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It was an uplifting night on Hell’s Kitchen. The teams seemed to get their acts together, and Gordon only yelled 88% of the time, not the usual 90%. Yeah, we’ll miss the kidney stones of Jeff, the dopey mistakes of Wendy, the portly frustration of Dewberry, and…uh…whatever it was that Carol Ann did, but at least now we have a squad of somewhat capable young chefs. It’s kind of like Major League, except with risotto and no Corbin Bernson (although, we can always dream).The episode began with our overly talkative narrator explaining every single detail as usual. This guy reminds me of the person at a movie theater who leans over and whispers whatever just happened on screen. “Pssst… Did you see that? She went in the room!” YES. I KNOW. Well, this time the narrator piped up as we saw the dejected Blue team shuffle into their dorms. “The Blue team’s first dinner service defeat is sinking in.” Great. I couldn’t tell by the semi-suicidal looks on their faces. Ah, but the narrator wasn’t done yet.
“And for Jessica, the loss is personal,” he added. Huh, I couldn’t tell it was a personal loss for Jessica, what with her CRYING and all. Thanks for clueing me in! Yes, turns out Jessica had grown quite attached to Wendy, as evidenced by her spewing off a list of glowing attributes for the ejected contestant. “I super respect her,” she concluded before unveiling her new portrait, simply titled, “I Love You, Wendy.”
Meanwhile, on the Red team, everyone patted themselves on the back for finally doing a good job. Elsie attributed their success to the departure of Jeff, and as she grew more and more excitable, her voice suddenly seemed to take on a Fat Albert-esque quality. I half expected her to growl, “Hey hey hey! It’s Hellllllll’s Kitchen!”
Just when we were enjoying our precious few moments without Señor Narrator, the disembodied voice returned to announce, “Ralph feels the need to have a late-night heart to heart.” Oh — is that what he’s doing? I mean, I saw he was having a personal conversation with Andrew, and I saw that it was late at night, but I didn’t actually put two and two together. Phew! Without that narrator, I’d be totally lost. Thanks, narrator!
The next morning the sous-chefs — oh wait, more narration. “After the worst dinner service in Hell’s Kitchen short history…” Yes, WE GET IT! You’ve only told us about twelve times in the past five minutes that last night was the worst dinner service EVER. Anyway, as I was saying… The next morning, the sous chefs decided to be assholes by waking the troops up with air horns. Mary Ann seemed to focus all her LPGA rage into the task as she angrily blared the horns in the chefs ears. “Annika Sorenstam would be nowhere without me! NOWHERE!” she yelled at Mary Ellen, before adding, “You’re my bitch now, sugar lips. Give me your cigarettes!”
Okay, so maybe Mary Ann didn’t turn into a violent prison lesbian / golf stalker, but she did wake everyone up, including Ralph who — Holy cucumbers! — had the biggest case of morning wood ever documented on reality TV. Seriously, that was a boner and a half. What could he possibly have been dreaming of? My bet was Gordon Ramsey taking a bath with peaches and ribeyes (Ralph’s FAVE).
Anyway, once everyone was dressed and less aroused, they filed into the kitchen where the narrator explained, “Chef Ramsey’s restaurants are built on quality food and service.” Yes, as evidenced by the woman throwing up last week and the dozens of customers who never received their meals. Nevertheless, the chefs were told to follow Jean Philippe into the dining room where they’d learn about setting tables. “There’s nobody he [Gordon] trusts more… than his longtime maitre’d, Jean Phlippe,” said the narrator, adding, “Someday, maybe I can be his longtime maitre’d. We’ll run restaurants together, go on picnics, maybe watch the sun set from his villa. Later, he’ll hold me and tell me everything’s going to be okay — Daddy won’t hit me anymore. I’ll be safe. But will I Gordon? Will you protect me, your loyal longtime maitre’d?” The narrator then sobbed, thus making very awkward yet compelling television.
Anyway, JP (because that’s what the hepcats call him in Hell’s Kitchen) droned on and on about instructing the chefs how to properly set a table, and after about forty five minutes of meticulous instruction, Gordon suddenly exclaimed, “This is your next challenge!” He then yanked the tablecloth violently off the table, sending the place settings to the ground. I don’t get it. Do they have to collect tablecloths? Actually, no. The teams each had to set up a six-person table in six minutes. Now seriously, it’s not that hard. Also, these people had to have been idiots if they couldn’t anticipate this. Nevertheless, the teams got to work, and after a few seconds of activity, the narrator resurfaced to announce, “In the end, the team with the fewest number of mistakes wins.” REALLY! I never would have guessed! Performance-based rewards? Now that’s a great idea! Meanwhile, as the teams raced to set their tables, Gordon chided them, saying, “Don’t throw things on there. It’s a table.” Yeah man. You gotta treat that table with respect. It’s got feelings too, yo.
Eventually, it was time for Gordon to evaluate the tables, which meant another round of illogical putdowns. The Red team didn’t fare so well as G-Ram balked, “It’s SCRUFFY!” When he saw the folded napkins, his disgust only grew larger. “Napkins look like they’ve just come out of a lady’s toilet!” Yeah, not sure I know what that means. Are lady’s toilets known as particularly bad napkin environments? Or was he just making a vulgar reference to the napkins’ red color? Ewww…
The Blue team meanwhile only had one mistake, and after Gordon consulted with his trusty longtime maitre’d (basically, they fake whispered for about five seconds), he announced they were the victors. It would make sense and all, considering that crazy fewest-mistakes-wins-reward policy the announcer was babbling about. As punishment for losing, the Red team had to spend the afternoon polishing silverware and glasses while the Blue team got to relax in a makeshift day spa seemingly constructed in a spare utility closet. Seriously, that place looked so cramped and dingy, I wouldn’t have been surprised if the massage tables were being supported by file cabinets and egg crates.
Out in the kitchen, Jimmy was putting the “umble” in “bumble.” Don’t really know what that means, but it felt appropriate. Nevertheless, he dropped a glass, causing JP to remark (in his enjoyably thick, French accent), “Jimmy clumsy, ya?” Jean Philippe: TV’s first Franco-Caveman.
Later that evening, as everyone babbled outside in the industrial-looking courtyard, Elsie suddenly noticed a towering billboard of Gordon Ramsey, conveniently located directly above them (at the intersection of La Brea & Willoughby — for all you Angelenos). All the chefs immediately began laughing/freaking out, saying dumb things like “We can’t get away from him!” and “He sees us!” and “I’m an idiot for thinking that billboard is more menacing than ALL THE TWO-WAY MIRRORS IN THIS COURTYARD!”
Anyway, the next morning, Gordon (the human, not the billboard) announced that two new items would be going on the menu: frog legs and pigeon. And because squid innards just wasn’t enough, Fox was sure to show us all the ins and outs (literally) of pigeon gutting. Entrails? And how! Elsie had the most punny reaction to the dead birds, commenting that they “smelled like something really, really foul.” Get it? Foul/Fowl. Oh, I need to take a breather.
Later, as Elsie gutted her very own bird (My Little Pigeon, as I like to call it), she nearly threw up in a sink, but lo and behold, this determined cook persevered and managed to conquer her repulsion towards blood and guts. Now that’s what I call a character arc! Anyway, as the teams prepped for their fourth night of dinner service, Gordon explained to us how on the third night, “the service was diabolical.” Um, so the food service was evil? Was it trying to plot and scheme someone’s death? Oh wait, diabolical — of the devil! Hell’s Kitchen! It’s a theme, people. Really works on so many levels. Still waiting for the inevitable “Devil’s food cake” pun.
G-Ram continued his awkward phrasing as he explained, “The second night, we actually put our foot on the ladder and started climbing,” but then on the third night, “we went back ten spaces.” I’m still trying to decide if that’s a painfully labored Chutes & Ladders reference or just some casually mixed metaphors. That’s right, Syntax Police at your service!
Well, with only forty-five minutes before the diners arrived, Gordon had some bad news for the Red team. Since they lost the challenge the day before, they had to set all the tables in the restaurant, potentially costing them valuable prep time. This was especially rough news because Gordon announced that the first team to serve all its tables would be immune from elimination. Oooh, finally, real stakes. Let’s get this party started!
Anyway, the Red team scurried around the dining room placing silverware, glasses and napkins (hopefully not from the women’s latrine). In the kitchen, however, the Blue team got a leg up on its competition by prepping its food and cleaning its stations. Scott even complimented Mary Ellen for making her corner of the kitchen look so spiffy. Endives for everyone!
As kitchen service got underway, I suddenly found myself mildly excited. I actually seemed to care about these people and their culinary fates for the first time all season. It kind of bums me out that the show relies on the narrator to create the drama rather than the actual characters. There really is so much untapped potential. But anyhoo, enough analysis. Let’s see how everyone fared in the kitchen.
Well, for the most part, Gordon was happy. Mary Ellen seemed to be rocking her appetizers, and Jessica was delivering some well cooked entrées. The master chef even went so far as to drop a few compliments like “spot on!” or “looks like restaurant food.” Ah, but all good things must come to an end, and thankfully, the dependably inept Andrew was there to ruin everything as he screwed up his garnish, despite Ralph’s homemade cheat sheet. On the Red side, Jimmy’s garnish proved to be too cold for G-Ram, who promptly yelled, “It’s CRAP!” And yes, he rolled his “R” like the best Mike Myers caricature would.
I guess this episode was Garnish From Hell week because Andrew continued to struggle at his station, causing Gordon to berate him with a hostile “YOUNG MAN!” Yes, G-Ram’s never as intimidating as when he’s imitating Ethel Berkowitz in apartment 4B. Nevertheless, the taskmaster had a pressing question: “WHERE IS THE ENDIVE???” We then cut to a guilty-looking Mary Ellen whose cheeks were puffed up with endives. She does love her frisées.
Anyway, we soon cut to commercials where we saw a sneak peak at one of Fox’s new shows. Get this. It’s about a renegade chef and the crazy happenings in his restaurant. Hmmm… feels familiar. What would this show be called? Hell’s Kitchen: The Drama? Actually, it’s named Kitchen Confidential, and no, it’s not an import from A&E. Apparently it’s the latest offering from Darren Star. Kind of looked good actually (seriously, why do all the new Fox shows look so good?) All I know is that at the end of the commercial, we see some guy chop his fingers off with a cleaver. Excuse me while I go vomit in the nearest receptacle.
Back in Hell’s Kitchen, the narrator happily announced, “Jessica’s mastering the meat station.” That sounds kind of like what Ralph was up to at the beginning of the show (Ooh, there was a bonus pun in that sentence!). Nevertheless, when it comes to Jessica, I’m pretty sure the “clam station” is more her territory, if you catch my drift. Boo-ya! Sorry, Jess. The narrator set me up so well…
Anyway, despite having less prep time, the Red team seemed to be coming together. Elsie rocked the meat station, despite having never worked it before (does that mean she’s never masturbated? Sorry, I should stop beating the dead horse. Dammit, another pun). Gordon called her meat “spot on” — something she later boasted about tearfully in the confessional. The Blue team, however, completely fell apart, mostly thanks to Mary Ellen’s risotto failures, two of which were sent back to the kitchen. After a few minutes of rallying, all seemed to be on the mend, causing the narrator to weigh in with his cheeky commentary. “The Blue kitchen is cooking now. Or are they???” he asked, lamely attempting to throw his hat into the pun circus (sorry, Elsie’s “foul” reference still wins, jerk). By the way, for those of you wondering the answer to the narrator’s question (“Or are they??”), the answer is that the Blue team was most definitely not cooking as Mary Ellen neglected to cook an entire tuna plate by accident. Wah wah wah. This was just the break the Red team needed to pull ahead and serve all their tables first. In celebration, Gordon gushed, “Jimmy, start dancing like a ballerina.” Uh, sure, Chef. Listen, as long as he doesn’t put on a leotard like a ballerina, he can do whatever he wants in my book. Mary Ann, meanwhile, exclaimed, “Great f*cking work!” Simmer down, Mary Ann. We know you’re tough. No need to try so hard.
With Red having pulled out the victory, Gordon had Blue close its kitchen (“Shut it down!” as he says) with only five tables left to serve (hey, c’mon. Let those poor people eat). Surprisingly, Gordon was nice to both teams, noting how they really seemed to make extraordinary progress. He then happily noted that Ralph’s superstar status had been surpassed by Jessica who would nominate tonight’s two chefs for elimination. Unfortunately, not even this disappointing news could deflate Ralph’s raging boner.
Minutes later Mary Ellen proudly told us that because of her friendship with Jess, “I don’t think that I’ll be one of the people nominated.” Which of course meant she surely would be one of the people nominated. Does she even remember the Dewberry/Elsie scandal of episode one??? Ultimately, Jessica sent Andrew and Mary Ellen to face Gordon, thus ensuring that Ralph and his erectile non-disfunction would be around for another episode. Gordon asked Andrew why he should stay, and he answered that because he didn’t talk back this episode, he was therefore a “learning machine,” which is similar to “sex machine,” except without all the cool STDs. Despite Andrew’s lame defense, Gordon reluctantly accepted it, sending Mary Ellen home with the gentle, “You’re leaving Hell’s Kitchen” — a noticeable downgrade from the past two weeks’ “GET OUT OF HELL’S KITCHEN!”
And so pretty Mary Ellen and her passion for endives made the walk of shame down the hallway, leaving a shocked Jess to cry in the kitchen. It was kind of funny watching Jessica bawl, if only to see the strange and complex ways her face contorted. She’s kind of like a human lava lamp.
What did you think? Should Gordon have eliminated Mary Ellen over Andrew?