By Darren Franich
July 21, 2010 at 06:28 AM EDT
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Eons ago, the world was covered in darkness. God had not yet created heaven. Mad Doctor Gordo had not yet created hell. George Washington was still carving America out of Pangaea, using his all-powerful hammer and sickle. Into this shapeless void came a Talking Demon from beyond the beyondest beyond. This demon annoyed the crap out of everyone. No matter how hard you tried, you just could not shut it up. The citizens of Earth (mostly vampires and robo-dinosaurs – this was about 5 million BCE, long before the dawn of man) banded together to imprison this utterly annoying Talking Demon in the Negative Zone. Unfortunately for the universe, the horrible demon was released in the summer of 2010 to participate in a reality show. (You gotta do something to shake things up in season 7.) The Talking Demon was rechristened Autumn, because Autumn is the most annoying season of the year.

Do you doubt this tale I am spinning? The remaining chefs on Hell’s Kitchen don’t. Blue Jay and Red Ben spent most of the episode staring blankly into the Confessional camera, asking variations on the question: “Why the f—ing f— is she still f—ing here?” It’s a good question. Is it because the Hell’s Kitchen producers enjoy splicing quick-shots of Autumn wearing her bra into their montages? Is it because Chef Ramsay has gone loudly insane, and none of his minions dare tell their emperor about his nonexistent new clothes?

I have a theory, which I’ll get to later. First, let’s take a look at the terrible traps Gordo laid for his poor mice last night.

Golly, That Book Has A Great Cover!

Last night, I took a break after watching the first hour of Hell’s Kitchen to go grab dinner with some friends. When our first choice restaurant fell through, we ended up at an eatery called Ninja New York. The food was expensively mediocre, but it was served by a cabal of quick-witted ninjas. They set things on fire, and held fake swords up to our necks, and occasionally popped up out of nowhere just to give us a good scare. We had an excellent time. Which proves definitively: image is everything. This is the lesson Chef Ramsay was attempting to teach his charges last night. The first challenge was all about presentation. Your food mustn’t just be great: it has to look great, too. Ed created a dish that looked like a slice of sea bass wearing a parsley hairpiece. Jay created a dish that looked like the Ewok Village. The jury of culinary students, clearly not fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, gave Jay fifth place.

Tanya Steel of Epicurious was on hand to judge the actual taste of Ed and Ben’s dishes. She preferred Ben’s dish, which looked like an edible Salvador Dali painting. That meant Ben won a free full-body makeover and a photoshoot. Gordo positively blushed when he described Benjamin’s spoils: “You’ll get a manicure!” he drooled. “And a haircut!” Celebrity chefs need a lot of pampering. This leads me to the first part of my theory: Hell’s Kitchen is not a show about contestants battling to be the best chef. It is a show about contestants battling to be the best celebrity chef. By comparison, consider a bizarro-world sixth-grade Spelling Bee. The winner doesn’t spell the words right: they just have to sound like they’re spelling the words right. Suffice it to say, Sarah Palin would win this Spelling Bee every time.

Meanwhile, back at the kitchen, Blue Jay and Holli flirted. “You spray, I polish,” said lovergirl. “That’s what she said,” said loverboy. Jay laid it out for us: “I have two goals in this game. One is to win. My second is to sleep with Holli.” I’m hoping he achieves neither, but I’m afraid he’ll do both.

Dinner with the EGOT

Ben’s hair was perfect. His cooking was not. “They’ve cut your f—ing hair off, they’ve taken your brain!” yelled Gordo. It was a bad dinner service all around. Gordo wanted a leader. The best he could find was Holli, who does her level best to pick up the slack of her teammates. (As Jay might say, she fills all the cracks.) Meanwhile, Ed imploded, Jay stammered, and Ben got on Gordo’s bad side. Said the Chef: “It’s so easy for you to ruin things. Well, let me tell you something: you’ve ruined my night!”

Ed and Benjamin got the boot three hours into dinner service. (Ed: “It was my fault.” Ben: “It was Ed’s fault.”) Too bad for them, they missed the VIP guest: Whoopi Goldberg. My response to her late arrival was exactly Jason’s: “F—! Whoopi! S—!” As befits an EGOT winner, Whoopi gently ribbed Chef Gordo, claimed to enjoy the food, and smiled. What a classy lady. I miss Hollywood Squares.

Elimination #1

Red Ben and Blue Jay used to be enemies, but now they speak with one voice. (Clearly, they recognize the inherent wisdom of the Duogarchy Solution.) In the elimination room, they hammered the same point: “Autumn, you squeak by. You are not a good chef. We have tried to get rid of you twenty times.” They also picked on Ed, who stared blankly into space and said nothing. And so, the first hour’s elimination was a repeat of last week’s: Ed and Autumn. (This continues the running trend of this season: Chef do bad. Chef get another chance. Chef do worse.)

Gordo considered. In his infinite wisdom, he said, “Autumn.” Was it real? Was he joking? Yes! “You’re getting better. Back in line.” Viewers, she’s invincible. All-powerful. Un-get-riddable. Bye-bye, Captain Awesome.

The Ten-Dollar Challenge

The bruised egos on Team Testosterone were fuming. Jay: “I don’t understand why Autumn is still here.” Jason: “One of us will probably go home before that [complicated woman].” Meanwhile, over on Team Estrogen, Autumn was taking a good hard look at herself: “All I can do is keep being perfect.” Mad Doctor Gordo watched them all from his subterranean cellar far beneath the earth’s crust. “They have learned an important lesson about leadership,” he whispered to himself, “But I have neglected to teach them about frugality. For there will be years of famine after the years of plenty. So says me, Caesar Gordonius the First.” On his way back to the surface, he swam through his money bin and grabbed fifty dollars in Sacagawea coins.

All the contestants had ten dollars to spend. They had to buy cheap food, then convert that into a dish that could be ludicrously overpriced. (Autumn’s cumulative total for her goods: $9.99. Which is 666 upside-down. Come on, people.) On hand to judge: Chef Joaquim Spichal. (Gordo pronounced his name like it is spelled, which was his first mistake.) Dana Bowen, of Saveur magazine. (Gordo made her name rhyme with “Banana.”) And Vern Lakusta, the general manager at Gordon Ramsay West Hollywood. (Gordo pronounced his first name with two syllables.)

The judges liked Jay and hated everyone else. Until Holli. She had a hybrid concoction: kumquats, bacon, parsnips, and tuna. Somehow, it all came together, further proof that Holli is peaking at just the right time. Gordo dubbed her Queen Holli and offered her a fun day at the luxurious Peninsula Hotel, with a buddy of her choice. She chose Jay, nominally because he came in second but actually because she secretly yearns for a plumper, azure-haired Ricky Gervais.

We saw the pair flirt. PopWatchers, I’m at a bit of a loss here. Holli seems like a totally together 24-year-old. Jay could make the phrase “double-entendre” sound dirty. But the heart wants what the heart wants. Jean-Phillippe attempted to chaperone the pair. He spoke lightly of marriage, and champagne, and the finger things in life. His pleas fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Autumn did not stop talking for twelve hours. Benjamin was driven to madness. Jason tore out his own eardrums, and was much happier for it. “I was on Soul Train,” said Autumn to no one, “Did I tell you that?”

There followed a vision I will never be able to get out of my head. Holli and Jay were in the hot tub together. Certain moves were made. Someone said something about a particular “position.” Things were going all Big Brother, fast! Cue the arrival of the Talking Demon, who settled into position as the Third Wheel and ruined the fun sexy time.

Total Dinner

In the 70s, the Dutch National Football team pioneered a new form of soccer, which they humbly called “Total Football.” It’s difficult to describe Total Football, mostly because I have no clue what it is, but it basically indicates that all players can play all positions. A defender will grab the ball and carry it forward to strike on the goal; all other players on the team react like magnets. As you can see in this video, it looks sort of like a gang of orange goldfish moving as one graceful orange octopus.

Chef Ramsay, who was a famous soccer player in one of his past lives, tried to adopt this strategy in the kitchen last night. “You’ll switch stations constantly,” he said. In theory, this would teach the players all about the value of communication. In practice, this meant that every five minutes the gang would play Musical Chairs and screw up each other’s food. “Someone be a leader!” communicated Gordo, who then stepped out for a quick moment. Benjamin tried to be a leader, but Sous-Chef Scott told him, “F—you you f—ing s—t—, don’t ever come up to my p— and try to take my f—ing place.” Now that’s what I call communication! Said Benjamin, “Chef Scott ripped a f— big h— in my a—. This big! Viewers, I’ll admit it: I just have no clue what anyone is saying anymore.

(Aside: Is Chef Scott be the new Gordo next season? He said more expletives in two seconds last night than Gordo said in two hours. Second Aside: Just what did Gordo do on his mysterious “quick moment” outside of the kitchen? I’m vacillating between “phoned his wife” and “drank the blood of a virgin in order remain young and beautiful.”)

“Communication” is the big theme of this season. In every dinner service, Chef Ramsay gets angry at someone else for not responding to him instantly. Jay, Jason, Ben, and Holli have all been singled out for this. Not Autumn, though: the Talking Demon always has an answer, even if it’s nonsense. And this is the second part of my theory: The reason Autumn is still in this game is that Mad Doctor Gordo prefers people who are always ready to speak nonsense to people who think before they talk. This is why it’s entirely possible that Autumn will actually win this thing.

Elimination #2

“Are you f—ing telling me I don’t communicate?” said Blue Jay. That was pretty much the tone of the most exciting Elimination discussion yet. To rewind: Jay and Ben hate Autumn and Jason. Jason and Autumn hate Jay and Ben. Holli, the quiet voice of reason, wisely chose to cut the baby in half: she put up Ben and Jason. (“To be honest,” she said, “I wish Autumn had f—ed up.” Viewers, I’m in show-love. She’s my new pick to win.)

Gordo kicked out Jason, but he did so quietly and respectfully. “Thank you,” he said, “The journey is not over.” We saw a montage of Jason’s best moments. (Curiously, none of them involved him saying “X is the Jay-Z of Y.”) He asked an orca, “Is Jason going to win Hell’s Kitchen?” The orca nodded. But the orca lied!

What did you think of the latest two hours of infamy, viewers? Are we looking at a unisex final two? Or, even juicier, will it come down to semi-lovebirds Blue Jay and Holli? Seriously, is Autumn blackmailing Gordo or something? And who were you more sad to see eliminated? I thought Ed was great in the beginning, but I really warmed to Jason, and thought he had a legitimate chance at the title. Alas!

Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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Gordon Ramsay verbally abuses wannabe chefs. Bon appetit!
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