Tasmania’s Sam is feeling the farming vibe with his checked shirt. Going bananas… just another day in the My Kitchen Rules competition.
Tonight on MKR it’s Market Madness, as Australia’s most popular reality program turns to social commentary with an unflinching look at the failures of late capitalism.
We begin with the theme song blaring “This is the best night of my life”, a lyric that is by now devastatingly ironic, and then some dramatic action film music as the teams walk purposefully towards Kitchen Headquarters.
“My heart’s thumpin’,” says knockabout bloke Mick in a knockabout way. Is he nervous? No, just really unhealthy.
“Hey guys, the kitchen’s closed,” calls Luke with the sort of naturalistically convincing depiction of surprise rarely seen outside Meryl Streep acceptance speeches. All the contestants are shocked at this unexpected twist – they never saw it coming.
The sign says more information is in the cars. “Go to your cars? I can’t drive!” exclaims Ashlee. Oh no! I guess she’ll just have to stay there then, sitting outside Kitchen Headquarters playing with passing ants, as she was woefully unprepared for this dynamic and utterly unpredictable turn of events.
In the cars they find a letter telling them that Pete and Manu have decided they need time to find themselves, and wishing them all the happiness in the world.
No, actually it’s a letter telling them to drive to Sydney Markets, where they will open stalls and sell their food to the public. The team that makes the most money wins.
This is a great challenge, as there is no more discerning audience for fine cuisine than the patrons of Sydney Markets. It also tests the number one criterion for any aspiring chef: the ability to yell loudly enough at as many people as possible until they give you their money.
The first snag is struck when it is discovered that nobody can reverse a car without putting themselves in mortal danger. Horns honk, Melina screams, the police are called, and we’re off to the markets.
“The first team there gets to start shopping and start cooking before anyone else,” says Luke, his years of study on the linear nature of time having paid off in spades here.
Sophia demands that Craig not let anyone in, playing the Ethel Merman to his Milton Berle in this culinary-themed reboot of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World. “Craig’s as competitive as we are, so it’s a good match,” Sophie informs us, although to be honest it seems more like the prelude to a violent in-car murder.
“Such a smooth car,” says Ali, aware of how much Honda has paid for its products to appear in this episode. “Such a good driver!” retorts Sam waggishly, ruining the moment.
Samuel interjects in a cutaway to explain how Sydney is very big, compared to other places that are smaller. Here the markets are far away but in Tassie it takes five minutes to get to the markets. Nobody points out to him that it takes five minutes to get to the markets in Sydney too if you live five minutes away from the markets, because nobody who works on MKR has any interest in exposing the deeper truths of the universe. “From anywhere,” adds Ali, the filthy liar.
In Josh and Andi’s car, tension is rising, and by “car” I mean “relationship”. “Where do I go?” demands Andi. “Just settle down,” says Josh, refusing to answer the question. Andi puts her hands to her head, thereby rendering herself unable to either steer or see.
Everyone else is just stunned by the size of the markets, especially Ali and Samuel, since in Tassie every building is only a metre high.
Pete and Manu are looked for in the throng, and after a quick edit cutting out the four days of searching, they are located. “This is where you’re shopping, this is where you’re cooking!” Manu bellows. Or maybe he said, “Tease it, wear your chopping, tizzle we’re yo cocking.” Or “Underwear’s a-hopping, just beware your booking”. I honestly have no idea any more. Manu explains the teams have 90 minutes to shop (“shoop”?), cook and start selling, a look of abject terror on his face. This cutaway was filmed after the challenge, and you can tell that Manu has seen things this day that he knows he can never un-see.
Pete tells Dan, Steph, Luke and Scott that they were the last to arrive and they had better hurry up. They stand there gazing at him, unable to move, transfixed by his diamond-cutter cheekbones.
In the markets, Mick and Matt are bewildered – the Sydney Markets are actually three times the size of Tasmania itself. “I feel like I’ve just flown into Bangkok,” says Mick, bewildered by the amount of transgender sex being offered to him. A quick series of cuts establish that the market is a) big; b) full of people waving bananas; and c) being destroyed by MKR idiots crashing their trolleys into stuff.
Joanna is insistent she win the people’s choice today, but Jenna is already on her fifth drink of the morning and it looks doubtful. “I just want to make the most money,” says Joanna, as Jenna nods along, blissfully ignorant of her surroundings. Joanna commandeers the PA system to announce she will be providing hotcakes for all. She is besieged by anxious shoppers wondering where their lost child is.
Kerrie and Craig are making gozleme, which is a thing apparently. Kerrie worries that Craig doesn’t know what he’s doing: Craig assures her he has changed. Mick and Matt are making cinnamon chicken, but their shopping is being put at risk by Mick’s intense misanthropy.
Meanwhile, Jake is hitting people with his trolley and harassing an innocent AC/DC fan to bring him some pork. Josh is pushing his way through the throng. He feels like Moses parting the sea, and dreams of drowning thousands. “I think people are going to like our dish, Josh!” Andi shrieks in his ear for no particular reason.
Elsewhere, Manu is ordering Ashlee and Sophia to run, for his own dark motives. Ashlee and Sophia quickly move into top gear, saying “Babe” more than times within a minute.
Ali and Samuel are making spiced chicken with a pumpkin rosti. Samuel explains to Ali that it is a South American dish, delighting in her ignorance. He then explains that it’s actually a multicultural dish, containing “flavours of the world”. He then explains that a rosti is a “Swedish pancake”, as Ali begins to think very seriously about having him committed. “Definitely food fit for this market,” Samuel declares. Apparently the market is full of people who also don’t know what a rosti is.
The teams begin pricing their dishes, and Sophia begins calling Kerrie “Babe”, which is an act of uncalled-for aggression against a foreign power. Elsewhere, peeling these prawns will take Dan an eternity, mainly because he thinks he’s still in bed. Dan and Steph think their dish is multicultural too, unaware of how racist prawns can be. What Dan loves about the dish is that it’s easy to eat: Dan has been burnt by difficult foods before.
Activity is furious, but curiosity begins to grow as to why Jake and Elle have yet to return to their stall. Have they been involved in a fatal trolley pile-up? No it’s just that they need limes and their metalhead pork boy has played them for suckers.
Scott tells us that today’s challenge is all about serving great dishes to the public, even though it’s actually all about sweating heavily and yelling. Pete is explaining the rules of the challenge to Manu, who had no idea because he wasn’t listening to the voice-over before. Manu explains the rules back to Pete. Everyone seems pretty happy.
And Jake and Elle have their pork! Jake begins harassing people forthwith. They’ll need to, because Angela and Melina are making popcorn chicken with hot chips – they’ve been to markets before. Melina shouts “Eat me!” and a popular new ring-tone is born.
The batter is proving difficult, however. “It’s like a five-spice batter party!” Melina yells. “I’ve got batter in my hair!” Angela screeches. It’s all incredibly arousing. But the last thing Melina is thinking is that she’s making a mess – she’s actually thinking about the family of otters hidden inside her hairdo.
Manu yells at Jake and Elle. Jake yells at Elle. The cycle of violence continues. Elle, admirably, does not kick Jake in the crotch.
Over at Sam and Chris’ stall, Sam and Chris are still on the show.
Meanwhile, Joanna is pouring out an industrial bag of flour while Jenna tries to remember how to spell “hotcakes”. Over at Luke and Scott’s stall, Luke makes a pun about corn and therefore is automatically eliminated.
Kerrie is screaming at Craig as yet another mince-related divorce begins to loom. Manu explains to Pete how they couldn’t find any mince, and Pete’s eyeballs leap out of his head and go for a walk around the city.
Andi wants to prove she can handle couscous. Her life goals have really shrunk since she was a little girl.
Pete and Manu continue to talk about things they already know. Pete tells Manu the problem with Mick and Matt is that Mick is really slow, conveniently glossing over all the other problems. Mick is cutting up some vegetables in the rapid-fire, quicksilver manner of a man undergoing a major stroke. Meanwhile, Samuel has spilt peppercorns all over his chicken and become even less likely to get Ali into bed.
At Ashlee and Sophia’s stall they are calling each other “Babe”, but suddenly drama, as the “Babes” subside and begin to be replaced by words too rude for Channel Seven to air. The pressure is getting to them and suddenly Ashlee and Sophia are sniping viciously at each other in the same way everyone else in the world wants to. It’s possible that within a few minutes someone will be disembowelled with tongs.
Sophia tries to mend bridges by calling Ashlee “Babe” a few more times, but Ashlee is having none of it, hurling bleeps back like R2-D2. It’s all very amusing to Jake and Elle, who like nothing more than watching friendships disintegrate.
Speaking of disintegration, Kerrie and Craig now loathe each other. When they were married, Craig never revealed that he was terrible at mincing, and this deception has hit Kerrie hard. But if there’s anything slower than Craig’s mincing, it’s Mick’s chopping, and Matt experiences explicit patricidal fantasies.
Joanna and Chris are making sexual innuendoes at each other and it’s disgusting. Much like Dan’s prawns. Everything Dan and Steph have made, in fact, look like what’s left on the market floor at the end of the day.
Elle is stressed by how many elements are in a Vietnamese baguette: four, apparently. Conversely, Mick is just stressed by the existence of vegetables. He begins making skewers, and at the current rate should be ready to serve by the next series of Celebrity Masterchef.
“Are you having problems?” Kerrie asks Sophia. “Not any more,” says Sophia, strongly suggesting she has murdered Ashlee. But no, happily the Babes are back.
It’s almost time to start selling, as Luke descends into insanity and starts frying up some dog vomit. What’s worse, he’s burnt it! At least he’s not Melina, who is being driven nuts by the tongs situation. Luke’s had to throw his vomit fritters into the bin. “We needed these fritters on plates, not in the bin,” says Luke, savvy businessman.
At the gates, a horde of hungry patrons wait, eager to barge down the aisle and engage in the foodie freak show that awaits. They enter, and it is time for Chris to explain the rules again. Which means it’s time for Ashlee to explain the rules again.
Money is changing hands everywhere but Angela and Melina’s stall, where there is nothing to serve except chips. Which, to be fair, still look better than most of what’s being served. Over at Jake and Elle’s stall, Jake begins shouting about his food, which seems like a major miscalculation of just how annoying Jake’s voice is. Meanwhile, Ashlee and Sophia have upped their “Babe” rate and are five minutes from degenerating into an incomprehensible Smurf-style Babe-language.
Pete and Manu are disgusted with Angela and Melina’s effort. The popcorn isn’t crispy. Manu looks around for a table to flip.
In the battle of the pancakes, Sam and Chris are winning, their ability to quickly crank out large numbers of well-made pancakes proving more effective than Jenna and Joanna’s ability to go a bit cross-eyed from time to time. Manu would have preferred fresh fruit to cooked fruit on J and J’s hotcakes, but you know, Manu, it’s not all about YOU.
Elsewhere, Andi’s couscous is lovely and fluffy and she can die happy. Which she might do soon if the look on her face is any guide.
Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a success. Less successful is Samuel’s tactic of attracting customers by screaming incoherently at them. It seems less likely to earn him money than it is to have him arrested, but maybe it’s a Tasmanian thing.
Ashlee and Sophia have sold out, and so write on their board “SOLD OUT SUCKERS”, because they are just as ungracious and rude in moments of triumph as they are in moments of disappointment. They take the opportunity to wander about the market and say nasty things about everyone else, sticking with their strengths.
On seeing Angela and Melina’s dish, Sophia opines, “It looks like a mess, just like them”, just in case there was anyone left in Australia who didn’t hate her. Jake and Elle have also sold out, but Ashlee and Sophia still find ways to be bitchy about them: they are nothing if not resourceful. “Just because you put coriander in a dish doesn’t make it Vietnamese,” says Ashlee, speaking some bizarre alien tongue I am unfamiliar with.
Manu enjoys Kerrie and Craig’s gozleme, though it could be the cognac talking. He is less impressed with Mick and Matt’s cinnamon skewers lightly dusted with chicken. Mick, though, is “feeling pumped”: he’s so full of energy he’s managing to make up to three skewers an hour.
Closing time, and judgment awaits. One team will gain immunity: one team will go to sudden death. The other teams will just sort of stand there, uninterestingly. Jake expresses the hope that he has not failed: that’s what makes him such a fierce competitor.
Manu tells them they did well: he makes special comment on something or other that I can’t understand. Bad news for Luke and Scott though: Manu hated their mushy fritters. But Pete loved the mushy fritters! Pete and Manu wrestle to decide it.
Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a hit: after all, a rice paper roll is just like a see-through sausage. Mick and Matt, though, were stunningly bad. As for Josh and Andi, Pete says, “what can I say except, yum!”
He then proceeds to say a lot of other things. Ali and Samuel’s chicken was delectable, though Manu found their salsa not wet enough … IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
Pete and Manu explain to Ashlee and Sophia that their dish was wonderful apart from the bits that were terrible, and also that they should have been nicer to each other: none of your business, Pete and Manu.
And of course Angela and Melina failed miserably: Manu thinks it was good for the kids, but his childlike sense of wonder was long ago beaten out of him by the misery of the world. And Kerrie and Craig did very well and do not have to split up yet.
Manu tells Joanna and Jenna that he’s been waiting for a great dessert from them … and is still waiting. Jenna begins crying, either because of the harsh judgment, or because a slight breeze just ruffled her hair.
And finally, Sam and Chris: they have nothing to worry about, says Pete. This is an exaggeration, but their pancakes were good. Pete tells them their dish looked “feminine”: everyone immediately starts worrying about Pete.
But who wins people’s choice? Who has exploited the principles of supply and demand most successfully? It is … AD BREAK.
We’re back, and Samuel explains that it’s now time to find out who made the most money, for those who tuned in during the ad break, or those with short-term memory loss. Ashlee and Sophia hope they’ve won, just to upset Angela and Melina, but they can suck it, because Jake and Elle have won. “I’m on the moon right now!” says Elle, so happy she’s forgotten how figures of speech work.
Ashlee is gutted that another Vietnamese dish won, because she has a pathological need to reduce everything to race. Sophia notes that if they had done Jake and Elle’s dish, it would have been “authentic” – several thousand TV screens are at this point kicked in.
Jake and Elle now gain immunity from elimination, and also the chance to choose another team to gain immunity. They pick Kerrie and Craig. Whatever, I guess. Everyone gets unnecessarily emotional.
But what of the most important question: who are the losers? I mean, Ashlee and Sophia obviously, but who lost the challenge? It’s Jenna and Joanna!
Manu thinks of petite and pretty when he thinks of them, and he didn’t believe their desserts were coming from them. Does he suspect them of stealing hotcakes from somebody else? Jenna is devastated, tearful and kind of sleepy. Pete would look at it as another chance to shine, but Jenna and Joanna look at it more as another chance to stab themselves with toasting forks.
And so till next week, when we will return to Kitchen Headquarters to find out who will face Jenna and Joanna in a sudden-death cook-off, and whether they’ll finally have the guts to make “sudden-death” literal … adieu!
Ben Pobjie will be appearing in Let’s Put on a Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9-14.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.