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'MasterChef' recap: The judges blew it

June 29, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Max Far be it from me to defend Maxwell Smirk, but someone has to do it. So here goes. There's no way the Smirkenator deserved to go home after this week's pressure test on "MasterChef." Now, I would have been all for it if you sent him home for a million other reasons, like being a know-it-all, for his haughty attitude, for being born with a silver spoon in his mouth.... But he should not have been sent home for failing to properly cook a steak.

Am I right?

This time, class lost out to trash, and I'm not referring to tax brackets. Christine, a single mom from Florida, and Richy Rich ended up on the chopping block after their Esther-led team has a disappointing showing in the sausage-meets-bikers challenge. The Smirkster enjoyed playing the victim, doing only what he was told, and nothing more and then smirked himself silly watching Esther fail. Esther got her revenge by sending them on their way to the pressure test, where the pair had to cook three filet mignons. One had to be cooked rare, one medium and one well done. Turns out the last one was the hardest: I guess you can't just cook it til it turns into a hockey puck. It needs to be juicy on the inside and properly seared on the outside.

Now, we're used to the offputting behavior from Smirkenstein. But this time, it was Christine who  behaved badly. Feeling the pressure, she started cursing like a truck driver, prancing around like a boxer and speaking disrespectfully to chef Gordon Ramsay and snapping at her teammates in irritation even as they cheered her on. (For one single second, I wished I was watching "Hell's Kitchen." I guess Ramsay isn't exaggerating when he says he treats the competitors on "MasterChef" with kid gloves compared with the "Hell's Kitchen" competitors, out of deference to their civilian status and the fact that, well, they aren't asking for it in quite the way that "Hell's Kitchen's" competitors are.) Worse, all that bravado melted away and Christine became a simpering, quivering mess.

Anyhoo, Christine and Smirkaholic both seemed to botch the well-done steaks by undercooking them. (They would have been sent back by a diner in a restaurant.) And, actually, both did fairly well in the rare and medium categories. But overall, the Smirkster's came closest, IMHO. He had better seasoning, a better crust, more thoroughly seared edges....

The decision was so off the mark that my mind went into overdrive. Could the steaks have been confused in some way? Was someone manipulating the game? Is this part of a plot to bring Smirkypants back later in the competition? And, perhaps the biggest question of all: Why would you ditch such a delicious villain? True, he's a punk upstart, but that's all the more reason to watch him get his comeuppance -- or, even better, to shed the teen know-it-all-ness and grow.

Say what you will about Smirky, but he can cook. And is there any doubt that he can cook better than Christine?

And then, in a moment that really proved class lost out to class, a humbled Max conceded defeat and handed it to Christine: "Christine needs this title more than I do. She's a single mother. And I think this would be very good for her."

He couldn't miss an opportunity for a parting jab: "Alejandra, Derrick and Jennie, I wish you the best of luck. Christian, Suzy and Esther, can't wait to see you crash and burn. Your time is coming."
"MasterChef" judges, you blew it. Am I wrong?"


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--Rene Lynch

Photo: Max. Photo credit: Fox