Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Tom Scharpling on the Gary Busey Debacle

Photo: Douglas Gorenstein/? NBC Universal, Inc.
Photo: Douglas Gorenstein/? NBC Universal, Inc.

Before we get started, I realize that I blew a golden opportunity last week with one of my golden zingers. I said that La Toya Jackson acted like Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka, screaming that she wanted an Oompa Loompa. Now, for me to be writing a recap of a show fronted by Donald Trump — a man with a skin tone so orange that it wouldn’t surprise me to see Rajon Rondo mistakenly pick up his head and brick a twenty-footer with it — and not bring it back to the Donald having some Loompa-like traits is just unforgivable. I hope you will all find it in your hearts to see past this travesty and hopefully we can all move on. Yes? Yes. Let’s go!

This week’s episode begins with the remaining contestants speculating on whether or not Mark McGrath or Gary Busey will get the boot from Trump. Meat Loaf in particular can’t handle another minute of Busey, leaning over a chair in his half-completed Nudie suit like he’s an overweight mountain lion getting ready to pounce on a deer with a gimpy hoof. So when he sees Busey amble into the room all stone-faced, it’s actually kind of sad. He desperately drains a shot of alcohol like the spirits will dispel the melting Dennis the Menace that stands before him, but no — Busey’s return is real and he is here to stay.

John Rich confronts Busey, saying to him, “you’re either crazy or you’re a saboteur.” It’s kinda great seeing a weirdo like Busey legitimately spook a dude like John Rich. The country singer has no tolerance for that kind of behavior, although if you stuck an ascot and a blinding hatred for the president on Busey, Rich would be standing next to fellow McCain supporter Jon Voight. Maybe the two of them could spend the night trading tips on how to Photoshop Obama’s face onto any variety of offensive images.

We then see La Toya Jackson as she gives her donation to AIDS Project LA, an organization that helps feed and assist HIV-positive people in the Los Angeles area. Seeing her behind the counter of the shelter handing out food and trying to interact with other humans is a little painful and clunky — did she have to wear the fur coat? — but her heart is clearly in the right place and it’s a great cause.

And just like that, we’re back to business! Trump summons the remaining nine contestants to the Trump Tower Grill to learn of their next assignment. Regarding the Trump Tower Grill: I wish that Donald Trump would show the paperwork that proves his restaurant isn’t infested with rats. What’s he so scared of? It’s just a piece of paper, and he sure seems to not be making it easy for us to see that paper that confirms your dining experience won’t feel like a Ratatouille Fantasy Camp. Show us the paper or we have to assume the worst, Trump!

For this week’s challenge, the two teams have to produce an infomercial touting the greatness of Omaha Steaks. The two brothers who run this family owned business are on hand, and they could not look more dissimilar — one is like a poor man’s Dr. Drew and the other one could be a stand-in for Dick Cheney if he ever ventures back into the realm of sitcom acting: Who can forget his two-episode arc on The Bernie Mac Show, portraying the Mac Man’s business manager, Chooch?

Now, I’m not gonna resort to making fat jokes, but both Meat Loaf and Star Jones seem really excited by this task. Remember — I’m not making a fat joke here! They are just thrilled to do this one, and Meat Loaf kinda leans forward as if he’s trying to catch the scent of steak off one of the Steak Brothers. But that was not a fat joke. The one I did earlier about the overweight mountain lion? That was a fat joke.

It’s time to pick project managers. Team ASAP names Hope Dworaczyk, whose appointment makes Trump instantly turn to who from this point on will be referred to as the Steak Brothers and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, our Playmate of the Year, fellas,” as if he’s expecting her to whip off her blouse in exchange for rib eye. This guy is so defective in so many ways that I am half-hoping he actually does decide to run for president.

Meat Loaf quickly shoves Gary Busey forward as Team Backbone’s project manager. It’s so clear that all the guys are hoping that Busey turfs out. Trump adds that he can’t figure out whether Busey is “a genius or a moron,” and nobody laughs as hard as Trump probably thought they did. This guy actually thinks he’s entertaining, and it’s painful to see him gracelessly clomp through these situations thinking that he’s knocking everyone dead. Part of me wants to see him become president just to imagine his State of the Union address, talking about all the things that he and Vice-President Vince McMahon achieved and why America is now bigger and better than ever, even though there are roving gangs killing people in the streets for potable water.

The dudes break off to strategize. Busey immediately appoints Meat Loaf to be the chef for the infomercial, even though Loaf doesn’t know how to cook — but both Lil Jon and John Rich do! The Steak Brothers show up to see how the men are making out, and Gary keeps getting hung up on the weirdest details, zeroing in on the one brother’s offhand use of the phrase “suspended animation” to describe their meat-delivery process (which sounds disgusting, for the record!). And that is the moment when I got off board with Gary Busey once and for all.

I know that Busey suffered drastic head trauma after his horrible motorcycle accident and he’s not all there, but he is also a dick. He’s the embodiment of what made me quit every William Burroughs book I tried to read after 50 pages — I’d rather simply own that I’m not smart enough and move onto something befitting my intellect; a novel by Janet Evanovich, perhaps? — than hand myself over into someone’s crypto-intellectual word salad.

On the ladies’ side of things, Star is doing her Star thing, which is to talk over everybody else and to try to take over. NeNe Leakes is instantly furious at her, burning holes through her with those awesome saucer-size eyeballs of hers. And when the Steak Brothers visit, Star asks them what the leanest cut of meat they sell is because she had open-heart surgery a couple of years earlier. Hey, here’s an idea! Maybe you shouldn’t be eating any steak after having open-heart surgery! Things like that are usually what we refer to as a “sign” to “change your eating habits.”

Meat Loaf wants to go meet with the guy who will train him to cook and tries to take Lil Jon with him. But John Rich says that he wants to go along as well. So they all go to the meeting with a sullen Gary Busey in tow. And this is the big problem with this episode — it’s so boring watching three guys be passively mad at another guy for two hours.

It’s not much better at Team ASAP. Watching La Toya Jackson slide into Persecution Mode yet again just because someone had an opinion that impacted her in the slightest possible way — NeNe wanted her to prepare a hamburger instead of a steak — is draining and not much fun. I can only imagine what it would be like to have grown up in the horror house that La Toya was raised in.

As Meat Loaf is being taught how to cook, Lil Jon and John Rich have absolutely zilch to do. Rich has taken to wearing the kind of dumb reflective sunglasses that poker players wear on late-night poker shows because I’m assuming he just doesn’t want to look Busey in the eyes anymore.

Busey isn’t helping matters by trying to name their steak package things like “When the Ocean Meets the Land” or “The Omaha Multi-Flavored Steaks Pack,” which forces Meat Loaf to tell Gary in his best Jack Lemmon–esque stammer that there’s no such thing as multi-flavored steaks. So when Gary suggests that perhaps the company would consider making the steaks pre-flavored, Meat Loaf just rides out the situation without losing his shit like he did over those motherfucking sponges a few weeks ago. I’m feeling for Meat Loaf now — he’s just trying to get through this thing the best he can.

As the women learn how to cook, La Toya Jackson admits that she’s never, ever, cooked before because she has lived her entire life with a personal chef. Although she laughs about how she made an egg once! Tee hee hee! I take back what I said about the horror house she grew up in. And NeNe is predictably furious at La Toya when she hears this; in her estimation, no self-respecting adult should not know how to make his or her own food. I’m with NeNe 90 percent of the way on this one, with the other 10 percent being split evenly between “I Don’t Know How to Cook That Many Things Either” and “If I Had a Personal Chef I Would Probably Be Worse Than La Toya Jackson.”

NeNe is also on the warpath when it comes to Star Jones, wondering if she is hiding behind her perennial role as Team ASAP’s graphic designer as a way to not have to do other tasks. NeNe sure does a fair amount of complaining about other people on this show, although her direct addresses to camera are great and hilarious. This show would be doomed without her.

When Don Jr. — who seems really uncomfortable in his own skin and brings to mind a regional theater’s stage production of American Psycho (with original music by the Alarm!) — Star instantly starts explaining how valuable her contributions are to the team. But Don Jr. sees through this shameful attempt to grab undeserved credit, probably because he grew up under the roof of the biggest glory hound since Thomas Edison or Bill Walton.

As they sit inside a van, John Rich and Meat Loaf do more of the same thing — complain about Busey. Apparently Rich got called “boy” by Gary off-camera, and John is nobody’s boy. But aren’t these guys always throwing around the word “boy” when it’s got the word “country” in front of it? John Rich even has a song called “Turn a Country Boy On.” The lyrics are so ridiculous that someone who was working to get country boys deported from the U.S. wouldn’t go this stereotypically on the nose: “Crank the Hank, find a football game and chug a beer ice cold if you want to turn a country boy on.” Although I might just be crabby because I wasn’t able to score the limited-edition 180-gram vinyl LP of John Rich’s Son of a Preacher Man on Record Store Day this past Saturday.

Team ASAP is hard at work preparing their foods. After we are treated to Marlee Matlin making a pornographic plating joke relating to the amount of garnish NeNe was using, La Toya nearly torches the aforementioned Ms. Leakes when her hamburger catches fire, prompting NeNe to claim that La Toya was “trying to do the Michael Jackson on me.” Wow, does she hate La Toya! Even Hope — who has barely said boo about anything during the previous six weeks — says that if La Toya doesn’t cut out the annoying baby talk, “somebody is going to end up hitting her.” Sounds like Team ASAP needs to put down their copy of Flex Your Head — it’s getting way too aggro up in there!

Things are falling apart for the dudes. They’re running out of time and won’t even have a chance to rehearse before doing their infomercial, which drives Meat Loaf up the wall. And BoyGate comes to a head as John Rich confronts Gary Busey about it. Gary tries to apologize, but John Rich will not accept his apology.

If John Rich is gonna be this touchy about things, he might want to consider changing the lyric in “Turn a Country Boy On” to something like: “Crank the Bright Eyes, find a cool used bookstore and chug a coconut water if you want to turn a country boy on.” Try not to get your bolo tie in such a knot, John Rich! You’re only giving Busey waaaay too much credit for being some sort of mastermind when he’s just out to lunch!

The ladies film their infomercial. La Toya Jackson tells the studio audience that her family eats Omaha Steak burgers and that the dessert — a lemon lava cake — is unlike any dessert she’s ever come across even though she has eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world. I call shenanigans on this whole exchange: I generally eat at places that involve me carrying a plate from steamer tray to steamer tray and I have definitely seen desserts that looked better than that meager excuse for a dessert.

Star Jones presents her “romantic dinner for two” to the studio audience, who are playing the role of infomercial audience members to the letter of the law, with the exception of one guy — a mustachioed hipster who looks so Brooklyn that I would guarantee he’s commissioner of at least one of Williamsburg’s four Duck Duck Goose leagues.

And as NeNe does her presentation, one of the two Steak Brothers complains under his breath that they’re not saying the full name of the product enough. It’s fake, you idiot. This whole thing is fake. Now I’m hoping that the dudes’ presentation goes south so hard that Omaha Steaks goes bankrupt by Easter.

And I am not disappointed! Meat Loaf comes out and starts cooking one of the steaks, casually connecting with the audience with an ease that we haven’t seen from him since the days when he wore a sweaty prom suit with a too-tight cummerbund onstage. So far so good. But then the floor is handed over to Gary Busey, who talks about the concept of an anniversary meal in a manner so singularly bizarre that anything I say about it will pale in comparison. So I have transcribed the speech:

The anniversary meal is a lovely connection for soul mates. It’s a time when you get together to remember when you fell in love for the first time. The anniversary meal — because of the flavor and the power of the Omaha Steak in your stomach and on your taste buds and after you eat the digestion is clean! And therefore you’re open, you’re ready to look in the eyes of the anniversary partner and see in the eyes the love you have. The tears will well up and they’ll say ‘I love you’. And what condition that moment of love is what they ate. And what they ate in the Anniversary Meal — what is it? Omaha Steaks. Say it together — one, two three! Omaha steaks! Don’t forget that — if you forget it I’m gonna come get you, take out your garbage for a week.

I would love to see this speech used as audition pieces in acting classes. It encapsulates everything that is the Human Condition. Love. Loss. Tears. Digestion. Counting. Seriously, would you rather hear some pretentious theater drip perform something from The Glass Menagerie for the millionth time, or would you rather hear them sink their teeth into this masterpiece?

But if that wasn’t weird enough, Gary transitions into another speech after Meat Loaf makes some more food. This time he’s telling the tale of a young brother and sister who make their father a steak for Father’s Day. The audience is somehow hanging with him fair and square … until he starts talking about the family flying a kite with the Omaha Steaks logo on it over their neighborhood. The audience immediately looks passively terrified.

I was hoping that Busey would consider pulling a Karen Finley down the home stretch to really make the people remember the name “Omaha Steaks” one way or another, but the whole thing kinda just peters out. And will I transcribe the Kite Speech? No. This one might be better left to the imagination. Or YouTube. Either one.

Both teams get dragged into the boardroom and within two seconds Meat Loaf is complaining about Busey. He’s so flustered with the whole endeavor that he can barely speak. A typo is pointed out on Team Backbone’s menu by Don Jr. — “I was wondering what ‘key lim pie is!’ he exclaims to an embarrassingly deafening silence (not even a mercy laugh from his own father!) — and Gary retells the Kite Speech in its entirety and nobody knows what’s going on and this whole this is boring because it’s clear that the dudes lost and that Gary is gonna get the boot.

And that’s exactly what happens. It was inevitable. Yes, Gary tries to spin his calling John Rich “boy” as him calling him “ka-boy,” which he claims is a variation of “cowboy.” But it doesn’t work: Gary’s bag of tricks has been exhausted and Trump has gotten as much mileage as he can out of this broken man. So he gets fired, but not before Trump so classily says that “the only one with a bigger problem with that name [being called ‘boy’] would be Lil Jon.” Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States!

The three cowards on Team Backbone don’t say good-bye to Busey after he gets canned, opting to “let him clear out” on his own while they stall just outside the elevators. What a group of chumps. But their petty ways don’t matter one bit to Gary, who says that he’s happy to have left when he did because the other guys wanted him gone. Besides, he tells the camera, he can “turn a thunderstorm into a rainbow.” Indeed, Gary, indeed.

Next week: The guys are happy that Gary is gone! But the ladies are starting to come undone!


To DANIKRIST in the Vulture Comments: I’m glad that you enjoyed last week’s recap, but I’m not sure what you meant when you said about Trump’s politics that you don’t enjoy raisins in your Fruit Loops. First of all, if you’re gonna say something that bizarrely stupid — was “Raisins in my Fruit Loops” a chapter heading from an unpublished Don Imus memoir? — you waive the right to say what is and isn’t funny. But at this point I’m more interested in getting an explanation! Please cough up the details!

To KILLSCREEN in the Vulture Comments: I don’t know if Mascis-Barlow tracks as a perfect match to the Busey-Meat Loaf feud. I would think more along the lines of Roger Waters deciding not to pick Syd Barrett up before a gig in 1968 because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Mascis-Barlow was two equals who needed a world of their own to fill up. Waters-Barrett embodies the loose cannon thing that Busey has in spades.

To MISTER_DANGEROUS in the Vulture Comments: I’m glad you are getting so much satisfaction out of this season of Celebrity Apprentice. More power to you!

To Various Commenters on the Vulture Comments: There are always going to be great moments that I don’t get to write about in the recaps! Oftentimes I see someone say “why didn’t you mention this moment” when I know I had to edit my reference to that very same moment out owing to these recaps going on waaay too long! I didn’t forget! But I feel your pain, and those special moments that I neglected to cover are now yours to mention in the comments!

And still nobody has gotten a single F-ing retweet from any non–Marlee Matlin cast members. Either I’m doing something wrong or you’re not trying hard enough, people! I will double the prize — a twenty dollar Panera Bread gift card and two items from the Stereolaffs warehouse for whoever gets the first tweet! Make it so, people! Thanks for all the love and see you all 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.

Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Tom Scharpling on the Gary Busey Debacle