Hell’s Kitchen is all about the pile-up. Every week, each team turns on one person like a prison gang picking a bitch, then takes turns pissing in the bitch’s ocular cavities (figuratively). Last week’s episode set the stage for the two biggest punks ever to get sent to the hole at Gordon Ramsay Maximum Security Correctional Facility: Apathetic Andy and Small Mouth Suzanne. (Seriously, look at her mouth. It’s way too small for her face. And the less said about her eyebrows, the better.)
Their inevitable fate hangs over their heads like an excuse-flavored failure cloud (or failure pile in a sadness bowl), each of them trying to run out the clock for as long as they can. Suzanne actually thinks she can win, but Andy knows better. And knowing, as G.I. Joe cartoons taught us all, is half the battle. The other half? Failing spectacularly.
The stench of failure made an early appearance in this episode, as both teams fumbled their way through the quickfire challenge making crepes (or, as they’re called in the U.S. circa 2003: patriot pancakes). Tasked with making four types—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert—both teams could barely make a passable crepe to give to Chef Ramsay and special guest judge JP, promoted from his lowly maitre d’ duties and acknowledged like a real human being for once. Granted, it was because he’s the kinda gaywad who eats crepes with his Frenchie gaywad boyfriends—even Ramsay forgot to mention JP is Belgian, not French—but you take your victories however small, JP. As if making quick work of a crepe weren’t enough, Ramsay conversed with JP in French to show that he’s not fucking around here. ““Chef Ramsay’s up there, speakin’ French with Whistle Britches!” marveled
Cletus Spunkler Van, just before doing a merry jig to a moonshine-bottle hoedown.
Mr. Voiceover Man tells us that Ramsay picked the crepe challenge to test the chefs’ aptitude in three critical areas: creativity, technique, and attention to detail. Van makes a sloppy one with some great ingredients, but Ariel of course nails it. Andy scores a pyrrhic victory over Tennille, whose crepe JP & Ramsay deemed too spicy. “Man, I’ve never seen two grown-ass men so scared of spice before in my life!” Tennille said at top volume, just in case my downstairs neighbors couldn’t make her out. “C’mon, get a grip!”
Kevin’s crepe looks like of ugly, but Suzanne’s is worse. She doesn’t help herself by babbling on and on about it, a technique she probably cribbed from Ben Walanka, the motor-mouthed gorilla from Season 5. But whaddya know, IT COMES DOWN TO A TIE.
But it wasn’t much of a decision: Dave’s crepe looked like he took a dump on a plate and called it French. So the ladies win the lamest prize in the history of Hell’s Kitchen: MIME LESSONS. Seriously, in the whiteface and everything. I guess it’s better than the grunt work of prepping two kitchens, especially for the French-inspired dinner service, but yikes. At least they got a good lunch out of it, and the team genuinely seemed to come together a little bit. Of course, anything was an improvement over last week’s time warp to junior high.
In addition to prepping for new menu items like crepes, frogs’ legs, and escargot (which, curiously, were never shown), the dudes enjoyed a nasty-looking lunch of boiled tongue and headcheese. Andrew Zimmern would be psyched, but it almost made Dave “barf all over the plate.” Just to rub it in because he looks like a world-class asshole, sous chef Scott asks, “You guys hate to win challenges, don’t you?”
In keeping with the Hell’s Kitchen tradition, the promos for tonight’s episode made it out to be the MOST. SHOCKING. EVER, with something unprecedented happening in the kitchen—and, also becoming de rigueur, shots of medics tending to some emergency. Yup, Andy nearly cut his fool fingers off slicing potatoes or something, and the shot of his skin hanging loosely off his fingers can only be described as gnarly. Stitches will be mandatory, but will Andy take a cue from Dave and rise above his injury and lead his team to victory?
No. Andy showed up to service late, which was admittedly not his fault, and started off 10 steps behind the others. He couldn’t remember the menu, he couldn’t make his dishes, he was having “dexterity issues”—a pretty galling thing to say in front of a dude who can’t use his ARM—and in general, screwing up from start to finish. It quickly became obvious that during his next stroll in the yard, Andy was gonna get shanked.
Not that the ladies fared much better, with Small Mouth sabotaging her lamb by slicing it too early, and Sabrina blowing the risotto early and frogs’ legs late. Then there are the crepes, which Andy couldn't make to save his life, feebly attempting to pass a couple grotesque ones off. “Oh what the fuck is that?” Ramsay bellowed. “Have a little bit more self-esteem, will you man?”
As usual, Dave proved he can out-cook and out-hustle everyone in the kitchen (which apparently gets him into trouble, looking at the promo for next week’s episode), his manic movements made more comical by some Loony Tunes-like musical accompaniment. “Dave, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re 10,000 times better a cook with one hand!” Ramsay said.
Still the incompetence of a few outweighed the competence of the others, and Ramsay finally reached his breaking point: In quick succession, he booted Andy, Sabrina, and Suzanne from the kitchen—and both teams performed better because of it. “I don’t think you need to be a douche-nozzle to run a kitchen well,” Andy said, sulking. No you don’t, but apparently it helps, dude.
With no winning team, Ramsay made both Red and Blue work together to select two chefs for elimination. Andy was the obvious first pick. Suzanne, given the pile-up last week and her problems tonight, seemed the likely second—something everyone but she understood. “I’m trying ot think about whether I deserve to go home right now,” she said as if it’s up to her, adding there’s no way she is, even as the teams scheme to figure out a way they can guarantee she’ll be sent home. “Team player my ass!” Tennille brayed later. “Shut up, girl!” I have to confess Tennille made me laugh in this episode.
In the end, Suzanne and Andy ascended the chopping block, Suzanne smirking her way through it and somehow surviving. Of course Ramsay spared her: Every reality show needs a villain, and Suzanne has to stick around for as long as possible to keep the show interesting. Ramsay let her (and Sabrina) off with a warning, but sent Suzanne to the Blue Team to even the numbers out. Tennille and company were psyched, the dudes were pissed, and Hell’s Kitchen keeps plugging away.
TEAM PLAYER MY ASS:
• This is the most screen time Ariel has ever received in an episode. Here’s a quick lesson in Reality TV 101 for the unschooled: Quiet competence guarantees little face time. Maybe it’s a tortoise-and-hare strategy: While the rest of the loud-mouthed jackals bray on and on, Ariel works hard and doesn’t complain. She’s the dark horse here, and my money’s on her for the finals.
• Has anyone else noticed that Hell’s Kitchen upgraded its kitchen cameras? A few of the kitchen cameras weren’t HD before, and now it looks like all of them are. The show may look downright consistent if FOX isn’t careful.
• What is it with tongue piercing and this cast, Andy and Suzanne especially? Maybe they should date.
• I always find it amusing how quickly Ramsay tries to speak when giving the table orders. He’s like the Micro Machines guy, only full of rage.