After the insanity of the Spice Girls, MKR needed a scandal, and in a competitive world embroiled in betting scandals, doping scandals and pope-ing scandals – and if Vatican's Next Top Mitre isn't a reality show waiting to be made I don't know what is – tonight it's the trip to Tasmania. And as the promotional advertisements have made clear, it is that Tasmania means cheating. Yes CHEATING. There may be food. There may be Alice and/or Wonderland. But there will be cheating, served with a side of tense music infused montage.
Of course for there to be cheating, there will need to be rules first, or at least soon after, but they can be added in post-production.
So, once we get past the promo that always opens the show, just in case people tuning in hadn't decided whether to tune in yet, we cut to Hobart to discover that Samuel is wearing a massive hat while he cooks breakfast because it's a "massive day" and not because he's a massive tit. That's just a bonus.
A bit of background voice over then tells us that Ali is recently separated from her husband, and Samuel is a friend of her ex-husband who calls her “Mum or Mama” while she “knows him too well to ever find him attractive” and if you've wrapped your head around that, then Seven hopes you'll enjoy Tasmania's next sitcom All In The Family which is presently writing itself.
The pair jump in the car and Ali reminds Samuel to use words, because this isn't a silent movie. Then the plot thickens (and curdles just a little) as Samuel points out that they're arguing like an old married couple, to which Ali responds “yes, because you're acting like my child.”
Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. I'll just let you all piece together your own Tasmanian stereotype gag out of that.
Miles away in a restaurant that has a wine rack, Peter looks over the menu planned for tonight and suggests Wonderland may in fact be Thailand … because … wait for it … they're cooking a Thai curry. Evans you larrikin, I bet you even thought of that yourself!
Speaking of larrikins, tonight's chefs arrive at the supermarket that I really wish they'd name because it's all so subtle and mysterious and Samuel grabs a kids trolley. And ... Ok, I'll be honest, it's three minutes in and I'm already over this weird mum/child dynamic they've got going on. We get no respite though as he calls her “darling” once more and then “mama” a few times in the car park and I'm wishing he'd forget Ali's advice and NOT use his words if that's all he's got.
Ali and Samuel get home, set up their theme which is Alice in Wonderland as interpreted by a two dollar shop and before you can say "why not call it that Mad Hatter's Thai Party?" Samuel screams out for Ali because a whole minute of the allotted three hours of cooking time has expired. Remember that minute later kids, if we've learnt anything it's that these guys will RUE the day … well minute they made this crucial error.
Only a few relatively dull and uneventful moments later, Ali says, in a particularly calm voice that her stress levels are through the roof. Also that she's freaking out. Hmmm, iif this is her at full panic it'll make for pretty bland television. It's a pity the producers don't have some way *cough*cheating*cough* to ramp it up.
Speaking of bland, they're making a custard, so we get a round of “it better not scramble” that suggests the contestants have been watching earlier episodes while the producers hope we haven't.
The pair cook effectively, while worrying successfully and tempting fate forebodingly, then the teams arrive, walking up the path past the sign that says "Wonderland" towards the doorbell that says "really clunky sound effects," and Lisa and Candice read the word Wonderland aloud to prove they can, then talk about reading their star signs to undermine any credibility that might accidentally give them and prove there is a little bit of The Shire in every program now.
The doorbell duly rings and Samuel, parrot that he is, mimics it. Ali admits that's when “the heart starts to flutter.” Samuel who has been hoping his constant use of the word “Mama” was the trick to getting Ali stirred up is shocked to learn that he only had to imitate a ding dong to get her going. Then again, he's already a dill, so at least it's not much of a stretch.
The other contestants sit down and participate in a brief round of staring silently at each other across the dinner table in order to facilitate a bout of group bitching about Lisa and Candice in cutaways. We learn that Lisa and Candice are not only unpopular, but also coming last and because this is a reality television show and not a Disney movie, this means we are meant to want to storm their houses with flames and pitchforks, not take off their braces and glasses to reveal that they were secretly '80s prom queens all along.
All of which is clearly meant to make us want to hate them in the same way we hated the Spice Girls - that is by watching this show and no other - but really just comes off as a bit of kicking the team that anyone with basic arithmetic skills has already backed heavily to be the next team eliminated.
After an ad that once again refuses to tell me the name of the obscure and bashful supermarket chain that have so kindly donated their product and locations to this show, the teams … bitch about Lisa and Candice, while Ali and Samuel cook.
So the theme for tonight's episode is well established and suddenly it feels like it may actually last for days rather than minutes, which is lucky as apparently that's how long Samuel needs to prepare his curry paste.
Hmmm. I. Wonder(land). How. He'll. Get. Around. That. *cough*StoreBoughtCurryPasteCheating*cough*
As if scripted, the judges choose this moment to arrive and sure enough, Peter walks into the kitchen and as though psychically enlightened (by producers) as to the events that have lead to this moment, he asks instantly about the curry paste.
Gosh, if only he'd asked about the squid. Or not come into the kitchen straight away like he normally does. How does he know?!
At least they've dealt with it now and we can be sure they won't make much of this later.
Back at the table, Jenna says she doesn't want to sound blonde, so instead sounds daft as she speaks of how “inspirated” by the prospect of an entree of granita down the rabbit hole she is. The others all dutifully pile-on in what quickly becomes a inspirat-a-thon. All I'll say is when you have two blonde personal trainers mocking you for being a bit dim, you know you've hit rock bottom, or at least you would if you hadn't recently inspirated which can really dull your senses (as well as inhibiting your ability to operate heavy machinery).
Entree is served – in part, all over Samuel's arm – which Lisa and Candice like to think would have meant instant elimination, because dropping one dish is the same as dropping your bundle like they did. "That'd keep us in the competition. Imagine that!" says Candice. Australia does so. Australia shudders.
On the entree, which is Thai Beef Strips with a Mai Tai Granita, Peter says he's going to be blunt, which will really contrast with his pussy-footing to date. He doesn't think the Mai Tai belongs. He also thinks the curry paste out of a jar is a “no no.” This confuses Lisa who screeches “yes” to camera. Manu agrees with Pete and adds sagely that cooking is part of this cooking competition.
Trying the dish, the other teams are split. Dan and Steph feel sorry for Samuel and Ali. Sam is pleased to discover a taste explosion. Jenna is now randomly saying the word "Malibu." And Lisa and Candice ... are inspirated to find more fault, they do this mostly by Candice saying “jar” a lot and Lisa saying "didn't really work for me" even more. Weirdly the other teams judge that criticism to be slightly strategic. So they bitch about Lisa and Candice some more.
At least this isn't getting repetitive. Or repetitive.
Next Anthony Field turns up in the ad break to prove that retiring from the Wiggles hasn't slowed him down at all – he can make just as big a fool of himself without a primary coloured skivvy thank you very much.
Oh and here's an ad for the Gate Crashers who arrive next week and promise something completely different: they will be snarky about the other team's meals. They are compared in the ad to the Spice Girls, and they are Asian, so imagine our surprise when 9 seconds later a Twitter pop up declares the Asian Spice Girls to be on their way. Vive la difference!
In the kitchen, Ali reminds Samuel that Manu really likes sauce and he points out they're ok, because they can always use some sweet chilli out of a bottle. Oh. Um. Wow. He'll never learn. I don't mean the bottle quip, which presumably was a joke, but the fact that he said it while Ali was holding a knife. I think she almost sliced his squid and stuffed it with pork right there.
Speaking of crazy … Scott, the personal trainer, has an intriguing problem. It seems he doesn't like to eat squid (or cuttlefish or octopus), not because he has a tattoo of an octopus on his arm and likes the word "cephalopod" - though its nice to give the other teams another plaything to garble - but because they have 3 brains, 9 hearts and the ability to camoflage.
Ah yes, camoflage, one of the world's three best reasons not to eat something and for that matter, the exact reason I passed on an Abrams Tank Amuse-Bouche at a party the other day.
While some of the others seem bewildered by this, Sam gets it. He points out that he wouldn't eat lions if they were on the menu, because he likes lions. It's lucky he's pretty when he smiles. Of course, by the reverse logic, he'd all be happy to sup on a soup of boiled Lisa and Candice if given the option. But let's not focus on that.
Back in the kitchen, Samuel is cooking with gas, though I mean that purely metaphorically as he's actually run out of gas. Until he finds gas, attached to the gas barbecue.
There may actually have been a gas leak as for the talent portion of the evening, Miss Congeniality is now singing for reasons best known to herself. Presumably she believes if Pete and Manu feel ill then they'll score tonight's chefs lower. She points out to us that she knows people will tell her to shut up if they don't like her singing. Sadly the other teams aren't aware of their safety words, so they just grimace and try to politely ignore it because they don't habitually provoke the mentally disturbed by yelling at them.
And now Candice is attempting sign language so it seems that Ali and Samuel's decision to offer up a crack pipe as a palate cleanser has really worked.
Oh crumbs! The crumbs haven't set properly on the squid. And sauces!! The sauce is looking thin. And vegetables!!! The vegetables are looking, well, crap. It turns out plating doesn't come in a jar so Samuel doesn't know how to do it. Ali contributes by bursting into tears because it has been a hard night and so she asks if she can have a minute … to which Samuel yells “No! Remember, you wasted that minute at the start?!!!” Well, no, he doesn't. He escorts Ali from the cupboard she has chosen to hide in towards the door to the outside world where she can actually escape.
Then its an ad with Kochie and Mel promising hard hitting journalism on Sunrise tomorrow and now I'm wondering how far that gas leak has spread.
After the ad Samuel demonstrates his ability with words. He helps Ali shake it off by getting her to actually shake it off. Nifty.
Having left their dish to cool, or as some might say, congeal, on the bench for a little bit, they finally serve the dish to the table. Faced with Ali's tears, the teams sympathise. Pete and Manu eat. Oh and Lisa bitches and moans. Same old, same old.
Ali is still crying as the judges try to discuss their Squid hood stuffed with pork. Manu tries to charm her by liking her food, while Candice tries to charm Australia by pointing out that crying is a sign of weakness, really demonstrating a strong understanding of the butch, macho, testosterone-fuelled male audience that watches this show.
Peter calls the dish delectable and Ali runs back to the kitchen to celebrate their tactical decision to have her cry and not Samuel.
Then, hold on to your mad hats, the other teams love the dishes, except …
… can you guess? …
… ok yes, Scott passes on the squid, because his arm told him to, but also …
… that's right Lisa!
Lisa has, contrary to all expectations, some complaints. They are entirely reasonable of course. She is upset at the squid for not being lion, disappointed in the pork for being chalky yet not enough that anyone without acute chalkitis could spot it, and apoplectic at the overall plate for not smashing itself into razor sharp shards that she can insert into the skin of the villainous dictators in the kitchen, pinning them to their thrones of evil while she slowly sings them to death.
In the kitchen, Samuel wants to add corn flour to the custard because he sees a good opportunity for a visual gag in it, but Ali sees custard soaking into her sponge and declares it her worst nightmare come true.
Clearly Ali hasn't spent any time in Lisa's head.
And now, here's a phrase you may not have heard before: Mango to the rescue!
Pureed mango is mixed with the custard to form mang-stard the mang-nificent. And if that isn't enough bad word play for you, while this is happening the teams join in by coining a few puns on the word Thai. The Thai-rifle is Thai-riffic but the pun is Thai-rrible and Thai-rsome. All of which will be the names of restaurants in your local area by the end of this sentence.
Having run out songs, Lisa chooses to entertain the group with some impressions. Her first impression is of a complete lunatic. Specifically a mad woman who rants about her need for carbohydrates to help absorb her proteins, and bemoans the lack of carbohydrates in her life.
Dessert is glassed up and Peter calls it … “interesting” before asking Ali and Samuel if they like it. He's really just hoping he can get Ali to cry again. Disappointed at the lack of tears, he says he likes the taste but not the technique. Peter is such a good chef he can taste technique. To him, the technique tastes a bit like chicken.
Meanwhile Manu is reminded of pina coladas. So much so that he regales the teams with a tale of a time he, three kitchen hands and a particularly large spatchcock spent a crazy week on a beach together. As the show is neither long enough nor broadcast in a suitable adults only time slot to permit that story to air, the production team finally locate the gas leak that has taken us all to this place and the anecdote sadly hits the cutting room floor.
Hold the press. Lisa is set to be hospitalised having exhibited multiple symptoms of a mercury-poisoning induced mental episode. Not only can she taste phantom rice in the dessert Thai-rifle in front of her, but she is nice about it. Actually nice. Pleasant even. It's disconcertingly congenial. That is until the other teams start singing the word 'rice' in a moment of musical mocking that helps remind them and us that they are to only be Awful Human Beings (TM) as their contract states.
The teams retire to score Ali and Samuel, a segment with a theme of “just give them more than Lisa and Candice” running through it, with one obvious exception being Lisa and Candice who give it 3 for reasons that are about thought and about themselves and they actually don't reference the meal at all.
The jovial voice of MKR then informs us that Ali and Samuel need to score more than 57 to not be in last place and sent to the seventh level of Hell. The guest score of 30 helps them out and surprises Lisa who has suffered a relapse, now exhibiting symptoms of paranoia with a hint of conspiracy theory as she suggests with a straight face that the other teams are scoring Ali and Samuel higher because they aren't as much of a threat as she is. Not as much of a threat to their ears perhaps.
The judges judge the meals:
Entree: Peter 3, Manu 2
Main: Manu 8, Peter 9
So they need a total of six for their Thai-rifle, which means this isn't a very Thai-t compeThai-tion at all. Sorry, I'll get my coat … and Thai!
Back to the judging:
Dessert: Manu 5
And Peter gives them nothing to make it a tie.
No, sorry Peter gives them a 6 for a total score of 63 which means they aren't coming last, a fact that surprises two people at the table and also two people in the entire universe.
Ali and Samuel then kick everyone out so they can try to find the recipe for romantic chemis-Thai that they know they left around here somewhere.