Celebrity Apprentice

Celebrity Apprentice Smackdown: Part 12 (Mar 24)

Previously on Celebrity Apprentice: Trace Adkins took control of his team and utilized his celebrity to sell sandwiches. Even though in the actual episode, he bemoaned that he wasn’t well-known in New York. History rewrites itself before our eyes! The “little Stevie B. cherry” line is replayed, and it’s still just as disturbing. Piers Morgan took control of his team, and also, Lennox Lewis likes sandwiches. Flea was fired, and then Trump called the surviving Ducklings back to axe two more. Dum da DUM!!!

The announcer reminds us of who the remaining celebrities are, just in case you waited until the second-to-last episode to tune in. And now, back to the Boardroom!

Trump tells the ducklings that they’re going to be interviewed by “two of the great business reporters” – Jim Cramer (of Mad Money and the Kodak task earlier this season) and Erin Burnett (from CNBC, which I did not realize still existed). Each journalist will meet with each of the four finalists. They’ll tell Trump what they thought, and then Trump will ignore them and do exactly what he had decided on before the process began.

As is necessary with this show, somebody has to look into the camera and recap exactly what Trump just said, right down to naming the interviewers. Trace draws the short straw this week.

They wait in the lobby, and three of them look quite nervous. Piers is the exception, and he’s smugging it up. In an interview, he explains that the one thing he’s good at is talking, so he’s not worried.

Opening Credits. Lord, I am not looking forward to seeing Gene Simmons on next week’s finale. Other than the gross-out shot of his tongue unfurling, I’ve been able to forget his existence for weeks now.

The first interview we see is Erin Burnett and Piers. Now, every season they have an interview episode, and it usually falls apart pretty quickly. After the first couple of questions we drift into a montage, and it’s impossible to tell what’s being asked of whom and how they answer. More importantly, it’s a comedy killer. Bear with me, though. The Backstreet Boys will be making an appearance. Anyway, she asks Piers about his charity, and he explains the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund for the millionth time. I do respect, though, that he’s not an American citizen and he’s still playing for a distinctly American charity.

Then we cut to Erin and Trace discussing food allergies. Or, as Piers corrects her, “severe food allergies”. I know I’ve made some remarks about that, but it’s very sweet how emotional he gets about it. Yeah, two episodes to go and I’ve completely lost my edge.

Then, suddenly Trace is talking to Jim Cramer about food allergies. He claims to have lobbied on Capital Hill, and I’m not sure of the specifics of his lobbying. It’s like on Shaq’s Big Challenge when Shaq went to the Governor of Florida to protest childhood obesity. What’s the Governor going to do, go around giving fat kids wedgies? Not everything can be fixed by storming City Hall.

Now Carol Alt explains her charity to Jim. It sounds like it’s sort of a charity clearing house where they gather up money and then decide how to distribute it. No disrespect to Carol or the memory of her brother, but that must hamper fundraising. “Will you donate money for charity?” “What charity?” “We haven’t decided.” I think that’s how the Little Rascals got money to buy a pitching machine.

By the way, the editing in this whole segment has completely gone over the edge. We’re not usually seeing segments from two interviews, but rather one interview with reaction shots of both interviewers spliced in. Each interviewer has their own room, and even though the celebrity’s background never changes, the two rooms look completely different. It’s very jarring.

Jim asks Lennox about his plans to go forward with fundraising, and Lennox stammers and trips over his words and finally says that the point of fundraising is to make people want to give money to your charity. That Lennox – nice guy, not so good with the interviews.

The pace speeds up. Carol claims her biggest accomplishment was harnessing the energy of others. Lennox talks about the virtues of marketing himself. Trace says he can leave the show with integrity intact. Piers explains that he isn’t mean, but he works hard. Jim asks Piers why to fire the others, and he responds that Lennox and Trace are slow. Trace says that Piers takes advantage of people. Lennox and Carol think they can raise more money than Trace.

Rapid-fire barrage of questions with unseen answers. I refuse to recap questions that are being asked of an undefined individual and left unanswered. Finally, Jim asks Piers for his biggest mistake in the competition, and Piers says he hasn’t made one. Jim gets kind of angry and claims that Piers is the first person he’s ever met who hasn’t made a mistake. Now, I think Jim is the best, but Piers didn’t say he’s never made a mistake, just not in this competition. And you might want to tone down the indignation, as whatever mistake Piers might have made while selling printer ink sort of pales compared to, oh, going on TV and telling people not to sell their Bear Stearns stock six days before the price bottomed out. Just saying.

Trump heads in to meet with Jim and Erin. Erin says she liked Piers least, because of his edge. Jim agrees that he can raise the most money, but he’s not a nice guy. This is going to be sort of a running theme, so I’ll address it now. I’ve grown to like Piers. And part of the reason that I like him is that he’s played this game the way the contestants in a normal season would play it. He wants to win, he wants to take out the strongest players, and if you ask him why somebody should be fired, he’ll give you a reason. He’s playing the game like it matters to him. Sure, there are reasons not to like Piers, but I think they’re way off here.

Then they all talk about how hot Carol is. Actually, Jim tries to explain that she impressed him in the interview, but Trump has to take it there. My sister and I were discussing this show, and she reminded me that while Trump likes his pretty women, he can only really respect women who are sort of unfortunate-looking. Every compliment to a beautiful woman always contains some reference to her looks, but he can authentically compliment an unattractive woman’s business acumen. (Check out Season Three winner Kendra if you don’t believe me.) There’s weird stuff going on his head. Women can be pretty OR smart. Pick a side, ladies.

Anyway, Jim talks about Carol’s “quiet hunger” and Trump says that Lennox Lewis also has that. Because Trump loves men who do manly things. Let’s not forget Tito Ortiz’ $50,000 for getting fired. Jim disagrees, and says Lennox is too laid back. Erin names Trace as her favorite. Jim likes Trace and Carol. Then Trump asks for Erin’s second favorite, and we never see her answer, because it doesn’t really matter.

Lennox says the interview went well. Trace says he was comfortable with Erin, but Jim unsettled him. He does a little impression of Jim yapping at him, which makes Ivanka light up, because she’s been having cowboy fantasies for weeks now. Trump says that Erin thought Trace was “terrific”, and asks “Do women generally think you’re terrific?” Trace responds instantly with “Yes sir”, which makes Piers laugh and Ivanka glow.

Piers thinks he did a good job interviewing, and Trump says they didn’t like him. He says they found Piers to be too tough and ruthless, and Piers goes for the stroke by pointing out that Trump is ruthless. Ivanka says something about how Piers hasn’t been unethical, but somehow he bothers people with the way he plays the game. Well, isn’t that their problem? Other than the Vincent Pastore sabotage (which bit him in the ass anyway), Piers hasn’t done anything other than play the game.

Trump asks Carol why she belongs in the Final Two. She cites a bunch of adjectives that appear on every resume ever, and also adds that she has “gumption”. Wow. Carol Alt is 70. What’s wrong, “moxie” too newfangled for you? Carol says she’d fire Lennox and Trace. Trump asks Carol why she’s better than Lennox, and Piers says Lennox couldn’t win without him. True, but he wins but utilizing Lennox. Those two as a team are pretty well unbeatable. Lennox makes the fatal mistake of agreeing with Piers’ assessment, and I lose ten dollars in the spunkybean pool.

Piers and Lennox back-and-forth over whether Piers is the team’s greatest asset, or merely one of its greatest assets. It doesn’t matter, because Lennox made the mistake of agreeing that somebody else did better than he did, so he’s fired. Lennox leaves and immediately starts chatting up the elevator operator, who beams.

Bye, Lennox! I’m going to miss you until you come back in ten minutes. Oh, uh, spoiler warning.

Trump explains that he can’t fire Piers because he’s done so well, even though “he’s the least nice person”. He does not qualify that statement at all. Piers objects, which is reasonable, though maybe not smart. Trump kind of chews Piers out for interrupting while he’s defending him, and it is a weird defense. Piers finally agrees to “take his bollocking like a man”, and I’m thrilled to have a closing line for my parody Brokeback Mountain trailer consisting entirely of Piers/Lennox scenes from this season.

Trump asks Piers who he would fire, and Piers says he’d have an easier time beating Trace than he would beating Carol. Hee. Trump asks Trace why he deserves to be in the Final Two, and Trace plays the integrity card. Trump asks if he like Piers, and Trace admits that they can be “sociable….cordial”, but they’re not friends. Trace throws “ruthless” out there as a pejorative, which really does seem weird on a Trump show.

I can not possibly do justice to Trump’s next question: “Carol, how do I get over the fact that I want to see these two guys fight?” And that is what we call awesome. Wisely, she doesn’t even try to step into that conversational minefield. He goes on to say that Erin and Jim liked Trace and Carol, “But I love the friction between these two guys.” Dude, I’ve got enough footage for the trailer. You’re just gilding the lily. And it continues. “I say they don’t like each other.” Neither of them actually said that, but Trump has decreed it so.

And then he fires Carol because he wants to see Trace and Piers go at it. Wow. I’ve never seen a reality show where they were so blatant about creating a narrative. Sure, American Idol does their best to tweak the theme nights so the finale is always man vs. woman. On occasion, Big Brother tailors Head of Household competition to certain houseguests. But I’ve never seen somebody just announce “These two make a more compelling story”. Carol almost thinks it’s funny, and her smile does not break for a second.

Trump tells the Final Two: “I love what I’m looking at. It’s good vs. evil, it’s the US vs. the UK.” Did he just call England ‘evil’? Piers is amused at least, considering that he’s been called “evil” on TV. Trace and Piers trash-talk each other on the way out, but it’s clear that their antipathy is not nearly what Trump assumes it to be. It’s like that South Park episode where the boys manipulate Craig and Tweek so they’ll fight, and neither of them really want to fight. Only, technically Stephen Baldwin should be Tweek, and I guess that means Piers is Pip.

The next morning, the Final Two meet Trump and the Trumplings in the lobby of 40 Wall Street. I don’t know what that is, but they show us the address. Trump asks Piers what he thinks of good vs. evil, and Piers responds “I don’t think I’m as evil as you think, and he’s definitely not as good.” In an interview, Piers pretty well calls Trump out. “He’s pitching it as the 6’7” great American hero cowboy versus the disgusting, obnoxious, evil Brit.”

Trump explains the task. As in every season, the final task is a charity event. Unlike other seasons, they’ll be overseeing different aspects of the same event. And they’ve invited four “really wonderful” celebrities to come back. I say a silent prayer that Gene Simmons is not among them, and I am rewarded for my faith. Lennox, Carol, Stephen Baldwin, and Marilu Henner are back. Each gets to pick two, and they decide first pick with a coin toss. Trump assigns them heads and tails, rather than letting someone pick, and Trace wins. (By the way, and I can’t swear to this, I think that might be Trump’s face on the “heads” side. Try not to think about what might be on “tails”.) Trace’s first pick is Lennox. There is a reaction shot of Piers’ heart breaking which could not be more perfect. I have to assume somebody on the editing staff reads my recaps, since they’ve been pitching me softballs the last couple of weeks.

Piers protests that Lennox is English and it ruins the “US vs. UK” theme, but Trump’s not having it. In an interview, Stephen prays to not be picked, and for the thousandth time on this show, God gives Little Stevie B. a Nelson Muntz-style “Haw-Haw!”, and Piers picks him. Stephen asks, in his interview, “What would Jesus do?” As we’ve already established, Jesus is watching Lost in this timeslot. Piers explains that they didn’t like each other, but they worked well together and Stephen always puts forth a great effort.

Trace picks Marilu. Over Carol? Really? I mean, Marilu seems like a nice lady, but so does Carol. And Carol has the advantage of actually having been on a winning team more than once. Based on their interactions, I think Carol probably preferred Piers’ team anyway, so nobody got hurt. Yes, I am worried that a supermodel might have hurt feelings from being picked last. I care, people.

Trump explains the task, and the entire think is done in ADR. That’s kind of common on this show, that Trump has to dub lines after the fact. (It happens on Project Runway, too. But it is Heidi Klum’s second language, so she has an excuse.) But this is a really long dub, and they go to great lengths not to show Trump. Was he eating crackers when they shot this scene?

One team will handle catering and produce an auction, while the other will handle the décor an the entertainment, namely the Backstreet Boys. (AKA, the boy band that didn’t produce a Dancing with the Stars finalist.)

They’ll be judged on quality of performance, tickets sold, and money raised. Now the ADR doesn’t even sound like Trump. Trump will be providing items for the auction, plus each team can add their own. Win or lose, their individual auction items will go toward their charity. Good thing Piers has an inside line on some autographed copies of The Unusual Suspect

Both teams sit down together to decide who’ll handle what. Marilu has her game face on, which is hilarious. All 83 pounds of her are ready for you to bring it! Piers asks if Trace would like to handle the entertainment, and Trace agrees. They both say that it would be better overall for the event that way, which is true and surprisingly altruistic of them. Plus, it puts Trace in proximity to the Backstreet Boys. Just wait.

They go over the items and agree to take turns choosing the specific items for their team. Piers’ first pick is Ivanka Trump. What? She’s up for auction? Damn, if I’d known, I would have put in a bid. Granted, my net worth of $230 wouldn’t get far, but a man’s got to try. Trace picks “the Super Bowl thing”, which remains undefined. I do see a box labeled “Super Bowl XL”, so either this was all done prior to this year’s game, or the box contains a DVD of the game. Stephen yells “which one did he take?”, and everybody has to repeat what Trace just said for Stephen. Not sure what’s going on there.

Piers explains that he wanted the items that were appealing to a wider cross-section of people, including the “shopping trip with Ivanka Trump”. Oh. A shopping trip. What the hell, I’d still put in a bid. Imagine how much fun she’d have at the used DVD store with me. “No, I already have the Director’s Cut of Army of Darkness. We’re looking for the Boomstick Edition!” Piers ends the meeting with “May the best man win, and I will.” There is a brief moment between Piers and Lennox, when they reflect upon what could have been, and then they go their separate ways.

Trace compares Piers to a Chihuahua, “a pain in the ass, but no real threat”. That aside was probably not worth a paragraph in itself, but it didn’t fit in the preceding paragraph either. These are the things I agonize over.

In Piers’ War Room, Piers explains that their strategy is to sell their items for more money and to sell more tickets. Well, duh. It turns out, though, that Piers isn’t being dense in restating this fact, because Baldwin disagrees. He explains to us that he has told Piers since the show began that it’s about more than money. Well, eight of the eleven tasks were based solely on money raised, and two-thirds of this task is based on money. That’s probably the thing to concentrate on. Unless by “more than money”, Stephen means “Jesus”, and I kind of suspect that he does.

Trace tells his team that they’re going to concentrate on getting celebrities, as well as the band and décor. (You know, the stuff that was actually assigned to him.) He feels sure that Piers can raise more money, but he can get more celebrities. Apparently poor celebrities who aren’t going to cough up any dough, but celebrities nonetheless. Trace tells his team he’s chartering two jets for country stars to come to New York. I don’t know to what extent he’s contacted people about filling those jets, but he does seem confident. Also, I think Garth Brooks can afford a plane ticket, you know. Trace claims that if “we can beat him with celebrities, we win”, and I’m really not sure what his logic is there. Let me check the criteria again – money raised, tickets sold, quality of their assigned task. Nope, nothing that says whoever brings in the most celebrities wins.

After the commercial, Lennox says that the key to winning is getting as many celebrities as possible, and I still don’t get why they think that. They start making calls, and Lennox concedes that they only have one day’s notice, which is making it difficult. Trace names some country stars who have confirmed, and he says a bunch of names that, for all I know, he just made up on the spot. He’s also drumming up auction items, which is a good idea. Marilu and Lennox leave to work on the décor, and that leaves Trace to work with the band.

At the prop house, Lennox explains that they want the place to look good and sexy. Nothing says “children with food allergies” and “families of servicemen killed in action” quite like some sexy decorations. Some of the best fundraisers happen in strip clubs. Marilu starts going into her crazy lady mode, and unfortunately we don’t get to see much of it. However, the cuts to the proprietor and his panicked look of “When will she stop touching the linens????” tells the whole story. Lennox tries to hurry her along, as they’re under a time constraint, and she’s worried about looking tacky. Oh, that’s right. She was fired before they visited the Trumpartment. “Tacky” is not a word that exists in this world. As they’re leaving, Marilu turns around and stares at the items some more until finally Lennox has to yell “Done!” I totally want to see what Marilu’s house looks like.

Carol and Stephen meet with the caterer. As he tries to explain the items, Stephen just starts chowing down. Seriously, the caterer is still talking and he’s gulping it down. It’s like Lorelai and Rory shopping for a wedding cake. He’s ecstatic over the food, and he chews so loudly that Carol and the caterer both comment. He must have trouble keeping a roommate. (Just pretend you enjoyed my Flight of the Conchords reference and move on.) Carol, in an interview, calls him “a piece of work”. She says it in a nice way, but I’ve never heard that expression used in a nice way. There’s a hilarious exterior shot of the building, with Stephen’s chewing still audible. (Dear Editors: I Heart You.)

Piers is focused on the auction, so he goes to visit an old friend – Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York. Now, their interaction is really very warm, so this clearly isn’t him just picking a random British person. She’s really enthusiastic and offers some suggestions. Do you think she asks people not to call her Fergie now? I think that name’s sort of ruined. She offers to have tea with the highest bidder, which seems like it would be big.

Trace looks over the Backstreet Boys’ contract riders, and he already looks exhausted. (See a copy of their backstage demands here. And then pity poor Trace. Also, they have a lot of booze on their list considering one of the Boys is a recovering addict.) He expresses surprise that they still call themselves “Boys”. Trace thinks that their road manager will waive some of the riders, because he works in a music industry where they try to weed out self-important jackasses.

On the phone, their manager identifies himself as “Fitzjoy” and asks Trace for his name at least three times before asking “What’s your function?” That’s right, the road manager for a faded pop act is getting snooty with the multi-platinum artist with more Number One records than the Backstreet Boys have songs in their catalog. The frustration for Trace is only beginning. The phone call alone exhausted him, and now he has to meet with them in the morning.

Lisa, a representative from the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund meets with Piers, and he suggests giving twenty tickets to wounded veterans. I can’t tell if that’s really cool or really exploitative. Piers has been pretty genuine about his charity this whole time, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Also, Lisa is really pretty. Piers then reminds us that he’s giving up tickets that he could have sold, which makes me feel even better about it. But then he tells Lisa he’d like “a mixture of old and young, probably 2/3 young.” It’s this great mixture of charity and demographic pandering, and it amuses me to no end. Lisa confirms that she doesn’t care if Piers is mean. Hee.

OK, this next part is awesome. I promise, you will almost hardly be able to eat your pineapple. Trace Adkins meets the Backstreet Boys! My sister explained that Kevin left the group, so it’s the four remaining Boys and their manager. (My sister is in law school, by the way. And she has an astonishing amount of knowledge regarding the Backstreet Boys, and really, all late 90’s boy bands.) Trace explains to us that he thinks he can reason with them regarding their rider. And then it all goes wrong.

He leads by saying that there’s only one dressing room, instead of two. So then it’s redundant to have stock for two rooms. A blond Boy bites his lip like Eliot Spitzer at a press conference. There’s a flash of hate in the manager’s eyes. A seedy looking Boy confirms that they still need two of everything, and he says it in such a way as to suggest that it’s a compromise. Trace tells us that he’s “dealing with a bunch of kids who are going to bust (his) balls all day.”

And consider his balls busted. Nick Carter, who may or may not have beat hell out of Paris Hilton a few years back (I know it was a Carter, but not which one), and who is wearing a John Lennon t-shirt and thus causing Lennon’s corpse to frantically dig its way to the surface to exact revenge, asks if Trace can provide wheat grass. Trace has never heard of this. “Like, to eat?” he asks. Ah, Trace is clearly not familiar with short-lived trends made popular by buttholes nearly a decade ago. Nick explains how you squeeze the juice out of it and drink it, and it’s really healthy. Another Boy explains that it looks like sod. Meanwhile, poor Trace is sitting there stunned. There’s a mixture of pity and fury in his eyes that’s just fascinating to observe. Nick continues to patronizingly explain the health benefits of wheat grass, and Trace, dripping with contempt, responds “I’m happy for you, brother. I’m glad you found something that works for you.” Nick’s face tells you everything you need to know, namely that he’s a spoiled brat who will have a very difficult time when he realizes that nobody cares about him. Another Boy jumps in to ask that their bottled water be left out so that it’s room temperature, and another prissily suggests that “some tea would be great”.

Trace, in an interview: “Talking to the Backstreet Boys is time out of my life that I’ll never get back. Talking about wheat grass juice…” Poor, poor Trace. You really have to see it to appreciate how exasperated he is and just how awful and self-obsessed they are.

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