03 July 2007

[hk2007] Hell's Kitchen 2007.5: Melissa Loses Her Stuff, and the Blues Get It Together At Last

856 One of the ongoing tropes of Hell's Kitchen that long ago went deep into the dark territory of self-parody is the way the cast overstates things.

It seems almost every event on HK is happening "for the first time ever".

Almost every time El Ram has to make the elimination, he sighs as he says that "this is a difficult decision".

One gets the idea that they know how risible that all looks, and develop it as a self-knowing joke. Whatever the case, it's getting to be a regular effort here at the Station not to craft a drinking game out of it. We don't have the fortitude to keep from saything things like "The first time! Not again!" or "It's always a difficult decision for you, Gordon, innit?"

But this episode was actually quite full of real surprises; the meltdown of the Red team, the triumphant resurgence of the Blue team, and Melissa's bizarre behavior. Let's run it all down.

June Is Always The Best Month For Weddings

The whole epi centered on Hell's Kitchen's attempt to cater the wedding reception for rather cute couple (you know the kind, the kind where even hardened, seriously-cynical types can't help but say "awww" when they see 'em. Yes, they were that cute). The challenge involved the couple grading the two teams' dishes a day before the reception, and the service next day involved the actual wedding reception-dinner service.

But the epi, emotionally speaking, didn't so much revolve around the axis of the wedding so much as it did the axis of Melissa's bizarre behavior. Personally, we think she blew a fuse somewhere along the line and went a little insane. So, we'll look at it from that POV.

Melissa During the Challenge

The challenge involved the two teams coming up with dishes to offer the wedding couple to evaluate for inclusion in the reception dinner the next day. The men and the women were to go to a local supermarket, collect all the ingredients they'd need (with a time limit of 30 minutes and a budget of $100), and rush back to the restaurant to prepare the dishes in time for the couple's arrival for evaluation.

Melissa, somehow, right about here, got the strange idea that Chef Ramsay was looking specificially to her for Red team leadership, and she better step up. So, in the store, she began strawbossing.

It wasn't too bad there, but it was after they got back to the restaurant and began cooking that it really flowered. Melissa began barking out orders, telling her teammates not to ask each other for answers to questions and to go through her only. The result was plain to see at the testing: the main course was apparently supposed to be something to do with duck. During cooking, Melissa demanded that the duck breast go back in the oven to stay warm.

On service, Melissa kept telling her team and trying to convince Chef Ramsay that they shouldn't bring up their dish. After getting seriously under El Ram's skin, it was brought up. The Blues' offering–a perfectly cooked (and quite delicious-looking) rib eye steak. The Reds' offering.

A dry, overcooked duck breast, on a plate, served Babylon-5 style–all alone, in the dark.

Even for this show, that was gobstoppingly amazingly embarrassingly bad.

The men took the challenge (their first, and well-deserved) with a appetizer and main course, for a score of 2 to 1 (the Reds garnered the single point based on a fairly accomplished entree).
Winning their first challenge really galvanized the Blues–as did the reward for the win, a spa day. The Blues had been run ragged pretty much all series so far, and they ate that pampering up.

Melissa During the Punishment

The "punishment", such as it was, involved getting the restaurant ready for the wedding the next day.

Meet the wedding planner. Impeccably groomed, with a sober blue suit and a phone headset permanently implanted on his head, he was the reason gaydar was invented.

Enough said there, we think. As we said, this one's all about Melissa. And her descent into utter insanity continued, as she still thought that she was The One In Charge™, and kept badgering her teammates with unwelcome suggestions, ignored directions, and endless reminders that she was just there to help, so that maybe they could get done quicker. What was priceless about it all was the scenes of her teammates mocking her behind her back, rolling eyes, making faces. Melissa had become the fifth wheel, and everyone understood that–except her.

Her physical appearance during the show also showed a marked change. Hell's Kitchen chefs, for the way they're apparently run-to-death, don't always look thier freshest. But Melissa started to actually look haggard; her trademark abundant red hear was looking dissheveled, and a skin issue began to happen under her lower lip. It may have been acne, it's hard to say at the resolution our TV provides, but it grew worse and worse over the course of the show; by the time the dinner service happened, it was actually starting to look like a soul patch.

Melissa and the Dinner Service

Melissa's unhinged behavior continued into the dinner service next day. With some notable speedbumps, however, the dinner service was completed, and with aplomb–mostly provided by the Blue team. They were like a ballet in the kitchen mostly; all signal and very little noise.

The Red team, driven by Melissa's chemical imbalance, didn't just implode, they pretty much conusmed themselves. The dynamic boils down to Julia and Bonnie coalescing around the newly-strong Jen and working around Melissa. Jen's cool head and leadership was yet another surprise of the epi, a complete change from her wishy-washy and wan personality of previous epis.

The flagship error was the fault of Melissa. In a moment of inattention she ruined a crucial ingredient–a sauce–by upending it into the water bath it was in. She went immediately over to the Blue kitchen, trying to beg some of their sauce. Big mistake–she was sent straight back to the Red kitchen to whip some more up from scratch; had she used some of the Blues' supply, she would have left them with not enough to complete their orders.

An Elimination Like No Other-So Far

This being the strongest day ever for the Blues, the Reds were sent back to the dorm to nominate two of their own for the leaving. The nominees were Melissa (of course) and Bonnie–certainly she was on point tonight, but this was a late surge.

Chef Ramsay decided on Melissa...

...to join the Blue team. Once again, jaws dropped.

The reasoning on El Ram's part seemed to be that Melissa had been a strong performer up until now (we early on thought she was channeling the spririt of Heather West from Season Two) who deserved another chance, but the logic of putting her on the newly-strong and freshly-winning Blue team we frankly find a little inscrutable, although perhaps she will work differently with a group of strong personalities who finally know about working together.

This is going to set us up for a great deal of drama, as Melissa has not only alienated her old teammates but had already also rubbed the Blues the wrong way.

And we think we can expect that there will be not one, but two victims next week.

We shall stay tuned–and hope Melissa remembers that those medications she's supposed to be taken are for every day, not just when she feels like it.

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