Ah, fatherhood. Such a rewarding experience – until you’re on national television, cooking for YOUR LIVES. Of course, it isn’t that extreme (despite what the TERNIGHT voice-over man would have us believe) but Mick and Matt, those wholesome Tasmanians are really under pressure tonight, from none other than the Cupcake Queen and her friend, Joanna.
Shanghai night field

Mick and Matt are “humble Tasmanians” but even this humble Tasmanian is not beyond stealing the quotes of criminals. Matt, commenting on the task ahead, says if their best is not good enough, they will be gone.

Mick’s response? “Such is life.”

Repetition by contestants and judges of the tasks ahead and the eventual outcome of the episode? Such is life.

Extra-long episodes padded out by meaningless waffle? Such is life.

Wailing from Jenna? Such is life.

Matt is the leader of team tonight – or so he thinks. Mick at first says he backs his son, saying it will be him on a plate. I hope not. Cannibalism is so three millennia ago.

Joanna begs Jenna to harden up for the sake of their future in the competition. Viewers beg the same; for Jenna’s ongoing wailing may cause hundreds of thousands of televisions to be thrown out windows in frustration. Just me, then?

Samuel whips out the trademark MKR motherhood statements about the need for the teams to hold their nerve, but it is just a secret plot to impress Ali. They’re not a couple. Or are they?

Mick and Matt now turn to conversation about not wanting to go home. Home. Such a terrible place, evidently. Everyone in this contest talks it down so much you would be forgiven for thinking they all lived in hovels and backwaters. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so tough. It must be desperately difficult to deal with Ashlee and Sophia every day for months on end.

Mick contracts early-onset dementia and forgets a couple of things. Matt is scared into submission by previous bad experiences of correcting his father. “Dad has a short fuse,” he explains. “I’m going to tread lightly and try not to rock the boat,” confusing his position in the kitchen for the bass-voiced Old Spice ambassador. I’m on a boat.

Luke, “from Bondi”, says he bonded with Jenna and Joanna during the instant restaurant rounds and is backing them. Apparently his idea of support is patronising comments. Jenna is waiting for an opportune time to hit him over the head with a saucepan.

Ashlee and Sophia are not impressed by the South Australian cupcake queens. They have done the best they can do, they say. There are no tricks left up their sleeve, they add, confusing the planned mango mousse and sago dessert for a set of scarves and a top hat.

Matt cooks the rice for his team’s main. Mick always cooks the rice at home – so what could go wrong? Surely nothing! Joanna delays cooking beef ribs, prompting Luke to issue instructions in his to-camera interview. Memo Luke: she can’t hear you!

Jenna finally deigns to help Joanna by making salad for the entree. Ashlee and Sophia are perplexed by Jenna and Joanna’s thinking about cooking the beef ribs. I’m perplexed by Ashlee and Sophia’s constant negativity. Oh wait, I’m not – it’s right out of central casting.

Mick piles the pressure on to Matt. There’s just nothing like paternal support. Matt has overcooked the rice, prompting Kerrie to gasp. She hasn’t seen a culinary sin this heinous since she ate at Jessie and Biswa’s instant restaurant.

The judges – nameless – arrive for tasting. One of them is Guy Grossi and the other is Karen Martini, but who knows who the other two are? Certainly not the casual viewer.

Mick and Matt’s chilli sauce is widely panned as being too sweet. Jenna and Joanna’s side salad is praised for its crunch. Yes, really. It’s a salad.

Cooks return to prepare the main. Mick feels the pressure of serving fish. “I’d never be able to show me face at home again if I can’t fillet and skin fish,” he says. Never fear, Mick, I’m sure Matt still loves you.

Jenna and Joanna – well, mainly Joanna; Jenna just wails at the issues with the beef ribs – fear the meat juices won’t thicken, and make an abortive attempt to cook bread. It doesn’t cook and it promptly dispatched to the bin. Joanna swears off bread for life. Coeliacs everywhere celebrate.

In another case of bad timing, the chick peas Jenna and Joanna planned to serve with their beef ribs are not cooked and won’t make a tasty puree. She contemplates serving them whole, which does sound appealing, doesn’t it. In the end, she has run out of time for the puree. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Matt is also having issues with pulses being cooked, although could someone please check the pulses of the viewers? The “action” is particularly lacking.

Joanna’s summation of the beef is succinct. “It’s shit.” Mick and Matt argue about whether the pan for the fish was oiled properly and about efficiency of serving. Mick tries to wrest control from Matt but the bloodless attempt at a coup is short and fails.

The judges decry Mick and Matt’s chalky lentils and inconsistent fish but are largely impressed by the beef ribs of Jenna and Joanna. Their cupcake rises.

In a move that seems too nice for this most bitchy of reality programs, Matt asks Jenna if she’s keeping it together as the teams move into dessert. “No,” she replies, “but that’s normal.”

The disasters continue into dessert, with Jenna’s illustrious plans for sago being a component of her mango mousse and Matt’s cream cheese topping consigned to the bin. Quelle dèsastre!

Matt reinvents his cheesecake with an Italian meringue topping but there’s no points or support from Dad. “Our ship’s sailed if we stuff this up,” says Mick. Gee, thanks!

The support continues as Matt pipes the meringue – Mick notices and shouts that it needs to be done neatly. As further punishment, Mick burns Matt with the blow torch as he toasts the meringues atop the cakes. Third degree burns won’t land you in court, Mick…

Jenna garnishes her mousse with dehydrated pineapple and toffee, but there is no cupcake, so this sudden death contest becomes exactly that, and Jenna is never seen again.

As the judges deliver their final marks, with Jenna and Joanna first to receive the news, Mick and Matt grow increasingly worried about their fate. Matt is considering moving out of home to avoid future burns to any other parts of his bodies. Mick considers evicting Matt anyway – he overcooked the cheesecake, and that’s just not on. Can’t a father get a decent dessert these days?

The blonde, unnamed judge forgets her manners when she tells Jenna that having the sago would make the dessert more playful. Don’t play with your food!

Jenna and Joanna score 42/60, with Mick and Matt winning just 31/60.

As the platitudes for Mick and Matt flow, Craig says he will miss them. “You don’t see honest people that often,” he says, which suggests he needs new friends, or to stop hanging around with Ashlee and Sophia.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.