At long last, the finale of The Celebrity Apprentice is upon us. But, of course, in the true style of a regular two-hour block of reality television, it certainly couldn’t be contained to one week. No, this week was merely installment one of the four-hour marathon of subtle eye shifts, frantic planning, and executive deconstruction. Drawing out the tension is par for the course, obviously, but this week’s episode had all of the minute frustrations of a usual episode with none of the juicy bits of Trump’s nitpicking. It’s hard to judge an installment on only the beginning half, but let’s hope that next week’s live ending is more interesting than the lead-up.
After Lisa got summarily dismissed last week, Trump still had one more celebrity to move on out of the competition before the last round could begin. Rich accused Aubrey, rightly so, of being too transparent with her manipulations. Trump took this flaw more to heart than Arsenio’s foul mouth or Clay’s supposed “follower not a leader” complex. Aubrey didn’t quite seem to get what “transparent means.” She defended herself by claiming proudly, “I’m not a developed person.” Trump was having none of it. He fired her, leaving Clay and Arsenio as the final two competitors. It’s a shame she left. I think the finale would have been more interesting with either Lisa or Aubrey as competition. But it also marks the triumph of two underdogs. Aubrey waltzes into the elevator with a goodbye that’s as irritating as any of her bluster: “People are either annoyed, intimidated, or…in love with me.”
After some good-natured trash talk and high-fiving, Clay and Arsenio meet an oranger-than-usual Trump at Lincoln Center. The last task is predictably a doozy: Each contestant has to host, produce, and sell tickets to a celebrity event, in addition to making a PSA about their charity and planning a variety show for their guests. Bring in the ringers. It’s unclear how the producers selected which of the celebrities would return to work on either team. Adam, Lisa, Paul, and Teresa get picked for Team Arsenio, and Penn, Debbie, Dee, and Aubrey go to Team Clay. Dayana’s not in the mix, perhaps because of scheduling issues or because of the ruckus she raised among the other players. Aubrey gets chosen last, but she has tentative support for her manager. “Clay’s always bugged me as a person,” she said, “but now I kind of like him.”
Arsenio’s picking strategy is to do a comedy event for the Magic Johnson Foundation, because who doesn’t like a heart-wrenching story with a side of puns, right? Arsenio’s always hung back a bit as project manager, but he goes into authoritative mode immediately for this one. “I’m Baracking this motherfucker,” he explains. His first move is to get Magic himself to do part of the PSA. It seems like an impressive celebrity pull, until you think about how hard Arsenio is working to give Magic’s organization a ton of money. As Adam put it, Magic should probably send Arsenio “a fruit basket in a suitcase with a bunch of weed in it.” Man, I missed Adam.
The theme of their event is going to be the 1980s, a sly way of reminding people that HIV isn’t a decade-contained illness. Lisa, Teresa, and Paul all dress up in ridiculous lime green outfits. Paul in a Goldilocks wig alone is worth the price of admission, I’d guess. Adam’s never worked on a team with Teresa before, and his assessment of her is spot-on: “She has an energy that might be called naïveté. And I can say that freely because she doesn’t know what that means.”
The immediate problem that Arsenio’s team runs up against is getting the footage from Magic. Adam’s sent his crew out to do the camerawork on the West Coast, but it turns out that “they’re more podcast people,” which turns into a serious snafu. Eighty percent of the clip Magic shot has him from an odd angle, making their carefully planned spot almost unusable.
But I think the real trouble Arsenio’s going to run up against next week has to do with fundraising. Unlike the other team, where all the members are aggressively pumping their contacts for money, Arsenio has less success convincing his friends to cough up. That’s not a new problem—remember that Leno check debacle?—but in a finale based on how much cash you can rake in for a night, that’s bound to be a serious obstacle. Arsenio doesn’t seem worried about burning bridges with the people who turned him down, either. He has a merry cursing session about the fake friends he has to the confession camera, which will probably come back to bite him.
The collection of players on Clay’s team are almost all musicians, except for Penn, who Clay chose specifically to show that he could work with someone he doesn’t agree with. He’s also got Aubrey under his wing. She’s enthusiastic but hard to reign in. Penn and Clay clash soon after the brainstorming session for the PSA gets rolling, but Clay manages it without the bubbling resentment he displayed in his last argument with Penn. Eventually, they come to terms with an idea that doesn’t offend Penn. Clay also smartly delegates a specific task to everyone off the bat. Debbie does music, Aubrey’s in charge of decoration, and Penn and Dee work on the PSA.
The PSA filming gets off to a rocky start, when Dee, Penn, and Clay can’t find a patch of green in New York that doesn’t reek of dog poop. The editors play this out as a major difficulty, but the three find a little corner to shoot. Everything comes out reasonably well; minor tiffing about the spot’s soundtrack aside.
Clay’s management difficulty is trusting people. Aubrey has an elaborate plan to theme the event like a carnival, complete with stilt walkers and clown costumes. But Clay shoots down her idea to paint the hall, and he comes to a sticking point with Debbie over a proposed mural. The major drama on their team is between Debbie and Clay after Debbie gets her cousin to take off work to paint the mural. Clay won’t have her start until he sees a mock-up of her idea, which frustrates Debbie to no end. He’s stressed, so he micromanages. But micromanagement distributes stress instead of relieving it. Debbie’s breakdown might cost him in terms of the musical arrangement. But we’ll see. I am looking forward to next week, because, at the very least, we get to see Dee Snider singing The Supremes. He had by far the best quote of the night: “If you told me I was going to be singing ‘Baby Love’ with Debbie Gibson in the 1980s, I would have punched you in the face.” Celebrity Apprentice makes some odd bedfellows.
- Adam’s wisecracks about the “penis cage” made me wish he had stuck around longer. There were plenty of episodes this season that could have used some of his humor.
- Aubrey can’t let her part in fundraising be purely altruistic. “I really think Arsenio’s dirt.” That’s the spirit!
- Didn’t you miss Debbie’s constant singing? Aubrey sure didn’t.
- Lisa’s donation to Clay’s team was one of the more actually interesting and heartfelt moments I’ve seen on the show. I’m not sure how that will play out with Trump, though.
- Please oh please let Seinfeld show up. I just want to watch Trump talk to him.