MasterChef recap: Poh, Reynold and Callum return and remind us what 2021 is missing

All-stars Poh, Callum and Reynold return to set an elimination challenge.
All-stars Poh, Callum and Reynold return to set an elimination challenge.  Photo: Supplied

After the giddy highs of Superstar Week, we enter the mellow middles of Not-quite-Superstars Week. Tonight, the kitchen is visited by Poh, Callum and Reynold, three people who failed to win MasterChef on two separate occasions. Their guidance will help the current season's amateurs reach the step just below the top. On the upside, they are at least physically present, which means the contestants don't have to pretend to be excited about watching a video of a famous chef.

It's an elimination challenge, with 20 amateurs cooking to stay in the competition. You know what that means: 20 different ways to make ice-cream. Pete, who won the immunity challenge, will watch from the balcony, feeling the power flow through him like electricity. It's a great dress rehearsal for the day when he will rain down death and retribution on those who have wronged him.

It's the Poh show!
It's the Poh show! Photo: Supplied

The arrival of the three non-winners is greeted by much squealing and applause and general acting like nobody knew what was coming. Poh, Callum and Reynold present the amateurs with dishes from their own restaurants. The amateurs must select one of the three restaurants and try to make a dish befitting of the establishment they've selected. If they're smart they'll pick Callum, since his restaurant isn't a restaurant but a cooking school, so serving up something pathetically amateurish will fulfil the brief. The worst dish will condemn its creator to the worst hell imaginable: going home to see their family.

Therese has an immunity pin, so feels confident taking risks as she attempts to convince Reynold to take her away from all this. Aaron does not have an immunity pin, but has decided to take risks anyway, even though he works as an insurance claims officer and should really have a better grasp of the concept.

Suddenly there is a shocking development, as the presence in the kitchen of a man named "Scott" is revealed. "Scott" starts going on about how much he loves Poh and the amazing cake his grandma used to make, for all the world as if he's an actual contestant who's been there all along. The show enters a strange twilight zone as we begin following the adventures of "Scott" and nobody explains where he came from.

We cut away from the parallel Scottverse to return to the night's main theme: Therese talking about how much she needs to feel Reynold's strong arms around her. And well she knows that the way to a man's heart is through his unnatural love of over-complicated desserts. For the benefit of the viewer at home, Therese carefully explains that her dish is one of those ones that it's important to make well. It's these little expert tips that make the show so gripping.

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The judges ask the three non-winners what they're looking for in the amateurs' dishes. They all agree that they want to see dishes that are good, but not quite good enough.

Tommy is looking to impress Callum. Looking at Callum's menu, he has noticed that there are no Japanese dishes on it, so he is going to make a Japanese dish. Meanwhile Kishwar has been inspired by Poh to make Bangladeshi street food, a tribute to Poh's renowned food philosophy: "always do whatever you were going to do anyway". "Every time Poh cooks something, it's delicious," says Kishwar, an assertion that could experience some pushback from judges on two different series of MasterChef.

With less than an hour to go, Elise puts her cheesecake in the oven. "Very good, Elise," Pete calls, sarcastically, from the balcony. Elsewhere, Wynona is making a parfait, and in the time-honoured MasterChef tradition, refuses to explain what a parfait is. "Going home with the pin would be devastating," she says, but fortunately the only possible way she can go home with the pin is if she's a total moron. Which is of course impossible.

Callum asks Aaron whether his dish is savoury or dessert. Aaron doesn't know. Callum looks at Melissa, cursing her for making him mix with this weirdo. Aaron is going to have to bite the bullet and wrestle with the question that tortures all great chefs: what is this thing I am making?

Abruptly we cut back to The Scott Show, following the adventures of a loveable nerd and his wacky attempts to make custard. These sudden jumps are becoming jarring.

Back on MasterChef, Minoli has put some steak in a plastic bag as she knows Callum likes food you can take to the zoo for a picnic. Melissa and Callum drop by her bench to let her know that her ideas are terrible and she never does anything right. Callum is worried that Minoli is using a lot of strong flavours, and as a white man, flavour is really not his thing. Melissa successfully sous vide-shames Minoli into abandoning her plastic bag, meaning she has nothing for recess.

"With 30 minutes to go, this is where the magic happens," says Andy, pulling a rabbit out of the blast chiller. Maja is intent on nailing the pastry, which seems like a terrible idea as it will make big holes in it. Meanwhile, back to Therese for a few more minutes' description of the funny feeling in her tummy when Reynold is around.

"Scott" has his ginger fluff in the oven. God only knows what that might mean. Poh shows up at his bench to demand he explain what he's doing on the set. He invites Melissa and Poh to look into his oven. They make noises suggesting there's a hitherto-undiscovered species of marsupial mouse in there.

Suddenly, drama! As Elise, in a rare but admirable moment of self-awareness, plays her immunity pin and therefore avoids anyone discovering her shameful secret. The contagion spreads, as Wynona, looking at her dish and realising it's basically a bowl of dirt with blobs of jam in, also plays her pin. Wussing out becomes all the rage, yet Therese has not played her pin as she knows that Reynold will never kiss the lips of a pin-player.

Time is up and the amateurs must face the judgment of their kind-of-superiors. Aaron, having finally decided what he's cooking, impresses Callum. "If I were to score it out of 10, I'd give it 10," says Jock, yet strangely he refuses to do so. Next, "Scott" impresses Poh with his fictional "ginger fluff", but nevertheless is evicted and charged with trespass.

Poh and Callum enjoy numerous dishes from the amateurs, as neither of them has eaten in days. Tommy, however, has screwed up by serving a Japanese dish when Callum is known for his burning hatred of all the Axis powers. Also his salmon is overcooked. Tommy has really "pulled a Maja" here: a phrase which is coined several minutes later when Maja serves up a crappy mille-feuille that isn't even much different to Poh's own crappy mille-feuille.

Finally the moment of truth arrives: Therese serves her fancypants apple dessert, knowing that her hopes of spending the rest of her life travelling the world making meringues with Reynold rest on this one dish. There is a moment of exquisite tension, and then…"Great work," says Reynold, and Therese becomes a puddle.

Minoli now serves her famously over-flavoured dish to notorious flavour-hater Callum. Her worst fears are realised: Callum hates the flavours and scolds Minoli for her shameful lack of blandness. Kishwar fares better, Poh graciously agreeing to validate her existence.

After 90 minutes of cooking and four and a half months of tasting, it is time for the moment we've all been waiting for: the complete ruination of an innocent person's life. And when all is said and done, after all the preamble and niceties are done with, that person is Minoli. Which sucks because Minoli is really nice. She might as well have kept the steak in the bag. At least she goes home with a valuable life lesson: MasterChef judges can really be jerks.

Tune in tomorrow, when the Minoli-shaped hole in our lives becomes ever more painful.