With Penn gone, The Celebrity Apprentice is now down to its final six. Niceties like modesty and patience are wearing thin, or have long been dispensed with. In every shot of Aubrey, you can practically see inside her visions of ascending to sit alongside the Trump throne. All of the animosity that’s been building this season is barely below the surface. The home stretch of this show depends on that. At this point, it’s unlikely that the celebrities are going to be thrown off by the challenges so much as worn down by their competitors.
And everyone is worn down. What’s interesting about the way tonight’s episode plays out is that both Unanimous and Forte deal with the same problem: Two players butt heads while a third tries—and fails—to make peace. The task this week is to write a 90-second jingle for Good Sam’s auto-protection program and perform it in front of a live (and bewildered) audience. It’s a musical challenge, so the natural choice on both teams would be the professional musician in the bunch. But on Unanimous, Arsenio steps up to avoid an O’Day project manager doubleheader. (He’s no fool, though. Even in the beginning he forecasts Aubrey “constantly stealing [his] thunder.”) On Forte, Dayana offers to lead instead of Clay.
“Jingle All The Way” was teased as the episode in which Dayana drives her team into lunacy, and damn if it didn’t deliver. Her choice to take over on a task out of her wheelhouse was clearly a political move. With either Lisa or Clay at the helm, there’s no way Dayana would have a voice anyone listened to. As project manager, she still doesn’t, exactly, but she has the chance to take credit for an Aiken-sung jingle if it goes well, and to duck out of the way if it doesn’t. Unfortunately, it’s not just that music isn’t Dayana’s forte (ba-dum!). It’s more that she’s completely unfamiliar anything outside of Duran Duran. When she asks in the car if jingles had to do with Christmas music, Clay puts on his mask of infinite patience to explain to her that they don’t while Lisa winces.
Lisa and Dayana have never been cozy, but I do think Lisa made an honest try to be affable to her this time. Usually it’s Lisa berating Dayana for driving her nuts while Dayana asks for reasonable human things like respect and charity. But Dayana, intentionally or not, gets in quite a few passive-aggressive digs at her teammates. As Clay’s explaining how songwriting works, Dayana throws up her hands and says, “Can we just call Debbie Gibson?” Clay and Lisa keep it civil, save for some eye rolls at Dayana’s attempt to rhyme “track” and “Sam” and her request to have the song sound more “yellow,” until Don Jr. comes in and asks about the process. Dayana feels cut out of the loop, and rightly so, but she tells Don Jr. that Clay has been doing all the work. It’s this jab that pushes Lisa into toddler-tantrum zone. After a hail of insults back and forth, Lisa storms out of the room and vows to take Dayana down in the boardroom.
It’s not all Lisa and Dayana, either. During rehearsal, Dayana attempts to assert some leadership by offering suggestions to Clay on where he should stand. This is Dayana’s modus operandi: Come in with a suggestion that seems small at a time of high stress. Like, “take it to the 1980s” or “add hippies here.” Clay’s veneer of patience cracks, and he lashes out at her. But they’re all professionals, and the show must go on. Clay and Lisa turn out a cute, nostalgic, Frankie Valli-esque jingle with Clay’s dulcet tones and Lisa’s quick-thinking lyrics. Dayana stage manages and comes out to mumble a hello at the end.
Unanimous, as it has been since she joined the team, is The Aubrey Show. Arsenio’s strategy is to accommodate Aubrey as best he can without getting completely steamrolled. Or, as he puts it, “I’m trying to kiss her ass in every way that I can.” Aubrey’s plan is clearly to run the whole production while complaining about Arsenio’s lack of leadership. Teresa basically hopes to keep things from getting awkward and does some dancing. None of this is new, but Aubrey’s audacity is reaching new bounds. After her plan to suck up to Eric failed last week, this episode she uses Don Jr.’s visits to complain about her teammates before the task is even half-completed. Then she suggests that Teresa and the backup dancers go ahead with her to the studio, acts miffed that Arsenio didn’t give them instructions on the thing she coordinated, and just takes over the choreography anyway.
They pull it off. Aubrey dresses as a cheerleader and does her best Gwen Stefani impression. Arsenio attempts to rap. Teresa looks cute. It’s like most Aubrey productions: enthusiastic, loud, and not that polished. Luckily for Unanimous, the executives loved it.
In the boardroom this week, it would have either been a drawn-out battle between Arsenio and Aubrey or Lisa and Dayana. The last 45 minutes of the show are Lisa and Dayana’s airing of grievances, punctuated by the occasional Trump furrowed brow or an interjection by Clay. I guess the seventh time in the boardroom is the charm, because Dayana finally gets fired after the long campaign to oust her. Not to worry. I’m sure Lisa will be yelling again soon enough. Teresa’s next on her list, I’d wager.
- That interaction when Aubrey couldn’t understand Arsenio’s race-based reasons not to tap-dance? Awk. Ward.
- Aubrey overconfidence gems: “I can write this with literally no effort” and “It’s difficult when people aren’t as good at things as you are.”
- Okay, who wants to give Clay Aiken a cameo on Mad Men?