It's another beautiful day in the MasterChef kitchen, as five happy amateurs strive to win immunity from Sunday's elimination challenge. It's a prize they are all desperate to win, because they know better than anyone how likely they are to fall apart under pressure on Monday.
Immediately there is bad news: Andy is not present at today's challenge. It's not actually stated that he got food poisoning from yesterday's cook, but we can read between the lines.
The immunity challenge is to test the quick thinking of the amateurs, so they're already in trouble. They get to choose which ingredient they want to cook with, but each ingredient has been paired with another that is hiding under a cloche. They won't know what their chosen ingredient is paired with until they make their choice. However, as MasterChef tends to make boring safe choices, they can be fairly sure each ingredient is some kind of food.
Depinder picks mango, which is paired with chilli. These seem to go together pretty well – it would've been far more interesting if the mango had been paired with, say, black pudding. Dan picks figs, and gets licorice, which is definitely a bit weirder and basically guarantees that whatever he cooks will be revolting. Conor picks cherries, and gets coffee, which seems like a fine combination as long as you like stuff that's a bit gross. Therese picks blue cheese and gets corn, so she'll be making some form of modern art installation. And finally Kishwar picks mint, which is paired with beetroot, so there are no winners there.
The amateurs have 75 minutes, which is not long to create some kind of nightmarish Frankenstein meal. Depinder notes that she's used to improvising, because she doesn't always have the ingredients she wants at home. Easy for her to say: she's not the one who has to make licorice figs.
Struggletown, population: Dan. Photo: Channel 10
Dan is struggling early, due to the fact that the taste and smell of licorice makes him vomit and pass out. Although not a dessert person, he's decided to make a panna cotta, because let's face it, a licorice-fig spatchcock is just a step too far.
Therese admits that blue cheese and corn is not a flavour combination she would've chosen herself, because she is a normal human being with a functioning mouth.
She decides to make an ice-cream, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief at the bullet they just dodged: we were in genuine danger of going an episode of MasterChef without ice-cream.
Therese explains to Jock and Melissa that she's going to make a blue cheese ice-cream sandwich with a frozen liquid shortbread. The judges are appalled. They tell Therese that the last time someone tried to make a frozen liquid shortbread on the show, it was a complete disaster. "And that was REYNOLD," they add. The message is clear: "just who the HELL do you think you are, woman? You think you can make frozen liquid shortbreads, when even OUR LORD has failed? HUBRIS!"
And yet Therese determines to continue on her mad path. "You've got to risk it to get the biscuit," she says annoyingly.
Conor reveals that he loves coffee, a hell of a bombshell to drop. "I have it every single day," he says. What a nutter! He certainly is the "Kramer" of this group.
Meanwhile Dan is still gagging on his licorice. He begins thinking about Chinese five spice, and wishing he'd had that as an option. He is in a dilemma: he doesn't want his spices to overwhelm the dish because he has to (gag) "hero" the figs and licorice; but on the other hand, if his spices don't overwhelm the dish it will taste like figs and licorice, which will be simply horrible. He's in a pickle.
With 20 minutes to go, Kishwar begins running laps, because even when you're in an immunity challenge, cardio is important. She is marinating prawns – the alien monsters of the food world – and will be covering them with great lashings of mint and beetroot, and apparently that will be in some way good.
Meanwhile Conor has his granita in the blast chiller, proving once and for all what this writer had hitherto only suspected: a granita is some kind of cold thing.
Time is running out. Pete is concerned about Therese. "She's going to have be really careful at balancing these flavours," he says, like he's the Dalai Lama of flavour-balancing and has any moral authority to preach to others about their flavour balance. The whole balcony crowd is getting a bit mouthy. "I love the idea of Kishwar's dish," says Sabina, who has always been a big fan of food that is cooked and can then be eaten.
Time to plate up. Dan finds, to his eternal shock, that his dish is working, and he's not even vomiting at the smell of it. Jock tells him he's disappointed in how messy he's been, and Dan makes an outrageous sexual joke that really does come right out of the blue. There is a moment of panic as Dan's panna cotta makes a sudden bid for freedom, but he manages to keep it on the plate. It, too, seems outrageously sexual.
Time is up, and everyone seems to love their dishes and have reached a state of peace within themselves. No matter what happens, they have all made food, and they have all made friends, and life, for now, is love.
But still the judges must stuff their faces and harsh the buzz, and it starts with Depinder's fried chicken. It causes Melissa to do an odd dance. The chicken is good, though Melissa's description of it as "chickeny" is slightly odd.
Kishwar presents her thing of beetroot and mint and prawns and such. It truly is, without hyperbole, a big pile of stuff. It's fine but not really great, although surely degree of difficulty should be added to anyone who has to cook anything with beetroot.
Therese presents the lumbering monster that is her corn and blue cheese ice-cream sandwich. It is delicious, but she hasn't brought out the flavour of the corn enough, which is a bit unfair, because honestly, how do you bring out the flavour of corn? It's CORN. But she's done well, and the liquid shortbread worked, so from now on Therese is officially Better Than Reynold.
Conor serves his cherry and coffee wotsit. Jock and Melissa can't taste the cherries. We are led to understand that this is a bad thing.
Finally Dan serves his licorice and fig panna cotta and commends his soul to God. It's very good, and to make something good out of licorice and figs is surely a feat that goes beyond cooking and strays into the territory of Voodoo.
In the end the winner of immunity is Depinder, which just goes to show that if you want to win on MasterChef, having an easier job than the rest of the contestants is definitely the smart way to go. Depinder will therefore be getting to stand on the balcony on Sunday, laughing at her friends' pain.
Tune in next week, when at least one life will be ruined.