MasterChef recap: The champ of champs returns for the first mystery box challenge

The judges and Emelia Jackson   received the 'wear brown' memo.
The judges and Emelia Jackson received the 'wear brown' memo.  Photo: Supplied

Tonight, the cutthroat nature of the competition comes to the fore as the contestants, who will do anything to win, trade vicious barbs at a tense dinner party hosted by…

Wait. Wrong show.

No, tonight the cutthroat nature of the competition remains completely absent as the 24 MasterChef finalists continue to drift about the kitchen in a euphoric haze, helped by the fact that tonight's challenge is only for an immunity pin, so for now at least, nobody is going home to the horror of their family. In fact, it's debatable whether there's anything at stake at all, since history tells us that often the person who gets an immunity pin will be too dumb to use it anyway.

Having been shouted at in the driveway, the amateurs go to their benches and receive the day's exciting news – the mystery box has been set by Emelia Jackson, former MasterChef winner/loser. Unfortunately, given the chance to torture some contestants, Emelia has decided against filling the box with sawdust and mouse bones, and instead just put normal food in there.

The rules are: the dish must feature at least one of Emelia's ingredients. The amateurs have 75 minutes to complete the dish. The best three dishes will win immunity pins, and what's more, there will be no more immunity pins for the rest of the season. Even more than that, this year's immunity pins can be played at any point during an elimination cook. According to the music playing over this announcement, this is an extremely exciting development.

The judges gather to repeat what we have just heard about the pins and tell each other how amazing it is. Andy can't believe it: this might be the best day of his life. Andy and Emelia recall how neither of them ever won an immunity pin, which proves how useless pins are.

With the cook begun, the judges stalk the kitchen, each with their own inimitable style: Jock and Andy focus more on distracting the amateurs so they make stupid mistakes, while Melissa and Emelia are more about destroying contestants' confidence by reminding them how much pressure they're under.

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Therese is nervous because she's never made a chocolate Szechuan ice-cream before, which is silly: she should actually be nervous because making a chocolate Szechuan ice-cream is a terrible idea. She's worried she might put too much Szechuan pepper in the ice-cream, and her fears seem to be realised when she suddenly bursts into flames. Fortunately it's just an ad break.

After a quick break to meet Tommy's baby, which makes the way he cooks barramundi in some way more meaningful, a divide in the 24 is beginning to become clear – between those suck-ups who are making desserts because Emelia is there, and those who just want to watch the world burn. On a hibachi. Then there's Elise, who is starting from the point of loving silverbeet and is therefore a right weird one.

We also learn Wynona's poignant backstory, which is: she was doing another job and then she went on MasterChef. Tearjerking.

"What are you going to do to put your head out from the crowd?" Andy yells, confusing everyone with half an hour to go. Therese is still worried there might be too much Szechuan pepper in her dish, but says, "You've gotta risk it to get the biscuit", thereby instantly turning the entire nation against her. Andy and Jock visit Trent to ask what kind of cook he is. "I'm a hot little mess," says Trent, earning him a reprimand from HR.

With ten minutes to go, a man who hasn't been in this episode up till now is feeling very stressed, but it's hard to care. Meanwhile Trent's chocolate is not tempered, the most shameful thing you can say about a man. Kishwar is still nervous, because everyone else is a great cook putting up great food, an assertion she has no real evidence for. "Should be plating, guys," calls Emelia, still a dictator at heart.

Tasting time arrives and Minoli presents her "barra bites", of which there are three to share between four judges, a mistake that brings expressions of seething hatred to every judge's face. Nevertheless they are overwhelmed by the sheer Darwin-ness of the dish. Minoli is stunned: she had always assumed she sucked at cooking.

A lengthy flurry of unimportant people follows, including someone called "Scott" and another called "Amir", neither of whom, it can be confidently said, are actually on the show.

Then Kishwar steps up and apologises for her dish not being fancy or sophisticated but just ordinary garbage like what she'd cook at home for her stupid family. She's on the brink of quitting the show in shame when Jock tells her that her barramundi is delicious and for god's sake wake up to yourself woman. Like Minoli, Kishwar is shocked to find out that she can cook.

Next up is Depinder, who has not only made a choux pastry, but said the words "choux pastry" eight hundred times tonight. It's a bold move, as Emelia is known for spitting acid in the eyes of people who make inferior choux pastry. But there will be no Triffid-esque reckoning today: Depinder's choux is basically fine. "Emelia Jackson loved my pastry, that's the biggest compliment I've ever received," says Depinder, though to be fair there wasn't much competition.

Tommy serves his barramundi, and we saw him with his baby earlier so we can be pretty sure it's good. And it is. Wynona serves her dessert, causing Andy to whip out his famous catchphrase: "I…am an ice-cream…man." And he means it.

And now there is Trent, who is frankly unhappy with his chocolate log, and we've all been there. Melissa peers at his log, wondering whether there's something inside it that would make it worth eating. The log is unpleasant. It's possible that he'd have done better serving an actual log. "Technique and focus is going to be the difference between being a punchline and being a player," says Melissa, switching into schoolmistress mode to let Trent know just how disappointed she is in him. The judges all agree that Trent will have to spend recess picking up rubbish in the quad.

As everyone tries to blot out the memory of Trent's public humiliation, Elise serves up a dish so good that it might be called "the anti-Trent". She is followed by Therese and her disturbing chocolate Szechuan ice-cream. Obviously it is a triumph despite everyone knowing deep down that chocolate Szechuan ice-cream is horrible.

Finally it's time for the judges to take far too long to announce the winners. The day's three best dishes belong to Therese, Elise and Wynona, in a striking example of the reverse sexism at the heart of this show.