By Jami Lundborg
Updated March 20, 2009 at 08:16 PM EDT

Tonight’s Hell’s Kitchen served up a hearty plate of drama, and yet I was left hungry and unsatisfied (luckily I always have chocolate on hand). The blowups, arguments, and surprises were abundant, but the show sometimes felt more staged than my elementary school Care Bears play. To give credit where credit is due, however, the phoniness this week was nowhere near as transparent as last week’s J.P./Fransisco debacle. And there were a few genuine surprises (J.!) and some hurl-your-remote-through-your-TV moments.

To kick off the challenge, Ramsay presented the chefs with a selection of tapas-stylemeals. Tapas-style cooking would be the theme for the dinner service,and for the first challenge the chefs were each required to make theirown dish using only leftovers. To even out the teams, Ramsay movedGiovanni over to the red team, which proved beneficial to the ladies.The drama began immediately, courtesy of Lacey (surprise!), when shestarted her trademark whining. Robert complained about her to thecamera, calling her a “fat bitch.” It seems that over the past fewweeks they have been embroiled in a contest to see who can call theother one “fat” the most. Riveting stuff, isn’t it?

Aside from a few little tidbits (Carol thought she’d cooked her dishin soy sauce only to be informed by Ramsay that it was actuallybalsamic; Ramsay told J. that his dish looked “slightly phallic”),the chefs’ presentation of their dishes was largely uneventful. Giosealed the victory for the women with his dish, but not before breakingfor commercial during a tie with Ramsaytorn between Gio’s and Ben’s dishes. In the words of Oscar Wilde “The suspenseis terrible. I hope it will last.” Or not. (And yes, I know that WillyWonka used that line too, but jerk stole it from Wilde. Word.)

So, the men were given the chore of preparing both kitchens for thetapas dinner service that night, while the women were sent off to ahorse race. Ramsay smiled and goofed around with the women. And Iswooned. A little. Meanwhile, we cut to the kitchen where Laceyliterally stood like a stump while the men worked around her. Then shecomplained about not being an equal. Really? Then, after someverbal scuffling with the men (mainly Robert), she declared “I quit!”and stormed out of the room. But, don’t panic. Ben coaxed her backagain. I must say, despite the unhealthy amount of rage I feel for thedoe-eyed disaster, I can’t help but wonder if she really is thisunbearable when she’s not participating in a reality show or if perhapsshe’s playing it up a bit for the sake of drama. Either way, I’mdiggin’ the dopey music that starts playing whenever Lacey is shownbeing, well, Lacey.

The big surprise of the night was J.’s “elimination.” Things startedout poorly for him when the risotto was inedible due to the fact thathe had seriously overcooked the rice (it looked like it could have beensmoothed out and served as mashed potatoes). Then he messed up thesalmon, which prompted Ramsay to take him aside — into what I havedubbed “”The Panic Room,” due to the fear it is meant to instill in ourculinary hopefuls –- and scream at him. The poor guy just didn’t have achance when shortly thereafter he presented rubbery scallops and Ramsayordered him to take off his jacket and leave, right there in the middleof the service. Now J. was clearly not chef material, but hisaw-shucks, mild-mannered demeanor made it hard to watch Ramsayruthlessly dismiss him. I knew it was his time, but I was sad to seehim go.

The men never recovered from J.’s impromptu removal and Ramsayturned the pickax on Ben, who was having a rough time of it himself. Onthe red team Carol and Andrea screwed up the pasta and so, in thekitchen equivalent of facing the corner wearing a dunce cap, Ramsaymade them sit in the dining room and literally eat their mistake.Paula, meanwhile, turned out a perfect Wellington, confirming my theorythat she’s the one to beat -– despite the fact that her knack forstaying out of the drama is rewarded with limited screen time.

Needless to say, the red team won. Ramsay, however, told everyone tothink about one person they don’t want on their team. This, of course,was totally pointless given that J. had already left and thereforeanother elimination was not needed. All the men pick Lacey, of course,but alas Ramsay sent no one else home. Lacey remains and people allover America shake their fists in the air. Calm yourselves, fellowviewers, we must give in to the fact that Lacey undoubtedly elicits themost passionate (read: pissed-off) responses and is that not the point of reality TV?


Most puzzling quote of the night: “If you win this, I will hang upmy coat and become a crackwhore.” –Robert to Lacey during theirpre-elimination squabble.

So PopWatchers, where do you stand on Lacey? Were you sad to see J. go? Does the show seem too scripted to you?