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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Tom Scharpling Says Dionne Warwick Is Not What Friends Are For

It’s shocking that it has only been a week since we last checked in with the misguided and vaguely damned participants that make up the cast of The Celebrity Apprentice. A large part of that is probably thanks to Comedy Central’s airing the Donald Trump roast last Tuesday. For those who missed it, the highlight was Marlee Matlin giving it to the Donald by way of Jack Jason, her interpreter and a guy who I still feel is up to something, no matter how many denials MM herself makes on Twitter.

And how about Donald Trump’s segment at the roast? He actually had the nerve to start acting like he’s serious about running for president in 2012 by making his routine into a weird roast-stump-speech hybrid. As if there are undecided voters at home who are saying, "You know, even though he was sitting four feet away from people making jokes about how The Situation has AIDS, I wasn’t sure whether he should be leading our country. But when he quoted Charlie Sheen, he got my vote!"

But on last night's CA, as soon as the dudes get back to the suite, the arguments start. Gary Busey gets in Meat Loaf’s face, complaining that he isn’t receiving the respect that he deserves. Meat Loaf comes off like the bedraggled manager of a TGI Friday’s, desperately trying to rally his disinterested employees into believing in the concept of Teamwork when all they can think about is punching out. But it’s sincerely touching to see Meat Loaf give a check to his charity the Painted Turtle, an organization that gives seriously ill children a chance to go to camp. It’s a legit thing and Meat seems like a good dude underneath all his loose screwiness. Good on you, Meat!

When the cast is gathered to learn the rules of the next challenge, I had to pause to fix my television. Something was severely off with the color, because Trump’s hair was the shade of a melted Creamsicle and his skin brought to mind an Oompa Loompa trapped in a tanning bed, replete with pale goggle marks around the eyes.

The cast looks ready for this next challenge — La Toya Jackson is clearly still an officer in the same paramilitary organization that her brother proudly served in, and Hope Dworaczyk is wearing a shockingly bright green jacket, representing the only statement she has made on the show to date.

And the theme this time is CAMPING! The teams are to create an outdoor camping experience with RVs donated by some company that I won’t say the name of here because they have gotten enough publicity on my TV last night and I wouldn’t want the exposure here to provide the tipping point. I would not be able to live with myself if there were riots at their stores tomorrow because too many excited recap aficionados caught Camping Fever through my wordsmithery.

Team Backbone selects Gary Busey as their project manager. I love how John Rich — who is one of those country dudes who doesn’t hesitate to brag about how country boys can do this and can do that and are the greatest thing that ever walked the earth — is suddenly quiet when it’s time to pick someone who might have some experience with the fucking outdoors. I question this guy’s country cred — or should I say his bona fides? Anyway, he looks more like Joey Pants auditioning for Midnight Cowboy 2: Buck in the Saddle than an actual country singer.

Team ASAP selects Niki Taylor as their project manager because she claims to know about camping. But before you know it, Star Jones is back to her meddling ways. She’s dominating the proceedings, even though she claimed that she was done with such shenanigans. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that she was going back on her word. You’d almost think she was on a reality show!

Both teams get sent to a site to do some shopping for their campsites. The ladies arrive first but leave last because they did so much shopping. And the guys breeze in and out seeming not to care about buying things. It was so stereotypical that I had to check the credits to see if this episode was written by Bill Hoest! Get it?! The guy who wrote The Lockhorns?! You get it.

As Team Backbone rides back to their home base, Richard Hatch makes the mistake of calling the fans of country music "less educated," and John Rich immediately takes offense, basically saying that he’ll fight anybody who could possibly think that fans of "Drinkin’ ‘bout You" could be "low intelligent," to quote the country superstar.

And now this guy is Joe Country all of a sudden. Where was all this country ’tude when it was time to pick a project manager? And I will say this: I don’t think that country music fans are dumb. I love plenty of country music. But I do honestly think that fans of this guy — award-winning director Phil Morrison excepted! — are maybe a little dumb. Remember that Big & Rich are the pioneers of "hick hop." They’re the same guys who introduced the world to Cowboy Troy, and we must never forget.

Once the dudes return to home base, Gary Busey shows his questionable leadership skills by telling both Mark McGrath and Richard Hatch that they could pull the trigger on ordering shrubbery for the outside of the campsite. And when McGrath questions Busey’s mistake, he gets belligerent with the self-described "rocker/TV host," denying he ever granted McGrath’s request. Even though he seems a little whiny at times, Mark McGrath possesses an affable likability. He’s the meathead who used to hang out with horrible people but knew when to get out, like Dirk Diggler or Ishmael.

Ivanka Trump — whose Ivana-heavy genetics have worked hard to expunge any blockheaded physicality of her father — visits the dudes and finds them with absolutely no sense of purpose. It almost feels like a porno movie watching her walk into the RV to find Jose Canseco lounging on a couch, looking like a stuntman taking five from filming Ed Hardy: The Movie. She rightfully leaves Team Backbone with serious questions about their focus.

Every season of The Celebrity Apprentice seems to have one contestant who doesn’t really want to be there. They’re excited to be back on television, but the notion of actually participating is just beneath — or beyond — them. Past sleepwalkers included Andrew Dice Clay, Tom Green, and Dennis Rodman, and it seems we can add Dionne Warwick to the ranks of the disinterested. But unlike those aforementioned fun-loving scamps, Warwick seems truly unlikable. She comes off as the World’s Worst Grandmother, more interested in ducking out of the trailer to do some pointless shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond than actually staying behind to do some work.

And then with one hour to go before the presentation, Warwick is on the phone paying her bills. You were not drafted to be on this show, Dionne. And the world should not suffer because you cannot live without some refracted version of your past fame filtering back through your dumb tinted sunglasses. The Dell Dude would’ve filled your seat with an enthusiasm that would’ve made our hearts sing!

Over at Team Backbone, things have not gotten any more productive — Busey and Canseco actually put on baseball mitts and start playing catch. This enrages McGrath so much that he starts filming them with a cell phone so he will have proof of the project manager horsing around when the fight goes down in the boardroom. I’m with you, Mark. If only there were some cameras present to document such egregious behavior!

But somehow the dudes get their site built up to the point where it doesn’t look too horrible. And when it’s time to show their site to the public, they have their raps down cold, with the exception of Meat Loaf, who fails to realize that there’s a flat-screen TV hidden behind a panel outside the RV. McGrath starts whining to him about how they now "look like idiots." Isn’t (wasn't) this guy a rock star? Doesn’t he realize that none of this is actually real?

The ladies are not faring as well. Niki keeps getting our century wrong, saying "20th century" instead of "21st century" to the customers during her spiel. She is subsequently compromised by Warwick throwing a mini tantrum in front of the public. Niki thankfully gives her the royal brush-off, which drives a huffing Dionne to call Niki a "hussy" behind her back. Hussy? Seriously? But in her defense, she’s 70 years old. She’s probably a little tired from all those years of singing. And from ripping off people who believe in phone psychics. And from not paying all those taxes that she owes the state of California. (What is it with this show and tax cheats?!)

Even though I never watched NeNe Leakes on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, I like whenever she talks to the camera on the show — she’s pretty funny and has a fun edge to her, like she realizes the whole thing is a goof and she’s having fun with it. And La Toya Jackson seems so sweet and broken and scared, trying so hard to hold it together. When the dude from Camping World said that she knew the RV better than some of his employees, I wanted to cry for her a little bit. She’s the opposite of NeNe — she seems to be taking the whole thing very seriously — but I salute them both! And yes, I realize I said the name of the company two sentences earlier. If you dare venture to one of their locations tomorrow, don’t blame me if you get your head stomped on like a Minor Threat audience member at Buff Hall the second “Small Man Big Mouth” kicks in!

Both teams get dragged into the boardroom and the inquisition begins. And we learn that Marlee spotted hearing problems in Busey and convinced him to visit her doctor, who inserted hearing aids in his ears that now make him feel like a complete person. Is there anybody watching this show that doesn’t love Marlee Matlin? (Although I would bet dollars to doughnuts that Jack the Interpreter takes credit for the Busey thing when he’s out of lipshot.)

After Busey talks about feeling whole again, Lil Jon and McGrath promptly throw him under the bus for being a horrible project leader. Lil Jon says that Busey’s leadership was "literally a train wreck," which is not how the word "literally" works, but you get the point. Busey doesn’t like the criticism and lets everybody know that he feels there’s a conspiracy against him running throughout Team Backbone. Who knows how high up the ladder this conspiracy runs? Maybe all the way up to Jose Canseco, man!

But there’s something telling about this exchange in regard to Mark McGrath, who is pretty brutal in his assessment of Busey. What I read as whiny might be more weasly, and that might take McGrath farther in this contest than I had initially thought.

Then John Rich starts bragging about how he picked up a large generator because — get ready for it — he’s a country boy. Seriously, can we all get past this kind of thinking? Anyway, Trump announces that the men won the competition and the women are left behind to be judged.

And then a colossal what just happened as Niki falls on the sword for the team and tells Trump she should be fired. Un-Fucking-Believable — it was the perfect week for someone with a little initiative to run Dionne Warwick off the show. What a bummer. And like that, it’s over.

But next week it looks like NeNe can’t take it anymore and brings the heat to Dionne Warwick! I cannot wait!

Corrections Department: I didn’t realize that when Meat Loaf mentioned "the sword of Damocles” last week he was quoting a lyric from one of the songs he sang in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I didn’t realize that because I am not a nerd who went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show every weekend. I was busy sitting at home watching Saturday Night Live every weekend, thank you very much.

Photo: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC