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'Hell's Kitchen' episode 7 recap, and our first stab at ranking the contestants

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There was no way this week’s Hell’s Kitchen could have matched last week’s firecracker of an episode, unless, of course, if the mystery chicken had returned as a surprise contestant. Alas, we had to settle for the reemergence of Robert. But the biggest development was the red team’s first service victory. That’s right, the ladies hadn’t won a single dinner service until yesterday, so kudos to them.

Team challenge: This was a clever idea. Ramsay revealed a craps table with two dice, each containing 12 letters. Both teams had each chef throw the die and pick an ingredient that started with the letter rolled, and then each team had to craft a dish with those items. So the red team rolled R, H, P, G, and H, choosing rabbit, haricot verts, potatoes, garlic, and ham hock. The blue team got H, F, A, A, and T, picking haddock, figs (Dave’s bizarro choice), angel-hair pasta, apples, and tomatoes. Clearly the women had selected more compatible ingredients, but they should have known better than to mess with The Fig. As Dave pointed out, “Figs are rich and, like, so nice!” I may have mocked Dave in the past, but I have to admit that his spacey demeanor is starting to grow on me. Anyhow, it was Kevin who took some of Dave’s figs and put them into the team’s tomato sauce, creating a sauce that — surprisingly — tasted pretty good. Ramsay agreed, picking the blue team as the winner.

The reward/punishment: The guys were flown to Vegas, which is an awesome reward. Van, who dubbed himself a “Vegas virgin,” was practically losing his mind like a crazed kid in a candy store. They stayed in a swanky VIP suite (with a basketball court!), and the four guys apparently bonded during the trip. The gals, on the other hand, had to prepare both kitchens and unload a series of delivery boxes. At 1:15 am, they had to wake up and carry even more boxes.¬† Tennille was not happy and revealed a HUGE secret about herself. “I’m sleep,” she said. Tennille even spelled it out — “S-L-E-E-P” — just to make sure you were aware that she wasn’t asleep, but was in fact sleep incarnate. It’s not every day that you meet a state of consciousness in the flesh!

The dinner service: After that nifty team challenge, the actual service was a bit of a bore. Ramsay’s twist was setting up Chef Tables for the first time ever. Four executive chefs from his restaurants arrived, with two sitting in the red team’s kitchen and two in the blue team’s kitchen. But the show, like the contestants themselves, sort of forgot about the Chef Tables, which didn’t really figure into the competition anyway. The most notable moment of the service actually occurred before it started — Robert’s return (in case you didn’t know, Robert was sent to the hospital during last week’s episode). Now, again, I don’t care for Robert; in fact, the guy annoys me. But I was disappointed in the blue team’s tepid response. Come on, fellas, Robert just came home from the hospital — at least pretend you are a tad happy to see him (they didn’t).

The service’s biggest mistakes can be summed up quickly: Van sent out two fish dishes with plastic wrap still on the plates, and Robert cut his lamb too thin and prepared raw rabbit. At that point, Ramsay shut down the blue team’s kitchen. The red team, on the other hand, performed fairly well throughout the entire dinner, winning their very first service.

Elimination: Ramsay picked Dave as the “Best of the Worst” on the blue team, and Dave offered up Robert and Van for elimination. Ramsay also had Andy step up as an elimination option. Now, by this point, Robert and Andy hate each other’s guts, so they started swearing at one another like sixth-grade Little Leaguers. This bickering made it easy for Ramsay to tell Van to step back in line, and Sir Gordon ultimately booted Robert off the show. His reasoning: “You’ve had more services in Hell’s Kitchen than any of these (chefs), and that last dish you sent me this evening, it was raw.” You won’t hear any complaining from me about Ramsay’s decision, and I’m pretty sure you PopWatchers have already begun doing cartwheels.

Ranking: Okay, so now that we’re seven episodes in, I think it’s time to have our first stab at ranking the contestants by probability of winning:

1. Kevin – Has yet to be nominated for elimination and has yet to make a major blunder. He’s quick on his feet (see his improvisation with the figs) and appears knowledgeable and assertive.

2. Ariel – Also hasn’t been nominated yet. I feel we still don’t know much about her, which is most likely a sign that she does her job competently and without added drama.

3. Dave – I doubt Ramsay would put Idiocracy‘s Dax Shepard in charge of Araxi Restaurant, but Dave has done well the past few weeks, despite having his arm in a cast. He also hasn’t been nominated yet.

4. Suzanne – Her teammates hate her, but she hasn’t been nominated yet and is the closest thing the red team has to a leader. Her age (only 24) may work against her, though.

5. Van – Except for this week and Episode 2, he has performed admirably and is generally a likable guy.

6. Sabrina – She seems to have it together for the most part, but it’s going to be difficult for her to get past serving that raw pork last week.

7. Amanda – Has been nominated twice and seems ill-equipped for the stress of Hell’s Kitchen (crying in front of Ramsay is a big no-no).

8. Tennille – Entertaining, but she already has three strikes, and last week’s showdown with Ramsay will ultimately come back to haunt her.

9. Andy – He’s already been nominated three times and simply hasn’t shown the cooking expertise required to progress much further on the show.

PopWatchers, do you agree? Disagree? Oh, and as for last week’s “disappearing chicken” contest, I selected two winners: Mark, who said that “Fox signed the chicken to its own reality show starting in January,” and No Can Cook, who revealed that “The chicken was kicked out of the kitchen after it asked Chef for a breakdown of his decision to cook it.” I had inordinately expensive prizes for both of you, but wouldn’t you know it, they disappeared as well. See you all next week!