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Hell’s Kitchen UK – will eight become seven?

It’s been a while since I saw the last episode of Hell’s Kitchen, due to some technical issues (i.e. failure to read a TV program correctly) this end. As far as I remember, Marco hasn’t sacked anybody yet, and nor has anyone walked out in tears. Tonight, though, Claudia is promising that Marco will be asking somebody to leave.

Our celebrities get up to find that Marco has thoughtfully provided them with half a pair of support hose each. Before they have to make that decision we are all dreading – which leg for the varicose veins? – Niomi thinks to read the letter on the bench. Anthea’s initial thought, that they would have to strain something through the sock, is not even half right. Our celebs are to take their “net” and use it to catch an eel. As she completes the instructions (“take them to the kitchen where they’ll be dispatched. You must catch your own eel”) Danielle is retching with horror.

Niomi interviews that she didn’t know that “dispatched” meant finger-across-throat. I’m guessing she figured she was going to attach an address label and courier it to a larger waterway, where it could live out the rest of its life in peace.

To an ominous soundtrack, Marco tells us that “in this day and age, there’s too many people who don’t know where ingredients come from”. I get what he’s saying (we’ve been on this trip many times before, thanks to Hugh F-W, Jamie, Gordon… god, probably even Ainsley) but I think most people would know that eel comes from, well, eel. He mentions the neatly sliced, packaged products in the supermarket, and I’m reminded of the Great British Feast episode a couple of weeks ago where he was absolutely delighting in the discoveries of the wondrous markets-of-superness.

Anyway, back to this show, with no further expectation of narrative consistency…

The eels are in a glass tank in the courtyard and Danielle (bravely? probably because she wants to get it over with) goes first. Bruce makes the obvious observation that they are going to get wet. As Danielle starts to dip her hands into the water, she’s screaming and doing the little retchy thing at the same time. Linda tells her not to scare the eels and she eventually catches one. All the excitement is too much for Niomi, who takes off indoors. Today’s episode must be brought to us by Stating the Bleeding ObviousTM, because Ade’s first comment of the day is that “the eels are slippery”. They’re all having a lot of fun, but it looks a little less lighthearted for the eels. Particularly Grant’s, which looks as though it narrowly escapes being strangled before it even makes it to the kitchen for dispatching.

Jody approaches the task with a gung ho attitude. Ade comments on his approach as being “enthusiastic”, but Danielle sees it as bloodthirstiness and Grant merely observes: “Jody, Jody, Jody. He’s slightly different to the rest of us”. Niomi reappears to tick Jody off for catching “her” eel.

All eels are stockinged up… what could possibly be in store for them? Let’s find out, after the jump…

Marco glowers at the celebs as they enter the kitchen. At least, I think he’s glowering – it’s hard to tell with all the steam rising from the pots in front of him. We begin with a lecture, the gist of which boils down to “always get live eels”. Marco mentions crabs and lobsters, which – yes – you buy live, but I’m not convinced by the comparison: killing crabs and lobsters is a passive process; killing eels requires cutting bits off. I can see why the celebs are looking queasy. Niomi refuses to kill an eel and also, to her credit, refuses to be drawn into Marco’s that-tuna-steak-you-had-for-lunch scenario. She fully acknowledges the hypocrisy, but won’t kill. She leaves the kitchen.

Marco demonstrates on the “spare” eel. “It’s painless. The French used to do it to people”. Danielle isn’t amused. “And Mr White showed us how to kill them, with one swift blow of the chopper,” reports Ade. The display seems to have encouraged greater deference for the chef. Or not: “…er, that’s the sharp cleaver thing, not his penis.” As the body of the eel, now separate from the head, continues to writhe, so does Danielle’s stomach. She makes a quick exit, retching as she goes.

Linda’s the first celeb to take the cleaver. Maybe she’ll cut off Marco’s penis. It was probably a mistake for her to talk to the eel as she was preparing to kill it; particularly weird to refer to it as “baby”. Still, she gets it done. Anthea’s dispatch isn’t so clean – she has to go in for a second wallop. Grant, as usual, urges her on, but I think I detected a slight wince as the second blow severed the eel. Jody decides to kill both the eels he caught and goes at it with no fuss. Unfortunately he’s not that tidy and loses too much eel in the process. In an interview, he tries to soften his new killer reputation by saying that he really does have a heart. He reminisces about going hunting as a kid and how bringing food home for’t’table was a big deal. At this point, he starts to get a bit sniffly, as he “remembers the happy times” killing things.

Claudia is definitely getting better. Or, at least, I’m starting to like her more. She is reassuring viewers who’d “looked away” for the eel massacre that the eels have been sent to a farm, where there’s a roller coaster, and are happily living with her old cat, Muldoon. Cats and eels on a rollercoaster – that’s my next YouTube search.

In a little aside from the action, we are getting some insights into the fun behind the scenes. Unfortunately all the examples of how creasingly funny Ade’s one-liners are involve a lot of bleeping, so it’s a bit of a pointless digression. We do, however, get some footage of the celebs teaching Linda some English slang (wanker, tosser, tits) which is funny until she reveals that she doesn’t even recognise the American slang “hooters”, and then she just seems rather painfully out of touch. Grant, according to Ade, is like a “Butlins redcoat”, which really sums him up nicely. He reminds Niomi of Cliff Richard and Ade doesn’t even give so much as an eye-roll when he starts singing “Living Doll”.

Enough shenanigans. Back to the restaurant (and Gary Lineker! Go, Gary Gary!) and… this is where I had to stop and breathe into a paper bag for a while because GARY LINEKER IS MARRIED TO DANIELLE! Oh, wow. Claudia wants to know whether Gary’s a bit nervous about all the attention Danielle’s getting from Marco. He tries to parry this, but Claudia’s obviously trying to earn her Investigative Journalism patch, so persists: “Don’t you want to leapfrog over the pass and give her a little naked squeeze?”. Be still my beating heart! And, no, he’s too scared of Marco to allow the world to see his fear-shrunken package.

It’s time for Nick to do some lightning service training with Danielle and Anthea. First, let’s watch him gaze moodily at a butter dish and try to guess what he’s thinking…

Nick contemplates a career change

Nick contemplates a career change

Nick starts at the very beginning (which, under ordinary circumstances, is deemed a very good place to start). The “beginning”, in this case, is to talk about table numbers. Yes, indeed. Baby steps. Unfortunately, this is going to be a challenge for Danielle, who admits to having a bit of “number dyslexia”, which she further explains with the international gesture for crazy, thus losing the chance to become the poster girl for number dyslexia across Britain. Nick’s face twitches relentlessly as Anthea recommends that Danielle doesn’t listen to all the highly technical counting talk, but he’s starting to doubt that Anthea is going to be any better. Anthea thinks she will be – by the end of their training, she’s convinced she could reorganise the restaurant to make it “a lot simpler”. As it happens, “A lot simpler” is standing right there, wondering which table comes after table 14.

Back in the kitchen, Marco “repositions” some team members. Linda will go on crab and steak tartare; Niomi will be with Marco. He doesn’t mention the others, so either they have all been summarily sacked (dispatched?) or they are staying in their now familiar places. At some point, Marco promises (or threatens) to leave one of the celebs in charge. He says that he wouldn’t put somebody in a position they couldn’t handle, but we know he’s kidding. Who will it be?

Diners arrive and I think the soundtrack is from Requiem for a Dream. Ominous! First orders are in – two crab! In one minute! I’d love to know what the “crab” entails – we see Linda grab what looks like a dosai from a pile of dosais (dosa?) and then pop some crab meat on a plate next to it.

Scenes from front of house: Danielle doesn’t recommend the tartare to a diner, because she doesn’t like raw meat. She’s iffy about the shrimp, too. Anthea, who considers herself to be a “good hostess” is greeting diners at a pitch that is just shy of shattering glass. The next time we see her, she’s mopping a stain from a man’s shirt. Now that’s personal service. Or maybe the stain is a result of her clumsiness. Perhaps she spilt some sauce during feeding time:

Anthea gives great... service

Anthea gives great... service

Claudia introduces us to another table of diners: Ade’s family (well, wife, daughter and daughter’s boyfriend). I always forget that Jennifer Saunders is married to Adrian Edmondson. She says they’re enjoying seeing him on the telly and are pleased that he isn’t losing his temper. That’s good. Apparently Ade decided to take part because he’s “fascinated by Marco”. “Fascinated by Marco” should be established as a Facebook group, if it doesn’t already exist.

“Crab, crab, crab, crab, where’s my crab? I’m waiting for my toast, toast, toast, toast. How long for my crab? How long for my crab? Run, run, run, run, come on!” I think Marco should consider writing a children’s book. A sort of “Where the Wild Things Are” but with more slaughter.

Linda manages her crab crisis, so clearly Marco needs to do something more to throw the kitchen into disarray. “Jody, you’re on the pass.”

Jody is 100% confident he can manage the pass

Jody is 100% confident he can manage the pass

They’re close to the end of service – according to Grant’s interview, there are only two tables left to serve – but Jody can’t seem to call out the tickets properly. Everyone looks bemused as he first calls out starters, which have all gone out, and then starts relaying a number of conflicting messages about what he needs. First he calls for two tartare, then screams at Ade for not delivering two turbot, and then loses one of the two tickets. His popularity in the kitchen is probably the lowest it’s been; Ade wonders in an interview whether it’s wrong of him to enjoy the schadenfreude, then decides that he’s going to enjoy it anyway.

Service is over and Claudia runs through the quiz question for the night. In the background, Jody slugs a glass of wine. He’s obviously dealing with the decompression well.

Marco is back in the kitchen to evaluate the performances. It turns out that the reason Linda was so slammed on crab was that Danielle was pushing it. Niomi jokes that it was all part of Danielle’s master plan to eliminate competition. They all chortle. Danielle! Master plan! Linda scores well for the crab; Bruce’s veal score isn’t too flash. Jody’s two tables garner him 8/10. Danielle’s described as “nervous but sweet”. Anthea looks surprised by her assessment: “brusque, lacking warmth or connection”. I would have accepted “knows no boundaries” or “smothering”, but not that. Seems unfair.

Decision time. “Who wants to win?” Grant’s hand is up first, followed by all except Danielle. “So, you don’t want to win?” Marco asks. “I don’t want to lose,” she replies. Marco: praises Linda and Danielle for “picking themselves back up”; agrees with Ade that he had a good night, and with Bruce that he didn’t; tells Grant that he should have helped out more and Niomi that she lets her curiosity get the better of her; allows Jody to self-deprecate; and remonstrates with Anthea for trying to sneak more chips to a customer. Who will go, then?

Marco needs more time to process his thoughts. The first sacking will be next episode.

This is what passes for "so smiley!", according to Claudia

This is what passes for "so smiley!", according to Claudia

Angus Deayton never got to go into the kitchen!