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Elimination Houdini / Hell's Kitchen

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As with all competitive Reality TV shows, there are always contestants whom audiences believe long outstay their welcome, whether it be due to their skills or their attitude. Hell's Kitchen is no exception.

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    In General 
  • It is believed that Executive Meddling keeps many of them in the running, hopes of raising the drama and therefore ratings. Or that Gordon is contractually obligated to do a certain number of episodes, and can't eliminate every useless individual, lest he gets the final four by episode six. Or a streak of good work on one team helps to insulate a shoddy player, especially in a target-rich environment (so if the person who was this was eliminated early on, there'd be a different one to take their place). One of the season six contestants Jim Mc Gloin confirmed that Ramsay is not the person who decides eliminations, it's the producers. So contestants who were elimination targets like Sabrina and Elise were only kept around because their Hate Sink status made them a good ratings ploy.
    • Season 6's Kevin elaborated on Reddit eliminations are voted on by contestants as the show depicts— with scenes subsequently edited to highlight that chef's particular mistakes to justify the decision.
    • Of course, since Ramsay is the primary presenter and the owner of the restaurants that employment within is offered as a prize, he probably has the final word on the winner specifically. Note how the talented hate sink (or the mediocre but passionate and kind person) gets eliminated either just before the black jacket team merge or as soon as possible within the black jackets (that is, unless someone fucks up spectacularly, then it is borrowed time).
  • Also, watch out for chefs with great palates. Chef Ramsay has stated that a great palate is one of the most important things a chef can possess, noting that while he can teach nearly anyone to be a great cook, a good palate is something you're born with and an indicator of a chef's true potential. Chefs who have been noted to have great palates and who do well in the inevitable "blind taste test" challenge, which usually takes place just before or just after the teams merge, have almost always done far better than they would've been expected otherwise.
    • Cases in point: Virginia in season 2 and Bonnie in season 3. There's also Nona in season 8, who made it into the final six and eventually won the season even after messing up several dinner services in a row (though Gail and Vinny's collapses just before the merge may have also helped Nona along). However, this was subverted in season 10 with Brian, who got three out of four right on the palate test while his teammates Robyn and Clemenza earned none, yet Brian was eliminated before either of them, in 7th place.
  • There's a pretty consistent pattern in how Ramsay eliminates contestants. Chefs who are outright incompetent are the first to go; they might last a bit longer if they show some passion and enthusiasm, but not beyond the first few episodes. The next contestants to be eliminated are the ones who consistently fly under the radar, and never put in a truly good performance nor show any real leadership qualities. After that, we get to the traditional Elimination Houdinis — chefs who put in a lot of unremarkable or outright bad performances, but at least one or two good performances along the way, which gives Ramsay more of a reason to keep them in than the ones who are okay but never excel. Once they're gone, we're finally left with the genuinely good contestants. Ultimately, there are usually two major Elimination Houdinis per season, the awful chef who somehow stumbles through the first few episodes (either because they have very high enthusiasm or someone else who is normally more consistent fucks up spectacularly) before being eliminated somewhere between episodes 3-5, and the chef who either has a bad attitude throughout the season and/or dramatically improves throughout the season (they might also have a good palate). This chef usually gets to at least the final six, and sometimes (as was the case with Virginia, Bonnie, and Mary) even the final two.
    • One important thing to keep in mind that this is a filmed TV show. This means that a lot of what happens gets edited out, so viewers often miss out on the full story behind Chef Ramsay's choices for elimination.
    • Older contestants are also very likely to be eliminated early, if not in the very first episode. This is likely because Ramsay sees more potential for growth in younger contestants since they ostensibly have more life ahead of them. Older chefs also likely have more experience, so Ramsay expects more from them. If an older and younger chef makes the same mistake, you can bet the older chef will be the one eliminated for it.

    Season 1 
  • Andrew. He failed consistently to cook dishes correctly, caused infighting in his team, and would never admit to doing anything wrong. Part of Andrew's survival was probably down to the contestants he was put up for elimination against (Wendy, who was utterly hopeless, and Mary-Ellen, who wasn't quite as bad as Andrew but wasn't a great cook herself), but he still lasted several weeks longer than he deserved to. He ended up getting eliminated right before the black jackets.
  • Jimmy. He screwed up nearly every service but kept avoiding being nominated firstly because Dewberry and Jeff somehow managed to be worse in the early services, and Elsie decided to nominate Carolann instead of him. The second reason is that Michael carried the red team for the rest of the season after the team switch and deliberately avoided nominating Jimmy after their sole remaining loss so that he could get rid of Chris (since Ramsay couldn't overrule nominations during the first season). He lasted until the first black jacket service where he was eliminated.
    • It's possible that this lead to the later changes, of Gordon having veto power over the more 'game-like' elements in it, to avoid strategic play.

    Season 2 
  • Virginia. She was a decent chef for the most part (she won most of the challenges), but constantly fell apart during service. Near the end, she won an immunity challenge that would let her into the final 3 but screwed up so badly that Gordon revoked it... only to return it to her in the middle of elimination to the anger of Heather and Keith. She ended up the runner-up.
  • Tom. He only lasted until the fourth week, but he managed to screw his team on virtually every service, yet somehow kept surviving being put up for elimination until the utter train wreck that was the fourth service.
  • Sara. She had a few decent early performances, but she started making more and more screw-ups, along with showing a terrible attitude and constantly screwing over her teammates and letting them take the fall for it, though she managed ended up fourth mostly just because others managed to be even worse.

    Season 3 
  • Josh. He placed fifth (he even got a Black Jacket) despite constantly screwing up and then did so terribly that Ramsay eliminated him mid-service. It's even more shocking that he was nominated almost every time the blue team lost a service (except for the final team-based service where Rock decided to put Brad up instead) and was passed over by other stronger chefs.
  • Bonnie did horribly for the first half of the season, but - most likely because she was one of the most tolerable of that season's "Hell's Bitches" - she was able to stay long enough to improve herself and deservedly finish second.
  • Melissa was the best cook on the red team for the first two services of that season, but disintegrated spectacularly afterward, and kept on surviving through virtue of her early good performances until Ramsay finally had enough and threw her out after a failed chance with the blue team.

    Season 4 
  • Jen. She was a capable chef, but completely unable to recognize her faults when she did make mistakes. Eventually, everybody got sick of her attitude that she was nominated twice in the black jackets before being eliminated in 4th place.
  • Matt could cook at times, but was emotionally unstable, which often caused his abilities to drop like a brick. He placed 6th.
  • Rosann was a consistently terrible performer, but the cliquey nature of that season's red team meant that she kept avoiding being nominated for elimination simply because the other girls liked her. However, she was eliminated 8th after Corey could not handle her mistakes any longer.
  • Christina, despite being a pretty good chef, was constantly targeted by the red team due to their belief that she was "snooty". While two of her nominations were legit, two of them were based on those pre-mentioned beliefs. However, she managed to win the season despite it.
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     Season 5 
  • Colleen and Seth were both consistently useless on the line and yet avoided being eliminated for several weeks in succession. Colleen survived mostly because teammate Ji had to quit due to an ankle injury, while Seth was helped by Ramsay inexplicably eliminating Wil and Charlie, two much better cooks, in favor of him. They were eventually eliminated in episode 4 (Seth) and 5 (Colleen).
  • Lacey spent a lot of her time on the show whining and acting like a petulant teenager, though when she did bother to put the effort in she was one of the best performers from that season. The occasional good performances that she did show probably kept her in until relatively late in that season, when she fell apart spectacularly on the meat station and got kicked out in mid-service.
  • Andrea barely hung on after her first nomination in Episode 5, being nominated every single time her team lost afterwards (with the exceptions of Episode 2 where Colleen and Lacey did worse, and Episode 6 where she was ranked Best of the Worst). Despite repeatedly screwing up during service, she received a black jacket... and then proceeded to get nominated after every single black jacket service, and would have been booted if not for Giovanni’s “Dickface” incident, Robert’s medical exit, and receiving immunity. In the end, she placed 3rd.

     Season 6 
  • During the beginning, Tenille screwed up several times and got within an inch of being thrown out mid-service after insulting Ramsay to his face.
  • However, after the universally disastrous 6th service, Tenille improved and Suzanne and Sabrina took over. Suzanne repeatedly screwed her team nearly every service, while Sabrina made several critical mistakes such as serving raw pork.
  • Amanda was one of the weakest members on the red team with several Epic Fail moments, such as freezing the salmon on the first day but only got eliminated in the eighth episode. The reasons for that because Melinda, Lovely, and Tek all had atrocious performances, and she wasn't the main target.
  • Andy, despite probably being the worst performer out of that season's men (barring only the grossly incompetent Louie, and the in-over-his-head Tony), lasted nine services before getting kicked out. Part of that included Gordon inexplicably kicking Jim out of the blue when he wasn't up for nomination, along with Joseph getting thrown out for being a complete jerk during the second episode's nomination.

     Season 7 
  • Scott, despite his claimed "fine dining experience", constantly screwed up and blamed his teammates. While he was lucky to be on the more stable blue team, he performed worse when he was on the red team and was eliminated after the Family Night service.
  • Fran always blamed anyone and anything but herself, despite constant mistakes and six nominations.
  • Siobhan made mistake after mistake after mistake.
  • Autumn, despite constant mistakes, blaming others (or just keeping quiet) for her mistakes and the fact that neither team could stand her, made it to the final four. That being said, she's at least capable, and that her attitude made her teammates notice her mistakes more than their own.
  • Benjamin, like Scott, loved to brag about his "fine dining" experience to everyone and wouldn't shut up about it; and while he started strong, his weaknesses were quickly exposed when was moved to the red team. He proved to be a poor leader, was often disrespectful towards his teammates (particularly Siobhan, Autumn, and Holli) for no reason, threw a hissy-fit whenever he lost a challenge to anyone and insisted his dish was better despite Ramsay saying otherwise, and had several poor services but managed to intimidate his other teammates to avoid nomination until he went up against Jason in the final five, and despite Ben having been much worse during service, Jason was sent home instead. Then in the next episode, he tried to get himself sent home early by claiming he had a back injury (despite clearly being shown moving around and bending over without being in any noticeable pain) but Ramsay encouraged him to stay, though he was eliminated anyway along with Autumn.

     Season 8 
  • Melissa, who kept screwing up badly in the early services, kept surviving because the other red team members for some reason believed her to be the best cook on the team and kept trying to shield her from elimination. Eventually, she got moved to the blue team as a last-ditch attempt to improve her performances, but she promptly tanked again; her new teammates weren't as inclined to protect her, and she was soon gone.
  • Sabrina ended up placing sixth despite her bitchy personality, although like Lacey from Season 5, there did seem to be at least some talent lurking behind the bitchiness.
  • Arguably, Russell's insufferably arrogant personality made him ultimately unworthy of getting a black jacket, let alone placing second.

    Season 9 
  • Elise was not head chef material. All she was at best was a decent but not stand-out chef, and at worst an incompetent chef who has made several glaring errors. Where she does stand-out is her toxic attitude—she's arrogant, stupid, loud and argues with other contestants constantly, declaring her intent to get her Arch-Enemy Carrie eliminated, always blames others for her mistakes, and claims that any other chef who dislikes her is just threatened by her talent. Furthermore, when the team wins a challenge she makes sure to let them know it was thanks to her—if they lose, she refuses to help them with the prep work or other penalty, invoking "I'm A Chef, Not A Placeholder" to justify why she feels she doesn't have to help. It was obvious that she won't win (even if she makes into the finals, she's alienated the other players so much that they'd all probably walk off the line rather than cook for her), so the goal is now to keep her in as many episodes as possible without looking overt. She ended up third and Chef Ramsay even let her keep her jacket. In a moment from the after-party, he tells her she'd be a fantastic chef if she'd "just stop being a bitch".
  • Carrie was effectively the opposite of Elise, having a much nicer personality but turning in consistently dreadful performances. YMMV on how "nice" Carrie was though. Carrie ended up placing 8th.
  • Tommy, while not terrible, had very few moments where he did a truly good job and spent the majority of the season in the background during dinner service. But unlike Elise, he was nice, funny, and all-around likable, and Ramsay admitted that he liked Tommy's spirit and enjoyed having him around, and ultimately said that he had grown to "understand and appreciate" Tommy's skills. He placed fourth.
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    Season 10 
  • Robyn was okay in a few services (including her first service on the blue team, where Ramsay said she was the only one who performed well); but more often than not, she ended up making a lot of simple mistakes. In episode 14, she served potentially lethal raw chicken twice and as a result, Ramsay kicked the ENTIRE BLUE TEAM out of the kitchen. Ultimately though, Robyn survived, and Kimmie was eliminated despite it being her first time on the elimination block (though to be fair, Kimmie was ALMOST as bad). Then, in the next episode, she received a black jacket while Brian was eliminated. Like Kimmie, Brian was pretty bad in his final service (so bad that Barbie had to take over his station) and he displayed a very immature attitude, but he had been consistent overall apart from one other bad service and Robyn had attempted to throw her teammates under the bus during that service by saying that they made her do something that Ramsay yelled at her for. She placed 6th.
  • Tiffany was not only she a weak chef, she was incredibly lazy (going so far as to try cooking in a dirty pan despite there being several clean pans in front of her) kept screwing up during service, and didn't even seem to have some motivation and passion (when Ramsay asked her on a scale of one to ten how much she cared, she hesitated before saying nine). She placed ninth.
  • Clemenza was incredibly inconsistent, sometimes doing good during challenges but usually making silly mistakes during service and refusing to admit to them. He was nominated more times than anyone else on the blue team and avoided all of them due to him shifting the blame over to whoever else was up for nomination along with him. Though in all fairness, whoever he was up against managed to be even worse than him; in other words, he was a master of being NEAR the bottom of the pack without being AT the bottom until getting booted in 5th place.
  • Royce was a textbook example of Small Name, Big Ego. For example, he bragged about how good he was then served a lobster dish with a very long piece of hair in it. Despite this, he placed 10th.

    Season 11 
  • Zach was not a standout chef throughout the season (with his one truly awesome moment coming in the first episode); he's another case of Small Name, Big Ego, and most of the cast disliked him. His incompetence is notable for two specific scenarios, during one service he tried to sabotage Ray with cold sauce and was caught by Ramsay who warned Ray to watch him, showing he was aware Zach did it on purpose, and in a later service Zach fumbled an order trying to call it back, so Ramsay took over his station to prepare Zach's part of the order himself. He placed 6th.
  • Mary was nominated 3 times in a span of 5 episodes due to being one of the weaker chefs in this season. Then she improved tremendously and achieved 2nd.
  • Susan she took 15 episodes to properly cook lamb and was several times put on the chopping block for being extremely overshadowed in both skill and growth. Nevertheless, she placed fifth.
  • Nedra did well at times, but all too often she'd tank services and showcase an extremely poor attitude about it. She survived by a) causing other people (e. g. Amanda) to screw up and place the blame on them and b) using her bitchiness to manipulate her team into nominating people who didn't deserve to be nominated. This strategy got her far on the red team, but when she joined the blue team and tanked service, the blue team didn't give in to her manipulation. She was eliminated that night, in eighth place.

    Season 12 
  • Demarco was an early example. He didn't perform well enough for the blue team, and he was nominated five times in a row whenever they had the chance. While he survived the first four due to multiple chefs doing worse than him (Gaurav, Nicole, and Mike were poor performers, while Simone surprising quit in the middle of the third elimination), he didn't last in his fifth nomination as Ramsay said he ran out of chances.
  • Gabriel survived five nominations (for, in order, raw chicken, slowing the blue team to a loss, inaccurate timing, not being able to count, and raw steaks, while not being nominated for frozen garnish) and seemed to be just generally in over his head. He admittedly survived over several far worse people, but more than a few fans were annoyed to see him survive over Richard in episode 13. He finally got the chop in the last red/blue team episode after doing so badly that he was kicked out mid-service.
  • Scott tied the show's record for the most nominations, although at least three of those were purely the result of Joy refusing to ever nominate Kashia and putting him up instead and another one being a result of Anton blaming Scott for his own mistakes. Despite this, he got to the finale after a huge improvement in the final weeks and eventually won.

    Season 13 
  • Roe was the most experienced chef out of anyone that season note , but she screwed up in several services and cost her team several challenges (for example, getting a 4 out of 15 while the next lowest scoring dish was a nine). She somehow avoided being nominated until episode 6... and survives over Katie (though to be fair, Katie was just as bad). She ended up 5th, after completely falling apart on the garnish station.
  • Kalen was a minor example. She only lasted five episodes, but she completely screwed her team over in at least the last three.
  • Sterling was an interesting example. He was a good cook, but his peppy attitude rubbed a lot of the chefs the wrong way. While he managed to make it to the Top 7, he was eliminated right after service when he failed on fish.

    Season 14 
  • Monique was a short-lived example, only lasting five episodes, but tanking in virtually every service and challenge, and having a generally horrible attitude toward her team-mates and the competition as a whole.
  • Christine, while generally doing well in challenges, screwed up in almost every service but kept on surviving because someone else managed to do just that little bit worse. Ironically she started showing signs of improvement near the end of her time on the show but was eliminated after losing the "Cook for your Life" challenge.
  • Josh did well in a lot of the early services, but after about the halfway point his performances and attitude both nosedived. After a handful of lucky breaks — Ramsay deciding to reshuffle the teams rather than eliminating anyone, then Randy being eliminated despite being on the winning team, followed by Alison suddenly tanking and getting kicked out over Josh — he finally got the boot in the first Black Team service.

    Season 15 
  • Jackie was nominated four times but made it to the Top 8, despite only average cooking skills (including defending undercooked chicken to Ramsay, normally a major Berserk Button of his). What made her longevity perplexing, though, was her attitude, that being of a loudmouth Jerkass who gets in her team's faces, and even argued with Sous Chef Christina at one point. Her team wanted her gone and they would have been better off without her, but she endured to 8th place. In the finale, she both Took a Level in Badass and Took a Level in Kindness, being the best member of Ariel's team. She even jumped on to the station Dannie left behind after she left the service.
  • Frank, despite having competence and skill during service, had an unreasonably foul, sexist attitude, constantly berating Manda when she was moved to the blue team, on top of rubbing every one of his teammates the wrong way. He placed seventh overall, being eliminated after Jackie.
  • Dannie had very strong showcases during service, but her attitude was lackadaisical at best, and downright unbearable at worst. Placing sixth in the competition, she was brought back for the final service, being placed on Ariel's team, where the tipping point was reached, as she abandoned the service after being chewed out by Chef Ramsay for her attitude.

    Season 16 
  • Gia, by the third episode, showed herself to be a massive Jerkass and The Load who refused to pitch in and help, and when lying about an injury was a Houdini for not being sent home on the spot, saved at the end of the episode only because Jessica nominated herself, having given up and already packed. Gia would not be so lucky next episode as she would not change her negative traits and was sent home despite not being nominated and being on the winning team.
  • Wendy managed to survive over contestants such as Aziza and Shaina, despite her mistakes during services being more frequent and ostensibly worse (such as serving raw meat or completely forgetting to cook portions), and having the most nominations, tied with Paulie at five when she was eliminated. In all fairness, she likely survived as long as she did due to being a strong performer in challenges, and being the third chef in Hell's Kitchen history to score a 4/4 in the blind taste test. (As any longtime viewer knows, Ramsay really values strong palates, and even acknowledged Wendy's in her elimination).
  • Paulie, like Wendy, tended to perform decently in challenges, but regularly fell apart during dinner service. It didn't help that some of his mistakes (such as trying to fire five risottos at once) were things that even a rookie chef would notice. He also had an ego the size of a planet, regularly refused to take responsibility for his failures, and often condescended to his teammates. Despite this, he made it to the final five, before being eliminated along with Kimberly.

    Season 17 (All-Stars) 
  • Manda would have been eliminated first if it wasn't for Ben's health problems, especially when her team found her to be the weakest chef of the season. She becomes the 6th eliminated contestant after ruining her team's momentum with a missing pork order.
  • For Elise, it's a new season, same story. If anything her attitude is even worse than in Season 9, with her seeming to pick a new Arch-Enemy from her teammates every week to yell at, blame for mistakes, and trash in the Confession Cam segments. Meanwhile, her cooking has only marginally improved, but only so far as challenges, in services she's hit-or-miss (and once again manages to blame other chefs for her mistakes) and on punishments, she's still a Lazy Bum. Everyone on both teams hates her, yet she made it to the Final Seven over far more talented chefs who only made marginal mistakes. It does at this point confirm that Elise was only brought back because of her toxic attitude creating a good rating ploy, and she was only kept on the show for so long to keep the views coming. Fortunately for everyone, a terrible day on the black jackets challenge finally got her eliminated.
  • Robyn drastically reduced her potential of drama after being transferred to a more stable Blue Team, resulting in an inconsistent chef who survived over stronger contestants. While not without talent as her challenge performances showed, Robyn consistently made more mistakes than the chefs around her, but survived elimination over Ashley, Jared, Giovanni, and Van, and even made it into the Black Jackets at a time when she had more nominations than every other Black Jacket chef combined. Her luck eventually ran out and she was eliminated after the first black jacket service.

     Season 18 (Rookies vs. Veterans) 
  • Trev was inconsistent throughout the competition and made some stupid mistakes that costed his team challenge wins (such as forgetting to plate a fish needed for a challenge), along with refusing to accept them. This caused him to lose the respect of his teammates, and while he was saved on his first three nominations note , he was finally eliminated after his fourth nomination.
  • Heather constantly reminded the audience and team members that she was second in Season 16, but it was clear from the start that she was nowhere near as good. She played it very safe with most of the challenges, getting rather middling poor scores from judges a lot of the time. She also played off most of her issues on stations during dinner service as being the fault of other people and refused to communicate during these services as well. Almost her entire team believed she was nothing more than a detriment to the group and wanted her out as soon as possible. The only reason why she was safe most nights was due to Ramsay admitting he was giving her chances to improve (and the fact that the Blue Team rarely lost services). She finally got eliminated, however, after the first black jacket service.

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