MasterChef recap: Ding, ding, (cry)ing! This three-round elimination is a tear-jerking clash of the titans

Keyma, Sarah, Aldo, Alvin, Montana and Tommy are the six contestants who are up for elimination on Sunday.
Keyma, Sarah, Aldo, Alvin, Montana and Tommy are the six contestants who are up for elimination on Sunday. Photo: Channel 10

It's Kitchen Thunderdome. Six cooks enter. One cook leaves. Then the other five cooks leave, because they don't live in the kitchen obviously. Also, the one who leaves is the loser, which is different from normal Thunderdome. It's a pretty inappropriate metaphor really. Anyway...

The six cooks who failed miserably last week come in to attempt to stave off elimination. The challenge takes place over three rounds, so we're going to be here forever.

Round one: contestants must choose one of three ingredients: either chicken, or snapper (the chicken of the sea), or pumpkin (the snapper of the Halloween display). They have 30 minutes to cook something with that ingredient. In round two, they have 45 minutes to cook something using only what's left of their ingredient. In round three they have 60 minutes to cook something, again, using only the leftovers from the first two rounds. It is a challenge born of pure sadism and the producers' fierce hatred of the contestants.

Round one begins. Sarah picks the snapper and takes a stunning left turn by cooking Indian-style. Last time she was eliminated in ninth place, so she's desperate to get through this one, so she can be eliminated in ninth place again and prove how consistent she can be.

Meanwhile, Keyma is going all-in: cooking all of the fish in the first round and if worse comes to worst, making a dish based on the snapper's personality in round two.

It seems to be a day for experimentation; just as Sarah is pushing herself to try new things by making an Indian dish, Aldo is taking himself out of his comfort zone by cooking Italian. He explains to the judges that he is going to wrap a small piece of fish in paper and bake it. They ask him why. He doesn't know: he just feels it's something a man has to do at some time in his life.

The pressure is on. "I'm so glad to be on the gantry today," says Billie, while stubbornly refusing to provide a working definition of "gantry". As she thanks her lucky stars, Montana explains to Jock and Andy that she's making a chicken curry in half an hour, in her continuing quest to prove that she's the best at making bad decisions.

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There's almost no time left and Montana has made the bold decision to not serve the judges raw chicken, while Aldo refuses to take his fish out of its paper, as the paper is where the nutrients are.Β 

Time runs out and the tasting is undertaken. Aldo's fish is overcooked, Keyma's fish is nice, Montana's chicken is rubbish, Alvin's chicken is mediocre, Tommy's fish is great and Sarah's fish is fine. It's Keyma and Sarah who are safe from round two, which means Tommy made a good dish for nothing.

Round two begins, with an ominous close-up of a row of milk bottles for reasons unknown. Tommy begins working out his inner anger by mutilating his fish's head.

Aldo, realising that going Italian in the first round didn't pay off for him, decides to go in a radically different direction by cooking a dish from a slightly different part of Italy. He remembers making the same dish in his first stint on MasterChef, when it backfired and resulted in a lengthy prison sentence.

Montana is baffling the observers on the balcony by removing the skin from her chicken and fashioning it into a crude facemask. She explains to Andy that she is making a dessert using chicken, causing Andy to laugh like a man who has looked into the mouth of madness.

Speaking of madmen, Tommy claims to be working like one, even though in reality many mad people are unemployed. He declares that he has no time to do anything except cook, which seems a reasonable strategy. Jock and Andy visit him but soon become bored and go away.

They go over to Alvin instead to find out whether he is hammering chilli. He isn't hammering chilli. They press him: is he SURE he's not hammering chilli? "I'm not hammering chilli!" Alvin affirms passionately, but you can see the lie in his eyes: he's definitely secretly hammering chilli.

Tasting time. Aldo's fish is fantastic, Alvin's chicken is great, Montana's dessert is utterly baffling, and Tommy's broth is full of scales. In the end, Aldo is safe because he cooked a good dish and Montana is safe because there's some kind of clause in her contract that says she can only be eliminated via a High Court decision.

So it's Alvin versus Tommy for elimination. A true clash of the titans. What will win: wacky glasses or boyish enthusiasm?

Alvin immediately takes out the heavy artillery: his famous "Drunken chicken", a very special dish made by soaking a chicken in alcohol and then encouraging it to start fights.

Tommy is making a dish inspired by his Vietnamese heritage, which you'd think he'd have run out of by now, but nope.

Alvin is nervous because he hasn't made drunken chicken since Season Two, and he has completely forgotten how. Tommy is nervous because he loves Alvin and regrets the necessity of crushing him like a bug.

The judges meet to discuss how important it is to pad out the running time of an episode. Jock is excited by the fact that Alvin's drunken chicken is "2.0", apparently believing that this means something, despite all available evidence.

Alvin tells the judges that it's hard going up against Tommy. They ask why. "Because he's a gun," says Alvin. "So are you," say the judges. All of them are ignoring the fact that both Tommy and Alvin are in this position because of their inability to cook well enough.

Tommy explains how he feels a sense of belonging because of MasterChef, which has given him the ability to explore his passion for food. This will be extremely poignant if he is eliminated, which is of course why they got him to say it.

Meanwhile, Alvin is plating up in a state of high anxiety: he's just not sure whether his chicken is drunk enough. He is afraid of "obliterating the legacy of the drunken chicken", suggesting that maybe this whole drunken chicken thing has gotten a bit out of hand.

Time is up. The music has become very sad. There is a powerful sense that a beloved family pet is about to be shot. It's all the more tragic because of all the people up on the balcony that we all really want to go home. You know who I mean. Yep. Them.

Tommy and Alvin embrace. "I love you, but I must kill you," they whisper in each other's ears. The judges hug them too, and reassure them that although they take enormous pleasure in destroying their lives, they do feel guilty about that.

Tommy serves first. His dish is a thing I don't know how to spell, but it has fish and green bits and a small jug of brown liquid. The fish is cooked beautifully, the brown liquid is nice, but the rice cakes aren't quite right. Who cares because they're only rice cakes, right? Wrong! Jock and Andy are weirdos who care about rice cakes.

Alvin serves his drunken chicken. "This is a lot like listening to your favourite song, for the second time, except this is the cover version," says Jock, and he's right, except that obviously if a song is your favourite song you'd have listened to it more than once already. Also, Jock has never eaten this dish before, so he hasn't even "listened to his favourite song" once. Also, the dish has been cooked by the same person who cooked it the first time, so it's not a cover. Also, food isn't songs. But apart from that: sure, Jock, spot on.

The judges eat the drunken chicken. "That was spectacular," says Jock. "It's beyond drunken chicken," he adds, even though he has never had drunken chicken before and therefore cannot possibly know that. He then babbles on a bit more about "cover versions" and Dolly Parton, and asserts that this could be the best dish Alvin has ever made: something else he has absolutely no capacity to judge accurately. But look, the point is that Alvin's dish is great and Tommy is going home.

Here we pause for a quick reminder that Montana made a dessert out of chicken skin.

It's sad to see Tommy going home. But that's life in MasterChef: nasty, brutish and short.

Tune in tomorrow, when everyone is still crying and can't really get anything done.