Great British Baking Show Episodes 7 & 8 Recap: Mary & Paul Are Lions Hungry For Bakers

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
It’s getting down to the wire as we watch the last couple of episodes before the finale. Who will rise like a perfectly yeasted dough, and who will fall, like a bad meringue? (Please permit me this Mel and Sue-friendly joke. I’ve just been watching this show so much I’m starting to think like them.)

For the first episode of two this week, we start off with a Victorian theme. And, ohmygod I loved it. Side note: I actually discovered Sue Perkins back in 2010 when I found out about a BBC series she did where she ate her way through British history. Americans can find most of The Supersizers on YouTube, and I recommend you do so, immediately. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched two people reluctantly eat tinned oysters (like the Victorians) or calve's brains (like a surprising number of people throughout British history).

So when we were told that, back in the Victorian era, the middle class made raised game pie to show off their wealth, I was like, "Girl, I know." But that didn't mean I wasn’t loving every minute of the contestants shoving layers of game and offal into stiff pie crusts.

Ian, we discover, loves cooking roadkill, so he's right at home. Similarly, Flora’s intro to the culinary arts was with pheasant, as part of a cooking competition at her high school. Everyone's high school did that, right?

Sadly, despite her nickname of “Bird Girl,” her pigeon is “a little tough” and not up to snuff. Ian’s roadkill pie, despite having some DIY meat filling, is too simple, and Mat’s bacon-filled pie isn’t bacon-y enough (life hack: always add more bacon). Tamal, meanwhile, gets a handshake for his Middle Eastern-inspired pie, basically the Paul Hollywood equivalent of a declaration of undying love.

For the showstopper, the bakers must create a tennis cake because apparently tennis existed in the Victorian era, and people liked eating cakes shaped like courts. Who knew? The creation is fruitcake topped with three icings as well as a net and rackets. Only Nadiya is able to present a net that actually stands, and poor Mat, who has never done well with the fancier designs, makes the mistake of baking his icing. Even Paul manages to flub the sugar craft, his specialty. Not surprisingly, Nadiya takes first place for the second time in the competition.

It was all lead-up to the showstopper, a Charlotte Russe, made from ladyfingers and layers of cream and jelly. This means we get lots of weird soundbites of people saying things like, “This is my lady’s finger chopper” and commenting on whether or not something looks like proper fingers. We also learn that the instant gelatin required for the dessert was quite the hit in Victorian society since it eliminated, "the faff of boiling up hooves.”

Mat once again fails to show much for his effort, with a leaky showstopper. Meanwhile, we get the treat of Paul trolling Nadiya by giving a very delayed reaction to his delight at her dessert while Nadiya looks on in stunned terror. Tamal’s Charlotte Russe takes their breath away again, which gives us a great moment of Mat's expression while Tamal marches back to his table holding his blackberry, cardamon, and raspberry creation aloft. Mat knows he’s a dead man walking.

Oh, Mat with one "T." I’ll almost miss your panicked expressions as people slice into your food. Almost. But the best news is that TAMAL WINS STAR BAKER! Him telling his mother over the phone will go down as one of my favorite moments this season.

For the second episode of the week, we’ve left hooves behind and move on to patisserie. But wait, you might say, didn’t we already do that one? No, that was pastry. What’s the difference? I’m not totally sure, though it basically means we get to see even more dough being laminated. Only Great British Baking Show can make Flora's choice to prioritize tuile cigars instead of puff pastry horns into nail-biting television.

Flora’s horns, however, fail to deliver as Paul and Mary once again remind her that she’s bitten off more than she can chew with her ambitious bake. Nadiya, who has been defeated by puff pastry in the past, is triumphant with hers, with Mary declaring her rose pistachio and mocha hazelnut horns “a cracker.” Paul, meanwhile, comes in with low marks for his less-than-banana-y Banana Crunch-away horns.

For the technical, they’re making mokatines, a Genoise sponge cake dessert. With Mary asking for nothing short of “sheer perfection,” only Nadiya truly delivers, once again taking first in technical. Paul, meanwhile, knows he won’t do well. Sue tries to give him a pep talk, but this is a man who has seen things. The writing is on the wall. Going into the finals, he has everything to prove — and everything to lose.

Sadly, patisserie turns out to be Paul's Waterloo, and he serves up a collapsed Religieuse à l'ancienne, filled with artificial banana flavor that fails to satisfy the judges. Instead, it’s Nadiya’s badly flavored but perfectly constructed bubble gum and peppermint cream showstopper that earns her second place. It’s quarter-finals time now, with Ian, Tamal, and Flora still having a lot to prove after uneven performances this week.

Can you root for everyone at once? I want them all to win.

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