By Keith Staskiewicz
Updated August 11, 2010 at 12:56 PM EDT

Image Credit: Patrick Wymore/FoxIt’s your third anniversary and you and your wife are going out for dinner. You arrive at 8:45 for 8:30 reservations and the maître d’, an oleaginous and well-tailored Belgian, tut-tuts at your tardiness but shows you to your waiting table. You’re a little surprised at the décor: The restaurant is essentially an enormous warehouse filled with cameras and klieg lights. Oh well, you guess that’s just modern dining.

The maître d’ leaves you your menus. For some reason, there appears to be only one option for each course, dependent upon where you are seated. You try to wave him back to ask if there’s some mistake, but you are interrupted by the clang of a dropped pan. There is a silence, as everyone’s eyes, and cameras, shift over to the open kitchen area. And then…

“You f—ing donkey! You swine-faced barmpot arse! I have a palsied Gran who’s more graceful to you, and she lost a foot to f—ing diabetes!”

What is going on? You look around the room, but no one else seems to be surprised by this. “What kind of restaurant did you bring me to?” your wife asks, frightened. You’re at a loss for words, as well you should be. This isn’t a restaurant. This is Hell’s Kitchen, where you are sent to dine only after you have lived a life of the most mortal culinary sins. You try to stand up and leave, but the lights blind you. Suddenly, a man with the folded face of a bulldog is screaming English-accented obscenities at you while three cameramen circle, unwilling to help. You grab your head and feel warm tears running down your cheeks and you just want it all to stop, to please stop, to just please stop already.

And it does stop, eventually. Because this is the season finale and it is once again time for Gordon Ramsay’s Hour of Torment and Ridicule to draw to a close.

SPOILERS Holli won. Little ol’ Holli with the minimal experience came from behind to beat La Fata dai Capelli Turchini and win the coveted sinecure at the Savoy London. A real underdog story. Although, to be fair, with the amount of kitchen incompetence the series played up all season long, anyone winning would be a come-from-behind victory by virtue of the fact that they made it to the end without accidentally tripping and falling into an oven or getting their hair caught in a pasta maker.

And the award for Most Improved goes to…

Jay wanted to have sex with Holli. I know this because of the subtle sexual tension that permeated the room whenever they were alone together, and the coy, surreptitious glances he tossed in her direction. I also know this because Jay said that he wanted to have sex with Holli. Also, every time they embraced the show’s score segued into porno synth riffs.

But with only an hour (40 minutes minus commercials) running time, the show didn’t have time to spend on this and so it was quickly, quickly on to the challenge. Ramsay presented the two finalists to a roaring crowd who were clearly lured there under false pretenses, probably with the promise of a U2 concert or free alcohol. Jay and Holli then had to scramble to put together five courses in an hour, which was kindly transformed by the miracle of judicious editing into a mere 30 seconds of us watching the crowd watch them watch their steak cooking.

Highly trained chefs from Ramsay’s European restaurants tasted the courses, each remarking upon how delicious and practically transcendent they were. One even said he’d be willing to put either of the meat entrees onto his menu. If we are to believe this, that means that somehow these two have gone from being inept good-for-nothings to Michelin-rated masters in a matter of weeks. Yes, Jay and Holli were always two of the more competent of the contestants, but that’s like being the coolest kid at math camp. Both of them threw their best (read: most expensive) stuff at the judges—caviar, foie gras, wagyu and kobe beefs—but in the end Jay prevailed. The crowd cheered and then promptly left to find their free booze.

A well-furnished Malebolge

Six kicked-off chefs were dredged back up to divide themselves between Jay and Holli, and Siobhan was picked last since choosing her would be like choosing the one-legged kid for a kickball team. Holli was stuck with her while Jay got former front-runner Ben.

Meals were planned, “foie gras” was pronounced 16 different ways, and trash was talked. Ramsay then asked the final two contestants into his office, an invitation I’m guessing is as anxiety-inducing as being bidden into the leathern and pipe-smoky study of an imposing professorial father. I just want to know who designed that place. Picture frames that clearly still had the photos they were sold with, a model sailboat, a gilt tissue box, rows of books that I assume were bought by the yard and are in Swedish like the ones at IKEA. And that painting behind the desk, which, based on the quick glimpses I got, was of an Amazonian warrior felling a monstrous serpent beast that I believe is a metaphor for overcooked beef.

Ramsay informed them that he was sending them to Australia, and then ceremoniously handed over two chef’s uniforms, which I hope weren’t the same size. Pumped up, they went back downstairs, gave their pep talks, and it was on like “Donkey” Kong.

So close and yet so dumb

You’d think that after such rave reviews in the challenge, we’d finally see a decent dinner service. But no, everyone was stumbling, fumbling, and bumbling at the finish line. Oh, and crumbling. Also, there was quite a bit of grumbling. Come to think of it, is there any positive verb that ends with -umbling? Because if there is, they didn’t do it. The scallops were burnt, Jason undercooked the lamb, Autumn bit off more than she could chew, and Holli kept yelling “lobster veg,” a phrase that made me slightly uncomfortable for reasons I can’t readily identify. On top of all that, Nilka cooked the heck out of the venison until it had the leathery texture of Mickey Rourke’s skin. Oh, deer.

Still, in the end, everyone was eventually served, including Holli’s adorable tyke who proclaimed the food to be delicious. Finally it came time for the moment of truth. Jay and Holli put their hands on their respective door handles while something akin to “Ave Satani” played for maximum drama. The signal was given, and Holli emerged victorious. The crowd went nuts, Jay graciously accepted defeat, and Holli’s cherubic little boy went in for the hug. It was all quite aww-some, even though I’m pretty sure that her son’s sweet-pitched “I love you, Mama” was added in post, possibly by Ramsay himself. In celebration, Ramsay grabbed a bottle of champagne, shook it up and let loose all over the fussbudget Jean-Philippe. It was the maître d’s sparkling wine-soaked face that was the final lasting image, a mix of mild excitement, confusion, irritation, and tired resignation that pretty much summed up the feelings we, the viewers, have after yet another season in Hell.

We’ll miss it until it returns next season, but at least we’ll finally all get a much-needed break from the aural assault and overall exhaustion that is watching Gordon Ramsay. Wait, what’s that? MasterChef’s on next? Aw, *bleep*.