MasterChef recap: It's 'make nonna proud' night as the final 24 are decided

Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have the blues in episode two.
Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have the blues in episode two.  Photo: Supplied

PREVIOUSLY ON MasterChef: Nineteen amateur cooks with big dreams and poignant back stories received an apron, which they can now sell on eBay. Tonight on MasterChef, 16 amateur cooks who weren't good enough on the first day compete for the remaining five aprons, thus creating an effective caste system dividing the first-time winners from those known in technical culinary terms as "the dregs".

As the hopefuls gather, Jock accuses Max of being calm. Max denies the allegation vehemently. He is in fact extremely nervous, something that would surely endear him to us if we had any idea who "Max" is.

Andy reveals that the amateurs will be given the choice of two pantries: one has more ingredients but will allow those who choose it only 45 minutes to cook; the other has fewer ingredients but will grant 90 minutes to cook. Given even the smaller pantry has plenty of stuff in it, it has to be said that anyone choosing the big pantry is already raising a red flag regarding their intelligence, but nevertheless only three amateurs decide to go for the 90 minutes.

One of those tree is Connor, who introduces himself by confessing to being bad at maths and detailing his unsettling attachment to house plants. "I'm quite adventurous as a person, and I get to express that via the dishes I create," he says, even though cooking is not a particularly adventurous activity unless you do it while bungee jumping or something.

Sara is 34 and a contact centre team leader, who has decided to go into cooking in hopes of getting a job title that people understand. "I'm not leaving without an apron," she threatens, implied violence dripping from every word. Cameron hears her say this and declares that they've already started embroidering his name on one. "It's just a typo," fires back Sara, as the crowd roars with appreciation at this rapid-fire Algonquin Round Table-esque banter.

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Melissa asks Connor what he's cooking. Connor says he doesn't know. Melissa is all like WTF. Connor smiles at her in what he imagines to be a charming fashion. Melissa does not share this imagining.

45 minutes elapsed, and the Big Thirteen join the Small Three on the kitchen floor. Elise, who, like 88 per cent of MasterChef contestants, is a lawyer, is determined to get everything right, even going to the lengths of a slow-motion flashback to her nonna. The rest of the competition quivers in fear: anyone with a nonna is a force to be reckoned with. Elise carefully slits open a trout and peers inside, crossing her fingers there's a decent recipe in its stomach. No such luck: she'll have to come up with something herself.

Max, who as we know is in no way calm, admits that he wants to get an apron. A lot of other contestants also want an apron, but Max wants one "really really badly", which gives him a huge edge. Meanwhile Katrina takes out photos of her late grandmother and puts them on the bench, daring anyone to not give her an apron after that.

With 20 minutes to go, Katrina has forgotten to score her snapper, if you know what I mean. Pulling the snapper out, she quickly gives it seven out of ten and shoves it back in. Meanwhile Connor, after a mere seventy minutes, has decided on what he wants to cook. From the sidelines, the contestants who already have aprons shout helpful phrases like, "Come on" and "what is that?" Elsewhere, Elise declares that she wants an apron "so bad", throwing the gauntlet down to Max in no uncertain terms.

With the minutes ticking away, tragedy strikes. Charlie has cut his hand. Coming hot on the heels of the revelation that there is a contestant called Charlie, this news is a terrible blow. Charlie has his wound quickly bandaged and gets back to not being on camera.

With less than 10 minutes to go, Max tells Jock and Andy he's making a peach tarte tatin. The judges point out that he could've swapped peaches for nectarines and had 90 minutes instead of 45. As Jock and Andy high-five each other over another successful confidence-undermining, Max realises that he has made a terrible mistake and thanks god that he still loves being an osteopath. Meanwhile, Aaron is happy with his duck, whoever Aaron is.

After a final 10 minutes that, in screen time, took well over two days, time is up. The dishes are cooked, the plates are full, and the judges are ready to crush some spirits.

The first dish to be tasted is Elise's. Having spent a lot of time on camera and being in possession of a nonna, she can be pretty confident, and indeed everyone loves her trout. Next is Wynona, whose dish has only three elements, much like pop legends the Bee Gees. And just like the Bee Gees, it is perfectly cooked.

Next are several people whose dishes flash past so quickly we definitely don't need to bother remembering who they are. Then Katrina, who forgot to score her snapper and is in agonies about it. The judges are gobsmacked by her ability to not completely balls it up. Next is Aaron, who has rendered his duck perfectly and therefore wins the Best Visual Effects award.

Next is Max, who you'll remember wants an apron. His pastry is too blonde and will therefore be the target of unkind jokes. The piano on the soundtrack does not sound hopeful. "There's a weird numbness that has come over me," says Max, thinking it's just the emotion of the of the situation and not realising he's suffered a spinal injury.

Next is Ben, who hasn't been on screen the whole episode, and Olivia, who I have never seen before in my life. And then Cameron, who arouses vague memories of a long ago time. And then Sara, who Jock says has a few problems, some of which involve her dish. "I can see what you were trying to do," he says – ie make something edible.

Finally there is Connor, who is still not entirely sure what he's made. Whatever it is, it's great, and may that be a lesson to all the idiots who wasted time "planning" their dishes.

In the end, from 16 hopefuls must be selected the five who seem like they'll make good TV. The judges give aprons to Aaron for his duck, Wynona for her pork, Katrina for her snapper, Elise for her trout, and Connor for just, like, his whole deal.

And so, with the apron-owners weeping with joy, and the losers trudging home, lonely and unloved, back to the lifelong shame of not being professional chefs or television celebrities, we can finally prepare for the real stuff.

MasterChef has its Final 24, and we can look forward to the imminent rollercoaster ride that is learning most of their names.