Before we get into tonight’s Celebrity Apprentice… I have to say, DAMN PHOEBE CATES! Looking good!
Phoebe showed up with her husband, Kevin Kline, to the charity comedy show presented by Team Backbone. Why they were both there is anyone’s guess, and in typical Apprentice fashion, never addressed.
But it was good to see Miss Cates again, wasn’t it? She holds a very special place in my heart. You see, between her topless poolside scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and her ostrich-feathered-clad meowing delivery of the line, “Which one of you bitches is my mother?” in the classic trashy miniseries Lace, Phoebe single-handedly kept me from being able to accurately determine my sexual preference until well into my college years.
Dancing with the Stars, are you paying attention? There is an entire generation of pushing forty-somethings that would tune it to watch this girl in the arms of Mark Ballas. Get on that.
Now… on to tonight’s Celebrity Apprentice. And if we learned anything tonight, we learned that three hours of this show is at least an hour and forty-five minutes too much. Even worse, the first ninety minutes of this double-challenge episode were filled with such love, camaraderie and admiration, it might as well have been a family reunion at Pat Boone’s house. Where were the petty squabbles? Where was the name calling? Where was the horrifically offensive bad grammar that spills out from the mouths of these celebrities when their tempers get the best of them.
Yes, Nene Leakes, I’m talking to you. Just when you finally win me over, you up and abandon me!
Somewhere between Nene’s verbal pummeling of Star Jones last week – some of the best television Celebrity Apprentice or any reality show for that matter has delivered to my living room all year long – and the beginning of this week’s episode, Nene done completely lost her nerve along with, apparently, her marbles and bailed on the show altogether. Her flimsy excuse was that Trump had given in to Star by sending Nene over to the other team, but that didn’t really make any sense, did it?
So what exactly was it that sent Nene voluntarily packing? Was it the ever-increasing stakes? The ever-diminishing wimpy celebrities left for Nene to hide behind? No, Nene just has some good PR people in her corner. After all, the rest of the celebrities are simply fired by Donald Trump. Everyone’s seen that. Nene’s the only one who’s stepping out of the running on her own, no explanation given, and as far as Nene is concerned, none required.
This kind of exit is going to send Nene’s star further along than just waiting around for Trump to cut off her head. After all, you’re not seeing David Cassidy, Hope What’s Her Name or Richard Hatch turning up on The Joy Behar Show to discuss their appearances on the show, are you? No. Nene was smart to go out this way, I’d say. She probably knew that winning was clearly was not in the cards for her. Miss Leakes seems to have seen the writing on the wall. And Trump, never one to allow an upstaging did all he could to discredit her: “You’re fired… and you’re a quitter AND Star Jones kicked your ass …whether you like it or not!” Too little, too late, Mister Trump. You can take your ball back onto the playground. No one’s interested in stealing it from you.
In other news, Meat Loaf joined Star and Marlee’s team this week. And hooray… we’ve also got LaToya Jackson back! Trump continued to praise her as a fighter and a spirited competitor. And did you notice how Trump went out of his way to insist that bringing someone back after a firing will never happen happen again… ever? Poor Celebrity Apprentice. You can blow away its last shred of credibility by merely holding your cat to the screen and letting it sneeze.
Challenge Number One – the teams were tasked with producing and selling tickets to a comedy show. This challenge made me nauseous. I HATE comedy shows. Two drink minimums, twenty dollars for a screwdriver, and way too many people packed into a tiny black room that still smells like the cigarettes that were last smoked there in 1997… all to watch thirty or so comics who more or less have the same take on every subject (“Mothers-in-law… they’re pushy and they bring their own paper towels wherever they go! What’s up with that??” Cue rim shot and kazoo!). Comedy clubs are a non-entertaining scam designed to fleece your pockets for everything they’re holding… perfect for Celebrity Apprentice!
I could bother to tell you that Latoya and Meat Loaf were the project managers, and there were special appearances by Tracy Morgan and Jimmy Fallon, who showed up just in time to firebomb the show with his hideous “it’s so bad you’ve got to laugh” singing voice on a song he wrote just for the show called… hold back the surprise… “You’re Fired!” The originality! The undeniable fresh perspective! Someone get this guy a talk show!
I guess I won’t be too hard on Jimmy. His career will neither live nor die by this show, which can’t be said for most of the people competing on it, and he was just doing his buddy John Rich a favor. Still, the song was pretty god awful!
And nine weeks into the competition, Meat Loaf finally learned he’s not comfortable asking people for money over the phone. I think Meat Loaf went off his meds this week. The tears came fast and strong when The Meat realized that if his team lost the task, all the money raised would go to Latoya’s charity instead of his. “I can’t do that to the kids,” he sobbed, “I just can’t.” It became an absolute crisis, mostly because without Nene around there were no real crises to be had. Thank you, Celebrity Apprentice editors! Meat Loaf wanted to keep the money he raised for his charity even if his team lost. Trump shot down that idea with not so much as a hiccup and gave the teary-eyed Meat a simple solution to his non-problem problem: “Win!”
In the board room, before the victor of the task was declared (the most boring task yet, I might add… extremely light on comedy show and heavy on our celebrities soliciting money on phones and computers… not a lot of fun to be had there), John Rich offered to match any money Meat Loaf would be forced to sacrifice if Backbone lost. This sent Meat Loaf into a crying fit I haven’t seen since Erica Kane threw herself on her mother’s casket on All My Children. But in the end it didn’t matter. Meat Loaf and Team Backbone took the task by close to $20,000. Project Manager and Chronic Task Loser Latoya refused to assign blame between herself, Lil John, and the forever-holier-than-thou John Rich, who made a big deal out of pointing out to Trump that he raised more money than anyone else in the task. That John Rich… you never quite see him sticking the knife in your back, but you still feel the jab all the same.
Trump had no other choice but to fire Latoya… again… after just firing her the first time two weeks ago, making him look more bobble-headed than anyone else on the show. The firing, however, provided us with an exit the likes of which we have never seen on Celebrity Apprentice… and probably never will again.
Save for Latoya’s farewell reprise, the first ninety minutes of tonight’s show were woefully dull, so it was clear there had top be some majorly dramatic steak and eggs headed to our plates. On to Task Number Two – the remaining competitors were assigned to produce promotional videos for OnStar. Thank the maker this task at least had some visual components. John Rich stepped up for Backbone in the hopes that being the only celebrity who took Project Manager three times would allow him to weasel his way even further up Trump’s colon. Seriously, for a long time I thought this guy was just a genuine “aw shucks” kind of individual, but I’ve just about had it with him tooting his country horn while trying to simultaneously play noble and unassuming.
Marlee Matlin took the reigns for ASAP, and immediately made the mistake of letting Meat Loaf take the creative lead. After the ace job she’s done so far this season, what was Marlee thinking? This is a guy who went ape-shit when he thought Gary Busey stole his finger paints! He is hardly a skilled communicator. He would have made a nice bouncer outside the comedy club in the last challenge, but conveying his artistic sensibilities is not the man’s strong suit. Is it possible Marlee knew her track record would save her in the board room, so she could just kinda sit this one out to give her interpreter’s wrists a break.
It wasn’t long before Meat Loaf had confused just about everyone with this promo pitch – Star Jones, the DP, Marlee, anyone standing within 500 feet, me and MG in my living room eating hummus, my neighbors on the third floor, some people at the Fresh ‘n Easy down on the corner. “This is pretty easy to do… this is pretty easy… I’m not stupid here,” The Loaf insisted. It seems the only thing he’s qualified to do is insist how stupid he isn’t.
OnStar liked the characters in the ASAP’s presentation but disliked that they failed to emphasize that OnStar was expanding into local electronics stores (which by the way means I think I can get OnStar for my Chevy Malibu now. But I doubt I will because I think if I ever hit the little blue button to get advice from an OnStar representative, they might advise me to try making more money).
As for Backbone, they thought Lil John’s acting was over the top (when has it been anything else?), and worse – one of the women in the cars was not wearing her seat belt! Miraculously, despite that giant faux pas… you know, the kind a company specializing in in-vehicle safety might not want to have shrugged off as quickly as they did… Backbone took the win, ensuring that both Lil John and John Rich would be in the Final Four. That left Marlee, Star and Meat Loaf in the boardroom to fight to the death. Marlee pointed out that Meat Loaf’s approach and style did not fall in line with hers and Star’s. Star blamed Meat Loaf for ratcheting up the humor to a ridiculous degree. Trump asked who should be fired, and both the ladies threw The Meat under the bus! Meat Loaf stumbled and stuttered before finally spitting out his desire to see Star hit the pavement.
Trump excused the three into the lobby where the arguing between Star and Meat Loaf continued on in a six-year-old inspired “yes-you-did-no-I-didn’t!” fashion the likes of which I have not seen since my sister Kelli and I used to argue over who would get to eat their dessert with the special “ice cream” spoon from the drawer (it’s just like a regular spoon… but with a longer handle and a smaller bowl at the end! Sigh…).
Then Meat crossed the line and called Star “sweetie,” and you just KNEW that was not the kind of thing that was gonna fly with Our Miss Jones. Without Nene around, she jumped at a chance to come off as the wronged party once more. “Don’t do that! I’m a grown woman! Don’t say sweetie!” This renewed the arguing until Star finally had it and walked away… a whole three feet to a waiting chair in the lobby, as Meat continued to goad her into arguing some more like that ex-boyfriend you know you should have done away with six months ago.
Back in the board room, Star defended herself handily, calling out Meat Loaf for not bothering with a script for the promotion and basically adapting a Gary Busey-style approach to getting the job done. But Trump was far more interested in the fight that happened in the lobby than anything, you know, relevant. He didn’t seem impressed hearing Star complain about being called “sweetie.” “I’ve been called far worse,” replied Trump (yeah, we know… but didn’t it piss you off a little? I think that was Star’s point). Despite it seeming a little unfair, Star didn’t get the clue and continued to argue a point Trump wasn’t interested in hearing. As Star continued to declare herself dimished as a human being, I was fully prepared to see Trump throw his hand up over his gaping mouth and sigh, “Bored now!”
The big question was why Trump was trying so hard to save Meat Loaf, commending his “passion”? I think it was because keeping Star and losing Meat Loaf would have meant ever single shade of crazy would have been finally erased from the canvas… but we haven’t arrived at our finale yet. So, despite eveything we had seen indicating he should have gone a different way, Trump did what he had to do to keep his franchise alive… he kept the crackpot and dumped the sweetie.
What was up with the delayed response from Marlee? Was it a bad re-take? Did her interpreter just fall asleep? Either way, it was very reminiscent of those old reaction shots from those Little Rascals shorts, didn’t you think?
I definitely thought Star would still be a contender after the back-to-back A-games she brought to the tasks, but the heart of reality wants what it wants, and it doesn’t want Star in the Final Four. I personally think we’re heading for a Marlee vs. John Rich showdown. I suppose Lil John still has a shot. But if Meat Loaf makes it to the season finale, I’m done with Celebrity Apprentice… at least until the next season premiere.