By Darren Franich
July 28, 2010 at 05:00 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Image Credit: Patrick Wymore/FoxThe He-Man Woman Haters Club was throwing an emergency meeting. Red Ben was feeling fat and sassy after last week’s near-miss Elimination. “I’m gonna f—ing bury these girls,” he proclaimed, echoing the words of Premier Kruschev. Blue Jay joined in the Testosterone Fest: “I have every intention of making them look silly.” The camera cut away, but I imagine the fellows spent the rest of the evening taking shots of Jager, playing Smash Brothers, and finally, giving each other manful hugs.

It turned out that, much like the first five minutes of old-school Simpsons episodes, this sequence had very little to do with the ensuing episode of Hell’s Kitchen. I was as excited as everyone else last week when this scene was teased in the preview – oh wow, two people forming an alliance! But of course, Hell’s Kitchen isn’t really an “alliance”-style reality show. More problematically, it’s not really clear what kind of reality show Hell’s Kitchen is, at least not this late in a troubled season. After a lame competition, a lame reward (oh wow, I’m on a blimp!), and a lame dinner service, the episode fizzled out into vaguely rah-rah oblivion.

I realize that it’s inviting madness to try and figure out where the editing stops and the contestants’ personalities start (certainly, to judge by last week’s comment boards, some of you think that Autumn is getting unfairly sliced to bits in the editing room.) But without getting into the specific questions (like whether Autumn is annoying or just talkative, and whether Benjamin is a brilliant introvert or a douche) we can all sense that something is just a little bit…off. It feels as if the makers of Hell’s Kitchen are trying to juice every single scene with five different kinds of insanity. “Is this competition a bit quiet? Quick, put on the mock-blaxploitation music and cut to Holli lightly bantering with her bachelor pupil! Instant flirtation! High-five!”

That kind of editing works fine for individual episodes, but over the course of the season, it feels a little bit like watching a schizophrenic ballet. And because so much focus is given to how the HK contestants screw up, nobody ever really seems to learn anything. I had a weird realization, watching the contestants teach their “four young cool dude bachelor” pupils how to cook monkfish. Now, the bachelors were all thumbs. One guy didn’t know what the “Extra Virgin” meant in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Come on, dummy, it means they sacrificed more virgins to the volcano the month before they extracted that olive oil. Everyone knows that!) But really, the bachelors didn’t seem anymore incompetent than any of their chef-instructors…who are actually competing on a cooking show.

Anyhow, Blue Jay won the competition, so he took his lady-love Holli for a ride on a blimp. On planet earth, Autumn talked to Benjamin and Benjamin despised her for it. For Dinner Service, Chef Ramsay allowed his chefs to choose their station. Holli took Fish and did fine. Jay took Appetizers and did fine. Benjamin took Meat and quietly imploded. Autumn took garnish and managed to ruin one of Holli’s fish.

I really don’t mean to pick on Autumn – she’s probably the most entertaining person to watch on the show (except for those rare nights when Sous-Chef Scott mixes hate-roids into his afternoon coffee.) And Benjamin has been slowly turning more petulant with every passing week. (Also, I get so unspeakably annoyed when he answers Chef Ramsay’s call with a “Oui, Chef?”) But Benjamin is clearly a better chef than Autumn. The only problem is that Benjamin seems utterly lacking in communication skills – the one thing he actually could learn from Autumn. As it is, he has to suffer from Gordo screaming at him, “Benjamin, talk to your Brigade!

Apparently, despite all the yelling, dinner service was very good. No food was sent back to the kitchen. Blue Jay stepped up to assume the reigns of leadership, so Gordo cursed him with an awful blessing: he would have to select two people to send home. Up at the dorm, he said, “Autumn, you’re my first choice.” (I liked how exhausted he sounded when he said that – as if he already knew that there was no point in nominating Autumn, because Mad Doctor Gordo will attack Canada with a zombie army before he lets Autumn leave Hell’s Kitchen.)

One thing to note: while Benjamin rambled on about all the reasons he should stay, Holli stayed mostly silent…and Autumn ultimately stood up for her. I’m not sure Jay was ever going to send Holli up to be eliminated – the tide is turning against Benjamin, and has been since before the teams merged – but it still had to hurt when Dude betrayed Bro. I was a little bit worried, from Gordo’s skeptical glare at the nominees, that he was going to pull a Reverse Twist and send Holli packing.

I needn’t have been worried. Oh, viewers, this is all just a cosmic joke. Gordo regarded the nominees. He said, “Autumn.” Up! Dup! Wup! Yes? Maybe she’s leaving? That is the “person leaving” soundtrack, so she must be…”Get back in line!” NOOOOOOOOOOO! “Benjamin.” Awww, too bad. Well, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out with only three…”Take yourself back in line!” Ahh, Doctor Gordo, you fooled us again!

There followed a surprisingly moving hang-out with the contestant’s loved ones. Autumn’s handsome boyfriend and her best friend listened patiently while Autumn talked. Jay’s mom and stepdad cheered him on. Holli hugged her 4-year old son… and not to be an utter gossip, but did things look awk-WARD between her and the baby daddy, or what?

What won it for me, though, was seeing Benjamin hang out with his wife and daughter. Especially for a contestant who’s seemed almost terminally frosty all season, it was a kick to see him dote on his child and smooch his beloved. I dunno, people, I’m still kind of rooting for the guy, even if it seems like everything (talent, the universe, the producers of Hell’s Kitchen) is building to a Jay-Holli showdown.

What did you think of the episode, viewers? Didn’t you love it when Chef Ramsay, by way of calling Jean-Philippe, said “Where’s the Belgian?”

Episode Recaps

Gordon Ramsay verbally abuses wannabe chefs. Bon appetit!
  • TV Show
  • 8
  • Pending
Complete Coverage