Tonight's epic MasterChef
takes the contestants through a maze of formidable kitchen face-offs, using a whole two hours of airtime to eliminate just one home cook. And in the end, even the eliminated cook is showered with praise for her spirit, endurance and potential -- so much so that Gordon Ramsay even offers to mentor her in the real world of the New York culinary scene. Given the evening's chaotic challenges, someone could easily fall into a lobster tailspin, but the cast rises to the occasion and poaches its way to success.Firefighter Banquet
The evening begins with a team challenge involving the top 16 chefs, sizzling steaks and 101 hungry firefighters. Captains Bethy and Bime each prepare steak dinners for the American heroes, but while Bethy truly understands the honor of the challenge (since her father is a firefighter), Bime fails to lead his team in a productive, professional manner. Bethy's team wins immunity, while Bime's group must face the pressure test. They crack even before the pressure, with Beth calling their cauliflower "disgusting," Natasha tearing Beth apart with that razor-sharp tongue and Krissi swearing into the wind at full volume.
Compared to those three, Bime carries himself with aplomb, taking the blame for the team's failure and declining to save himself from the pressure test. As it turns out, though, he doesn't need to. The judges save Bime and allow him to save one more teammate from the pressure test. Bime calls Jordan the hero of the team and notes that while Jordan's tough competition, he deserves immunity. Bime might not be the most strategic player, but hey, at least he's got an honest heart. Luca and the ladies -- including feuding Beth and Natasha -- are left to fight for survival.
For their pressure test, the remaining six must cook the most technically difficult breakfast dish: Eggs Benedict. Given the insane challenges coming up, Eggs Benedict isn't actually all that tough, but it's still tricky and messy to make. I usually order it when I go out specifically because it dirties a million dishes and never comes out perfectly in my house.
The cockiest cooks make the messiest eggs in this challenge. Natasha ends up with mayonnaise instead of hollandaise sauce, Beth's dish "looks like Eggs Vomit" according to Gordon, Kathy barely drizzles any sauce on her eggs and Luca barely cooks his. It seems like Krissi can't lose, though; she stands out in a good way, along with vegetarian Bri who's never made Eggs Benedict in her life. After she pulled off a stellar lamb dish without ever trying lamb, though, I should assume Bri can do no wrong in the kitchen. She's a prodigy.
Betting on Burgers
Since four cooks bomb the Benedict test, Gordon tells them they all must leave ... through those doors to the next challenge! Tricky Gordon Ramsay! The doors lead from the kitchen of dreams right into Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood Hotel, where the four unhappy chefs are forced to work in Gordon's BurGR restaurant and serve burgers to Sin City's broke and hungover. The judges assign teams, putting Natasha and Beth together because they hate each other, so, ratings! Luca and Kathy form the other team.
The resulting burnt buns, raw meat and overpowering goat cheese don't please many restaurant diners, but a winning team must be chosen anyway, and bitching Beth and Natasha slightly edge out the competition. Kathy and Luca -- two underdogs with plenty of heart -- are left to face off on the rooftop of Caesars Palace because this is the most ridiculous episode of MasterChef ever.
The MasterChef kitchen's been flown to the Caesars Palace roof, where lobsters are waiting to be knifed in the head and boiled in butter, sacrificed to the reality TV gods for our summertime entertainment. If this had to happen in any city, I suppose Vegas is the place.
Two of the sweetest contestants are then forced to pluck the lobsters from their tank and make a dish called "Butter Poached Lobster" -- a meal I've never heard of, but one that's apparently a Las Vegas culinary staple. While the whole challenge is wildly unsettling -- as I'm not comfortable watching live creatures die on television -- it's at least encouraging to see two underdogs take on the challenge and pull off what looks like an incredibly difficult dish. Both Kathy and Luca fight through the process and produce some beautiful, buttery lobster, but ultimately, only Luca is able to continue on toward the MasterChef title.
Kathy is tearful but grateful, especially after the judges shower her with encouragement and Gordon offers mentor her. After tonight's long and messy battle, everyone finishes a winner in one way or another.
(Image courtesy of FOX)