As another date with the ever-demanding Marco Pierre White and the MasterChef: The Professionals kitchen looms for viewers, a spanner is thrown in the works.
The voiceover man is not the same. Gone are the velvet-sounding, dulcet tones of seasons past. Enter the more intense and angry welcome. The kitchen is darker, the judging is (supposedly) darker – but it's still the same show.
It's even the same old abuse of the English language, with the menacing voiceover insisting that the losing green team members from Tuesday's tramcar challenge will "fight for survival" in a gladiatorial type scenario. Look out for knives being bandied about.
As we are tempted to stick around for an hour via a preview, we see a sweaty-haired male contestant; a bead of sweat almost drops off his overly-long fringe and onto a plate. I hope he's serving seafood.
There is only one chance for the contestants to prove their skills, says the threatening voiceover, forgetting that this is night three of a very long competition. Akuc cries. The episode's been on for 40 seconds. Help.
As the opening titles (thankfully) end (Why Katy Perry has gone is anyone's guess), overseas and interstate viewers are misled by being shown panoramic views of blue-sky Melbourne, which include a blue Yarra river. It's never that sunny and the river is never that blue.
The contestants change and the usual early-episode self-doubt begins. The winning team lines up on the balcony to applaud and gasp like the challenge is a French-revolution style execution spectacle. Matt thinks this is a good day for the winning team because they get to watch the other team cook. I'm not so sure that this would rate in their definition of a "good day", and, frankly, sorting out buttons or watching grass grow would probably be more productive uses of their time.
The challenge is issued: show us who you are as a chef. Sarah is confused – she wants to put her whole life on a plate, and despite the gladiatorial undertones at play, she chooses not to fillet herself and serve that up.
Pantry doors are flung open and Rhett the head chef decides on putting paw paw in his salad. This is an unspeakable crime against salad, and belongs with Pete Evans' activated almonds as a culinary sin.
Nathan hasn't learned one thing from the most recent MasterChef season, and ignores the traumatic experience of Alice the bespectacled who cooked ox tongue for a similar challenge. That went down well. Nathan elects to cook lamb brains with artichokes and an artichoke emulsion. Offal is really awful on MasterChef. Marco reacts to news of this "food" he will have to eat as though Nathan suggested serving a cup of cold vomit with a plate smear of earwax.
We pass by some contestants who are cooking largely normal things and come to Anthony, whose ego is far bigger than his stomach. He is doing a lot. Too much, in fact.
In a humble display, the "chef to the stars" says: "I suppose you could call me a rock and roll chef, sure", despite not looking at all rock and roll.
“Since leaving Australia, my career has skyrocketed,” he says in his best Melissa George ‘Don’t-call-me-Angel' impression.
“I’m always in the right magazine or the right competition. I’m quite sought after overseas.” His head expands to gargantuan proportions.
In an apparent bid to cut the self-serving cant down, Matt asks: “So why are you here?”
Anthony, of course, wants to come home to make a name for himself in Australia.
The horde on the balcony cheers like a bloodthirsty mob baying for ruthless battle as the cooking continues and we learn more about these professional chefs who decided that they needed a break from being a full-time chef so they could appear on a television program about being a chef.
Sarah has a tendency to make life difficult for herself and Rhys thinks he’s a good fisherman, and not just because he has a hobo-style beard.
Akuc and Marco blame onions when she starts crying about her lentil soup; a recipe from her mother in Sudan. As she concludes the explanation, she cries again and blames the onions. What did onions ever do to you, Akuc?!
We return now to everyone’s favourite person, Anthony, who insists: “Everything that leaves my kitchen is always perfect.”
Marco confides in Matt that Anthony’s jumbled mess is impossible to pull off – and, sure enough, he has a meltdown like ice-cream on a hot day when he realises his soufflé is burnt and has collapsed.
That “perfect” claim is looking pretty imperfect. He decides to put this brown and faecal-coloured thing on his plate. In a similarly baffling decision, Nathan plates up his brains – and worries that they could be “a touch undercooked”.
The judging begins: Nathan neglects to warn Marco and Matt of their imminent deaths at his hands because of undercooked lamb brains. If you were going to go out while eating, surely you would want it to be on something that was edible.
Marco manages to have Nathan confess that the lambs didn’t feel right. Marco still eats it, risking death for the sake of a ratings point. “I’ve known people who’d get sacked for less,” he says to Nathan of the undercooking.
Akuc, Rhys, Kylie and Rhett are praised for their food, which does not pose a death threat to those who eat it.
And Anthony returns. Now described as “seafood five ways”, Anthony tries desperately to win the judges’ approval – to no avail.
Marco says Anthony tried too hard. Anthony raises his eyebrows. Marco says there are too many flavours on the plate, and it looked like a shipwreck. Anthony raises his eyebrows. Matt agrees with Marco, who, in Anthony’s absence, says he used “logic of the madhouse”.
Anthony talks to the other waiting contestants but they regard him as though they would like him to be anywhere but next to them and talking about himself.
Akuc’s lentil soup is deemed the winner of the challenge. In a massive shock to absolutely no one, Nathan and Anthony are the bottom two.
Being told that his decisions bamboozled the judges, Anthony raises his eyebrows. Again. He is out.
Anthony may be out of the competition but his opinions of his cooking have not diminished.
“I had a lot more to give,” he says. “I tried to be professional. I thought my dish had a lot going on but compared to two hours to make a soup...
“I know I’m good at what I do, so I can leave with my head held high. I’ll remember to cook like an amateur next time,” he says to shocked expressions and rolled eyes from the rest of the cast, who are, clearly, by now, sick of this person who appears to be able to talk the talk, but not walk the walk. Marco stares at him and dismisses him.
The trumpet is still being blown as Anthony leaves the kitchen. He claims he served the soufflé in question to Tommy Lee Jones and Penelope Cruz and got rave reviews. It does beg the question if said soufflé of said “stars” was burnt too.
Anthony clearly knows best and says Marco was not right to say that the soufflé was “unedible”.
Anthony plans to return overseas to “rock out and do what I do and live the life and cook for the superstars”.
Marco could only hope that the door doesn’t hit him on the bum as he leaves.