The penultimate episode of Hell’s Kitchen this season starts off with no less than a six minute recap of the season-to-date. This is followed by the opening credits and then the announcer says ominous words about this being a "continuation" of Hell’s Kitchen. In each of the past two seasons, for the finale, the announcer makes it clear that it is the last episode. His not doing so tonight can only mean that things will be decided next week, and that there is simply not that much going to happen on tonight’s episode. It also means that the opening six minutes of recap and clips is just a prelude of what is to come this evening.

Rather than heading back into another recap instantly however, we do get to see Rock and Bonnie, our final two contestants, rejoicing in seeing their loved ones. Even Rock’s kids have made the trip to the studio. Soon enough however, the good times are over and Gordon Ramsay sends the families away, but not before Rock can ask if his wife can go upstairs with him (he must still be hoping for a conjugal visit). Ramsay finds this funny, but does not acquiesce, and instead Rock heads off with Bonnie.

Back in the dorms the two celebrate their victory and start trying to truly psych each other out. Rock actually seems intimidated by the nanny, he had no idea she could possibly be such a threat. Bonnie tells Rock that no one, Rock included, has figured out how good she is until it was too late. Though the favorite, Rock just is not looking too strong right now.

The next morning, with 36 hours to go before their service, the chefs start meeting with some of Hell’s Kitchen’s minions in order to prepare for their big night. The two truly are a study in contrast as they, separately, go over with the designer what they want the place to look like. Bonnie wants something European, romantic, certainly without booths, and without everything matching. She is even contemplating mismatched place settings and silverware. Rock on the other hand loves the booths, wants an American-Southern feel to the place, and loves conformity.

At least Rock knew what he wanted the place to look like, because by the time he moves on to talk to Jean Philippe about clothes for the servers and Scott the sous chef about the menu, he has no idea what he wants. He mentions to Jean Philippe the idea of the servers wearing jeans, and Jean Philippe almost has a coronary on the spot. Somehow Jean Philippe steers Rock away from jeans, but that leaves Rock without any ideas at all. He has the exact same problem with Scott. Rock knows that his signature dish of fried chicken and crab cakes has to be on the menu, but that is as far as he can go.

Bonnie has no such issues. She is able to tell Jean Philippe what the uniforms should look like and can answer questions about the most minute details. She explains that she wants all her servers in black, and that on the women the pants should be relatively tight. When she talks to Mary Ann about the menu she is able to go through appetizers and entrees. These will include mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup in the appetizer category and her signature linguini pasta dish for an entrée choice.

Rather than getting to continue working on the menu and restaurant look and feel, Ramsay steps in and tells Bonnie and Rock that they are heading to Vegas. On the private jet, Ramsay quizzes them about the experience so far, allowing the show another opportunity to provide clips of old episodes.

Once they arrive in Vegas, Bonnie and Rock head to the Green Valley Ranch (where the winner will have a restaurant) and are shown into a beautiful suite that just happens to have promos of them on the TV as the Hell’s Kitchen finalists. This excitement is short-lived however as Ramsay takes the finalists out to a "special VIP lounge" for a drink.

Or, that is what he tells them he is doing.

It turns out that this is the last challenge, and that Rock and Bonnie must each prepare their signature dish in 30 minutes and there will be seven different judges present to taste them. Neither seems to have a problem time-wise completing the task, but during the tasting Rock quickly finds himself under the gun with three of the first four judges (including Robin Leach) deciding they like Bonnie’s linguini better than his surf and turf. With Rock one vote away from elimination, he and Bonnie are introduced to the fifth judge, Michael Wray. Michael was the first winner of Hell’s Kitchen, which allows for more clips from old episodes to be used. Michael chooses Rock’s dish, helping Rock stave off defeat just a little while longer. The sixth judge is Heather West, the second winner of Hell’s Kitchen, which again is the perfect excuse for more old footage to be inserted into this episode. Heather chooses Rock as well, allowing the seventh judge to be called.

This last judge actually turns out to be two gentlemen from the Green Valley Ranch, the general manager and the executive chef. After much hemming, hawing, and a commercial break, they decide to vote for Bonnie’s linguini, putting Rock on the losing end of yet another challenge. To the camera he insists again that the challenge does not matter, he wants to win during the service, but there is fear in his eyes as he says it.

Before things in Vegas wrap up, Ramsay does in fact have a drink with the two chefs and invites them to his new restaurant in the London Hotel in New York City to sit at his chef’s table and spend a couple of days in my hometown. After this lovely invitation, the chefs head back to Los Angeles and Hell’s Kitchen and continue to try and psych each other out a little bit more before finally calling it a night.

The next morning arrives, as it usually does, and with eleven hours to go, the last six departed contestants traipse back into the dorms to lend their support to the finalists. Julia is quite distressed about being there, she truly believed that she had a chance to win the whole thing, and seeing how close she came only to lose seems upset her more. All eight chefs are called back out to the kitchen and Ramsay says hello to each in turn, thereby allowing clips of them from old shows to be thrown in.

Each of the last six eliminated contestants will be put on a team to help one of the two remaining finalists, and as Bonnie won the challenge, she gets to select first. Her team ends up being Jen, Melissa, and Julia (selected in that order) and Rock chooses Brad, Vinnie, and Josh (in that order). Julia tells the camera that she is actually probably rooting for Rock. Will she subtly tank Bonnie’s efforts in the kitchen during the final service? It is too soon to tell as Ramsay sends everyone back to the dorm so they can get up to speed on the menus, clips from next week’s finale start to roll and that is it for tonight.

All in all it was not the most exciting episode this season, but it could actually prove to be an interesting finale next week.

Who do I think is going to win? Well, I’m not going to tell you that. I will however suggest that you head on over to The TV and Film Guy’s Reviews and see what else I have to say on movies, television, and various other forms of entertainment.

Posted by:Josh Lasser