"MasterChef" 2014 (Season 5) seems to have boiled down to everybody against Leslie. Or that was the way it appeared for about half of the show when the Top 17 home cooks in America were faced with a Team Challenge and a Pressure Test for elimination on Monday night's episode.
And there's no time to lose, as Lauren Galloway noted in her recap for "The Community" at Entertainment Weekly June 24, as the 17 remaining finalists arrive at a southern California beach location, complete with two kitchens, a bunch of chairs, and a decorated arch. Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliot, and restauranteur Joe Bastianich inform the "MasterChef" contestants that they have two hours to prepare dinner for 120 guests at a wedding.
Team Challenge: The Wedding
Since Leslie Gilliams and Francis L. (Legge) were the winners of the previous episode's Elimination Test (a donut bake-off), they were team leaders. Leslie's dish was best, so he got to choose first. Francis L. noted that he figured Leslie would stock his team full of the best home chefs -- which meant lots of egos -- and would crash and burn. He decided to pick his people for compatibility.
The teams are told they have two hours to cook scallops for an appetizer and sea bass for an entree. The Blue Team gets off to a great start as Francis L. tells his crew what he wants (he had it all planned in his head: scallops with arugula salad, papaya and a pineapple sauce, and the seabass with white asparagus, a purple cauliflower puree and a lemongrass beurre blanc). They get to work immediately. But Leslie's Red Team, which has already seen some friction from 18-year-old Ahran Cho (Leslie mispronounced her name), and Leslie tries a democratic approach (but the team finally decides on scallops with a mango salsa and pea puree, and the seabass with a purple mashed potato and cauliflower mix). Then Leslie and his team discover that he has almost no leadership skills. So, suddenly there's a mutiny and Francis B. (Biondi) who takes over control of Red Team. Things go a bit more smoothly afterward.
The wedding couple are split over the dishes, to which Judge Joe Bastianich jokes that they're having their first marital dispute. But the judges think it's a close one. Editing certainly made it look that way as well.
Long story short, the Blue Team won the Team Challenge, which only seemed apropos, given the problems the Red Team faced throughout the challenge (especially that ending, where Tyler Viars ate so much of the sea bass, they didn't have enough portions for the guest. So... they cut two pieces of fish in half, serving four dinner guests half portions. Pathetic.) The Red Team was left to clean up both kitchens and, while doing so, the simmering animosities rose to the surface.
Ahran and Leslie got into it. She said he communicated poorly. He told her she was disrespectful and had started after him when he chose her for his team. When everyone started yelling, Leslie told the Red Team he knew nobody liked him and wanted him gone, then he stormed off down the beach.
Back in the "MasterChef" kitchen, the judges noticed the hostility Leslie's fellow finalists were showing him, including members of the Blue Team (especially Courtney Lapresi).
Pressure Test: Steak
The judges ask Leslie who he would choose to compete in the Pressure Test, since he was team leader. He chooses three -- Christian Silverstein (for dictating the menu), Daniel McGuffey (for pushing Francis B. into mutiny), and Ahran (for being disrespectful) -- but the judges tell him that they're not his choices to make (talk about setting the man up to make enemies) and that they would decide who would compete. The judges chose Leslie (of course), Francis B., and Jordan Kaminski, who seemed lost -- literally wandering around; Chef Ramsay even told him to find something to do -- during the Team Challenge. This seemed a bit unfair to Francis B., who took over for a flailing Leslie (although the judges are big on responsibility -- and Francis B. did take over and lose), and it probably should have been Tyler Viars who should have been in the third spot.
Leslie assures viewers he's got this. And it appeared that he did. The judges become worried about Jordan's fatty edges and Francis B.'s steak probably being overcooked. Several of the female contestants attempt to help Francis B. with his dish (which annoys Leslie no end). Francis L. even stepped over and pointed out that they shouldn't be helping their competition. (They ignored him.) When judges noted the back-and-forth, several people on the balcony admitted in off-set confessional that they want Leslie gone.
In the end, Leslie's steak is the only one cooked to medium-rare perfection. Nobody's fries pass muster, although Francis B.'s seemed to be the judges favorite because of the way he spiced them.
It came down to Jordan and Francis B. and since both overcooked their steaks and had underwhelming fries, Francis B.'s history in the kitchen (he's done exceptionally well in the competition), the judges eliminated Jordan.
And as for everyone seeming to dislike Leslie Gilliams and being desirous of his elimination, he does seem to have one lone ally -- Willie Mike. He noted in confessional that he liked Leslie. He voiced his support during the Pressure Test while a majority of home cooks were grousing about their dislike of Leslie.
So not everyone hates Leslie. There's Willie. And there's Leslie himself.
"MasterChef" airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Televison.