We’ve gone too long without a Celebrity Apprentice challenge devoted to Donald Trump’s quaint collection of hotels, haven’t we? Those modest bed-and-breakfasts. Those darling little inns. Those humiliating eyesores of rococo opulence and cultural death called the Trump Hotels. They’re so ugly, guys. If you’ve ever wanted to live inside the gold foil on a Wonka Bar (which La Toya Jackson did from ’88-’92), Trump’s doom fortresses are for you. And your classy loved ones. And your ferrets.
We’re already down to eight contestants. Did they sell The Donald’s brand of hospitality right? Join us for the review.
THE CHALLENGE: Before assigning the task, Donald Trump has an important announcement. “Everybody’s saying I should run for president,” he barks, speaking on behalf of his lying, hyperventilating staff. “Meat Loaf, should I?” Meat Loaf slaps himself and sputters, “TchYES!” like a nice man with Stockholm Syndrome. No one else responds. This is how apocalypses start, after all. Personally, I’d rather Trump run for “president” of the Make Don Trump Jr. Cry 24/7 Foundation, since I believe making Don Trump Jr. cry is very funny and philanthropic. Picture it: Trump calls his son “weak,” “thin-necked,” and “a little dopey,” and Little Don clutches his slicked-back crest of Bowser hair and weeps — for our amusement! I’m cutting a check right now.
So, the challenge: It’s something like, “Create a four-page ad for Trump Hotels, and — aw, what the hell — make it good.” John Rich and Star Jones step up as project managers and staple their melting game faces into place.
TEAM A.S.A.P.: There’s still some bad blood between NeNe Leakes and La Toya Jackson, so the two decide to talk it out. “You’re phony,” NeNe begins. Now, what. La Toya is many things — a hybrid of Paula Abdul and a grasshopper, for starters — but she’s not phony. She’s incapable of dishonesty, NeNe! LaToya’s wired for blazer-wearing, beep noises, and rolling her eyes sometimes (otherwise known as “ocular moonwalking”). Thankfully, La Toya responds: “I used to think you were a bully, NeNe, but I love you now! And I’m going to give you this hug!” That’s when a hug ensues and the rigid lady blazers crash into each other like poly-blend asteroids. Titillating. Apparently this means NeNe and La Toya have put aside their issues and befriended each another. We just accept it. Fine by me.
Star Jones, who is confused by affection as a general rule, ignores this exchange and begins handing down orders.
“I’ve got a great slogan,” she announces. “Individual Elegance, Collective Luxury.” That says just about nothing, and the team loves it. Star wants the team’s ad to feature photos of “ladies who lunch” and Hope luxuriating in a bubble bath. Cliched and dated, yes, but at least everyone in this bleak group agrees to cooperate. In fact, Star adds, “I’m honored to work with you broads.” Since she’s talking like a Cheri Oteri impersonation of Debbie Reynolds right now, I like her.
The photo shoots proceed on schedule, and after a largely drama-free episode, Team A.S.A.P. presents a completed ad campaign to a pair of frowning executives. Here is some of their “hard sell” dialogue.
“Escape,” says La Toya.
“Lifestyle,” says Hope Dwoorstop.
“Serenity,” signs the heroically straight-faced Marlee Matlin.
“Atmosphere,” snaps Nene.
“Pure opulence,” Star coos. This recitation proceeds for, oh, three days before Star concludes: “Individual Elegance, Collective Luxury.” There. Instead of proving they understood the Trump brand, Star and her crew listed a bunch of luxury-related buzzwords and hoped it sounded smart. Bad guess, guys.
TEAM BACKBONE: Project manager John Rich addresses this challenge with the forthright approach of a true businessman. Unfortunately, he’s working with Meat Loaf, who prefers the over-dramatic approach of a true Meat Loaf song. With Lil Jon, the dudes decide to center their campaign around Trump Hotel architecture and, mysteriously, the concept of “making the customer feel like Trump.” Your gasp is justified. The last civilian to feel like Trump was profiled in the DSM-IV. And then killed humanely with an old hammer.
Meat Loaf directs their photo shoot. It features the cleverly luxurious idea of — wait for it — a man dressed in a butler’s uniform.
“You want to be the best employee ever!” Meat Loaf yaps, “inspiring” the butler. The actor playing the butler stands at attention with a napkin folded over his arm. In a day filled with cliches, this is the most hackneyed display yet.
“He looks like an undertaker!” declares John Rich, who eyes the final photos with dismay. Did you hear that? Intelligence just slipped out from under John’s cowboy hat. It sounded embarrassed, as expected.
John, Lil Jon, and Meat Loaf spend the remainder of their day writing up ad copy and making sure it isn’t misspelled. Last week they spelled “absolutely” wrong and pinned the blame on Gary Busey, who is the most blame-able living organism. When the trio presents their final presentation, they make sure to highlight the personalized treatment customers receive at the Trump Hotel. John Rich relays an anecdote about how he received a crib and teddy bear for his 1-year-old child when he stayed at Trump’s palace. He forgets to mention that he is a celebrity, so of course he received special treatment. I appreciate the attempt at humility, John, but you can’t hide the cultural impact of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” under yer Stetson.
THE BOARDROOM: Hold your loved ones tight, because the Trump executives hated both the men’s and women’s ad campaigns. They refuse to choose a winner! Unspeakable! I’m grinning from ear to ear!
“They didn’t include the Trump phone number or email!” some exec named James says of Backbone’s work. “Nothing is a call to action here!”
“This looks like a flier for a strip club!” some exec named Jim says of A.S.A.P.’s brochure. “These pictures are a cacophony! Mr. Trump, this doesn’t live up to your brand of luxury hotels.”
It’s almost unnerving to hear real opinions on this show. They’re right. The campaigns stink. But they always stink, see. That’s the bottom line with Celebrity Apprentice. The contestants aim low, achieve less, and we pretend they’re dreamweaving visionaries. I guess when Trump’s own name is on the line, the Celebrity Apprentice Honesty Department returns from sabbatical.
Lo and behold, Team A.S.A.P.’s presentation is declared worse than the men’s. The reasons why are unclear, but Star’s unamused glare is a blessed prize for viewers. It’s so despaired! Like Kermit the Frog’s eyelids after Piggy makes a nasty innuendo. Just grim and full of puppetry. Though Star should be the one to lose (if Mark McGrath’s firing as a project manager is a precedent), NeNe points a finger at La Toya, who she describes as “not a good player.” So much for that friendship! Since Gary Busey departed last week, Trump figures we should dump his loony female counterpart too. Yep. La Toya is fired. We’ll never hear from that ancient churchmouse again. Literally. Because she speaks in hushed rodent cries.
What did you think of the episode? Did you like either presentation? Should the men have lost? And did you almost self-destruct when Trump made that off-color comment about Star’s weight-loss? Leave it in the comments, follow me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at Movieline.com.