By Jami Lundborg
April 17, 2009 at 06:09 PM EDT

Hallelujah! The element of surprise has FINALLY returned to Hell’s Kitchen…sort of. There were a few genuine events on this week’s episode, including an actual surprise goodbye and an unexpected resolution to last week’s not-at-all-shocking announcement that Ramsay was shutting down Hell’s Kitchen. Oh, and Ben is still grating on my nerves like a screwdriver-in-a-pencil-sharpener. Still, I can’t complain too much considering that last night’s episode didn’t send me into a boredom coma.

The “suspense” from last week’s announcement wasn’t even given timeto sink in before Ramsay announced that the chefs weren’t actuallygoing home (say what?!), but instead were going to Atlantic City’sBorgata Hotel, home of the winner’s head chef position. I have toadmit, this was not the resolution I was expecting. The chefs wererather pumped, of course. So the next day, the chefs headed to Jersey;sippin’ champagne on a private jet. Danny, dressed like a hunter rightout of the backwoods of Michigan (holla!) in his wood-themed ball cap,seemed about as natural with that champagne flute as a PETA member in amink. And while we’re on the subject, Ben rocked (or not) a variationon the Miami Vice look, pairing a black T-shirt with a dress coat. Someone get these boys to Tyra Banks, stat!

The next day, the chefs ate with some restaurant big wigs. Then camesurprise number two. Shortly into the meal, Robert politely excusedhimself from the dinner and left the room. I was hoping the big guyjust needed a potty break, but I had a feeling that was wishfulthinking — and I was right. We cut to the poor guy sitting down,complaining of chest pains to the Borgata paramedics. While all thiswas happening, the show would intermittently cut to the rest of thechefs wondering where he went, and saying they hoped he was okay. Um, then go see if he’s okay.Doy. Not one of them moved. Robert could’ve been lying unconscious onthe floor for all they knew. Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, butseriously, people who are genuinely concerned don’t sit around andposit about what bad thing may have happened. They check to see.Compassion folks, look it up.

The rest of the team headed back to Hell, while Robert’s hearttroubles kept him in the hospital. A few days later the chefs gatheredin the dining room for Robert’s return. Ramsay greeted him with anaffectionate “hey, big boy” (it sounds kinda naughty here…it wasn’t)and asked him how he was feeling. Turns out, Big Rob was diagnosed withpericarditis, a swelling of the sac around the heart, and would not becontinuing in the competition. Everyone said their goodbyes and Ramsaytold him “you had the potential to win this competition,” and then,never one to tiptoe, “now give me your jacket and leave Hell’sKitchen.” Oh Ramsay, you choke me up. And with that, we said goodbye toRobert. I, for one, have mixed feelings about his departure. At times Ifound him a bit too crude, but I was also drawn to his goofballpersonality. Either way, he definitely added something to the show andhe’ll be missed.

These two events took up so much of the episode that I was almostthrown for a loop when Ramsay announced the challenge. Oh, right. Thisis a competition. The chefs were required to create a signature dishand the winning meal would grant that competitor safety fromelimination. And thus began Ben’s second week of majorlymisplaced confidence. Before starting his dish, he bragged to thecamera that this would be “one for the textbooks.” Does he realize thatevery time he falls flat on his face, gaggles of viewers are watchinghim do it? So, of course, everyone’s dish was deemed delicious – exceptfor Ben’s. Ramsay picked Andrea (who had some face-plants of her owntonight) as the winner. Andrea was safe. However, I was alreadydoubting the likelihood that anyone would get the ax this weekconsidering Robert had already left us. But, I decided to keep myskeptic pants folded neatly in my closet and go with the flow.

Ah, dinner service…the murderer of dreams. The strangler of hope.People go in with spirit and pluck, and come out completely pluckless.Andrea had the roughest night. She served raw scallops, then overcookedthem. She fell behind on the salmon and dory (Finding Nemo!),and then when it did go out, it came back raw as well. I’ve noticedthat once Andrea screws something up and her confidence is shaken,she’s unable to regain her composure. She spends the rest of the nightin a flustery state of panic. Ben, however, mucked up the night butstill came out with an abundance of confidence. He sent out cold puree,which Ramsay spit out and then mocked him by bizarrely stating “I’mgood…I’m from Chicago.” Um, whoa. Leave Chicago out of it, man! TheWindy City is not to blame for its inhabitants. Anyhoo, Ramsay kickedBen out of the kitchen (yawn) and, if I’m not mistaken, called him adoughnut at some point. Haha, doughnut. Genius.

Come elimination time, the chefs argued about who would face theRamsanator and Ben had the gall to call himself talented. Andrea maysuck, but at least she’s aware of it. As expected, Ramsay toyed withthem a bit and then informed them that no one was leaving hell thisweek. Next week looks to feature more Ben/Andrea catastrophes, makingit abundantly clear that Danny or Paula will take the win. My money’son Danny. Who’s with me?

So PopWatchers, were you surprised by Robert’s departure? Are youhoping for Ben to go next? Or Andrea? Who do you peg for the winner?