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'Hotel Hell' recap: Sweet dreams

Season 2 | Episode 2 | “Monticello Hotel” | Aired July 28, 2014

Surprisingly, tonight’s episode of Hotel Hell doesn’t start with a warning (other than that of suggestive dialogue and language), but if it did, here’s what it might say: “After watching, you may never want to sleep on a hotel mattress again.”

Gordon travels to Longview, Washington, home of the historic Monticello Hotel, which was built in 1923. On the outside, it is indeed historic-looking (because really, doesn’t everything look historic with an overabundance of patriotic bunting?), but on the inside, it looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since 1923. The bathrooms are filthy, the carpets are worn, and the furniture is faded, saggy and mismatched. And those mattresses I already mentioned? We’ll get to those in a minute. I want to make sure any food you may have eaten before reading this recap has had time to digest.

Phillip Lovingfoss, the owner of the Monticello, is living his boyhood dream. But really: He’s wanted to own the hotel since he was eight years old and his mother worked there. When he was in his mid-30s and worked there as a bartender (foreshadow alert!), he fell in love with the owner, who was in her 60s. (And by “fell in love” he obviously means “hatched an evil but brilliant takeover plan.”) When she died, Phillip inherited the hotel and an estate worth $10 million.

Screenshot 2014-07-28 23.26.13.jpg

Now that he’s dating Ginger, the hotel’s GM, who is also 30 years his senior (it appears Phillip has a type), Phillip flaunts his wealth in front of his overworked, underpaid and underappreciated staff with expensive jewelry, yachts, a fleet of vintage automobiles he leaves parked out in front of the hotel and his arrogance. And maybe the most problematic issue the Monticello is facing? There are only four suites in the entire historic hotel that are available for guests. The overflow guests (read: more than eight) have to stay in the dumpy, Motel 6–looking block of rooms next door.

It’s time for our man Ramsay to intervene (in more than one way, as he quickly discovers). After checking in and being taken to the “North Wing,” which is what they call the “crappy hotel next door” (as Ramsay puts it), he refuses his room and insists he stay in the main building, where he discovers his room is full of décor from a doctor’s office waiting room. And by “doctor” I mean my pediatrician—in 1975. Phillip also uses all the other rooms in the historic hotel as a dumping ground for ugly, junky furniture he doesn’t want anymore (apparently you don’t have to have good taste to be a millionaire).

hotelhellpaper.jpgBut it turns out that Phillip’s biggest offense is actually far more serious than some worn furniture, stained toilets or disgusting food (as Ramsay discovers when he samples the menu). Phillip is an alcoholic, and everyone but Phillip knows it; in fact, as the restaurant manager shows and tells Ramsay, Phillip was arrested just the previous day for a DUI.

Ramsay is shocked that he didn’t know this news (which I strongly doubt, but I’ll go with it because Ramsay is THE MAN) and calls Phillip and the kitchen staff out. This is what we will call “Intervention #1.” After the obligatory finger-pointing (Phillip and Ginger accuse the staff of taking advantage of them; the chef doesn’t get to plan his own menu and isn’t allowed time to prep; the staff is underpaid; the owner calls the staff liars), Ramsay tells Phillip that he can’t run his hotel like a miser and expect success.

Ramsay: Have you had a drink today?
Phillip: No.
Ramsay, with a new AA slogan: If you can’t be honest with yourself, you’re f*cked.

After a second intervention, in which the staff confronts Phillip about his drinking problem and Phillip once again denies it (seems that slogan is taking some time to catch on), Ramsay takes them all up to his room to scare them straight. Has your food digested? Good. Ramsay passes out orange chemistry goggles to the staff, turns out the overhead light, stands on the bare mattress and flips on a blacklight. The mattresses light up like a DayGlo petri dish with splatters and globs of illuminated body fluids. I’m not sure if those glasses were to help them see the stains or to protect their retinas from exploding like tiny atom bombs. Ramsay sweeps his light over the offensive lakes of questionable residue and identifies one as the very thing we’ve all been thinking, but have been too frightened to voice aloud: semen.

Listen: We all know our own mattresses harbor all kinds of residue and flakes and mites, but when someone else’s is all lit up for us (as is the case when we discover these are Phillip’s old mattresses), it gives new, sick meaning to the phrase “sweet dreams.”

After more intervening with Phillip, where the staff tells heartbreaking stories about being overworked and underpaid, and after Ramsay tries to point out to Phillip that his staff is the backbone of his business, Phillip still can’t give any answers for his behavior. Ramsay’s answer? “Get the f*ck out.” Tough love at its toughest. I’m both terrified and reassured for Ramsay’s children’s future. 

Waking up in the bathtub (because he’s not an idiot), Ramsay brings a focus group of guests to try to intervene (Intervention #4, if you’re keeping track). When even comments like “it looked like an animal was killed and dragged down the hall” don’t get through to Phillip, it’s time for Gordon Ramsay’s therapy session. Dr. Ramsay sits down with Ginger, and after she tearfully tells him that she’s scared for her boyfriend, promises he’ll persuade moneybags to get treatment. You know what this means? Intervention #5.

The staff gathers—once again (this has to be getting tiring)—and tells Phillip honestly what they think of him. Surprisingly, they care. Not surprisingly, Phillip doesn’t. Eventually, Ramsay gets through to him and convinces him to enter treatment. Fifth time’s a charm.

Overnight, the Hotel Hell team magically transforms the Monticello’s four suites into pimped-out and overaccessorized rooms of luxury (sorry, but the bearskin rugs were tacky) and—drumroll, please—opened up four new rooms in the main hotel! The tacky “MOTEL” sign on the block of rooms next door is gone, but we’re left to imagine the improved décor, as we don’t get to see it. With a new room-service menu and a reinvented menu for the hotel restaurant as well, the Monticello is once again the heart of Longview.

As for Phillip? Apparently he is to start treatment next week. And word is the Monticello’s staff is reenergized and bookings are up after Ramsay’s help and the renovation. Hey, with a brand-new capacity of 16 guests, they’ll surely be back in the green in no time.

Hotel Hell airs Mondays at 9/8C on FOX.

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