Goodbye, Ruby Tuesdays
Who could stand to bake with you?
Cause you pout at every burnt bun
Still I’m going to miss you…
1. Look, I’m not saying that it’s cast-iron fact that last series was better than this one. I’m sure that when this series is parboiled down to its best bits (which are what? Deborah nicking the custard, Frances’ collapsed stack, Ali’s GIANT BREAD PENIS, and that brief glimpse of Howard jogging? Anything else?) it’ll seem golden. But really it was a mistake to schedule an hour of the reunion of the glorious Class of 2012 before the finale showing of this year’s batch wasn’t it? Was there a viewer out there who didn’t want to luxuriate still a little longer in Sarah-Jane’s Beef Wellington, Catherine’s refusal to serve up her green carpet to Mary Berry, James’ jumpers, John’s arterial spurting and ongoing fishes for compliments (“oooh, I’m so STOCKEH”), everyone’s continuing hatred of Paul Hollywood, Dr Danny’s ongoing invisibility, Natasha’s reveal that in real life she is in fact a shiny cold hard robot, and, obviously, most importantly of all, Brendan. Sod Morrissey, I want to read Brendan’s life story published in Penguin Classics. A chapter on his opening a school to teach young women how to properly fluff (their pastry), a chapter on his disdain for Paul Hollywood (“You wouldn’t put him in the diplomatic service, because he’d create incidents, I’d suspect…”), a chapter on his post-defeat crisp binge… From that to a soggy picnic pie? It’s quite a drop.
2. That’s right, the first challenge was a picnic pie, thus representing those of us who come to Bake Off for the savoury element, and are secretly a bit resentful that in the end it always just comes down to who does the best cake right at the last gasp. Why not have the final Showstopper Challenge be to make a FESTIVE LOAF or a MASSIVE PORK PIE or a FANTASIA OF QUICHES? Oh no, always has to be CAKE. Sweet-toothed bastards. Anyway, despite Frances being the most creative and wacky and out there and all-around zany baker evah, she and Ruby had the exact same idea : make a pie in the shape of a picnic hamper and stuff it with layers of goodies. Frances’ had the advantage of being rainbow-striped (sort of, if you pretend a rainbow goes red-orange-trout-sort of bits of green if you squint-purple-orange again-brown), whilst Ruby’s had the upper hand in terms of actually tasting nicer. Marginally. Whilst looking a bit like it was made out of Duplo. There was no more endearing scene in the bake-off this week than Mary, Sue and Mel all goblining around Frances’ leftover minty asparagus bowl, shovelling it into their mouths like they were getting some sort of infernal fix off each individual spear. Wouldn’t have wanted to go in the ladies lavs after them, it has to be said. This summary is to neglect Kimberley, but that might be because Kimberley over-reached herself fatally right out the gate, loading her pie down with three different types of pastry and about 50 different types of protein. The end result of which being a soggy meat-mess that fell to bits the second it came out the tin. Even if she’d had a perfect run through the rest of the episode you suspect that it was already over when her pork squirted juice at her pastry until it melted.
3. I can’t remember a sadder sight in the history of Bake Off than Kimberley sat all on her own in a field of bright yellow flowers, hugging her knees and sulking and knowing she’d blown it, as Frances and Ruby gaily skipped around and laced daisies into one another’s hair or whatever WACKY antics that they got up to on their down time.
4. This being the final, we learnt ever more about the backstories of our three final ladies. It turns out that Frances was a champion athlete at school, was always a keen artist, wore her hair in a VERY 90s bun right at the front, and has a mother with no sense of taste. Or at least that’s what she’s told Frances. Given the quivering of her father, all but standing in front of the camera going “no, Frances, no, not more lavender, I can’t, no, not more lavender, NOT THE LAVENDER AGAIN” like a Korean war veteran, you could maybe guess why. Ruby’s mother on the other hand said that Ruby was always the sort to beat herself up over only getting 98% on a exam and…I didn’t hear the rest over the rest of the nation hurling their cushions and their obscenities at the tv screen. Finally we learnt that Kiberley’s Hot Italian Boyfriend wasn’t quite as Hot (or Italian) as he first seemed, whist still being pretty durned tasty. Fortunately the sudden birthing into existence of her younger sister, all strappy tops and sunning herself glamorously by the Thames like a Duran Duran video, more than made up for it.
5. The final technical challenge? Pretzels. 6 rock salt, and 6 poppyseed and orange-peel. To a recipe made by Paul. Although by “recipe” at this point, they mean they gave the contestant the word “PRETZELS” written in secret code, and buried the Enigma Machine under three layers of trifle which the contestants had to break apart with their faces with their hands tied behind their back to get at it. It was at the reveal of the nature of the technical bake that, for those of you keeping track of these things, that Ruby reached her apex of despair, and Smugberley reached her apex of…well…smuggins. Who could blame her after the disaster of her withered porkloin? She easily cruised to victory over Ruby and Frances both, who could barely summon up a single pretzel knot between them. Ruby just edged out Frances, although Paul gave them both notice that he’d basically shut his eyes and pointed to determine who got to be last (or, as Glenn would have put it whilst hugging himself giddily BRONZE POSITION!) (Sidebar inspired by the mention of bronze : Paul Hollywood was so red this episode that he looked like he should have been running an Irish Theme Pub in Torremolinos). Regardless, hopefully Kimberley redeemed herself enough in this bit that she will get to release the ULTIMATE BOOK ON PEACE BREAD including Pretzels Of Reconciliation, and end the Israel-Palestine conflict once and for all.
6. As it was the final, we get our de rigeur “village fete” theme, complete with tombola. Attending this pageant of Little Englandry were our eliminated bakers. Glenn cheerily popped up grinning that he was now a “Bake-Off Nerd”(like he ever wasn’t – that man came out the womb clapping his hands for Mel & Sue) and was backing Ruby, Beca was wearing Frances’ fringe in tribute but actually declared herself to be Team Kimberley (LOL nice kiss of death Beca), and Howard (YAY) appeared to be out stumping for the Madame of Megrims herself to round things off evenly. As much as Howard has ever stumped for anything other than mechanical pencil-sharpeners that actually WORK, SHEFFIELD BOROUGH COUNCIL. Most important of all though, Christine, bedecked in her sun-dress with her sunglasses artfully pushed back into her hair like she’d just nipped out for a copy of the Daily Express and a Tunnocks Teacake, LIED HER FACE OFF that she’d hate to be judging the final, as she tucked her Mary-seeking missile into her garter.
7. The final challenge? Three-tiered Wedding Cake. True to her reputation as the world’s most cheerful little philosophy undergrad, Ruby immediately let us know that she thinks weddings are a load of narcissistic bollocks. It’s a wonder she didn’t hurl her final creation (one layer passion fruit, one layer raspberry, bottom layer lemon, all layers Opal Fruit shades of acid) onto the floor in front of the judges, yelling “ENJOY YOUR PATRIARCHY CAKE, ARSEHOLE!”. Rest assured, whilst she hates marriage, Ruby still enjoys romance though. She said as she coyly batted her eyes at Sue. Sadly, Ruby’s resentment for bourgeois institutions came through in her baking, and her final cake was one third dry, one third bland, and only one third passion-fruit perfection. Then she cried all down her nose, and if you don’t hate Ruby with the fire of a thousand Daily Mail think-pieces (and I don’t), it was kind of sad. It still, however, looked better than Kimberley’s last roll of the dice, which resembles a stack of punched-in headboards and pillows from a Premier Inn. She’d promised the word “love” would be stenciled around it in 28 languages but the actual printing had been applied with all the finesse of an 8 year-old’s Spiderman transfer that’s missing a leg. Her flavours were perfect on the top two layers (lemon and poppyseed, orange and pistachio) but sadly the bottom layer was too dry (chocolate fudge and raspberry). Still, she can console herself with the fact that, as she herself said, “the bottom tier is my boyfriend’s favourite flavour”. He also enjoys chocolate fudge and raspberry.
8. The clear winner of the round though? Frances, with a well-decorated (the half of it she allowed to be pointed to camera anyway) (and apart from the shit bees) Midsummer Night’s Dream themed fantasy cake, with tastes of ginger, lemon and…erm…carrot. This, by law of Bake-Off, makes Frances your 2013 Great British Bake-Off Champion. Obviously here I have to do the whole bit about how she deserved it (yadda yadda most consistent throughout the competition, best showstopper, only awful thing was her pretzels and who cares about them?) but I have to admit, and I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise, that I’m not really excited by the win. Maybe because I feel like I heard “FRANCES HAS FINALLY MARRIED STYLE WITH SUBSTANCE” at least three times before tonight, so her journey felt…less than perfectly stage-managed. Maybe it’s because the heavy-handed editing to make Ruby appear “too pessimistic”, Kimberley “too optimistic” and Frances “juss right” got self-parodic somewhere around the 50th shot of Kimberley looking righteous at NOTHING. Ultimately though, it’s probably because I will never truly take to someone who describes themselves in earnest as “a mentalist” or “random”. Or who decorates her cake with SHIT BEES. I would have taken Kimberley’s bullish edges or even Ruby, launching herself into twitterfights with randoms and moping her way through all 60 minutes of the finale, over any of that. Then again, if Ruby had won, we would have had a winner who was nearly dispatched by TOBY of all people (no offence Toby) so…maybe all things worked out for the best.
9. Best bits of the American Graffiti style “WHAT HAPPENED NEXT” bit :
- “Toby has started a post Bake Off fitness regime”
- “Lucy has started writing articles encourage people to grow their own baking ingredients” (and then stick them on top of bread and call it “chic”)
- “Deborah is hoping to get involved in community projects to improve people’s confidence in the kitchen” (aired over a shot of her running around the kitchen crying and clutching her head)
- “Ali still hates fruit pies”
- “Howard has not made custard since…”
- “Christine is now hosting a weekly baking spot on local radio” (WATCH OUT MARY, SHE’S COMING FOR YOU!)
- “Ruby got a First in her exams” (FACE OF SURPRISE)
10. Now let’s finish this final recap by listing all the ways they’re probably going to ruin the series when it moves to BBC One.
- Getting rid of the History Bit
- Telling Mel & Sue to get a bit less…you know…weird, because it might suit BBC Two but we’re working with different demos here
- Introducing a public vote
- Comedy VTs of the contestants practising their bakes at home with Jive Bunny
- Introducing a spin-off show on BBC Three called “The Great British Bake-Off : LET’S GET BAKED!” where Cherry Healey talks about the show with someone from The Saturdays who clearly has never watched an episode in her life, and some crap comedian just repeats all the innuendo in a funny voice.
- A special crossover episode with Miranda, where the contestants have to contend that at any second Miranda herself could careen HILARIOUSLY face-first into one of their cakes, then bring the entire marquee down by accidentally tucking it into her knickers SUCH FUN.
- Replacing Mary Berry with Alesha Dixon
- Gregg. Wallace.
UNTIL NEXT YEAR, STEVEN AND I THANK YOU BOTH. KEEEEEEEEP BAKING (and perving over the French).