This latest Good Morning Britain rebrand is certainly…different.
1. With just two episodes to go, let’s start by having a little look at the arc of each remaining baker’s journey, shall we? Nadiya’s already on the upswing of a redemption arc, having clawed her way back from weak early performances in the technical challenges, and can now compete with the best of them (i.e. she’s won three of the last four), so really all she needs to do is maintain that standard while tempering a few of her excesses on the flavouring side and she’s in a strong position. Tamal has been the workhorse of the group, delivering reliably every week but only claiming Star Baker once, and lately he’s been having a problem with timing, so he needs to start organising himself a bit better and perfecting his presentation. Flora has got the most clearly marked redemption arc imaginable at this point, because she’s basically been told by the judges that all she needs to do to be a contender is to stop covering everything she bakes in macarons and sugar bees and other things that they didn’t ask for, and just focus on the task at hand. Ian, perhaps, is the most curious case here, since he got off to a flying start with three consecutive Star Bakers and has now slipped back a bit, despite not really noticeably getting any worse. It could well be simply that now everyone else has caught up and is giving him a bit more of a serious challenge, he’s not standing out as much as he did in the early rounds. I think skill-wise he’s still well on track, but as a palatable winner for the 10+ million viewers currently tuning in every week, he may just need to become fractionally less…Ian. Still, it’s good that everyone’s role in the competition seems clearly-defined at this point. Now let’s just see if they can make it through the semi-final, doing all the things that they’re supposed to do and not doing any of the things they’ve been told not to do.
2. So for the signature bake, all the top four had to do was produce a chocolate tart with chocolate pasty, chocolate filling, and, well, chocolate. It was not a complicated brief, because at this stage in the competition Paul and Mary have tired of pushing the contestants to extremes and instead want to see them do straightforward things at a very accomplished level. Everyone seemed to appreciate that making chocolate pastry is a little bit trickier than regular pastry and approached it with an appropriate level of caution, trying to get the flour/cocoa/liquid balance right so they didn’t end up with some sort of bitter chocolate formica tablet instead. At first, it seemed like everyone was off to a promising start vis-a-vis their own personal redemption, as Tamal tried to negate his timing issues by opting for doing something simple but well,
Ian went for a bay-infused chocolate sauce (which is pretty restrained by Ian’s standards, let’s be real here), Nadiya chose tried-and-tested flavour combinations like salted caramel and peanut with hers, and Flora
…oh, Flora. Good grief. I’m not a religious man but God helps those who help themselves, you know. (What even is that? I know it’s only an artist’s rendering of what Flora plans to make, but considering Flora’s intro at the top of the show said that her biggest problem was style over substance, I can’t understand why this looks like an unloved, unwatered corner of The Eden Project.) Meanwhile, we got a free science lesson from Nadiya as she explained that hers would contain a starch called tapioca maltodexin (MMMMMMMMM) which is very useful because it “takes on fats”. As a gay man, I can assure you this is the first time I’ve heard of anything or anyone willingly taking on fats. Ian, Nadiya and Tamal decided to sweeten theirs with caramel, while Flora went for a kind of passionfruit custard. Once the vast majority of the work was done, Tamal started fretting that his was too simple and he should’ve put more decoration on it, while Flora panicked that she had, once again, planned to pile far too much on top of hers and she should have gone for something more simple and classic like Tamal’s, and then suddenly
they woke up in each other’s bodies and HILARITY ENSUED. Especially when it hadn’t worn off by Monday and Flora tried to anaesthetise people at the hospital, malpractice lolz.
3. I’m not quite sure what it is about this stage in the competition that brings out that overbearing side of Paul’s personality, but it was here in spades: whether telling Tamal that his chocolate tart needed the sweetness of the raspberry coulis on top to stop it from being too bitter (yes, Tamal knows that, that is why he did it), sniffing to Ian that he’s not the “king of flavours” right now because his bay leaf infusion didn’t work (lol, remember when Chetna was “queen of flavours” because they could think of literally nothing else to say about her?), refraining from passing judgement on Nadiya’s chocolate tart and instead just
shaking her hand like he’s the mayor doing a quick meet-and-greet at the WI before officially opening the village hall and then dashing back to the car so he won’t be late for the Rotary Club luncheon. Flora got the worst of it, however, being informed that her passion fruit base had split, and that her decorative macarons were dry and so she shouldn’t have bothered. He did, however, compliment her on the appearance of her tart – which was actually the strangest part to me because it seemed to have gone from Eden Project drought to
one of Aunt Aggie’s more experimental birthday cakes for Desperate Dan.
4. Continuing the theme of “the most difficult thing about this challenge is its simplicity”, the technical challenge was one of the shortest I can remember ever seeing on the show. Which is one of the reasons why it made sense for them to suddenly chuck the rule book out of the window and stagger the start times, prompting disbelief which turned to horror which turned to mild hysteria:
particularly for Flora, who had the dubious honour of being the first one to start. She soon discovered (as did we all) that the other main reason they were having staggered start times was because they were being asked to make chocolate soufflés, and it wouldn’t really be fair to serve all four up for Paul and Mary at once because whosever didn’t get eaten right away was just going to deflate. As Flora got cracking on making her soufflé with the absolute bare minimum of instructions, she declared it to be “the least funny thing I have ever done in my life”. That’s such a coincidence, me too! The most bizarre part of all of this was watching the other bakers trickle back in as their designated start times approached (“I’ve never been so glad to see you, Ian,” Flora quipped) – actually, not just that but watching them all trying to get their head around the fact that for the first time in the entire competition, looking around to see what everyone else was doing was actively unhelpful, because they aren’t meant to be at the same stage as you. As it turned out, none of the bakers had any experience of making a soufflé, or indeed any idea of what they were meant to do, so this was essentially an extended sequence of everyone turning to the camera and narrating plans of action that were full of “so maybe if I…”s and “…I think?”s, all the while stirring a crème pâtissière or beating some eggs in the hope that if they just kept going somehow it would all come together. You kind of knew that Nadiya was in for another of her technical challenge meltdowns when she was heard murmurming “I’m going to strain it through a sieve” in reference to her crème pâtissière, because when have those words ever led to good things on this show? Then Mel made the mistake of coming over to ask Nadiya if she knew what she was supposed to do with that pile of paperclips she’d been given (they were to hold together the greaseproof paper frame for the soufflé to rise into), and Nadiya snapped that she didn’t know, but they were probably for filing the recipe under NEVER BAKE AGAIN.
I think this may be the first time that Mel’s questioned whether she really wants to present a show in a high-pressure environment where there are all those knives just lying around. Fortunately for all concerned, about two seconds later Nadiya giggled an apology, saying it was a “Jekyll and Hyde moment” and that she was definitely fine. Mel took this opportunity to get the heck out of Dodge. (I originally wrote “get the heck out of Doge” there. Very baking. Such delicious.) Things weren’t going much better elsewhere, as Flora looked as though she was about to do a Sylvia Plath at any moment.
It all got increasingly surreal as Paul and Mary returned to do their judging, which they had to do while all of the soufflés were still in the ovens, so they had to sit with their backs to the bakers and conduct all of their conversations in theatrical whispers. Meanwhile, the baker being discussed would crouch behind their worktop (why are you crouching? THEY HAVE THEIR BACKS TO YOU) and strain to see if they could hear what was being said.
Either that or Flora was just auditioning for the lead role in a reboot of Harriet The Spy. In the end, Flora’s was under-mixed but delicious and very well baked which earned her the top position, while Tamal edged second with his souffle that he’d got a good rise out of (just like he did for m[JOKE REDACTED]). Ian was third because although well-blended, his hadn’t risen as high as everyone else’s, and poor Nadiya was last because hers tasted fine but had massive great hunks of unblended meringue in it. I don’t understand what’s so bad about bonus meringue, to be honest, but Paul and Mary decided this was bad and it wasn’t my place to argue. This led to one of the most heartbreaking confessionals of the episode, if not the entire series, where Nadiya convinced herself that she’d just bought herself a one-way ticket home.
Nadiya, please don’t cry, my heart cannot take it, Nadiya NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
5. Okay, I think I need to look at some more cheerful Nadiya faces after that.
Phew, that’s better. Let’s move on.
6. There were several occasions where people told us things that really were quite self-evident or tautological. This week in “yep, we got that, thanks”:
Ian: “I’m looking for a beautifully smooth mirrored surface, that you can kind of see your own reflection in.”
Tamal, during the technical challenge with the staggered start-and-end times: “I was the last one to come into the tent, I’ll be the last one to finish as well.”
Paul: “You’ve done well. Well done.”
Thank you gentlemen for your effective statements. They were effective.
7. And so we went into the showstopped round with – gasp – Paul naming Ian as the baker most in danger, since he’d had two fairly unimpressive rounds while everyone else had been at or near the top in at least one of them. For the showstopper, they were instructed to make a 3D chocolate sculpture using their own stencils and moulds, incorporating a biscuit element and also making use of white chocolate. Tamal began work on his Chocolate Bell Tower (teeheeheeheehee) by admitting that he “hadn’t done it to time at home” (oh, TAMAL) meaning that Ian was pretty much the only one who hadn’t stomped all over his own redemption edit in this episode, and somehow Ian was still the one in prime position to go home, if Paul and Mary are to be believed. Honestly, it’s almost like my three years studying for that BSc in Reality TV Storyline Deciphering were completely wasted. Even though we’d been led to believe that the contestants were to make their own moulds, Paul decided to assume that Flora had bought the moulds for her ganache horses (to go on her chocolate carousel), and then when she assured him it was homemade, he asked “is that a dog?”
I mean, I know Paul Hollywood does *have* fans, but I still cannot fathom why for the life of me. Nadiya got busy on her chocolate peacock made out of marshmallow krispies, while Ian decided to construct an ACTUAL FUNCTIONING WELL with melted white chocolate at the bottom of it. Run run run, bake bake bake, argh I think I might have taken on too much this time, with my dying breath I pray thee mark my grave with a 3D bread sculpture of a lion…you know how it goes. Shall we see what the end results looked like?
Yes, yes, take all of your jokes about licking Tamal’s chocolate bell tower until it starts dripping down the side of your mouth and restrict them to the comments, thank you very much. Mary tells Tamal that it doesn’t look as impressive close-up as it did from a distance (happens all the time, AMIRITE LADIES?) but it’s still very effective. Paul criticises the slapdash piping and the general sloppiness of some of the construction, but it held up well on the flavour front.
I admit I’m no great fan of Ian’s, but that is bloody impressive. YOU CAN EVEN LOWER THE BUCKET WHEN YOU TURN THE CRANK. (Admittedly the crank snapped off in Paul’s hand, but let’s just blame Paul for that.) The shortbread stones were well-received, and his flavours were good, but both Paul and Mary questioned whether – amid all of the flashy engineering – this project actually displayed as much skill with chocolate as they wanted.
Not before time, Flora was called forward – having spent the last five minutes rocking back and forth on her stool and clutching her temples like Psyduck – for the report on her carousel. Paul liked it but found it a bit wonky, while Mary didn’t see the glossy finish that she wanted from the tempered chocolate. Flavour-wise, it had a faint taste of the raising agent, and then Paul complained that the roof of Flora’s carousel
collapsed when he cut into it. Sorry, I hadn’t realised I was watching The Great British Architectural Gambit. It is a roof made of RICE KRISPIES AND CHOCOLATE, Paul, that will happen. Deal with it. Mary politely informed Flora that it was tremendous fun to look at, not quite so much fun to actually ingest. Oh well.
No, I don’t really understand the “in Nan’s door” part either, but look at the detail on those feathers! Paul admired it as a work of art, saying that it was clear there was no aspect of it that Nadiya hadn’t considered very carefully, and Mary found the whole thing sweet, delicious and firm.
9. So despite a genuinely terrible showing on the technical challenge and the subsequent meltdown, Paul and Mary were so impressed by Nadiya’s signature and showstopper bakers that they said “to hell with chocolate meringue soufflés!” and decided to award Nadiya her third Star Baker title of the series.
This draws her level with Ian, leaving Tamal on one and Flora on zero going into the final. Except not going into the final is…
…Flora. Despite the show’s best efforts to make us feel like Ian could be in the danger zone, and despite Flora’s impressive performance in the technical challenge this week, there really isn’t a way you can survive a round of a baking competitions where the judges have openly stated that two-thirds of the dishes you served up for them didn’t actually taste very nice. Flora took it like a champ, albeit a slightly tearful one, saying it was amazing she’d made it this far. And then she told Ian off for crying, which was kind of amazing. So now we have Ian, Nadiya and Tamal as our finalists, which is exactly how it should be – the three most talented bakers, who I’m sure not at all by accident got the lion’s share of the screentime this year between the three of them. It’s worth remembering that in all four series that Star Baker has been a thing, the person who’s received that honour the most times has never won, which ought to imply this whole thing is Tamal’s for the taking. We’ll find out next week.
AN EXTRA SLICE: Flora started studying architecture but didn’t see it through.
Next: Chris returns for the final, which apparently is SO CHOCK-FULL OF SPOILERS they couldn’t even give us a trailer for it.