MasterChef AustraliaSun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Despite the Cheftestants being asked to deliver something ‘dude-a-licious’ last night all 15 offered the judges plates of oily, deep-fried comfort food (well, at least the winners did) and Alice was crowned ‘Most Likely to annoy the shit out of all of us this series’. Tonight though, Christine Mansfield sets Amina, Andrew & Sam a challenge which Sam sums up most succintly: “If I don’t get the flavours right, there’s a chance I’ll be going home.” And leaving this cooking competition entirely based on the quality of flavours presented at judgement. He’s a sharp one.

Sam & Andrew mull over the judges comments on their dishes from last night, and refuse to disagree with them lest they be thrown to the lions in a public execution. Amina & Adura decide self-deception is the best survival technique, though drawing on her Asian heritage proved useless for Amina in the invention test so she shan’t be doing that again. That’s right – shan’t.

With the ceremonial application of the black aprons to signify their inability to prepare food, the eliminatory three board a vehicle and head into the MasterChef kitchen separate to the other contestants. It’s a unique form of bastardry practised in the Middle Ages and brought back to life by the producers to ensure great shame is heaped on those unlucky enough to have to face an elimination challenge. Also the odds are stacked against the boys as Amina knows how to accessorize a red scarf and totally rocks black better than both of them, so suck it man-whores. Actually, she looks a little like a black & red smurf. Smurfina?

As usual someone’s freshly watered the MasterChef driveway for no real reason, bringing into question the show’s green credentials. Has nobody ever heard of a broom?! The three enter to applause from the other Cheftestants standing on the balcony which instantly causes them to think they’re there for some reason other than elimination, but Gary soon sets them straight. Crazy George loses it at the news that Margaret Fulton is hot and Matt P gets a little creeped out at Amina’s request for one of his cravats to give to a girlfriend who wants to use it to complete her Matt Preston Skinsuit(tm) she’s been working on for all these years. It rubs the lotion on it’s skin…

Andrew reveals he’s not learned anything from the many other elimination challenges he’s been through by simply turning up again. Sam’s a little bewildered as to why he’s even wearing a black apron but that’s because he’s a banker and insert your own joke here. The judges introduce Christine Mansfield and her mere entry to the kitchen casts doubt across the future of all three lined up for this elimination. She’s now so famous even her cloches have cookbooks. The dish she has brought for this terrible trio looks deceptively simple: it’s not dessert (which all three celebrate); it’s her world-famous fireball soup.

After the break we learn that the dish is actually smoked trout, mussels and a tumeric-lemongrass broth – fish stew for the uninitiated. The dish contains 4,000,000,000 micro-ingredients and each one must be prepared individually and rated in their atomic order for the flavours to combine perfectly. With the pre-requisite oohs, ahhs and gushing out of the way, the Cheftestants are sent to their benches to reproduce the dish inside 120 minutes. It sounds reasonable until they have a look at the pages – literally PAGES – of recipe. “It’s gonna be a manic challenge,” says Amina, who instantly starts chopping anything that looks like it could be an ingredient.

Christine feels the Cheftestants need to be running the entire time as there’s many elements that need to be happening consecutively. The odour of expectant failure hangs heavy over the kitchen, but naturally the Balconistas are completely across the recipe and know exactly what the judges will be looking for – edible food. Early on Andrew seems relatively confident as he refuses to be intimidated by the number of ingredients as, for him, it simply means there’s a lot of things to use and it’ll bring a lovely layering effect to the dish. Like his facade of heterosexuality.

Andrew claims his stock to have no sediment and be very pretty – just like his wife. How pleased she’ll be at that comparison. Amina tears up while peeling the eschallots and all the Balconistas can suggest is to chew on a spoon. They all need to stop talking. Gary & Christine stop by to taste Sam’s broth and offer tips, while Alice contemplates the sound of her own voice while recapping her own importance in the show. Christine points out Sam has cut his tomatoes wrong and he rushes off in a fury to cut some more, causing him in his anger to knock the bowl of chillies he’s already prepared off the bench and onto the floor. Now that’s TWO things he has to prepare again – thanks for NOTHING, nosy judges.

“The first thing about this challenge is to measure everything, taste everything, and then steal everything from the contestant you believe will do the best job,” says Gary, finally revealing his kleptomaniacal ways that forced him to move to Australia. The Cheftestants have one hour to go and it only gets crazier. Cue Crazy George to turn up and tie a neckerchief around Sam’s neck in a vain attempt to indicate he’d like an S&M session with him later. The indications are subtle, but that’s because Crazy George thinks none of us can tell.

Alice continues to have an opinion on Amina’s cooking and no one cares. The question of successful fish filleting is starting to be offered around the kitchen, and Andrew suggesting he’s pretty good with a pair of scissor baffles Christine and forces Gary to make a tenuous link back to the task at hand. Andrew laughs quietly to himself at the calibre of his comedy. Somewhere, an innocent puppy is run over as a means of universal balance. YOU BASTARDS!!!

He of the Brow points out to Sam that his broth is boiling, which he attends to quickly, and Alice feels compelled to add more noise. Gary shows Andrew how to fillet the trout after he had boldly proclaimed he could fillet a catfish in the dark. Amina also gets the Gary treatment on how to fillet the trout and successfully manages to mangle both sides of the animal. Amina tells herself she has to remain calm as she hacks away at the carcass of the defenceless fish, forcing her stress outside her head and into her hands.

Audra’s mothering instinct has kicked in for Amina, and she just wants to go down there and offer her wet nursing skills to help her overcome the muddle she’s in. Julia flatly tells her to calm down and follow the recipe with all the emotion of an automaton. The trio of terror start their cold smoking process and it brings all sorts of physical comedy to an arena devoid of smoking sight gags. Too much emphasis is being placed on the Balconistas and their opinion as to how the Cheftestants are going… at this stage in the competition, they’re still not experienced enough to comment, lest their lack of understanding be revealed (yes, we’re all looking at you Mindy and Alice).

With 15 minutes to go, Andrew’s well behind, Amina’s not much better and Sam can’t even remember his name. The ever zen Christine offers a tip to a panicking Amina – slow your breathing. She holds her breath until she passes out, and when she comes around a moment later the reality of the situation smacks her in the face like a poorly filleted trout and it’s all systems go. Sam’s plating with the right amount of time to go, and with one final taste of his broth declares it to be “beautiful”. A last minute Balconista reminder to Andrew to put some cut chilli on his dish has him running down to the wire, but in the end all three deliver their dishes with ease, and a pending lawsuit from the RSPCA over the filleting of all three fish.

Amina is aware she’s butchered her fish (in a bad way, not a good way) but is confident all the flavours are there and so that should be enough to get her through today. That and the fact that she’s the most universally liked MasterChef contestant since Julie Goodwin and the producers would be CRAZY to let her go this early in the competition. Andrew’s confident his is fine and is expecting mostly positive feedback, mainly in the 4KHz range.

Tasting Sam’s dish first, Crazy George asks the banker (former banker, he corrects him) how much he wants it. “Well, only a little bit since I got to know you,” he replies. Sam’s confident he got it all right except for the clarity of broth which all the judges then bang on about for the next two minutes. For some reason the man with 9 thumbs is still responsible for serving the dishes and portions out Sam’s food. Slurps, burps and chewing noises later they agree he’s done a good job but the broth is very strong, almost over reduced. More broth talk and no smokiness of the fish are the major talking points. It would seem the government-funded anti-smoking campaign that was targeting fresh river trout paid off in Sam’s case.

Amina’s dish is next and Gary ominously tells her he’s never seen her that befuddled the entire season. When will she return to her normal level of awesome? “When you tell me I’m safe,” Amina responds. She’s willing to give up her career as a registered Nurse to do what it takes to become a chef. Christine exhorts Amina to chuck it all in like she did 40 years ago in her mid-30’s to cook because that’s all she wanted to do too, and look how that turned out. The lesson here is: don’t try. The compliments start to flow as the judging kicks in, and after tasting all four judges agree that Amina will remain in the competition to ensure cultural diversity quotas are met.

Andrew presents his dish and offers he’s become addicted to adrenaline. Matt P warns him off getting addicted to the black apron and instead suggest something simple like crack or heroin. Early thoughts are there’s too much broth but there’s talk of vibrancy in all it’s dimensions, which is confusing as vibrancy is really only a measure of molecular movement. Crazy George picks a bit of beard off his mussel while commending the way they’re cooked. Some people can be so picky. The broth taste balance is highlighted by both Gary & Matt P, while Christine keeps her opinion to herself.

While the judges agonise over who delivered the best and worst dishes, it’s over in a matter of cross-faded seconds and in no time Amina, Sam & Andrew are seated before Gary, Crazy George & Matt P. Andrew is told he offered great balance in his broth BUT he really needs to let his true self out of the closet. Sam’s presentation was wonderful BUT his broth looked to be over-reduced. Amina looked way out of her depth and there was too much pepper in her broth BUT she’s awesome and shouldn’t worry about a thing. Andrew is declared the first safe contestant and he exhales like he’s just climaxed in his pants.

Matt P tells Sam and Amina that they are both contenders for being crowned Australia’s latest MasterChef, but then quickly douses Sam’s dream by advising Amina she’s safe and Sam is being cut loose to re-enter society with a range of great new knife skills, a vendetta and a whole lot of spare time on his hands. Sam’s grateful for the opportunity and has appreciated everything he’s learned including the home phone numbers of the three judges. He stands, shakes hands and hugs and is lost to MasterChef Australia 2012.

Back at Casa del MasterChef, Audra’s almost in tears at the thought Amina won’t return, but as the doors slide back there’s screams of joy as Amina and sharp breaths of surprise as Andrew is with her. Some of the guys are amazed that Sam has gone – they always thought he’d survive by simply being better than they are, but it goes to show anyone can screw up royally. The closing titles advise us that Sam is currently organsing a food and wine tour of Europe whilst carving the names of his enemies into this abs.