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'Hell's Kitchen' recap: The risotto always cooks thrice

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The second episode of Hell’s Kitchen saw the emergence of what might be this season’s main conflict. On one side: Autumn, who only wants to help her teammates. On the other side: her teammates, begging her to please take her help elsewhere. Unfortunately for them, Chef Ramsay likes Autumn. If you ask me, he can sense a superstar. I’m not sure I would eat at a restaurant managed by Autumn, but I would definitely watch a reality TV show about a restaurant managed by Autumn. I can’t say that about any of the other contestants so far. Scratch that: I’d love to eat at “Blue Jay’s Way,” but only if all the food they serve is colored blue.

The ladies started the episode with recrimination after a tough elimination. The dudes were over in their lounge, duding it up. Everybody just wanted some sleep, but Mad Doctor Ramsay never sleeps. His minions served the contestants an early morning snack of Giant Alarm Clock, and they processed down to the kitchen for the day’s first challenge.

Eggtown

Each pair had to make four different egg dishes: poached, soft-boiled, sunny side up, and scrambled. Scott bragged that he was “well-versed in the process of cooking eggs. I’m self-described as being a badass in the kitchen.” (Watch this guy: we’re still in the early, freak-centric part of the season, but once we get down to the real competitors, I’m betting he’ll become everpresent, and very annoying.)

Gordo demanded that Siobhan cook on her own. The second the cooks hit the kitchen, Autumn took the initiative: “Siobhan, work with me and Fran!” Now, I thought this was a brilliant move that showed lots of initiative. Gordo disagreed. When he found out that Siobhan didn’t cook all of her eggs, he was livid, fuming, mad, mad I tell you. Siobhan started crying: “Autumn made me do it, my lord!” she said, tears streaming down her face. I couldn’t tell what Gordo was more disturbed by: her disobedience, her tears, or the fact that she took five minutes to poach two eggs. Since she only cooked the poached plate, he only tried that  one, and gave us the Gordo Angry Compliment of the Night: “That’s delicious! One Point! F— off!”

The women ended up losing the challenge by a mere one point. Everyone took this as further evidence that Autumn is the devil. Well, allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. Autumn wasn’t really cheating; as far as we saw, Gordo never once said, “Don’t help each other out.” She was just thinking laterally. Changing the rules of the game. Like Captain Kirk with the Kobayashi Maru, or like your family at Christmastime when you’ve been playing Monopoly for three hours and you start doing hostile corporate takeovers. Also, notice that the one egg of Autumn’s that Gordo actually tried – it was soft-boiled – was “Delicious.” By comparison, consider Fran. Autumn’s nemesis (I’m considering calling her “Spring”) couldn’t manage to impress Chef Ramsay with either of her eggs.

Meanwhile, Scott played the role of Autumn for the men. He convinced Salvatore to throw his finished scrambled egg back in for some extra crispiness. The result: zero-gravity scrambled eggs. Gordo isn’t an astronaut (yet), and was unimpressed. Sal tried to explain. “I’m not the best person in the house, at least I don’t [inscrutable Italian]”

His n’ Hers, Upstairs/Downstairs

The women were punished, the men were rewarded. Gordo apparently hunted down the fish that swallowed Jonah, because Team Red had to carry a gigantic tuna into the kitchen. While they slaved, the dudes were hanging out with Chef Ramsay’s mild-mannered alter ego: “Gordon,” a fabulously wealthy black T-shirt model who enjoys helicopters and forcing women to carry dead things.

Oh, and did we mention the helicopter? Andrew: “I feel like a high-class sumbitch! I seen Los Angeles like I never seen it in my life! And this was the first time I seen Los Angeles!” Victorious music! Beaches! Splitscreens! The fellas shared some champagne and a rooftop dinner with their magnanimous master. Gordo bantered back and forth with Sal about the ladies. “When did you lose count, Sal?” “Round thirties, forties. Chef, they going to think I’m a manwhore!”

In the kitchen, Maria picked up the anti-Autumn flag: “She’s cutting the meat in half and she didn’t take the skin off! She [inscrutable string of expletives]. I dunno about her, she’s fishy.” Not that Siobhan was getting much love from her teammates, either. (By the way, not to state the obvious, but what’s with Fox reality TV shows and women named Siobhan?)

The Shoeless Dinner

Oh, where to start? Salvatore was thrown out of the kitchen ten minutes before service started because he couldn’t name any of the desserts. “I get freezen,” he explained, “I start the bluhbluhbluhbluhbluh.” After sending him up to the dorms to study, Gordo quizzed him again. For a second it looked like Sal couldn’t pull it off: “My heart was beating like a Ferrari, like, boomboomboomboomboom!” But bluh boom bang! Sal named the desserts, though he forgot the panna cotta, which furthers the theory that Sal is approximately as Italian as a Leprechaun O’Leary.

Team Red noticed that the water tasted a little bit salty. Autumn asked, “Did someone resalt it?” Instant Flashback to two minutes earlier: Autumn, pouring a megaton of salt into the water! She refused to take responsibility, which proves she lacks moral character and will be extremely successful in life.

And Mikey, poor Mikey, just couldn’t manage the risotto appetizer. He claimed to like his risotto a little bit undercooked. Gordo disagreed, and told him to try again. After forty-three minutes, Mikey’s second effort made it out to customers. “It’s a little undercooked,” said Customer 26B. Back for a third go-round, The Three Cookings of Melquiades Estrada.

Team Blue lost their balance, and they never really regained it. Jason undercooked his chicken, prompting Gordo to comment, “So the f—ing chicken’s raw, and you’re f—ing frying it like a first-class [couldn’t tell what he said, maybe d— or c—?]

Not that Team Red was doing much better: Nilka briefly seemed to make an attempt at leadership, but she got lost in a near-catatonic state. Jamie’s salmon was greeted with a hearty handslam. “That wouldn’t pass as f—ing kitty cat f—ing cat food!” said Gordo.

But the real story here was Andrew, who appeared to go crazy. (To be fair, if his food had been better, we would’ve called him “eccentric.”) He was talking to himself, or maybe the food: “What do I need? What do I need? I need to get out of the f—ing weeds, that’s what I need! What the hell do you think I need?” The result was potato soup by way of Dickensian gruel. Gordo was angry. Andrew unwisely met his anger with some weird combination of deference and sarcasm. Jason thought that was a bad idea: “You don’t talk back to the man! He’s like the Jay-Z of restaurants!” (So he reached his artistic peak during a public feud with Nas?)

Gordo pulled Andrew out of the kitchen and into the dining room for an epic slam that ranks at the top of the season so far: “You’ve got nothing right, you don’t care, you’ve got no respect, and you know what, you’re a f—ing joke to the industry!” The guests were horrified! (Does this mean Gordon Ramsay is declaring war on farmers?) Andrew waltzed out the door. JP ran after him, and quoted directly from The Devil Wears Prada: “There are I don’t know how many people who would be willing to be in your shoes right now.” Andrew: “They can take my shoes, JP.” And then, viewers, HE TOOK HIS SHOES OFF! I miss him, but he’s already historic.

This election is rigged/British!

If you’re like me, you’re intrigued enough by global events to have followed the recent election in England, but too lazy to actually understand how the hell their system of government actually functions. I think I finally understand, though, afer closely studying how Gordo led the contestants through the elimination last night. To wit:

1. Not every contest has a winner. Minister Ramsay proclaimed that neither team won a bad night, and declared that each team would have to put forward their nominees to go home.

2. Votes are based on curious minutiae, unlike in America where we all wisely flock to the scandal. Jay and Benjamin led a caucus against Jason and his raw chicken. Sal’s name was mentioned, briefly. Left off the ballot? Mikey and his undercooked risotto. Meanwhile, Autumn’s oversalted water did not endear her to her teammates, who blamed her for their poor performance and also for global warming. Maria, making faces: “The basics! The BAY-sicks!”

3. Your votes don’t really matter, because more powerful people will ignore them. I’m betting that Gordo recognizes something of himself in Autumn. Certainly, he didn’t cotton to her nomination by the rest of her team. “Is Autumn the worst cook on the red team?” Everyone shook their head. “Who is?” Maria, ever-helpful: “Jamie!” Instant replacement!

That left Jason and Jamie, and the loser was: Mikey! Yes, Gordo went with the guy that nobody even thought to pick. I thought he was a bit rough on him, considering the Hell’s Kitchen tattoo and all. Still, Mikey seemed happy enough, which is more than you can say for Team Red, which looks about ready to descend into pitfighting, and Team Blue, which went from having a perfect score to losing two men in one night.

What did you think of the episode, viewers? Are you with me that Autumn is getting a bad rap? Were you sad to see Andrew go? Can Sal stay forever, please?