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'Hell's Kitchen' recap: Failure is the only option

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Image Credit: Patrick Wymore/FoxI imagine it would be interesting to be the sound editor on Hell’s Kitchen. No matter what you do, the showrunner’s instructions are always: Louder! More dramatic! I don’t care if it’s just overcooked duck, I want the background music to sound like the theme from Speed! Even the most mundane comments are spiced up with crazy sound effects. “The chicken’s cold.” Explosion! “Hm, it’s mild.” Laser blast! “The scallops will take about two to four more minutes.” Triple car crash and a man’s scream!

They don’t manufacture drama anywhere else quite like they do on Hell’s Kitchen, and tonight’s two hours of failure, expletives, and more failure was no exception.

Individual Challenge #1: Chicken, unlike revenge, is not a dish best served cold

The remaining chefs were going to prepare dinner for an elderly couple’s 50th anniversary, but first they had to show off their own versions of the dishes that were served at the couple’s 1960 wedding reception. Salvatore sabotaged the Blue Team’s chances with a pair of horrific-looking meatballs that weren’t so much Chicken Kiev as Chicken Pripyat, giving the win to the Red Team, who looked shocked at the fact that they actually succeeded at something.

The prize was pretty lame. A trip to a 50’s diner where they danced like Pulp Fiction rejects, drank kraters of neon-colored cocktails, and attempted hula-hooping. Back in the restaurant, the losers were setting up the dance floor for the incoming influx of blue-haired patrons (not to be confused with Jay’s actual azure coif.)

Dinner Service #1: $*#@, don’t you $()(@ on my &$(! unless you @#*$ with #@& @* and #$*@#^* !@)* crab cakes!

Service went predictably terribly. There were mollusks to be opened, which of course meant that someone was going to cut himself. Jay stepped up to the plate and took that one for the team, nicking his finger, a minor wound that was treated like he just lost an arm to a wood-chipper. On top of that, the crab cakes were cold, the chicken was salmonella-tastic, and Salvatore was a disastro at the garnish station. Ramsay was appropriately apoplectic, kicking trash cans and bleep-ing more than a broken Pac-Man machine. (The official curse count for the first episode was 46, narrowly beating out the 41 scattered like profane seasoning throughout Hour Two.)

What I love about the Hell’s Kitchen dinner service is the pure ridiculousness of the notion that this place could ever function as an actual restaurant. I mean, honestly, what’s worse as a customer? Your Beef Wellington being a little cold? Or a furious Englishman screaming profanities at the top of his lungs like a sailor with Tourette’s who stubbed his toe while you’re trying to have a quiet dinner conversation? I keep waiting for someone to go up to him and say, “Yes, I understand the salad was under-dressed, but you now have my four-year-old saying ‘f—ing retard s—nugget.'”

In the end, the Red Team lost and picked Fran and Siobhan for elimination, which, on this show of arbitrary decisions and pure Ramsay-originating entropy, meant absolutely nothing. Ramsay unilaterally decided that the Blue Team’s Salvatore needed to pack up his accent and go back to whatever fake version of Italy spawned him, proving once more that competing in Hell’s Kitchen with Ramsay in charge is a lot like playing Monopoly with a toddler: You can try to play by the rules, but in the end he’s just going to do whatever the heck he wants to do and probably scream a lot.

Individual Challenge #2: Which ‘wich is which?

With Salvatore out of the picture, it was four against five. More specifically, a leaner, meaner four, against a dysfunctional, mainly incompetent five. The second episode’s starting challenge was to create a personal gourmet sandwich, and most of the contestants actually rose to the occasion and managed to draw unicorn-rare compliments from Ramsay’s pursed lips. But the Red Team pre-emptively decided to exclude Siobhan’s Frankenstein creation, a move which worked out against them in a twist that Alanis Morissette would have possibly found ironic. So the Blue Team won the right to hop on a jet plane to wine country and get ‘faced, while the others had to stay behind to shell peanuts.

Breaking with reality show tradition, which dictates that the audience should not be made aware that the stars are being continuously plied with alcohol, the Blue Team got thoroughly drunk onscreen off of “fruit-flavored Grenache,” particularly Autumn who sloshed and giggled like a sorority girl on nitrous. Presumably making a wrong turn on their way back to L.A., the castmates then seemingly found themselves on the set of Jersey Shore, as an inebriated Ed stripped down to nothing in the hot tub while his equally inebriated housemates looked on.

Dinner Service #2: “Rubbery as ping-pong balls” and other Ramsayian near-misses

Hungover and sick as dogs, the Blue Team seemed to be at a disadvantage, but it quickly became evident that it would take a lot more than wine headaches and residual loss of motor control to turn them into a worse team than their opponents. Luckily for us, the more terrible the cooking usually means the better Ramsay’s bon mots, and tonight Fran’s risotto inspired the beautifully crafted line, “You’re as consistent as pigeon s— in Trafalgar Square.” Oh, snap! Admiral Nelson would be proud.

Siobhan totally botched the scallops and then only made things worse by trying to make excuses. Personally, I don’t find her as annoying as others do. Her arrogance and self-righteousness just reminds me of a plucky little street urchin, the little Gavroche of Hell’s Kitchen always fighting back and waving her fist angrily and ending up more adorable than annoying. Of course, like Gavroche, her cocky spirit would be her undoing, and like an abusive governess, Ramsay sent her out of the kitchen to “eat her mistakes.”

Again the losing Red Team nominated Siobhan and Fran for elimination, but unlike last time, Ramsay deigned to actually choose one of them and, in the end, Siobhan got the boot, while Fran was left to undercook another day.

Ramsay then told those who remained that they were the best half (translated as “the least terrible half”) and he expected a lot from them in the days to come. It’ll definitely be an interesting showdown with the three people who actually possess a marginal sliver of competence (Jay, Ed, and Benjamin) still left in the contestant pool, but I maintain that it will never be as fascinating as my ideal reality show: Following the winner of a season of Hell’s Kitchen as they run the Savoy Grill straight into the ground with their bare minimum of culinary knowledge, leading Gordon Ramsay to pull out his hair attempting to keep the business solvent.

Those who watched the two full hours, what did you think? Are your ears happy that they will no longer have to listen to Salvatore’s bizarre butchery of English or Siobhan’s constant complaining? Does anybody laugh as hard as me whenever Ramsay angrily kicks a garbage can and the whole room shakes? And what percentage of people eating at Hell’s Kitchen do you think end up with food poisoning?

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