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MasterChef Recap: Big Returns

MasterChef was down to its final six contestants, so of course that meant that this week's episode would feature exactly zero of them cooking anything. No, while the supposedly six best home cooks in America looked on, the three judges each brought back one previously eliminated contestant to get a chance for redemption.

First up was Gordon, who selected his favorite vegetarian and yours (not to mention Krissi's favorite vegan even though she's not a vegan at all) - Bri! Solid selection. Bri was good, only got eliminated two weeks ago, and had won several challenges. Nobody seemed too shocked or upset about the pick, either...oh, I'm sorry, Krissi's eyes have completely rolled out of her sockets and her throat is making this weird gagging hack sound. Is it allergies, Krissi? No? That's just you? OK, cool.

Next up was Joe's selection and he brought out Lynn, much to every other contestants' chagrin and my continued confusion. Jordan could not say enough times how much he didn't want Lynn to come back because he was so good and blah blah blah. I would really love to know why everyone agrees that Lynn is some fabulous contender. From what I can tell, he plates beautifully but struggles with things like taste and seasoning and getting so stressed out that he rains sweat down on his food. I've never understood why everyone thought he was so much better than, say, Bri, or why everyone looks so scared.

Lastly came Graham. Who would he choose? Would it be Eddie, arguably the best and unarguably the latest contestant to be eliminated? Bethy, because she has a weird name (and because she was the last person voted out before Bri)? Savannah, who I kind of forgot existed until one of the other contestants mentioned her name? Or...Bime. Who didn't even make the top 13. A collective groan from the rest of the contestants greeted him, not because they were intimidated by him (a la Lynn) but because everyone finds him obnoxious. Well, almost everyone. Luca gleefully clapped and smiled at Bime, prompting another contestant to hiss, "Stop clapping for him!"

"Why?" he gushed. "I like Bime!"

It would be weird if it wasn't so adorable.

Anyway, with their top picks standing before them, the judges explained the upcoming challenges. After the first challenge, one person would be eliminated and then the final two would face off for another spot in the competition. In other words, this is Big Deal Stuff. To learn about the first challenge, Bri, Bime and Lynn had to go to the pantry, where they were greeted with...eggs. Like, a lot of eggs. Seriously, so many eggs. They loaded up baskets of eggs and brought them back, learning that they'd have to make as many perfectly cooked sunnyside-up eggs as possible in 15 minutes.

Each employed different strategies. Bime went for organization, carefully lining up his plates and pans. Bri thought about timing. Lynn sweated. Everywhere. After 15 minutes, each person had a countertop loaded with plates of eggs, with the judges deciding which were "perfect" and which were garbage. And because this is MasterChef, not just the egg got tossed, but the entire plate, too. Every time they do that, the show should purchase a set of dinner plates off some couple's wedding registry.

Anyway, Lynn plated 27 eggs, but Joe kept taking the trek down the line to throw away plate after plate after plate of eggs, and he wound up with just eight ("Yay!" says the rest of the contestants). Bri took much of the drama out of it by dominating Lynn with 13 eggs, earning her an automatic spot in the final challenge ("Boo!" says Krissi). Bime plated 32 eggs but again, a lot of them ended up in the trash. Still, he had just enough to pass Lynn, earning himself a spot in the final challenge against Bri and proving my theory once again that Lynn is the most overrated MasterChef contestant ever.

The final challenge was different in that it involved actually cooking stuff. It also featured guest judges in the six other contestants and Joe for tie-breaking's sake. The contestants were excited about being the judgers rather than the judgees, and they all dressed in their finest to do so. There's Krissi with her hair straightened. Here's Jessie's unevenly cut dress that shows off her legs. Here it is again. And here it is again. Hey, cameraguy, calm down! And there's Jordan wearing a short-sleeved button-up shirt and jeans like That Uncle at every wedding. "Oh, you wore the good jeans? You shouldn't have, uncle Frank!"

Gordon and Graham explained the challenge to their hand-picked returnees. Each would have to produce seven portions of a dish involving Atlantic king salmon, asparagus, potatoes and hollandaise sauce. The extra trick is that the salmon came in its natural form, meaning that they'd have to filet it into seven equal(ish) portions. I have respected Bri's vegetarianism throughout this competition because she hasn't used it as an excuse; she hasn't shied away from cooking any sort of meat and hasn't even seemed all that squeamish about it. But fileting something with a face is different, if only because it's a skill I'm sure she's never practiced (hell, I've never practiced it either and I love salmon and cook it all the time).

On cue, Bri began fileting her fish like it was a big fish-shaped cake, slicing a filet out and putting it aside rather than cutting off all the meat in one big chunk and then dividing it up like Bime (and everyone else who has ever fileted a fish). Still, it was a means to an end and her portions wound up looking fine.

The dish focused on skill rather than creativity and as such, Bri and Bime had limited means to personalize their dishes. Mostly, that involved how they made their potatoes, as Bri roasted them and Bime made garlic mashed. Otherwise, the plates were almost identical.

Back in the previously unseen MasterChef dining room, Joe and the six finalists were presented with two dishes on two different colored plates, to assure anonymity. The consensus was that Bri's fish was cooked to perfection and that her hollandaise sauce was tasty, but that her vegetables were underseasoned and there wasn't enough of that tasty sauce. Bime's dish had better flavor, but the fish was slightly overcooked. So it was a tossup, and when Joe counted the votes, they were as close as possible (4-3).

In the end, it was Bri who walked through the door as the returning MasterChef contestant. Some looked happy (Jessie); others looked angry (Krissi); and still others looked annoyed that anyone at all came back (everyone else). I'm not a huge fan of the second chance either, but if it had to be someone, I'm glad it was either Bri or Eddie, as arguments could be made that they're better than a few of the finalists. (I'm looking at you, Luca!) Plus, last year, Josh was the one they brought back and he wound up being one of the final two. So let's see what Bri can do.

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