The remaining 15 MasterChef contestants get what I call a true mystery box. It's full of strange international ingredients, including salt-cured tuna from Spain; Okinawan sweet potato; elk flank from northern Europe; Russian cod liver; rambutan from southeast Asia; and Chinese black moss. Out of all those ingredients, I am most familiar with rambutan—I actually have some in my fridge right now, and my family owns a rambutan orchard in Vietnam. Inside the prickly shell lies a mildly sweet, sometimes sour flesh with texture similar to that of longan.
This is a tough mystery box, and I think I'd make a stew from the baby eels and sweet potato, adding the cured tuna and black moss at the end for flavor and texture. Eddie ends up conquering the mystery box, and his advantage in the elimination round, besides immunity, is selecting two adversaries to leave the room during a pasta demonstration led by—who else?— Joe's mom - Lidia Bastianich herself.
I met Lidia during the Season 3 finale reception at Joe's Eataly last fall, and she is a bundle of energy. It's great to see her traditional Italian sense in the MasterChef kitchen—she is, after all, the only one who can put intimidating Joe in his place.
Eddie picks James and Lynn to leave the kitchen while Lidia teaches the rest how to make agnolotti. While James survives this disadvantage unscathed, it lands Lynn in the bottom two with Howard. In a moment of stomach-churning finality, the judges don't name a name but instead ask the man who thinks he's the lesser cook to step forward and voluntarily take off his apron. And this reels me back to my season when comrades Tali and Ryan were put in the same position after a challenge, and Ryan quietly takes off his apron. In this case, Howard unties his strings and leaves his apron at his station. In his confessional, Howard claims Lynn is the better cook. We've seen Lynn get picked first for multiple team challenges, so obviously, he's a strong cook. Will he get past this low point and advance all the way to the top? I hope we see more of Lynn soon—his culinary skills have been overshadowed by this season's drama.
The next field challenge has everyone feeding the cast and crew of Glee. While I don't watch the show regularly, my husband is a fan (yes, I just outed him), and I've had the pleasure of meeting Jenna Ushkowitz and Dot Jones (who play Tina and Coach Beiste respectively), so it would be exciting to cook on their set. Jessie and Krissi are team captains, but instead of picking their own teams, Jane Lynch divides the contestants herself, labeling half to be "beauties" and relegating the others to "beasts." (I wonder how Natasha, who takes pride in her beauty, feels being named a "beast.")
The teams have to cook three dishes—fried chicken, grilled salmon, and vegan lasagna—and make sure there are enough of each as they have no idea how many of each dish will be ordered. Mid-way through prep, red team captain Jessie slices her finger on the mandolin. Blood gushes everywhere, and with one cook down, the red team will have to pick up the slack and not let morale suffer. In the end, despite a literally bloody battle, Jessie's team wins by a landslide.
Krissi's team enters the pressure test, but before they begin, Krissi gets to play a large part in setting up the game: she is told she has to pick at least one person to save and at least two people to cook, but the exact number of immunities given is completely up to her. The competition is getting fierce this year. Krissi plays it strategically, leaving those she dislikes or deems as strong cooks on the kitchen floor to compete. Krissi chooses to save Natasha ("keep your enemies closer," she says), and in a moment that will have many viewers screaming hypocrisy, Krissi chooses to save herself. And then we get Jordan calling out Krissi for giving him flack when he saved himself in a previous team challenge.
Beth, Jordan, James, and Bime have to whip up a lemon meringue pie. And the twist? No lemons. I would've done exactly what James did and go with a blood orange-lime meringue pie. Unfortunately, James doesn't get his pie in the oven on time (I can totally empathize, James!).
Bime, in a terrible oversight, mixes up cornstarch and cream of tartar. It is obvious when Gordon pours Bime's pie into a martini glass that Bime is going home.
This week's eliminations were gut-wrenching. I wish Howard and Bime well. Hopefully next week's episode will be uplifting since—surprise!—yours truly returns to the MasterChef kitchen! Tune in to FOX next Wednesday at 8/7c to see what I've got in store for the remaining 13 cooks. They won't see it coming—literally! Any guesses on what the challenge is next week?
-Christine Ha, follow me on Twitter @TheBlindCook