After further high praise for John, who mastered his rough puff thanks to some trademark forking, the judges came to James. A slice of his pithivier slumped sideways on Paul Hollywood's plate. "Oh no," said James, even before Paul's knife confirmed the pastry was underdone. Soggy bottom.
Judges in talent-show finals can sometimes be nice, because all the contestants by now are brilliant by definition, or nasty, because standards should be stratospheric. Paul and Mary went for nice when they saw tears in James's eyes: they praised his filling, but it was too late. James, who gets so much joy from baking he transmits that satisfaction through the TV screen, looked awfully deflated.
Brendan stayed bullish, boldly awarding himself "ten out of ten" for the first round and confidently starting round two. Fondant fancies: tiny, sweet things that are troughable in one bite, yet deceptively complicated. Sponge, plus marzipan, plus buttercream, plus fondant, plus chocolate drizzle. The contestants had been let off making the plastic tray, the box and those crinkly white waxy cases, but this was still a fiendish technical bake.
"Sponge and accuracy," said Brendan, "[are areas] I do have some skills in." He eyed James, talking with the calm, quiet menace of a villain in a two-part psychological crime drama.
James, however, was not yet beaten. With his sponge in the oven, he licked some icing sugar off his finger and started coolly prowling round his workstation. "Nothing to it, really." Yes! Rock 'n' roll, Marlon Brando, recipe-in-the-bin James was back!
Fondanting the fancies was up James's street too. He dunked his sponge in the icing with abandon, while Brendan insisted that a full dip wasn't required. One drippy failure later, Brendan was forced out of his compulsive neatness and was plunging his sponges too, ending up ladling pink stuff onto the cake, his hands and the worktop. "It's not my finest work is it?" he said, tetchily.