Hey there! Since Fox decided to air a whole bunch of Master Chef last Tuesday instead of sticking to regular programming, you fine people were forced to go a full week without a second helping of Hell’s Kitchen. Hopefully those of you who survived such a sudden an unexpected tragedy kept the faith and are joining me now.
This week’s HK episodes aired back to back on Monday, so Medusa took the reins on the first hour, while I brought the recap action to the second. After much dramatic tension, arguing, and predictable outcomes, Gordon sent Carrie packing, about five episodes later than most people expected him to. I mean, she seemed like a sweet girl, but come on–we all knew she wasn’t getting the BLT job. But wait! Once Carrie was gone, Gordon told Elise to take off her jacket, and we were left in suspense! Is he really going to trim that much bullshit off the show at once? And would production really let him eliminate both halves of the biggest source of entertaining conflict in the whole season?
As long as she cries again, I’m in.
Alas, no such luck. After scaring the bejesus out of Elise, Gordon orders everyone to remove their jackets, informing them that not a one of them is ready to run the BLT kitchen. To inspire them, he’s taking everyone to New York City to see it for themselves. That’s a pretty nice prize, considering this cast’s capacity for failure, wouldn’t you agree? Once in the Big Apple, the group goes on a tasting tour. They chow down on clam pizza, Peking duck, foie gras, Greek food, carnitas, and Jamaican cuisine, and by the time they tuck into some Indian grub, everyone’s gut says uncle. Then they head over to the coveted BLT Steak itself, and tour the dining room and kitchen. Natalie is already picturing herself there, as is everyone, I’m sure. Paul asks Cliff, a BLT employee, what the biggest challenge would be for someone who’s never worked a NYC kitchen. Cliff tells him the kitchen serves between 230 to 250 people a night, and whoever runs the kitchen would need to be able to consistently handle that level of business. Yeah, the winner of this season is totally screwed.
I don’t know the maximum capacity for an average Hell’s Kitchen dinner service, but let’s face it: this group has been inconsistent AT BEST when successfully serving that dining room. The pace of a kitchen like BLT’s is beyond the ability of every single one of them. This fact seems to have escaped Paul, though, because his delusions have convinced him that the next time he sets foot in BLT it will be as head of the kitchen (only if Will and Jennifer mysteriously go missing, though). Elizabeth says that the trip lit a fire under their asses, and she also is ready to be the chef at BLT. That’s a whole lotta vows for one episode.
Back in Cali, everyone is all smiles as they line up in front of Gordon, who’s standing beside a mysterious, sheet-draped object. Their challenge, he informs them, is to apply their inspiration and creativity to preparing ethnic cuisine. Elise freaks out because she wasn’t paying attention when they were stuffing their faces on the tasting tour–you know, because the entire point of the trip was just to show them a building, not because they were expected to learn anything else. Gordon whips the sheet off the mystery object, revealing a giant slot machine. When each person pulls the handle, the machine will randomly select the ingredients and type of cuisine that each person will use to create a meal.
Natalie starts things off, and the machine sticks her with pork, corn, potatoes, kumquats, and green beans, which she must apply to a Jamaican dish. As Jennifer approaches the handle, she mentions that she’d be fine with any protein except salmon, so naturally that’s what she gets. You just know there’s a little dude crouched inside that machine, selecting ingredients for them. No way is that random.
Things go on like this one by one, and when everyone has their assignments, they all run into the kitchen and get started. It’s eerily serene in the Red kitchen, and it takes me a moment to adjust to the tomb-silent atmosphere. It’s amazing how calm it is without all the usual Carrie/Elise shitstorm. Everyone prepares their meals with minimal fuss, then Gordon announces that he’s going to pull yet another twist on them. They’re all so stressed out at this point, and everyone looks like they might puke or start cussing. I imagine living at the fickle whim of Gordon Ramsay could get tiresome at the very least. He tells them he’s looking for a leader, so he’s going to choose the winning team based on the best overall dish instead of a collective point system. Basically, the entire Red team could put up slop, and if, say, Elizabeth’s is chosen as the top dish, the Red team will win, even if all the Blue team dishes were better than the rest. Seems fair to me.
Tommy is up first with his Indian food, a mango chicken curry that Gordon says is delicious. I don’t think even Tommy saw that coming. Gordon sends Tommy to sit in the big boy chair, and calls Elizabeth forward. She presents a Mexican dish, which he says is slightly overcooked but tasty, and tastes Mexican. He also says it’s better than Tommy’s, and kicks Tommy out of the chair.
Natalie brings forth her Jamaican pork with guava habanero coconut paste. Gordon chokes it’s so spicy, and Natalie mans up and says she doesn’t think it’s too hot. Since she made Gordon look like a pansy, he sends her back to her team. After tasting the filet with grapefruit hollandaise Paul prepared in the French style, he kicks Elizabeth out of the chair. Paul has barely settled in before Elise’s Chinese ahi tuna unseats him.
Will’s prosciutto wrapped scallops are next, however, and Gordon says his is the best so far, and good enough to give the Blue team the win. But Jennifer is up next, and she hasn’t produced a failure yet. Will is sweating it as she brings her Greek salmon with olives and feta. Gordon says it’s cooked perfectly, then pretends to debate between that and the scallops. In the end, he pronounces Jennifer the winner, which means her team gets the prize: a trip to the beach, where a big surprise awaits them. They all run off to grab their suits, and I’d like to personally thank Fox for making sure we knew they all had to shave, since the mental image will save me the trouble of sticking my finger down my throat if I ever feel the need to purge a meal.
The girls are driven to Venice Beach, where they spend the afternoon rolling around in a big hamster ball, which I think looks like fun. Elise goes first, and seems to enjoy herself, but Elizabeth is wimpy about it, and Jennifer just falls right out of the harness.
Meanwhile, as the Blue team preps both kitchens, Tommy is acting a damn fool, wondering aloud if he should mince the fresh onions to make dry minced onion. Long answer short, Tommy: don’t do that. Your life will be much simpler once you realize the difference between fresh and dry ingredients. Natalie opines that you can’t fix dumb. You also can’t fix brain damage caused by years of hard alcohol and drug use. Yes, I’m making that leap of logic, because please–does sobriety breed forehead tattoos? Highly unlikely.
Clearly, the D.A.R.E. program worked wonders for all concerned.
Gordon demands the dinner service of their lives, and before he can even turn his back, Elise is already bitching about the prep job on the beef Wellingtons. The customers arrive, and Gordon demands a comeback from everyone involved. The Red team kitchen begins running like a well-oiled machine, and on the Blue side, Natalie is attempting to step it up, resulting in effed up, half-raw scallops. Not quite the step Gordy was looking for, Nats. He tells her to get a grip, and even Tommy rolls his eyes, which is a sure sign your bullet train to victory has gone careening off the bad side of the tracks.
Both kitchens are sending out food, but Tommy is zoning out again, and Scott threatens to beat him if he doesn’t put the fried onions on a towel immediately after they come out of the fryer. He says he did, but of course he didn’t, they’re all soggy and screwed, so Gordon throws them down and yells at him. Since Tommy has to recook his onions, there’s no time to administer the beating, but I assume Scott threw him one off camera later. Over in the Red kitchen, Elizabeth is tweaking out and dragging ass, and Gordon yells at Elise to jump in. While Gordon is further distracted by Tommy, Elizabeth bungs up yet again by overcooking some fish, and tells us that a zombie has taken over her body. Well, that’s a new one, I guess, and as good an excuse as any, right? She freaks out so badly that Gordon drags her into the pantry and tells her to take a big breath, calm down, and come back ready to work.
Elise makes a big show of telling the camera that you have to step it up and not let the pressure make you crumble, right before laying down a wreck of a beef Wellington that sends Gordon into a frenzy. He stops the Red kitchen action and makes her redo them, then let’s her know that the reason the Wellington is falling apart is because she scored the pastry too deeply. She tells us that there’s no way she’s going to take the blame for the screwed Wellingtons, so what I want to know is this: now that Carrie is gone, whose fault will it be? Apparently Tommy’s. Elise tells Gordon she didn’t score the first tray, Tommy did. Gordon says “so it’s Tommy’s fault, then?” and instead of coming out and saying yes, Elise pulls the “all I’m saying” card.
“I don’t want to make accusations, so I’m just going to trace the initial ‘T’ on this greasy pan, and let you make your own assumptions.”
UGH. I hate that. “I’m not saying it was Tommy’s fault, I’m saying he did this thing. I’m not saying it’s his fault, but it’s definitely not MY fault, that’s for sure.” It’s cowardly bullshit. If you plan on passing the buck, nut up and pass it, for fuck’s sake–don’t pussyfoot around and act like you don’t want to name names. Because Gordon is awesome, and not in the mood for bullshit, he drags Elise and the Wellingtons over to the Blue kitchen to confront Tommy. Yes!
When Elise gets in his face with the tray of Wellingtons, Tommy just gives her a blank look. By the time he realizes the loud voices are coming from outside, not inside, his head, Elise has used up all the hot air in the place. Finally, she asks “did you or did you not score the first tray of Wellingtons?” and Tommy, bless his heart, just says “no.” Hey! I guess bits and pieces of the D.A.R.E. program stuck, after all!
It’s great; no arguments, no accusations, just a blank look and a single syllable. Elise turns to flounce back to the Red kitchen, then does an about face and starts yelling at him. We get a lovely flashback, in which Tommy is explicitly telling Elise that he’s going to wrap the Wellingtons but not score them, and her acknowledging that. Ha! She’s so full of shit.
The Blue team members are annoyed that Elise is trying to blame them for her mistake, and they rationalize that Tommy would not have prepped all the Wellingtons in the place without scoring them and then only scored Elise’s tray. Wait, we’re allowed to apply logic to this mess? Can’t argue with that! Paul calls it “booty-ass shit,” and I don’t know what that means, but Gordon starts awesomely yelling at Elise.
“Who are you going to blame?” he howls. “Carrie? Krupa? Jamie?” Damn, Gordo, it’s like you’re reading my thoughts!
Shall I call you Sookie, or do you prefer Ms. Stackhouse?
The Wellington snafu is leaving the Red team’s diners hung out to dry with no food, but meanwhile, a piece of dried out bass is sent back to the Blue kitchen! It seems that, while Gordon was busy tearing Elise a new one, Natalie snuck a bum piece of fish past him. Natalie is really rattled, and Will tells her to hold the tears and get her head in the game. Three more pieces of bass come back, which never would have made it out if Gordon hadn’t been distracted, so I say we blame this on Elise. Who’s with me?
“Hold it together, WOMAN!”
Gordon tells Jennifer to get her kitchen together, but Elizabeth and Elise are yelling at each other, and you can tell she hates them both. Elizabeth is calling out bad times, undercooking all the bass, and she starts swaying back and forth, on the verge of tears. Elise and Gordon trade words, and when Elise blames her overdone steak on Elizabeth’s screwy time calls, Gordon calls everything to a halt. He reams her yet again, then kicks her and a trembling Elizabeth right out of the kitchen.
On her way out, Elise’s leg throws a little tantrum and kicks over the trash can. Gordon calls her back and makes her pick it up, then mocks her crappy attitude. Man, you can tell she would just LOVE to unload on him, but she can’t. This whole concept of personal restraint is clearly new to her, because she’s struggling to not jump right down his throat. Damn, would I ever pay to see that. She storms out, probably in search of a wheelbarrow to cart around her collection of new assholes.
Someone needs a hugsy…
Jennifer is clearly over her teammates, but I think the whole scene was worth it to her, because after being left on her own, she got to work one on one with Gordon, and it was just like being in a real, professional kitchen! Between the two of them and Andi, they get all the entrees out. The Blue team likewise completes their service without further incident.
Gordon informs the contestants that he will no longer select a winning team unless he gets perfect service, which he did not get that evening. Both teams have to nominate one person, and of course Natalie has the waterworks primed before they even sit down. The Blue team, now more used to her sad face than her happy one, just lets out a collective sigh. They all hug her, and reassure her that even if she’s nominated there’s no way she performed worse than Elise or Elizabeth. The Blue team members seem like they really care about each other, which is nice after all the venom on the Red team. Paul says Elise is like cancer, and Tommy has a bitter moment while he recalls Elise breaking his concentration to yell at him about the Wellingtons. After all, we know it’s nearly impossible to break Tommy’s concentration, so she must have really been loud.
Elise, I know you think you’re the best chef in the place, but when even THE OTHER TEAM wants you gone, I think it’s safe to say you suck as a person, regardless of your palate and kitchen skills. Also, it’s sort of weird, but when Natalie is talking about her, I swear I hear Elise shout something in the background. I re-watched it a couple times, and there’s definitely a noise. Did anyone else hear it? I’m not sure if it was added in by the sound editors, or if there’s trouble brewing In the other room and we can hear it, but it’s there.
Over in the Red deliberation, Elise and Elizabeth leave the nomination up to Jennifer. Jennifer wants to know if she should base her decision on tonight’s performance or on the whole season. Else immediately jumps on tonight, but Elizabeth reminds her that Gordon said to choose the person who would make the team strongest in their absence. I don’t know why Elise would advocate for that evening’s performance, since she didn’t exactly shine, but then I remembered that she thinks she’s way more awesome than she is, and that she’s probably forgotten all about the Wellington Incident by now. Sure enough, when Elizabeth mentions that she herself has been strong enough all season to not face elimination, Elise starts in on blaming her for everything. Jennifer has lost all patience by this point, and yells at them to give her a minute. I’m not sure why she needs so much time to think–this is not exactly a tough choice, people.
The poor girl has had the same headache for about six episodes now.
They gather for elimination, and Gordon says they’re making him nervous because they’re not getting better. The Blue team nominates Natalie based on the evening’s fish incidents, and Jennifer hems and haws, finally nominating Elise. She says Elise blames everyone except herself, and never admits mistakes. This is not a lie.
Natalie gives a tearful speech, but Gordon says he doesn’t feel like he can inspire her any more than he has, and there’s no longer any place to hide. He then lays into Elise. He says he can’t believe she tried to blame her ruined Wellingtons on Tommy (cut to Tommy, looking properly offended), and then asks her when she’s going to step up and take responsibility. She starts yelling “right now!” before he even finishes. I wonder what good she thinks that will do. If it doesn’t happen when the chips are down, there’s not much chance that a last minute, grudging admittance is going to do much good. Gordon tells her she needs to go home to her family, and Elise starts protesting, saying that if she doesn’t perform perfectly on her next service, she’ll put herself up for nomination. YEAH. RIGHT. I think we all know what a load of shit that is, and sure enough, Will and Jennifer are shaking their heads at each other.
Meanwhile, those faint screams you hear are those of her family, as they register the possibility of her premature return.
Gordon hears her out, then we see flashbacks of the Wellington Incident and the Incident of the Returned Bass. Ultimately, Gordon sends Natalie home with the most kind parting speech I’ve heard out of him yet. He tells her he wants her to continue cooking, and that he admires her heart, but she’s not ready to run BLT. Well yeah, I think we can agree on that. He tells her not to give up and shakes her hand, then sends her away. A least he doesn’t tell her to fuck off.
The teams are all shaking their heads at the prospect of another round with Elise, and they all applaud in a supportive way as Natalie leaves. We get a montage of Natalie’s greatest moments, and some nice Blue team interactions. It’s weird, because she was so strong the first few episodes, but the pressure got to her, and I guess that’s the point of the competition. She’ll probably be giving us the finger from the Top Chef lineup in another ten years or so, but in the meantime I hope she harnesses that drive and energy and continues to improve.
And that the events of a certain afternoon don’t bite her too hard in the ass.
Gordon says that he’s seen brilliance in each of the remaining competitors, but that he needs to see the inspiration worthy of an executive chef. He dismisses them, and Jennifer prophesies that Elise will be gunning for both her and Elizabeth, come morning. Will says there’s no room left for excuses, and not enough people left to blame your mistakes on, so everyone needs to take responsibility for him- (OR HER-) self. Elise thanks Gordon for another chance, and says she knows the only person getting in her way is herself. You know, if by “herself” she means the scrawny, tattooed man with the funky pastry.
I really am surprised that Gordon didn’t rip into Elise more than he did. She was just plain awful this episode–I mean, she’s been awful since day one, but the tantrum? The backtalk? The Wellington? She outdid herself. I hate her.
Next week, the restaurant hosts a charity event, and there’s all sorts of bullshit flying around. The remaining five will get the black finalist jackets, so tension is running high, and Jennifer is beyond done with the whole mess of her team. I, for one, just want to see Elise get right to the precipice of the finals, then get bunted down the hallway toward her exit interview. The only reason I want to see her stick around is because no one has tried to literally strangle her yet, and I think that would be some good TV. Sure, the encouraging speeches are nice, but come on–that brand of snore-inducing bullshit is not why we watch this show.
The picture itself almost fell asleep upon being posted.
So, what do you think? Are any of these yahoos fit to run BLT? Who do you think deserves to make the final five? Will we get to see actual flames erupt from Gordon’s mouth hole at some point, or what? Thanks for reading!