MasterChef recap: When it comes to pressure tests, this elimination really takes the cake

Julie, Billie and Mindy - who will go home?
Julie, Billie and Mindy - who will go home? Photo: Supplied

The time has come for MasterChef to whip its audience into soft peaks of emotion. For tonight, a favourite will go home, and not a favourite in the sense of the favourites who have previously gone home: tonight it'll be someone we really like. Mindy, Billie and Julie are staring oblivion in the face. As they arrive at the kitchen, they reveal that they have made a pact. It's not clear exactly what the pact is, but it involves being strong women and loving each other, though not to the extent of not trying to destroy each other. "It's got to be about girl power," says Mindy, referring to the process of kicking another woman out of the kitchen.

The news gets worse when Kirsten Tibballs enters the kitchen. Not that Kirsten's presence in itself is a problem (though I'm not saying that it isn't), but she is well known for forcing people to make ridiculous desserts that exist only to cause pain. Andy welcomes Kirsten. "You've got your fingers in so many pies it's not funny," he says, raising the question: at what point does the number of pies a person has fingers in cease to be funny? I can't imagine: seems like fingers in pies are pretty funny well into triple figures.

You better believe Kirsten Tibballs has one of her famously difficult desserts under that cloche.
You better believe Kirsten Tibballs has one of her famously difficult desserts under that cloche.  Photo: Supplied

Anyway, the reason Kirsten is here is to present a black brick with black balls on top. When you cut the black brick open there is brown and yellow, and cherry gel oozes out much like the blood of a freshly-stabbed victim. It thus combines decadence and murder in the way only the best desserts can.

The three powerful girls have three hours and fifteen minutes to replicate the black brick. Billie is stunned. "Three hours and fifteen minutes isn't even enough to watch the whole Titanic movie," she protests. As someone who finds it impossible to cook without watching Titanic beforehand, she is immediately at a disadvantage, especially compared to Mindy and Julie, both of whom are able to cook after only watching relatively short films such as Run Lola Run or Carry On Camping.

Melissa, Kirsten, Andy and Jock brace themselves for a sugar hit.
Melissa, Kirsten, Andy and Jock brace themselves for a sugar hit.  Photo: Supplied

Julie begins by putting her rice bubbles on heat. She decides to leave them on the heat and turn her attention to other things. This is a bad decision, as no sooner has she turned away from the stove than the camera starts to show ominous close-ups of the rice bubbles. The rice bubbles are burning. Snap, Crackle and Pop have been joined by their unhappy cousin Immolate.

The dessert being made is extremely complicated, meaning that depictions of the process of making it cannot help but be extremely boring, but in case you're interested: Billie is assembling her base mould and Alvin accuses her of being a machine. Mindy, too, cuts out a chocolate square and covers it with lumpy stuff – stop me if I'm getting too technical – while Julie works on non-incinerated rice bubbles. Meanwhile Billie is making the cherry gel, which could be the trickiest part of the recipe: it has to taste delicious AND genuinely resemble human blood. Mindy, thinking outside the box, decides to cut her thumb, reasoning that the gel will be all the more blood-like if it contains actual blood.

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With two hours to go, Julie is behind and announces that she wishes to climb inside the blast chiller a la Punky Brewster's best friend in the episode where she gets trapped in a fridge. This is a worrying turn in Julie's state of mind, and demonstrates the enormous pressure placed on MasterChef contestants: 80 per cent of contestants over the life of the show have at one time expressed a desire to climb inside a kitchen appliance.

Up on the balcony, the spectators note that Mindy is pushing her pandejam (no of course I don't know what that is) down very aggressively, running the risk that she might crush her layers and leave them bitter and resentful. On the other hand – and the spectators talk little of this possibility – she might not.

Meanwhile Julie is still behind, but is confident she can catch up, to the extent that she takes some time out to sand and paint a lovely wooden gift box. She runs into problems with her vanilla layer, which she doesn't know how to remove from its mould and put into the other thingy. "It's like trying to put an octopus in a string bag," she says, suffering traumatic flashbacks to the Season One Octopus In A String Bag Mystery Box challenge that caused so many tears.

With less than 45 minutes to go it is time to make fake cherries and fill them with white chocolate, a part of the recipe calculated to really rub it in what a waste of time all this is. Sadly, this requires tempering the chocolate, which as regular viewers of MasterChef knows, is a task that is physically impossible for humans. Not surprisingly, then, Billie finds that she can't do it. She angrily punishes her chocolate, but time is ticking away. Luckily, Dan is on the balcony to help her out. "Come on Billie!" he shouts, and that makes all the difference. Just in time Billie remembers the pact that she, Julie and Mindy made at the start of the day: that no matter how hard things got today, the three of them would never stop featuring in slow motion montages. Thus inspired, Billie shoves her cherries in the freezer. So to speak.

Time is nearly up. Julie is spraying her cake in the hopes of achieving perfection, while Mindy bangs a tray obsessively on the bench and Billie fumbles with cherries. Julie suddenly realises she's missing one of her balls: the downside of girl power. She is, however, happy with the spray job, so it's now time for her to also bang a tray on the bench. The women's pact to all bang trays on the bench is being fulfilled.

Thirty seconds to go, and Julie faces the eternal existential conundrum: how do you get a big black cake off a tray and onto another tray? The answer: you kind of awkwardly pick it up with two spatulas and crack the side open. But that doesn't matter: what matters is that the challenge is over, the cakes are plated, and with a bit of luck none of these women will ever have to see Kirsten Tibballs again for as long as they live.

Billie's black brick and balls is served first. She tells the judges that it's very hard being away from her daughter, and hopes desperately that she has made the dessert well enough to avoid going home to her daughter. Billie's spray has air bubbles and missed bits on the side, and her cherries look depressed, but Kirsten thinks it's a "great effort" for someone who has not dedicated her entire life to the art of black bricks. It also tastes good, which somewhere in the deepest recesses of their minds, the judges can almost remember being something they once cared about. "Ultimately it's fun to eat," says Melissa, just as a general observation.

Next is Mindy, who was on screen for less time than the others tonight, so is almost certainly safe. There are cracks and finger marks all over it, and the cherries aren't constructed properly. The judges look upon the whole thing with horror and disgust. Kirsten considers calling the police. Mindy pressed her layers down too much – remember when we were worried about that? Foreshadowing: classic literary technique. Also, her jelly's got some issues, but then, whose hasn't?

Mindy is in trouble, but she has one last hope: maybe Julie is worse. Julie feels that this is her last dish, as she's messed up the outside of her cake, which goes against the motto of MasterChef: "It's What's Outside That Counts". Bringing her cake to the judges, she pauses to make them all cry, and then, like a ghost, is gone. When they cut into Julie's cake, they find it magnificent, and it tastes exactly like whatever it was supposed to taste like, so that's kind of nice.

And so to the judging. It turns out that Billie's was great, Julie's was okay, and Mindy's was offensive. "To go out against those ladies, I couldn't be happier," says Mindy, which seems just a bit dishonest: I bet she could be a little happier. Like, if she hadn't lost.

But although it's a loss for Mindy, it's a win for friendship, and it's a win for fancy cakes, and it's a win for feminism, because these three strong women have proven that when women put their minds to it, two out of three of them can achieve great things.

Tune in tomorrow, when there is very little feminist theory involved.