When you ask the reality television gods for more drama, it’s rare that your prayers aren’t answered eventually. But the turnaround from last week’s somewhat lackluster premiere of The Celebrity Apprentice to this week’s tension-filled episode was almost whiplash inducing. Dee Snider broke a finger, Victoria Gotti cried, and Tia Carrere had a nip slip. In short, things got good.
Like all the most entertaining Celebrity Apprentice episodes, trying to parse out “Getting Medieval” is sort of like remembering a particularly bizarre dream. (They were all at Medieval Times? And like, Dee Snider was in drag? And whoa, Clay Aiken was there, and he sang for some reason?) Slinging sandwiches might have frazzled a few nerves, but apparently, that’s nothing compared to this week’s task. Trump gathered the troops to announce with much literal fanfare that teams Forte and Unanimous had to put on a show at New Jersey’s most revered cultural institution and mead-purveyor: Medieval Times. Arsenio Hall described the dinner theater meets history lesson dining experience in glowing terms, adding, “I’ve been to Medieval Times more times than I’ve been to LA strip clubs.” Which, man, I hope not. This week’s advisor was none other than James Lipton, whom I personally find difficult to distinguish from Will Ferrell’s impersonation of James Lipton. Apparently, Lipton is a knight, complete with his own set of armor, which he amusingly offered to use in a jousting contest with any of the contestants. You could see Dee Snider mentally accepting that challenge with gusto.
Both teams settle on project managers with the most experience putting on their own show, which means Lisa Lampanelli for Forte and Penn Jillette for Unanimous. Last week, Lisa came off a little bit like a kindergarten teacher, and this week it became clear why: Her management style is sort of strict schoolteacher meets no-nonsense showrunner. Her idea for the team is to make a Real Housewives spoof called The Unreal Housewives Of Camelot, playing on Teresa’s home turf notoriety. It’s a solid idea, and Lampanelli has the comic chops to pull it off and a team full of actresses and singers willing to throw themselves into the roles. But whereas Patricia as manager tried to keep her head down, work hard, and trust people to do a good job to some extent, Lisa is more hands-on, which rubs some of her teammates the wrong way.
It’s partly the nature of the challenge. Making a show that quickly required Lisa to come up with a concept to execute quickly, and too many suggestions in different directions can make a sketch half-assed and terrible. In comedy, it makes sense not to tamper with an idea beyond a certain point; otherwise, the whole show turns to mush. Doe-eyed Dayana, who is clearly Trump’s new favorite pet, kept making suggestions about gearing the show more towards children, and felt summarily cast off by Lisa. But the real problem was Victoria Gotti, whom Lisa assigned as stage director to either keep her out of the main action or crack the whip at the sound guys, depending on whom you ask. Lisa and Victoria have had a little bad blood from the start, and Victoria took “stage director” to mean “you have nothing to do, and we don’t want you here,” unconvinced by Lisa’s ad nauseum insistence that it’s “the most important job in the whole show.” The first day, she sulked and threatened to abscond to the men’s team. Her most egregious instance of failure to help out was when Lisa was writing the script and asked Victoria to research medieval slang only to look over and see Victoria type the phrase “mid-evil,” despite the masses of Medieval Times signs that were around her. So much for that whole Victoria Gotti, writer, thing, huh? The second day, she stepped up to run the sound and lighting cues, but missed several of them, and still looked aggressively bored and offended by the whole thing.
I thought that Forte’s show was better than Unanimous’ one, at least from what we got to see of it. Lampanelli lampooned Trump as “Sir Donald of Trump,” and casting Debbie Gibson as “Archduchess Autotune” was actually really funny. Unlike the men’s version, the women’s story had a real plot, albeit a loose one that mostly centered on sword-fighting and Teresa’s reputation as a table flipper. Tia and Debbie Gibson both had accidental, um, exposure issues, and the sound cues were off, but it looked overall entertaining and pretty funny.
But it turns out that Dayana was right to worry about the children. What the people at Medieval Times want isn’t satire, it’s fire and shouting. Which is fair enough. As Penn explained, kids mostly just want to see broad, gross, splashy, fun comedy and swords. That’s what you come to Medieval Times for, plus the chance to eat a whole lamb leg with no utensils. Unanimous had its own issues with the show production. Lou Ferrigno got too into the fight choreography portion of rehearsal, and George Takei kept going slightly off script, much to the distress of Clay Aiken, who is shaping up to be the perpetually alarmed and upset member of the group. Dee Snider, who dressed up as the fair maiden for the show and looks surprisingly good as a woman, managed to seriously break his finger when a spooked horse threw him off from riding side-saddle. Nonetheless, Penn’s combination of carnival barking, fire-eating, and loudly announcing the famous members in his show paid off seriously. Back in the boardroom, Trump reveals, after much stewing, that the men beat the women’s team by some 200 audience votes.
One of the genius parts of Celebrity Apprentice, at least in terms of producing the celebrity drama the show runs on, is Trump’s boardroom questions. Whereas some of the contestants seem to implode into self-doubt and shouting from an extended Trump scowl, the little Trump nudge is usually enough to get things to escalate in even the most placid of episodes. Take Unanimous, whose members seemed to have few complaints, worked well together, and eventually won the challenge without too much of a fight. Though Penn was as self-effacing and genuinely polite as he possibly could be about naming two potential people to accompany him to the boardroom, his choice of Lou Ferrigno and George Takei will clearly come back to hit him later. Lou’s reaction was not a great one, and Penn’s constant apologies weren’t enough to convince him that he wasn’t being disrespected.
For someone who was so vocal after the last boardroom beat down, Victoria took a lot of nudging and prying before she spoke ill of Lisa. Once Team Forte lost, it was clear that Lisa or Victoria was going home. Lisa brought Dayana in the boardroom, but she has Trump’s approval to a kind of icky extent, and she also didn’t do much wrong. Lisa and Victoria’s fangs came out, and James Lipton admired Lisa for her passion, which he helpfully spelled out, perhaps in an effort to alleviate the tension in the room. But ultimately, it was Victoria’s thought of quitting that sealed her fate. Lisa might have been domineering, and she probably made herself some problems working with people further down the line, but it’s clear that she was working harder than Victoria. So Victoria got fired, and the rest of the contestants are left to try to read their fates in Donald Trump’s hair like so many crumpled tea leaves.
- Clay Aiken’s got it out for Aubrey. What was that whole “Victoria is prettier than Aubrey” comment? Yow.
- Is there anything that James Lipton hasn’t liked?
- I loved Don Jr.’s response to Lisa asking if she should do a spoof of his Dad. “It might get a little tense in the boardroom.”
- I wonder how different things would have gone if Adam Carolla hadn't sat this week out. Lampanelli v. Carolla sketch-off?