27 June 2006

[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, Episode Four

The most welcome development from HK Episode Four was that the hackeneyed "Battle of the Sexes" subplot attempt was resolved and, as far as I can see, should trouble us little or not at all. On top of this they finally got a completed service out (regrettably, it was not dinner), and someone has his A ha! moment, but it does not redeem him.

Shuffle, Shuffle...

At the beginning, as mentioned in the last update, there were merely three Blue team members left to the Red team's five: Garrett, Keith, and Tom versus Heather, Rachel, Virginia, Maribel, and Sara.

Chef Ramsay, at the start of the show, solved two problems–the one of the uneven numbers, and the one of the trumped-up gender conflict–in one fell swoop, by giving Heather, who so far is the finest competitor, de facto membership in the Blue squad, and de jure leadership.

You could cut the surprise in the room with a cleaver. The girls won. Suck it up, cupcakes; we can move on now. Well, maybe not instantly; Heather was reluctant at first, not wanting to compete against "her girls", and you could just see the remaning women measure each other up and down with thier eyes, figuring out which pirahna was going to each which. But I get ahead of myself.

Field Trip!

Chef then announced that they were going to check out a renowned restaurant, the busiest in L.A. But which one? Spago. Sorry, kids, no dice. Rather, Pink's Hot Dogs. No matter–they had a nice lunch there and the food looked damn fine–they even had a "Gordon Ramsay" dog (spicy and hot, no doubt). The message was perhaps that service could be done; if this pedestrian, hugely popular restaurant could do it, so could they. Tom, who was made to put together a dog on his own, had an epiphany, observing that nothing they cooked in the haute-cuisine Hell's Kitchen was any more complicated.

Would they, and especially, Tom, carry it forward?

Chef Day Care

The chefs had to rush back to the kitchen; they were told that, for the first time, HK would be open for lunch. The menu–pizza, hamburgers, and fries?

When the door opened for lunch, a crowd of screaming kids entered. Reactions of the chefs were priceless and the best of the show so far; I will forever remember the nonplussed look on Rachel's face, and the look of glee on Chef Ramsay as he said "Aiyiyiyi!' on the filling of the now-chaotic dining room.

The teams got to work. The Blue team, infused with morale and discipline, buckled down and got in gear for the very first time. Heather clamped down on bickering, gave firm coordination, and once again showed how she had The Right Stuff.

The Red team got it done, too; but the power struggles between Rachel and Sara became all but naked, leaving Maribel and Virginia more or less to thier own devices. But, for the first time, a meal service was completed. The kids voted on the food, giving a 1-10 score. The red team: 9.84. The Blue Team: 9.85, awarding them thier first (and badly-needed) win.

The Daily Prize

The prize for winning the challenged of what Chef Ramsay termed "Hell's Kindergarten" was a day with the amusement park at Long Beach Pier, all to themselves. The three remaining men were savoring the taste of a victory, and even Heather was getting along with Garrett (and forging an alliance with Keith). Heather demonstrates with every step she takes that she's in her element, she has the passion for what she wants to do, and she can pretty much thrive where she gets dropped. While she did regret moving away from "her girls", she found a place where she could connect, unify, and drive. She does it so smoothly and positively that unless there's something wrong with you (or you're Sara), you'll have a problem with it.

The Red team was made to clean the dining room–which was in an appalling state (Maribel remarked that the floor was a rainbow of color). Relationships on the Red team became even more strained as Sara pretty much cut up throughout, and was pretty much on her own planet; the show seems to be setting up a nasty power struggle between her and Rachel, without the moderating and unifying influence of Heather. Maribel and Virginia are starting to pretty much dwindle to cyphers.

So obnoxious did Sara get that the lady sous chef, Mary Ann, threw a wasted cake on the floor just to get her to clean it up.

The Fourth Dinner Service

So then we come to dinner service #4; will the lessons learned be applied? Will the boost in morale generated by the successful lunch service carry them through?

As it happened, no. While appetizers went out and a few people did get served entrées, which went over rather well, the bulk of the HK clientele this week once again left hungry.

The Red side was a slow-motion train wreck, the overall performance of the crew doomed by the power struggle between Sara and Rachel, and the actual active undermining of Virginia by Sara, who looks very much like she's avidly trying to eliminate competitors. Sara informed Virignia that she was ready with turbot, but when Chef Ramsay came to get the meal, he found out that Sara actually hadn't even started the fish, allowing Virginia to hang out to dry into the bargain.

The Blue side knit together and got the mission but were pretty much brought to a standstill by Tom, whose A HA! moment at Pink's earlier made no difference. Juggling tickets he was easily confused, and when Chef Ramsay tried to ascertain what he was doing and he showed he was out of his depth–well, Chef has in the past been accused of forcing his reactions for the TV audience. But the rage he exhibitied at Tom certainly looked real; the kitchen was perforce shut down, with Chef angrily throwing off his apron straight at Tom, who cringed so sincerely that you cringed right along with him.

The Sad Sacks

Nobody won the service, not Red nor Blue. Thus Chef R directed each team to nominate someone for removal.

For the Reds, it was Rachel. For the Blues, it was, predictably, Tom.

Chef allowed each competitor to plead thier case. Tom came to the bar with a blunt, determined few words about he wasn't going to get "beat down". Virginia, who had really been something of a zero thus far, came up with an unexpectly impassioned handful of words about how this was what she was, that this was all she wanted to be and to do.

Virginia gave The Right Answer™. Tom was 86'd. However, Tom did get the only handshake from Chef anybody got. He will, of course need to find a job. He hopes for a recommendation from Chef Ramsay. We think he shouldn't hold his breath on that one; Chef Ramsay said Tom had a big heart (maybe that was why he was spared when Giacomo was axed) but, "sadly he’s a really crap cook. Why on earth he ever decided to attempt to become a chef I’ll never know".

The Sheep and the Goats

The thing about the show at this juncture is that we're getting a very good picture of who will likely get through to the end.

The finest players so far, and the ones I think will go farthest, are:
  • Heather is a given. With her natural talent for organizing and communication, she gets in the zone first and stays there longer than anyone else.
  • Garrett is maturing. He's just about left behind the "I'm all that" he came in with and realizes that there are some people he's not as good as–but can aspire to a higher level. Quite a metamorphsis from the snotty-ass ex-felon cook he was at the series debut: he's finding his fire, and becoming something better.
  • Keith is a real dark horse at this point but he's starting to make his moves. He has more experience than he lets on, tried to help Tom when he needed it (but Tom wasn't having it), and is smart enough to charm Heather into an alliance. If he'd just get rid of the Kewpie doll hair...
The ones I see not making it much farther:
  • Maribel and Virginia. Sure they have desire, but they don't have the passion, at least, not as much as Heather, Garrett, and Keith do. Thier fire's turned on low, and the pressure is starting to file them down. Maribel had her own homesickness drama, and Virginia only now is showing some personality. Sous chef, maybe. Executive chef, forget it.
The ones that are going to be wild cards:
  • Rachel. She has the fire but unfortunately read the great shuffle as a place to make her power play, which happens to be against Sara. She wants to be the big dog on the Red team, but it turns out that Sara wants it more, and as we saw with Virginia, is perfectly ready and willing to undermine a team member to get it, which brings me to...
  • Sara. In Sara we have the best Reality TV villain since Omarosa. I don't know about anybody else, but I not only want to see Sara 86'd, I want to see her humiliated. She is the opposite of what makes Heather, Keith, and Garrett so much joy to watch; she likey her power, and she just figures it's a matter of time before she can consolidate it. The personal traits we saw in the beginning which make her no fun to watch have only blossomed into a nasty, win-at-all-costs attitude. She should lose, she should lose big, and she should look bad doing it.
What looks like it's coming our way:

It looks like Gordon's going to be taking down someone in a big way next week. We all know who I hope it is, don't we? We also see hints that the toxic rivalry between Sara and Rachel will be coming to blows (not physical ones, we hope–we understand it's straight off the show for that). One only hopes there will be someone to collect the body parts and give first aid to Virginia and Maribel, who will take shrapnel, no doubt

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