Welcome to week two of Hell’s Kitchen, which looks, for the most part, amazingly like week one. We have the same lengthy intro of chef Gordon Ramsay, the same type of yelling, cooking malfunctions and disastrous dinner services. So in that sense, this show IS like hell, at least if you were Sisyphus in hell, condemned to repeat the same task over and over again. I guess that makes me Sisyphus.
We rejoin the action immediately after last week’s elimination of Carolann. Carolann got the boot because she wasn’t a team player, or something like that. She was nominated by Elsie, who also nominated Dewberry, to everyone’s surprise.
What, No Clock Radio? Cheap-Ass Fox
So there, you’re caught up. The teams go back to their dorms for the night, and Dewberry seeks some alone time in the bathroom – not like that, people – when out of a stall creeps Elsie. What, have they got unisex bathrooms there? I guess they might as well, with Carolann’s absence Elsie’s the only woman on her team. But Dewberry looks as surprised as me. Maybe Elsie’d been holding it up till now. Before she can even wash her hands, he gives her a hug and says he knows it wasn’t an easy job, picking people for elimination. But, he tells us in an aside, he would have to consider payback if he gets a chance. Oh, little berry man, you are a long way from being in the position to mete out payback.
Meanwhile, the others are taunting Jeff, whose failure as a waiter earned him the ire of Ramsay. They cackle, telling Jeff he lucked out. Not seeing the humor, Jeff says that Ramsay wants to see improvement, and Jeff’s going to give it to him. Wasn’t Jeff Foreshadowing Boy last week as well?
Here’s another aspect of my own personal vision of hell – no sleeping in late. That’s evidently shared by Ramsay, who decides the early bird gets the worm. He sends his sous chefs in to wake the 11 contestants before 6 a.m. by banging on pots. Dewberry, the poor naïve soul, said he was afraid it was a gun. A gun? On what is probably a very well-guarded TV set? Um, yeah, Dewberry. You ain’t in Kansas anymore, but you’re not in Watts either. Chill.
By 5:55 a.m. most of the contestants are lined up in the kitchen. But Chris is still dawdling in the dorm, brushing his teeth and getting prettified. He arrive seven minutes after everyone else – seven minutes in which Ramsay stands there glaring. He calls Chris a lazy @#$#er and warns him never to be late again.
Chris’s balls firmly in hand, Ramsay reminds the group that last night was horrendous. But today, they have a lesson – a lesson that’s meant to teach the importance of attention to detail. Wendy, the self-proclaimed perfectionist, is practically drooling at the chance to show just how perfect her details can be.
This Is Your Squid on Speed
All the contestants stand at a station that has a plate. On the plate is a … zucchini. Um, ok. In front of them are platters of – as we see when the lids are swept off –squid. Oh, how absolutely nasty. That is the last thing I’d want to see at 6 a.m. Or, really, any time of day. I sincerely hope none of them were drinking last night.
Dewberry – of course – hates seafood and all things in general that come from the sea. I must say, I’m with him on this, mostly. I love me some shrimp, but otherwise I only like seafood restaurants for the hushpuppies. (You shut up, northerners. You don’t know what you’re missing. I was once teased by a waitress in Mystic, Connecticut for asking for hushpuppies. It is your loss, people.)
Anyhoo, with Michael sitting out because his team is one person up on the other one, Ramsay explains the challenge. Squid is now on the menu, and they must learn to properly cut and clean it. They’ve got 10 minutes to gut as many squid as possible – the team with the most squids that meet Ramsay’s approval wins dinner with the great chef himself, prepared by the great chef himself. Personally, I hope I never get big-headed enough to dole out dinner dates with me as a prize. Anyway, the losers will have to make squid for the restaurant that night.
And, it’s go time. They must chop off the squids’ tentacles, take out the guts, and skin them without nicking the squid. It looks rather complicated, and the zucchini comes in there somewhere but I’m not entirely sure how that works and I doubt any of you were ready to reenact it based on my directions so screw it.
After some fast squid-gutting, time is called and Ramsay counts the squid. (Note: this is more than I’ve ever used the word “squid” in ANY conversation, including my college drug-experimentation days.) The red team starts off well – Dewberry actually did two that are deemed acceptable. But then only one of Chris’ four squid are good enough. Chris just can’t catch a break.
On the Blue Team, Wendy, the perfectionist, eyes her squid with pride. But hers are all nicked. She looks crushed. Andrew’s also has a hole, which he later says is “crap. That squid, as far as I’m concerned, was perfect.” Well, if it was perfect, it wouldn’t have a hole in it, would it smart boy?
The Red Team wins by one squid. Back in the dorm, the Blue Team goes through some sort of motivational exercise that involves yelling that they won’t lose again in some foreign language.
It’s Ok, It’s Only a Flesh Wound
Since everyone’s up, it’s time for training sessions to begin. A voice-over says that the key to Ramsay’s success as a chef is his ability to get people to follow his strict regimen.
And … suddenly it’s dinner time. I guess we don’t get to see the 12 or so hours in which Ramsay might actually try to teach these people how to cook. Much more important to see them being cussed out over sticky risotto or burned beef Wellington.
The Red team goes off to get ready for their dinner with Ramsay, as the Blue team prepares for a night of squid-cleaning. Elsie looks quite hot out of her chef coat, and Ramsay gallantly seats her next to him. The group has champagne and starts quizzing Ramsay about his career. Dewberry says it was “amazing” to get to know Ramsay better, and my brain neurons start firing confusedly – it sounds like he’s on a dating show, but it sure doesn’t look it.
Evidently nothing else untoward happened, because next thing we know, it’s bedtime. Everyone’s snuggled in their beds – except Jeff. Inexplicably, he’s lying in the hallway floor, moaning. At this point I’m wondering if he’s allergic to shellfish, since Ramsay served lobster. Jess decides to check on him, but when he just keeps moaning, she says, “Whatever” and goes back to bed.
By the morning, everyone’s on edge because of Jeff’s Night O’ Groaning, and Jeff tells us it’s a kidney-stone flare-up. Most normal people might consider seeing a doctor, but not Jeff. He wants to work through the pain. Not everyone else is even convinced his pain is anywhere outside his head – Jessica thinks he’s a hypochondriac. At the least, Jeff’s pain appears to come and go.
Because by dinner time, he looks ok. The restaurant is open for dinner again, and this time squid is on the menu. Ramsay expects improvement over two nights before. Well, I expected something new since last week, Ramsay, but I didn’t really get it, did I? You know what they say – you can want in one hand and, er, poop in the other, and see which one fills up first.
Guess What’s In the “Special Sauce”?
Dewberry starts the evening off on a high note – Ramsay praises his pasta dish. Our roly-poly berry-boy better be glad he’s not on the Blue team, though, because as part of their punishment for losing the squid challenge, the air conditioning in their kitchen is being turned off for the night. Ramsay says he has worked under such conditions and they can too.
“You stand there like a man, and you sweat, and you get on with it, and you feed those people,” he says, in a manner that suggests he’s standing in a battle trench pepping people to go die for their country, instead of for the squid. And EW on the sweat + cooking food thing. We get our first look at the thermometer – 100 degrees already. I have a feeling if I were there, I’d faint dead away before too long. I don’t deal with heat well, I don’t sweat enough. I’d just turn red and keel over.
Hell’s Kitchen is booked solid for this second night. Again, I suspect these people were invited to spontaneously choose to dine at a new, untested restaurant. Which makes it less surprising that they want their food to live up to Ramsay’s reputation. Of course, if the 11 wannabes back in the kitchen don’t have a cooking epiphany soon, Spaghettios would live up to what Ramsay’s reputation will become.
After 20 minutes, orders are piling in. Starters are going out, with Ramsay’s approval, and the temperature in the blue kitchen is at 120 degrees. The patrons so far seem pleased. So far.
Perfectionist Wendy isn’t doing so well, though – her risotto is crunchy and she frantically starts it from scratch. Ralph, showing that he’s calm in a crisis, steps in to finish it for her, thus winning kudos for himself from Ramsay.
Going to Hell in a Breadbasket
An hour into the night, all the red tables have their starters. That’s a far cry from the last dinner service, so it’s so far, so good. Naturally, that can’t continue. And it doesn’t. The red entrees are almost done – they need only a vegetable garnish from Jeff. But, alas, Jeff can’t provide. He can’t find it, or he’s not finished it, or he can’t find it – something. I’m not clear. But he’s banging things around, and Ramsay’s yelling at him that the food’s just BLOODY SITTING THERE, and all is chaos. Jeff blames the kidney stones, saying they were flaring up again and he lost focus. I mean, is he going to pass this thing at some point?
It’s hard, however, to be sympathetic for someone who’s bringing your team down because he won’t admit he needs a doctor. “I just didn’t have time to feel sorry for him,” Elsie admits.
Slowed by Jeff, the Red team only has five entrees done, while the sweltering Blues have shot ahead to 10. The restaurant, by the way, seats 100, and dinner service is an hour and a half. Assuming dinner ever actually gets served. I guess that means you can order at any time during that hour and a half, and you take your chances on when you actually get your food.
There are some high points in all this frenetically-edited cooking. Chris jumps in to help show Elsie how to cook some fish, winning points for teamwork. That’s how a kitchen is supposed to work.
What’s going on in the Blue kitchen is not how it’s supposed to work. Andrew and Mary Ellen are having a power struggle over what temperature to cook some meat. She wins, and it’s deemed overdone. Andrew is irked, and later tries to cover his ass and backstab Mary Ellen in one swoop by telling the sous chef that HE had to be responsible for monitoring the temperature. Hilariously, the sous chef just says quietly, “That’s not what I saw.” Yeah, take THAT, you little cocky brat. Yeah, I already don’t like Andrew. Ramsay’s going to eat him for lunch eventually.
Over in the Red kitchen, Dewberry gets praise for a beautifully-cooked lamb, but his beef Wellington is overdone. When he goes back to redo it, something catches fire. Dewberry and his entire station are just falling apart. He keeps saying that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, which doesn’t surprise me. And that’s not a dig at Dew, it’s at Ramsay. He’s throwing these people into the deep end. It’s like training someone to be a Marine by showing them how to shoot but not how to load the gun.
Meanwhile, the red table customers are getting irked. In what is apparently going to be a staple of this show, a customer comes to the kitchen to complain, as if that’s going to make them cook his food faster. For his troubles, of course, he gets cussed by Ramsay, who points out that there’s chaos in the kitchen and the hapless customer can go #*&% himself. Again with the stellar customer service. Although even I’m getting irritated at these whiny customers. If you want it fast, go to McDonald’s. If you want to be on TV – and get a three-star meal if you’re lucky – sit your ass down.
Back to Dewberry. Things are going from bad to worse. He tells Ramsay the Wellington will take 12 more minutes, which pisses Ramsay off. He prods Dewberry, asking if he cares at all. Dewberry says no, actually, he doesn’t. “You’re useless, aren’t you?” Ramsay asks, somewhat rhetorically. Dewberry says he guesses so, throws down his spoon and starts to walk out. Ramsay says he can’t hack it.
But wait! (and wait we did, through a commercial) On his way out Dew saw Elsie’s face, and heard the cries of his team, and can’t leave. Ramsay shouts at him to never leave his station again, and Dewberry promises he won’t. Later, he cries. “He was trying to get me to be better than I am,” he says, pitifully. I feel a bit bad for poor old Dew, as I think he’s a nice guy and is trying, but I don’t think he’s cut out for this.
A Degree Ain’t an Entitlement
Unfortunately, Dewberry’s breakdown stopped all kitchen activity. Another customer comes to bitch and again gets told where to go.
By now, some customers are walking out. Others have ordered pizza. I can see wanting pizza – I want some now, as a matter of fact – but ordering it to the restaurant is obviously meant as a passive-aggressive snub. Poor Jean Philippe, the maitre’d, frantically tries to stop them from eating it, telling them it’s illegal. Which it may be, who knows.
Oh, wait, a customer thinks HE knows! By virtue of … a doctorate in music education, he thinks he knows more than Jean Philippe about California law. Because obviously a doctorate in music education makes him all-knowing. He must have minored in Being a Prick. He gets all up in Jean Philippe’s face, insulting Jean Philippe’s education and ranting about his own. I seriously hope this guy’s friends see this and realize what a putz they hang out with.
By this point, Ramsay’s had enough. Once again, he shuts down the kitchen before all the food has been served. (Is this going to be, like, every week? As a plot device, it might get old.)
Again basing at least part of his judgment on customer comment cards, Ramsay rates the evening. He says the Blue customers didn’t like their starters, and their entrees weren’t much better. But while the Red customers mostly liked their starters, half of them didn’t even get their entrees. And the pizza table was a Red table. ‘Nuff said. Red loses.
Surprisingly, Ramsay appoints Chris as the “least bad” who must choose two team members for elimination. Ramsay says he’s been busting Chris’ balls since day one, but Chris stepped up and did well tonight.
Back in the dorm, Jeff pleads for his life. He again tells Chris about his kidney stones, and says he was doing fine until the pain got bad. At which point he dropped vegetables, instead of going to a doctor. Jeff is a worried little man.
Jimmy, who hasn’t had any airtime all night, tells Chris that he’s ok with whatever happens, a no-pressure conversation that Chris appreciates.
For his part, Dewberry lolls in a hammock, dangling a cigarette, and dramatically proclaims this the worst night of his life. I’m thinking Sunshine here is a little bit sheltered. He doesn’t think he’ll ever regain the respect of his team. He’s probably right.
Chris says his decision is all about the team – at this point, he wants to win the restaurant but can’t get there with a team that keeps losing, so he’s going to pick the people who are bringing the team down.
And they are… drumroll … Dewberry and Jeff. Dewberry because he lets himself get upset about things and it will hurt the team in the long run, and Jeff for pretty much the same reason.
Ramsay says he’d have chosen the same two and applauds Chris’ decision.
Given a chance to plead their cases, Dewberry says he should stay because while his behavior was inexcusable, it won’t happen again. Jeff says he should stay because he puts the team before himself – which I guess is what he thought he was doing when he ignored kidney stones to keep flipping veggies.
This is obviously a tough call for Ramsay, who doesn’t appear to like either one of them. But he finally chooses Dewberry, because, Ramsay says, Dew is a coward and turned his back on the team.
Dewberry hands over his chef jacket, exposing some serious man-boobs, and leaves. He says he deserved it and wasn’t justified in wanting out.
Ramsay warns the remaining people that he wants to see the desire in them. Jeff says he won’t be on the block again – yeah, right – and Chris says that once he gets comfortable in that kitchen, there’ll be no stopping him. Why do I hear Fox producers cackling over those last two statements?
The contestants must do the restaurant shopping, Chris and Jeff start arguing, one member is told to switch teams, food critics come to dine, someone gets sick off risotto, and various other drama ensues. Oh, and Ramsay yells. Of course.
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