”Hell’s Kitchen”: Armed-force feeding
I apologize in advance for the general lameness of tonight’s HK TV Watch, snorkels: Four days covering Bonnaroo, one smashed rental car, flight delays in Chicago, and lost luggage have deposited me back home in L.A. having not slept for 24 hours and with no pity for our young kitchen contenders who can’t heat up hash browns properly. Yet I tip my dusty cap to this show for delivering its third straight episode containing a genuinely surprising chopping block, even if Aaron’s inevitable collapse was nowhere near as dramatic as it could have been. I was really hoping he’d catch on fire. Either I’m going to hell…or I’m already there!
We opened on the fallout from the Rock-Josh power struggle; meanwhile, the hella-sympathetic Julia was up late studying to catch up with her more skilled competition. A short four hours later — oh, to have four hours of sleep! — the troops were awakened by reveille, courtesy of the U.S. Armed Forces, and sent out into the kitchen to make breakfast for the Army and Navy. Aaron needed help putting his pants on, because he was cramping in his camo pj’s. There are just some things I never want to see again, and that man clutching at his groin and toppling about is one of them. Eventually, however, he made it out to the line, and the challenge was on.
This meal was obviously Julia’s chance to shine, and shine the Waffle House cook did, flipping omelets with panache when not tearing up at the sight of men in uniform. Joanna, on the other hand, was sending out raw potatoes with little remorse. In the blue kitchen, Aaron was burning eggs and whimpering, of course. But none of these things were as surprising as Bonnie’s hair, which — after the producers made a point of showing her emerging hastily from the shower looking like ”a drowned rat” — appeared at service fully fluffed in a fashion that probably required no less than an hour of styling to achieve. I try not to question your accuracy, reality shows, but when you pull stunts like that…well, call it a trust issue.
Breakfast was eventually served (”If I’d known I’d get my food quicker, I would’ve joined the Army,” quipped one sailor as he waited for his bacon), the girls won easily, and they headed off for a reward on an aircraft carrier while the men stayed behind to peel a literal ton of onions and potatoes.
This would be the point at which Aaron fainted, falling backward and crashing into the base of a stove. (The stove, sadly, was not on.) Away he went in the much-touted ambulance, and later in the episode we got to witness the HK equivalent of a Donald Trump Fake Business Moment when Chef Ramsay called Aaron’s hospital room to tell him he had a ”serious illness” and couldn’t return to the show. ”Alrighty then,” squeaked Aaron (Bunny? Bunny, is that you?) and somehow managed to get through his final pathetic confessional without crying. Still, I am legitimately concerned about that guy (and not just because we may never know what his ”serious illness” is, outside of, you know, being completely unequipped to handle life on this planet), and wherever he’s ended up, I hope he’s okay. Fight on, Chunky Asian Cowboy. Fight on.
Dinner service, on both sides, was a disaster. Rock got called a donkey for tossing the risotto like an omelet and immediately began to refer to himself in the third person; Brad, who was supposed to be leading, got caught scraping burned pastry off a Wellington; and Joanna and Bonnie struggled with the appetizers, the former actually trying to send out spaghetti cooked with rancid crab. Gordon slapped Vinnie in the chest with a raw egg, and for a brief moment, I thought our friend the ”nightclub chef” (whatever that is) was going to slug his boss, but he eventually stepped down. Then, in the most disturbing moment of the night, Jen pulled spaghetti out of the trash and put it back in the pot. I trust you, my snorkels, to riff on this ad nauseam (zing!) in the comments, but let’s start here: I hope to God that pasta was at least on a doily.
Round about here, Gordon’s sentences had to be bleeped out to such a degree that they became incoherent lumps of syllables, and he shut-tit down, declaring the girls the losers and not even bothering to anoint a least bad. ”Piss off,” he told them, sending them back to the dorm, where Joanna nominated herself and the white girls teamed up to nominate Julia, because she doesn’t know how to make a crème brûlée. (Crème brûlée…let’s see….That’s basically pudding that’s been blowtorched, right?)
But here’s tonight’s shocker: When the girls came back out for elimination, and Joanna announced that the second nominee was Julia, Jen — crazy, puppy-dog-eyed, trash-picking Jen — stepped up and said, ”I’m the next nominee, Chef.” Who saw that coming? I sure as hell didn’t. And hey, way to preserve your integrity and your slot on the show, Jen, for Joanna’s rancid-crab incident and generally piss-poor attitude got her coat fishhooked, and you lived to cook another day.
Next week: More shocking shocks, according to Fox, and unlike every other reality show ever, I’m inclined to believe them. What do you think, snorkels? Was Aaron’s flameout a letdown or a welcome relief? How long would it logically take to peel a ton of vegetables? How many real prep cooks do you think this show hires to work behind the scenes? And while we’re on the subject of food, has anyone ever stir-fried spinach, squash, mushrooms, zucchini, and pickled ginger? You should. I had it at Bonnaroo this weekend, and it was excellent.