TV Recap

Sole Survivors

On ''Hell's Kitchen,'' the men lose a fish-prepping competition and then mess up dinner, but the wrong guy is eliminated

BONE TO LOSE Aaron couldn't even filet a fish
Image credit: Kharen Hill
BONE TO LOSE Aaron couldn't even filet a fish

''Hell's Kitchen'': Something's fishy

Good evening, my little crab cakes, and welcome to the continuation of Hell's Kitchen, now granted full TV Watch status thanks to your enthusiasm for sharing risotto recipes on the PopWatch blog. For my money, it's the best reason to look forward to summer (besides, you know, actual summer), and I'm thrilled to be the one able to bring you all the Hott Cooking Action for the next however many weeks.

Couple quick notes:

A. I know nothing about food. Thus, any comments I make about it will most likely resemble those of an uneducated boor who is lucky to heat up dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets without burning the house down. This ain't Top Chef; cut me some slack.

B. Gordon Ramsay's cursing is legendary, and in real life, so is mine. Sadly, this is a family website, and I'm unable to express myself as I'd like; in lieu of actual profanity, then, there will be two alternatives. The first, your basic cartoon-cuss nonsense symbols, will indicate places where I am using ''foul language'' as a humorous device to make you giggle. The second, in which the profanities begin with their real first letter and are then dashed out, will indicate places where I really do feel the need to curse. When in doubt, assume I really am using the bad word.

And now, %#$*@ you all, on with the show!

Is it just me, or are the HK credits like 700 times too long? Perhaps next week they'll feel sufficiently secure in their viewership to cut straight to the new content and not reprocess what's to come, but lo, these many years spent recapping reality television programs leave me with little hope. Still, who wouldn't want to get right into it when you've got the sort of outstanding personalities the masterminds over at Fox have recruited for this season's show? From Bonnie, the scantily clad ''Barbie'' who doesn't like yelling, to Joanna, the girl who thinks criticism is always the response of intimidated people, I don't know why you'd want to waste a single second.

Tonight's show kicked off with the contestants being woken by the traditional Scott-and-Mary Ann pot brigade, then herded outside to literally catch fish. Almost immediately, Aaron — who is quite possibly the most mentally imbalanced individual to appear on a Fox reality show since Margaret ''God Warrior'' Perrin from Trading Spouses — started whimpering and cramping and forcing poor little half-pint Eddie to do all the work. Eddie, nobly, suggested that he'd carry Aaron on his back to achieve a win. I am thankful that, because of events that would transpire later in the evening, we never got to see that experiment in doomed physics.

All that scaly goodness led directly to tonight's challenge, a Dover-sole-skinning contest that found the girls victorious (by one fish) and found Josh, Melissa, Julia, and Joanna to be the only competent members of the group. Seriously, though — here we go with the food ignorance — what was so bloody hard about what they were doing? Peel skin off fish: Okay, that's like unwrapping a Kraft Single without tearing the corners. Squeeze roe out of belly: no different than eating a Go-gurt. It's just opposable thumbs, people. We've all got 'em.

Anyway, the girls won the challenge and headed out to fish with Chef Ramsay off the coast of what looked like the Long Beach refineries. Meanwhile, the boys stayed at home and cleaned more fish while Aaron napped. Aaron, who has been fainting a lot, made a passing remark about having eaten only an apple the day before because he feels fat, and I suspect he's quite manorexic. I also suspect he is really just flat-out loony tunes, and I question the motives of the casting folk who allowed him on this show. I was prepared to blame his behavior on this stressful situation until the moment when Gordon and Jean-Philippe pulled him aside and his eyes went blank. ''He's not here,'' murmured poor, long-suffering J.P., as Aaron collapsed into a chair. And then, quick as he left us, Aaron returned. ''I just passed out for a while,'' he said, life returning to his face. Uh, hello? No one thinks this is just a little bit totally bats--- insane? He's going to collapse on a lit burner somewhere down the road! But hey, Gordon Ramsay doesn't care about your mental instability, and so there goes our chunky monkey: introducing himself to diners, butchering tableside service of sole, and, yes, sweating into the food. ''Maybe I'm not top class,'' Aaron said in the confessional. Maybe. Maybe you're remaining upright by the grace of God alone.

So...that's it, right? Aaron's going home, right? Can't have sweaty fainting guy around, right? Well, who could have predicted the way the rest of the men would completely implode behind him? Eddie couldn't make Rice-a-Roni, Josh couldn't make meat, Vinnie has yet to serve any purpose whatsoever except to give me ample time to wonder what Dennis Rodman's leopard-print hair would have looked like had he let it grow out, and I'd say something about Brad, but I keep getting him confused with Josh. Basically, the men sucked. And in a turn of events I certainly didn't see coming, Chef Ramsay sent them all back to the dorms and called in the girls — who had completed their service by 10 p.m. — to finish the guys' orders. And soon, every table in Hell's Kitchen had been served. Second episode, and they completed a service? That is unheard of, crab cakes. I'm seriously impressed.

Also impressive: the way elimination once again caught me completely off guard. See above: ''Aaron's going home, right?'' Wrong. Rock, who was named ''least bad,'' chose Eddie and Josh to step forward instead, and I almost choked to death on my beer. Josh over Aaron? Scratch that: Eddie over Aaron? Dude, even Aaron thought he was a goner. (''I honestly think it should be me and probably...me,'' he said, when discussing options for elimination.) But what's done is done, and despite Gordon's assertion that Josh was a fake, just ''full of piss and wind,'' we waved goodbye to wee Eddie. His dismissal was nowhere near as ugly as I'd expected, though I'd like to point out it's not often that one of these reality-show mentor types chooses ''F--- off'' as his final words to a contestant. Ah, Gordon. Way to keep it real.

So, what did you think? Is the choice to keep Aaron around just asking for trouble/first-degree burns? Are the girls really that good, or was tonight a fluke? Why do so many chefs smoke — doesn't it wreck your palate? If Rock was playing the ''vote out my competition'' strategy with the Josh thing, is that gonna come back to bite him in the ass like a giant hungry Dover sole? And did anybody eat anything today that was yummy? I did. I had some really nice pizza from here. You?

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Originally posted Jun 12, 2007
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