First, the bad news: There’s no way another episode of Celebrity Apprentice this season can top last night’s. Not a chance. Not even if the challenge is “Who can make Don Trump Jr. cry the fastest?” or “Who can defeat Marla Maples in a Muay Thai match?” The good news: I’m still cackling, writhing, and crying like Meat Loaf at an unsuccessful anger management class. Such an incredible episode thanks to Gary Busey’s greatest acronym yet, record-setting donations, and a tirade from Meat Loaf that scared some bats back to hell. Your ears should be perking up like everything on LaToya Jackson’s face.
THE CHALLENGE: Seconds after last week’s challenge when Dionne Warwick and her melodic rage were eliminated, Trump sics the new task on the 12 remaining contenders: They’ll be creating “artwork,” displaying it in a gallery space, and baiting their rich friends to buy it. I love a good money-grab situation on Celeb Apprentice. You have your Holly Robinson Peetes ringing up enigmatic billionaires, your Joan Riverses cawing at auctiongoers to double their bids, and your Stephen Baldwins phoning their brothers for donations (and to make sure they haven’t changed their numbers). Plus, horrible artwork is in the mix here, which means the embarrassment is twofold. I approve.
There’s one additional chore: Trump says each contestant must decorate a baseball cap for display in the gallery. After a judge sweeps in and evaluates each Crayola-stained hat, the winning selection will earn extra money for its team. Jose Canseco has an advantage here, since he wore baseball caps for years and because he’s used to injecting things with extra spunk. And I’m not talking about Madonna.
TEAM A.S.A.P.: Marlee Matlin elects herself to be project manager because if anyone’s going to save this team with artistic legitimacy, it’s Marlee. Her teammates seem deflated after three defeats: NeNe’s angry, Star’s tired, Hope Dwoorstop is a dwoorstop, and LaToya Jackson is the saddest ancient churchmouse in the world. Marlee wakes them up: “We have to make a s—load of money,” she signs, while her excitable interpreter Jack trumpets her swear word to the heavens. Sensing that LaToya could be worthless again, Marlee asks her what she plans to contribute.
“Um, I was thinking,” Latoya lies. “I was thinking of using a ‘We Miss You, Michael’ t-shirt to convey sadness and sorrow.” Star, who regularly conveys sadness and sorrow with her bleak pebble eyes, concurs. LaToya’s plan to decorate her baseball cap also invokes the moonwalker’s name, as she uses silver glitter to trace the outline of Michael’s signature glove onto the hat’s front and bill.
“This is what Michael would’ve wanted,” she says. But to be fair, what didn’t Michael want? This is a man who wanted llamas, after all.
The team works diligently (with just a touch of evil from Star this time) until they run into major NYC traffic driving to their gallery opening. Marlee would hyperventilate, but she’s smart enough to know that NeNe will call her a horrid team leader in the boardroom and sinister Star will agree. When the team finally arrives, they have only five minutes left before they’re supposed to open the doors (which will give Dwoorstop something useful to do). The others assemble easels while Marlee rings up her mega-rich buddies and cajoles them into buying the group’s artwork for $99,000. Unbelievable. But will it be enough to topple the mensches of Backbone?
You’ll notice the women’s team led a fairly normal challenge, even if LaToya beeped and squirmed like a malnourished Tamagotchi. The men never approached that type of sanity: Case in point, Gary Busey began the task by announcing his definition of “art.”
“A Righteous Truth — art,” he says, “is the definition of art. Because you need art for the heart, and the heart brings the art. Therefore they go together. In a wonderful way. In a composition. That embraces the eyes. Of the viewer.”
One thing’s for sure: Art and heart rhyme. Astute find, Gary. Meanwhile John Rich, Backbone’s team leader, is as militant as Marlee about winning the damn thing.
“This show is called Celebrity Apprentice,” he explains. “You’re on this show because you are important enough in the world and in pop culture to be on this show. How much money can you raise, young man? Are you all hat and no cattle?”
I disagree with “important enough,” and so would any fans of that word’s Webster definition. You’re on Celebrity Apprentice because you said yes, your boardroom lighting is tolerable, and you never went on record calling Donald Trump an off-beige shell of a human being. John’s cattle metaphor is equally painful, especially since he’s the hattiest, most cattle-free “country boy” I’ve seen. I’m glad he’s serious about winning, but I’m worried that he’s more serious about amplifying his bumpkin theatrics for cred. He’s so Scotty McCreery!
Then a quick blip of darkness enters our fun. Jose Canseco tells us his father’s cancer is taking a turn for the worst, so Donald Trump allows him to leave the competition. Yes, Jose’s departure was inevitable. Yes, Jose had nothing to contribute to the show besides a fondness for mesh shirts. But disgraced athletes are a carnival of craycray on Celebrity Apprentice, and I didn’t want the topsy-turvy Tilt-A-Whirl of Jose Canseco to end yet. I still want to spin in his teacups. Alas and alack, he’s out. My biceps feel lumpen without him!
Now: Meat Loaf, who’s already shown a bit of an angry streak, starts breathing hard about teammate Gary Busey’s inability to, er, work. He’s resentful and confides in Mark McGrath about the catalog of acronyms that Gary calls a brain. Meat’s going to blow soon! He’s going to explode! It all culminates when Meat suspects Gary of stealing his paint supplies, and he unleashes a deliriously angry rant that will stand out for years in reality television. I didn’t want to regurgitate this powerful monologue with an all-caps quote — but I will recount it here for you, in stirring poetry form. Notice the clever use of blank verse. (All quotes in this poem are direct.)
Meat Loaf’s Confrontation with Gary Busey
I bought those motherf——ing sponges.
That paint is mine.
and f—ing tired of you,
don’t want to start
You do not
want to f— with me.
the last person
you ever want to
f—ing f— with.
Incredible, no? It’s like an Emily Dickinson ode rewritten by a Maury show visitor. (Scroll down to the end of this post for video of the altercation) Later, we discover that Gary actually didn’t take Meat Loaf’s paints, which is embarrassing, cringe-worthy, and fabulous for us at home. Gary forgives Meat with a touching acronym: “FORGIVE” is “Finding Ourselves Really Giving Individuals Valuable Energy.” Except Meat Loaf really deserves a valuable straitjacket, or perhaps even four un-valuable ones.
At the gallery, the dudes’ exhibition goes off steadily and without issue. John Rich’s countrified friends contribute several thousand dollars worth of money (like, $470,000) for the chintziest “art” imaginable, including painted boots, Gary Busey’s buffalo portrait (!), and Richard Hatch’s flower-adorned baseball cap. The last item inspires an unintentional haiku from Lil Jon. Ahem:
Was like damn, Richard,
That’s a really gay-ass hat.
Man, but that’s you. [Shrugs]
Amen, sir. Before we speed off to the boardroom, guest judge and Sopranos alum Federico Castelluccino picks a winner in the hat contest. That’s dreadfully boring! Onward.
BOARDROOM: There are too many game highlights here to delve on the petty cat-scratches between contestants, so let’s break down the biggies: First, LaToya, the magical imp-nosed goddess of racelessness, wins the hat challenge and an additional sum for her team. Oh, LaToya’s self-worth! It’s soaring with the space birds now! Then Trump announces that both teams amassed more money than not only any other episode of Celebrity Apprentice, but more than any other season. Team Backbone scored a record $626,908 (take that, Holly Robinson Peete!), and Team A.S.A.P. scared up a second record of $986,000. Incredible! We bawl and clap like Marlee’s interpreter.
Since Jose already left the show today, Trump tries to cut a deal not to eliminate anybody. Marlee conferences with her team and figures that’s a really stupid idea. They’ve lost three team members in three weeks, and the men deserve a soupcon of that pain. The elimination stands! Because Richard Hatch earned little money in the gallery challenge (and because the world forgot about his incarcerated ass in 2005), he’s fired on the spot. You live to innovate abbreviations on national television for yet another day, Gary Busey.
What did you think of this episode, TV Line? Were you happy for Marlee, or did you sympathize with John Rich’s equally strong and unrewarded efforts? Did you ever fear that Meat Loaf would barge through your walls (Rocky Horror-style) and threaten you? Leave it in the comments, read me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at Movieline.com.