As Junior Masterchef moved into week 4, the show was beset with negative coverage relating to poor ratings. Unlike its adult version, Junior Masterchef has not successfully carried on the success of the first season into a successful second season, and people are successfully turning off in droves. What has led to this plummet in viewing audience numbers is difficult to say. Perhaps it’s because audiences are becoming savvier, recognising that what they see on television doesn’t exactly accord with reality. Or perhaps it’s because audiences are beginning to realise that shows like Masterchef, X-Factor, The Renovators and Gardening Australia use their contestants as no more than fodder, chewing them up and spitting them out when all the flavour is gone, and this approach is even more difficult to countenance when small children are the victims. Or perhaps it’s because George is a git.

Whatever the reason, Junior Masterchef, no longer a ratings powerhouse, is now suffering from the tall poppy syndrome, and is being targeted by jealous and ruthless news reporters. Rumours are now circulating that the contestants are given the recipes to practice beforehand and this has been confirmed by the production company. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (see what I did there). Other rumours, so far unconfirmed, include: contestants have had cooking lessons before the show started; families have hired professional chefs; some of the children have had acting lessons (not Chandler); some of the contestants have had plastic surgery; George is not a git. The last two are unlikely to be true.

Still, the show must go on, at least until ratings get so dismal that it would be cheaper to air reruns of the Simpsons, and while there is a show going on there is a recap of that show to be done.

This week started with the top 12 safe, and the bottom 8 fighting it out for 4 places, with the obvious conclusion being that 4 would have to go home and fight it out with their siblings to see who would be the top cook in their family. Of course, the bottom 4 wouldn’t go away empty handed. They’d have to carry their clothes home.

The first challenge involved the perfect roast. Kieren went completely up the wrong alley when he started harping on about how Charlie Sheen was so hopeless he could even organise a root in a brothel and was a f**king c**t who’s d**k would probably fall off and who would probably die of syphilis alone in a seedy bedsit. First of all, wrong kind of roast Kieren. Second of all, if Charlie Sheen is famous for anything, it’s getting a root in a brothel. And finally, swearing is no substitute for a good, well structured, perfectly delivered comedic routine, you f**kwit.

Alysha and Tom were the two who cooked the best roasts and went safely through to the top 16. Alysha for her roast chicken and Tom for his roast chicken as well.

The remaining 6 had to fight it out for the two remaining spots. The challenge was the traditional pressure test, with a special guest judge, who Gary described as a Grand Master Chef, hinting at an association with the Klu Klux Klan. Jade claimed to be able to see a sleeve, which had viewers and contestants alike presupposing that Gordon Ramsay was about to finally appear on Masterchef, known as he is for sleeve wearing. However, disappointment reigned supreme when the guest judge was revealed to be Tony Bilson, who had come fresh from his meeting with the administrators arranging the winding up and handing over of his restaurant, Bilsons, which will now be known as Ernst and Young. Marcus claimed to be so nervous at the sight of Bilson that he had butterflies in his stomach, and it is probably natural that children would be a little wary at the sight of an elderly man in a white coat and bow tie.

Bilson was asked to reveal the dish the contestants were to prepare. At first, all that was under the cloche was a stack of papers, and Bilson muttered something about hoping to “find a kind of Matt Damon character from Good Will Hunting amongst these children who can fix up this bloody mess”. Gary insisted that they should be given something more food oriented, which led to an unseemly tussle between the two men, before Gary, holding Bilson in a head lock, forced him to agree to provide a food dish for the kids to cook, which turned out to be lobster risotto. Each tried the dish and gave Bilson their opinion, save for Hannah, who said “it was so nice, words can’t describe it”. Astute observers would note that “nice” is in fact a word used to describe things.

To prove the importance of freshness, the contestants were given live lobsters to cook with. They were instructed to first put the lobsters into an ice bath and then into boiling water, as this is considered the most humane way of ‘euthanising’ a lobster, other than not killing it. I guess the theory is that they’re so f**king cold in the ice bath that the boiling water brings momentary relief before the reality of the situation hits home.

Hannah, the little romantic, kissed hers, but unfortunately it turned into an ugly prince, Charles I think, and went off to the herb garden for a chat, meaning that Hannah was unlikely to make it through. Marcus was asked by Gary what his favourite experience had been on Masterchef so far. He replied that it was working in the Summit, and that going in there had left him speechless. His second favourite thing had been going to the Marble Bar afterwards, which had left him legless. Zak was criticised by Bilson for putting his stock in all at once, rather than steadily in small quantities, but considering his precarious financial situation, Bilson probably shouldn’t be lecturing people on over stocking.

Notwithstanding his incorrect risotto cooking procedure, Zak’s dish was in the top two, along with Marcus. That left Hannah, Caroline, Jade and Aya last, and probably least, and was enough to send them home. Tony Bilson also left to go home, to continue his cooking journey and his working out how to pay his debts journey.

So on to Monday and the top 16 went head to head in a mystery box challenge. The mystery box contained pork, scallops, pineapple, pears, vanilla, chilli, lime and mint. Many of the contestants chose to make a pork, scallops, pineapple, pears, vanilla, chilli, lime and mint dish, which I think hints at a lack of imagination, save for Tom, who decided to play with his transformers for a bit.

Alysha and Zak were first up for tasting: Alysha with her lime and honey pudding with runny lime and pineapple jam. Alysha’s dish came replete with the top of a pineapple. George began the first steps in making a surprising career change to become one of Ashley and Martin’s “qualified doctors”, by placing said top of pineapple atop Matt Moran’s head in an attempt to hide Moran’s barely noticeable bald spot. Although the pineapple toupee proved to be less than successful, it’s good to see George attempting broaden his horizons. Anna claimed she was going to start calling Alysha the Pineapple Princess of Puddings, but it turned out that was one of the many titles the former Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson is still entitled to use. Zak’s dish was also quite interesting, or at least that’s the terms the scientists at the Centre for Disease Control used, along with “eastern seaboard” and “wipe-out”.

Lily and Harry were next, Harry with his upside down cake and Lily with her vanilla pears and custard. Matt said Harry’s dish was to die for, and I’m not sure why he is on a show involving children if he is going to continue to make these threats of violence. Greta and Kieren were the final two up, Greta with her vanilla scallops and pork and Kieren with his poached pear pudding, showing that Kieren was angling for the currently vacant title of Poached Pear Princess of Puddings, but Anna remained silent on whether she felt inclined to bestow any more titles. Matt once again claimed that he had eaten something he would die for when he tasted Kieren’s pears, and he now has viewers wondering if in fact he has a terminal illness and so can technically make such a claim truthfully in regard to everything he eats.

After all the tasting, Harry walked away with 2 points, Greta 4, and Alysha 6 for having the best dish. She said will continue pushing her claim to be the Pineapple Princess of Puddings, not ruling out raising a violent insurrection to overthrow the current title holder.

Following the mystery box challenge, a bunch of old ladies were let into the building. The way the children screamed and ran to hug them could only have led viewers to one possible conclusion: these women were evil terrorists and the children, their former hostages, were all suffering from Stockholm syndrome. In reality it turned out that they were the children’s mothers and/or grandmothers, in a twist no one saw coming, except for everyone. Mireade said she hadn’t seen her grandmother since she was 5, and had forgotten what she looked like, and so had placed a lot of faith in the producer’s ability to procure the correct woman.

Of course, the purpose of bringing these women into the kitchen was to bring with them something that grandmothers are well known for: no, not odd odours and ill fitting false teeth, but recipes for apple based deserts. The grandmothers would be judging the results, with the added twist that they couldn’t judge anyone whom with the shared any DNA.

Mireade claimed that the woman she hadn’t seen since she was 5 had been very influential in her cooking. What she probably meant is that her grandmother is responsible for a lot of the anger and bitterness that goes into her food. Steven, who must be a new character on the show, said he was making SAS, or Steven’s Apple Stacks. Since these were supposed to be grandma’s recipes, I can only assume his grandmother is also named Steven. Meanwhile, Indigo stated that her pastry was one of the hardest pastries she’d ever made, instantly regretting the extra concrete she had put in.

By the end all the pies and desserts were done and it was time to put the teeth in and get tasting. The vote was a secret ballot, so technically there was nothing to stop them voting for their own family member, but honesty reigned supreme. Indigo’s dish was considered the best, with Zac a close second. Third was shared between Mireade, with her bitter, bitter, tear filled apple pie, and Steven, with his take on Grandma Steven’s Apple Stacks.

Until next week.

Junior MasterChef – Sun/Mon 7:30pm, Ch10.