Tonight’s penultimate episode of this season of The Celebrity Apprentice had some real tension, at least in the last half hour or so. Everyone left in the boardroom has survived this long thanks to some actual strengths, even if that strength is just managing to stay out of the path of Trump’s firing finger for 13 weeks. So with a double elimination installment, it had to be one of the strongest players that got axed.
With Dayana gone, Lisa wastes no time zeroing in on Teresa as her next target. For all her stumbling, I think Teresa’s smarter than her team gives her credit for. She knew immediately that Lisa was out to get her, even if she couldn’t jump out of the path of the Lampanelli bulldozer in time. She volunteers as project manager because, like Dayana before her, she knows that she’ll fight for her spot no matter what if her team loses. As manager, she at least can come from a place of power. Team Forte is just Lisa and Clay now, and Lisa takes her turn as project manager exuding confidence.
The task is to create a print advertisement about a new hairdryer from Farouk CHI, a contraption that boasts a touchscreen and “lots of NASA technology.” Oh, NASA. Once you brought man to the moon, and now you contribute to ridiculously complicated hairdryers. Farouk Shami himself is on hand to describe the product, wearing a pair of custom made red CHI cowboy boots, a look that Arsenio accurately describes as “corporate pimping.” His introduction led to one of those weird Trump non sequitur moments when Trump, seemingly out of nowhere, described Aubrey as “getting more beautiful every challenge.” Farouk murmurs assent, pointing out her fire-engine-red hair, which Aubrey jokes (I think? Either she has a masterfully dry wit or the editing on that was awfully bizarre) was natural. It’s a moment that Aubrey seizes upon to manipulate the challenge to her advantage.
Teresa’s management style is fairly weak. It worked in earlier tasks when the team was more of a unit, but now that there’s only Aubrey and Arsenio, it’s obvious from the beginning that Aubrey’s going to shamelessly take over. Her idea for the campaign, sketched in a way that looked like a kindergarten vacation story, is to combine yoga, “futuristic hair,” and “futuristic lighting.” No surprise that Aubrey’s vision of the future is mostly ripped from the stylings of Kanye West videos. The beginning of Teresa’s end is her negotiation with Lisa for which models each team will get. Teresa shows her cards too early by insisting on the red-headed girl, and Lisa takes things to next-level hardball by sticking her with a male model with close to no hair. Lisa’s moves are usually aggressive, but this one bordered on straight-up mean. After roundly winning the negotiation, she giggles with Clay while Teresa has to explain to her team her Pyrrhic victory.
It turns out that they don’t even use the redhead that caused the prolonged dispute. Aubrey, reasoning that Farouk loved her hair, steps in for the model. It’s clearly a chance for her to revel in being the fairest of the boardroom now that Dayana’s gone, not to mention an answer to landing on Elle’s “worst dressed” list every so often. She also shocks Teresa by sitting around the closet totally topless in front of the camera. (Apparently Teresa didn't bother to Google Aubrey before the competition began.) Aubrey’s ego knows no bounds, though. “I just look so good!” she exclaims after her shoot. Their campaign looks good, but the presentation is pretty rough. Teresa misreads her cards and looks nervous until Arsenio comes in to save the day with his impression of the sound of a hairdryer.
Clay and Lisa work well together, but both are on the lookout for flaws that they can use in the boardroom. Their idea is more abstract: that women are more than their outsides, just as this hairdryer is a wonder of technology hidden by a sleek surface. It’s an interesting premise, given just how often Lisa equated Dayana’s glowing pulchritude with having no brain, but their pitch meeting was far more professional than the other team’s. To me, their advertisement copy looked far too long, but the executives loved the informational aspect even though the styling looked, according to Farouk, “very 1970s or 1980s.”
Trump’s opening question was a shot at Teresa’s negotiation skills, and it didn’t get any better for her from there. Lisa and Clay won the challenge, leaving Teresa to duke it out with Arsenio and Aubrey. “This is going to be rather brutal,” Trump warns, and he’s right. Teresa blames Arsenio for “playing it safe” and Arsenio starts to get pretty nasty about Teresa batting above her league. In one prime, physics-defying mixed metaphor, he explains “Don’t throw me under the bus, because I will back it up and I’ll hit you with it.” He needn’t have bothered. Teresa was a goner from the beginning, and Trump fires her.
But that’s not the end by a long shot. The final four get a few minutes to celebrate before Trump calls them in for job interviews with last season’s winner and runner-up, John Rich and Marlee Martin. The sessions are pretty grueling. Martin takes on the good-cop role, and John Rich blasts away at how much money each of the finalists earned for charity. Arsenio gets taken to task for not working hard enough. “You don’t look tired,” John tells him. Aubrey gives John a laundry list of people she’s done charity work with including, seriously, Fidel Castro. Unfortunately, her manipulations aren’t working on Rich’s wise Stetson-wearing head. “She’s a chess player, but she’s a little transparent,” he tells Trump. Clay Aiken barely finishes a sentence. Lisa’s self-possession turns into arrogance, though I did appreciate that she called John “dude” in a job interview. It’s her temper and emotional reactions that come under scrutiny.
She doesn’t manage to convince Marlee and John that she can, in fact, hold back until she needs to use them. So the Trump pink slip comes her way. Lisa’s firing was a surprise. I had high hopes that she would make it to the finale with Clay or Aubrey, which would have been interesting and worthy opponents. Next week’s matchup will still be a battle. Who knows what tricks Aubrey’s got hidden in her hair?
- You could tell Lisa was getting cocky when she started referring to herself as “LL.”
- Aubrey really needs to stop using the word “utilize” in the boardroom. Somewhere, my high school English teacher is shaking his head sadly.
- I really would have loved to see Lisa and Clay arm wrestle.