Marathon reality show episodes are so rarely worth the extra time, so I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t groan inwardly when I saw that “Walking Papers (Parts 1 and 2)” packed in another hour of Trump’s terrible boardroom therapy. It’s not always the case, but Celebrity Apprentice often seems like it would be zippier and all around less painful if it was compressed into a single hour, instead of sprawling all over two like a drunken frat dude on the common room couches. But tonight’s installment, at least if taken as a single episode instead of the back-to-back marathon that it essentially was, completely changed the game that we’ve been watching the last six weeks. It’s rare that there’s a turnaround so complete in the space of a single episode. The players that are emerging as finalists now seemed like they were about to get fired for the past handful of challenges. Three strong contestants went home, the teams got re-jiggered, and we finally saw how Clay Aiken would deal with Aubrey on his side. (Graciously but suspiciously, it turns out.)
Really, “Walking Papers” was a double-header without much of a link between the two challenges, except for the emotions running high in both parts. The first challenge is essentially a fund-raising one. Both teams have to design and sell a celebrity guide book to New York. Dee Snider, who’s been somewhat of a background player since his finger injury, steps up for Unanimous, and Teresa leads Forte, much to Aubrey’s dismay. Fundraising challenges are a different kind of animal, since they’re essentially about which celebrity can translate his or her clout into donations quickly. They also mean that the actual product the celebrities are working on doesn’t mean much. It’s about calling up your friends and hoping they’ll pull through.
The women seem to get this to some extent, but they’re so entrenched in the divides they’ve had all season that fighting begins almost immediately Watching Dayana and Teresa try to take pictures of her grinning at the gym, Aubrey complains that they’re “two blondes trying to be nuclear physicists.” Teresa’s management style is less in-your-face than Aubrey’s. She doesn’t assert herself loudly, which means that Aubrey feels either ill-used or impatient to take the wheel. The disdain that Aubrey and Lisa have for Dayana and Teresa has by this point hardened into contempt. Lisa has a meltdown when Dayana throws in a last minute suggestion about the content of the booklet after her part of the photography mission shows up late to the war room. “Develop a talent and a brain and maybe the world will take you seriously,” she vents to the confession camera. Yikes.
Dayana, for all Lisa’s ire against her, knew exactly how to play this challenge. Her suggestion about altering the books to include subway directions seemed timed for the boardroom, not actually to alter the guide at all. Though Lisa accuses her of focusing on the book and not fundraising, the important part, Dayana pulls in a huge amount of money for the team. In Trump’s eyes, cash speaks louder than minor annoyances in the creative process, and she knows it. Every time she’s in the final three, which is basically every week, Dayana knows when to sit back and let the other two people tear each other to pieces while laughing at Trump’s eyebrow-raising comments about her potential boyfriends. I’m beginning to think that she has a lot more game than she’s getting credit for.
Unanimous keeps it together fairly well, emotions-wise, though Lou did slip in an aside about having the chance to throw Penn of Trump Tower when they were shooting on the roof. Arsenio Hall, who was rocking a purple tie and hoodie combo that would make Prince himself jealous, elicited a check from Jay Leno that got lost in the FedEx process, leaving him vulnerable for elimination. But it was Penn who had arguably the biggest disaster of the night. Let this be a lesson to you all: Asking performance artists to donate to charity inevitably comes with a dose of performance art. The Blue Man Group, percussion and paint weirdos that they are, gave their sizable donation to the team in the form of enormous blue balloons filled with cash. They popped them and, this being a street corner in Manhattan, were immediately mobbed by people grabbing the floating money and stuffing it into their pants. That’s why you heart NY, right guys? But the team is, as Arsenio put it, “some well-heeled motherfuckers,” and they manage to draw in enough cash to beat Forte by an incredibly close $14. Michael Andretti, stand up dude that he is, even shows up to donate $20,000 even after getting brutalized in the boardroom a few weeks ago.
Teresa brings Debbie and Dayana back with her after engaging with Dayana in some classic Bravo smack talk in which she questioned if Debbie dressed professionally. (To her credit, Debbie noted that her profession is pop singer so, yeah, pretty much.) But this was all about money, not concepts, and Teresa and Dayana brought in more of it in the end. Debbie got the axe, but Trump mentioned that if Aubrey had been in the room, her relatively measly take would have been the reason to fire her.
This is really only the beginning of Aubrey’s problems. Forte has now dwindled down considerably after so many losses, so Trump shakes it up. Lou, Penn, and Dee migrate over to Forte, and Aubrey and Dayana go over to Unanimous. This is incredibly bad news for Clay, who hasn’t been fond of Aubrey all season, and Hiroshima-levels of horrible or Arsenio, who had just said that he could see Aubrey’s “tail and horns.” To prove it, he slumped on the floor in dramatic agony. So you knew that working relationship was going to go well.
Shifting the teams always modifies the roles that each contestant has carved out for themselves, and it was interesting to see the women and men work together for the first time. No surprise that Penn and Lisa immediately got along, or that Lisa got a migraine just from being in Lou’s presence. Clay, for all his misgivings about Aubrey, looks like he’s happy to work with her. And Dee immediately begins to stick up for Dayana as Lisa grimaces in frustration. For the second task, the teams had to do a presentation and design a kit for Walgreens’ walking campaign. Lou, hearing the word “fitness,” reached for the project manager ring again. Arsenio, probably wisely betting that he would need to be in charge or Aubrey would take over, volunteered for Unanimous. From the brainstorming session on, things between Arsenio and Aubrey, the lesser A-team, are rocky. Aubrey comes up with ideas about walking and notes that Arsenio, you know, took a walk away from the industry. Arsenio keeps objecting to aspects of Aubrey’s packaging plan with varying degrees of emphasis. “She’s running game right in my face,” he says.
For her part, Lisa is immediately annoyed with Lou and longs for Penn to return from his long engagement. She compares Dayana’s ideas to dumps from a toddler. The presentation goes off fairly smoothly, except for Penn accidentally saying “Walmart” instead of “Walgreens,” at which point you could see guest judge Alison Sweeney get the same frozen horrified face that she gets when someone gains ten pounds on The Biggest Loser. I thought their presentation was more entertaining than Unanimous, which went for a full-on game show schtick. It was also maybe the worst game show ever, since the questions were all about walking facts, incredibly earnest, and earned you no money. But I have to say, Arsenio Hall would make a pretty decent Price Is Right host. Watch out, Drew Carey.
But the Walgreens executives go for Unanimous over Forte, partially thanks to the packaging that Forte did. The verbs they used on their kit included some ringers from Dee that were mildly disturbing in an advertisement promoting walking for help, such as “choking” and “itching,” which seem like things best avoided, walking or not. Before Trump lays down his purse-lipped judgement, Unanimous pretty much all piles onto the anti-Aubrey bandwagon. Arsenio begins politely and then begins to slip in little snarky comments before beginning the kind of rant against her that would make him a shoo-in for the Real Ex-Talk Show Hosts of Los Angeles. The rest of the team pretty much agrees with his assessment of Aubrey’s character. Without Debbie or Lisa to stick up for her, Aubrey turns to Teresa, who sort of tries to help but sort of shrugs.
Lou brings Dee and Dayana back into the boardroom with him, but before he does, Aubrey apparently feels affronted enough to leave right after the firing session. Her departure was made with so little announcement or drama that I suspect it’s not permanent, but no doubt her front-runner status is in question now that she’s playing with people less willing to stick up for her. Dee shoulders the blame for the loss after the unfortunate verb choices, and Lou and Dayana stay to annoy Lisa for another day. You could see Dee’s inner reaction as Trump doles out the decision: “I broke my hand at Medieval Times and all I got was to lose to the Hulk and Miss Universe.” If it’s any consolation, his departure was the most stylish by far. Dude completely looked like Neo from The Matrix, and I mean that in the most metal way possible. If Aubrey comes back, I'm not sure she and Arsenio will be able to work on the same team again, though. That boardroom ain't big enough for the both of them.
- Arsenio welling up over his cousin’s death was one of the more touching moments I’ve seen on the show. He seems like such an easygoing guy; it’s amusing that Teresa is afraid of him.
- Lisa really seemed like she wanted to hit Dayana with a frying pan and run away from the whole thing. Who knew she would be this season’s crier? Aside from Aubrey, I mean.
- “Numbnuts bitches” is maybe my favorite insult that Lisa has doled out.
- I also love how Trump keeps bringing up how he survived Lisa roasting him: “I handled it, dude; I handled it.”