By Darren Franich
August 04, 2010 at 05:00 AM EDT
  • TV Show

Image Credit: Patrick Wymore/FoxOh, Benny boy: The spine, the spine is aching! Poor Benjamin overexerted himself cleaning all the broken dreams out of the Hell’s Kitchen dorm. And we oughtn’t forget the weight of the world, which sat unsteadily on Ben’s sagging shoulders. The HK medic emerged from his home under the stairs, but he could find nothing physically wrong. The medic called his old enemy, the HK chiropractor, who cured Benjamin”s spinal column but couldn’t save his soul. So Benjamin ascended the stairs to the throne room of Caesar Gordonius the First, who sat behind his desk in an ergonomic swivel-chair specially designed for him by the Squid-Men of Triton.

“I can’t cook on the line,” said Benjamin. His overlord stared across the tale, pondering, confused. No one ever taught Gordo the meaning of the word “can’t.” In days gone by, Doctor Gordo would have torn Benjamin’s head off and served it with risotto. But the time of yelling was done. It was time to teach his chefs a valuable lesson. About inspiration. About leadership. About what it means to be human. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Birth of the Power Lunch

The penultimate episode of this Hell’s Kitchen season began with an obligatory shot of Autumn in her bra. Chef Andi demanded that the four remaining contestants dress nicely. The ladies looked good. Benjamin matched an ill-fitting coat with off-color pants and an old-man tie, but he gets points for trying. Jay wore exactly the same thing he always wears. “You look like a sack of s—,” said El Gordo, who silently promised to buy Jay a pile of tight-fitting Anderson Cooper T-shirts if the Blue-Haired One can pull off a win.

Gordo shared a meal with his chefs, and then demanded that they make the food from scratch. (Sometimes he does this to his relatives at Christmas dinner, just for the heck of it.) Jay cooked his meal beautifully, but couldn’t tell the difference between venison and beef. Autumn didn’t realize that pancetta was not the same thing as bacon. That left it to Holli vs. Benjamin for the win. It was a tough choice. No it wasn’t. Holli for the win, again!

Holli earned herself a ride on a luxury yacht, which proves yet again that the Hell’s Kitchen producers have used up all the good rewards somewhere between “anti-gravity booth” and “talk to the whales.” Up in the dormitories, Benjamin did his best to make his defenders (like yours truly) look like saps. “If I lost to Autumn, I’d be suicidal,” he explained, while also chastising Jay’s “fancy-pantsy food.” Oh my, Mister Benjamin, I didn’t realize I was in the presence of a proletariat working-class hero! This from the guy who says rice is poor food. Monocle monocle monocle!

It’s Like Flying, But On The Water

Witness the return of the Adorable Son and the Uncomfortable Baby Daddy! Eagle-eyed viewers who tried to parse Holli’s interaction with Phil were probably only more confused after last night. After noting that Phil was her “best friend,” she promised, “I’m gonna take Phil and my son to London.” Hulk is confused by this family dynamic!

The Clean-Up Crew

As much as I want to make fun of Autumn for all her talky-talky-talky (“The fish are playing tag!”), this episode continued one of the most interesting storylines of the season: the other contestants’ complete inability to snare the moral high ground. Besides Benjamin, who petulantly insulted Autumn behind her back whenever Dr. Gordo refused to acknowledge his brilliance, you had Blue Jay, who presided over this little gem of human interaction:

Autumn: I look like a dominatrix.

Jay: I was thinking more like an idiot.

Um, hurtful? I think this is why this season has felt so frustrating for us viewers. We don’t necessarily need a shining hero to root for, but can’t the rude contestants at least be a little bit charming in their douchebaggery?

Crisis of Faith

Benjamin made a big stink out of the ouchie on his back. The editing hilariously crosscut between him proclaiming, “I can’t even lean over,” and him leaning over to pick up his bag. I’m no stranger to back pains, and I’m willing to believe that he was genuinely struggling. (In the Confessional booth, his eyes had that tired-painful look.) But come on, man, buck up! If I can write a Hell’s Kitchen recap through the haze of a half-bottle of painkillers and a double shot of horseradish vodka, certainly a visit from a handsome chiropractor can cure what ails you.

But it was not to be. Which is how we found Benjamin ascending the stairs. Doctor Gordo considered how best to inspire his apprentice. (Did you catch that large painting behind his desk? I’ve consulted my art history textbooks, and it appears to be a Renaissance-era portrait of Zeus casting Doctor Gordo into the pit of Hades, where he opened his first Michelin-starred restaurant.) He told Benjamin he believed in him. Benjamin appeared to think it over for two seconds, and then proudly told his fellow chefs, “I’m going to cook tonight.” His back was cured! And Gordo didn’t even need to touch him! Let’s see Obi-Wan Kenobi do that.

Scott’s Sabotage

Why doesn’t Sous-Chef Scott have his own show already? He borrowed Christian Bale’s Batman-voice and Jason Statham’s head, and whenever he appears on the show, Hell’s Kitchen feels a bit more like its old, hilariously sociopathic self. Chef Ramsay installed each of his remaining contestants front and center in the Captain’s seat, but he also ensured that Scott would intentionally confuse them, like a Russian spy behind enemy lines on Facebook.

Scott’s lobster-crab subterfuge couldn’t confuse Jay, who ably took control of the Kitchen. (Let’s be fair, viewers: Blue Jay”s the only chef left who can cook and lead. If he doesn’t win, I’ll eat Werner Herzog’s shoe.) Scott’s comrade JP pulled one over Holli with the Ol’ Missing Person trick. “Holli sucks,” said Benjamin. Then Benjamin couldn’t tell the difference between venison and lamb. Instant karma!

That left Autumn as the final head chef. And she was a terror. “I need everyone to say ‘Yes, Chef!'” She commanded. She rubbed everyone the wrong way. Especially Doctor Gordo, who looked at her in much the same way that Frankenstein looked at his monster. When she dared to giggle, you could tell that, at long last, Doctor Gordo was going to send her into the mists. “Chef Ramsay hates laughing,” said Autumn. Don’t forget rainbows.

…And Pillars of Flame Descended from the Sky

“Autumn, you’re my first choice,” said Jay for the thousandth time. Everyone else agreed. And alas, everyone also agreed that Benjamin should go. Benny boy protested. “I busted my ass. I worked my ass off.” Pause to picture those things happening at the same time. Gordo sent Autumn home. It only took the entire season.

Then two fiery screens descended from the ceiling. Only two would advance. Who would go home? Not Jay: he’s had only a few minor hiccups and a season of mastery. Not Holli: never once voted up for elimination, she’s in the midst of a late-season bloom. That left only Red Ben. Farewell, Silent One.

What did you think of the episode, viewers? Are you satisfied with the final twosome? I’m tempted to say that Holli will take it all just by virtue of not screwing up, but I’d say that Jay looks pretty unbeatable right now. Then again, the old chefs are coming back…and never underestimate the ability of the chefs on Hell’s Kitchen to screw up anything.

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Gordon Ramsay verbally abuses wannabe chefs. Bon appetit!
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