Season 2 | Episode 3 | “Applegate River Lodge” | Aired Aug 4, 2014
Alice in Wonderland was never my favorite story. Once Alice fell down that rabbit hole, her world was full of strange, angry characters, confusing plotlines and questionable substances, which always left me feeling uneasy. Seems there’s another rabbit hole in Applegate, Oregon, and Gordon Ramsay just fell into it on the latest episode of Hotel Hell.
Welcome to Wonderland, or in this case, the Applegate River Lodge, located in gorgeous, picturesque Oregon. Built by its current owners about 20 years ago, the lodge is an impressive structure of timber and stone. From the outside, it looks like it should, in fact, be a wonderland of a resort. But much like Alice, Ramsay quickly discovers fighting, confusion and yes, even questionable substances.
Let’s meet our cast of characters.
Richard—or “Pa Butt” as he’s called (no, we didn’t get the backstory on that, and I’m pretty sure we don’t want to know)—built the Applegate Lodge with his bare hands. Literally. He felled and stripped the trees and built it from the ground up. An impressive feat, sober or stoned, no question. What is less than impressive is the fact that for the past 20 years he’s been living the carefree life (read: stoned and irresponsible) in a ramshackle hut next door to the lodge, fondly referred to as the “Butt Hut.” Again, I don’t want to know.
Joanna—Pa Butt’s ex-wife, who runs the entire operation singlehandedly—seems like a lovely lady, but it quickly becomes evident that she’s a doormat.
Dusty and Duke—the Butt Boys?—are Richard and Joanna’s feuding sons, who detest each other so much they run the restaurant and the music programs the hotel offers separately—from each other as well as from the lodge. There’s a wife and a girlfriend, but they’re not important to this story.
Ramsay arrives to a cavernous, empty lobby (seriously, there’s no furniture) and no one to greet him. After pressing a buzzer, he’s made to wait for Richard to finish his joint (I’m sorry, his “cigarette”) before he comes out to greet his guest—HIS FAMOUS TV STAR GUEST WHO IS BRINGING AT LEAST THREE CAMERAS WITH HIM. Really, Pa Butt? You couldn’t take a break from the weed? Methinks I smell an opportunist who was thrilled to flaunt his hippie-ness on television. I mean, if that’s what the smell was that was oozing from my television screen. Oh, wait. Maybe that was incense—or herbs—as Richard tells Ramsay it is when he takes him to the Butt Hut and Ramsay immediately wrinkles his nose in disgust. My bad.
Ramsay: I love herbs!
Pa Butt: It’s like basil.
Ramsay: F*ck me. That is definitely not basil.
Don’t mess with Chef. He knows his basil. Watch the following clip.
Ramsay’s room could be gorgeous. It’s lofted, with a beautiful log stairway up to the bedroom. Instead, it smells “like cattle” and is full of outdated furniture and bedding, with stained carpets (Richard: “We party a lot here!”), not to mention the dead bugs on the pillows and windowsill. Richard blames Joanna for the décor and tells Ramsay (not for the last time) that the lodge “is not a business to me.”
Poor Joanna. And I say “poor Joanna” not because I feel sorry for her (she doesn’t have to be a doormat, after all), but because she’s actually poor. The lodge is almost a million dollars in debt and is losing anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 every month. And Cheech and Chong aren’t helping matters. The profits her sons make from the restaurant and the music programs go straight into their own pockets. It’s time for Ramsay to turn on the tough love (someone has to do it).
First in Ramsay’s line of fire is Duke, who is in charge of the music programs the hotel offers. When Duke can’t seem to comprehend even the simplest questions, Ramsay asks him point-blank if he’s high. Duke says that he had a smoke “waaaay earlier, like this morning.” But I mean, he’s really stressed. Ramsay is disgusted.
Next up? Dusty, who we find out makes about $12,000 a month from restaurant profits. TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS A MONTH. Let me remind you that poor Joanna (again, literally) gets nothing from that. Her son—HER SON—runs the profitable restaurant FOR FREE while the lodge is almost a million dollars in debt. After hearing that, Ramsay hates the Butt Boys almost as much as they seem to hate each other.
According to Ramsay, “People have heard about my visit and both the hotel and restaurant are booked for the night. I feel sorry for them.”
Side note: If the hotel is bad enough for Gordon Ramsay and the Hotel Hell team to be called in, why in the hell would you book a room? Is being on television really worth enduring that kind of disgust? I mean, if your last name isn’t Kardashian?
As you’d expect, Dusty and crew are serving typical frozen fare in the restaurant, the guests are complaining. and Richard’s stoned dog is sitting tableside, totally jonesing for some grub. As you’d also expect, Ramsay is not impressed and scolds Dusty for multiple offenses: being a spoiled brat who is taking advantage of his mother is not too far from the offense of serving frozen salmon. Again, if you know Chef Ramsay is coming to your hotel, CHUCK THE FROZEN GRUB!
The hotel guests are complaining about their rooms and flicking goobers off their bedspreads WITH THEIR FINGERS. Really, these people had to know what they were getting themselves into. There’s not enough free wine in the world for me to endure goobers on my bed in exchange for six seconds of fame. But that’s just me and my standards, I guess.
It’s 10 p.m. and time for the music program to start. It’s super-popular. Well, super-popular if you’re a barefooted hippie and enjoy giant, dancing Jamaican Mardi Gras puppets and dancing mushrooms. Or if you’re stoned. Which, now that I think about it, are pretty much the same thing in Wonderland.
Ramsay can’t take it. He’s in hysterics: “These people are weird, but they sure are friendly.”
The guests up in their hotel rooms are fed up with the noise and Joanna is having to compensate room costs. “I don’t think I’ll be able to relax here,” one complains. Hey! Just go downstairs! Pa Butt can help you out with that.
In his room, Ramsay is getting ready for bed and pulls out his trusty blacklight. The pillows are covered with a spiderweb of spewage. Even the lampshades light up. THE LAMPSHADES. “It’s like a mosaic of semen,” Ramsay astutely points out. Hey, the man knows his mosaics. He unrolls his sleeping bag (which I pray is disposable) on top of the bed and settles in for the night, but by 1 a.m. the party is still going on downstairs and our man Ramsay has had it. He contemplates jumping out the window, but decides against it. He must be having flashbacks.
Only one thing can fix this disaster: The family meeting. Joanna is under stress, no one is helping, Richard just wants to smoke weed, and Cheech and Chong just want to point fingers. It’s hopeless. Or is it?
After the patented Hotel Hell focus group—where one disgruntled guest complains about finding a pair of underwear in her bed (OHMYGOD) and another tells Ramsay he was invited to the Butt Hut to smoke some a joint—Joanna tries to soften up Ramsay by showing him a photo album of the blood, sweat and tears that went into the family-powered construction of the Applegate Lodge. Aww. It’s actually touching, until you realize how insane they all are and OHMYGOD THERE WAS UNDERWEAR IN THE BED.
After a dip in the river (read: another opportunity for Ramsay to show off his royal blue Speedo, thankyouverymuch), it’s time for a family business meeting. Ramsay sends Jerry Garcia away and has a “come to Jesus” talk with Joanna and the boys. And by the power of Ramsay, it ends in a bro-hug and Mama tears and declarations of the intent to whip this lodge into shape! Hotel Hell team? It’s go time!
The lobby gets furniture (the Charlie Brown–striped walls and pillows were confusing, but let’s remember, this is Wonderland), the menu gets an overhaul (fresh ingredients!), the guest rooms get clean carpet and semen-free bedding, and the music venue gets moved outdoors, with bedrooms in tents (free underwear not included … yet). And best yet? Pa Butt promises not to offer Alice or any of the other guests special “herbs” ever again.
Update: Apparently the Applegate Lodge is still running successfully and the family is working and coexisting (in a haze) together. Any locals want to chime in? Is this the truth, or do they think we’re all stoned and actually believe that?
Hotel Hell airs Mondays at 9/8C on Fox.