Hollywood infected your brain. Well, he might have infected Cathryn’s, anyway.
1. Much as the only thing anyone could discuss in the wake of last week’s episode was Sarah-Jane‘s diseased beef curtain, this week’s episode once again gave us a moment of heightened drama that completely overshadowed everything else, except this time it was more about bloodletting than it was about baking. Poor John was forced to abandon the strudel-making Showstopper challenge this week after a debilitating injury – admittedly, one that didn’t seem too serious at first when we saw John sporting a dashing pair of bright blue latex gloves and confessing that he’d rather daftly put his hand in the MagiMix and slid his finger across the blade. Frankly he wouldn’t have been our top guess for the baker most likely to self-harm during the course of the competition, but sometimes it’s the jokey, cheerful ones who are hiding the most pain. Anyway, he shrugged it off at first and attempted to soldier on, until it became clear that his wound was bleeding so much that it eventually looked like he was transforming into Daredevil, hand-first. Of course, we have two doctors on hand in the competition (well, one doctor and one medical student), so Danny immediately put her work-face on and dashed over to examine him, at which point it was decided that he was too badly injured to continue. Thus, John’s strudel remains forever incomplete, and everybody else spent the rest of the episode talking about him in weirdly hushed tones and saying things like “I think John would have probably made one of the best strudels here” and “it was really awful that John didn’t get to make his strudel”, as though he’d died rather than been forced to sit out one round of a cookery competition.
2. The brutality continued in the kitchen as, after several false starts brought about by misleading teasers, we finally got our long-promised bout of FLOORCAKE. The one clue in the last week’s trailers was that the unfortunate victim was wearing blue Converse, so I spent the first 15 minutes or so of the episode gradually eliminating contestants based on their footwear: it’s not James because he’s wearing white Converse, it’s not Brendan because Brendan would never wear anything like that, etc etc. Before I could rule everyone out, however, it happened: poor Danny dropped her sponge puddings all over the floor, and immediately her trademark level-headedness evaporated as she predicted her own instant elimination from the competition. Mel was in there like a shot to clear up the debris, but her attempt to soothe Danny’s anxieties by pointing out that she still had four good sponges left gained no ground when Danny curtly informed Mel that she needed six. Of course, as is often the way in these things, it turned out not to matter because the surviving sponges were good enough to impress Mary, who told Danny that accidents happen all the time, even in Mary’s kitchen. Of course, any sensible viewer would have known she was just saying that to make Danny feel better – any cake that falls off the surface in Mary’s kitchen bounces off an invisible forcefield and returns straight back to where it was, as good as new.
3. These things always come in threes, and so we didn’t just have FLOORCAKE but also FLOORDOUGH to entertain us. The victim in this case was Cathryn, who was following Sarah-Jane’s advice (which she was passing on from Paul, so it was fairly sound advice) on how to whip one’s strudel dough back and forth (just whip it) in order to gain the necessary elasticity when it slipped out of her hand and landed on the floor next to Danny’s workbench. This led to hysterical laughter and inevitable martyrdom as Sarah-Jane blamed herself and Cathryn assured her that it was TOTALLY fine that her dough was now unusable. In my favourite moderately passive-aggressive exchange, Sarah-Jane asked “do you blame me?” in that way where the only acceptable answer is “no”, so it probably didn’t help that Cathryn deadpanned “completely, but I’ll get over it” in response. She quickly clarified that she was joking, but I imagine Sarah-Jane probably sent herself to bed without supper for several nights all the same. Danny, incidentally, clearly found the whole thing hilarious, which made me like her a lot. Anyway, Cathryn made some more dough, and her savoury roasted vegetable, cous cous and sheep’s cheese strudel was a hit with Paul and Mary, so everything was fine. In fact, arguably the most distressing part of the whole strudel challenge was Mary admitting that she sometimes buys her strudel pastry from a shop. I sat on the floor and cried for five solid minutes upon learning this. YOU HAVE BROKEN MY HEART WITH YOUR CHEATING WAYS, MARY BERRY.
4. Speaking of the dynamic duo, there was trouble in paradise this week as Paul and Mary disagreed quite vocally on several verdicts. This episode actually reminded me of the reason I’m not all that crazy about Paul Hollywood, which is that sometimes he forgets that he’s on a cosy BBC2 show where everyone is supposed to be lovely to each other and starts trying to be Simon Cowell. “Sponge is bland,” he scowled at John. “If you never had anything else with it, you may as well be chewing on a piece of card.” He also antagonised Cathryn by saying that the rice in her elderflower sponge was undercooked, only to face the instant disagreement of both Mary and Mel (a super-goddess team-up I hope we have not seen the end of). When he gave Cathryn a patronising shake of the head when tasting her second sponge offering, her disbelieving “you don’t like those either?” was hilarious – and she wasn’t the only contestant giving his critiques an eye-roll tonight, even if she was perhaps the one most prominently shown to be doing so.
5. In the history corner this week, we learned all about sugar wizards – not code for drug dealers (not as far as I know, anyway), but the humble confectioner whose ability to get us all addicted to sweet treats has apparently been keeping dentists in gainful employment since the 18th century. Having your own confectioner then was a status symbol much like having your own reality show is now, and they were amongst the most valued and highly-paid servants in the house. I’m sure I can’t be the only person now hoping that Julian Fellowes decides to write the Crawleys’ personal confectioner into series four of Downton Abbey. Perhaps he could be played by Rob Billington. And it could be really hot in the confectioning room, so he’d have to take his shirt off a lot.
6. There was a bit of a school disco atmosphere in the air this week, and not just because everyone was being forced to drink watery orange squash from plastic tumblers that smelt faintly of sick. No, it was because a definite men vs women divide had been established down the middle of the room, with the boys on one side and the girls on the other. Perhaps acutely aware of Chris’s observation from last week that all of the men remaining have been Star Baker (THE MEANEST CAT IN OL’ CHICAGO TOWN!) at least once while none of the remaining women have, the ladies were getting a tad conspiratorial and trying to spur each other on while hoping that the men might actually fuck up this week. Possibly my favourite example of this was Cathryn fretting that her strudel had developed a haemorrhage (“do I mean haemorrhage, or haemorrhoid?”) and Dr Danny rushing over to deliver an official diagnosis. Seriously, for someone who’s been getting the dreaded invisi-edit personality-wise up to now, Danny was on cracking form this week.
7. Sadly it was not to be, as despite Danny and Cathryn both putting in respectable performances in the technical bake (which required them to produce a Queen of Puddings), it was Brendan who was declared Star Baker (SHE REALLY MOWED THEM DOWN!) once again. I’ll leave the obvious Queen of Puddings jokes aside because this blog is far too classy to ever stoop to such base humour (AHAHAHAHAHA), but rest assured that while Brendan (who also enjoys walking dogs with an unidentified male companion according to this week’s episode, I’m just saying) ended the episode on a happy note, he still made time to be severely unimpressed with something – in this case, the entire concept of molecular gastronomy. I’d love to see Brendan go head-to-head with Richard Blais from Top Chef. Considering Blais once got owned by Elmo, Telly and Cookie Monster, I’m fairly certain Brendan could leave him a quivering wreck if he felt like it. (The Bake Off/Top Chef comparisons also left me wondering why most people on this show seem lovely while everyone on Top Chef: Gail’s Puddings is a raging arsehole, but I’m sure that’s a discussion for another time.) Incidentally, Ryan‘s thread of success from last week may have been short-lived – he crashed and burned in the technical bake again, although Mel and Sue did remind us just how amazing his lime and ginger pie was during the intro, so theoretically he can coast on that for a few more weeks.
8. I know we all love Sue Perkins and feel that she can do no wrong, so I take no pleasure in informing you that she needs to resit her A level English. As Paul and Mary were deliberating who to eliminate in this week’s episode, Sue noted the “dramatic irony” of the angry rainclouds suddenly appearing of the tent – a phenomenon that she should, of course, have identified as “pathetic fallacy”. I think it’s safe to say that she won’t be allowed on BBC4 again for at least the next six months until she bucks up her lit crit skills.
9. The innuendometer was registering off the chart this week. Rather than attempt to provide my own witty commentary, I think I can do nothing finer than transcribe some of the best one-liners from tonight’s show:
- “I’m just preppin’ ma cloots.” – James
- “They’ve got to beat it until it’s really, really stiff […] and they end up with a runny mixture.” – Mary
- “I think you just need to whip it until it’s quite stiff, so I’m going to keep going.” – John
- “The bakers are doing their best to get an extra inch.” – Mel
- “It’s not very nice to be bottom.” – James
- “Even the ones that weren’t dropped had a fat bottom, all mis-shaped. But it tasted good.” – Paul
- “I noticed from your notes that you are going to roll up your sleeves and oil your arms.” – Mary (to Brendan)
- “Oh, it’s SO hairy.” – Cathryn
- “I’m not serving Mary Berry green carpet.” – Cathryn
- “John’s glove is full of blood.” – Cathryn
- “The bakers must be brave enough to pull their pastry.” – Mel
- “A tight roll is essential.” – Sue
- “That might keep it wet.” – Ryan
- “I thought the problem was going to be whether they liked the taste of it, not whether it was going to burst.” – Cathryn
- “That reminds me of John’s finger earlier on.” – Sue
- “Cathryn’s got some problems at the moment with leakage.” – Paul
10. There was a portentous feel to the show tonight, with several people on Twitter predicting that this meant one of the front-runners was going home (although who’s a front-runner at this point and who isn’t is a matter for some debate – if pushed to list the front-runners, I think I’d probably just say “everyone who isn’t Sarah-Jane”. Sorry Sarah-Jane). In the end, the combination of John missing a round through injury and nobody having a particularly terrible week meant that Paul and Mary opted to give everyone a bye and have a double elimination next week instead. This led to lots more interviews about how this will make things super extra tough, with Paul saying “two people leaving? That’s going to be really tough” even though there’s been a double elimination in every series so far and in fact it was the standard procedure for the beginning of series one. Then again, we should not be too flip about double eliminations, because the second one in series two got rid of Rob and Jason in the same week, thereby virtually destroying the totty count of the entire series. James and John should be very afraid.
Next week: sweet buns. Chris will no doubt be focusing on those of James and John in particular.