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MasterChef Recap: Family Ties

It was a rough week for me as a MasterChef viewer as not only did one of my favorite contestants get eliminated, but I was also forced to *gag* feel bad for Krissi. Ugh, I feel dirty.

The final seven arrived to the Mystery Box Challenge to find what is becoming a common occurrence: personal mystery boxes at each station and a gigantic one at center stage. What could possibly be under there this time? A few more Desperate Housewives? Extra piles of meat? Krissi's missing empathy?

No, it was a collection of uncomfortable-looking people that, it turned out, were loved ones of the remaining contestants. Here was Natasha's son and husband. There was Eddie's girlfriend. Here's Jordan's dad and Jessie's parents. There's James' fiancee and Luca's wife. And for Krissi...nothing. Apparently, standardized testing season is serious business in the Philadelphia area and Krissi's son Mikey couldn't get away to wish his mom well. To that I say two things: 1) That is really awful for Krissi and even the other contestants (and me) felt bad and 2) really, Philadelphia? The kid couldn't make it up another day? Ouch. Instead, she got the horribly subpar alternative of watching a video of her son proving to her that he hadn't burned down the house (or at least the living room) yet and that the dog was still alive.

The cooking challenge came when the contestants got to fill up their mystery boxes with any 15 ingredients they wanted to create a home-inspired dish while their families watched from the balcony. This gives Jessie an extra challenge since her parents spent most of the time questioning what she was doing and nitpicking her. Didn't the state of Georgia have some standardized testing for middle-aged people they had to stay home for?

Nitpicking aside, Jessie must have done something right because her seared duck breast with brussel sprouts and a blackberry reduction wound up in the top three, along with Natasha's green curry with coconut, corn and rice (I'm sure her 1-year-old son's favorite dish ever) and Luca's pan-seared halibut with white asparagus risotto. With his wife - who he apparently started dating after trying to fire her as a waitress at his restaurant (TRUE LOVE) - cheering him on, Luca took the win.

After everyone said good-bye, and Krissi put away her iPad, Luca went into the pantry to learn his prize. First, he wouldn't have to compete in the Elimination Test. Second, that's awesome for him because it was a really hard test - making a plate of sushi. Third, the contestants would have to work in three teams of two and Luca got to choose the teams. With the goal of screwing over Natasha, Luca decided to pair her with the least experienced and most obnoxious person in Krissi. Then he put the other four into two super teams: James and Jordan, and Eddie and Jessie.

I understand Luca's logic and probably would have done something similar myself, but in the end, it actually backfired. Natasha was the only one of the six to actually have a lot of experience making sushi, while Krissi admitted she had zero experience (and actually looked at the plate of sushi like it was a pile of Bri's). That made decision-making and division of labor easy: Natasha was in charge, Krissi was the assistant, and both of them understood that. James and Jordan, meanwhile, were two strong chefs with comparable cooking backgrounds so nobody was there to make up for their weaknesses. And while Jessie had minor experience cooking sushi, she and Eddie were utterly lost.

So, no, Luca didn't succeed in getting rid of Natasha or Krissi and in fact, only made enemies of the two most vindictive people on the show. Although, to be fair, they probably already hated him anyway because he talks with an accent or looked at them funny or isn't pretty enough. James and Jordan were saved because, while they were a little goofy and disrespectful of Japanese cuisine, they actually did a solid job slicing the fish. That was much more than you could say for Jessie and Eddie, whose sea urchin preparation was so horrible that even they refused to eat it.

Somehow, the judges decided Eddie was the worst of the two team members, even though both claimed equal ownership of the dish, and was eliminated.

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