Gordon Ramsay, Hell's Kitchen
Credit: Patrick Wymore/Fox

Howdy, PopWatchers. To compensate for depriving us of Hell’s Kitchen last week, Fox kindly aired two back-to-back episodes last night. However, in all honesty, the episodes were so similar that they have merged to form one massive HK blob in my mind. This isn’t to say that last night didn’t feature a number of developments, including the first instance of Chef Ramsay walking out of the restaurant altogether. Plus, the episodes did have a reoccurring theme: The downfall of Van. We’ll get to Mr. Sweaty Tamale soon, but first things first…

Episode 10

Suzanne joined the blue team, and Kevin, Dave, and Van weren’t too thrilled about it. As the three guys lectured Suzanne on what they expected from her, we got a glimpse of an orange ashtray, and holy mother of nicotine, that ashtray was being used. Suzanne, Dave, and Van were all smoking cigarettes, but that still doesn’t explain the sheer amount of ash in that tray, which might as well have been sitting under a chimney for the past 100 years.

Team challenge: Ramsay greeted the chefs via a TV monitor. He was visiting Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia (this season’s winner, lest we forget, will become that restaurant’s head chef), and he ordered both teams to each create three entrees using 15 ingredients from Whistler. Once Ramsay was back, he introduced two guest judges: Professional skier Jonny Moseley and figure skater Sasha Cohen. A friend of mine mistakenly thought Sacha Baron Cohen — not Sasha Cohen — was appearing on the show, and that would have been awesome were it true. Alas, we were stuck with Jonny and Sasha, who picked the blue team as the winner by a score of 4-2.

Reward/punishment: The blue team dined at Campanile in Los Angeles, while the red team was sent to a local farm for menial labor, such as milking cows, moving hay, and feeding the animals. Tennille revealed her destiny as a veterinarian by saying this: “We had to go feed the sheep and the whatever-the-hell-it-was.”

Dinner service: Each team was asked to design its own menu. That process went smoothly for the blue team, but the red team struggled to embrace Tennille’s suggestions while Sabrina failed to provide any input whatsoever. And then there was the service, which became a parade of one mistake after another. The major blunders: Van cooked too many scallops and was baffled when Ramsay asked him what two times three was; Ariel (who had been nearly flawless this season) undercooked her pork; Van burned his scallops; Ariel’s ravioli dish was cold; Sabrina was a sloth at her rib-eye station; Van got scolded by Ramsay for not cleaning up some spilled sauce; Sabrina’s halibut was raw; and, finally, Van’s halibut was raw as well. Van’s halibut met a fate much worse than being tossed into that plastic trash bin. Ramsay summoned everyone to gather around and observe the undercooked halibut, and then — bam! — Ramsay smashed the halibut straight to hell with his palm. “Halibut exploded all over my face,” Dave recalled. Just one of those days, ya know?

Elimination: Ramsay shut down both kitchens and asked each team to nominate a chef for elimination. The red team picked Sabrina while the blue team opted for Van, and Ramsay told Sabrina to pack her bags. Sabrina’s departure was bound to happen sooner or later, and I doubt anyone here could convince me that she deserved to stay in the competition any longer.

Episode 11

Team challenge: The remaining six chefs received their black coats, meaning no more red and blue teams. The chefs were split into three pairs — Van and Ariel, Tennille and Kevin, and Suzanne and Dave — as they took on the “Taste It, Now Make It” challenge. Ramsay presented a dish, and the teams had to recreate it based solely on tasting it and looking at it. Dave and Suzanne came the closest, being the only team to have correctly identified the passion fruit that was used in the entree.

Reward/punishment: Dave and Suzanne ate lunch at Ramsay’s The London West Hollywood restaurant while chatting with Christina Machamer, the winner from Season 4. The rest of the contestants had to prepare for the night’s service.

Dinner service: It was couples night in Hell’s Kitchen, and Ramsay selected Kevin to run the special tableside service throughout the evening (could this be an indication that Ramsay has the most confidence in Kevin?). The kitchen, on the other hand, was a disaster, and Van was at the center of the culinary catastrophe. First, Ramsay noticed that Van’s sweat was dripping into the food, and unlike Stephen Colbert, Van’s bodily fluids are not in high demand. Then, yet again, Van’s halibut was raw. Ramsay took Van backstage and threatened him. “You have got to get a grip,” Ramsay said, warning the chef that his next mistake would get him kicked out of the kitchen. Then Ariel burned her lettuce garnish. It was all too much for Ramsay, who walked out of Hell’s Kitchen with Sous Chef Scott — a first in the show’s history. With Ramsay gone, Tennille took the lead, and the chefs started sending out the dishes themselves.

Once Ramsay returned, he kicked Ariel, Suzanne, and Van out of the kitchen. Backstage, an infuriated Van started losing it. He cursed. He spit. He complained about how Ramsay was hounding him. And he uttered this sexist-tinged remark: “I’m a man, don’t treat me like a b*tch!” I had already grown weary of how often the men use the word “b*tch” to refer to various female contestants (Robert did so a number of times, and Kevin said the word to describe Suzanne in the previous episode). Now, Van not only used the derogatory word, but he also emphasized the fact that he should be treated a certain way because he was a man. Machismo never fails to confound me.

Elimination: Kevin, Dave, and Tennille finished the service, and Ramsay commended Tennille with this gushing statement: “That’s the best I’ve ever seen anybody cook meat.” The trio had to nominate two chefs for elimination. Although they felt Van and Suzanne had the worst service, they decided to nominate Suzanne and Ariel instead (the strategy being that since Ariel is a better chef than Van, it’d be advantageous to eliminate the stronger competition). But Ramsay then asked Tennille for her opinion, and Tennille admitted that Van belonged on the chopping block. Ramsay agreed and eliminated Van, and, inexplicably, Tennille had tears streaming down her cheeks. Why was she sad to see Van go? There was no indication that she was that close to Van; in fact, she yelled at him during the service. So I’m flabbergasted by her reaction. Was it because she had blindsided Dave and Kevin by personally nominating Van? PopWatchers?

This week’s rankings were pretty easy to determine:

1. Kevin

2. Dave

3. Tennille

4. Ariel

5. Suzanne

PopWatchers, how did you fare during two whole hours of Hell’s Kitchen? Are you pumped for the final few episodes? And do you think Kevin is going to cruise the rest of the way to victory?