My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7

"So, if we pour wine on it, that'll just make it better, yeah?"

“I *AM* USING THOSE KOFTAS!” It’s easy to see why we’re missing Thomas already. But like so many other reality TV show stars he’s now yesterday’s infomercial host and we’ve got to get cooking with tonight’s ep. We’re back in Kitchen HQ, and the guests are “VIP’s”. Could it be the Dalai Lama? Will someone serve him a pizza with the lot? Perhaps the “I” stands for invisible, as we’ve seen nobody yet. VERY INVISIBLE PEOPLE. That makes a lot more sense.

Entre vous, teams. “Who knows what’s gonna happen today?” smiles mine truck driver Justine. All that coal dust has finally clogged her synapses. She’s on a cooking show – what else could happen today? Manu offers his congratulations to the teams for being the “top eight teams that make up the final eight team of teams”. He continues amaze them with his understanding of the decimal counting system: “You have a one in eight chance to take this year’s title.” Nic looks worried at this until Rocco lends him some fingers to help with the counting.

“As you know, given we’re filming this in November, Easter is just around the corner,” says Pete. It’s a special time when so many families come together to celebrate that special moment when the Easter Bunny delivers the chocolate. The teams have to prepare a super Easter banquet featuring seafood (again?!) and serving it in the “MKR private dining room” for the VIPs. Everyone speculates as to who these invisible people could be, but there’s one thing they can all agree on – making fun of every faith equally ensures everyone is as angry as everyone else. Just like a family gathering should be (as long as you throw in Uncle Barry being drunk and inappropriate at the end of the table).

“Think smart, think big, think spectacular,” says Manu after telling them to prepare platters for 40. “We have to think?!” says Andy looking worried. Leigh believes it’s her destiny to win People’s Choice today because she and Princess Jen deserve it, having done so well so far and not actually winning any of the challenges. The teams have 90 minutes to prepare their platters after shopping at a nondescript local supermarket. “For only fufteen minutes,” Meg reminds us, “but we’re so glad we’re shopping here because there’s just so much choice compared to back home in Un Zud.” Steve’s determined to breakaway from the idiotic Greek stereotype he’s established over the past few weeks (yeah, good luck with that!); and Simon & Meg are determined to put a little bit of New Zealand on the plate, so they as the lady at the Deli if they stock any dirt from Palmerston North.

Nic & Rocco's blue hand group

When they get back to Kitchen HQ, Pete & Manu remind them of the time limit, and the teams are away in a flurry of bowls and spatulas and ever so diligently prepared product placement. The dishes sound great, but Easter inspired?:

Leigh & Princess Jen – Tarator Crusted Whole Salmon with tabouli
David & Scott – Basil & Parmesan Crusted Salmon with kipfler salad and buerre blanc
Megan & Andy – Warm Ocean Trout Nicoise Salad
Helen & Steve – Sweet & Spicy Barramundi fried and baked with prawns
Carly & Emily – Japanese Seafood Platter with teriyaki snapper, mussels, prawns and squid
Simon & Meg – Stuffed Baby Squid with cous cous and New Zealand mussels
Angela & Justine – Barramundi with roasted capsicum salsa and parmesan crusted mussels
Nic & Rocco – Ocean Trout Cartoccio

For this episode Scott is so happy he’s changed his name to Larry, so keep up people. Megan’s decided to deliver a classic French dish that’s been pre-massacred by Andy, proving the Seafood King is dead and the title is up for the taking. Helen and Steve have quickly proven to be caricatures of even themselves now, giving their recaps like they think we think they’re idiots (and they’d be right). The risk-taking continues with Carly & Emily offering they’ve never cooked Japanese before, but they have cooked Chinese and “as long as you simmer the bones you get a great stock out of a family of four, so it should be great”. They’re monsters, I tell you.

Recently deposed Seafood King Andy hacks away at his trout and “his knife slips”, leaving half of the fillet on the fish which he basically discards. He and Megan are discussing it when Manu arrives (fancy that – Megan couldn’t even pick why he was turning up) and lectures them on the poor use of what used to be a superior fish. Andy tries to convince Manu he’s keeping the carcass for a stock, but Megan reveals the dish they’re making doesn’t need a stock. “Uh… I… Bu… Oh…” is all Andy can stammer out. This, children, is what happens when ego and in-breeding clash. An object lesson for us all.

"Crusted Salmon with Jeffrey Dujon"

I do love the Idiot-Recap-Syndrome Pete & Manu are caught in. We’re back from the ad and they remind us of the premise of the entire night. “One mistake here, and they could find themselves in an elimination cook off, or worse, a season of Excess Baggage,” says Manu. Pete shudders. Nobody wants to see that. Simon & Meg’s Palmerston North Dirt Platter is coming along nicely, though they’re calling it cous cous. Potayto, Potahto. Angela & Justine acknowledge they’re in competition with the New Zealanders as they’re also using mussels, and they’re also as thick as two short planks. Nic & Rocco’s dish definitely reminds them of Easter because the recipe sheet they’re reading it off has a cute picture of a bunny wabbit, just like the one above Rocco’s bed at home. It’s not seafood, but in Rocco’s house rabbit is the chicken of the sea. Their cartoccio is the Italian version of not knowing what to do with your key ingredient so you cook it in a paper bag and hope for the best.

Rocco’s distracted by the cute bunny and slices his fingers open on the mandolin while chopping potatoes. He’s forced to sit out while the medical team attend to his wounds, but Nic won’t have a bar of it. “Come on, get up,” he says to his injured team mate. Rocco could be out for the final quarter, but Nic reminds him that grand finals are special times and you have to step up to win big. Only Rocco could even begin to fathom what that means and stands to join him before passing out.

Steve turns to pre-heat his oven when he discovers one of Leigh & Princess Jen’s fish in it. It’s no issue for now, but they’ll need it later. It’s the perfect calm before the perfect storm of reality cooking show drama. Simon & Meg have prepared their stuffing and are now forcing it into their squid tubes, and Angela & Justine are working their mussels. “Today’s inspiration for our dish is definitely my Dad,” says Angela. “He used to love sitting there watching me cook and telling me where I went wrong with a thick French accent while simultaneously dressing like an elderly hipster, so it’s just like it was at home.”

Megan & the Seafood King are pushing on with their nicoise salad, and given it’s a challenge all about Autumn food it’s great to be serving what is “a real Summer-y dish”. The King knows with a seafood challenge he “better live up to (his) reputation”, so he promptly bashes the fish into the oven noting it needs 25 minutes to cook with 52 minutes left on the clock. Again, math was never his strong point – as a sales rep. Pete’s amazed at what Carly & Emily are trying to achieve in 90 minutes. “We’re in a world of hurt right now,” says Carly deadpan to camera. All the while David & (Happy As) Larry are preparing the crust for their salmon steaks and with no drama there’s no reason to talk to them for the rest of the episode.

This is New Zealand on a plate of ice.

Helen & Steve need their oven now, but Princess Jen needs it for 5 more minutes. It’s a mexican stand-off of sorts, only ended because Steve threatened to do his ‘Con the Fruiterer as a Mexican’ impression. The UN stepped in as that would have been considered a war crime. Rocco’s defecting to the Blue Man Group one hand at a time, and Nic thinks it’s so cool he has to join him too so he cuts his hand and requiring medical attention, leaving Rocco single handed.

The ads promise us the return of Peter & Gary AND Thomas & Carla as next week is MKR elimination week, with at least two more teams getting the arse from the competition. Could it be true? Could the MKR gods have smiled on us all at once?! It’s too delicious to contemplate.

David & (Happy As) Larry are crusting their salmon, but Larry forgot to put the “dujon” mustard on the salmon to help the crust adhere to the fish. It’s a horrible thought, but a former West Indian Test Wicketkeeper has to do what he has to do to feed his family. Carly & Emily convince themselves that if they can pull off the volume of food with the various methods required then the judges will acknowledge just how much they’ve done (it made no sense when they said it either). There’s concern for Angela & Justine’s barramundi as it’s not all the same size and once it’s cooked it’ll have to be photoshopped so the sizes are consistent and smaller that in reality. It’s just one thing after another.

OVENGATE! Steve has gone to check on his baked fish and finds that the bottom oven doesn’t seem to be performing its core duty of heating things and there’s talk that Leigh & Princess Jen might have sabotaged the bottom oven. Leigh responds with a maniacal laugh, and Steve’s right on their case. To compensate he whacks one of his fish in the girls’ oven and keeps casting awkward glances towards Leigh & Princess Jen.

A table set for very invisible people

Twenty minutes to go and Nic cuts himself again through his glove and he and Rocco haven’t even started cooking their fish bags. David & (Happy As) Larry have noticed they’d left the oven on too hot after cooking the spuds and put the salmon in at 225 degress – “I’ve killed it twice!” says Scott (no longer happy, that’s for sure). Simon & Meg are starting to plate their Palmerston North dirt now that it’s ready and their confident it’ll look and taste great.

“One minute to go! Come on guys!” shouts Manu as the plating takes priority to ensure it doesn’t look like puke on a platter. Quick, hard edits make the teams look very stressed and ill-prepared and lots of whole fish look thoroughly over-handled. As usual everyone gets everything done, and Helen and Steve high-five each other for the high-five-millionth time. Everyone’s excited to find out who the VIP’s are now that they’ve delivered their food to the MKR private dining room. “They’re the most important people you’ll ever feed,” Pete tells the teams, and in walks THEIR FRIENDS AND FAMILIES. It could only be more contrived if it were their teenage selves. “Ut’s our kuds!” says Meg in amazement.

Everyone sits down together with the judges to enjoy the feast cooked by the teams. General chatter fills the room as the contestants get to see their families for the first time in six weeks. Angela & Justine are both getting lucky tonight. Amidst the cacophony, the Pete & Manu are tasting each team’s dish. They found the Simon & Meg’s stuffed squid to be nearly melt in the mouth but the Palmerston North dirt is a letdown, while Leigh & Princess Jen’s salmon is “wow” according to Manu. They both like Carly & Emily’s Japanese platter, and feel the two dishes offered by Angela & Justine are exactly that – two separate dishes and not at all complimentary.

Manu’s very confused about Nic & Rocco’s salmon with an Italian dressing paired with an Asian salad, but Pete sits him down and explains how fusion works and he finally gets it. The judges fondly remember how much trout the Seafood King wasted in preparing his team’s dish, noting “it would have been great if we’d had ALL the fish to eat”. The flavours are present and accounted for with Steve & Helen’s platter of barra, but their presentation is horrible. “It’s the worst looking dish not only of tonight, but the whole competition,” says Pete. He’s forgotten the Pooganoff(tm) that got Peter & Gary booted but who remembers them anyway. It looks like David & Scott’s doorstops have miraculously been mistaken for salmon portions again and Pete and Manu like the pairing of the flavours.

Welcome to Loserville - Population: You two.

It’s a fond farewell to the families as the teams are brought back together to be told they will be voting for the People’s Choice, not their loved ones. “And teams, of course you can’t vote for yourselves,” reminds Pete. Strategy at 20 paces – who likes who the best, or hates another team more. The judges address the contestants and in no uncertain terms tell them what they think of their food. The judges saw both Angela & Justine on the plate and were somewhat amazed that the ladies managed to be in two places at once. The Seafood King retains his title as while he may have butchered the fish it was cooked to perfection. Nic & Rocco are pasted for their salad pairing with their fish-in-a-bag, and David & Scott are applauded for their buerre blanc (“I could not have cooked it better,” said Manu). The cous cous was a let down and the stuffing lacked texture for Simon & Meg’s dish. Pete felt Leigh & Princess Jen’s fish was a banquet platter – the best today by a long shot.

The People’s Choice today is a tie! Unprecedented! Megan & Andy and Steve & Helen are considered to be the best today, giving Pete & Manu the deciding vote – congratulations Megan & Andy. “I would never have thought we’d win one of those,” says Andy, obviously humbled by the accolade. Megan explains to him what accolade means and he’s even more humbled.

As for the team heading to elimination, Pete & Manu determined the weakest team was Simon & Meg. The dirt didn’t quite pay off for the parochial Kiwis. “Today it didn’t happen unfortunately,” Pete says to them. Meg’s confident they’ll come out fighting at the sudden-death cook-off, offering fair warning to whoever their challengers will be. “We’re not ready to go home just yet,” Scott reminds us. As we never got a shot of them with their loved ones, it can only be assumed the Qld boys don’t want to go home because there no longer is a home. Stupid cyclones.

Tomorrow night however, it’s The Sound of Music with a twist – the teams have to cook with an ingredient they never liked as a child. What could it mean? Plenty of Julie Andrews’s singing if nothing else. Nic & Rocco are already planning to prepare a brown paper pasta dish with an sweet chilli string dressing. IT’S MADNESS!