It was a mixed bag of challenges this week, from the basic to the bewildering. On Monday, the contestants had to get inventive with “basic” vegetables. On Tuesday, a blindfolded pressure test challenged the bottom four to recreate Clinton McIver’s aged lamb, which felled Eric in truly spectacular fashion. Wednesday saw them tasked with using only the utensils found in most Australian kitchens, which recalled the time I tried to cook dinner at the house of an ex who owned only one fork. Finally, it was a “world’s hottest chilli” challenge on Thursday. Despite her attempting to murder Andy with the power of 1.5m Scovilles, Linda’s “God Stopper” steak declared her the official Hot Chilli Woman of MasterChef and secured immunity for Sunday night’s elimination challenge.
The gang enters a nearly-empty kitchen to cries of “Ohh, what is this?” and “There’s definitely not enough benches …” Are they going to have to draw straws and sacrifice the losers? And where is Mel?? (“Unfortunately, she can’t be here today,” offers Andy, with a foreboding lack of further information.) The dystopian mood spikes when Andy and Jock reveal a Fortress Of Solitude-esque plinth covered in game meat cuts.
The contestants have to correctly identify as many of the mystery meats as possible, or it’s into round two to cook. Pescatarian Tom is sweating, though reckons some “long, white meat” is crocodile and not, say, the thigh of one of the eliminated contestants. Elise reveals her boyfriend is a hunter, and I quietly make a note never to say anything mean about Elise. “I’m a kindergarten teacher!” cries Tommy as he tries to work out which slabs of meat are the remains of fluffy animals he’s told his pupils about.
The marks are in: Elise Everdeen is unsurprisingly safe, and the laser-targets slowly slip away from the judges’ foreheads as she ascends to the gantry. At the other end of the spectrum are Kishwar, Tommy, Pete, Tom and Aaron, who now have to pick a game meat to cook. Jock and Andy fire up the game puns and it’s time to get cracking.
Aaron’s doing kangaroo to make up for the failures of his audition effort, a roo dish that had him Cook Again. Kishwar has chosen goat, something she’d usually marinate overnight, so I’m already sweating. “You’re on the edge of tears,” Jock offers helpfully, before Kishwar explodes into an ad break. Kishwar no!!
Andy and Jock have a chat about the game meats that are safer choices (quail, wallaby, duck), and those that are more dangerous, which is essentially a screed about the perils of cooking crocodile: it can tighten up, it can go rubbery. Guess what Tom’s picked??
Tommy’s picked pheasant, despite having never cooked with it, because he wants to test himself, while I load a heart attack hotline number into my phone “just in case”. There’s too much YOLO energy in this kitchen today!
Thankfully for my nerves, ASMR Pete is spatchcocking a quail, and has “done a lot of research” about what flavours to pair with it.
Andy and Tom rock up to Tom’s station, where he’s made about 10 attempts to cook his crocodile. “Are you having a tough time?” Jock asks, while Tom imagines Jock being ripped apart by crocs. Andy suggests that Tom could, perhaps, maybe, possibly, completely change his chosen meat, but Tom is steadfast: he wants to persevere with his croc of [redacted].
Aaron is smoking his kangaroo fillet with strawberry gum because he wants “strawberry flavour up through the meat”, which is giving me a flashback to that time in season two when Andre cooked strawberry risotto and Matt Preston said “because I like you, I’ve swallowed it”. He takes it off the hibachi to rest, and, well ...
Jock visits Tom’s bench, where he’s now trialled so many crocodile cooking techniques that the beasts have been listed as critically endangered: “Are you happy with any of that?” “No.” “Are you worried?” “Yes.” Good chat, guys!
There’s more pain next door, where the lads taste ASMR Pete’s sauce, which the cook himself describes as “interesting”.
With 15 minutes to go, it looks like Aaron’s nuked his roo, and has to start again. Happily, things are looking better at Kishwar’s station, where her pressure cooker workaround has seemingly saved her goat rezala. It looks good as hell! She wants to make her kids proud! She’s too pure for this world!!
Time is up, and it’s over to Jock and Andy’s intimate dinner for two.
Kishwar is up first. Andy describes her rezala as “a powerful plate of food”; Jock says it’s “magic”. The music starts playing “level up” jingle noises that seem to be international code for “potential series winner”.
Despite declaring his confidence level “60%”, it turns out Aaron’s redeemed his shaky audition roo cook; the loin is tender and the judges rate his use of native ingredients.
Tom declares no regrets about choosing crocodile, but it turns out that even though he tried roughly 38,000 cooking methods and all of them involved crocodile to the approximate texture of a Blundstone, his final crocodile is actually underdone!
Tommy’s pheasant feast is presented with a beer for each of the lads, but he doesn’t need to bribe them: it’s a success!
They love the sauces. The pheasant is perfectly cooked. Andy, perhaps panicking in an attempt to make up for the lack of Mel’s foodie thesaurus, describes the caramelisation on the pheasant as “abusive”.
Finally, it’s time for ASMR Pete to present his “interesting” quail. The judges reckon it looks like cooking by numbers. He’s feeling vulnerable, and with good reason: the quail is well cooked but under seasoned, and the sauce is overpoweringly fruity.
Luckily, the care with which Pete cooked his quail just edges him past Tom’s crocodile calamity, and our favourite dessert AI is heading home.
... But wait, there’s more: all the eliminated contestants are coming back to secure one of two return spots! Conor, Therese, Eric, I’m begging you: steer clear of crocodile.
What made me cry:
Kishwar’s fondest wish to stick around at least until the judges can taste her Bengali sweets :’)
The white chocolate velouté award for failure:
Tom’s Outliers-esque 10,000 hours of crocodile experiments, which prove that sometimes, mastery really is just a neoliberal fantasy.