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‘Great British Bake Off’ Couldn’t Help But Get Back on Its Bullshit

The show’s ludicrously inconsistent judging rears its head in another travesty

Paul Hollywood shakes Chigs’s hand on Great British Bake Off 2021
The tyranny of the handshake is back for Paul Hollywood.
Immediate Media

Welcome to the Eater round-up of Great British Bake Off 2021, as Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, Matt Lucas, and Noel Fielding return to Channel 4 with the 12th series of cakes, puddings, breads, and inevitable recourse to terrible baking puns. Filmed again in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, Paul Hollywood’s terrible handshake is here, sweaty as ever, and the tent stands on.

Great British Bake Off 2021 Episode 9 was Patisserie Week. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith judged — whatever, let’s get to the bullshit.

The GBBO judging racket goes on

On last year’s Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood justified Laura’s survival and Hermine’s elimination by saying that those “new to Bake Off” might not have understood that each week is judged independently of the other.

On last week’s episode of Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood justified Crystelle’s survival and Lizzie’s elimination by saying that Crystelle had been stronger throughout the show.

On this week’s Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood gave out three handshakes in the signature round, having given out just three in the entire series to date, snubbing Jürgen, who was told by Prue that she would have given him one. Jürgen then won the technical challenge, before a close-run showstopper. But he was still eliminated, despite having the most Star Bakers of the whole series, with Paul Hollywood referencing his own handshake.

This is some great British bullshit. GBBO seems entirely incapable of deciding whether or not a show named for broad baking mastery; structured episodically to chart bakers’ journeys; and which routinely references previous performance in judging round-tables actually takes account of any of those things at all, or if it’s just a vanity parade for Paul Hollywood. If it does care about these things, this elimination is a travesty. If it doesn’t, it should really stop making fools of contestants and viewers alike by pretending that it does.

Drunk on power, Paul Hollywood needs to go

When Prue Leith is moved to comment that if she would have given a handshake to Jürgen she could, then it’s clear that Paul’s influence has gotten too much. This has long been so — shots of him prowling the tent like a constipated bear in Bread Weeks, having his palate pandered to by fearful contestants, and people generally melting when they grasp his sweaty palm. It would be bearable if this cult of personality was tied to a solid judging framework, but the general chaos just makes it worse. It’s also hard to shake the feeling that his prior abominations on Japan Week and lack of knowledge led him to penalise Jürgen for simplicity inherent in the design he was working from. The show’s just renewed for another three years; there couldn’t be a better time for a fresh start.

So, who will win?

The only redeeming feature of this final three is that a series that was looking like a procession now has a bit of drama to see it home with the strongest overall competitor eliminated. Crystelle has made something of a late surge, with Chigs on an upward trajectory and Giuseppe strong throughout. But wait: these are all descriptions of their progress throughout the series, which doesn’t matter, so who knows? Oh but wait, sometimes it does matter, so probably Giuseppe I guess? But wait, no it doesn’t matter, so —

Let’s see.

Star baker: Crystelle
Going home: Jürgen
Running theme: The judging just makes no sense

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