Disgraced butter-baller Paula Deen has found work again — and on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, no less. AWKWARD. (And especially weird considering Walmart, MasterChef‘s favorite gourmet supermarket, cut its ties with Deen this summer.) Fox did its best to not advertise Deen’s guest judge appearance (filmed before all the scandal) and tuck it into a two-hour episode. And they’re in luck! I have no interest in dwelling on this. Paula Deen came, she screamed her heavily edited sentences, she drove the Top 5 around on a tractor, she advised a contestant to “Turn that sucker on blast,” and that was it. I’m much more intrigued by….

Gordon Ramsay’s absolutely! Stunningly! Cute. And well-mannered! Adorable British son, Jack. Check out their matching belts! And curt. Optimism!

All three of the judges foisted their sharply dressed offspring onto the Top 5 during the Mystery Box challenge, and I loved them all. They were so polite. When Graham Elliot’s bespectacled 2-year-old Conrad wasn’t socking his dad in the head, he was practically an elder statesmen out there, working the floor and refining his palate. Joe Bastianich’s two boys restored my faith in humanity with the way their eyes kept darting away from the cameras instead of aggressively and desperately towards it.

But Jack, age 13, was my fave. His accent made him sound so classy — even when he was asking blonde hottie Jessie, a lady twice his age, if she had a boyfriend. I’m just sorry we didn’t delve deep enough into Jack’s psyche that his rampant swearing (a hereditary trait) would rear its ugly head. But there are plenty of future seasons for that.

James won the Mystery Box challenge — using pre-made puff pastry in his white chocolate passionfruit turnover, much to Krissi the Bully’s chagrin — and got immunity for the Elimination Test.

It was really obvious that James would pick Gordon Ramsay’s “best dish I ever ate” over the other two — I wouldn’t be surprised if Graham’s grandpa’s soft shell crab sandwich and Joe’s marinated botan shrimp with sea urchin and caviar were nothing more than elaborately sculpted non-food decoys against the bowl of slow-cooked pork soup that Gordon had gingerly accepted from an “Elder. Toothless lady.” and rowed over all the way from a fishing village in Vietnam himself. I have never been more desperate for mid-episode snacking, though, decoy or not. Soft-shell crab sandwiches are my favorite food on the planet.

“Remember, James, you’re not having dinner. You’re creating a strategy to win this competition,” buzzkilled Joe, who was clearly hungry. It struck me while James was unapologetically shoveling all this food into his pie hole that we don’t see the contestants actually eat that often. Sure, they daintily taste their own sauces off of wooden spoons, but they’re always wearing high heels, so I feel like those instances don’t count. James was downright gobbling here. Nice to see. Of course, it would be one of his last suppers….

Anyway, Natasha and Krissi landed in the bottom and as the judges wildly debated the proceedings in their glass cage, it seemed like a given that Krissi would go home. Right? WRONG. The judges sent Krissi back up to the balcony to fester alongside her mortal enemies as Natasha choked up in defeat. And then Gordon came through. “For the first! Time! On MasterChef. WE CANNOT DECIDE!” he sputtered out.

So they were both safe! Okay…..

Episode 2. Paula Deen wanted some Southern food for herself and 50 charity volunteers very near and dear to her heart. The editing on this entire segment was so stilted and choppy. Paula ended up fast-tracking Luca and Jessie — the same pair who’d earned the highest praise in the Vietnamese soup challenge — to the final 4.

Meanwhile, Natasha’s catfish and James’ chicken were both undercooked. I know disadvantages are a key part of these challenges but why do we always have to see gross catfish? Enough already with catfish. The judges couldn’t believe Natasha hadn’t just fried it. “Some things you just have to fry!” yelled Deen after drawling the most unusual, out-of-context lead-up: “You know…we tell all these young people coming through… …Don’t overcook the fish. ….She’s not.”

So! Luca and Jessie got to assign Pressure Test responsibilities to Krissi, Natasha, and James. Who should have to cook Gordon’s own stunning! seared scallop salad (surely the best $150 I’ll never be able to spend), Joe’s fillet rossini topped with foie gras, and Graham’s Greek yogurt panna cotta with stewed rhubarb and different variants of honey?

“Okay. Please. Spend. A few minutes. Discussing! This decision.”

Sadly for James, he was dealt Graham’s frou-frou dessert. “Pretty sure this is a death sentence,” he said. “Graham’s dish is, like, ethereal. That’s not really what I do.”

And for failing to replicate someone else’s masterpiece, James the non-dessert-chef was sent home. He’d accomplished all of the dish’s intricacies, but the panna cotta hadn’t set properly. “What a shame.”

“It looks like I could be safe. I love it! [EVIL LAUGH!!!!]” –Krissi

Now seems like a good time to check in with fallen vegetarian Bri for a comment:


At least James departed with some wonderful “follow that dream” encouragement from Gordon and a genuinely inspiring postmortem voiceover in which he raved about how MasterChef had proven to him that his life is supposed to be about food, and that after going through all this, he has “much more drive to get the things I want.”

Starting, I presume, with a nice, juicy welcome-home steak. Speaking of which…..

“I wanna send this cow home!”

Next week’s episode looks obnoxious and super-bitchy with an explosive fight between Krissi and Jessie. “Krissi’s. Wrath. Sends tremors through the competition!” Wait… as opposed to what’s been happening all along?

Your thoughts? Who wants to try alligator now? Is young Jack Ramsay already a better cook than grown-up you?


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