‘MasterChef’ 5×8 Recap: ‘Big Willie Style’

A Joycean epic through gastronomy.

Masterchef. (Fox)

Masterchef. (Fox)

It’s the final 14 so this week’s team challenge separates the home cooks from the for-reals chefs. The 14 are on a LA city bus. No, not with the regular none MasterChef gross people who normally ride Los Angeles public transportation. This bus carries only the home cooks, unsure as to where they are headed. As they roll down the freeway we see clips of Courtney, Elizabeth, and Leslie. The beginning video clips have been a good indicator of who’s going home in past episodes, except for those ones featuring Courtney. As they cut between the bus and the videos Elizabeth tells the camera who she thinks has the top cooking skills and she includes herself. Pride goeth before the fall. I’m calling it right now, Elizabeth is hanging up her apron tonight. The bus arrives at the challenge that will reveal who among the 14 has got what it takes to be a MasterChef. Super-chef Graham Elliot leads the 14 into the challenge location, Dinah’s Family Restaurant. The 14 will have to work the busiest shift of the day at a popular diner. That’s the big challenge: a diner, you know, where all the top chefs who are unable to pass background checks work. Don’t get it twisted, I love diners. Nobody can cook eggs like an ex-con but is it really a MasterChef challenge? As the 14 walk into Dinah’s Family Restaurant, Joe and Elliot sit at the counter pretending to eat the food. The judges explain the challenge. Two teams will cover the busiest shift of the day. Each team will be responsible for cooking for one half of the diner. Difference this time is that the judges will select the team captains based on who they’ve decided they want to see more from. Christine is selected to be the captain of the Red Team. Christine has been a non-entity so far. If you’re a Christine fan she’s probably your cousin. Christine feels like she will prove herself because she comes from the Wall Street investment world. If you want to collapse the economy every eight years you need to be able to motivate people. Gordon announces the captain of the Blue Team , saying he, “Has a big heart, big flavors, and a big…Willie.” A dick joke on MasterChef? Has Gordo been calling Willie, “Big Willie”, because he’s packing? All this time I thought he was calling him fat. Neither of those things are going to win a challenge. Willie says he’s excited to show the judges that he can lead a team. Hope so. Willie is my favorite but he hasn’t stood out as much as I thought he would the past few weeks. Time to select the teams. Nope, the captains are not selecting teams. It’s boys versus the girls. Everybody ready? Wait, Gordon isn’t happy with the teams. Gordon says the boys vs girls is old fashion and that each team must select one person from the other team to join them. After they huddle up the Red Team selects Christian and the Blue Team takes Victoria. Almost go time. Gordon stresses to the captains who will be expediting in the kitchen, “You set the bar.” This competition is being solely judged by the customers. When they come in the customers will be given a MasterChef dollar. If the are happy with the food they will put that dollar in the team’s tip jar on the way out. The team with the least tips has to go into the pressure challenge. Let’s get to it. Prep starts now.

There are only four dishes on the menu: pancakes, eggs with sids of toast, sausage, and bacon, fried chicken, and a turkey club. Willie and Christine give the teams their positions. The judges talk about how tough this challenge is. There’s a lot of pressure in the diner and the food needs to be consistent. Gordon doesn’t think the home chefs have been under this kind of pressure before. Willie and Christine are both acting very captain-ly. Willie is waving his fist while demanding that everybody focus. He gets a team “Yes, chef” in return. Willie’s got this. Christine calls out to her team, “Unless you have something to say to me, do not speak.”

Doors are open, the customers begin to be seated, and the orders are coming in. Willie and Christine are yelling out orders to their teams. Everyone works intensely. The pressure is on. Courtney thinks that Christine is doing a good job keeping everyone on task, not worrying about how busy it is. Willie, though…he’s in trouble. Willie’s unable to keep track of the orders and nobody knows what’s needed. Francis (there’s only 1 now so we can drop the initials) is getting flustered because he doesn’t know how many club sandwiches to make. Food is getting cold because of Willie getting confused about the orders. Willie is really losing this. My favorite judge and sometimes twitter pal Graham comes in and shows Willie how to keep track of the orders. That’s all it took. Now Willie is on top of it. Daniel offers to take over the orders but Willie says he’s got it. Might not be soon enough though because the Blue Team is behind. Tables have been waiting and are getting impatient. Gordon and Joe are checking in with customers and so far people are happy with their food. The Red Team is getting backed up now. Incomplete orders are sitting under the light because Elise can’t make club sandwiches. She keeps smooshing the bread and Christine won’t serve them. Elise isn’t toasting the bread enough, cutting the bread evenly, stacking the sandwich properly — every way you can screw up a club sandwich, she is doing it. Elise looks like she might cry again. Christine gives Elise the hook on sandwich duty and gets Elizabeth in there. Gordon thinks that Christine’s Red Team might be too far behind now and the Blue Team might take it. Maybe not. Leslie is getting all Leslie again. His eggs are not plated consistently and Daniel, who’s checking the orders before they go out, says he’s got to get it right. Leslie is not taking the criticism well. He’s even yelling at Willie who’s probably his only real friend. Customers are complaining about the Blue Team’s eggs. They are losing tips for sure. Leslie is fired from eggs and Victoria is in. Oh boy is Leslie pissed. The Blue Team is backed up again from Leslie sucking. Two tables walk out on the Blue Team. That’s 8 tips lost. Red Team is looking good now until a customer sends back raw chicken. The tips are tightening up. Some customers seem happy but customers from both team’s sections are being critical. The shift ends and the customers who didn’t walk out have been served. Let’s count those tips and see who’s in the pressure test. Gordon says the judges will let the teams know who won tomorrow in the MasterChef kitchen. Nobody sleeps well tonight.

The gang is all back at MasterChef HQ. The teams are hanging out on the front porch and talking about the challenge. This seems unusual. Leslie and Daniel start arguing a little. Break time is over; everyone into the kitchen. Graham announces that it was a close race. Gordon goes on to explain that one team received 87 dollars in tips and the other, 82 dollars. The team with the most tips, and safe from the pressure test, is…the Red Team. Wait a minute. That means Elizabeth isn’t going home and I just lost a bet. Did the MasterChef producers read my recaps and see I was onto their opening video kiss of death? Let’s all assume so.

Someone on the Blue Team is going home. Willie is now given a big decision. He can either save himself or save three of his teammates. Please for the love of god, Willie. Get up to that balcony and let the rest of your team battle it out. Of course Willie would never do that. He has too much integrity. Way too much. He’s going to integrity himself out of the kitchen. Willie saves Daniel, Victoria and Francis from the pressure test because they were all huge in the challenge. Gordon asks Daniel why he keeps getting saved from pressure tests. Daniel says he hasn’t made any enemies. Leslie starts to laugh. “Except for Leslie who’s cackling right here because he doesn’t know how to be a grown up even thought he’s the oldest man here, he’s a child.” That leaves Willie, Leslie, Dan and Cutter to the pressure test. This has got to be a serious pressure test this far in the competition. The pressure test is red velvet cake. What are they looking for, MasterChef 2003? Not to mention this season has had way too many dessert challenges. At least Willie is relieved because he’s comfortable with baking. Leslie can also bake. Dan Wu is not really a baker and Cutter isn’t too good at anything. Gordon checks in with Willie who isn’t worried at all. Willie’s secret is to not over-work the batter so he stirred his in a bowl instead of using a mixer. Joe and Graham talk to Leslie about his cake. Leslie says “It’s a walk in the park.” He also takes some shots at Daniel, claiming that he’s not quick to help and that he stuck a knife in his back.” Elizabeth calls Leslie an idiot under her breath. Oh Leslie, it wouldn’t be MC5 without you. Cutter tells Gordon that he’s never baked a red velvet cake. Dan Wu is struggling. His batter looks too thick according to Christian. The judges are confused by Dan’s baking choices. It doesn’t look like Dan is going to get his cake done in time. The final seconds are counting down and time’s up. Dan and everyone has a cake to present. First up, Willie. He made his cake with toasted pecans on the side. Nailed it. Gordon says the frosting and the batter are delicious. Phew, Willie has got to be safe. Leslie’s cake is next. He added ground pistachio to the top. Joe thinks Leslie’s cake is good, moist. When Joe asks Leslie why there’s so much antagonism towards him Leslie has no idea. That causes Cutter to laugh and comment about how Leslie can’t see his own mistakes and why nobody likes him. Cutter tells Joe that Leslie is a “one trick pony.” Joe disagrees. Leslie and Cutter go back and forth. Joe reminds Leslie that the judges decide who wins, not the other home cooks. Gordon loves Leslie’s cake too. Looks like Leslie will be around to hate another week. Joe’s having a hard time cutting through Dan’s cake. After taking a bite Joe calls Dan’s red velvet a boiled wool cake. Cutter’s cake better really be bad or Dan’s done. Cutter’s looks bad. He has what is supposed to be an American flag on top but it looks like that drawing of a traumatized child who was given crayons at the police station. Gordon compares the clumps of crumbs thrown haphazardly on the sides to a “hairy back.” When he cuts into the cake, Gordon comments on how much frosting between the layers. After tasting it, Gordon says that Cutter got the cake moist but with the excess frosting it’s just too sweet. He makes Cutter taste it to see what he means. Cutter thinks it tastes good. He thinks it so much he can’t stop telling the judges. He tells Graham he disagrees with Gordon. Graham also says the cake is too sweet. Cutter won’t shut up. He’s mouthing off to Joe too and interrupting him to say things like, “baking sucks for me” and “Don’t put words in my mouth.” Joe tells Cutter he sounds ignorant and asks him who should go home. Cutter says Leslie. This causes another back and forth between them. It’s not looking good for Cutter. The judges deliberate over who to send home. It’s between Dan and Cutter. Gordon announces that the home cook that’s going home is Dan. Even though Cutter is a loudmouth who sounds like Kenny Powers at least he could get the cake right. Bye, Dan Wu. Let’s hope we’re done with the dessert challenges.

Chris Laker is a writer and stand-up comedian in New York City. His debut album, Moments of Greatness was released today. It is available on iTunes.