TV Recap

Rock Stars

On the finale of ''Hell's Kitchen,'' he leads the guys to victory despite Josh's incompetence, after Bonnie fails to stock enough supplies and anticipate Julia's bitterness

CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKING? Yup, chicken 'n' crab cakes again
Image credit: Kharen Hill
CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKING? Yup, chicken 'n' crab cakes again

The ''Hell's Kitchen'' season finale: We have a winner!

Uh, Rock won.

I know. OMG, the shock.

For a show that started the season so strong, the conclusion of Hell's Kitchen really fizzled, didn't it, gumballs? Of course, it lost a lot of momentum last week by drawing out the finale preparations for a seemingly endless, empty hour — but despite tonight's early announcement that one finalist's life was about to change forever, I found myself uninspired.

So what was bringing me down? Let's start with how we were once again deprived of what has been my favorite part of this show's last episodes: the construction of the dining rooms. Sure, there was a little hoo-ha involving Bonnie's side running out of wallpaper or whatever — but in the end, no matter how much the narrator tried to pit this as ''Bonnie's neighborhood hideaway versus Rock's home-style bistro,'' I couldn't help thinking it was more like ''Bonnie's side of the restaurant that looks almost exactly like it did before versus Rock's side of the restaurant that does look exactly like it did before, except purple.'' Maybe Fox skimped on that portion of the story line precisely because the cheflings had such uninspiring visions for their space. But when Ramsay was assessing Bonnie's room, especially, the whole thing mostly reminded me of those sleep-deprived mornings in design class back at theater school when I'd haul in whatever was on my kitchen table, arrange it artfully, and then agree with whatever the teacher suggested I might be going for. ''It's a neighborhood restaurant, but with a little panache!'' Ramsay told Bonnie. ''That's exactly what I was going for!'' Bonnie replied. Snore.

Also dull: the menus. Blondie whipped out more goat-cheese salads and yet another ''signature'' pasta (this time featuring prawns, which I guess is sort of like if a lobster married a shrimp, thus taking last week's ''signature'' pasta and cutting the workload in half), while Rock brought his chicken 'n' crab cakes app and a rib eye. Neither was interesting to look at, neither made my mouth water. I was especially frightened by the desserts. When Chef Ramsay basically enjoyed both contestants' offerings, I'm pretty sure at least half my brain started thinking about what sneakers I'd like to wear tomorrow.

As for the rest of the kitchen staff, Brad threw away this one final opportunity to distinguish himself in any way, Melissa kept overcooking Bonnie's ''f---ing'' prawns, and then there was the ongoing saga of What Is Josh Even Doing on This Show?: The goateed wonder picked up right where he left off, burning everything in sight. I was really hoping for a feel-good ending here, especially after Rock gave the kid a nice pep talk — ''You know how to cook, just cook. I trust you, trust yourself'' — but I guess if I want a triumphant underdog story, I should just go with my gut and rent Rudy. The one bright spot was former enormous bitch Vinnie, who took over appetizers after Josh got kicked off and managed to seem both friendly and compassionate throughout the whole process.

And, oh yeah, Julia. Talk about a loss of faith in humanity. ''I would much rather it be me,'' she told Bonnie before dinner. ''But'' — and here she let out an almost imperceptible sigh — ''I am happy for you.'' Later, she would once again announce her allegiance to Rock. Bonnie's only response to the formerly lovely Waffle House person's conduct was that she thought this experience was probably ''humbling'' for Julia. What's so weird to me is that prior to last week I would have called Julia the most humble person I've seen on a reality show in a long while. But this week she dropped in and out of consciousness throughout service (Bonnie at one point had to call her name five times before she answered), then picked up some weird martyr thing about halfway through. ''Have I lost my team?'' Bonnie whimpered after one particularly incommunicative moment had gone by. ''Well, I'm over here cooking every single thing we have on order,'' Julia grumbled, ''so just be happy I'm giving you your food.'' It is right around then that, had I been Bonnie, I would have whipped a frying pan at Julia's bitter little head. I'm going to avoid drawing any conclusions about my former favorite chefling and just wish her well. And hope that wherever she is, someone is keeping an eye on the sharp objects, and the liquor.

No real disasters during service, although Bonnie ran out of fettuccine, followed shortly by the prawns, and two of her plates came back cuz they wuz cold. Eventually it was time for the final assessment, during which Rock said that if he could have turned back time, he would have won the challenge last week so he could have picked Jen first and avoided using Josh. Bonnie wished she'd, you know, not run out of food. Josh, for the record, still thinks he can cook. And as for Chef Ramsay, he was plunged into what he called the toughest decision he's ever made — although he wanted both finalists to know that the best part for him was how they didn't give up. At that point, I was just rolling my eyes and begging for them to get on with what had basically been reduced to an end-of-season T-ball awards banquet. Yay! Everyone tried so hard! Have an orange slice!

I wish I could say my heart leapt after G.R. counted to three (twice, thanks to one of those distracting commercial breaks) and Rock walked through the winning door, but it didn't. To my credit, I probably looked about as excited as Rock's wife, who had a very ''ah, #@*%, now I gotta move to Vegas'' thing going on with her face. During the ensuing celebration, Rock took some champagne to the eye, then raved about the $250,000 salary he'd be getting from the Agent Orange Day Spa and Stables. (Holla!) He did not, for the record, refer to himself in the third person a single time during tonight's episode. I guess that means he's growing.

And that's it, yo. What'd I miss? What're you thinking? Can you believe it's over? It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. Should we all sing a song? I know! Let's go around the room and everyone say something you like about the person on your left. I'll start. A round of applause to our faceless narrating friend for uttering the best line he's had in three years: ''While Bonnie makes adjustments for her inadequate prep, Rock must make adjustments for his inadequate teammate.'' I mean, that's just poetry right there.

Okay, who's next?

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Originally posted Aug 14, 2007