Our fun MasterChef family has decamped for Vegas, and Tommy’s never felt more at home: “It’s an overwhelming avalanche of glitz, glamour, and action; I blend right in.” However, we’re down one chef. “Dan had to leave and will no longer be a part of this competition,” Gordon Ramsay explains. “He’s fine and on his way home. Now, who’s feeling lucky?” I desperately want to know why Dan, a model/engineer (and favorite of some of you commenters), departed. Was there a family emergency? A crisis that only his modeling could right? An engineering fiasco? We may never know.
Anyway, the remaining cooks are posed a rhetorical question by the judges: In Las Vegas, who entertains the entertainers? Turns out, they will. For this team challenge, they’ve got to get 101 dinners out in two hours. Oof. Stephen and Shelly had the best dishes last week, so they’re the team captains for this challenge. Since Stephen edged out Shelly, he gets the choice of either picking his whole team first or picking a protein. The choices are lobster, which Gordon says can be tricky to replicate perfectly 101 times, or chicken, which is simpler to cook, but will have to be spruced up significantly to offset the ease of cooking. Tough choice for Stephen. “I want that lobster, but I don’t want Shelly to know that,” he tells us, then tries to act nonchalant in front of her but fails miserably.
Stephen’s thinking that using the ole noggin will be to his advantage. “Mind games are key,” he grins, adding that he will outplay Shelly. Stephen picks star players over star ingredients for one simple, and slightly cringeworthy, reason. “Shelly’s a single mom from Brooklyn. She’s going to pick something she cooks every day, which is chicken. I’m going to get my team and that lobster,” he says. Judging someone based on their socioeconomic background is certainly a strategy, and it’s one that—shockingly—works out to Stephen’s advantage. Shelly steps up, looking at the lobster a little sideways. “You know, I don’t come from a lot. But I know chicken,” she finally says. Stephen’s stoked and lets everyone know he just “Jedi mind tricked” Shelly, who is understandably sullen at this revelation.
Onto selecting teams. Shelly’s hoping Stephen doesn’t pick her “entire dream team,” but he does, and Amanda, Charlie, Jesse, Sarah, Olivia, Tommy, and Nick join him on the Red Team. Everyone else heads over to Shelly’s blue team. Chicken needs to be elegant, Shelly says, so she wants to do a “remoulade,” with saffron butter sauce. Derrick immediately interjects that the time constraints will not look favorably upon such a complicated dish, though Shelly vetoes him.
Stephen’s going to do a grilled lobster tail with smashed potatoes, which sounds yummy. His no nonsense approach and quick delegation has everyone on the Red Team feeling confident. His rallying speech concludes with “I’m going to piss you off, but if you believe in me, I will keep you out of the elimination challenge.” It’s good enough for everyone, and a few note they’d follow the guy off the side of the building, if that’s what he ordered. With that, the Red Team is off to a cracking start.
The Blue Team…not so much. With 15 minutes elapsed, the entire team is questioning the dish. Claudia’s baffled, Veronica’s irked, and Derrick’s upset because he knows he was right all along. You can’t pound out 101 chickens, stuff, roll, tie and cook them in the allotted time. But the best moment comes after Shelly explains her dish to Gordon, who immediately jumps all over her. “First, it’s a roulade, not a remoulade. Second, it’s way too complicated. You think you have the time for this? It’s going to take too long to cook with that stuffing,” he barks, before shaking his head like she’s a child who’s disappointed him yet again.
The entertainers arrive and you better believe they’re all costumed. There are shirtless Chippendales, monokini-ed show girls, magicians, and more. They stream in, all flashing pearly whites and batting eyelashes, but none of the cooks pay attention. Stephen’s too busy presenting his dish to the judges. His lobster and piccata sauce, smashed yukon golds with truffle butter, and veggies taste as delicious as they look. Gordon thinks if he can maintain this quality for all plates, he’ll do quite well.
After Shelly’s presentation of her chicken, Gordon holds up a plate I probably wouldn’t serve to my dog. “This is what we’ve been given after 60 minutes?! We’re about to start service! Get your s–t together,” he yells. Shelly’s visibly overwhelmed, but there’s no time for that. Service has started and Stephen’s already sending plates out, running his kitchen like a well-oiled machine. Shelly slices a piece of chicken to discover it’s raw in the middle. They’ve yet to produce a single plate, and Gordon’s all over them. “How many portions do you have as of right now?” he snaps. Uh, zero. “How many are prepped? An array of numbers fly back at him. “69, 74. Ugh. Enough bingo. Get to work!” he commands.
On the Red Team, Tommy’s proving to be the weak link. His potato portions are oversized, sloppy, he’s not wiping the plates down and—gasp!—he’s using a dessert spoon to serve. (Perhaps someone can enlighten me in the comments as to why his spoon selection is an issue.) Gordon gets down on his eye level to asks if Tommy’s all right before threatening to throw him in the pool. Stephen recognizes things are going down mighty quickly and “fires” Tommy from the plating, demoting him to cooking the taters. “Don’t burn them,” Stephen orders. “I don’t burn food,” is Tommy’s sharp reply.
NEXT: He’s going to burn the potatoes…[pagebreak]
Five minutes later, and Tommy’s burned the potatoes. Gordon screams, Stephen yells, and Tommy kinda shrugs, saying he thought they were “supposed to look like that.” “Are you kidding me?!” Gordon screeches, because Gordon does not like to be kidded with. Stephen again demotes Tommy, who’s really feeling this “full-on volcanic hatred from everyone. It’s like I’m being stabbed in the eyeballs for just trying to help.” An odd analogy, to say the least. Tommy’s sent to stand in the back and clean some pots. If he messes this up, I’m fairly certain Stephen will kill Tommy.
The feedback is coming in from the entertainers. The lobster was amazing. People wanted to lick the piccata sauce off the plate. The lobster is so good…wait, what about the chicken? Oh, that’s right. Nary a single piece has left the kitchen. Shelly is dead behind the eyes at this point so Derrick steps up and runs the team, stealing the show. Between his plating, and Christopher’s cooking, you could get rid of every other person in the Blue Team’s kitchen and it wouldn’t matter, Graham Elliot tells Christina Tosi. And he’s entirely right. Shelly trots by at one point, meekly offering, “I’m sorry I’m not strong enough.”
Under Derrick and Christopher’s leadership, the roulade finally hits the table. It looks good and it tastes good, per the diners. However, the Red Team has absolutely crushed this challenged and finished a whopping eight minutes early, a record, per the judges. The Blue Team’s got 24 guests left to serve, ultimately falling eight plates shy of 101, meaning eight less eligible votes. “Now it comes down to taste,” says Derrick, as the voting begins.
When everything’s been tallied, only three votes separate the teams, the closest margin ever. (Man, there’s a lot of “This is the _____ EVER!” tonight.) Stephen’s Red Team takes the competition and Shelly’s shoulders slump. Beside her, Katrina’s eyes begin to water, because it’s been 30-plus minutes and she hasn’t cried yet, so it’s time. Up next is the pressure test, which will see one contestant sent home. However, only half the Blue Team will participate. As team leader, Shelly’s spared from the kitchen and can bring three team members with her.
The elimination challenge is cooking a steak to Gordon Ramsay’s preferred temperature in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant called Steak before serving it to Gordon Ramsay. No pressure. Before Shelly can select the chosen few, we have to watch everyone point fingers. Claudia and Derrick aren’t shy, condemning Shelly’s menu choices. Even Katrina thinks the stuffing was a bad idea. Shelly just thinks she’s getting thrown under the bus. “Was I a flawless leader? No. But did we work hard? Yes,” she stammers in (a sub-par) defense. She continues: “I’ve made this dish once in my life and—” “If you’d done it one time, why would you suggest it?!” Derrick, a.k.a. the voice of reason, asks. I like Derrick. Shelly rolls her eyes.
She saves the weakest people: Veronica, Katrina, and Hetal (who isn’t weak but didn’t do much work this episode). Derrick tells Shelly he won’t forget this, as he, Christopher, Claudia, and Ailsa—Wait, who the eff is Ailsa?!—take their place in the kitchen for the pressure test. They’ve got to cook a NY strip steak to perfect medium rare. Derrick thinks this is a bucket list moment, and thanks Shelly for the opportunity to shine. Shelly, watching from above, murmurs that she wants Claudia and Ailsa to emerge victorious.
Which means we should probably meet Ailsa for the first time ever. She’s a 28-year-old Assistant Railroad Manager from Virginia, and that’s all we really get. The fact that we’re meeting her now, pretty much guarantees she’s going home this episode. Ailsa—pronounced like the protagonist in Frozen—uses her first talking head moment to tell us she’s undercooked her steak. Christopher’s forgotten to render the fat properly. But Derrick’s smiling because he knows he’s on point.
When it comes time for Gordon’s (blind) taste test, Derrick and Claudia take first and second place, respectively, while Christopher and Ailsa’s poor searing, poor seasoning, and poor temperature means they’re headed back for…another pressure test to decide who will be sent packing. This head-to-head battle is also a steak-off, though this time it’s filet mignon and Gordon wants it rare.
Back to the kitchen they go, and it’s a shaky start for Ailsa, who drops her filet twice while trying to sear the thing. Meanwhile, Chris has removed it too early from the oven, and isn’t happy with his crust, so he chucks it back in the pan, where it promptly catches on fire, and Graham and Christina sigh at this horrible decision. Time is soon called, and Gordon blindly tastes again. One steak was undercooked by 30 seconds, while the other was overcooked by 30 seconds, making this a tough choice for Gordon. However, Christopher wins, and—in no shocker—Ailsa is dismissed. Gordon says she’s had some “great moments in this competition” though we never saw any of those, so who knows.
Will you miss Ailsa? Do you miss Dan? Which team do you think had the better dish during the challenge? What’s your favorite way to cook a steak?