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Two weeks ago, I promised TVgasm readers that I would take a shot for every redundant comment made by the narrator on Hell’s Kitchen, but as luck would have it, last week’s episode was bumped to last night, and well, since I’m at my parents’ house, I’m not about to bust out the vodka and get drunk in their bedroom. And so I regretfully report to you sober and exhausted (in kitchen terms, the two hour marathon was less al fresco and more al dente. Okay – that made no sense. Just felt like throwing out the “al” phrases). I have just under two hours before my evening turns cumin-rific (heading to an Indian restaurant); so let’s cut the small talk and get down to bidness.This gargantuan double-episode kicked off with a recap from the last show. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This would all be fine and good if we actually cared about these characters. Nevertheless, Chris was axed and… uh, Gordon yelled a lot. The good news out of all this was that the producers finally stopped cramming that annoying intro down our throat where we see that G-Ram is the bad boy of the kitchen. He drives a fast car, Graham Norton’s scared of him, WE GET IT!
And now here’s obvious observation #1: Has anyone ever really looked at the opening credits? I just noticed that Gordon spends the entire clip shaking his head back and forth, looking at the contestants with British disdain. Kind of like an angry Brady Bunch. Makes me wish Ann B. Davis was on the show too. Now that would be awesome.
N-E-whoo, I’m only about ten seconds into the show, and I’m already babbling about sitcom stars of yore. Well, once the credits ended, my flavorite narrator welcomed us with his traditional greeting: “And now the continuation of Hell’s Kitchen.” Thank god he says that every week. Otherwise, I would be all like “Wait, is this a rerun? I haven’t seen it before, but I just can’t be certain it’s the continuation. If only someone could spell it out for me…”
With everyone reeling from the surprise ouster of Chris two weeks ago, the wannabe chefs returned to their humble dorms to cry, smoke, and shuffle around. “Chef Ramsey’s unexpected removal of Chris has left Elsie in shock,” explained the narrator. Oh really? I thought those tears were because she just happened to have caught the English Patient on cable just now.
Well, with Elsie feeling sad, Jessica came by to cheer her up. “You’re gorgeous. You’re my edible mama,” she said, adding, “Maybe sometime you wanna go to a flannel convention and read poetry? Afterwards, we can listen to the Indigo Girls and quiz each other on the LPGA. Just thinkin’ out loud.”
We then cut to Michael who explained to us why he nominated Chris for elimination. “My decision to put Chris up was definitely like drawing first blood. I’m definitely trying to be this black widow,” he said. Hmmm… kind of a mixed metaphor. I’m not sure, but I think Michael just likened himself to a seductress. If Hollywood ever makes a movie about this show, he sooo wants to be played by Theresa Russell (Barbara Hershey would be acceptable too).
As for Ralph, he had this to say, “I learned a very important lesson today.” Yes. Stop drinking Cialis milkshakes at bedtime. That’s right. Cheap erection humor, folks. I’m here all week. Tips in the jar.
The next morning, Ramsey gathered the teams around and announced, “Our next challenge: we’ll be doing some blind tasting.” And because I’m apparently an idiot, the narrator reinforced this by saying, “So today he’s challenging them to a blind taste test.” Yeah, HE JUST SAID THAT. You know, like three seconds ago. It’s like going to the movies with a jerk who narrates everything that just happened on screen. “You see that? That was an explosion. Oh, and he’s going in the building now. And now he’s talking.” SHUT UP!
Anyway, Gordon explained that whichever team identified enough foods blindly would win the competition. “The winning team is coming out with me this afternoon,” he added. So… does that mean they’re leaving the studio or is everyone just admitting that they’re gay? Just wondering. It’s a very ambiguous thing to say. By the way, the losing team would have to clean the dishes. You know what’s sad? Every week, the punishment is something like “Clean the dishes” or “Clean the dorms” or “prepare the pasta.” This so-called punishment is what thousands of people do for a living. Kind of makes you think. (thinking… yawning… checking Friendster) Okay, that was a profound moment. Let’s move on.
Well, to kick off the first round of this competition, Gordon had Andrew and Jimmy blindfolded and fitted with headphones. The master chef then tested their hearing by asking Jimmy, “What’s it like to be slim?” Oops, I just chuckled. That’s right, Gordon finally had a funny remark. I mean, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy traditional “plank” humor or the occasional “turd” comment, but it’s nice to branch out to some low levels of comedy, even if it comes at Jimmy’s portly expense.
Speaking of Jimmy, he had everyone in stitches with his wildly incorrect guess at the very first item, which happened to be chicken. Andrew got it right, but Jimmy somehow confused the ordinary poultry with something far more convoluted. “It tasted like a meat tortellini with a bit of sweated onions in the background,” he said. What the? Oddly enough, he then tasted meat tortellini with sweated onions and described it as “chocolate milk with a touch of broccoli.”
This is fun! Let’s do another! “Both Jimmy and Andrew missed the next two,” explained the narrator quickly. Hey, WTF? How could you just gloss right over that? Bastard narrator. For the first time ever, he decides to summarize what we don’t see.
Anyway, Jimmy and Andrew’s round ended with a little radish (Andrew thought it was parsnip, Jimmy got it right though), which brought the score between the teams to 1-1. Next up: Elsie and Jessica. Their first item was ox tongue, which they both incorrectly identified as pork. From that point on, however, Elsie went on a tear, getting the next three food items correct. Jessica was not as lucky. She thought scallops were liver, caesar salad dressing was viniagrette, and hamburger was, uh, filet mignon. Yeah, there’s a distinct difference between the two. One is a filet and one is, you know, ground meat. Meanwhile, was I the only one who thought Gordon called hamburger, “goose” or “gooth”? Oh those wacky Brits…
With the score 4 to 1, the always dependable narrator chimed in with more unnecessary commentary: “Elsie was near perfect, giving the red team a huge lead by identifying three right, bringing the score to 4 for red and 1 for blue.” THE SCORE IS ON THE SCREEN. WE CAN READ! (By the way, I started this recap at home, but now I’m on an airplane. Mayhaps a shot is in order? Nah, that costs money. I’ll just take another sip of my tomato juice and scrape for remains in my “Savory Snack Mix” bag. Thanks United!)
Okay, so round three of the big taste-off. Ralph vs. Michael. Mano a mano. Chef to chef. Erection to tattoo. The first item up for tasting: veal sweetbreads. Mmmm… I do love me some sweetbreads. Ralph’s answer: beef “with fat, chef?” Eh, no. Michael? “Something awful, man. Something from a cow that I shouldn’t be eating. A brain or something like that.” Yes, that’s a popular dish at restaurants, “A brain or something like that.” Meanwhile, the normally surly Gordon was doubled over with laughter. Blind tastings are his version of Showtime at the Apollo.
Once he composed himself, Gordon noted that Ralph needed to get the next tasting correct or else the red team would win. “Ralph can’t afford to miss even one,” echoed the narrator. Honestly, I don’t even know what to say anymore. How many times can I write “HE JUST SAID THAT!” or “YEAH, WE KNOW”? Whoever’s writing this narration is just screwing with us now. Sigh. I guess I’ll just take another swig of my non-alcoholic tomato juice. And yes, I am that jerk in the cabin slurping. I’m sorry, but the ice cubes are too large. Just call me Señor Slurpington.
Well, anyway, Ralph’s big test came down to a simple leaf of spinach, but when he identified it as romaine lettuce, it was curtains for his team. Later, he blamed his failure on having spent too much time smoking and sucking cough drops, which is always what I hope gourmet chefs are doing in their down time. As usual, Andrew got all pissed off at the loss, telling us, “I would like to put on a suit and enjoy his [Ramsey's] company!” Mommy! I wanna play with Gordon!
Anyway, the winning team took a trip to hoity Los Angeles restaurant Campanile (home of the all grilled cheese menu on Thursdays) where they sampled wines with Gordo. The mercurial chef was once again in high spirits as he happily ribbed Jimmy on proper oeniphile etiquette. “Suck your lips together,” he insisted, thus opening the door for many G-Ram/Jimmy/sexual fetish jokes. The Blue team, meanwhile, cleaned pots and pans, an activity that afforded us the pleasure of checkin’ out Jessica’s sweet tribal tattoo. Nothing makes a woman look sexier. Grrrrrrowl!
That evening, Gordon called Jimmy in the dorms and had him alert everyone to assemble in the kitchen. While the call was brief, I was incredibly amused by the Dr. Evil staging of Ramsey who was seen from behind sitting in a chair. The only thing missing was a little cat in his lap. Anyway, once everyone was in the kitchen, Gordon said, “I’ve got a huge announcement. Tomorrow night, for the first time ever in Hell’s Kitchen–” There will be a commercial break? Because that’s what we got. These producers just love throwing them in at the most inopportune times. But don’t worry, I won’t keep you in suspense. The chefs would be designing their own menus. Okay, that’s pretty cool.
The teams split off to brainstorm, and almost immediately, the Blue team fell under the iron-fisted rule of Ralph. First he shot down Jess’s chocolate cheesecake idea and then Andrew’s salmon. “I think halibut’s great. I think people like halibut,” Ralph said. Yeah, because no one likes salmon. It’s lack of popularity is dwarfed only by maggot soup. I mean, just because people order it all the time doesn’t mean they actually enjoy it. Good choice, Ralph. Good choice.
Anyway, the dinner service eventually came around, and Gordon had a nifty little surprise for the Blue team. Because they had lost the blind tasting, their storeroom would be locked. Ramsey gave them the password once and said they had better remember it because he wasn’t about to say it again. The team then scurried to the store room and opened the door. Well, that was an exciting setback. Actually, there were some sparks. Andrew applied tape to the door to keep it from locking again, but when Scott caught him, the sous chef exploded in rage. He made Andrew take off the tape and return the chickens the team had just removed from the room. That’s right, they had to unlock the door AGAIN! Hell’s Kitchen indeed!
Meanwhile, out in the dining room, hungry patrons began to file in. “With the debut of two new menus, it’s almost as if it’s opening night,” said the narrator. Uh, actually, not really. It’s more like the debut of… a new menu. Scintillating! I haven’t been this excited since Applebees introduced onion soup au gratin to its appetizers.
Anyway, the way this whole dinner service thing worked was that diners chose from either a blue or a red menu. As we watched people examine the offerings, the narrator noted, “Tonight, the customers have the contestants’ fate in their hands. LITERALLY.” Oh, narrator! What a clever play on words. You are a pleasure, LITERALLY!
After the narrator was done being HILARious, the chefs finally got to work cookin’ up dinner. Things started out rocky as the perennially beleaguered Andrew crashed into a bus boy, thus spawning the new Fox special, “When Busboys Attack!” Despite errant busboy collisions, the Blue team seemed to be doing well as they’re dishes flowed out faster than Gordon could make an awkward turd joke.
On the Red side, however, the team was slowed by Jimmy’s inability to properly bake a scallop. Eventually Michael had to step up and save the day, causing the narrator to announce, “Michael has put an end to the scallop dilemma.” Yes, and what a dilemma it was! I think we’ll all look back at the Great Scallop Dilemma of 2005 with fond memories.
Back on the Blue team, Andrew committed a cardinal sin. No, he didn’t murder anyone (yet), but he served hot food on cold plates. Why you BASTARD! Okay, to be fair, Gordo’s rule does make sense, but unfortunately for the team, this was the first of many misfires to beset their kitchen. While they had eleven more orders than their Red opponents, the diners were returning their plates at a rapid pace, especially the halibut which was overcooked and tasteless. Halibut? More like hali-don’t! Okay, that was a stretch. Oooh oooh, I got it! Andrew puts the “butt” in “Halibut”. Nailed it! Just imagine the possibilities with bass…
Over on the Red team, Elsie was excited because someone finally ordered her specialty: paella. She’d been talking it up so much all episode that even I was ready to eat it, and I don’t really like paella. It is fun to say though. Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode about paella? Eh, I digress. Anyway, after all this hype, Elsie finally made her famed dish, only to have the diner scoff that it was just “seafood on top of rice.” Ouch. “Looks like Elsie’s children are still the only ones who are big fans of her paella,” said the narrator. Oh you di’int! That is harsh! I mean, Elsie, the narrator just dissed you AND your kids! You gonna take that sitting down? I think you should put on your Fat Albert voice and flambé his balls.
Later, two women — most likely blind — pointed at Ralph and said, “He’s cute!” Luckily he saw them and waved back happily. Man, if you thought his morning wood was bad before… well… all I’m saying is that he probably found a new place to hang some dish towels. Anyway, Gordon immediately flipped out and accused Ralph of reveling in minor fame. Gordon then added, “Now if you excuse me, I have to drive around in my sports car so Fox can tape me for the opening credits of this TV show.”
Finally, Gordon became so disgusted with the kitchen that he yelled, “Close it down! F*ckin’ turn the ovens off!” Hey, what happened to “SHUT IT DOWN!!” I thought we had catch phrase, albeit a very awkward, useless, and unfunny catch phrase. Alas, I’ll never get a good catch phrase out of this show. I bet if Dewberry were around longer, he’d have come up with something.
With the kitchen closed, the teams lined up for their nightly evaluation. Gordon pretty much slammed everyone, but his most amusing critique was of Jessica. “Jessica. Not bad. It was consistent. Consistently AVERAGE!” He then added, “Oh, and you’re pretty. Pretty UGLY!”
Well, even though Blue had fifty-three orders compared to Red’s forty-two, they still lost because six of the nineteen halibuts were returned. That’s like a 32% failure rate. Awesome! Well, Ramsey was quite angered by this spectacular flop; so he asked whose idea was it. Silence. [cricket chirp] This is awkward. Finally, Andrew spoke up to say that he wanted to do a braised salmon and– WHO’S IDEA WAS IT?? Okay, okay, it was Ralph’s! When asked if this was true, Ralph simply replied, “The dish would seem to be a combination of everybody, chef.” You sneaky, peach-on-steak bastard. Stand up to your failures, jerk. At the very least, if you’re gonna lie, have it make sense. “The dish would seem to be a combination”? Why exactly would it seem that way? Does he not know the answer? Is he only conjecturing? Please, Ralph. Put some ice on your crotch and stop thinking about those girls.
Anyway, it was Jess’s decision to nominate one person for elimination (with one person, it’s not so much a nomination as it is a selection, right?). “Chef Ramsey is relying on Jessica to sort out the halibut hell caused by Ralph and Andrew,” said the narrator. Halibut hell? Man, this narrator is on fire! I’m gonna use that term from now on. Check it: if someone ever asks me why I was late to something, I’m just gonna shrug and say, “Halibut hell!” Sorry, is this recap a bit long? Well, you know how it goes — halibut hell!
Nevertheless, while Jess deliberated, Andrew expressed frustration that he was constantly taking the falls for Ralph’s shitty ideas. You know, he’s kind of right. For all of Ralph’s talk, he hasn’t really proven himself to be a very good chef. He can’t identify spinach or sweetbreads, he gets erections on the job, and he somehow believes that white peaches and steak are a match made in heaven. But as much as we could sort of see Andrew’s side, he seemed fairly doomed. After all, Jess and Ralph had an alliance. In fact, Jess cornered Ralph and explained her whole nomination mentality, saying, “Okay, so I’m going to be straight with you because I always am.” She then added, “Well, not straight, but, well, you get it.”
Sure enough, Jessica stayed loyal to her buddy and nominated Andrew, but ah ha! Gordon decided to nominate Ralph too! Would this be the end for the horny chef? Or would his pudgy hothead teammate be leaving instead? Well, despite a decent attempt to defend himself, Andrew was told to get out of Hell’s Kitchen. And so another colorful character bit the dust, with chin quivering and all. A solitary teardrop streamed down my cheek. But that’s only because I knew I had another full hour to watch before pouncing on this supersized recap.
Unfortunately, since I’ve been traveling all week, this recap has been inexcusably delayed. So for the eager Hell’s Kitchen viewers, I’m gonna post this recap now, and start on hour two tomorrow. I know, I know, you’ve already waited four days. But, well… halibut hell!
[as we all laugh, the screen now pauses and the closing credits begin.]