Episode Overview: Melissa Firpo, one of the stronger female chefs on Hell's Kitchen in past weeks, seems to be imploding under the pressure of her role as self-nominated savior for the women’s team. And her implosion is having reverberations that undermine the efforts of the rest of her increasingly resentful teammates. Can she pull it together and help bring her team to victory? Or will the men’s team take advantage of the women’s internal dissent and finally, finally, get themselves a win?
There is, as the Tom Hanks character so famously put it in A League of Their Own, no crying in baseball. The corollary to this for this program would appear to be: there’s no support group in Hell’s Kitchen.
Bonnie Muirhead learns this as the women return to the dorm after Vinnie Fama’s elimination. She seems to want some kind of nurturing reaction from the other women for having narrowly missed being eliminated. However, as Melissa icily points out: “This is a competition.” In interview, Melissa dismisses Bonnie as “a failure waiting to happen.”
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Later, the chefs are hustled into an SUV and taken to a local grocery store to meet with Gordon Ramsay. He fills them in on the challenge: they have $100 with which to prepare a tasting menu for a bride and groom.
That’s right: not one, but two people have apparently taken complete leave of their senses and decided to hold their wedding reception a) on a reality show and b) at Hell’s Kitchen. Love is supposed to be blind, is it now also deaf? Are these people unaware that Gordon Ramsay is probably more famous for his effortless production of curse words than his actual food? One must assume that the decision was influenced by the high cost of weddings and that the production must have dangled quite a few freebies.
During the shopping, Melissa takes a leadership role, and directs the women to buy the duck. On the men’s team, Rock Harper seems to be steering the men, saying he knows how to shop on a budget due to growing up without a lot of resources. He must be a little rusty, as the men find themselves at the register with a total of $137 - $37 over budget. After several items are put back, they finally find themselves within budget and ready to cook.
Melissa tries again to take a leadership role during the prep. She tells all the other women to come to her with any questions. Unfortunately, the other women aren’t especially bowled over with respect for her capabilities and therefore ignore the directive. When Julia Williams asks Bonnie a question, Melissa actually physically inserts herself between the two and insists on giving the answer. This, surprisingly, doesn’t endear her to anyone, nor does it increase anyone’s comfort level with her new regime.
She compounds the bad feelings when she takes Julia’s duck, which Julia had removed from the oven, and sets it back for more cooking. When the duck comes out as overcooked, Melissa tries to blame it on the lack of experience that the others have, but Julia is having none of it. While she might be a short-order cook without the knowledge of fine cuisine, one thing she does not lack is backbone and she asserts herself right back to Melissa. (Rock, overhearing this in the pantry, quietly cheers on the fight between the “Hell’s Bitches.”)
Before the couple comes in for the tasting, Chef Ramsay talks to the teams. He asks the teams if they used the time wisely, and Melissa bluntly asserts “No.” She describes what happened in the kitchen, but when she mentions acting as leader, Ramsay gets a little ticked off, telling her he never said she was in charge. He tells her she’s acting like a “jumped-up cavewoman,” making Hell’s Kitchen recappers’ jobs across the country infinitely easier tonight by nearly perfectly summing up Melissa's appearance. (Although it would have been even better if he could have somehow worked in some reference to her thick East Coast accent, but he is, after all, a chef, not a writer.)
Both teams now need to serve the happy couple. Melissa doesn’t want to. She raises her hand and tells Chef Ramsay that the women shouldn’t serve their food. He dismisses her and starts the tasting. The first course pits the women’s brie and fruit (huh? For a first course?) against the men’s crab starter. Not surprisingly, the couple points out the women’s is more like a dessert, and so the men win this round. The next dish is the fish course, and the women take this round.
Now for the meat entrée. Rock is ready to go, and Jen Yemola is about to bring over the domed dish covering the women's duck when Melissa attempts to hold her back. Ramsay insists the dish is served, but when the cover is removed, it’s clear why Melissa didn’t want to serve it. It’s a duck breast, totally plain, and, apparently, horribly overdone. Needless to say, the men win the round, and the overall challenge.
For their reward, they get a trip to a spa, and the much-needed win gives them both a boost of confidence and a chance to bond as a team.
For the losers, the women have to spend the evening decorating the restaurant under the direction of the over-the-top wedding planner. Before the evening’s work starts, the women have a confrontation back at the house, with Melissa blaming the other women for the loss today. Julia tries to keep her cool, asking for everyone to treat each other with respect. Melissa’s response is to tell the other women to grow a pair. Nice!
During their work that evening, Melissa still can’t help herself, trying to once again take control of the team and give them direction…in how to place mints in tiny gift bags. It’s verging on insane for her to continue in this vein when it is clearly doing nothing but making her team members want to throttle her.
After the restaurant is readied, it’s time for the evening’s service. Melissa continues to irritate every single chef in her path. She annoys Rock by asking too many questions as the kitchens shared their recipes for the menu. Chef Ramsay becomes apoplectic when she continually ruins the potatoes for a dish, and then blames it on Rock when it’s clear she wasn’t listening to anyone’s direction.
But she’s not the only one having issues this evening, and once again, Josh Wahler’s over-enthusiasm seems to be doing more harm than good. His appetizer station delays the service to the bride and groom table, which is turn slows down everyone’s service – women included – since no one can be served before the happy couple.
Finally they are fed, and the service can begin in earnest for everyone. Eventually the men’s team gets out all their starters, and Rock is proud of how the team has pulled together.
The women, however, continue to have problems and those problems all have one name: Melissa. She delays the entrée service, then changes her time to the pass without alerting anyone else.
Eventually – and amazingly – the entire service is completed, and Chef Ramsay presents the bride and groom with a honeymoon to the Green Valley Ranch in Las Vegas.
Although both teams did finish, the women are named the worst since the men finished three minutes earlier. Jen is names the best of the worst for taking a useful leadership role, as opposed to the useless and counterproductive role that Melissa took.
Speaking of Melissa, it’s clear to Jen that she must be nominated. But she must nominate a second, and who will that be? Jen has a connection and friendship with Bonnie, but Bonnie has had issues in the past. But would it be fair to put up Julia, who, despite her lack of experience in fine cuisine, has performed relatively solidly?
When it’s time to announce the two, Jen opts for Melissa and Bonnie. They each defend themselves, Melissa saying she’s been carrying the team, and Bonnie passionately proclaiming her potential.
Ramsay thinks for a minute, and then asks Melissa to remove her coat. But!
It’s not because she’s being dismissed. Rather, he’s giving her a blue team coat: she’s joining the men’s team.
And what of Bonnie? She’s back to the women’s team, who are relieved to have her back and be rid of Melissa.
The men’s team – Rock especially – is not thrilled to have Melissa, but Ramsay says afterwards that he’s never seen a good chef decline so fast, and due to her previous strength, he thinks Melissa deserves a second chance.
Considering the utter lack of enthusiasm displayed by her new teammates, is this really a fresh start for Melissa? Or will her abrasive ways irritate the men even more than it did the women and ultimately be her downfall?
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image Courtesy of Fox)