The Celebrity Apprentice Review: Big Boys Don't Cry
Well, faithful reader (hi, Mom!), we’re nearing the end of Celebrity Apprentice, and it’s been a long and winding road thus far. The eleventh week of the show starts out innocently enough, with John Rich and Lil Jon exuberantly celebrating Meat Loaf’s return from the boardroom and expressing shock at Star’s removal from the game. Meat is triumphant and gleeful about having “out-lawyered” Star Jones, but Marlee is mourning the loss of her dear friend. Star had been largely indifferent to Marlee, seeing as how she’s a sociopath, so I don’t get why Ms. Matlin is giving her another thought. Star seems to win fierce but undeserved loyalty from weak and impressionable people, and I’d like to know her secret, to be frank.
Trump does the unspeakable, entering the champagne lounge while the contestants are still kicking back in celebration. He’s got a surprise for everyone; Bret Michaels, Joan Rivers, and Piers Morgan (all former winners) are in the building, and Trump is going to have them interview the four remaining players and decide which two to cut. It’s pretty pathetic how desperately some of these people want to win this silly title, but I guess the charity aspect is a good smokescreen; they can all pretend they don’t care about the attention. “It’s all about the kids!,” they say in between calls to their publicists. John readies himself to enter the interview room as if he’s preparing to address the nation after a nuclear attack. This sort of thing must be like catnip to Trump’s ego.
The Donald sits down with Bret, Joan, and Piers to discuss the interviews they conducted, which are presented as flashbacks. They all think John Rich made a great impression. He clearly wants to win, and he’s willing to sell his competitors down the river in order to do so. John reveals that Meat is unreliable during tasks, since he’s always “either screaming or crying,” and Marlee hasn’t proven herself enough. He says he wants to bring Lil Jon along with him to the final two. When asked about his strengths, John talks about how he can write really well, and his scripts and songs have always won challenges for his team. He also mentions his organization and listening skills. What about the fundraising thing? Hasn’t he raised an enormous amount of money? He doesn’t mention it, and Piers says he’s unimpressed with his writing skills, since he’s a songwriter by trade. When Bret asks John if he’s capable of taking down his good friend Lil Jon, the cowboy renegade promises to be ruthless in his effort to win, since all he cares about is winning money for St. Jude’s. Next up is Lil Jon; Bret calls him very smart and cool under pressure. Maybe he’s a little too cool and laid back; he doesn’t nominate himself when asked who should be in the final two for the finale, picking John and Marlee instead, since they’re the most powerful, and Meat is way too emotional. Lil Jon admits that he didn’t necessarily come to win, and he never thought he’d make it this far. I’m sure that comment will impress Trump very much, since he’s all about humility and realistic aspirations and really hates people who want to win at all costs.
Meat Loaf is in the hot seat now, and Joan immediately asks him what it feels like to be the oldest person in the game, since she can relate. He says it’s an asset, since he “came locked and loaded.” With cockamamie ideas, yes- loaded to the brim, I say. Piers brings up his fight with Gary Busey, which seems like years ago, since this show exists in a timeless vortex. Meat maintains that he did indeed get very angry, that he wanted to scare Busey, but he never would have hit him. Bret eagerly brings up that John and Lil Jon both “threw [Meat] under the bus,” and before he can finish his sentence, Meat replies that Lil Jon is lazy (couldn’t he have picked a less racially-charged adjective? Just sayin’…), and John Rich isn’t enough of a celebrity. Meat Loaf brags that he’s the most famous person on the show this season. I sang along to his radio hits as much as any other girl born in the 80s, but I think that statement is a bit of a stretch, to say the least. He passes off his claims as “the truth.” I think he supposes that keepin’ it real will make him look like more of a real contender and less of the emotional wreck that everyone pegs him as. Marlee is the last one to be interviewed, and Bret refers to her as “hot” to Trump. Maybe she should audition for the next season of Rock of Love. Marlee tells the trio that this experience has been the hardest thing she’s ever done. I find that difficult to believe, but good for her if it’s true. She also says that her being deaf has been a label throughout her life, and she likes to challenge people to look deeper and see that she can do anything she wants to do. She can’t be put in a box, she says. Piers jokes that her deafness is an advantage, since he sometimes wished he could have been deaf when he was on the show. Har, har. I’m sure Marlee and the wider deaf community really appreciate witticisms like that.
Well, this doesn’t seem fair at all. Each episode of this show is about eight hours long and so padded with unnecessary footage. We see everything short of the contestants waking and brushing their teeth, but we’re about to let two of them go based on the opinions of three of Trump’s pets, without so much as a tiny challenge to help inform the decision? I don’t care about the other two alums, but I’m a huge fan of Joan Rivers. I think she’s a legend and an incredibly strong woman. Still, I don’t understand why any of them should have any say at this point. Regardless of my opinion, the four remaining contestants find themselves in the boardroom with Trump. Since he loves to play up the drama and conflict, he asks each of them to announce who they’d like to survive, even though he’s already made his decision based on the suggestions of the interviewers. John goes against what he said in his interview and pretends that he can’t think of any weaknesses in his fellow players. He ends up choosing himself and Marlee as the final two. Lil Jon changes his tune and acts as if he wants to stay in the game and bring John along with him. Marlee and Meat nominate themselves and each pick John Rich to survive, as well. It must feel pretty good to be John Rich right now. Trump swiftly fires Lil Jon for not naming himself as a finalist in his interview. I think we all saw that coming. He tells Lil Jon to go have a great career. Yeah, we’ll stand by for that. Trump then gets rid of Meat for being too emo, and Meat responds by crying. This guy is so sensitive; he must have been an amazing lover in his day.
Marlee and John are thrilled about being the final two contenders. John tells the camera “it’s no holds barred” now, and Marlee says John should watch out, because she’s gonna bring it. I absolutely think John is the more likely winner, but it should be fun to watch Marlee try to beat him. Trump greets Marlee and John in the lobby of a building along with an executive from 7UP. The final challenge will help decide who becomes the Celebrity Apprentice and wins $250,000 for their charity in the end, he says. The challenge is to promote 7UP’s new 7UP Retro brand, a soda with real sugar (!) in it. The players need to design a new package for the product, produce a commercial, and throw a star-studded launch party. The exec starts off by donating $50,000 to each of their charities. Of course, Trump thinks they need help, so he calls in reinforcements. Many of the ousted contestants come back to assist, including the two who just left a few minutes ago and the dearly missed Star Jones. The teams divide up, with Marlee claiming Meat Loaf, LaToya Jackson, and Richard Hatch, while John Rich takes Lil Jon, Star Jones, and Mark McGrath. Wait, I thought Star and Marlee were besties, and now Star is going to be fighting for John to win? There are two themed decades to choose from: the 70s, which includes The Harlem Globetrotters as a part of the event package and the 80s, which will feature Def Leppard. Marlee gets to pick, and she stupidly claims the 70s option, leaving John Rich with the music theme. He doesn’t understand her decision, and neither do I. She’s handicapping herself; picking Meat as a team member was already enough of a risk.
Marlee and her team start to brainstorm packaging designs. To no one’s surprise, Meat takes over and starts talking about the commercial and how he should wear a fairy costume or something. LaToya complains to the camera that she’d never worked with Meat Loaf and didn’t realize how unfocused he is. When LaToya Jackson is accusing you of not being grounded enough, I think you’ve got a problem. Richard observes that Marlee is already having a hard time controlling her helpers, and that might be a major issue later. She’s overwhelmed, and the task has barely begun. Over on John’s side, Star is volunteering to create a daily schedule and whatever other busy work she can give herself to make it look like she’s vital to the team. They come up with their tagline: “7UP Retro. Still Keepin’ It Real.” It’s not bad. Back at Marlee’s table, Meat is still commanding the conversation, suggesting that the 7UP can be turned into a disco ball and the cardboard box be transformed into an old-school boombox. Everyone likes the idea; Marlee wants to run with the disco theme. I’ve observed that she has a bit of a hard time vetoing anyone’s ideas, so we never know what she would prefer in any given situation. Their slogan is “7UP Retro: Feel the Love.” Meh.
The teams have fun taking photos and preparing their packaging for the product. Richard stands awkwardly in a disco suit, holding a 7UP can in the air. The graphic designer looks over his shots and basically calls him fat, which makes me sad. Mark McGrath is still on whatever stimulants he takes as he waves a can around and talks about 80s zebra print. It is a good idea, actually. Star talks about how much she loves John Rich and how she has a crush on him and how she loves being the only woman on her team. She flirts with the boys, and Mark calls her “toots” at one point, which I’m surprised didn’t offend her. Back at Team Marlee, Meat and LaToya have been sent off to shop, while the remaining players go over their photos and designs. Along with their graphic designer, they decide to scrap the boombox idea, which isn’t working out as planned. Their new box design is actually way cooler, but Meat is absolutely devastated when he returns to discover the changes they’ve made. To him, it’s a personal affront; he behaves as if they’ve just performed cosmetic surgery on one of his children. “I think we’re making a huge, huge, huge, giant mistake here,” he says, overstating it just a bit. Marlee is afraid of him but defends her decision. He finally gives in and shuts up about it.
It’s time for the two teams to secure their impromptu celebrity cameos of the day. John Rich calls in Dee Snider of Twisted Sister to appear in their commercial, while Marlee asks for the help of actor Geoffrey Holder, who was the face and voice of 7UP in the 70s. Dee is pretty excited about it, but Geoffrey sounds hesitant on the phone. Both are slated to appear in support of the task. Meanwhile, Lil Jon is sitting around looking like he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. Who forced him to show up? It must have been in his contract. He admits that he’s tired at this point and barely has the will to continue in the game.
John Rich’s team unwrap their zebra-print 7UP Retro cans, and they’re actually pretty awesome. I’d totally be tempted to buy one if I saw it hanging out on a shelf somewhere. Against all reason and common sense, someone gave Meat the job of writing the scripts for his team’s commercial, and Richard is the only one bold enough to complain about how cheesy and hackneyed the writing is. Marlee is having her photo taken for the print ads instead of leading her team during the creative process, so Meat is just going wild on the script, literally putting down whatever silly line flies into his head. Their plan is to have a series of different characters in 70s costumes saying stuff into the camera until Geoffrey Holder appears to announce the slogan at the end. John Rich’s team has come up with something similar, oddly enough. Their ad will feature a series of awful 80s icon wannabes auditioning one-by-one until Dee Snider shows up to shut it down in full Twisted Sister makeup and regalia, yelling their slogan into the camera.
Meat Loaf shoots Richard saying a few 70s cliches in a huge blond, Afro wig and sparkly purple button-down shirt. Richard is a good sport and does the scene without too much whining, even though he’s opposed to the script. I like this guy, and I wish he’d been on the show longer. The material just gets worse and worse. LaToya shows up looking kind of gorgeous in a brightly colored superhero costume, but she has to say some dumb crap about holding people’s dreams in her hands? I dunno. I think Meat dropped some acid and called Gary Busey up to help him brainstorm, but I guess that part was edited out. Meat then dons his own costume. It’s essentially what he used to wear onstage at his concerts, complete with a long, brown wig. His lines sound like incredibly abstract poetry, with rhyming phrases that don’t make much sense at all. I’m really wondering why Marlee is letting all of this happen around her. Doesn’t she have anything to say about the script? Over on his end, John Rich and his team are worried about time constraints, but they seem to be doing fine to me. Dee Snider emerges in his full costume, and he looks no older than he did when he was actually performing with the band. John is being pulled in all directions, since Star wants him to micro-manage every detail, and he’s having to deal with Def Leppard’s tour manager on the phone. The tour manager is being a jerk, claiming that the band’s drummer will not be allowed to use the kick drum like John wants him to, for some random reason. John is impressive in combating him respectfully, reminding the guy that this event is for charity and is not a Def Leppard tour. Yeah, get over yourself, man. John Rich is a boss.
I can’t say the same about Marlee. She’s over on her sound stage dancing in a goofy costume while the camera films her for the ad, and Meat is accepting phone calls about Geoffrey. As it turns out, Geoff’s lawyer is not allowing him to sign the release to participate in the commercial, which throws their whole plan off its track. Surprise, surprise: Marlee never came up with a Plan B, so everyone freaks out. Meat calls Geoffrey’s manager for help, and that doesn’t seem to go well, either. His response is to start screaming and foaming at the mouth while threatening to throw the telephone across the room. Marlee sits in the hair and makeup chair, closing her eyes in fear, imagining a happy, peaceful place far, far away. We’ll have to wait until next week to see how she gets herself, and her team, out of this mess. (She won’t.)
Season 11, Episode 11: “Retro Rumble” (original airdate May 15, 2011)
The Celebrity Apprentice airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.
Images courtesy of Douglas Gorenstein and NBC Universal.