Reality competitions occupy an interesting place in television: though everyone involved is going through real, unscripted experiences, they also tend to fall into established TV tropes. Competition becomes story, contestants become characters, etc. Tonight, MasterChef
births a new villain.
Last week, I snickered at the show's quirky mystery box contents. This week, however, I find myself gagging on the challenge's "offal" box of Cronenbergian horror, featuring the mixed brains, tongues, hearts and testicles of various sub-culinary mammals.
Becky sets the bar on this stomach-turning challenge, impressing the judges early on with her Chicken Liver Pate. Ryan and Christine prepare equally lauded "sweetbreads," a.k.a. thymus glands, with Ryan -- he's that guy who wanted Monti to flash the marines -- winning administrative rights to the elimination challenge.
This week's theme is convenience vs. quality, with three oft-canned main ingredients for Ryan to pick from: ahi tuna, ham and crab -- Ryan picks crab -- and is also allowed to decide whether his peers receive fresh crab or canned crab.
This is where he goes from an obnoxious, walking smirk to a villainous douche: while he mostly gives the more challenging canned ingredients to his top competitors, he assigns blind contestant Christine a live, pinching crab. This is not a task that he begrudgingly accepts; he visibly relishes every second he spends lording power over his peers.
Ryan does have some good will for his friend Tali, and ensures that his friend receives the biggest fresh crab of the bunch; unfortunately, the judges are all too happy to undermine Ryan's petty authoritarianism by panning Tali's entree.
Submission highlights among the other contestants include Christine's Ceviche Cocktail -- the dish is so delicious that Gordon calls Ryan over to taste it and compliment her -- and Monti's atypical Crab Scotch Egg: her unorthodox selection initially draws bemusement from Gordon, but he's happy to give credit where it's due once he tastes it.
Josh and Christine win the round and are made team captains, while Frank, Tali, Mike and Helene are all stuck at the bottom this week. Tali scrapes by once again, and Helene is sent home.
provides an interesting look at where reality show competition and narrative intersect: though Ryan arguably made a shrewd short-term choice by trying to psych out/injure his opponents, he's sabotaged his long-term chances by becoming the show's narrative bad guy. It's particularly damning that he knowingly, purposely tried to sabotage Christine by taking advantage of her disability -- she's easily the season's most sympathetic contestant. I predict that he'll be kept on for a few weeks for what he brings to the show's dynamic, and he'll then be cathartically chucked as good feelings win out.
Ted KindigContributing Writer(Image courtesy of FOX)Tune In to MasterChef on the BuddyTV Guide App and chat with other fans about the episode, and you can also share your thoughts on the episode directly to Facebook and Twitter.