This season, “Celebrity Apprentice” is short for “The Sorcerer’s Celebrity Apprentice” because it’s a scary spectacle worthy of a Fantasia vignette. There’s the magical mouse herself, LaToya Jackson, decked in a wizard’s bandleader jacket. There’s the wise fox Mark McGrath alongside the shifty-eyed puma Dionne Warwick. Oh, and look, there’s Gary Busey — who is his own animated species. It’s a menagerie of mischief this year, and last night’s episode was yet another foray into the animal kingdom. Rowr. Let’s review.
The Challenge: Now that Lisa Rinna and David Cassidy are gone, the ladies’ team (“A.S.A.P.”) and the dudes’ team (“Backbone”) are excited for a great task. They don’t get one: Trump assigns them to create RV exhibitions for Camping World. Boo. They’re designing motorhome displays that you’d see on The Price is Right, and the problem is, we can’t pass these showcases off for better ones with jetskis and a 48-year-old model in a one-piece swimsuit. The teams’ hopes fall like Plinko chips.
Backbone elects Gary Busey to lead their team for reasons we can’t understand.
“You know you’re putting yourself at risk,” Trump says to Gary.
He replies, “I put myself at risk every time I wake up.”
That’s nothing but true. Most people are at risk every time Gary Busey wakes up. Over at A.S.A.P., the ladies name meek Niki Taylor as the project manager. She’s been forgettable so far, though she’s one of the team’s brainier members — except brains mean nothing in the face of Star Jones’s bossiness and Dionne Warwick’s puma sass! Duh! Sit down, Niki!
Backbone: The guys choose to advertise an RV that looks like a tour bus, which pleases tanktopped rock icon Mark McGrath greatly. Confession: I want Mark McGrath to win it all. Every season of Celebrity Apprentice features an intelligent competitor who doesn’t get enough credit, and McGrath is this year’s Marilu Henner/Curtis Stone. He’s got instincts like “Sugar Ray” Leonard, even if he has mysterious cheekbones like “Sugar Ray” Liotta. There’s sanity behind those vulpine eyes. Let’s encourage that.
Jose Canseco hates the “tour bus” idea, but I can’t remember the last time I cared what Jose Canseco thought. John Rich and Richard Hatch exchange despaired glances once they realize that Gary Busey is really their leader, and you can’t blame them: Busey spends the next 90 minutes forgetting chores, stumbling around like a claymation yeti, and inventing acronyms. “LUCKY,” he says, stands for “Living Under Correct Knowledge Yearly.” “FREEDOM,” he says, stands for “Facing Real Exciting Energy Developing Our Miracles.” He seems to mean it. Ivanka Trump condescendingly calls him “a real original” before disappearing behind a scrim and filing a restraining order.
Since Gary is busy decoding the abbreviations of life, his teammates take on major responsibilities. John Rich writes a song on guitar about Outdoor World that he’ll sing to the RV’s visitors. Mark McGrath and Richard Hatch order plants to place around the RV, which will create the illusion of “a campground”. Meat Loaf gives a tour around the RV to the challenge’s judges, and he makes a big mistake when forgets to show off a secret plasma TV hidden in a side compartment. “MISTAKE,” Gary Busey might say, stands for “Meat (Loaf) Is Screwed (When) Trump Asks (Who) Kerfluffled Everything.”
A.S.A.P.: Meanwhile, the ladies’ team is a hotbed of psychological warfare. They pick a blander RV with a familial feel, and it’s appropriate since they fight like a family of tigers who don’t mind devouring each other whole. Marlee Matlin’s sign language about teammate Dionne Warwick is so bitter that it looks like hateful vogueing. “Dionne doesn’t do the work physically that we do,” she signs. Nene Leakes concurs: “Miss Dionne doesn’t do much. But when I’m 70, I won’t do much either.” Dionne, meanwhile, walks on by their complaints and forms some of her own.
“No one knows what our vision is,” she says, badmouthing Niki’s leadership. Near the end of the challenge, Dionne confronts Niki about the team’s direction, and the former model replies with the diplomatic response, “Your tone is getting a little out of control.” Unfortunately for Niki, no woman in pop history has greater “tone” than Dionne Warwick. Just ask Burt Bacharach, who, if microwaved, would resemble Gary Busey.
Plenty of the ladies don’t do much this challenge. Hope Dworaczyk uses Google on her iPhone to confirm that we’re living in “the 21st century” (for real), while Star Jones wears riding pants and treats each team member as a steed. “I want to be known as a person who solves problems instead of creates problems,” she tells us. But then, who’s supposed to solve the problem of Star Jones? A big old Mobius Strip, this team’s “problems.”
Once A.S.A.P.’s RV is ready for perusal, LaToya Jackson leads the judges on a tour. She shows off the 26-inch TV, the pull-out bed, and that signature LaToya Jackson flair. Yes, she looks like Tila Tequila’s great-grandmother, but she can really sell a camper! Niki Taylor uses her Ivankan face to woo the judges, but will it be enough to best Backbone, who used awesome signage and scenery in their presentation?
Boardroom: It’s the quickest and dirtiest boardroom of the past two seasons. Trump declares that Team Backbone destroyed Team A.S.A.P. with their entertaining jingles and forestry, and Gary Busey is — mysteriously — the recipient of a giant check for his charity. Niki Taylor, who claimed that her team couldn’t have performed better, takes the blame for her team’s loss without a word of objection. She’s fired in record time. Star Jones thanks her for keeping her boardroom behavior “classy” just before forgetting Niki’s name for good. We’ll have to wait until next week to understand what “CLASSY” stands for. That is, if Gary can think of another “Y” word besides “Yearly.” I’m drawing a blank myself.
What did you think of this week’s episode, TVLiners? Are you on Team McGrath too? Do you love or hate Dionne Warwick’s confrontational methods? Leave it in the comments, follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at TVLine’s sister site Movieline.com.