The hardest part of writing these recaps is often the first paragraph. I need to sum up everything that has happened on the show both week to week and across the length of the season, all the while attempting to reflect on the actual impact — or lack thereof — that Donald Trump has on the world outside of his dumb fake boardroom. But tonight? This is a piece of cake. During the final ten minutes of the show, NBC News cut in to announce that Osama Bin Laden was killed.
So as I write this, I have no idea who got fired. And I could not care less, really. There is news going on, and it makes a commitment to something as wildly unrealistic as this show seem even more plastic and pointless.
But I did commit to this season, so let's get the recapping under way! The remaining players are in the suite speculating about who is going to walk through the door, with the general consensus being that NeNe Leakes will get shuttled. And the second that NeNe and Star walk through the door without La Toya Jackson, it is ON. Star proudly admits that she utilized her amazing Lawyerly Powers to spin her project managerial loss into La Toya getting the heave-ho, which irks NeNe to no end. She admits to the camera that she is going to take it to Star, elegantly stating that she is "gonna fuck Star up." And finally there’s a heavyweight fight on this show!
My fingers are crossed that this will rival some of the most dynamic matches in recent memory, like Charlie Sheen versus Chuck Lorre, the people versus Linsday Lohan, or the digestive system of anybody who eats at the Taj Mahal buffet versus their "famous" crab legs. Seriously — read some of the reviews at Yelp of people eating at this dump.
John Rich brings his check to his charity, which is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He visits with Colin, the cute kid from a few episodes ago, sitting down to paint with him. It’s sweet, and John Rich rightfully makes no bones about how dedicated he is to this charity — which benefits children suffering from cancer and catastrophic illnesses. A tip of the hat to him for raising a whopping $646,000 for this worthy cause, although John Rich would probably not tip his hat back to you since it seems to be welded to his head.
The remaining seven contestants gather at some weird place — an abandoned chop shop? — to learn their next task. This time they are told they will be putting together a hair-care demonstration for Farouk Systems. Trump makes an obligatory joke about the fire hazard resting atop his melon head with absolutely zero sense of self-deprecation: Who out there has less of a sense of humor about themselves than this guy? Billy Crystal? Mike Francesa? He then welcomes the head of Farouk Systems, who is hell-bent on mentioning how his products are great because they don’t burn your head. Which is weird to me — how many businesses brag about how their product isn’t horrible? Is the state of hair-care products so bad that you don’t have to say anything about how your product might actually be good?!
It’s time to pick project managers. Meat Loaf and Lil Jon play Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine the winner, with Lil Jon coming up short. These are the guys who described themselves as "racehorses" last week, now playing a game to determine who their PM is? Pathetic. The women decide that NeNe Leakes is the project manager for the ladies. Which sends NeNe into an attack that goes on and on and and on and on. I’m sure it’s still going on in one of some alternate reality — maybe we’ll see it in The Source Code 2!
Some of the things NeNe says to Star include:
“It’s going down!”
“I will take you down!”
“You talked a good game. Now bring your street game.”
While these lines sound like quotes from Rudy the ventriloquist dummy from the Funhouse pinball machine, in this world they are Fighting Words, and they drive Star Jones to say that she is out to show America how an educated black woman handles stress versus how someone who is not educated handles it. It is not my place to explore this dynamic, but I do think I am within bounds to confidently say yikes!, then leave this to others to discuss!
The dudes plot their strategy on how they are going to take on this task. Once again they are saddled with a challenge that lives far outside their comfort zone — these guys know zilch about hair styling: John Rich would probably rather chop off his head than remove his cowboy hat; Lil Jon says that he doesn’t know about hair care because he has dreads; and while Meat Loaf used to be closer to J Mascis in the hair department, nowadays he’s living closer to Murph’s neighborhood.
But they dig in and do the work, with John Rich coming up with the bright idea to ask supermodel Niki Taylor — who was booted from the show in week three — to do some modeling for the guys’ presentation. He rightfully sees it as a way to spook the ladies of Team ASAP, which shows that this country boy is now a-playin’ the game the way a city slicker might! Maybe he’s got a big ol’ brain underneath that John B!
Over on the ladies’ side, things are as tense as can be. NeNe wonders why everybody is tense. If only there was some way to figure it out! Maybe they’re all tense because you are screaming at your team! And it’s at this point that I start to truly tire of NeNe Leakes and the push-me-pull-me game that she keeps playing. You can’t say horrible things and then complain that everybody is saying horrible things to each other!
She’s acting like a ventriloquist who complains about the horrible things that his dummy is saying, when all he wants to do is talk to the nice people in the audience! And yes, I am saying "he" when genderizing the ventriloquist, if only because women have it hard enough already in this world and don’t need to share the mighty shame that this brand of puppetry engenders.
But then inspiration strikes NeNe as she decides that “shake your beauty” is the perfect catchphrase for the presentation. And within two minutes the ladies are dancing around and twirling their hair like they’re trapped in a montage sequence from a Katherine Heigl movie. They’re all laughing and dancing and having fun, compelling NeNe to notice that the ice she created is starting to melt.
In a weird turn of events, La Toya Jackson visits Trump in a surprisingly dumpy office — a narrow Manhattan shoebox with dumb pictures of himself all over the place — to express how she felt she was wrongly terminated from the show. La Toya explains that Star Jones utilized her Lawyerly Ways to transfer the blame onto her shoulders. Which is the sole point behind those boardroom fight scenes, but I guess we’re supposed to ignore that?
La Toya tells Trump she wants to come back to the show. The Orange One says he will give it some thought, mentioning that he has never done anything like this in the fake history of the show. Trump says "nice pants" to La Toya as she walks out of the room, which comes off as completely gross and inappropriate. This is how we want the next president of the United States to act?
The dudes of Team Backbone try to figure out what their presentation's hook is going to be. Meat Loaf goes to the bathroom and continues to shout out dumb ideas from behind the door. Then Lil Jon hits upon the notion of “feeling good in America,” which draws a bizarre — and most likely artificial — toilet flush, as if Meat Loaf is our new Archie Bunker (does that mean that Busey was his Meathead?).
What ax are the producers grinding with Meat Loaf? Last week they tacked a fart sound onto an image of him, and now they’re laying in toilet sounds; it’s like they’re trying to turn him into a one-man Farrelly brothers movie. And as a side note, can we get some answers on whether the fart thing was faked? Any chance Alex Jones wants to run with this one? Let’s hashtag #MeatLoafFart on the Twitter and force the Donald to tell the truth!
There’s more of NeNe moaning about Star, etc. blah blah blah. Seriously, it’s all the same. All of it. You’ve seen one anti-Star rant, you’ve seen them all.
The guys are setting up their presentation, and Lil Jon takes the models shopping at Lord & Taylor. And while he’s walking around the store, the soundtrack is once again offensively "urban," replete with fake scratchin’ sounds. Guys: If Obama can work an Ol’ Dirty Bastard song into his Correspondents’ dinner video, you can create a soundtrack for a man of color that doesn’t sound like an outtake from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air soundtrack.
Eric Trump — whom we’re going to keep calling Fredo Trump — shows up to check in on the ladies. NeNe complains to him about Star, which is boooo-ring at this late date. The more I see this guy, the less he looks like his father. I’m inclined to think that maybe Ivana had an affair with Martin Fry from ABC during the Beauty Stab tour. I mean, it’s completely speculative, but there is a real question here that I’d like to get an answer to. Let’s see the birth certificate, Fredo!
And for the record, watching a TV show in which people style hair is exactly as exciting as, I don’t know, going to a hair salon and watching people style hair. This episode is uniquely boring even by Celebrity Apprentice standards. What a total snooze. There are only three of these things left after this one and I’m kinda glad — this season, for all its claims of being crazy and out of control, was surprisingly limp and uneventful.
The men and women are both at the hair salon getting their models prepped for the presentation, like a bad sitcom that has two feuding siblings sharing a bedroom with tape running down the center. I only hope that the bathroom is on the guys’ side because Meat Loaf is such a bathroom enthusiast that he might as well be on the cover of the next issue of Toilet Aficionado. He needs his access!
Niki Taylor shows up and the ladies are instantly surprised that she’s going to help the guys out instead of her former teammates. NeNe in particular seems flustered by this, hurriedly calling Hope Dworaczyk to warn her against sharing team secrets with her fellow good-looking pal. Marlee Matlin considers Niki’s move to be a betrayal, and I agree with her. Niki fell on the sword for the team on her own accord during her PM turf out, and now she’s mad at the other ladies? Out of bounds, Taylor! Out of bounds! I’m with Marlee all the way down the line on this show — she’s the only contestant who has grown more likable with each week.
The ladies’ presentation starts off with some dancers doing some choreographed moves to some generic high-energy music. Then NeNe comes out wearing a headset to address the audience like she’s hosting an infomercial. She declares that Farouk Systems is all about the slogan "Be Safe, Be Real, Buy American" as she welcomes a pair of stylists with amazingly thick accents to the stage. What happened to "buy American"? Somewhere, Floyd the Barber is sitting in an empty barbershop staring at a jarful of combs floating in blue water while these two interlopers steal our scissors from right under our noses! Unacceptable! USA! USA! USA! (And for the record, I wrote this "USA!" joke before finding out about Bin Laden.)
Even though her team is working hard, NeNe can’t help but badmouth her team. This time she’s ripping Hope’s admittedly wooden attempt to walk the runway, saying that she looked like Big Bird. Again, boring!
The guys’ show starts off slowly — Lil Jon comes out and hypes the crowd, imploring the audience to "make some noise." And he brings out to the stage some American hair stylists! After a point, Lil Jon also welcomes Questlove from the Roots to step onstage to show off his admittedly impressive Afro. The one surprising thing is that Questlove wasn’t tweeting while walking up the stairs, because if his feed is any sign, he’s tweeting every second of the day. A word of gentle advice to Questo: Please change your Twitter picture to anything other than the current shot of you with Obama. Every time you tweet, I think it’s the president, until I realize he’s probably not tweeting about Yacht Rock.
Then they both get dragged into the boardroom. Trump asks Nene how she thought her team responded, and she says that she felt her team wasn’t living up to its full potential. She then shifts her critique to Star and tacks on that Hope is Star’s puppet. Trump then swings the spotlight to Hope, asking her how she manages to stay under the radar. Hope says she doesn’t like to fight, but she does her job fair and square.
And as NeNe begins talking about Star’s reputation on the show, a message that Obama is going to make an important statement crawls across the bottom of the screen. And the possibility of Obama messing with Trump’s show becomes a reality! I was hoping that Obama would break into the show to the opening notes of Black Flag’s “You Bet We’ve Got Something Personal Against You” right as Trump started to declare who got fired, yelling about how he’s bringing his street game, but for some reason it didn’t happen.
Trump asks the guys how they thought they did, and all three guys manage to hold firm to their impenetrable "there are no weak players on our team" story line.
The Donald reveals that the men have won the challenge again, primarily because they stayed on target with branding and messaging, while the ladies suffered from NeNe being a weak emcee and the overall lack of a theme. He then reveals a surprise for Team Backbone — La Toya Jackson is asked into the room and is told that she will be rejoining the men’s team as a makeup call for Jose Canseco’s early departure. And just like that, whatever rules are established on the show are tossed out the window. But why would anybody put any stock in this ridiculous show?
Team ASAP stays in the boardroom to argue things out, and as Trump asks Star who she would want on her team, boom!, we are interrupted and the news that Bin Laden is dead is announced! Suddenly The Celebrity Apprentice seems very dumb and very inconsequential, and the gulf between Donald Trump’s faux-populist bullying and the iron will it takes to actually run the country has never seemed so massive. What do you think the first hundred days of a Trump presidency would be like? Tell me in the comments below!
And a couple of hours later I found out on Twitter — from Hugh Hefner, no less! — that Hope was fired by Trump because she was too busy flying under the radar and Trump determined that Team ASAP’s best chance of surviving hinged on both NeNe and Star staying on the show. Which is a load of garbage — he’s keeping them both on because they are fighting with each other like two lunatics and Hope has shown that she does not like conflict. Once again Trump chooses crazy over fair, and while the show might benefit in one regard, it suffers in a larger sense.
To FUNBUD23 from the Vulture comments:
I’m sorry you didn’t like Monk, which I wrote for. But I don’t care for two reasons:
1. it’s over forever.
2. Lots of people did.
I got very used to working on the show that my friends’ parents loved. And that’s fine — someone’s gotta write things for the parents of the world. The show was obviously inspired by Columbo — duh — but you lose me with your put-downs of Tony Shalhoub (and spell his name right!). The guy is a great actor and if you don’t like his talent, then you are the lesser for it.
And don’t think I’m not suspicious of you just being a troublemaker trying to get my attention with a deliberately provocative comment. Which is why you are the last of that breed that shall get show up in Commenter’s Corner. Enjoy it while it lasts.
To JJJUICE in the Vulture comments:
You came up with my favorite Trump improv troupe name. “Chump Towers” was simple and dumb. Well done!
To JOJOJO from the Vulture comments:
although I think "Three Smile Island" might be my favorite! Waaah! I can’t decide!
To NOMOREFAN from the Vulture comments:
I agree and support anybody taking the initiative to let Trump know that his newly altered opinions on gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose impacts their decision to spend money at any of his businesses.
And still nobody has gotten anybody to retweet the recaps. Shameful. I’m taking the offer off the table after this week, but if you get someone other than Marlee or Jack to tweet about the show, I will give you 40 DOLLARS in Panera Bread gift cards.
Thanks and see you next week!
You can live-stream Tom Scharpling's weekly radio show "The Best Show on WFMU" every Tuesday at 9 p.m. or subscribe to it as a podcast here.