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MasterChef: “Top Four Compete”

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While the final four contestants stand at their ovens and fight back the urge to hug themselves, Gordon declares that, by the end of this episode, their number will have diminished by one, and anyone who doesn’t want to leave had better be prepared to cook a three-course meal that will impress three of the toughest culinary bastards in the world: French chefs—Guy Savoy, Daniel Boulud, and Alain Ducasse, the last of whom looks like Keith Olbermann with three Michelin stars—who are jetting in for the occasion. “They’re actually touching down as we speak!” says Graham, which is the cue for the editor to splice in footage of a plane landing, three men emerging, and walking, side by side and in slow motion, Reservoir Dogs-style, to three waiting limousines. God knows what kind of suppressed hostility, long-simmering feuds, and blood-curdling disagreements about which radio station to listen to prevents them from piling into the same damn car together, but soon three limos are on the road, bumper to bumper, like a funeral procession. Way to keep a light carbon footprint, MasterChef.


Because Christine won the last challenge, she gets to pick one of the other survivors as her teammate. The truly diabolical twist is that, if she doesn’t win, whomever she picks will also be her competition in the elimination challenge that will follow. Christine says, reasonably enough, that she wants “to go into this challenge, not with the attitude of possibly losing, but just to win,” which, for her, means picking Becky. That means Josh and Frank are now an item. Everyone mutters under his breath that this may present a problem, since Josh still hates Frank’s guts since Frank used his Get Out Of Jail Free card on a previous elimination challenge to save himself, using Josh twisting slowly in the wind. Lest you think Josh is being misjudged, Josh himself is one of the first to be shown muttering this. The women, on the other hand, are considered by Joe to be a possible “dream team,” because “Christine has the palate, and Becky can plate with finesse.”

The three French heavies arrive, just in time for dinner. Christine and Becky serve them Thai seafood soup and duck breast, while Frank and Josh counter with veggies and lamb. Both dishes have their good points and their not-so-good points, but one of the Frenchmen didn’t get the rice cake that should have come with his duck, a hard knock on the finesse of Becky’s plating skills. “I’m gonna go check on dessert,” says Graham. He warns the contestants, who are rushing around like busy ants, that “it is extremely important that every plate is the same and has all the components on it!” You get that, you rice cake-losing sons of bitches? Ironically, after that pep talk, it is Frank and Josh who send in six wildly dissimilar plates and stiff Keith Olbermann on a couple of components. “[Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep]!” says Josh, which is his way of telling his partner, “I think we could have done better.”


The three French chefs proclaim Christine and Becky the winners and depart to—well, I don’t know where they’re going or what they’re going to do when they get there, but I’d hate to think they’re driven right back to the airfield to return to France. Gordon, Joe, and Graham send Becky and Christine upstairs and give Josh and Frank a task fit to weed out whichever one of them has no business advancing to the semi-final: Both men must, in the limited time available to them, prepare three soufflés, one cheese, one raspberry, and one dark chocolate. Meanwhile, Becky and Christine stand high above them, and Becky tries to bring the scene to vivid life for Christine by providing color commentary, saying things like, “It looks like a cheese soufflé.” Then, as the men fall to work, Becky stands at the rail, intently watching the action below, while Becky also stands at the rail, obviously not intently watching anything, but where else is she going to go? Watching the two men struggle to get something, anything, in the oven while there still might be time for it to cook, Joe, sounding like Eisenhower wondering if the Normandy landings might be more than his men could pull off, says grimly, “For the first time in the history of MasterChef, we may have given them a challenge that isn’t doable.”

Not for the first time in the history of MasterChef, this kind of talk turns out to be a hype, and even though Frank’s cheese soufflé looks like something Steve McQueen had to prevent from eating the world back in 1958, both contestants are praised for having essentially done a decent enough job on all three of their soufflés. Somebody’s got to go home, though, and the judges decide that it’s Frank, a decision that may or may not have been influenced by the fact that Josh has already been sent home once, and he looks as if he could do the more efficient job of kicking all their asses if he were to get the feeling that they’re just messing with him. (When Josh and Frank are standing next to each other, it calls for out for a caption: “Hey, now I have a place to set my drink!”) Before casting him back out into the cold, Joe praises Frank for all his hard work and dedication, assures him that he has the stuff to make it in the business if he so desires, and instructs him to “Get out there and sell some food,” though he doesn’t actually give him directions to the warehouse where they keep the hot dog carts. Next week: Finale!


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