Michael Andretti was a last minute addition to this season’s Celebrity Apprentice crew, and up until tonight he’s been a bit of a background player. In the early episodes, that’s to be expected. You see more of the project managers and the people who bring the crazy than some of the quieter, less vocal members of both teams. But now we’re beginning to get into territory where you can’t get away with being in the middle of the pack, and so the more reserved people like Michael and Tia are getting some boardroom heat too. There’s been enough pressure that Arsenio called his experience “one of the most painful experiences” of his life which, from a man with a weekly talk show is probably saying something.
The trouble begins for Michael when he doesn’t step up as project manager for a challenge that Trump expects him to be perfect for. This week, in one of those occasional queasy product-placement marathon challenges, both teams have to do a presentation and Q&A session about the Buick Verano. Andretti is obviously a name that belongs with cars, but Michael, who seems like a mild-mannered guy, lets Adam take over as project manager. On Forte, Debbie Gibson, devastated by the lack of singing opportunities so far, volunteers.
The dynamic between teams and managers plays out like a parallel version of the Medieval Times challenge. The lesson here is that Penn might have actually been right: Flashy, gross, and loud usually wins the day. Adam meets with some beleaguered-looking Buick executives who give him talking points and warn against humor that’s too “beer commercial,” but plows ahead with a sketch concept with which the rest of the team disagrees. His idea, like Lisa’s Real Housewives sketch, is clever, and way more coherent than Forte’s. But Comedy Central Roast humor, even in an extremely watered-down form, still isn’t the image Buick is hoping to project. Like Lisa, Adam’s management style is to hash out a concept and put people into places. And like Lisa, he bruises quite a few egos in the process.
This is also apparently the point in the show where the celebrities feel like they can drop the whole modesty thing. Lou Ferrigno, for example, tries to convince Adam to include him ripping off his shirt in the presentation because “everybody loves Lou Ferrigno.” Over on Team Forte, Debbie Gibson splits up the vans to bring the people she likes to brainstorm while leaving Tia, Teresa, and Dayana cut off from the idea session. “I’ve always been one of the members of the cool van,” Aubrey notes. I guess you could call it that. Debbie Gibson’s leadership is less smooth than Penn’s. She alienates Tia, Dayana, and Teresa with the whole van thing, and then comes up with a convoluted idea that she poorly explains for the presentation.
Unanimous’ show was far from flawless, but from what we see of it is infinitely better than Forte’s. Adam’s idea is for the team to play “Celebrity Hecklers,” which is surely the title of a reality show coming soon to Bravo. He flubs the beginning a bit because of nerves, but it goes along fairly smoothly. Until, that is, Paul’s lines, which cross from acting into actual heckling until Lou takes him in a headlock and drags him out. I couldn’t tell if Paul has a real bone to pick with Adam or if he’s just a terrible actor, but in either case, it throws them off the mark. Forte’s presentation is a serious mess, from Debbie’s awkward insistence on plugging her work to Aubrey’s emotionally manipulative and made-up story about her mother being in a car accident. Aubrey also manages to call the car a “Verona” twice. Teresa gets some heat in the boardroom for being reserved, but I thought that her portion of the presentation, skateboarding dog and all, was one of the better moments of the whole thing.
But as we learned at Medieval Times, the No. 1 thing people look for in celebrities is to be constantly reminded that they are watching celebrities. So Debbie—who Trump disconcertingly calls “Deborah”—wins the challenge, even though she weathers some harsh words from Tia and Teresa in the boardroom. (Not to mention Aubrey to the confession camera: “I was more a Tiffany fan.” Burn!)
Unanimous doesn’t come apart at the seams as much as Forte does with Lisa and Victoria, but things go from chummy to chilly pretty quickly. Most of the fingers point to Lou as the weakest link, despite his repeated protests of giving “110 percent.” But Adam, true to his word in the boardroom, refuses to name two other teammates to come back with him. It’s a moment of reality show chivalry that you rarely see, but it turns out to be deeply bad for his team. The Donald does not brook kindly to apprentices bending the rules of the boardroom. In his holy, feather-haired wrath, he declares that he would therefore bring everyone back and fire two people instead of one. Penn probably says it best: “Nice shot, Oswald.”
Though Michael does his best to defend himself, not taking on the project manager role in a challenge that was probably going to be the closest one to his expertise offended Trump. Ada, is fired, and then Michael takes the second bullet. In one fell swoop, Unanimous goes from the stronger team to the weaker one, and doubly so now that Lou thinks everyone is turned against him. I’m guessing from Trump’s rundown of Teresa, it’s not going to take her too long to get into table-flipping territory again.
- Penn’s toast to the women’s team: “To fallopian tubing!” Yikes.
- Oh man, wouldn’t it be great if Trump followed through and went bald like Arsenio?
- Clay Aiken is planning something. I’ve got my money on him.