Hell's Kitchen Season 8 Premiere: Ramsay Rivaled By Frighteningly Unstable Contestants

Who knew that the mainstays of Hell's Kitchen -- Gordon Ramsay's expletives, plate throwing, food spitting, etc. -- could be bested by contestants unleashing a top-shelf grade of crazy/scary the likes of which Fox must be doing nude, cocaine-induced cartwheels over?

Even the show's non hell-like opening credits, showing the Lilliput-esque contestants tormenting a Gulliver's Travels Ramsay, are almost prophetic in their telling of things to come.

Grab a beer. Or two. You're gonna need 'em.

We start the season premiere with the worst punishment Hell's Kitchen could bestow upon us: No Jean-Philippe, the previous maitre d' for the past seven seasons. As the new maitre d', some milquetoast hangdog named James Lukanik asks the 16 chefs to put blindfolds on for a bus ride. Somehow, blindfolded, they make it out of a large vehicle and into a room where the voice of Chef Ramsay tells them to take off their blindfolds. (Gasp!) They're in the LA LIVE restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles, where Gordon announces they'll be competing for the head chef position as well as the opportunity to be a spokesperson for Rosemount Estate Wines. (Translation: No freaks.) Ramsay's revelation comes just moments after Sabrina, a 22-year-old prep chef, says she's so nervous that her heart just fell out of her butt, which is both a disturbing visual and a sign of things to come from the contestant Gordon will start calling Baby Spice.

Time to cook up those signature dishes! (Oh, and spoiler alert!)

Following Ramsay's asking Emily to "cover up her puppies" on what she refers to as her "date outfit" before serving her duck breast -- Get it? Booby humor -- the challenge ends up in a tie between the red and blue teams. Thanks to Antonia's not-tasted, gag-inducing gumbo that Chef Ramsay makes everyone eat, the blue team wins.

Oh, yeah, and then there's this Raj character, who's either the worst plant ever or a very real and very sad person no one should be making fun of.

Without nary an explanation of what will be prepared at dinner service, the contestants are off and running, except for Antonia, who's been taken to the hospital with a horrible headache that makes her twitch and cry. Not that it matters anyway 'cause she's not coming back to Hell's Kitchen (one contestant down). We'll always have your garbage gumbo, Anonia!

As expected, dinner service is horrible and made even worse when Grammy winner Michelle Branch and Animal Planet snake taunter Donald Schultz show up as guests (not together; Donald comes with a King Cobra -- kidding!) and desperately mug for the cameras in hopes that people will see them and remember what beautiful and amazing people they are.

After Ramsay declares both teams losers, 22-year-old Sabrina, a.k.a. Baby Spice, throws two of her team members under the bus: Nona for snoring and being good-for-nothing, and Lisa for being old and finished. Turns out she was right about Lisa. She's the first to leave Hell's Kitchen. Lucky her.

In part two, we learn that Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto must be seriously in debt or hopped up on painkillers. Why else would he come to HK to teach the dumbest cast of characters ever how to re-create two of his sushi specialties for the next challenge? Of course they have to do it in pairs, which isn't the disaster Fox had hoped for -- except the part when Melissa says she wished for the Asian chick as a partner 'cause she'd know how to make sushi (um, racist much?). Blue team wins again, and the ladies have to prep for sushi night dinner service and eat weird food for some reason that's never explained. How do you spell filler? S-Q-U-I-D.

Ding, ding! Dinner service number two!

The red team's kicking ass while Vinny, playing the part of assistant maitre d', gets kicked out of the kitchen Ramsay-style for telling customers they can't order sides because they'll have to wait forever -- smart! He's soon joined by country-boy-who-can't-make-sushi Curtis, Raj, and finally the rest of the blue team after a last straw walnut error.

Red team wins and Ramsay tells country-boy Curtis to get the hell out of Hell. Even though he's crying like NASCAR's been canceled, it's only when he says, "I'm sorry, Daddy gave it his best, but I swear I'll make it up to you." that we're all having a laugh because it's funny and, like the episode, so very, very dumb.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld