As Corey, Christina, and Petrozza take turns running the kitchen, they get sabotaged by the sous chefs, and Corey loses because of premature saucing

Good evening, my little white zinfandels, and welcome to the continuation of Hell’s Kitchen: And Then There Were Three. After last week’s not-particularly-surprising-except-to-Jen departure of Jen, our remaining cheflings turned out to be a remarkably nonoffensive bunch. There was Petrozza, the lovable pumpkin stuffer and the most redeeming character on reality TV in a year, unless you count David Cook, which David Archuleta fans probably don’t; Corey, the tall, tough blonde who played this game likeKitchen Survivor but had the skills to back it up; and Christina, our teary, tenacious culinary student, who’s used moxie and talent to win almost every individual challenge. The weak link here was, I think, obvious — and I’m proud of Chef Ramsay for making the right choicetonight. I’m also a little sad to see that right choice go, but I’ve got plenty of reasons to feel compassion for difficult tow-headed girls, and I doubt that’ll ever change.

After a celebratory night — ”Congratulations, beeyatch,” Corey said to her frenemy Christina as they turned out the light — it was a nervous morning as the cheflings headed downstairs for the final challenge. Those nerves were calmed once family members started walking in: Corey’s mom and boyfriend, Christina’s parents, and Petrozza’s dad and girlfriend. (Side note: Why is the obligatory family visit still such a shocking, weepy surprise to everyone on every reality show ever?) They all sat down to a meal personally cooked by Chef Ramsay, but only Christina caught on to what the challenge might be, and after (of course) crying a little, she and her mom started picking apart the dish, guessing its ingredients. ”Cream,” said Mom, about five times. Meanwhile, both Corey and Petrozza were more interested in the hang time than what might come next. Thus did Christina enter the ”Taste It, Now Make It” challenge with a significant advantage.

The dish turned out to be venison with a white-bean puree and some sort of raspberry hoo-hah in the sauce. Christina got it all but the cream (duh) and the raspberry. (Corey had miraculously guessed the latter ingredient but shot herself in the foot by cooking buffalo instead of deer. I remain unconvinced that buffalo is edible, so I could have prevented that error if she’d asked.) And so the student continues her progress toward becoming the master — ”Hey, I won again!” our queen of pith merrily exclaimed — and she headed out on yet another reward, during which she and her parents got to take a progressive eating tour of L.A. with Ramsay, and she got to take one of the tops she won last week out for a spin. Back at the ranch, Corey and Petrozza were on bar duty, crushing ice while making caveman noises and wiping spots the size of ”one-celled animals” off water glasses at J.-P.’s request. Punishment appears to be about 75 percent less bitter and horrid without BBJ around, eh?

NEXT: Head ’em off at the pass

All back together again, it was time for the last dinner service. Hell’s Kitchen devotees will recall that this is the one where each chefling gets a chance at running the pass and, in order to prepare for that trial by fire, Ramsay also hosts a short acting seminar (or ”weird therapy,” as Petrozza called it), encouraging the kids to holler at him for a change. Much like last season, I didn’t buy any of their performances. Ramsay thought Christina, for example, came off like a cheerleader (which she found insulting), and Corey needed a little shattered china to get into character. ”Nice girls don’t make good chefs,” Ramsay told her, and I wondered if we’d met the same Corey, who has proven herself to be a lot of things over the course of the season, ”nice” not being one of them. Too late to dwell — it was time to open Hell’s Kitchen.

With the turn taking at the pass also comes the annual sous-chef sabotage, with Scott and Gloria pitching in to get dinner out and also occasionally screw up on purpose. While Petrozza was on the hot plate, though, there was way more to worry about than Scott’s risotto with missing peas (which he didn’t catch) — Christina was crashing and burning at the fish station. ”Do you wanna go home?” bellowed Ramsay. No…but desire alone couldn’t save her from turning into what she called a ”hot-ass mess.” Most interesting thing here was Corey’s actually compassionate encouragement of her frenemy during this moment of need. What’s the opposite of showmance? Fake-tred?

Next up: Corey, whose biggest problem at the pass was an inability to read the ticket — or see that it was one entree short. She further failed by not tasting the sauce before pouring it over a Wellington, leading to a new holler from Ramsay: ”You’ve sauced it! Game over!” When Christina’s turn came, though, Corey made up for it by cooking perfect meat, while her blond counterpart set about barking orders. My favorite exchange of the night:

Christina: ”Move your ass!”

Chef Scott: ”She better watch it, or I’m really gonna smack the s— out of her.”

Arguably, Christina did the best job up at the pass — though, as usual, the third chefling in the challenge has the upper hand of knowing to look out for sabotage, and Christina had no problem catching basil in the mint mashed potatoes. Overall, though, service was completed with little drama and was deemed very good. Chef told the contestants they hadn’t made it easy on him, so they must all go up and nominate someone to head home. ”We knew this was gonna suck,” said Petrozza once they got upstairs. Corey, wisely, just reminded everyone not to take anything that got said personally. Still, our goateed father figure was struggling, and claimed it was the hardest decision he’d ever made in his life. Even your cynical ol’ Aunt Whittlz found this moment a bit moving. Maybe I’m a sucker for goatees.

NEXT: Two out of three ain’t bad

So, Corey nominated Christina, who she said had a tendency to be a ”deer in the headlights.” (Too bad you couldn’t spot deer on a plate, Corey. Oh, snap!) Christina nominated Corey, who she felt lacked leadership skills. And Petrozza, with a heavy heart, called out Christina, saying he thought she’d be a great chef someday… but not today (or tomorrow). Ramsay said he was proud of all of them. But the time to pick his finalists was upon us, and after one last commercial break — during which we found ourselves subjected to a computer-animated Chef Ramsay that somehow managed to be both scarier and more attractive than the real thing — he selected Petrozza as the first of the final two.

Pick a blonde, any blonde….I was surprised how little I cared which of these gals made it. I liked them both! (My gosh, I liked the whole final three! What in the hell is wrong with me? Am I losing my edge?) Still, I felt pretty sure that Christina’s tremendous success in the challenges would put her on top, and hey, I was right. With a load of compliments — she’d done ”bloody well,” she should follow her dream — Chef Ramsay let Corey go. Christina hugged her and promised to pick her for that final dinner challenge (ooh, is that icky foreshadowing I smell?), then hugged Petrozza. ”And then there were two,” she whispered in his ear. As if the gods themselves wanted to confirm that math, two enormous banners suddenly dropped from the ceiling — and, my darling white zinfandels, the future had suddenly become the now.

It’s time to make your final pick: Christina or Petrozza for the win? If Sous Chef Gloria’s basil-y mashed spuds are a 1, and Julia’s finale appearance from last season is a 10, just how much havoc are we expecting the BBJ to wreak next week? And here’s an especially unrelated final question: What’s the most number of times you’ve voted for players before the MLB All-Star Game? Anyone ever turned in the maximum of 25 ballots? Is there any logical reason to allow 25 ballots per person other than to just drive up the vote count to sound better? These are the sorts of things that keep me up at night, I swear.

Episode Recaps

Hell's Kitchen
Gordon Ramsay verbally abuses wannabe chefs. Bon appetit!
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