‘Hell’s Kitchen’ 18 episode 14 recap: Showmanship, horsing around and a shocking conclusion — all right before next week’s 2-hour finale

Last week, Ariel Contreras-Fox and Mia Castro won the reward challenge with their versions of Eggs Benedict. But rookie Mia’s tendency to space out during dinner service got the best of her again. She and veteran Heather Williams were both up for elimination. But Heather’s food sins were more egregious and she justly got the boot. But it was rookie Motto who stepped up his game and got the service back on track. Mia and Ariel, the favorites to go all the way, should keep an eye on this guy. Below, check out our minute-by-minute recap of “Hell’s Kitchen” Season 18, Episode 14.

9:02 p.m. Mia is ticked that veteran Bret Hauser picked her for elimination. Bret is clearly unnerved that the private chef from Miami Beach is giving as good as she gets. “I feel like Mia is the weakest chef in the kitchen right now. Let her stay in her fancy little private chef life in Miami.” Given that he is a private chef from Fort Lauderdale, all I can say is, “Look who’s talking.”

9:06 p.m. Suddenly, a full moon appears on screen and a wolf’s howl is heard. The phone rings, even though it is 11:48 p.m.  It is Gordon Ramsay, beckoning the final four to the red kitchen. The chef announces that they will be ending the day with a midnight snack. Pancakes, to be exact.  And demonstrating the art of flap-jacks is Dan Drake, the cook behind Dancakes. He is has the ability to  decorate his pancakes with cartoony caricatures. I must say he does right by all four chefs and Ramsay, especially jug-eared Bret.

9:08 p.m. Chef Ramsay tells the final quartet that whoever becomes his executive chef will  have to be the face of his new restaurant in Las Vegas. And they will have to be a great showman (or woman, but whatever). All four need to come up with a dish that can be concocted tableside so they can demonstrate their flair when they prepare.

9:10 p.m. The chefs are up early to get ready for a critical test of their abilities. Helping out with the judging will be “esteemed chefs.”  They are Ted Hopson, chef and owner of the Bellwether; Geoff Baumberger, executive chef of Ocean Prime; Michael Fiorelli, executive chef of Love & Salt; and Joel Miller, executive chef of The Wallace. I never heard of them but, then again, I don’t get out much.

9:12 p.m. Ramsay declares, “Round one,” and the cheftestants roll their cooking stations to one of four tables while 15 minutes tick down on the clock. Ariel says she has made albondigas pork dumplings with pozole. Mia tells her patrons that her dish is cilantro, lime and tequila shrimp scampi.  And Bret is also making shrimp scampi with pasta – yep, Italian again. Motto takes the wrong moment to tell his suddenly nervous diners that he once knocked over a table at a cook-off event – not a great opening line. By the way, he is making shrimp, too.

SEE the 16 chefs of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 18 –“Rookies vs. Veterans”

9:16 p.m. Ariel reveals she has never done her dish before. She takes pride that she is the only one not making shrimp among the chefs because, as she says, “This is ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ you cannot play it safe.”  Chef Miller at Mia’s table tells her, “It smells great! Garlic and shrimp, classic.” He asks her what kind of shrimp they are. She stutters a bit before admitting she doesn’t know. He then notes that there is tequila at hand. Mia nervously giggles and says, ‘Help yourself.”  He downs a shot.

9:19 p.m.  It’s the next round and the stations are moved to another table. Bret remarks on his homemade tagliatelle that accompanies his shrimp. He tries to impress his diners with his food tattoos. Instead, he should be impressing them with real food.  Ariel tells her patrons that she never made her dish before and wants to hear their feedback. Motto is falling behind as he tries to pile food on his plates. Oh, oh, it looks like he didn’t finish.

9:22 p.m. Ah, Motto just makes it. Baumberger thinks Ariel’s broth is great. Miller says Motto’s dish was “ well thought-out.” Time to rotate for the third time. Ariel backs up her station to make her diners feel more comfortable. Hopson is pleased. Mia tells Fiorelli that she is making shrimp scampi “my way” because she uses tequila instead of wine. He says to her, “Between us, have you had a little tequila this morning?” While last week’s preview suggested otherwise, she says no way.

9:24 p.m. Motto is hitting the booze, too, in the form of beer in his dish. Mia squeezes out some creamy corn sauce onto the plates. Fiorelli praises Mia, noting, “She has some little tricks up her sleeve that these other guys have not experienced.”  Miller, who seems to be the pickiest judge, declares Bret’s shrimp “a little under-cooked, but not bad.”

9:26 p.m. It’s the fourth round, and Miller is impressed that Ariel made her own dumplings and admires her post-modern take on pozole. Mia is very confident. But Hopson is not pleased with Bret’s shrimp and pasta, telling his table mates, “If any one of you made this for me, I would just push it back at you. ‘Ok, what are you really going to make now that the joke is over?’ ” Yee-ouch.

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9:27 p.m. So sayeth King Gordon: “And the dish of the day goes to …. Ariel.” Of course!  Now comes the reward: A day horseback riding on the beach in Malibu and some down time with a personal masseuse. Thoughtful Ariel, who knows the boys have barely left HK headquarters this season since the ladies kept on winning the reward challenges, takes Bret.  Mia and Motto will be on bar duty. Ramsay tells them there will be multiple cases of limes, lemons and grapefruits, oranges and also “kumquats.” You can tell he likes saying that word. M&M, he says, will be “washing, peeling, zesting” every piece of fruit for tonight’s service. Once all that fruit is prepared, he wants them to make an amazing sangria.  Mia is in a good mood. Why? “At least I get to spend the day with you and not Bret.” She is less happy, however, about what she calls “the never-ending pit of citrus” that they have to prep.

9:35 p.m. With Ariel and Bret atop their  as the waves roll in, it has a bit of a Western feel crossed with and Annette and Frankie beach party romp. Turns out, this is the first time Bret has settled into a saddle and it shows. At least Ariel is amused how he points with his finger to show his horse which way to go. After their horseplay, they both get a massage under a tent on the sand.  Bret is getting a little too, um, relaxed in his vocal reactions to his lady masseuse’s machinations.

9:38 p.m. Back at HK headquarters, Motto is amusing himself by recounting all the punishments the male Red Team had to endure, from sawing huge chunks of ice to making countless fortune cookies. The narrator guy teases before the commercial that one chef is about to pull their self out of the competition. WHAT?

9:43 p.m. “Hell’s Kitchen” is open for business.  Each chef will take turns at “running the pass,” calling out orders when they come in and checking the food before it is served. Christina, the sous chef, will deliver surprise sabotages to keep the chefs on their toes. Bret is the first to handle the pass. Christiana uses the wrong pasta in the carbonara and he handily catches it. He tells Ariel to put a harder sear on her scallops. However, he misses that a version of his own risotto recipe has orzo instead of rice.

SEE ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ winners (Seasons 1-17), ranked worst to best

9:44 p.m. Ariel is up next at the pass  She quickly surmises someone gave her tuna tartare, not beef. She also notices that Bret’s carbonara sauce has turned into scrambled eggs – that isn’t a sabotage, just bad cooking. But she misses that a sauce that should have had fennel has onion instead.

9:46 p.m. Mia is at the pass. Sneaky Christina has swapped out the lobster in her Wellington with monk fish. She spots it right away. Ramsay then tells Mia to slice the New York strip. What she gets, though, is rib eye, which she misses. Then a rotten risotto pops up and Ramsay is taking names. Bret says, “Motto started and I finished, chef.” Bret tries again and gets a “well done.” And Mia gets a “well done” for spotting problems beyond the sabotages.

9:49 p.m. It’s Motto’s turn. His first sabotage is on an order he is handed. He notices it right away: “Salmon tartare?” His next test? Ramsay swaps out a pork chop for a veal chop. He notices it isn’t cooked right but the real mistake has to be pointed out to him.

9:51 p.m. Ramsay says they all felt the pressure and challenge of leading a kitchen in the middle of service. ”We all had some highs, and we all had some lows.” Now comes the hard part. They must go back to their dorms and pick the one person who doesn’t belong in the final.” Mia picks Bret because he stays in his comfort zone. He, of course, picks Mia. Ariel and Motto are having a harder time. Motto then shocks everyone: “I’m going to put myself up.” WHAT? Ariel’s eyes fill with tears.

SEE ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ 18: 43% of fans say Motto is a threat to Mia

9:53 p.m. The Baton Rouge executive chef who came on strong in the past few weeks is having a charge of heart. “One of you should take the position, that’s what I’m saying,” Motto explains. “I would never give up on any of you all. But I also can’t give up on my friends and my family. I got to accept that.” He adds, “I want to go back. I want to start a family. I want to raise the culinary standard in Baton Rouge.” His devotion to his community and to the people he loves is appreciated by the other chefs.

9:55 p.m. Time to face Chef Ramsay. He asks for their decision for who goes, and Motto says, “I put forth myself.” Ramsay is taken aback and asks him to explain. He tells him that being on the show has been an incredible journey and that he is offering this great platform of Vegas, but, “I don’t have a give-up bone in my body and I don’t want to give up on Baton Rouge.” Ramsay is shook up. “I’m surprised but I respect your decision.” He asks him to step up and tells him he has never met a chef on the show as sincere as Motto is. Then he gives him a great compliment. “Once you are done in Baton Rouge, call me.”

9:56 p.m. “Then there were three,” says the narrator guy. Only two chefs will be competing in the finale. Somebody else will be leaving right now.” Ariel, who came in third on Season 6, says she has grown over the past nine years. She says she wasn’t sure at first when she came into the competition if this is where she belonged. But Ariel is sure now. Bret says, “I’m just extremely focused and determined and hungry. I’ve only grown as a person and a chef.” Mia states her case: “Throughout the whole competition, I’ve showed my skill set and creativity. I’ve pushed myself beyond limits I didn’t think I could achieve.”

9:58 p.m. The first person chosen is … Ariel. Ramsay calls her one of the most consistent performers. That was the easy choice. Now it is Bret vs. Mia. “Bret came out of the gate strong as did Mia with her signature dish. The second person moving on is  … “ TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!

Next week: It’s the two-hour finale of Season 18, part of which takes place at Six Flags Magic Mountain, that starts on Fox at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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