Tuesday is the day of the Pressure Test, the only MasterChef challenge named after a Billy Joel song, since they abolished the Scenes From An Italian Restaurant service challenge in season eight. In today's pressure test, the four worst cooks from yesterday's mystery box must compete to avoid elimination: two fans versus two of what we continue to refer to as "favourites".
We open on a shot of a white butterfly fluttering about the garden in slow motion. Just like the butterfly, the cooks enter the kitchen pure and free from sin, yet also like the butterfly, they are fragile and can at any moment be eaten by the cane toad of inadequate culinary technique.
The unlucky four are Tommy, Daniel, Christina and Matt, all of whom must attempt to recreate a concoction of pastry chef Gareth Whitton, who used to work for Heston Blumenthal, from whom he learned the dark arts of making ice-cream taste like foie gras and toffee apples look like beef cheeks. He now runs Tarts Anonymous, which isn't what it sounds like.
The dish for the day is a smoked pecan and butterscotch tart, an astonishing dessert that manages to be both shiny and brown. Daniel is terrified because he has made only three tarts in his life and on every occasion many people died. Christina is merely distracted because she is lost in Gareth's eyes and doesn't know how she will follow a recipe and fantasise about his rippling body at the same time.
The contestants will have two hours and 50 minutes to make not just the tart, but also an accompaniment to the tart, be it a sauce, a cream, a narcotic or a jaunty ragtime piano piece.
Christina hopes to steel herself for the pressure test by bringing in a photo of her family, to remind her just how much she doesn't want to have to go back to them. Tommy's strategy, by contrast, is to "get my head down, bum up, read the recipe" – which seems unnecessary, as if he just picks the recipe up off the floor he can read it in a more normal posture. Meanwhile, Dan is already baffled as he reads the recipe and encounters arcane concepts such as "cream" and "a small saucepan". He is unprepared for such abstractions.
Tommy retreats to foetal position in the pantry as seeing roasted pecans on the tart triggers a traumatic flashback to millions of horribly burned macadamias #MasterChefAU— Luke (@Rakuli) May 10, 2022
Quickly the four contestants realise a profound truth about caramel: it takes ages. Andy yells at them that they need to be rolling out their tart shells, which is just really unhelpful at this particular moment. Everyone's caramel is painfully slow to reach the right temperature, as if Gareth Whitton is deliberately trying to teach them a lesson about the wisdom of their life choices to this point. "Why can't it be a Portuguese pressure test?" Christina asks, to which the answer is, because nobody who worked for Heston Blumenthal ever moved on to Nando's.
Matt is happy because the process of making the tart shell is the same as the one he uses in his own home, which is a hotbed of tarts on a good day. From the balcony, Ali tells him to make the shell differently. Matt replies that maybe Ali should mind her own damn business, thanks. However, he begins to panic because everyone else has their shell in the oven and he's still out there fiddling with it like a fool.
There is an hour and a half to go, and one thing is becoming very clear: the word "tart" can certainly be funny with enough repetition. Christina is struggling with her frangipane filling, as she is almost certain that frangipane is a flower and not a food. She becomes emotional and looks at the photo of her family for help. It works: the sight of her loved ones drains all emotion from her soul and she moves on, automaton-like.
It’s frangipane just quietly-not frangipani— Michelle 🐿💨💉x3 (@MichelleMackey1) May 10, 2022
Meanwhile, Dan has pulled his tart shell out of the oven, the saucy young fellow. He must now work out where the line of caramel is, as he is well aware that going over it could cause an international incident.
As time ticks away, the balcony-dwellers go into overdrive with their attempts to ruin the cooks' concentration. "Come on Christina, focus!" they yell. "Yeah, I'm trying to," says Christina, the point utterly lost on the spectators, who continue to do everything they can to prevent her focusing. Christina bursts into tears as she realises that her tart will take 50 minutes to cook and these people will be yelling idiotic remarks at her for all of those 50 minutes.
Daniel is also pressed for time. "You've gotta move, man," Jock says to him, as if that is in any way a useful contribution. He was already MOVING, Jock, for god's sake. Paralysis is not the problem here.
Yelling at someone to move faster when they’re already overwhelmed is generally not very helpful. #MasterChefAU— Sir Kumference (@sirkumference) May 10, 2022
With their tarts baking, the cooks turn to their "side hustle": the pointless bit of nothing that they have to serve with the tart for no reason. Dan is going to make a diplomat, suggesting he has developed frightening delusions of grandeur and now believes himself to be a god. Christina doesn't think the tart needs any accompaniment, so is deliberately making something underwhelming. Tommy is making coffee to ensure the judges stay awake while eating.
I can’t wait until I go to a restaurant & ask what the side-hustle with dessert is.#MasterChefAU— Just Sue.🇺🇦 (@SueKennedy19) May 10, 2022
The tarts come out of the oven. Compared to Gareth's they all look like absolute garbage, but that is as it should be: if they were as good as his, it would suggest that Gareth is massively overcharging his customers.
The first to have his tart tasted – if you know what I mean – is Matt. His tart is, as far as anyone can tell, edible. The next is Dan. His tart is good enough to eat without exposing him to any wrongful death suits. Next is Tommy. His tart is nowhere near as revolting as the judges expected it to be. And finally Christina. Her tart is raw in the middle, just like her feelings.
The judges note that a tart that is raw in the middle is not technically a hate crime, but that it definitely should be. The possibility of Sherlock Holmes needing to be called in to try to determine who's being eliminated suddenly fades away.
"I think we had four pretty incredible tarts," Gareth lies, before the news is delivered that one of these things is not like the others, and that thing is Christina.
Christina accepts her fate with equanimity, but confesses that she is "gutted" and, with an admirable accuracy that too few MasterChef contestants display, notes that her big mistake was not cooking better. After hugging some people she barely knows, she heads back to the family she'd hoped to be separated from for months longer.
Tune in tomorrow, when one of the world's best chefs cruelly mocks the amateurs' foolish dreams.