MasterChef AustraliaSun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Last night on MasterChef Australia, Kath made the primary mistake of turning up. Tonight, Mindy is in a sushi battle for her life, lest she be struck down by the trio of judge gods and the immunity pin be lost to her for eternity. The heat may be off but the hyperbole is out of this world, and Crazy George isn’t afraid to bound on his feet while delivering bad news. The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Mindy asserts her role as alpha female of the house by forcing one of the eunuchs to make her a coffee, and her day begins with a smile. She’s been to the immunity challenges before and lost, and she’s sure not going to walk away from one again pinless. Alice proves the oversized glasses she wears are for more than just branding – they allow her to project her thoughts into the camera.

Arriving at the House of M, an expectant Mindy pushes the doors open to whooping and applause, and really bad comedic acting from Gary. “Double take, double take, have you stood there before, I wonder, knowingly, out loud, to myself, in a really bad stage whisper?” he says. Preston looks on unimpressed. Crazy George just smiles like he knows what’s going on. He then reveals he’s holding the immunity pin as a nipple ring by opening his jacket and ripping his shirt pocket off, Janet Jackson style. “You want this, don’t you?” Crazy George asks of the young apprentice. The producers race in and see off a massive sexual harassment lawsuit.

Standing between the immunity pin and Mindy is Shaun Presland, the executive chef from Sake Restaurant. He and his two ninja are ready to go, so Mindy must pick two chefs to work with her as has become the custom handed down by the ancients. But first she must play a game of ‘spot the difference’ with this week’s workbench to last week’s… that’s right, there’s no cooking or cooling implements. It’s all about raw food and the diseases one can communicate to their customers by serving it incorrectly. Perfect. As always, Crazy George confuses even the slightest details: “Mindy, to win an immunity pin, you have to cook* an entree, main and dessert that’s raw**,” he says.

* = “cook” indicates the use of heat or chill to alter the state of the food.
** = “raw” means you don’t “cook” your food.
Please somebody help the endlessly happy small Greek man.

Shaun’s a little bit nervous and asks if he can have a kettle, likely to use to fight his way out of the MasterChef fanboys and girls once he’s finished the challenge. Gary’s excited that raw food is the feature of this challenge. “It’s popular because it’s clean, it’s full of enzymes, and it doesn’t play around with the very simple, basic flavours of food,” he says. I’m not sure if he’s talking about raw food or his favourite brothel/restaurant. Mindy chooses Amina (again) and Audra to work with her. “Woo hoo, I get to cook,” says Audra, who has also missed the point of this challenge. It’s a classic boys vs girls challenge, and we all know the outcome – one team will be chucked in the creek because they are weak, while the other team spouts insanity that they are strong like King Kong.

Before they can start, there’s some ground rules:
1) There’s only one power outlet to share between the two teams.
2) One team gets to decide the core ingredient that both teams must feature in all six dishes.
3) Gary, Crazy George and Matt can interrupt at will, and cause havoc as they see fit.
4) There is to be no touching, even in the ballroom dance category.

Miyagi Presland is given the honour of selecting the core ingredient, however while Mindy’s team will have 60 minutes to prepare their dishes his team will only have 30 minutes. Outrageous – he should be able to prepare a banquet in that time. It’s already stacked in his favour. The Sushi Chef and the MasterChef enter the pantry to select the core ingredient, and Mindy trash talks him the whole time. They exit triumphant, and Shaun reveals the core ingredient to be: Kiwi Fruit. Audra immediate goes into full creative mode and comes up with only one menu suggestion for the core ingredient in fruit salad. This is gonna be a long episode.

The girls race to the pantry to collect their ingredients and get started. The judges have retired to postulate as to the outcome and what wondrous dishes they’ll be served. Like fruit salad. Gary reminds us that, unlike other times, tonight whoever puts forward the best dishes will win.

Amina’s making a raw salad with beef, where the Kiwi Fruit will be used to cure/cook the meat. Audra is making sashimi salad with a curry paste including Kiwi Fruit. Mindy is doing the dessert tonight and offering a Kiwi Fruit salad(!) with a marscapone cream. Matt Moran pops in to offer a suggestion to make it look a lot less 1972. Moran attempts to put the wind up the Sake team by listing the genealogy of the female contestants, but all that does is bring shame on his coffee hut. He redeems himself somewhat by stopping by to sharpen Amina’s knife so that she can press on with her fine slices of beef she needs for her entree.

Preland rallies the troops. His team has worked out a menu that will include a deconstructed Kiwi Fruit dessert and a large sashimi/ceviche platter. They are at peace and continue to mediate, awaiting their 30 minute call. Once they are released on the pantry they quickly gather their ingredient with precision, and immediately start on preparing their dishes. There’s an earnestness and direction in their preparation. Wade of the eyebrow clan is amazed at the proficiency the professionals show with their knife work and the Kabuki Theatre they’ve performed before they started.

Sensi Moran questions Presland as to his choice of Kiwi Fruit. It’s not a question he received earlier e-mail so, unprepared, he blurts, “Because we’re not allowed to cook?!” Moran steps gingerly away from the man clearly on edge with the very sharp knife and leaves them to go at it. 20 minutes remain and it’s neck and neck as far as preparation goes. Everything’s fine until Audra drops her Kiwi Fruit puree on the floor and has to start the onerous task of chopping up some Kiwi Fruit again, which puts the girl’s team behind about 30 seconds.

When questioned about the task, Moran responds like an excited infomercial host. “On one hand, the girls are really going well, but on the other hand, the boy’s team are boys,” he says. He’s had the chance to taste all the girl’s dishes, but none of the boy’s ones, so his comparisons are moot yet he presses on.

Shimpe, one of Presland’s army, starts skinning one of the vegetables for presentation, and the shouty gallery has fallen silent. Everyone is amazed at his exact knife skills, and immediately become aware he could skin any one of them should they get within 3 paces of him. It’s a sobering moment, tempered by Moran taunting Mindy by pointing out her opponent’s knife skills. Audra’s feeling the pressure as she stars to slice her salmon for her dish and realises she hasn’t pinboned the fish yet. So instead of stopping and boning the fillet properly she attempts to get the bits of bone out as she cuts the slices. Lordy.

The five minute call goes out and there’s more whisking than you’d see on an episode of MasterChef. Plating frenzy. Someone needs their nuts crushed(!). The professionals have their vision down and subsequently their presentation is pretty spectacular. They’ve finished 60 seconds ahead of the amateurs so they pop around to assist in a very sporting manner. Mindy asks Shaun to quinelle the cream going in the centre of her plate, and he has a go but isn’t very good. He laughs the laugh of one thousand dead souls at how he’s suckered in his opponent and then sabotaged her at the last minute. Read the Art of War, people – he followed it to the letter.

When time runs out both teams get to inspect the other’s dishes. Mindy knows her team hasn’t presented their dishes well but conveniently the flavours are all on the plate. And on the chopping board, in the sink and on the floor. The judges are keen to taste the dishes, though Master Preston warns the others he’s sat through a 23 course degustation based on Kiwi Fruit and it was “22 bad dishes, one good one, and two OK ones”. Math was never his strong point.

The entrees are delivered and on presentation it’s chalk and cheese. As in the girls have presented Kiwi Fruit chalk and the boys a nice cheese platter with some Kiwi Fruit on the side. Everyone laughs and a Benny Hill-style chase starts up temporarily. Once the judges dress themselves again the real entrees have been presented: Carry On Carpaccio and Cured Beef Welts. Gary attempts to misdirect by saying both look great, but Crazy George zeroes in on the better looking one and insists they taste the carpaccio first. The judges can’t taste Kiwi Fruit and He of the Cravat is reminded of a Nouvelle cookbook he once edited that had Kiwi Fruit in everything but it couldn’t be tasted. On trying the cured beef all three are impressed with the flavours, but the cuts of beef are poor and Gary thinks it tastes quite pasty (but that could be the clag he’s drinking on the sly out of shot).

One in thirty people have a clag addiction. You can help them by calling 1800 NO MORE CLAG and donating generously.

The mains arrive and it’s all eyes on the ceviche dish served in the lobster tail. The sashimi looks miniscule by comparison, but as usual the judges talk it up nonetheless – only Preston speaks truth. On tasting the ceviche the judges are sold, and even Gary notes “it looks Japanese”. Crazy George insists on announcing for all the blind viewers that they’ll now taste the sashimi dish, and serves it clumsily as usual. The carrot is determined to be ‘necessary’, and the Thai spices shine through. The Kiwi Fruit is determined to have enhanced the dish rather than have overpowered it.

The desserts are presented and Crazy George is unimpressed with both. He thinks of what he could have delivered in their place and scoffs at the offerings. The trio taste the mango carpaccio first and are thoroughly unimpressed. “NO!” Gary shouts. Preston offers the mango is beautifully ripe (“God did a great job,” offers Gary) and he can see what was attempted with the Kiwi Fruit but it hasn’t worked and the maple syrup overpowered everything. “I’d love to say something positive, but this is MasterChef,” says Gary, “And that won’t make for a good promo.” The other dessert is far preferred by the judges, though it does have it’s failures. The judges record their feelings, and Crazy George offers he can’t wait to find out who cooked what. As if he didn’t know already, the fibber.

The judges unfold from the giant rolling pin that they transform into for ease of transport and assemble before the contestants. Matt Moran advises that he thinks that Kiwi Fruit was a difficult key ingredient for both teams, and Mindy isn’t as confident now that she’ll win the immunity pin as she was this morning. The judges advise that one dish stood out as the absolute dish of the day, and they’ll reveal that last because to do that first would be pointless and everyone would have switched over straight afterwards.

The girls advise they made the beef; the boys made the scallops for entree. The judges liked the fireball best, but it’s never allowed to win. Returning from the ad break, the judges confirm they liked the beef the best. Girls 1, Boys 0. Amina is stoked her entree won – lots of good flavours, and the chilli added a great punch that was appreciated by the judges. The judges advise they enjoyed the Kiwi Lime Cream dish for dessert best which offers an even point. One all. Preston is faux amazed that Mindy prepared the mango carpaccio dessert that all three judges disliked so much.

With the other dishes announced, the main is the deciding dish and was also the most popular dish of the day. Crazy George describes the dish as integrating the flavours with “such finesse and allagance”. Seriously? I thought he’d grown out of that by season four. In some classic MasterChef deception, after making the contestants reveal who prepared which dish, Crazy George shakes the judging book in his hand and says, “Mindy, you’re not gonna like this… as much as you’re gonna like this!” as he opens his jacket, revealing the immunity pin. The judges loved the salmon sashimi and this has given Mindy victory. She envelopes Audra in a hug and tears flow plentifully. Audra is asked to stick the pin onto Mindy’s jacket and triumphant music swells.

Crazy George confirms that Mindy is the first person to win the Immunity pin in 2012 – no small feat given there’s only been one other immunity challenge to date. It allows Mindy to avoid any elimination right up to the final week of competition. It also allows Mindy a table at any Sizzler restaurant around the country without having to wait in line. What a treat!

Tomorrow night though, the team challenge sees the MasterChefians scrounging for food to create a three course banquet for 25. It also sees contestants do stupid things and someone lose their cool again. Situation normal.