MasterChef recap: The first (and hopefully last) 'jewel duel' propels one cook into the grand finale!

Welcome to brown town.
Welcome to brown town.  Photo: Supplied

In tonight's challenge, the winner goes directly through to the finale, leaving the other three to fight it out for a place. Will going straight through to the finale be a huge advantage, or like a football team that wins its qualifying final to earn a week off but then turns out sluggish and soft due to lack of match fitness, will victory tonight prove Pyrrhic? On such futile speculation are all great reality franchises built.

It's another two-rounder. In the first, the final four will have 75 minutes to cook a dish inspired by either ruby or emerald, so either way they should make something hard and shiny. The question is whether they want to cook Dorothy's shoes or Dorothy's holiday destination – or rather, the question isn't that, because they get no choice, their task determined by random selection. The first round is in the form of two head-to-head duels: Pete versus Elise with emerald; Kishwar versus Justin with ruby.

Given the fame of the cruise ship the Ruby Princess, the obvious move would be to make a kind of giant edible coronavirus, but Justin is going a different direction, cooking duck because ducks are known for eating rubies. Meanwhile Elise announces that she will be "playing to her strengths" and cooking pasta, as if she has at any point done anything else. She goes into the garden to find warrigal greens, but cannot find any, proving not for the first time the truth of MasterChef's most basic rule: never go into the garden.

To Kishwar, the ruby represents passion, so she is cooking something that reminds her of the time when she was pursuing her passion: ice hockey.

Actually, she's harking back to her youth, when she went to London to do unspecified arty things, before she got married and had children, thus crushing her dreams. She is therefore making Ruby Chicken, which is something they eat in the UK and which also has the word "ruby" in it, making the whole "chasing a passion" thing a bit unnecessary.

"Are you feeling confident?" Jock asks Elise. "I feel like I've got a lot to do," says Elise. "But ARE YOU FEELING CONFIDENT?" repeats Jock, barely restraining his anger at someone who refuses to give him a straight answer. Elise, having failed to effectively drop the hint that she wants to be left alone, glumly gets on with making her pasta green.

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Justin, who declares that never in his wildest dreams did he ever think he'd be in the final four of MasterChef, which given he applied to be on MasterChef suggests his dreams are not particularly wild, is determined to make his onions red. He puts in some annatto seeds, which turn things red. They don't turn the onions red. He puts in more. And more. In an interview done many hours after the challenge was filmed, he notes that annatto seeds have a very bitter flavour, and you might call this narrative technique "foreshadowing via hindsight".

The tension between Jock and Elise continues to rise as Jock asks Elise how long her pasta needs to cook for. "Every minute that I've got," she replies. "Yeah but actually how long?" Jock asks. "Every minute that I've got," Elise retorts, refusing to play his game. "Elise, you're killing me," says Jock, fed up with her obfuscations. There are only three minutes left anyway.

And time is up. Pete remembers too late that he likes to put a "spritz of acidity" on his dishes, and crosses his fingers that his dish is pretentious enough even without it. The judges try his big mess of horrid green things first. Jock congratulates him on not adding a spritz of acidity because actually it tastes good without it, despite the fact that it has great big bits of zucchini in it, usually a sign of something truly revolting.

The judges eat Elise's green pasta and try to overlook her stubborn refusal to communicate effectively. "It looks very simple," says Melissa, but look who's talking. "I really like the look of it," says Jock, just to spite Melissa. The pasta is cooked well but tastes only of garlic, and sadly the brief was not "cook something inspired by emerald and also garlic".

The judges eat Justin's duck, which he has served in a tiny lonely portion on the edge of a huge plate, to ensure anyone who eats it knows they are not getting a full meal. Andy notes that the annatto in the puree is overwhelming. Jock, who also wishes to spite Andy, says he loves the annatto and bitter things in general.

Kishwar produces her ruby chicken and explains the tragic story of how she got pregnant and had to give up everything that mattered to her, a cautionary tale for any fertile young person. Despite the fact that earlier on Kishwar spilled sauce on his best white skivvy, Andy compliments her on a wonderful dish. Melissa also says things and Jock for once doesn't argue with his colleagues.

The winner of the ruby duel is – duh – Kishwar. The winner of the emerald duel – even more duh – is Pete. And so these two must now face off in the PEARL DUEL.

That's right: with a place in the finale up for grabs, Kishwar and Pete must cook something inspired by pearl. If the show was fair dinkum it would've added a rule that they're not allowed to use oysters, but they've flubbed it. "Pearls are known as the ultimate symbol of wisdom," says Melissa, which…are they? Really? I thought that was owls. Can they cook owls? Are there owls in the pantry? Can you get an oven-ready owl at Coles? If not, why not?

Pete goes straight for the oysters, committing fully to thinking inside the box. Kishwar on the other hand has decided to do something conceptual, which is absolutely terrifying. She is doing a dessert, and you can tell by the shy smile on her face that it's going to be the kind of dessert that lays waste to empires.

From the balcony, Justin calls out to Pete some oyster-related aphrodisiac banter, which is very inappropriate for this timeslot. It's MasterChef, not Love Island. Pete has never shucked an oyster before, and pleads with the oysters to be gentle with him. On the other hand, Kishwar is fully in control: she's clearly shucked a tapioca before.

Blue bandaids keep appearing on Kishwar's fingers: this is a bloodbath.

Andy comes round to tell Pete that he doesn't have to slug his guts out shucking the oysters: just put them on the hibachi and they'll steam open. Pete is over the moon. "This must be why they call them an aphrodisiac!" he exclaims, which I assume means he…wants to  hook up with Andy? This episode is utterly filthy and I for one am boycotting the rest of the series.

If Andy were playing fair, he would now go to Kishwar and give her a labour-saving tip, like telling her you can put a tapioca pearl on the hibachi and it just…does whatever tapioca pearls do. But no, Andy is playing favourites and you have to assume it's because of the stain on his skivvy.

Three minutes to go, and Pete is carefully plating up. He lays out his oysters and covers them with leek sheets, which is a good idea because oysters look frigging disgusting and should always be covered up, or preferably thrown in a bin. Meanwhile Kishwar assembles her whatchamacallit successfully.

Time's up and Pete is happy even though his dish looks basically like a handful of lasagna sheets draped over a puddle of diseased mucus. "I like the leeks, because they remind me of kelp," says Andy, which…I mean, fine, I guess? Melissa enjoyed it. Jock enjoyed it, despite desiring more oyster, the .dirtbag.

Kishwar serves up her coconut sago pudding, which contains many weird and confusing ingredients including sorbet and mangosteens and other made-up names of things. "The flavours are beautiful," says Melissa, which some might interpret as a compliment. Jock liked it but wished she'd "amped up parts of it more", by which he means she should've put oysters in it.

In the end the winner is…Pete. Damn that skivvy. He now goes through to the finale and Kishwar must fight Justin and Elise like some kind of animal.

Tune in Sunday night, when the brutality of the competition is laid bare.