'The Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Dinosaur crushes shark
Poor Annie Duke. All season the momentum's been building to a Joan Rivers victory, and Annie surely saw it coming. Or maybe not: Just take a look at the chart Jim Cramer provided us with last night. Annie had more victories (7 to Joan's 6), more wins as project manager (2 to Joan's 1 win/1 loss), and she raised the most money for charity. She's a ''a brilliant strategist'' and ''all about business,'' but apparently that's not enough to compete with Joan, who's ''all heart.'' When it comes to numbers and playing the game, Annie won. But she must've missed the day when the competition went from ''finding the best businessperson'' to ''finding the most loyal friend.''
Last night on Donald Trump's My New BFF, the final challenge was to throw a silent auction combining the branding power of Kodak's EasyShare digital picture frame, Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk show, and the contestants' charities of choice. Annie picked Brande, Dennis, and Tom to be her helpers, and Joan picked Herschel, Clint (really?), and Melissa. The teams were charged with ''doing silent auctions of THINGS. You're gonna get people to donate THINGS.'' No further explanation on what these THINGS were, other than the fact that the Donald's inflection really emphasized them. (Each team correctly assumed ''THINGS'' meant ''fun celebrity-driven packages for people to bid on.'') They'd be graded on five criteria: the amount of money raised, the Kodak product integration, the charity integration, the celebrities in attendance, and the overall guest experience.
On Team Annie, the personalities didn't seem to mesh well. Brande and Annie worked well together, as was expected. Dennis seemed reluctant to participate at first (though when does he ever seem committed), but soon brought in $20,000 cash courtesy of the Detroit Pistons and the L.A. Lakers. Tom had good intentions, but his laid-back, jokey style served to piss off ''All Work, No Play'' Annie rather than calm her down. As Tom said, ''I don't know if that style, being that acerbic with people, would work that well in the real world necessarily. I think everyone would quit.''
On Team Joan, on the other hand, Clint seemed to have reverted back to his old ways (read: announcing he had no money to raise, chatting with his friends, checking e-mail the whole time, and overall being completely useless). Melissa worked well with her mother (obvs), and she worked hard. Herschel came up with two very savvy business decisions that ended up being integral to Joan's eventual victory. First, he sold all the Cirque du Soleil tickets to a donor so the team could give them away instead of selling them on the street, which allowed them more time to work on the rest of the auction. Second, he suggested they up their celebrity quotient with ''impersonators'' (most of us call them drag queens), which didn't do anything to boost their numbers in the ''celebrities in attendance'' category, but it made for a fun atmosphere.
For the actual auction site, two event planners from the same firm were hired to design the spaces -- one to each team. Annie got along fine with her planner, Nicole, and devised a pretty-sounding design with ice sculptures and soothing colors. Joan's planner, David, however, seemed douchey from the start. Putting aside the fact that he resembled Jason Bateman doing an impression of a designer so I couldn't take him seriously, this guy seemed to be a major tool and was continually shown spouting buzzwords instead of coming up with an actual plan. When he called Joan later on and all she could say was ''blech'' and ''eeuugh'' instead of being happy with his boring-sounding idea for the room, maybe he should've asked Joan to come up with specific things she wanted instead of her vague-sounding ideas. Eventually, Joan told David she wanted to bring in one of her designer friends for him to work with, and he got so offended that he called her back and quit. In all fairness, I don't think Joan treated him badly, but she didn't actually vocalize anything that would've helped him understand exactly what she wanted.
As the owner of a design firm, you'd think David had worked with a couple of clients like that before and he'd know how to pull the information he needed out of them. Instead, he got huffy and quit, and, as the owner of the firm, made Annie's planner quit too. Of course, he did this the really classy way and didn't have her call Annie to explain the problem, instead choosing to ignore her calls, have his assistant push away the cameras when they came to his office to sign some contracts, and only told Annie what was happening in a pow-wow off camera.
Annie, understandably, was pissed, since she had less than 12 hours to pull together an auction space from scratch and it was already after 5:00 on a Friday night. She frantically called everyone she knew to find people who could help her put together a room, and eventually assembled a team of three people who helped her create the ''classy'' space she wanted. Joan decided to call the men of her charity, God's Love We Deliver (''They're wonderful, they're terrific, they're artistic, and they're gay.''), who then enlisted their events team to create a fun, welcoming space.
Aside from the usual last-minute frantic scramble to finish everything, the events seemed to go off without any major issues. A Joan Rivers impersonator (Joan's team) and Dennis Rodman in drag (Annie's team) greeted guests on the red carpet. While Annie was able to attract her famous pokah playah friends (they are loyal and they did pull through for her), famous boxers (including Joe Frazier), and famous (not in the past 15 years, so debatable) ice skater Oksana Baiul, Joan pulled in actual names like Kyle MacLachlan, Kathy Griffin, and various Broadway stars (the cast of Chicago, Tony nominee/American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis). Joan's charity was very involved behind the scenes assembling the auction space, but Annie's charity, Refugees International, was featured prominently throughout the space. Joan went for an obvious Kodak branding scheme, having guests walk through a gigantic frame to get inside, while Annie went for a more subtle approach, playing Refugees International videos on the Kodak frames.
In the boardroom, Joan freaked out at Annie when she mentioned the event planner quitting was Joan's fault. It might not have been as obvious to Joan, but it was clear from watching the footage that it was because of her, and it was also clear that the design firm blamed their departure from the show on Joan. So when Joan started yelling and attacking Annie for pointing out the truth, I got really mad. It's on camera, people! You can't lie about something that's clearly already captured on film. ''This is an out and out lie, and I will not have it on television. I will not be berated by this character here.'' Whoa Joan, Annie has actually remained SO CALM this entire time. She's not berating you. And she's telling the truth.
Clearly a lot of this show is fixed by the producers (anyone who says otherwise has obviously not watched it). But the fact that Trump didn't let Annie get a single word in edgewise to defend herself both in the boardroom after the final challenge and in the live boardroom last night made it extremely obvious, and it made me really angry. Surely someone told him what happened. Didn't he have enough respect for Annie to let her finish a complete thought before letting Joan jump in? Kudos to Annie for handling it so calmly. I'm not sure if I could've held my tongue when someone was verbally abusing me for telling the truth, and for jumping on every single thing I said without letting me explain myself.
After Joan heaved another insult to Annie's ''white trash pokah playah friends'' (they're now all ''mafia people''), we found out how much money each woman raised for her charity. Joan pulled in $150,830, but that didn't even register next to Annie's $465,725 -- just shy of her half-million dollar goal. Annie also won on the charity integration, but Joan won on celebrity attendance, Kodak integration, and overall experience (Ivanka said Joan's auction was better attended and had a better spirit than Annie's).
Meanwhile, in the live show, we heard from some of the eliminated contestants. Dice bickered playfully with Trump, who was looking a particularly bright shade of oompa loompa (his skin color was practically the same as the wood paneling on the wall behind his head), Scott thanked Trump for firing him early so he didn't have to get involved in all the subsequent drama, Jesse was low-key as usual, Claudia talked about how much fun she had, and Brian said four words (''I had a good time.''). My favorite part of these exchanges was how Trump cut everyone off when they'd used up their allotted 20 second response time: ''That's enough.'' ''I don't want to hear it.''
When pressed for their decision on who to hire/fire, Clint said he wouldn't choose anyone, Jesse'd hire Annie, and Dennis and Scott chose Joan. You couldn't hear it on TV, but at the live show, when Trump asked Scott ''Who would you do?'' the audience started snickering at the poor choice in phrasing. That's why Trump went back and acknowledged his slip. Piers Morgan, last year's winner, and Trace Adkins, last year's runner-up, both chose Joan to win; Piers because Joan met more criteria, and Trace, as he told me on the red carpet later last night, because Joan got incredibly emotional when talking about her charity (that got me too. I totally cried when they showed Joan volunteering and talking about how she got involved with GLWD after a friend died of AIDS). Hearing Piers and Trace talk about the ways their charities have been helped by the show also made me teary, because it reminded me that the charities really do play a huge part on The Celebrity Apprentice. A lot of shows donate money to charity, but the contestants on this one actually seem to be invested in winning for their charity's sake, not for their own egos.
Trump then asked Joan and Annie why they think they should win. Joan gave a really dumb answer about doing business ''in the new way,'' with honor and other good stuff, but Annie gave a smart, well-crafted answer that outlined all her successes in the competition. And yet again, even in the minute Annie had to talk about herself (just like Joan did right before her), Joan interrupted -- and Trump didn't stop her. Then she corrected Annie's grammar (I did too, in my head, but still -- not polite). Ivanka and Don Jr. gave sound bites to the effect of ''Annie played the game better and is smart, but Joan's tenacious and old.''
In the most soul-crushing reality TV fakeout I've ever seen, Donald told Annie all the good things she'd accomplished, then told Joan how great she was, and asked Annie if she knew what he was going to say. Annie said ''No,'' then perked up as he gave the final verdict -- ''Annie, you're fired.'' She gasped and happily clapped for a second before realizing what he had said, and her entire body deflated. From my seat in the balcony, it seemed that Annie remained stoic as Donald told her she lost, but watching it back on TV made me cringe. I'd probably think I had won, too, if I were her -- listing her accomplishments next to Joan's like that made it seem obvious who the stronger competitor was.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I was on Team Joan for much of the season, but they way things transpired in the finale completely changed my mind. Annie was consistently respectful, polite, and hard-working. While Joan was charismatic and also worked hard, her determination to win didn't match Annie's enthusiasm. Joan skated by week after week because she was buddies with Donald, and that's what sealed her victory. Joan did an admirable job, but Annie was definitely robbed. The way Joan interrupted, yelled at, and insulted Annie in the finale was unwarranted, and the way she denied being the reason the designer quit really changed my mind about her.
Do you think the right woman got the job? Or were you hoping the shark would conquer the dinosaur? Did you lose respect for Joan because of the way she treated Annie? Or do you think Annie was equally as conniving? How good of a sport was Joan's friend who agreed to help her while in the middle of his mother's funeral? Does Annie really know everyone on earth? Were you relieved when Joan vetoed the creepy ''million talking pictures of Clint Black'' idea? And was it funny when Trump told Joan she was better at being herself than the drag queen impersonator (duh)? I'm pretty sure some of the extra criteria in the finale was added in just to make it less obvious it was a setup when Joan eventually won. Conspiracy theory or truth? Discuss. http://popwatch.ew.com/popwatch/2009/05/celebrity-app-1.html