Donald Trump’s yellow-orange hair thatch turned bright red this weekend after President Obama embarrassed him at the White House Correspondents Dinner. It was poetry in Prismacolor! Obama made crafty Celebrity Apprentice jokes (and namedropped Gary Busey and Meat Loaf), Trump scowled with the lifeless stoicism of Richard Hatch, and America cackled with the fire of almost two Dionne Warwicks. Is Ivanka’s dad finally through with his Obama diatribes? Trump’s not telling yet. He’s keeping it under his thatch! Adding insult to injury for The Donald, last night’s Celeb Apprentice was partially pre-empted on the East Coast with news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. D’oh!
In addition to that insanity, the real Celebrity Apprentice television show happened last night. NeNe Leakes and her large leather jacket threatened to envelop Star Jones and her smaller leather jacket. Simple math, really. Marlee Matlin pretended not to notice NeNe’s rooster dance of intimidation, and Hope Dwhatnow stared deep into the floor. Good ole lady melodrama. The Joyless Luck Club! Let’s revisit.
THE CHALLENGE: Trump tells both teams they’ll be putting on a “hair show” for the Farouk company and their marvelous straighteners. Boo. Yet another uber-corporate challenge with virtually no room for spectacular failure. Upsetting. Lil Jon and Meat Loaf, who act like they don’t care to keep living at this point, play rock-paper-scissors to pick a team leader. Lil Jon loses, stammers a regretful, “Aw, skee-skee” (not really), snaps, and accepts the task. NeNe Leakes, who is cajoled into team leadership by the sinister and panther-eyelidded Star Jones, doesn’t accept her role so easily.
(I’m abbreviating NeNe’s harsh takedown of Star, but you’ll notice it packs all the frightening anger, immaturity, and middle-school seriousness of an average P!nk song.)
“Who are you to step in and [pick a] project manager?” NeNe caws at Star. “Who are you? Who are you? I will take you down while the rest of these girls will look at you and be scared. I’m the girl that’s not scared of you. You pressed the last button in me, Miss Star Jones, and I will ‘do you’ when the rest of the girls will not. You talked a good game; now bring your street game, ‘cuz that’s what I’m bringing. Now, where’s Barbara Walters, Ms. I’m-So-Educated? How educated are you on the street?”
Before Star can respond wirh, “I took street classes at Vassar!” NeNe adds, “Punk-ass b-tch.” Again, she only speaks in potential P!nk and/or Limp Bizkit lyrics. After NeNe hushes up, Ivanka giggles and says, “The men are feeling much better about their chances at this juncture!” Which is cruel, because Meat Loaf hasn’t felt anything since 1977. Not cool, ‘Vank.
The teams disperse, but the Donald delays the proceedings by holding a secret caucus with last week’s eliminated dragonfly La Toya Jackson. I know. This should strike you as both completely unnecessary and a television triumph comparable to the moon landing. Wonder what LaToya could want?
“I don’t think there were any grounds at the time [for my elimination],” LaToya squeaks, rubbing her wings together to produce 1/9 of a voice. Trump nods and adds that it probably wasn’t “fair” to eliminate La Toya because she had laryngitis and couldn’t properly defend herself last week. Trump loves fairness, see. Apropos of nothing, he says that he’ll consider reinstalling her in the competition — even though “in eleven seasons of The Apprentice,” he’s never made such an exception. Mmkay. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the fact that Jose Canseco dropped out of the competition weeks ago, and now the show needs to keep La Toya to maintain the season’s episode count. No way. But whatever: This is an awesomely senseless idea, and the sight of La Toya strapping on her bandleader jacket for another week of “work” is inspiring. Bring on the epaulets and Nerf-like cheekbones!
TEAM BACKBONE: The three-person male team has no ideas for a “hair show.” Lil Jon tosses his dreadlocks over his face like a maddeningly camera-shy Tracy Chapman and tries suggesting some celebrities he can ring up to attend the event. “Julia Roberts!” calls out Meat Loaf, who has definitely never met that person. “What about Niki Taylor?” chirps John Rich. The dudes exchange crooked, C-list glances. Niki’s a good idea for a cameo because 1) she was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice this year, 2) she played on Team A.S.A.P., which makes her inclusion on Team Backbone a sly move, and 3) this is all a stunt, and Niki Taylor’s waiting backstage for this scripted moment to occur. So it all works out for them.
The gents also settle on a theme: “Feeling Good in America.” They’ll dress up hair models in various “American” outfits (a country belle outfit, a California pageant queen, and a Mardi Gras strumpet) and use patriotism to sell the brand. Maybe they’ll wave some flags! Maybe they’ll perform a magnificent color guard routine! Maybe they’ll stand nearby as haircare professionals do all of the presentation, rendering this whole challenge meaningless! (Spoiler!)
TEAM A.S.A.P.: Since NeNe ruined the team’s morale by headbutting Star Jones into a deader-eyed coma, Hope Dwhoagain is quite upset. “I have no respect for [NeNe],” she deadpans. Now, this would be an important statement if anyone cared what Hope Dwoorstop thought, which is sadly not the case. Her qualms are brushed aside anyway when all the women enjoy a quick danceathon to rebuild camaraderie. There’s Marlee Matlin gyrating like a frisky eel! There’s Hope Dwoodblock thrusting her hips like a Playmate of the Yawn! There’s Star glowering like the downtrodden Komodo Dragon that she is. But dancing a little!
You can tell Team A.S.A.P. is in trouble because they don’t come up with a single awesome gimmick for their presentation. While the dudes are arranging celebrity appearances and smutty patriotism, the ladies think of a concept called “Shake Your Beauty.” That means… nothing, really. Hope is assigned to act as a model for the presentation, and she complains that she’s “sick of being the model again.” Well, Hope, would you like to offer any other skills? Would you like to decoupage a coffee mug? Fix a fire alarm? Hula-hoop in a kiddy pool? Card tricks? What about modeling, because you are a frigging model?
Though the tension between NeNe and Star has lessened, NeNe reminds us before the boardroom that she still has it out for the former Viewmaster.
“You may have lost weight on the outside,” NeNe spews in a confessional. “But your weight is still very fat and something is still going on on the inside.” That makes about as much sense as any other revelation this episode, so whatever! I agree, I think! Or I’m offended! I’m fat on the inside too, probably! We’re all fat on the fun side! Fun fat fun.
THE BOARDROOM: The two teams conduct their “presentations” (in fact, they simply “presented” the Farouk hairstylists — so daunting!), and Trump spends no time at all declaring a winner: It’s the gents! Niki Taylor’s cameo was charming, their American theme was a masterstroke, and Lil Jon was a showstopping emcee. In addition to $40,000 for Lil Jon’s charity, Team Backbone also receives La Toya Jackson as a team member. Twist! She appears in the back of the boardroom like Casper the Friendly Ghost (jinx, NeNe!), and vows to add her, uh, charm to the guy’s team.
When the gents leave, NeNe and Star start up another fight that involves words like “backstabber,” “manipulative,” and “street.” It’s a minor and brief battle, because they decide to settle their differences in an ingenious way: by claiming that Hope should be eliminated due to her clinical uselessness. She can’t even do runway modeling, it turns out. Trump agrees, sends her feathered hide to the street, and tells her not to let the door hit her on the way out. She is Hope Dwoorstop after all, and she’s used to that sort of thing.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Could you handle Hope’s terrible runway modeling? What about this dubious challenge? And can we expect La Toya to earn an elimination again next week? Air your praises and frustrations in the comments, find me on Twitter at @louisvirtel, and read me regularly at TVLine’s sister site Movieline.com!