Congratulations, Female Contestant!
1. Hello, and welcome to the 3 to 4 extra million people who apparently decided to check out this whole Bake Off deal in the final, making it one of the most watched BBC One reality show finales of all time. Yes, who would have thought that Strictly’s place in the cultural firmament of our nation was going to be threatened this year not by the return of Cheryl Cole-Tweedy-Versini-Banana-Fofana-Herpes-Boberpes-HERPES-OI but the return of Cheryl Baker (NB : not actually THE Cheryl Baker, I’m just reaching for a joke, although that would be amazing)? And if you were just joining the show for the first time right now, then I bet you were surprised to see two people in the final not called Richard, such was the promotion of the show for a clear two weeks before the finale. I know that The Daily Mail was always going to get hot and heavy over the first ever big ol butch heterosexual male contestant reaching the final (no James doesn’t count because he was a floppy doctor from the McWeirdy Islands who only wore knitwear and played the ukulele with his sister in an improv comedy troupe and no Luis doesn’t count because he’s SPANISH and we all know what they’re like) but it would have been nice if the papers hadn’t just exclusively ran interviews and profiles on Richard that gawped that he was somehow able to bake despite BEING A BUILDER and ROUGH’N’TOUGH and ENJOYING SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH YOUR ACTUAL WOMEN and then been all “oh yeah two other people mind the final but they’ll definitely lose so shrug” at the end. On the other hand this does rather nicely set up the image of the actual winner fielding requests for interviews from the press all “well, well, well, look who’s suddenly interested“, which is an image I like so hooray.
2. As is obligatory at the start of any reality show final, we began with a over-simplistic rendering down of three warm complex contradictory human beings down into some basic characteristics, like a Cosmopolitan Sex-Quiz about what sexual position you are. Richard is PRECISE and CHEERFUL, Luis is CREATIVE and FLAMBOYANT and Nancy is CONSISTENT and REALLY REALLY OLD (“has a wealth of experience”). Far more interesting were the insights provided by the contestants themselves, with Nancy telling us all that Richard had been on a real learning journey during his time in the tent (mostly by watching her and copying everything she did *files nails*), Luis revealing that Nancy’s bakes were always the ones he ate first, and Richard saying that Luis had “had his eyes on the prize from Week 1”. In a final where 97% of this blog’s readers thought beforehand that a man would win, this last statement did feel a bit like it might be the first blast in a very macho last stretch with Luis trying to snatch victory from his nemesis (/person the editing tried to create a rivalry with by inserting shots of Luis turning pus-white every time anything nice happened to him at all) at the last gasp.
3. The first challenge? Viennoiserie. From the French meaning “sweet stuff from Vienna”. This presumably was a response to all the complaints about last year’s finale when somehow a SAVOURY challenge snuck in there. This year? No. All tooth-rot, all the time. After a shot of Richard “suiting up” with his iconic behind-the-ear pencil like Rambo : First Blood Part 2, the contestants were away, making their shiny pastry into pains aux chocolats and other squidgy treats. Richard’s finale got off to a poor start when he decided to go via a very long-winded route (having to make two different batches of pastry where Nancy and Luis only had to make one and trying to invent a new method of laminating them by “creaming” on them which…I tried that when I was asked to laminate some posters at work and people weren’t best impressed) to produce something very simple sounding – one set of pains aux chocolats and one set of pains aux laits. The former of which turned into bread rolls somehow via the magical mystery of the proving drawer. Nancy and Luis both fared slightly better with Luis getting rave reviews for his apple, walnut, raisin and chaussons just barely cancelling out overwhelmingly negative ones for his raspberry and cream cheese “pains aux white chocolate” – something he probably should have seen coming when Mary declared oh that’s interesting upon hearing the concept before pulling a face like she’s just returned from a weeklong holiday to a fresh cat-litter tray of fossilised turds. Nancy meanwhile achieved two solid 8/10 bakes via a blizzard of molecular gastronomy technology – relying entirely on machinery to mix her dough rather than her old lady arms, using the freezer instead of the fridge to chill the dough, and then finally sprinkling the dough with freeze-dried raspberry powder. MOVE OVER HESTON.
4. On to the Technical Challenge with Richard at a low ebb (as signified by a too-long shot of him clutching him umbrella and looking forlorn in the rain, a clear attempt to recreate the bizarre moment in the series 3 final when Brendan just started crying out of nowhere). And the Technical Challenge is probably the worst place a Richard at a low ebb could find himself, with both Nancy and Luis holding a 7-2 record over him in technical challenges this series (Nancy beating Luis just, 5-4). And it was a technical challenge that played to Nancy’s strengths in particular, as the contestants were asked to bang out 12 scones, 12 tartes aux citrons and 12 mini victoria sponges in 2 hours, which I would imagine Nancy could do for a Macmillan Coffee Morning in her sleep whilst still brewing up all the coffee and getting her highlights done. She took the round easily, leaving Luis’ pale scones and slightly limp tartes aux citrons and Richard’s weepy Victoria Sponges and “sweet scrambled eggs” (which Paul rechristened “tartes au colon” not that he was being a bitch about it or anything) in her wake. Of course Paul couldn’t let her have total victory, complaining that she hadn’t piped her Victoria sponges personally just to impress him. Ah well. The net result was that at the end of this round we were in the rather bizarre position of the all-conquering five-star baker Richard limping into the Showstopper in last place, with Mary and Paul saying that he’d have to do something truly special to even be considered for the title. It was probably this finale’s greatest triumph that suddenly, half way through, everyone was an underdog.
5. Another hallmark of the Food-Based Reality Gameshow finale? The sudden overload of homelife footage in the run-up to the final challenge, like we’re not so invested at this point that we’re all trying to make our least favourites’ cakes collapse using only the power of our minds Uri Geller style and that we need the further incentives that only knowing that they really love their kids can provide to root on our favourites to the finish line and victory. Normally this is a good chance to scope out any surprise hotty loved ones (I STILL REMEMBER YOU KIMBERLY’S BOYFRIEND) but in this case the best pictures on offer were of the contestants themselves in younger days :
6. After last year’s wedding cake debacle we were back on solid ground with a properly personal final Showstopper Challenge – to create a piece montee ie a centrepiece cake that would reflect the contestants personality in whatever way they saw fit. Mel highlighted the rather enigmatic nature of Nancy’s personality by suggesting, after saying that Richard could make a building site (BECAUSE HE IS A BUILDER) and Luis the Hacienda nightclub (BECAUSE HE IS FROM MANCHESTER AND ALSO SPAIN) she said that Nancy could make a cake based around “her beloved vegetable patch”. The very thought that Nancy would make a cake based around an allotment was so alien to me that I was glad that she took this suggestion, screwed it up, threw it in the bin, and instead decided to make a GIANT SINISTER GINGERBREAD WHORE HOUSE WINDMILL CAKE. Otherwise known as the Moulin Rouge. I have to admit, at this point in the finale I was evenly invested in both Richard’s Overdog-Underdog journey and Nancy’s laconic sweep to the end, but the thought of a miniature gingerbread Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Christina Aguilera, P!nk and The Other One all doing the can-can left me firmly Team Nancy. The moment that her windmill ACTUALLY TURNED pushed me over the edge. Luis’ also won me over a little with his slightly socialist feeling giant CHOCOLATE mining wheel complete with a choux pastry chain of buckets working the thing round, representing his Northern Mining Community roots. Richard’s windmill cake on the other hand (representing Mill Hill via a MILL on a HILL) felt a little shabby looking in comparison. Floppy sails, E-Number green grass and a general look of Marjorie The Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock. But of course, the key question was…how would they taste?
7. As usual for the Bake Off final, all of the eliminated bakers came back for a John Lewis advert/final judging session where Martha in particular was glowing in such a wholesome middle-class version I could faintly here some 19 year old albino girl from the Brit School singing a breathy slowed down tweecore version of “Rio” by Duran Duran in the background. But enough of that, WHO WERE THEY BACKING? Kate didn’t proffer an opinion on who was going to win, just sat there seething beatifically with envy that she hadn’t made it. Chetna also didn’t really know, although you could feel the cameraman wondering who this strange Indian woman was and if they had in fact filmed her before, so they probably gave her the question pack marked for “friends and family”. She certainly made her position clear later anyway…Iain was for Luis, Enwezor and Martha for Richard, with the nation’s favourite grand-dad Norman plumping for Nancy, so long as it would win him money at the bookies. The best moment came though when Arch-Baking-Villain Diana swept down from her moon base to piss off the easily-pissed-off one last time by declaring that Nancy should win because all men are S.C.U.M. Or something like that. Then Iain came on and threw her in the bin the end.
8. So in the final analysis Luis’ cake despite its beauty and social conscience was a little dry, and whilst Richard’s cake tasted perfect it looked a mess and really he was too far behind at this point to catch up anyway, so they both lost. Cue outrage from people that Richard’s five stints as Star Baker counted for NOTHING. Like nigh on 13 million people would tune in just to watch Richard cake-walk to unstoppable victory with crummy pains aux chocolats, scrambled egg with chocolate scribble on and a representation of Barnet as a giant landfill and feel satisfied. This is just how reality tv works – anybody in the final has to be able to feasibly win. And besides, Richard’s five stints wearing Luis’ little Sheriff Woody badge will undoubtedly count for something as he seems destined to become this year’s Ruby with columns everywhere, hopefully in his case not taking passive aggressive swipes at Mary Berry HOW DARE YOU RUBY, HOW DARE YOU. Richard himself has said that his plan media-wise is to say “yes” to everything until Christmas. Which…I recommend you stay away from Mumsnet then otherwise you’ll find yourself in semi-nude hod-themed photoshoots up to your ears.
9. So the winner was……………Nancy, who was thoroughly, utterly chill throughout the entire affair, even as her Magimixer sprayed flour everywhere like Woody Allen sneezing cocaine everywhere in Annie Hall. This reaction caused Chetna to indulge in a display of shrieking and fist-pumping that made Chetnageddon look like a quiet day but Nancy was more keen to reveal to us all that calling Paul “Male Judge” was all part of some sort of psychosexual “one better than Ruby” game that got her the win via a terrorist campaign of alternating flirting and disdain. Attagirl Nancy. To be honest, I loved Nancy from the point in the very first episode when Mel tried to put the shits up her about something or other and she responded by telling her that she wasn’t at all nervous and that as far as she was concerned the challenge she’d been set was a piece of cake. This attitude carried all the way through to her climactic Extra Slice interview wherein she preened that she wasn’t scared of Paul or Mary, didn’t think that Richard or Luis were a threat to her, and revealed that in the film of her life she would be played by Julia Roberts. All hail to Nancy – her Gingerbread Whore House, her English Breakfast Stromboli Penis, her glorious Aquafreshy Baked Alaska, her Jaffa Cakes, her Hansel & Gretel Woodland scene, her Spicy Dick Pasties and best of all those doughnuts she made with Paul Hollywood’s face on them.
10, And since the best part of any Bake Off final is finding out what they’ve all been up to since leaving the show :
“Claire hasn’t made any more exploding cakes”
“Enzwezor’s run a race”
“Jordan continues to bring his unique sense of style to his baking” (*Miranda face to camera*)
“Iain is still exploring the world and its bins to find flavour for his bakes”
“Diana’s friends are missing all the practice bakes she made for Bake Off and also half the contents of their freezers”
“Norman is writing his autobiography – Herbs And Other Stuff I Don’t Need”
“Kate’s been teaching her daughter to bake and makes ciabatta at least once a week” (Ciabatta being the name of her daughter I would imagine I mean she IS from Brighton)
“Martha passed all her exams” (*face of UTTER SHOCK*)
“Chetna…which one was she again?”
“Richard continues to build incredible creations out of wood, plaster, pastry and cake, which really annoyed Barnet Council when they saw the community garden he was commissioned to do for them”
“Luis is still from both Manchester and Spain”
“Nancy recently made her daughter’s wedding cake” (AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW)
Extra Slice : *fart* (…oh Richard…)