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'Hotel Hell' recap: Gordon Ramsay wishes he could turn back time

Season 2 |  Episode 1 | “Meson de Mesilla” | Aired July 21, 2014

While it may seem that Gordon Ramsay is getting thisclose to having what I like to call “RSS” (Ryan Seacrest Syndrome—being on or behind the scenes of every show on television), or is at least mere moments away from taking over the Fox network and every kitchen on earth, he does set down his knives and take off his apron occasionally (and unveils skimpy swimwear when he does, but we’ll get to that later). The season 2 premiere of summer 2012’s big hit Hotel Hell is Gordon Ramsay at his finest, brutally [bleeping] honest self. Much like the premise of Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell finds Ramsay venturing to boutique hotels across America that are in dire need of help (instead of restaurants), and with his typically candid and straightforward advice to the oftentimes belligerent owners, turning them around.

Don’t forget, people, it’s Gordon Ramsay’s world, we just live in it. And he wants to make damn sure it looks brilliant.

Season 2 takes us to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Meson de Mesilla, an adobe prison-looking building in the middle of the desert that owner Cali Szczawinski has decided to turn into a European/Tuscan experience on the inside, by painting everything beige. I’ve never been to Tuscany, but in my mind, it’s much more lavenders and mustards and olive greens and George Cloonies than beige. But what do I know? Let’s break down the reasons Meson de Mesilla—and Cali—are dangerously close to failure. 

• Upon arrival, guests must sign a “cleaning agreement,” which is a waiver saying they will be responsible for anything that happens to the very expensive ($7.50 a square foot!) Venetian plaster. Beige Venetian plaster. Apparently one time, someone threw red wine all over the wall and stained it and Cali went berserk. Um, I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty Tuscan-authentic to me, not to mention an upgrade to the beige walls, but again, not a seasoned traveler. When Ramsay was presented with his waiver, he immediately ripped it in half. 

• The rooms are bleak and boring and so, so beige. There is a questionable stain on the wall that Ramsay thinks looks like poop. (Ew. Where’s the waiver for that?)

• Cali thinks she is Cher. Like, for real. Or at least, thinks she can sing just like Cher, and subjects her guests to heras Ramsay so perfectly put it“Cali-aoke” in every public room in the hotel (because Cher is so Tuscan, obviously). She tells Ramsay that she bought the hotel to sing, and that they get a lot of phone calls wanting to know, “Is Cali singing tonight?” which obviously means they like her. When she takes the mic and belts out “If I Could Turn Back Time,” it’s shockingly evident that the guests definitely do not like her and that Ramsay indeed wishes he could turn back time to 1988, and beg Cher to never record that song. 

GRlaughingHH1Later, when Ramsay attempts to escape into the bar for a quiet nightcap, Cali appears and takes a seat on her barstool in the corner, plugs in her mic and proceeds to sing the exact same set list of Cher covers. BRB, I need to go clean my ears out with an ice pick. 

• The pool is dismal, dirty and surrounded by a barred gate that Ramsay compares to a prison. 

• The new general manager (Zan Steinberg) has only been at Meson de Mesilla for nine weeks and doesn’t actually have any hotel management experience. Ramsay is a bit appalled by this news, but Steinberg assures him that his experience as a restaurant manager is enough. Before you think that kind of makes sense, keep reading. 

•The restaurant is depressing-looking (waxy, plastic tablecloths), and the food served isor is a sorry attempt atTuscan fare. Ramsay thinks it looks like vomit and is dismayed to discover that it’s frozen. (Ahh! I’m having Kitchen Nightmares flashbacks!) The chefs are apologetic, but much like Sony Bono in the early ’70s, their hands are tied by Cher.

It’s time for our man Ramsay to get to work. 

First item on his agenda? Get the owner and the GM on the same page. As expected, a “he-said, she-said” shouting match instantly ensues. Lots of accusations. Lots of denial. Zan says that Cali doesn’t trust him. Cali accuses Zan of setting her up to fail, and says that he’s often heard saying things like, “In six months I’ll be running this place,” so of course she has to watch her back. Zan is trying to push her out and take over! When the head chef agrees that she also gets a Napoleon vibe from Zan, Ramsay is horrified and asks Zan what he’d do if he were in Cali’s shoes. Zan: “I’d fire him.” DONE. Cali fires Zan, and he and his wife Mitzi (who also works at the hotel) escape in their Ford Fiesta. 

With that cancer cured, Ramsay decides to take a quick swim to clear his head, so he heads to the pool in his white (not beige?) bathrobe to take a dip. Words really cannot do justice to what happened next, and since they say a picture paints a thousand of them, I give you this.


Holy six-pack hell, Ramsay. Where have you been hiding all these years? Hey, Fox, I’ve got a new show for you: Beach Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. He can hit Daytona Beach, the Jersey Shore, etc., and you know, clean them up for America. And OK, fine, if he has to wear a swimsuit while doing it, we’ll endure it. Moving on.

doodieRamsay is about to step a toned leg into the pool when he sees that not only is it still filthy, but there is something questionable floating in it. DOODIE!!

Since there’s no breakfast service at Meson de Mesilla, Ramsay heads to the local street fair and happily discovers one of the hotel’s chefs (the ever-polite David) runs a food truck that serves up delicious local fare. Ramsay loves it.

Later, Ramsay has a group of locals who have stayed at MdM give it to Cali straight. They complain about the waiver, the pool andmaybe the harshest grievanceCali’s singing: “I would pay you $100 not to sing.” Ouch. Ramsay has even brought in a senior corespondent from Travel & Leisure magazine, who gives maybe the best advice of the night: “It’s not a hobby, it’s a business.”

After more discussion with Ramsay, Cali agrees to place her guests over her microphone and succumb to Ramsay and his Hotel Hell transformation team. And what a transformation it is. The beige rooms now pulse with bright Southwestern color and décor; the old stage is now a coffee bar; the pool is set up with colorful chaises and couches and deemed to be “the hippest, coolest pool in the middle of the desert” (I wouldn’t go that far, but it is an improvement); and to top it all off, Ramsay introduces them to a new poolside menu of local bites cooked up by none other than food-truck David.

And they all lived happily ever after. The end.

JUST KIDDING. While initially thrilled at the changes, Cali has a momentary freak-out when she can’t find all her old stuff: “WHERE ARE MY PLASTIC GRAPES?” When Ramsay shows her all the stuff out back and nicely offers “to put this [bleep] here back,” he realizes it’s time for some tough love, and he discloses some personal information that makes Super-Ramsay a bit more human. 

Ultimately, after a celebratory pool party, Cali sees the error in her old ways, and finallyfullyhands her life and her livelihood over to Gordon Ramsay … as we all eventually will.

Hotel Hell, rated TV-14, airs Mondays at 9/8C on FOX.


TV Families | EW.com
February 23, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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