MasterChef AustraliaSun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Last night six more aprons were given away, and six more contestants joined Kevin on the stool, the tool on a stool, as the top 24 began to take shape. Filipo watched as Amina took the place he thought he deserved, while Wade watched through a forest of eyebrow hair. George tasted Delvindra’s curry, an admitted he wasn’t a fan of Indian food. Just as well it was a Sri Lankan curry, but I guess all curries look the same to you George.

Tonight, cream into butter, egg into meringue, and Filipo into hospital, on MASTERCHEF!

Ah beautiful Melbourne. Perfect one day, cold, wet and bitter the next. The remnants of the fabulous fifty walk into the kitchen and applaud their ability to walk into the kitchen. These chosen few, these happy few. Except Filipo, who is still far from happy, as he espies Amina from the corner of his eye wearing HIS apron.

Gary calls the seven who have aprons ‘lucky’ but you make your own luck in this game Gary, as well as your own stock since Campbell’s Real Stock began sponsoring that ‘other’ cooking game show. When Gary shouts “Who wants one?” they all reply in unison “What exactly are you talking about Gary?” who clarifies by saying “An apron!” and when it dawns on them exactly what Gary is talking about they generally agree that they do want one. Then Matt Moran walks in with a huge salmon on his right shoulder. When I grew up, a huge salmon on your right shoulder meant you were spoken for, whereas a huge salmon on your left shoulder meant you were single, and other singles knew it was okay to approach you. These days it just means, “Hey look at me I’ve got a big fish!” Sometimes I pine for the old days.

Moran gently lays the fish on the bench and kisses it on its red ruby lips, before slicing it open and peeling off several perfect fillets. He does a perfect job of slicing, and then an even better job of removing the pin bones. The contestants applaud, easily impressed. Wait until they see him preparing crocodile.

Their task is to fillet, pin bone and cook a perfect dish, but only 10 can cook, with 5 winning an apron, and 5 winning their taxi and/or airfare home. Most put up their hand. Beau says he “don’t give up when it gets tough”, which I take to mean that when he’s overcooked the steak he just keeps cooking it. One of the Bens thinks he might be related to the fish, as they’re both from Tasmania, but since it’s okay to do things to your relatives in Tasmania that you can’t do on the mainland, this shouldn’t prove too much of a hurdle. Gary roars “It’s do or die!” but it’s not. It’s just, be better than some others, or go home.

The judges ask those that are willing to take the risk with salmon to step forward. Hopefully they’re talking about the risk being cooking the fish, and not interspecies procreation. Many take the step, but some don’t. Mario steps forward, but he is as uncertain as a nude male centrefold on a cold day. Those that have come forward have to pick a knife and if the knife has a number, they get to cook. If not, then they get to put the knife back. Either way they’re winners.

Tregan gets a number and talks about a dream she had the night before involving her father and fishing. I think she’s suggesting she’s psychic or something. If her father walks through the door I’ll believe she’s psychic or something. Everyone claps her remarkable ability to randomly withdraw a knife with a number on it. Athena is next and also gets a number. God this could be over in minutes. Mario takes his chance and gets a blank knife. God this could take hours. Filipo pulls a knife but there’s nothing on it. I’m not sure he put it back and I’m not sure Amina is safe.

Fiona, Steve, Lucy, Matthew, Alice, Wade, Sam, and Shaun all get knives with numbers, and will battle it out for five aprons. 60 Minutes to fillet and cook a fish. They can cook it whichever way they like, except in a risotto obviously.

Athena starts talking to herself, asking “what are all the things you can do with a Salmon, other than a curry”. Well Athena, there’s dancing, prancing, romancing, but why not try pan frying it? She agrees and decides to pan fry it. But first a quick shot of Athena at home talking about her cooking books. “If there’s a fire” she starts “then these are the first things I’m grabbing. These cook books. These extremely flammable cook books”. If there is a fire, then the first person to stay away from is Athena.

Sam’s a baker, yet he is handling fish, so a demarcation line has been crossed and the union needs to be informed. You don’t want to cross the Handlers of Fresh Fish Association, or HOFFA, Sam. Moran thinks his fillet is perfect, while George tells him not to dress things up. Sam removes the feather boa, but he is determined to keep the tiara. Fiona explains to camera that salmon is her speciality as she cooks it all the time. But I suspect she cooks it badly all the time. Meanwhile, Alice is attempting to usurp Wade’s position as the holder of the thickest eyebrows in the competition, but he’s having none of it and the next time we see him his eyebrows have joined to form one super brow.

30 minutes to go and we’re back to 18 year old Matthew. No risotto this time, finally having learnt why it’s called the ‘dish of death’ and the ‘plate of perniciousness’, but instead salmon en papillote, or ‘fish in a bag’. Matt cut his teeth in the professional kitchens of Hungry Jacks, so he knows pressure. Like the pressure a boy feels when his peers coerce him into using his genitals to stir a customer’s milkshake.

Over on the other side of the room, Fiona is hacking at her salmon to remove the scales, while Shaun is hacking at his salmon to remove most of the salmon. When asked about being in the competition, Wade says he’s not here to win. Which is going to come in handy by about week 4. Wade thinks his is firm with residual moisture, and his fish is okay too.

With 10 seconds to go there’s not much time to do anything, but put the finishing touches on. Pour some sauce, season the fish, add the garnish, and pick it up off the floor. Athena is not happy and Alice thinks hers might be undercooked. Then Gary explains what the challenge was way too late for those who didn’t listen at the start. Then it’s all over and it’s too late to do anything else.

Alice is first and she comes up wearing safety glasses. The reason is obvious as George begins to talk. Pan fried salmon fillet with salmon consommé and croutons. She’s glad she backed herself, and will be until the judges taste it, and then she’ll probably regret backing herself. But in a twist we all saw coming, George loves it.

Athena is next with pan fried salmon fillet. Preston makes slurping noises, and then says she’s done a great job. A second longer in the pan, it would be a disaster. So it’s only a calamity at this stage, or a debacle. Phew! Gary isn’t a fan of the scales or the aioli, but thinks the fish is well cooked. Tregan follows Alice’s pan fried salmon fillet and Athena’s pan fried salmon fillet with her own pan fried salmon fillet. Preston dissects the food, says Masterchef is about ennobling simple ingredients, but not the English language.

Shaun and Lucy come and go quickly, with nothing nice said, while Steven’s baked salmon was inedible. Young Matthew, Hungry Matt from Hungry Jacks, has Salmon en papillote with orange salad. Matthew leans to the left politically, while his hair leans to the right physically. Trepidation reigns supreme, but then the uplifting piano music tells us its pretty good long before Gary does.

Wade saunters up with his dirty Cajun rice and hot smoked salmon, which is not a euphemism but sure sounds like it should be. He’s confident, but as they taste he rubs his head. He’s no Mario though, and no amount of rubbing works on the judges. Moran says it’s not dirty rice at all. Dirty rice has offal in it, which gives it the brown colour that makes it look dirty. Wait, he’s serious? Apparently so, but notwithstanding, he thinks the dish is good.

Fiona, who couldn’t even remove the scales from her eyes, let alone the scales from the fish, is up next. Gary calls her brutal, but in a twist says it’s pretty. Quite a tasty dish, he says, possibly referring to her food, or possibly not. Sam muscles his way to the front with his oven roasted salmon, and his dish is good enough to get a clap.

So decision time. Gary exhorts them for their courage. The first apron goes to Tregan, because hers was the best. Those poor little bastards in juvenile justice won’t get a look in now. The next one goes to Alice, and Wade gets one too, for his dirty little rice and salmon, while the second last one is awarded to Matthew, recreating his very own recurring wet dream. One apron left. Suddenly George’s hands, holding the apron, are consumed in a fiery industrial accident, as we go to a break. Is this a new thing Masterchef? Going to an ad at the most dramatic moment?

When we come back, George has healed, and Sam is the recipient of the final apron. He breathes a sigh of relief. So with Sam the last, that means 5 people are gone. Lucy, Fiona, Steve, Shaun, and Athena.

12 aprons are left now, and it’s time for a skills test. Walking and chewing gum? No turning cream into butter and serving up 150 grams of perfect butter. This is such an unfair challenge, as the high lever masturbators, with their strong forearms, have an instant advantage. Whip, whip, whip, go the contestants, like flagellants coming out of a peep show. Beau uses all the skill he can must from his wrists and forearms. A woman I’ve not seen before claims she gets her husband to whip the cream. Surely that’s a euphemism. Then some start washing their butter, not because they dropped it, but because that’s how you make butter. Then they have to take it to a line where it’s checked by Matt and Gary for dryness and weight. If you’re butter is wet you have to go back and make more. Wet butter: surely that’s a euphemism.

Both Andy and Anastasia’s knobs (of butter) weren’t quite heavy enough, but Beau’s knob (of butter) is close enough to the right weight, and his reward is to take an advantage into tomorrow’s challenge. As the others file out, Beau remains behind to learn what it is. It’s under a decorative cloche. Guns? Poison? Maggie Beer? Small people wrestling under things? No, it’s the dish everyone will have to cook tomorrow. And it is? Well you will have to wait until tomorrow. As will Beau because he doesn’t even know what it is!

Tomorrow on Masterchef: Shannon Bennet, a pressure test, and 5 more seconds of MARIO!