Hell's Kitchen: Season Three Finale, Part One Recap
Episode OverviewBonnie Muirhead and Rock Harper, the final two chefs on Season Three of Hell's Kitchen face off in the first part of a two part finale.  There are serious questions about both chefs' abilities.  Will Rock be able to control his temper - or at least productively harness it like Chef Gordon Ramsay - and successfully lead his team?  Will Bonnie's strong palate and creativity be enough to make up for her lack of experience in a restaurant kitchen and her aversion to killing shellfish?  But perhaps the most important question of all: how are on earth are they going to stretch this out over two episodes?

After a quick recap of this season of Hell's Kitchen, we pick up this week where we left off in the previous episode.  Rock, joined by his wife, and Bonnie, joined by her parents, are startled by the dropping of a divider in the middle of the restaurant.  Chef Ramsay tells them that they will each be taking over one half and turning it into their own place, with their direction guiding the selection of decor, server uniforms and, of course, menu. 

The two have a few more minutes to share with their loved ones - and Rock's young children are even allowed out to join Dad for a while.  But after a short period, it's time for them to leave.  No, Ramsay tells Rock, his wife cannot join him for a "conjual visit" in the dorms.  It's time to think with the main brain and try to strategize for their restaurants.

But both he and Bonnie are still too keyed up and have to unwind a little before started the planning process.  Rock admits to Bonnie that he thought Melissa Firpo would have been in the final two.  Bonnie isn't offended, saying she is used to people underestimating her, and she seems to take pleasure in overturning those expectations.  Rock realizes she is dangerous, and she just might be; she seems to be feeling plenty confident.

Later, the two chefs have to begin restaurant work in earnest, picking decor and working with the maitre d' around wardrobe.  But it's the menu planning that will make or break them.  Bonnie continues to ride high, excitedly planning things out with Ramsay's sous chef Maryanne.  Rock, on the other hand, seems confused and a little discombobulated as he works with Scott.

Interesting.  So far, Hell's Kitchen is certainly trying to paint Rock as faltering.  This could go either way: they might be trying to build a case for why a personal chef and nanny like Bonnie might be able to win.  Or, they might be creating a better sense of competition so that once Rock does actually win, it doesn't seem like such an easy thing to beat Bonnie.  We'll have to wait and see, but Rock's difficulties are clearly the main focus of this edit.

The chefs' preparations have to hold for a little while, as Ramsay takes them on a private jet to Las Vegas to see their potential new place of employment.  As they relax in the plane, Ramsay picks their brains.  He wants to know why Rock lost his cool in one of the challenges, and also if all of his nominations were strategic.  Rock admits this, and Ramsay seems to admire that he's played this like a game of chess.

Ramsay also points out how far Bonnie has come; during the first few challenges, she couldn't even fry an egg.  (Then again, it was only a couple episodes ago that she forgot to turn on the gas burner when cooking, so her progress appears spotty.)  Nevertheless, the strength of her palate and ability to put together simple but tasty dishes is clear.

In Vegas, the two are bowled over by all they see, including themselves on plasma screens throughout the hotel.  Ramsay tells them he's taking them for a quiet drink, but Ramsay is a chef not an actor, so no one is surprised when the quiet drink turns into an impromptu cooking contest.  Each chef has a half hour to prepare his or her signature dish. 

Rock prepares a variation on surf and turf: fried chicken and a crab cake.  Bonnie makes a shrimp and lobster pasta.  The judges are executive chefs from some of the best restaurants on the strip.  Bonnie takes the first round, and Rock the second.  Bonnie takes the next two, including the vote of one special judge: Robin Leach.

The next judge is also special: Michael Wray, winner of the first season.  He votes for Rock.  Apparently, Rock knows how to please a Hell's Kitchen winner, as Heathre Sullivan, Season Two's winner, also selects his dish. 

The final judging is actually a pair - the general manager and chef from the resort this season's winner will work in.  After some deliberation, they both select Bonnie.  She wins, and it looks like a hard loss for Rock.  His confidence, Bonnie thinks, has been shaken.

Ramsay then takes them to a rooftop deck to overlook Vegas.  He gives them both an invitation to join him at his chef's table in New York, and says that Bonnie will get her prize for the day's win the next day.

Back at their room, Rock tries to get in Bonnie's head, saying she starts strong but doesn't know how to finish.  She doesn't take it too seriously, and it appears the two have settled into a healthy and good-natured rivalry.  Their interactions are actually quite sweet together.

The next day, the six last chefs to be eliminated - even Josh Wahler, who wasn't even given the courtesy of a full elimination, but was just punted from the kitchen - return to help with the final service.  They all reconnect, and most of the chefs have put any animosity or resentment behind them and are happy to be there to help one of the finalists.

The only one who seems to be feeling conflicted is Julia.  She breaks down crying, upset at having come so close to the final two herself.  Her mood continues even back in the kitchen as they all meet with Chef Ramsay.  He's happy to see her, but she says this is the lowest point of the whole competition for her.

Her emotional state affects the picking of teams.  Bonnie's prize is to pick first, so she picks her friend Jen Yemola.  Rock picks Brad Miller, thinking he is still one of the strongest.  Next, Bonnie picks Melissa, and Rock picks Vinnie Fama.  Bonnie picks Julia for her last teammate (Julia's not thrilled; she is rooting for Rock), and so Josh ends up on Rock's team.  Rock thinks Julia might be a better chef, but is worried about her crying anyway.  Josh might be a mess in the kitchen, but, Rock says, he won't be crying.

And now we have our answer to how this will be stretched out: the service won't be until next week.  So, will Bonnie be able to once again pull out that dominant leader persona that so surprised Ramsay in their role play?  Will Rock be able to pull himself together and use his experience to get an edge over the personal chef and nanny?  We will have to wait until Part Two to find out...

How do you think the finale will end?  Leave your predictions in the comments!

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Images courtesy of FOX)