Bar Rescue is throwing it back to some of the show’s most classic episodes, with the Paramount Network series unveiling a Pop-Up Video style subset called “The Dirty Truth” that adds new factoids to old rescues. It’s an increasingly common approach as TV networks try to get new life out of prior content – but with Bar Rescue you can’t help but want to see some of these again.
Especially Sunday’s debut, which is a revisit to one of my favorite episodes of all time. It’s called “A Horse Walks Into A Bar” and is part of Bar Rescue season 3, which originally aired in 2013. If you missed it, the original is available on Amazon Video. But just for fun, I’m adding my own (equally not that serious) commentary to the action the second time around. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy rewatching this episode as much as I did.
“A Horse Walks Into A Bar” centers on Kid Chilleen’s Bad Ass BBQ Steakhouse in Arizona. The only thing badass about this place is Russell Davis sitting in the parking lot.
Jon Taffer has brought Russell with him to help owners Scott and Donna, but the start of this episode looks more like the beginning of a suspense movie. The duo are seemingly lost as they drive through the middle of nowhere and end up in a parking lot that appears abandoned. As Jon points out, it would not be a shock if an axe murderer popped out right now and yelled “Surprise!”
Jon shows Russell footage of a motorcycle driving into the bar and burning off its tires, which causes Russell’s jaw to literally drop. No one wants some carbon monoxide with their beer. Not that Donna would know because she’s having so many drinks that Bar Rescue feels the need to give us a counter. Any time the producers put a counter up on the screen, it’s never a good sign.
Things get worse when the recon cameras peek into the kitchen and reveal that the cooks are dousing their food in barbecue sauce. As the new caption indicates, the dish served to Jon’s recon spy is more “Pool of BBQ Sauce with a Splash of Chicken.” And then the horse turns up – yes, this is the infamous episode where somebody rode a horse into a bar.
The horse understandably freaks out. Jon facepalms and Russell appears to be reconsidering all of his life choices that have led him to this rescue. Luckily Jon leaves him in the car while he goes to confront Donna and Scott, who is as equally sloshed as his wife. “Can you even see me?” Jon quips to Donna. “Am I in focus?” She still needs subtitles to be understood.
The next morning, Donna admits that she can’t recall Jon showing up the night before, thus validating Jon’s ultimatum: if either she or her husband have a drink while he’s there, he’ll leave them to face their own demise. He’s even got the portable breathalyzer. Jon Taffer does not mess around, but he’s not the only heavyweight in this episode.
READ MORE: Bar Rescue’s 5 best mixologists of all time
Jon sends Russell to inspect the bar and Russell finds a bacteria colony within moments. He wisely leaves to wash his hands after that, then returns to tell the bar staff that their pour counts are off. Considering that at least three people in the bar have been drunk on duty, the fact that they can’t count is again, not a surprise.
In the kitchen, culinary expert J.B. Brown teaches the crew that just because something has barbecue sauce on it does not make it barbecue. Jon also discusses the concept of “menu engineering,” which isn’t something Bar Rescue has covered extensively in other episodes. The show had more bar science in it during the earlier seasons, whereas some later installments seem to cover the same handful of topics.
Kid Chilleen’s second bartender, who goes by the moniker Yum Yum, unapologetically strolls in before stress test and gets a five-minute crash course. Russell wastes no time in pointing out to her all the things she doesn’t know how to do and might have known had she shown up. She can’t handle his honesty and walks off the job, forcing Scott to take over behind the bar.
This Bar Rescue episode is an example of why Russell Davis is so damn good as an expert: he’s firm and he’s honest, controlling the bar and unafraid to jump in with the bartenders, whether it’s constructive criticism or encouragement. Other episodes have the mixologist as more of an observer during stress test, but with Russell it always felt like he was running the ship.
As Russell observes, Scott is going through withdrawal from alcohol, but at least he’s trying. Donna avoids customers who want her to do shots. In all, stress test isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than some we’ve seen on the show. Jon doesn’t end it looking like he wants to kill someone.
The next day, the experts roll out their new programs that will put this bar back on the map (relatively speaking since it’s still in an incredibly remote location). What I love about this episode as someone who doesn’t drink is that Russell comes up with a non-alcoholic drink for the menu. That might be the only time one has been featured on Bar Rescue. Obviously bars are primarily focused on alcohol, but it’s nice to know that those of us who don’t drink, or people who want to drink less, also get to come to the party.
Jon has renamed the bar Chilleen’s on 17, in a nod to the major roadway that provides a majority of tourist traffic. He also lit up the parking lot so it no longer looks like a place where someone might get murdered. Inside, he’s cleared out the clutter and created a Bar Rescue first (and last, as far as I know): a moonshine pourer system. We’re going from a bar full of drunks to a bar taking extra precautions not to get anyone drunk.
The relaunch arrives and with a little encouragement from Russell, Scott and Aleah overcome their initial nerves to get the bar under control. Chef Brown has the kitchen crew turning tickets within minutes and with a few gallons less of barbecue sauce. According to one of the new captions, Donna hasn’t had a drink since this episode was filmed, which would be more than seven years. Good for her!
Most importantly, in the weeks after the relaunch, there were no further sightings of horses, motorcycles or other surprise methods of transportation.
Bar Rescue: The Dirty Truth airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. on Paramount Network.