Mushrooms and beaks and hairs, oh my!

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Nanjing Night Net

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Stunning drama. Gripping action. Heart-ripping tenderness. Prime time-slot. Sensational cooking.

Of the above characteristics, guess which one last night’s episode of MasterChef had? No? OK, here are some clues.

MasterChef is a reality cook-off show. There are two teams. One team is blue and the other is red. An opening sequence reveals the members of the red team are crappy cooks. In fact, they are also quite stupid as evidenced by one man’s decision to stand in front of an industrial, fan-forced, steaming oven while opening the door. Genius.

For these reasons, they now face elimination, which is code for ‘absolutely no chance of scoring an advertising deal whatsoever the end’.

“How does that make you feel?” George, the short, bouncy one, asks. Responding is a man called Sam – the same man who opened the oven full of steam that, you know, is burny hot and stuff. Consequently, he is now horribly, horribly disfigurated.

“I’ll take it on my chin,” he says. But that’s OK, because Gary, the teddy-bearish judge, says it’s all about guts tonight. And then he clarifies by saying it’s actually all about minutes. As in, the contestants will have three rounds to cook successfully or die. And the first round will be cooked in 20 minutes. It’s enough to make Emma dissolve into tears, and then undissolve into a pile of hysterical laughter.

“Bells, whistles, and obstacles,” George says. “Deflated, history, other key words. Spoon of concrete. Shoulders. Heel rock.” He rocks on his heels. George feels sure he’s just been really, really inspiring somehow. He watches as the contestants, and the pile of Emma, rush madly to select ingredients from a pantry that the loser will never, ever, ever have the chance to spruik, genuinely, again.

“I think the absolute key here is doing good ingredients simply,” says Gary, rubbing his little belly. He can think of a few good ingredients he’d like to use. “I just know someone is going to do something tricky.” We now know someone will do something tricky and may lose their life, or worse, their dignity as a result. Oh – wait – no, just their lives are left on the line as a quick montage reveals Mario struggles when boiling water, Emma can barely say ‘textural’ and Kylie considers herself to be a totally awesome chef because she’s been to Italy like a gazillion times. Wait …

Hold the phone! Could be we have some dignity left after all? Gary has bowled up to Debra and asks, suggestively, what she’s ‘doing’, as in what is ‘whipping up’. Debra, to her credit, is like ‘um, you’re making me feel slightly uncomfortable. Please stop talking to me,’ but Gary persists. ‘Do you know, De-bra, you only have five … minutes … lefffff-t?’ Cut to break.

And we’re back with two minutes to go!

Mario, who has a shiny egg for a head, says he’s happy with his creamy pasta. Debra says her dish has integrity. Ten seconds of terrifying violin music says integrity might not be enough to survive in this mad, bad world.

Symbolically and with great, abundantly clear meaning, the countdown is concluded with a shot of a red scooter.

And then – holy sweet mother of Jesus on a Vespa – there’s a beak in Filippo’s bowl of calamari. George found it. George is not happy. Filippo may be shot. Probably Kylie or Amina won’t be because Matt Preston, the ‘foodie’ judge, is actually dribbling over his plate. It continues as Gary and the boys taste Debra’s dish which looks ‘gorrrrrgeous’ and is ‘yummy, yummy, yummy,’ even if it’s filled with integrity.

Meanwhile Julia’s Asian meal is filled with … Matt Preston pause, pauses, pauses before saying, “for me, when I taste creamy Thai curry flavours and mushrooms, my brain goes into overdrive because it doesn’t get the flavours”. In fact, Julia is in about as much trouble as Mario’s pasta and bacon, which George says was literally raped and pillaged by tongs and Mario’s dirty great big car-mechanic fingers. Naughty!

Fortunately, Tregan’s dish meant something to her, because it is strangely named something-froga, and her nan made it, and her mum made it, and she now makes it for her fiancée and it has “gnarly crunchy bits”. “Whatever,” says Gary. Meanwhile, Sam’s three versions of a raw fish fall short because one is not as “slippery” as it obviously, obviously, should be.

And then there’s Emma who is again reduced to a pile of tears by Matt “Schadenfreude” Preston, who first points to her dish and says “brilliant” before pointing to her dish and saying … cut to break.

And we’re back. And now a person with ridiculous glasses is talking and there’s a man with a ponytail who has some meat – all of which is annoying because we wanted to find out what was so terrible about Emma’s green bowl of soup, and not marvel at how expensive meat cooked on an expensive barbeque results in an expensive dish worth taking notes on. Fast-forward and hey presto, Preston is back jabbing his meaty pointer-digit at the ‘brilliant-but’ gazpacho.

And then we see it.

Oh.

How awful.

It’s a hair. It’s a hair in the soup.

There is a hair the soup.

But is she the most at risk? Only George has the answers!

“If I say your name, you are safe!”

“Kylie.” She does a ballerina gymnast hair-flip thing and we are all endeared to her a little bit.

“Filippo.” He is skinny, and uninteresting, until we realise he makes Mario really angry. Amina’s name is called out.

“And then there’s only room for one more,” says George, who can count.

“And that person is …

Debra!” Gary smiles, without integrity, as Preston details the next round to the loser-losers. This round is the same as before, but shorter. Because the episode is coming to an end. Or because this is a show about good cookery. Or something. Anyway, the contestants must focus and cook whatever in ten minutes. Seeing the dejected looks on their faces, Gary offers some really helpful advice.

“You now what you need to do,” he says. “You need to go overtime!”

Sam decides he can manage lamb cutlets. George says he’s cutting it fine and goes to make a reference about hairs on chins, before realising Sam has neither. Mario is virtually in the same position because he has an egg for a head. Ten seconds to go!

“Nine, eight, seven,” George is getting good at this numbers things!

“Time’s up.”

The soggy mess named Emma is first. “Have you gone through this dish with a fine-toothed comb?” Matt Preston is pretty hilarious, thinks Matt Preston. Emma thinks she doesn’t get it, but says, “there are no hairs in this dish,” which is cruel because Sam and Mario are next. And Mario is pretty angry because Filippo had beaks in his calamari and somehow that was OK.

The judges do have patience for Tregan, whose mushrooms manage to do what Julia’s Asian mushrooms did not; taste good. In fact, Julia’s second dish of honey-caramelised figs with French toast appears not to be tasting good either, which doesn’t bode well considering we then cut to the red scooter of death, and return to find Julia red faced and emotional. This may be because she is actually transformed into an actual quote machine; “it’s going to be fuel to my fire, I’ll pick myself up and do it again,” she says.

And she may have to as George says that only the following contestants will escape the clutches of hell:

“Tregan!”

“Emma!”

Pause …

Pause …

Pause …

“Sam!”

Julia lights herself on fire, picks herself up, and gets ready to do it again. But this time, she and Mario will be cooking a dish in five minutes. Which is actually not that bad, says George, if you break it up minute-by-minute. Gary looks up at Debra. He is not so sure.

Burning, and hairless, Julia and Mario gather their ingredients and get to work in the circular shared bench of certain doom. Julia is making a dessert which is utterly surprising. Mario is making an Italian salad which is almost as surprising as the fact that five minutes really isn’t time enough to create a culinary masterpiece. But whatever. They ‘cook’, they plate, the time runs out, everyone hugs.

But before it’s the end, we need to know who meets their end.

The judges taste and mull, and say the contestants have quite obviously been through hell. They ask Mario how he feels. He replies by talking about how great Julia is and how much he hates that slimy worm Filippo and his fishy-beaks. In response to the same question, Julia talks about herself.

“That’s great, but the loser is – !”

Cut to break.

Back from break.

“MARIO!”

Naturally, this is heartbreaking for everyone. Which is why they’re all so enthusiastic in offering Mario a hip-hooray in the aftermath.

Meanwhile Mario, who is really just looking forward to seeing his wife, climbs out of a taxi, enters his house and tells a woman waiting there that he’s really quite tired and emotional, and should probably lie down.

And then he walks downstairs, gets in a red car, slides his hand over the ignition and says, “I’ve missed you. It’s time we got reacquainted.”

Today, he in the process of setting up a sauce business. And MasterChef is in the process of wondering where the ratings went. And how!

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.