MasterChef: "Top 9 Compete"
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MasterChef: "Top 9 Compete"

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MasterChef

"Top 9 Compete"

Season 2, Episode 14
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MasterChef

"Top 8 Compete"/"Top 8 Compete Again"

Season 2, Episode 15

This week, we got two back-to-back episodes in which Christian and his bad attitude managed to dominate everything, even though Christian himself failed to especially distinguish himself in the kitchen at any point. I don't know for sure whether the guy can cook (broadcast technology not having yet evolved to the point where it allows me to taste his food), but I guess this much has been confirmed: he's a star.

First, Christian and Christine faced off as team captains for an outdoor challenge, in what looked looked suspiciously like the same suburban cul-de-sac where the unspeakably hideous Extreme Chef recently staged its season premiere. Before being assigned their marching orders, the contestants arrived to find Gordon and Joe relaxing while Graham spun a hula hoop around his leg and then his neck, an image out of Blue Velvet. The chefs were then informed that they would be vying to please the taste buds of a pack of children, news that immediately set them to thinking in terms of the lowest common denominator. 

Christine's team chose to go experimental with her concept of a "chicken nugget sandwich", the very thought of which made Gordon turn a little green around the gills. "That's just junk food!" he moaned. I was hoping that someone would say, "You mean it's like Hell's Kitchen?" but nobody did. Any objections he had for either team's menu were brushed away by the chefs, on the basis that he doesn't know how stupid kids are and what kind of crap you have to serve them if you want them to like it. Gordon did mention that he has four kids of his own and has fed them once or twice, but we're talking good, solid American kids, and his kids are British. They probably stagger home every night half-crocked after an afternoon at the pub and then fill up on that bangers and mash shit.

Finally, the wee tots were released from their cages and pointed in the direction of the outdoor serving area. It was like one of those scenes from a Western where they hand everybody a little flag and line them up in front of the land that's being made available for homestead claims, and then the sheriff fires his gun in the air and hollers, "Go!" The judges had tasted just enough of both team's food to react to it scornfully, but the kids seemed happy enough with it, and in some cases appeared to be on the verge of a religious experience. This may have proved the chefs' point, or it could just be that some of the kids had been urged by their parents to say or do whatever it took to get them some face time with the camera. Christine's team did hit a snag when they had trouble turning out their chicken nugget sandwiches fast enough to meet the demand. Hungry kids surrounded the tables baying for food, as the chefs tried to amuse them as best they could.

Christian grew ever more confident that victory, for him, was a certainty, and he'd been pretty damn confident about it from the beginning. But all was not a hundred percent with him and his followers. To appease the kids' sweet tooths, Jennifer had prepared a caramel topping for the side dish, and Christian had, at one all-important point, lunged into the way and stirred it. I've never made caramel in my life, but the noises coming from Jennifer, Gordon, and the warm body on the other end of my couch made it clear that this was a culinary no-no on the order of peeing in the soup. When the votes were tallied, a majority of the kids threw their votes to Christine's team. Christian took it badly. In fact, he sulked that the decision was clearly based not on the quality of the food, but on Chrsitine and her teammates having used that period when they weren't serving food to entertain the youngsters and get them on their side. Over the last few years, I've logged more time watching cooking-competition shows than I care to count, and this was the first time I've ever seen someone claim that his opponents had given themselves an unfair advantage by making people wait longer for their food.

Back at the MasterChef kitchen, Christian and those he had dragged down with him were forced to fight to stay on the show by cooking soufflés. It should have been a no-brainer of a challenge in terms of generating tension and suspense, and the editor should tried to make it look as if that was what it was. In fact, though, he was mostly reduced to showing a lot of close-ups of soufflés stubbornly not falling. Suddenly, from the peanut gallery high above the kitchen floor, an awestruck murmur went up among Christine and her buds. The gist of it was that Christian had not cooked his roux, clearly a  faux pas even more dreadful than stirring one's caramel. Everyone conspired to make it seem as if Christian was headed out the door for good--even the judges, who tasted his soufflé, said nothing, then told the other three contestants that they were safe before informing Christian that his dish, too, was delicious, and since everyone had done so well, nobody was going home. This act of mercy didn't go over so well with the other seven chefs, who practically had his luggage packed for him. 

Tonight's mystery box challenge was surf and turf. Once again, the seafood element convinced Christian that he would outshine all comers, and when he didn't make it into the top three, his pushed-out lower lip and killer's eyes were something to hold. The winner was Jennifer, who now inspires Christian's bitterest diatribes about the overrated unworthiness of his rivals now that Suzy has slipped out of the limelight a bit. Gordon invited Christian up to the front of the room to sample Jennifer's dish in hopes that he could see, from her example, what his own attempt lacked. Whether Gordon did this without malice in his heart is difficult to say, but after Christian was begrudging in his praise, Gordon was quick to dress him down:  "Over the last couple of weeks, you've shut down. You can't learn anything." Christian skulked back to his place muttering about having been thrown under the bus. It was the second time in two episodes that he'd used that exhausted phrase, and I'm not sure he used it quite right either time.

The main challenge was to do a spiffied-up, "gourmet" take Gordon's most beloved childhood comfort food treats, tomato soup with grilled cheese. All but three of the dishes were greeted with purrs of approval, so there was no suspense about who would be threatened with elimination. From the noises coming out of the judges' mouths and the expressions on their faces as they tasted his swill, it looked as if Ben Starr was done for, and clearly Ben himself thought so, too; in his interview segments, he cut way back on the bug-eyed theatrics, as if wanting to at least go home with some dignity intact. In the end, they couldn't bear to pull the trigger on the weird little guy, and instead sent both Christine and Derrick packing. Derrick's gorgonzola tomato soup, in particular,  really had people bringing out their switchblades, even Graham: "It's like tomato and cream and bacon are all hanging out at the schoolyard, and then this big gorgonzola bully comes and beats the crap out of them." Nothing I can think to add could follow that, so I'm just going to urge you all to hold that image in your head as you turn in tonight. What dreams may come, you bet your ass.