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'Hell's Kitchen' recap: Fran Pan Redemption

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There’s something adorably wrong about how Team Red lurks on their side of the dorm, anxiously chainsmoking and plotting their vengeance. So far, the men have dominated the challenges, and even the loss of Sharkboy and Shoeless hasn’t dented their fratty resolve. Meanwhile, the women chug their cancer sticks like generals on the losing side of the trenches. They ask themselves, “What the heck keeps on going wrong?” On last night’s Hell’s Kitchen two-parter, much tobacco was smoked and many losses were debated, but by the end, the power dynamics had been completely upended, and Cruel Dr. Ramsay was retreating to his laboratory, planning new methods to drive his contestants into culinary madness. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Challenge #1: Lunchie Munchies, mmm?

I was trying to figure out why Fox ran a two-hour episode so early in the season…until I got through the first half, and realized it was probably just because the first hour was a little bit bland. Take this first challenge, for instance. The chefs had to cook lunch for the USC marching band, including the famous Trojan cheerleaders. So, just so we’re clear: the challenge is Lunch. I get that this challenge was supposed to easy, but come on, there couldn’t even be a tiny twist? Like, maybe the chefs would have to cook while trombonist blurted the evil USC fight song in their ear?

Fortunately, a couple of cooks rose below the occasion and successfully screwed up. Jason’s salad took forever, Jamie’s burgers were too raw, and it all ended with Maria suffering a panic attack as she screamed, “Let’s go! Let’s Go! Oh my god!” At one point, the USC Marching Band started chanting, “We! Want salad! We, We! Want salad!” How adorable! This is why no one likes USC.

The ladies won by a nose, just enough to earn their first reward…

Reward #1: The Ramsay Bunch

The ladies put on their swimsuits/MILF outfits for a day at the beach. Gordo met them at the beach. “I challenge you,” he proclaimed, “to a game of soccer!” That didn’t sound so bad… but surprise attack! Little Ramsays suddenly ninja-appeared from out of nowhere. “This is Team Ramsay,” said Coach Gordo, “Megan, Jack, Holly, Matilda, Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Cindy, Megan Junior, Holly squared, Simon-Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke…” The ladies didn’t stand a chance against the Ramsay army. Holli had some minor costume malfunctions, got bodychecked by Chef Ramsay, and then seductively attacked the ball with her head.

Punishment #1: A River Bleeps Through It

The men put on bright yellow worker overalls, boarded a prison bus, and then arrived at the LA river, which is a “river” in the same sense that your toilet bowl is a “pond.” The boys found a whole gaggle of Lalaland flotsam: red hairspray, shopping carts, chandeliers, tire rims. I kept on hoping that Gordo would descend from the sky in a helicopter, dressed in a park ranger outfit, and lead the guys in a rousing chorus of “First you stick a rag / put it in the bag / bump bump!”.

(I felt a little bit bad for the charity organization running the clean-up. Clearly, Heal the Bay is doing important work, but Hell’s Kitchen made them look like a gang of fecal enthusiasts and body snatchers.)

Dinner #1: Burn, Baby, Burn

Fran burned her hand with oversalted water. (Eagle-eyed viewers will note that “Oversalted Water” and “Crab-Lobster Confusion” are the two running mistake-narratives so far this year.) But she tried to work through the pain, like so many great athletes before her: Michael Jordan, Kerri Strug, Maximus Decimus Meridius.

Gordo wanted to give the contestants a taste of what it’s like to be Jean-Philippe. He chose Holli, the second-prettiest contestant, and Salvatore, the prettiest of them all. They dressed identically in JP attire, although that did not give them JP’s incredible mutant power of “Writing Legibly.” Said Salvatore: “I don’t know how to write English.”

That caused some problems, and Gordo gave him a tongue lashing. Sal made for the exit. JP ran after his young apprentice. “Salvatore! Fight back, young man! Don’t take it personal, he names me so many different things!” Salvatore agreed to go back, but said, “If Team Blue do bad, I’ll put myself up the chopping block tonight.” Then he stared sadly into space and said, “Salvatore only pawn, in game of life.”

Over on Team Red, Fran just couldn’t nail her entrée. “Undercooked! Overcooked! I just want it f—ing cooked, woman!” said Boss Ramsay. Autumn, in a classic case of doing the right thing in the douchiest way possible, tattled about Fran’s ouchie. Dr. Ramsay insisted she go see the medic, who apparently lives in a little room under the stairs. Fran got patched up and returned to the field of battle.

Total time of dinner: four hours. Number of times Salvatore said something that sounds illegal: one. “I very apologize the food to be late,” he explained to impatient guests. “My teammate put extra love to the salmon.”

Elimination #1: It’s bad to be bad, but worse to be boring

Gordo handed the men a win. That meant it was back to the smoking section for the women. Nilka nominated Fran, but Maria had other ideas. Noting that Jamie’s catchphrase had become “I got it,” Maria commented: “The only thing you have is an excess amount of weight!”

Now, now, Maria, calm yourself. Jamie’s only really crime was being irretrievably bland, and that won’t cut it in Hell’s Kitchen. (Even her defense was lame: “My flavor profile is always spot on.”) Bye bye, Jamie!

Challenge #2: A roll of the dice

And hello, second hour! Part 2 of last night’s HK was much, much better. It started with Gordo giving Salvatore a little pump-up speech. Then, like an old cop joking with a rookie, he asked, “Is that suit Italian?” I listened to Sal’s response seven times, and here’s what I came up with: “Suit is a suit, Chef. Doesn’t matter. We cook it.” I’m almost positive I heard wrong: can someone else translate?

The next morning, Scott and Salvatore woke up early. They were friends, you see. Salvatore needed somebody to talk to, and Scott needed somebody to act as if his leadership was actually desired. (Props to the HK soundtrack people: whenever Scott started talking about his leadership ability, they played a hilarious mock-heroic theme in the background that made him sound like Zapp Brannigan.)

For the first challenge, teams had to roll an alphabetical die. Whichever letter came up, team members had to name an ingredient, and teams would have to organize those ingredients into a coherent dish. The men came up with Halibut, Endives, Salsify, Crab, Peas, and Bacon. Food fit for a King! The women came up with: Beets, Shallots, Mango, Ham, Turnips. Food fit for a Crazy Cat Lady!

In the kitchen, Autumn annoyed the women and Scott annoyed the men. “I like to help people grow,” said Scott, as the theme from Band of Brothers played in the background. The men put their ingredients together into a pan-roasted halibut with ragout and salad; the women invented a mango-glazed duck, with turnips stuffed with duck fat. Gordo the Hun found “Duck Fat-Infused Turnips” exactly as appetizing as they sound, and gave the men their billionth win of the season.

Reward #2: Diving Upwards

The prize? Skydiving! Jason was not happy. “Do I look like a bird? A condor? A f—ing pterodactyl?” Not to worry, Jason: The Skydiving was actually on the ground, inside of a vertical wind tunnel. Gordo stepped out of the wind tunnel, acting as if he skydives every day before breakfast. This proves definitively that Gordon Ramsay is, in fact, Hank Scorpio.

Punishment #2: It’s Go-Go, not Cry-Cry

The women had to clean up the restaurant. Tough work. Nilka: “I was sweatin’ like Whitney and Bobby on crack!” They had to get the food ready for dinner time. Buckling under the pressure, Maria had a cry session out back. Sous-chef Andi descended from her palace in the clouds to give Maria inspiration: “You need to stop being emotional. It’s gonna kill you.” Maria went back into the kitchen. Gordo said, perhaps absentmindedly, “Maria, get your pretty face over here.” Maria: “You think I’m pretty? Nobody ever thinks I’m pretty.” Weird.

Dinner #2: Cooking With the Stars

Celebrities were dining in the kitchen tonight! The women would serve Kevin Frazier, host of Entertainment Tonight (which – for the last time, Grandma – is not where I work.) The men would serve Debi Mazar, who Gordo told us was the star of Entourage, much like how Toadstool is the star of Super Mario Brothers. The show’s narrator informed us of some other stars in the dining room: Jay McGraw (Author, TV Host, son of Dr. Phil), Erica McGraw (Playboy Model, daughter-in-law of Dr. Phil), Barbara Niven (one of Hollywood’s busiest actresses, according to barbaraniven.com) and Carrie Preston (totally awesome actress, mother of Ben Linus, wife of Michael Emerson, presumably walked into the restaurant by accident.)

In the kitchen, Siobhan confused crabs and lobsters not once but twice. She tried to explain: “The crab was not crab. It was lobster.” Existential! But Gordo was in no mood for her university philosophizing. He wanted some fish, by god! And Salvatore came through for him. “Beautifully cooked. Now f— off, will you?” Jason: “Sal not only recaptured himself, but hit the damn ball out of the park with the fish.” (Pause to imagine Sal, having imprisoned himself in a steel cage, hitting a ball with a giant fish.) Meanwhile, Autumn earned the Gordon Ramsay Critique of the Night: “You handle fish like you’re a f—ing donkey.”

Elimination #2: Cut the Baby in Half

Chef Ramsay was pleased with service. “Gordo is happy,” he explained. “Gordo is pleased, but sticky.” He gave standouts Nilka and Salvatore a twisted reward: they would both have to choose someone to eliminate from their teams. Brilliant! It was pretty obvious who Nilka was going to choose: she insultingly referred to Autumn as “princess.”

Sal’s duty was much crueler. The choice was clear, but terrible. “You my friend,” he told Scott. “You help me a lot. Your mistake kind of big.” Scott: “I’m going to depend on our friendship.” Depend away, Scott! Sal put him on the chopping block, next to Autumn from Team Red. Gordo looked at Scott and Autumn, and saw the same person in male and female form. To Scott: “You talk like a politician. You’re full of s—.” To Autumn: “You’re the appendix of the Red Team. The one that everyone wants out.”

Who would he choose? “Both of you, take your f—ing jackets off!” Twist! “Autumn, you’re on the Blue Team. Scott, you’re on the Red Team.” Double Twist! Lord Gordon gave his subjects a reprieve. I’m betting they do even worse on their respective teams. But maybe, just maybe, next week it will be Team Blue lurking in the shadows, smoking Marlboro Reds as they plot vengeance and ponder how things got so bad. Is Scott, despite his uselessness, secretly a lucky charm? Is Autumn, despite her uselessness, secretly an amulet of evil? Only time will tell.

What did you think of the two-parter, viewers? Can we all agree that Nilka and Benjamin are the frontrunners, or do you think that Salvatore will coast to victory on linguistic tongue-twisters? Sound off below!

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