April 03, 2009 at 06:27 PM EDT

One of the “charms” of reality TV is the unpredictability that is supposed to come from throwing a bunch of different personalities together in an unscripted environment and watching the drama unfold as they compete in various challenges or engage in acts of debauchery. Hell’s Kitchen is quickly losing that charm. The show, which is constantly being plugged as “controversial” and “ shocking,” is beginning to feel more and more like one of those America’s Funniest Home Videos clips where a little boy is hitting a baseball to a man standing a few feet away and you know immediately that the ball is crotch-bound, but you watch anyway. Before I even sat down with my trusty notepad, blanky, and butter pecan ice cream, I knew that tonight’s show would have a dose of Carol/Andrea bitchery, a helping of profanity and incompetence, and a juicy “surprise” elimination. All the elements were there, and the highlight of the show was still my butter pecan.

The challenge and theme of the show this week was preparing kingcrab, obvious by the terrifyingly large dead crab on a plate next toRamsay. Each chef had to prepare a unique crab dish and then decide asa team which dish was good enough to be presented to Ramsay for a tastetest. Now I will admit that I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to living creatures (I even feel a twingeof guilt when I kill creepy crawlies), but was the visual of all thosebig crab corpses being tossed about the kitchen sickening to anyoneelse? And why so many close-ups of their faces? My nausea aside, thered team decided that Andrea’s dish was the chosen one, and the menpicked Ben’s. Carol worried that Andrea’s decision to leave the shellson her dish would bite them in the ass, and for once her Andreanitpicking was spot-on. Ramsay disapprovingly dangled the severed limbin front of Andrea’s face and told her that her dish was “bland anddisgusting.” Ben fared no better and Ramsay called forward Paula andDanny to replace them. Both were predictably delicious, but Ramsaydeemed the blue team the winners.

As punishment, the red team was required to clean the dorms andprepare the crabs for the next day’s dinner service. The men got tohang out on the Santa Monica beach with the Ramsanator for the day.They gleefully cruised around the beach on Segways, except from Robert,whose size mandated that he ride a bike instead. We were once againprivy to the fun side of Ramsay (he even took a spill into the sand)and so I must reiterate how handsome the Brit can be when heturns that frown upside down. But that’s not the point of this shownow, is it? (Just so we’re clear though, I would totally watch a showlike that.) Meanwhile, back at the kitchen, the women pounded andslammed on the backs of the crab carcasses with such force andaggression that I half expected the crabs to scream in agony. Perhaps avegetarian shouldn’t watch this show, yes?

Dinner service the next day had a bit of a twist. The teams wouldeach be serving their own menus consisting of three appetizers, entrees(one of which had to be crab, of course), and desserts. So Ramsay sentthem back up to the dorms to plan out their dishes, which resulted in afun little digression in which Ben tried to explain what pomme fondantwas to Danny and Robert, who were so bewildered by the term that theyeach repeated it a gazillion times to the camera. “Pommes fondant?” What is this strange language?Now I myself had to call up my French-language source to find out whatit was when a Google search proved only that I had no idea how to spellit — but I am not vying for a head chef position, now am I?

The service had its usual snafus. Gio under-seasoned his appetizersand Ben over-seasoned his soup. Gio’s bland appetizer prompted the mostentertaining (if not completely believable) moment of the night whenthe recipient of said dish decided to approach Ramsay herself tocomplain and whistled to get his attention. Now, whofor-the-love-of-all-that-is-courteous whistles for assistance? Ramsayresponded by telling her “Don’t whistle at me. I’m not your f—in’dog. You look more like a dog than I do.” Completely justified. Theappetizers, however, were the least of the problems. Carol screwed upthe potatoes she had been bragging about throughout the night, and thenwhen she attempted to fix them, Ramsay took the pan from her and threwthe entire thing away. Her meat kept coming back from the dining roomfor being incorrectly prepared and she had what was easily the worstperformance of the night. Somehow, however, the customer comments werebetter for the red team and so Danny was ordered to pick one of histeam members for the axe. Danny picked Ben. Now, it’s moments likethese where Hell’s Kitchen needs to shake things up. In usual fashion, Ramsay called bothBen and Robert up, and made it seem as though he was seriouslyconsidering sending one of them home. Then – GASP! – he sent Carolhome. Maybe my cynicism is sucking all the suspense out, but did anyoneseriously not see that happening? It seems the show tries sohard to deliver the surprise eliminations that the “shock” has becomethe norm. Everything seems predetermined and every week seems to offerthe same stale ingredients: “unexpected” cuts, endlessly bickeringteammates, not-so-genuine confrontations or conflicts, and so on. Maybewe only tune in to watch Ramsay swear and spit, but is it too much toask for just a peppering of authenticity to spice it up a bit?

So PopWatchers, did you see Carol’s elimination coming? Do you thinkit was deserved? What do you think is the “shocking announcement” innext week’s preview?

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