MasterChef US Season 3 Episode 17 Recap: There Goes the Neighborhood

August 24, 2012 7:11 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Monti Carlo and Gordon Ramsey (Photo: Creative Commons)

Warning: Here Be Spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens, don't read this. If you don't care, or already watcher, or you watch TV shows through their recaps, keep reading.

-It's the Top 5! Super terrifying. I'll cry if anyone goes home, but if I had to pick someone, I'd want it to be Josh. He's been at the bottom just about every week since he's been back. As much as all the other cooks talk about what a threat he is, I still haven't seen that. He doesn't know as much about ingredients as Stacy did, and he's not as compelling a reality show character as Ryan was. Still, seriously hate Ryan after his very disrespectful comments to Monti in one of the episodes.

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-We open with another a Mystery Box Challenge. This one has the remaining five contestants compiling their own ingredients. Seems way too straightforward. Probably some last minute surprise that isn't all that surprising.

-And there it is. Gordon Ramsey just told everyone to switch boxes. If either Monti or Frank get Christine's box, they're pretty fucked. Frank floundered with catfish; Monti hasn't had even a hint of asian influence in her cooking technique all season.

-Monti gets Christine's box. She tries a spoonful of fish sauce, and winces. Poor thing. A Tom Yum is not something you can just recreate from taste memory. It's so subtle. Things are looking bad for her.

-Becky complains about getting celery. Come on, Becky. Celery's totally great.

-Everyone else is pretty okay.

-Becky leaves her chicken skins in the oven? Rookie mistake from the most technically talented chef of the season. She's lucky this didn't happen when it really counted.

-Well, I'm totally wrong: Monti does incredibly well with this challenge, placing in the Top 3. That's so impressive. People need to hold their tongue about how she memorizes recipes. (Full disclosure: still so blown away by her Crab Scotch Egg.)

-Josh wins the Mystery Box Challenge with a plate that doesn't look good. The producers/editors of the show haven't done much to underscore the Josh/Frank bad blood from last episode. I wonder if we'll ever see it?

-They take Josh into the pantry and they show him that the Elimination Challenge is going to be a recreation of his choice of one of three of Graham Elliot's dishes that have been cooked for celebrities (Obama, Oprah, Jay Z). Very cool that all the celebrities mentioned are African American. So much of Western Fine Dining feels very white. But maybe that's on account of everything has a French name.

-I like that this is going to be all about recreation. There's an emphasis on technique there that we don't usually see from cooking reality shows. At this point, they've all presented themselves as brilliant ideas people (except for Josh and Frank, who are very good within their niche), so it'll be interesting to see who flounders and who doesn't in the recreation.

-Josh's advantage is that he gets all the ingredients that are in the dish he chooses. Since he chooses the Tuna Sashimi with Passionfruit and Avocado Mousse, that's a huge advantage for him. I wish he would have chosen the corn bisque, just so I could have seen everyone attempt to make that cilantro marshmallow.

-They all cook. Monti puts heavy cream into her avocado. My heart stops. That's the kind of mistake that could send her home.

-Watching Josh chop his fish is a relief. It's falling apart, and hopefully the chefs will be extra mean to him for blowing his advantage and adding superfluous mango to the dish.

-It's taste-time. Christine produces a brilliant dish. It's especially surprising, considering she recreated it perfectly visually as well, and so I guess we can talk about her disability one more time. Still, I wish we could have a conversation about it without seeming surprised each time. Week after week, she proves how talented she is.

-Frank's tastes great, too.

-Monti made a mistake and could go home for it. I hope Josh's is worse.

-Becky comes out and gets yelled at, which is pretty funny because her biggest mistake is too much passionfruit. The sashimi is sliced really nicely. She'll be bottom three but she won't go home.

-Josh's is catastrophic as well.

-Becky, Monti, and Josh are in the Bottom 3. Monti gets sent home. I sob like a baby.

I've already waxed poetical about how Season 3 of MasterChef US is my absolute favorite season of any reality TV show of all time, and even though this episode sent my favorite of the contestants home, it cements exactly why I think this show is a cut above its competitors. Yes, Monti was in the bottom two this week, and yes, based on what she made, she may have deserved to be there. But it's also indisputable that she's the strongest personality of the season in a very positive way. She's loud, she's funny, she's eager and excited about everything, and it's all winning and earnest. She has a backstory that will resonate with so much of this country, and she has grown so much as a cook and a chef.

Josh, in comparison, is a weaker personality. Much weaker. Of the contestants that are left, he and Frank are the least telegenic. In choosing him over Monti, the show is making a conscious effort to lose its integrity and not fall victim to the "entertaining TV trap."

That said, Monti shouldn't have gone home this week. This was her first time in the bottom two, and I can only imagine how much she'd benefit from the next challenge: having three of the best chefs in the world try her food.

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