MasterChef recap: Family Reunion
Unlike last time, someone is sent packing this week.
This week, the crew is told they’ll be divvied up into two teams to cook a family-style dinner for a family Gordon Ramsay has invited. Gordon keeps saying how special this meal is because the people are so important. Olivia thinks it may be the Kardashians; Tommy’s pulling for Prince William and Kate. But if you’ve read the title of this episode, I think you know exactly who’ll be eating their food.
The judges decide that Derrick and Claudia will serve as captains. “This is going to sound cocky,” Derrick begins, “but it’s time I’m captain.” This is the alpha male-iest thing Derrick’s said so far. With his sleeveless shirts and his deep-V-necks, we’re starting to see more of Derrick’s torso than ever before. Part of me wonders if he just says screw it and goes shirtless one of these weeks. Derrick chooses Nick, because they’re both Italian and Italians know family style, he explains. Claudia taps Katrina for her tenacity, Stephen for his veggies, Hetal for no announced reason, and Shelly because she was the only one left. That means Olivia,Christopher, and Tommy and his neon-green shirt so bright it nearly washes out on my TV are with Derrick. Claudia’s “not overconfident like Derrick is,” but is methodical so she’s feeling good, she shares. With that, they set off to whip up an entree, two sides, and a dessert.
On Claudia’s red team, she wants to do a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and broccolini. There’s no dissent and her traditional, cohesive menu is set in under 10 seconds. Derrick wants his blue team to go Italian which to him means a rack of roasted lamb, baked ziti and a caprese salad. For such a self-proclaimed strong threat, Derrick’s a bit discombobulated when it comes to selecting a menu. “We’ve seen great cooks crumble under the pressure,” Christina Tosi ominously reminds us. Prep gets under way and Claudia describes her meal to Gordon, who rattles off cooking times by pound for chicken: his way of hinting that they won’t get all this chicken roasted in time. After Claudia says it should be fine, Gordon steps up his warning: “Don’t undercook them.” Stephen comes to her aid and says they’ll halve the birds, and in turn, halve the oven time. Claudia agrees and the poultry is quickly bisected.
On the blue team, Derrick has assigned Christopher to the pie crust for their chocolate mousse pie. During frequent progress checks, Christopher says things are “going” but his shaky voice further undercuts his less-than-informative report. Gordon, Christina, and Graham Elliot are discussing the lack of a big picture vision by Derrick for the meal, noting that once on a plate, this food will be a bit of a hodgepodge.
Despite the splitting, the red team’s chickens still aren’t in the oven yet. Katrina says they’re not dry enough and she and Claudia get to squabbling. At this, there’s a lovely shot of Gordon exasperatedly rubbing his face. “Get those clucking chickens in the oven. You serve a bloody raw bird, you’re going home and they’ll kick you out of your own house,” Shelly rightfully tells us. Finally, the birds hit the rack.
Gordon circles back to Derrick and tries to point out that he probably shouldn’t serve two very similar dishes comprised mainly of tomato and cheese. The light dawns on dear Derrick, though it’s Olivia who comes to the rescue, suggesting to swap the caprese salad for a strawberry and arugula number. The pie crust continues to plague Christopher. “Chris. You had one job,” Derrick tells us. Great line, sir. The crust isn’t done, though it’s not going to get more done if Christopher keeps opening the damn oven to poke at it. Derrick conveys this in a harsher manner and finally comes over to supervise that the oven will remain closed so the dough can cook. Out comes Nick’s ziti and it looks so amazing. One glance reminds me of my Italian aunts, who always nailed that perfect cheesy crust: a little blackened, a little crunchy, but still perfectly melty underneath. On the opposite end of the “we eat with our eyes so this must look good” spectrum is the blue team’s chocolate mousse pie, which looks like a puddle of dog poo with some nuts thrown at it. Upon sight of this monstrosity, Gordon gives us an “Oh dear” while Christina tsks.
With seconds to spare, the red team’s chickens aren’t out of the oven yet and Derrick is running around like a madman with his lamb racks. Overall, this was a helluva messy showing by nearly everyone (save Nick and that freaking ziti). Easily the sloppiest team-cook we’ve seen (or perhaps edited to look as such.) Nevertheless, Derrick’s confidence remains unfazed. “We went above and beyond. The lamb is perfect. The ziti is perfect. But I hate the pie and we could go down on dessert.”
NEXT: Time to vote.
The family eating will vote blindly on which meal they prefer, with the losers facing the “dreaded pressure test.” Our chefs file outside to wait, while the judges address the diners, who are, unsurprisingly, the contestants’ loved ones. Derrick’s mom (that’s literally her placard) shares that she last saw her son a year ago, while Shelly’s daughter misses her mom “100 on a scale of one to 10.” Stephen’s son(!), Stephen Jr., thinks his dad is cool but this has been hard. Gordon wants to know if Stephen “shouts at you like he does at me,” and Jr. confirms that “he has short spasms of energy, yes.” With that, everyone is served. Remember, no one knows who cooked what.
Tommy’s husband, who is (coincidentally?) wearing a shirt identical to Tommy’s, thinks the lamb was a bit under-seasoned, while Derrick’s mom and Nick’s mom think the ziti is “misplaced.” Zoinks! During dessert, Nick’s mom thinks Christopher’s crust is crunked, though Christopher’s girlfriend really liked it. Gordon summons the chefs and there are a ton of tears when each sees his or her beloved, though Stephen growls like a momma bear and pounces on Jr. All the waterworks flowing from this touching moment get to Graham, who also gets a little misty-eyed, drawing a hug from Gordon. This whole bit is really sappy and cute. In a show that’s often overproduced and rife with bad one-liners, this feels very real and earnest.
So, of course, let’s ruin the happiness by sending five people to elimination. Down to the votes, revealed one-by-one, building the tension nicely. Everyone picks his or her loved one’s team, save Katrina’s boyfriend and Nick’s mom, which means it’s five to four, in favor of Claudia’s red team. It all hinges upon Derrick’s mom, who unfortunately also chose red, unwittingly setting her son up to potentially be sent home.
However, at the “dreaded” pressure test, the judges excuse Derrick, as they felt his lamb was good and he was let down in the dessert department (cut to Christopher’s droopy face), so he’s off to the rafters to watch. The challenge is gnocchi in a sage brown butter. Apparently, gnocchi is Nick’s nickname, and he “can make this in my sleep.” Off they go. Christina notices that Christopher is blanching his little pillows of potato for far too long while Olivia, who has only made this once, gets some helpful tips from Graham. Nick’s is plated and finished a whopping six minutes early, which means he either nailed this or totally blew it. And Tommy’s have exploded and “look like snot.” With three minutes left, Tommy starts over, to a startled trio of judges. Tommy tells us, “I’m sweating like James Brown.” He manages to finish in time, though he does pour the entire butter sauce on the plate, making more of a soup than a balanced pasta dish, but at least he has something to present.
Taste time and Gordon’s “beyond impressed” with Nick’s efforts, saying this is “exactly the way to make [gnocchi].” Nick’s beaming until Gordon tastes Olivia’s and declares hers better than Nick’s. So these two are safe. That leaves Tommy and, once again, Christopher, in the bottom two. Before tasting, Christina’s already disappointed in Christopher’s presentation. The butter should be to the side to dip in, not underneath the gnocchi. Strike one. The dumplings are under-seasoned and dry. Strike two. Gordon steps up and asks about the random line of black pepper dust on his plate, which Christopher thought was artful, but Gordon finds pointless and tells him so. At this, Christopher rolls his eyes up at the safe folks in the rafters. Which sets Christina. Tosi. Off.
“If you’re going to be this disrespectful, why are you here?” she snaps, as he shrugs. “I can hold that back door open for you and we don’t even have to taste Tommy’s dish.” He tries to stammer a response but comes up short, and with that Gordon continues, saying the food looks good but tastes bad. And Gordon, who watched intently during the cooking, is dismayed that he never saw Christopher taste the dough mixture once before blanching. “Not the mark of a MasterChef,” Gordon says, turning heel. Strike three.
Tommy’s turn, and it’s the opposite. It looks a mess, but the flavors are spot on, Gordon says. Graham thinks that if you combined Christopher’s aesthetics with Tommy’s flavor, you’d have a very solid gnocchi dish. They confer and Gordon tells Tommy to say goodbye to Christopher. At this, Christopher smirks. Then the other shoe drops. “…And head upstairs. You’re safe, Tommy.” Christopher is no longer smirking. And he’s no longer a contestant.
Do you think the judges made the right decision? Who’s your frontrunner? What’d you think of Derrick’s turn as a captain?