so interesting that they get sent home. That’s right, someone’s going home after this Mystery Box.

Graham lists the ingredients, “Chocolate, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, brandy, ladyfingers, all kinds of extracts, honey, and ground coffee.” Willie blows our minds when he admits to loving desserts. “I’m very sweet, I must say,” he tells us, which is true. He must say that. As one of the actual M&Ms, he is contractually obligated to mention his sweetness whenever the moment presents itself.

Cook, cook, cook.

It’s interesting to hear Graham talk about how that when a chef gets more experienced, the ingredients on the plate seem to simplify. It looks like my chicken and chicken recipe might be closer to MasterChef level than I originally thought.

Courtney is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum swinging from the ceiling of a gentleman’s club. I can’t figure her out. For this challenge, she tells us that she’s making a beautiful honeybee cake and pours a large bowl of honeybees into her mixer.

The early frontrunner, Willie, lives with and cooks for 13 people, and one is a delightful old woman who wears glasses just like Willie’s. He tells us his confidence level in baking “is like 2000” which is just a huge amount of confidence, I think.

“Ooh, that smells good,” says Christian. That’s not really interesting, but I wanted to mention Christian, because he needs some Twitter followers, guys. He really, really, really would like for you to follow him on Twitter. And I would really like for someone to explain his #FFT hashtag to me.

Cutter used to be in the military where he was a search and rescue swimmer who jumped out of helicopters for a living. After that, he moved on to the next logical step and became a petroleum landman. If he can add MasterChef to his resume, he’ll finally achieve his true mission: to have the most interesting Twitter bio ever.

Astrid has never baked before, which is a recipe for getting one’s ass cooked on MasterChef.

Jaimee is introverted and tells us a tale of being bullied when she was younger, which makes me nervous to write anything about her. But if I imagine that she’s actually Zooey Deschanel playing a character, I think I can manage it. Jaimee is a bakery assistant who should have no problem with this challenge. She’s making a chocolate pecan brownie and probably has dreams of one day opening a shop called Jaimee’s Curiosities.

Elizabeth tells Gordon that Leslie flaps his jaws too much, and oh boy, here we go. “You want ugly?” Leslie asks, offering Elizabeth his vest. “I live in Malibu, because I work my ass off,” the stay-at-home-dad continues. “You want drama? I’ll give it to you.” Elizabeth regrets everything. 

Time ends, and four Home Cooks are brought to the front: Cutter, Astrid, Courtney, and Big Willie. But, it’s bad news for the first two.

Cutter “did a play” on a cappuccino with his pudding and broke one of the sacred rules of MasterChef: never put the MasterChef logo on a pudding. While Joe explains to him what biscotti are, Cutter looks like he’d rather be diving out of a helicopter.

Astrid’s lemon bars are raw. She’s not ready to go home, but they give her the boot anyway. She was doomed as soon as Joe saw her messy workstation last episode. “Maybe I should have…practiced baking,” she realizes outside, her clothes strewn about the sidewalk all around her. Goodbye, Astrid. I would say some nice words, but there’s just too much recapping to be done.

Courtney’s honeybee cake is delicious, of course. It’s what we’ve all come to expect from aerial dancers.

Willie’s gingerbread cake is also delicious. “It’s a party in my mouth, Willie,” says Gordon, sadly not mixing up the words “party” and “Willie.” He gives Willie a high five that almost connects.

Courtney wins and joins the judges in the MasterChef Pantry. She chooses from three dishes, one of which the Home Cooks will have to cook. Joe shows her his meatballs, and she’s not impressed. Next, Graham unveils his meatloaf, and Courtney makes this face. Gordon reveals a hamburger, and she could take it or leave it. She has some evil plans for her advantage in this challenge, telling us she’s going to “plant the seed and wait for the bomb to go off.” Looks like she had more than bees in that mixer, huh? Looks like she had some metaphors in there too, right? Yes? No? Okay, no.

As we transition back to the MasterChef Kitchen, we get a good one-shot of Whitney, sealing her fate this episode.

Not only will Courtney not have to cook, she also gets to pick ten more Home Cooks to join her on the MasterChef Balcony. She starts off by picking people she thinks she can beat: Leslie, Jaimee, Other Gordon, Elise, Cutter, Francis L, Kira, and Ahran. She picks Elizabeth because she wants to be best frenemies with her. Finally, she chooses Christian for some ambiguous reason that I’m guessing is actually that they’re secretly banging.

Courtney chooses the meatloaf for everyone, obviously. They have one hour to cook, and as the Home Cooks run to the MasterChef Pantry, everyone on the balcony cheers for Willie, securing his place as this season’s Luca.

Dan is brimming with confidence, so he’s screwed on this challenge. He whole-heartedly embraces the label of Food Snob. “Snobbery to me just means I’ve had better, and I expect better, and I will make better,” he says. His delicate facial hair intensifies.

The judges discuss their dream meatloaf.

Cook, cook, cook.

Graham and Joe visit Stephani who is making couscous, blue cheese, and lamb. Joe calls it “untraditional” which roughly translates to “gross.” She wants America to know that she’s “not just a pretty face;” she also makes a pretty terrible meatloaf.

Francis B (whom I will refer to as Frankie from now on, as his Twitter friends do) rethinks putting cheese inside his meatloaf after watching Gordon battle a brain full of honeybees when told of his plan.

Uh oh. We finally get to know Whitney, so we can feel sadness when she loses. She had to drop out of culinary school because of financial reasons and is hoping to win MasterChef so she can finish her education. She’s making her meatloaf with a mango glaze, the holiest of glazes.

Willie’s killing it, because it’s a meatloaf challenge, and, well…duh.

Time ends. Judging begins.

Frankie presents his burrata-stuffed meatloaf with romesco sauce. He nails it, and after Gordon showers him with praise, Frankie looks up to the balcony where Courtney and Kira each look like they’d love to bite off a chunk of that meatloaf

Next is Stephani with her lamb meatloaf and couscous with a blue cheese cream sauce. “Blue cheese and couscous, that classic combo,” says Gordon, spitting his bite into a napkin. She tells us, “I just want to crawl under the nearest oven,” although getting inside one would be much easier.

Whitney brings her Caribbean Asian fusion-style meatloaf up, and Food Snob Dan says that he’s had better, expects better, and will make better. Graham tastes it and calls it a “weird meat dessert creation.” I don’t think I can top that. Gordon tops that by saying she turned a “TV dinner into a TV disaster,” followed by apologizing to the meatloaf before walking away. Essentially, Gordon gave Whitney exactly what she wanted. He took her to back to culinary school.

We meet Christine for the first time. She seems pleasant. Her meatloaf is topped with a fried egg and pesto. It’s good. We move on.

We meet Jordan for the first time. He seems gigantic, and judging by the crack in his voice, he’s not done growing yet. He’s the youngest guy in the competition, and I don’t know if that means Ahran is younger or not, but I do know that I like his sweater. That’s really all I ask of the Home Cooks. Wear decent sweaters. And no argyle. Meanwhile, Jordan’s meatloaf still has room to grow, as well. Gordon uses his best judgment and gives him the gentlest of spankings.

We meet Daniel. His meatloaf comes with a sweet potato mash. His shirt comes with holes and no sleeves. His arms come with sleeves. His food is good and we move on.

Willie brings up his delicious meatloaf with delicious creamy mashed potatoes and delicious Brussels sprouts and delicious pine nuts. Gordon tastes it. It’s delicious. “Great effort,” says Gordon, the highest compliment one can receive on MasterChef.

Confident Dan Wu brings forward his meatloaf with mushrooms and kimchi. “That is absolutely—,” Gordon pauses for dramatic effect, “…disgusting.” Boom! The hammer drops! The Home Cooks on the MasterChef Balcony go wild! They can’t believe it! I can’t believe it! It’s devastating! It’s such a total demolishing of his mind, body, and soul that I completely lose myself and spoil Game of Thrones to Dan on Twitter, though he has no real excuse for being four episodes behind especially when the five books have been out for years now!

The crew quickly mops up Dan’s remains during the commercial break.

The judges announce the winner, and it’s Frankie. He’s showered with panties from overhead.

It’s now time for the bottom three to be brought forward. They are Stephani, the desiccated husk formerly known as Dan, and Whitney.

Gordon has Dan step forward. He got cocky, Gordon says, but I get the impression that he’s actually one of the better cooks in the competition. Maybe Gordon does, too, because he sends him back to his station.

Gordon asks Courtney on the MasterChef Balcony who is going home and why. She says that it’s Whitney, because the most important thing is not being one of the first Home Cooks shown in an episode. Oh, wait. No, she says it’s passion and love, and Whitney doesn’t have them. Harsh.

“Courtney,” Gordon follows. “Tonight, you are consistent beyond belief. Whitney, unfortunately your time is done.” Not much build up this time. Just a straight, cold axing.

As is always the case in these early episodes, we didn’t really get to know the Home Cook eliminated at the end of this week’s show. Whitney wants to go back to culinary school, and I hope she makes that happen. She might have made it a few more weeks here if she didn’t have to face nine of the better cooks in the competition this early, but you don’t go on MasterChef just to hang around for a few weeks. You go there to prove you’re the best Home Cook in America. And to do that, you’re going to need a lot of talent, chutzpah, vests, tears, clarified butter, passion, and love.

Farewell, Whitney. May your weird meat dessert creation never come to life and kill us all.