MasterChef 4 musings: Howard’s End

I was in such a tizzy yesterday after my negative and cynical blog that I didn’t give Howard the fair farewell I give other contestants.  I’m sorry about that, Howard.

Howard’s exit was not mandated by the judges.  He stood up there next to Lynn, the two bottom dishes in the challenge.  And the judges gave them a choice.  “One of you knows he had the worst dish, and we’re giving you the chance to leave the MasterChef kitchen with dignity.  Do the honorable thing.”

Howard steps forward, pulls off his apron, and leaves the kitchen.

This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened on MasterChef.  In my season, Erryn Cobb and Adrien Nieto had landed at the bottom of a challenge, and the producers gave them the same choice.  “One of you knows your time is over.  Do the honorable thing and and pull off your apron.”  The difference there is that BOTH of them stepped forward at the exact same time to leave, and Erryn basically punched Adrien and made him stay.

It was an incredibly intense moment in the studio.  We were all stunned.  That was one of the first sociological games the producers began playing on MasterChef, but it was one that allows an eliminated contestant to leave as a hero.  It’s an uplifting game.  One that celebrates integrity and decency.  And if this season’s MasterChef was filled with such games, I wouldn’t be as furious as I am about the show.

There’s no telling exactly what happened in those moments after Gordon made his announcement.  The editing doesn’t give us any indication of what happened in real time.  Perhaps it was staged…they filmed it both ways, and then they decided it was Howard.  Perhaps Gordon’s proposal was recorded later and edited back in, and Howard was, in fact eliminated.  Perhaps Lynn tried to leave and there was a production halt, and the judges decided to eliminate Howard.

But I think it probably did happen voluntarily.  I wonder if it took excruciating moments, or if it happened immediately?

But, if I were Howard, I’d have been ready to leave, too.  The way Joe has treated him since almost the very beginning has been deplorable.  He insults Howard’s emotional sensitivity as often as he does his food.

After Howard branched outside the traditional Italian flavor profile in this challenge, Joe spewed one of his longest rants ever at him:

“If you’re here putting your spin on everything you make because you wanna show us how cutsie and intelligent and crafty you are, that’s gonna get you a one-way ticket back to…wherever you came from.  And then you can show your friends, and the 6 people who told you you were good, how cutsie and smart you are, when you’re home cooking at dinner parties, while the rest of this group goes  on, and competes to become the next MasterChef. …  The only thing worse than a cook who can’t boil is a narcissist in full denial.  Thank you for nothing.”

If only 6 people had told Howard he was good, he wouldn’t have made it to the top 19 on MasterChef (if the show is really about selecting America’s best home cooks), so this kind of insult is simply ridiculous and completely untrue.

But if Joe has been constantly harassing me like that, I’d be ready to leave, too, whether I truly thought my dish was the worst or not.

Howard, I wish your MasterChef experience had been more positive.  I feel like the judges were harder on you than they were on anyone else, consistently throughout the competition.  Your military experience probably prepared you better for this kind of bullying better than the other contestants…however your military service should demand an extra level of respect from everyone around you, including the judges.

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