MasterChef AustraliaSun 7:30pm; Mon-Fri 7pm, Ch10
Last week on Masterchef, 75 contestants became 50, and 50 started to slowly be whittled down to 24. Kevin won an apron first for his revolutionary Trojan Chicken, while Audra turned a negative into a positive when her eggless chocolate tart proved to be a triumph over adversity and a victory over stupidity. Salmon was the cause of celebration for five contestants and devastation for another five, and Shannon Bennett’s deconstructed post modern Peach Melba proved too much for some.

Tonight, 12 contestants, but only 6 aprons left. Sound familiar? Well check out last Tuesday’s episode. But notwithstanding the similarities, tonight will be as different as chalk and chalk flavoured cheese as 12 different people, almost, battle it out over a very different cooking challenge, almost, on MASTERCHEF again.

We’re still in Melbourne as the opening sequences play out. One must question whether the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce has found some lurid photos of Gary, George, Preston, writhing pleasurably in exploded packs of butter, in the dairy aisle of their local Coles, and used them to persuade the producers that the city of Melbourne should be preferred over the grander, more picturesque city of Sydney as the location and backdrop of choice.

Each contestant is given 30 minutes to shop and $100 to spend on French. Mindy says that growing up they moved around a lot because her dad was in the air force. Not because he was constantly being posted in far off and exotic locations, but because he suffered from a particular form of OCD causing him to need to rearrange the furniture. Yukio says that his food is a marriage between Japanese and French cuisine, which rather too soon sees the French cuisine flirting with salesgirls at the lingerie counter before inevitably the cuisine and the salesgirl are doing it in the fitting room.

Mario is doing duck a l’orange, or orange in duck sauce. But he can’t find a bottle of duck juice in the supermarket so instead opts to reverse the roles. Mario has been polishing the chrome off of towbars for about 20 years. This, coincidentally, is longer than Emma has been alive. Emma says that saying to the camera “this is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done” is the most exciting thing she has ever done. At least I think that’s what she meant. Deb says the 30 mins is like an hour workout at the gym, particularly after she forgot to wipe her sweat off the equipment.

The contestants are off to well known artists colony Montsalvat, were historically some of Australia’s finest artists and biggest wankers have relaxed and honed their crafts. French culinary giant Jacques Ramond will be one of the judges today, along with Ukrainian actual giant Leonid Stadnyk, who stands at an impressive 8 feet 5 inches. Jacques has been cooking since he was 16 and still doesn’t know what he’s doing. He wants them to respect the French heritage, the product, oh and don’t forget a sauce. Leonid just wants a chair to sit in.

Preston says the apron that they all want so much is the Holy Grail. Presumably this means that Jesus once wore it and it gives the wearer some super power or another. Mario starts zesting an orange and bedazzling the duck, while Mindy trims the fat from her belly. Deb is saying pressure point a lot, while Filipo comes in late smelling of brake fluid. Watch out Amina! Yukio butchers the French language but mercifully doesn’t butcher the French chef.

Emma says she’s pretty nervous, and is making Macarons, which everyone else calls Macaroons. Gary shouts something in French, which may have been “George is the bald one, use his head to rub oil into my back”, but could also have been something else. Kath adds a French accent to her bouillabaisse, but her use of a food processor draws a stern rebuke. But then Kath uses the food processor to silence her critic in the most emphatic way possible: by turning it on and drowning out his words.

Preston says that if you want that Holy Grail, you probably need to believe in god, but if you want an apron, cook better. The warning falls on Mario’s extremely deaf ears as his description of his dish causes Jacques Ramond to beat a puppy to death. George warns Deb about the dangers of not getting the pastry right, and that if it’s undercooked, it will go “bong bong”, possibly with every bite. Yudio crosses his fingers in the hope that his fish isn’t overcooked, but then can no longer operate the stove top. There’s only 10 minutes to go and Gary says he’s worried about everyone, before everyone is consumed by a fireball and Gary’s words suddenly seem somewhat prophetic. Oddly, George is the only one to survive and celebrates his good fortune by trying to sell everyone Western Star butter.

With 3 minutes to go, neither George nor Gary screams “IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE”, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. It IS hot in there as the contestants lose gallons of sweat, mostly into their food. Deb has extra cause to sweat, as she can’t get her tart out because of a dispute over payment, but teases the tart out, probably by using drugs as a lure. Yukio plates up his bag and can’t remember whether it’s the one with the fish in it or his man bag. People whose existence was unknown up until now start pointlessly plating up, before it’s time, and whatever it is you’re holding put down. Deb and Filipo move into hug as the countdown finishes, but the lubricating effect of their sweat causes them to slip out of each other’s arms and slide down the hill. Emma cries.

Then it is time for the tasting. To make the process more stressful, the contestants are forced to run the gauntlet of a savage peacock on the way to the judging table. Mindy’s Normandy inspired dish is first and Ramond is effusive in his praise, leaving the rest of the judges nowhere to go and forcing Preston to downplay her chances and makes some vague statements about her possibly going out in this round. After a little re-education of Ramond by Gary and George, Kath is next. Ramond initially looks uninterested, the two having butted heads earlier over the age old food processor or no food processor debate, but the flavour brings him around and he loves it. Mario brings in his duck a l’orange with liver pate. Gary says the pate is one of the worst he’s ever seen and has caused him to seriously reconsider eating with his eyes.

Next up are three people who aren’t going to get through: Dom, Keen, and a woman who is so unimportant that the producers didn’t even give her a name. Filipo and Emma come and go with comments that are encouraging without being too revealing, followed by Roger and Harvey who are best known for being named Roger and Harvey.

Yukio brings out his en papiotte, but he is so nervous that he cuts off a finger opening the bag. Ramond likes the fish but is disappointed in the lack of juice, as well as the inclusion of a finger. For a moment Yukio struggles to recall the direction of the exit, before following the bloodthirsty cry of the peacock. Deb comes in next and the judges, by this stage having succumbed to the wasting effects of their shared opium addictions, force her to serve for them. “Hand feed us” may be the cry for the next contestant. Nevertheless, Deb’s dish is a triumph. Meanwhile the peacock screams out the names of its victims in the background.

With the tasting over it’s time to hand out the rewards. Deborah’s was the best dish of the day, so naturally she gets an apron. Then Filipo is called forward, and Amina will survive for a little while longer. Mindy is next, so for the near future she can look forward to an exciting adventure as well as a steady furniture arrangement. Mindy captured the flavours of Normandy and refused to let them go until decent terms were negotiated. Kath is surprised to get an apron and everyone is surprised when Mario’s “worst pate ever” gets one. Emma gets the final apron, and she uses it to wipe the tears that have been streaming from her eyes for three days. The rest are just losers now. Yukio and Dom skip up that path until they are torn to shreds by the dreaded peacock.

Tomorrow, it’s time for Masterchef for real, with a mystery box, a celebrity chef, and people not doing things properly.