It’s always incredible how quickly The Great British Baking Show on Netflix gets us to fall in love with a new crop of bakers. Two weeks in and I already would die for Maxy, giggle over Janusz kvetching that he’s going to cry, and cheer when Sandro talks about smashing gender stereotypes. The dark side of connecting so fast with a new cast of bakers is the whiplash that comes when we have to immediately say goodbye to someone lovely. So it was with The Great British Baking Show “Biscuit Week.” While Maxy took home Star Baker, sweet, 18-year-old Maisam was sent home.
But did Maisam deserve to be eliminated this week on The Great British Baking Show? As judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith pointed out, her Showstopper Venetian masquerade mask was a “nice” design, with Paul calling it “simple, but effective.” Prue loved her butterfly biscuits. Maisam was also middle of the pack during the Technical and did pretty good with her signature. There wasn’t a single disaster. So why did she go home when Carole and Rebs — who both had issues with their Showstoppers — got to stay?
Were Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith right to send Maisam home? Or did they already botch a judging this early in the season?
The first three episodes of any Great British Baking Show are more about testing to see if the bakers have the basics down than anything else. For Episode 2 “Biscuit Week,” Paul and Prue asked the bakers to make 18 identical decorative macarons, 12 Garibaldi biscuits, and a three-dimensional biscuit mask. Easy right? (I mean, compared to what we all know is coming.)
By and large, the bakers all seemed to do pretty well this week. Paul and Prue’s biggest critiques in the Signature Challenge came down to flavors — people either had too much or too little — and a lack of decoration. Our bottom three bakers this week all had slight wobbles in this challenge. Rebs’s macarons were delicious, but splooshed together at the last minute with help from Janusz and company. So they were messy as all sin. Carole’s macarons should have been more domed and Paul was disappointed she used synthetic flavoring instead of real orange zest. Maisam’s textures were good, but her orange blossom was too strong. She also didn’t have time to carefully decorate her carrot macarons. So, you could say that Maisam, with both a flavor and a decorative knock, was in trouble after this round.
Perhaps knowing she was in trouble, Maisam decided not to bite off more than she could proverbially chew in the Showstopper. While other bakers attempted to bake massive amounts of decorative cookies for their masks, Maisam kept things simple and straightforward. She used a pretty simple circular shape that she decorated with icing and butterfly cookies. It turned out beautiful. The thing was…Maisam’s design was so simple that she seemingly finished a good half hour before time was up. So while Rebs raced to finish her mask and Carole fretted over her collapsed gingerbread, Maisam was just hanging out.
Actually, no, that’s not right. Maisam wasn’t just hanging out. She was the person who immediately came to Carole’s side. It was truly touching to see the teenager comfort the 59-year-old woman as she cried. Maisam embraced the teary-eyed Carole, assuring her it was going to be alright and no one wanted to see her upset. Host Noel Fielding soon joined in the pep talk, giving the tent one of its classic moments of camaraderie.
As it happened, Carole’s bake collapsed because of a failure in her gingerbread recipe that Paul and Prue seized upon early on in the Challenge. Instead of butter, Carole used lard. Too much lard, at that. It made the texture of the biscuit too soft to hold its shape. On the bright side, Carole’s decorative cookies and macarons were wonderful, as was her decoration.
Elsewhere, Rebs struggled once more with time. She again asked her fellow bakers for help finishing her Showstopper — which isn’t against the rules, but is becoming a habit for Rebs. Prue and Paul were less than impressed with Rebs’s bake, calling it too spicy, soft, and small. And Prue gave Red a scalding backhanded compliment: “I think you could be a fascinator designer. Or a milliner.” (Ouch. This is a baking competition! Not mask-making one!)
So you would think that with Carole and Rebs’s troubles with the Showstopper and Maisam’s decent review, the teen would be fine. Instead, Paul and Prue decided that Carole and Rebs would stay another week and Maisam would pack her bags. But was it the right choice? Was it fair?
If you just look at the Signature and Showstopper, I think Rebs or Carole would have gone home. The thing is Rebs came in first on the Technical, which usually gives bakers a reprieve from the chopping block, and Carole was fourth. Maisam was dead in the middle with seventh place. So Rebs was saved by her Technical and Carole by the fact that she edged out Maisam in the first two challenges.
But what really sent Maisam home was ironically her lack of ambition. I say “ironically” because Paul himself suggested at the beginning of the episode that the bakers should try not to overdo it in these early weeks. Nevertheless, when the judges were confronted with the intense creativity from bakers like Maxy, Abdul, Syabira, and more, Maisam’s mask wasn’t up to snuff.
Maisam’s elimination, while tragic, was fair. Rebs was first in the technical and Carole only made one major mistake. Maisam wasn’t eliminated because her bakes were bad, but because this year’s crop of bakers are already pushing themselves to dazzle the judges with their creativity.
If Maisam’s elimination signals anything it’s that this is going to be a very competitive season of The Great British Baking Show indeed.