It was a duel of duos and a big showdown with a little Chinese cuisine on "MasterChef" Monday evening as the Top 15 faced off in a Team Challenge and a Pressure Test to send another of the home cook finalists out of the "MasterChef" kitchen. With apologies to Brian Keith, Doris Day, and the producers of "With Six You Get Eggroll" for the butchered paraphrasing of the title (but what a great movie, huh?), it must be said that the seventh episode of Season 5 was full of surprises, not the least being the dramatic ending.
And if you're in agreement with Karen Fratti, who recapped the show for Huffington Post July 8, you probably think that a certain frontrunner got "robbed" out of his just desserts. And you might also agree that you're sick of Courtney Lapresi's "gloating." But let's find out how the "robbing" took place, shall we?
The challenge: a simple Surf and Turf pairing of entrees. That was it, with the bottom two teams having to compete in the night's Pressure Test for elimination of at least one aspiring home cook. But even simple things can prove complex to some...
For the show's third Team Challenge of the season, the "gloating" Courtney, who had the best dish in the "MasterChef" kitchen in last week's Elimination Test, got to pair up the fourteen remaining finalists. She, of course, was exempt from elimination. And to make matters worse for Ahran Cho, Courtney got to choose teams after the judges -- Chef Gordon Ramsay, Chef Graham Elliot, and restauranteur Joe Bastianich -- asked who they preferred not to have as a partner. Since, Ahran chose Leslie Gilliams(remember: the two do not get along), that is who she got.
Christian Green told the judges he couldn't stand Courtney and didn't think she was "real," but he didn't have to worry about her as a partner. Courtney, who has shown an aptitude at strategy, paired him with Francis Biondi in the hopes that two strong personalities would produce less-than-satisfactory results.
Courtney's skill at knowing her enemy also prompted her to place Cutter Brewer and Dan Wu on the same team.
Shockingly, after Chef Gordon Ramsay puts Leslie through a few pronunciation paces, he gets Ahran's name correct and the two seem to do well as a team. (In fact, the teen said later in confessional that she didn't think she'd ever say it, but she respected Leslie's abilities and would like to work with him again.)
But the biggest shock wasn't that Leslie and Ahran could get along, it was that Cutter and Dan stood in the "MasterChef" pantry for five minutes, pulling only a few items to cook with and arguing over how they should prepare the dish.
So it was not a shock that Cutter and Dan faced elimination a mere 55 minutes later with their anemic offering. Chef Ramsay called it embarrassing and Joe Bastianich, after pulling out the patented "mean" Joe haughtiness (the gaze and the vocal tone) on Cutter after he threw Dan under the bus several times. (Hand it to Dan, he's got class: He took responsibility for his team's loss and called Cutter a "coward" for playing the blame game -- but he didn't blame Cutter.) Joe told Cutter to let him do his job and judge, then he let the dais and grabbed a trash can, told Cutter to do the honors. After tossing the dish, Cutter said some people didn't work well together, Joe eyed him and said, "Some don't work well alone."
The other shocker was Francis B. and Christian, both strong contenders for the "MaterChef" title, being placed in the bottom four, just where Courtney wanted them. But their uninspired dish, something Chef Ramsay said the two of them could have whipped up alone in twenty minutes, got them "one foot out the door."
For the Pressure Test, the four guys are challenged to make six spring rolls and a dipping sauce. Cutter immediately adds (in narration) that the judges gave Dan Wu a "softball." And it would appear that they have, as Dan told Judge Joe that he was born in China and had made egg rolls in the past.
Cutter had a problem late when one of his egg rolls opened up while deep frying. Francis B. noticed his oil wasn't hot enough and took his spring rolls and pan fried them.
And when it came time to judge, Cutter's spring rolls were considered too soft, not to mention the fact that he had almost no sauce to speak of. Dan's rolls were sub-par for someone with his background, but the judges admitted that his dipping sauce was excellent. Francis B. had inconsistent filling and greasy dough, a disaster. Only Christian had a good showing with his spring rolls, the judges finding only minor problems with his dish.
So it came down to Cutter and Francis B. And after Cutter's performance in the preceding Team Challenge, there was little doubt as to who would be headed home. Besides, Francis B. had been strong throughout the competition and deemed one to watch. Surely his past performances would outweigh his poor showing with the spring rolls.
Alas, surely one would have been wrong if they'd bet on Francis B. Judge Ramsay told him his time in the "MasterChef" kitchen was over.
The result: Fourteen home cooks left and undoubtedly millions of "MasterChef" fans and viewers (not to mention Karen Fratti blogging at Huffington Post) wondering how Cutter could have gotten further than the talented Francis B.
"MasterChef" airs at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox Television.