I concluded at the end of last week's Hell's Kitchen that Robert, the lovable lug who left last season with pericarditis only to be invited back this season and end up in the hospital again after – horror of horrors – being made to exercise, was not long for the show. Spoilers below, beware.
Robert has never been my favorite chef on the show – either this season or last. He's grown on me as a character, but as a chef he's never really conveyed any sense of authority or, perhaps, confidence. He hasn't been the worst guy the show had either season, far from it, but he really hasn't been the strongest either. I tend to think that he lasted as long as he did last season because Ramsay had referred to him as "Bobby" and that brought up memories of Robert's less than stellar father and Ramsay felt really bad about distressing the guy. Ramsay was then in a position where he couldn't get rid of Robert immediately and then another opportunity never presented itself… until the pericarditis forced Robert from the competition.
Fast forward to this season. Ramsay (or the producers) brought Robert back as kind of a stunt – a way to help out the newbies and bring back someone who could, hypothetically, be a fan favorite. Robert couldn't instantly be fired because it would show that he never should have been brought back in the first place and that he probably shouldn't have lasted as long as he did last season either.
Of course, Ramsay couldn't have Robert win the show just because of Ramsay's mistake last season either, could he? No, Ramsay had to wait for the right moment and jettison the guy for good. It almost happened last week when Robert ended up back in the hospital. It would have been so clean and easy for Ramsay had Robert been not truly sick, but just sick enough to have to leave the competition again. Ramsay could then promise Robert a spot in the contest in the future when/if Robert was healthier and we'd never hear about him again (it's happened before on the show).
Sadly for Ramsay, Robert came back eventually last night, and to clue us into just how certain it was that he'd be eliminated, we got to hear from his entire team how little they wanted him around. It was a sentiment that had cropped up here and there in small doses earlier in the season, but last night it was stated over and over again. Robert, in the eyes of his team, had gone from savior to screw-up. Then he failed to cook some rabbit during dinner service. It was the exact opening his team needed. Robert was nominated and Ramsay, seemingly embarrassed by Robert delivering such severely undercooked food, sent the big guy packing for the last time.
In the end, Robert's problem was not his inability to cook – he was no worse than the other chefs. Robert's problem was that he had been set up from the beginning. Ramsay, I'm convinced, was sure last season that Robert couldn't win and knew that bringing him back this season would be safe, that he still couldn't win. The expectations were simply too high. He came in as the guy who was supposed to cure all the ills the other chefs had – he was the guy who had been there before and knew exactly what to do. If Robert had gotten a black jacket and made it so close to the end last time, the theory went, then surely he not only deserved to go that far but surely he could help the new folks.
It was never going to work out that way. Robert was simply never that good. Like so much on Hell's Kitchen, Robert was there just for show, not because he had a chance. His return was definitely good show, it's just something of a shame that his final exit wasn't quite so dramatic.