Celebrity Apprentice, Episode 4: Overmatched?by Brian Towers -- 01/28/2008
Last week, Donald trump convinced Gene Simmons to even up the numbers by switching sides and becoming the PM of Empresario. Despite a (self-professed) better understanding of Kodak’s needs than Kodak, Gene could not pull out a win. In the Boardroom, Gene flawlessly engineered events so he was the one to go home.
For your reference, here are the team rosters as this episode begins:
Action begins back in the suite with contestants discussing recent events. Piers points out to Nely that Trump wanted to fire her, and she says, “Oh, I know that!” In time, innocent Olympian Jennie returns to tell everyone that Trump fired both Omarosa and Gene. Several people believe her, but it’s a fake-out as we all know, and Omarosa pops around the corner and ruins most everyone’s evening.
Nely tells us, “Gene got fired and took a bullet clearly for me. I really had no idea that he respected me that much. Maybe Donald Trump doesn’t like me, but Gene Simmons certainly does!”
Nely has no clue that Gene went home because Gene wanted to. Hey, when Gene decides what he wants to do, that’s what Gene does!
Piers Morgan admits in a cameo that he’s glad Gene is gone, because it improves his own chances of winning.
Lennox asks Jennie why she was even brought back to the Boardroom in the first place. Jennie says it’s because she can’t compete against these other businesswomen.
Tito Ortiz’s charity is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In an incredibly touching scene, Tito presents the check to a sweetheart of a young girl named Elizabeth who suffers from brittle bone disease. The irony of a man who makes his fortune being hit hard and often having his donation received by a wee shy lass who’s bones could have been broken by any touch until she was more than a year old… man, I got it. That’s reality!
In the next scene Trump meets with the remaining contestants, accompanied by Ivanka and (gasp) WWE’s head honcho, Vince McMahon. Trump lauds Vince’s undeniable record as a promoter. He then outlines the next task. The Apprentices will sell tickets to eight popular Broadway shows. The PMs and one other team member will negotiate how those titles will be split up so each team has four shows to promote. They’ll each have a sales booth in Times Square, and the sales window is a mere two hours.
Trump asks Vinny if he was on Broadway, and the reply is, “I’m going to be in “Chicago.” This befuddles The Donald, unsure if Vinny means the city or the play. I think a rim shot is called for here; alas, it goes a-wanting.
Trump calls for the teams to nominate their PMs right now, and turns to Hydra first. At least three guys name Vinny Pastore, and he stumbles out a reluctant acceptance. Empresario is to be lead by Marilu Henner, who has appeared on Broadway six times. She appears ready and willing to take this challenge on. Advantage, Empresario!
Trump announces that winnings will be split between the winning PM’s charity and what Trump identifies as Broadway’s favorite charity, “The Fund For Public Schools.” I’m not sure how Marilu’s or Vince’s charities feel about that.
But let’s get back to the project of the week. As PM, Marilu hits the ground running. She requests that Omarosa be her negotiation partner when they meey with Hydra to split up the tickets, and Omarosa quickly agrees. Smart move. Then, Omarosa cleverly asks which of the eight shows is generating the best sales. Marilu makes a quick call to find out the answer. I just hope that they rated the other four shows too, since it seems improbable Hydra will not take “Chicago.”
Over at Hydra, Vinny starts his team’s meeting by asking Piers to read the rules to him. Instead, Baldwin and Piers start talking over each other and it devolves into a hearty argument over the necessity of reading the rules. Soon almost everyone but Trace is arguing about arguing. Several minutes pass without meaningful work being done, and to make matters worse, Vinny still isn’t clear on the rules!
It’s negotiation time, where the duos meet to negotiate the four plays for which they will be selling tickets. The assistant negotiators are Omarosa (good choice) and Lennox Lewis (not good choice). We see Baldwin ask for the job, but Piers and Lennox feel he is more valuable exploiting his Rolodex and making phone calls.
In the negotiations, the men fumble badly. Omarosa says, “It was like playing Monopoly with three-year-olds.” Vinny is only interested in a quick negotiation so they can go do something more important. Vinny takes “Chicago” and lets the women choose the four they want. The result is that Empresario manage to claim three of their top four choices.
The women feel they were big winners. Perhaps. I’m going to guess that the actual product doesn’t matter, because I think this is another “biggest Rolodex wins” week. After all, if you are asking someone to spend $1,000 for charity, does the actual product really matter?
Nely is proud of her contact list and feels her black book is even better than Gene Simmons’ book. She assures us that she knows Latinos and “many successful women.” When she starts to make calls things seem to be going well for her, although holding a phone, dialing a phone, and patting herself on the back is a challenge to her dexterity. Getting a $7,500 commitment from a real estate company, Nely informs us confidently, “I’m a star!”
The men take a similar approach, but Baldwin wants to diversify and put an effort into selling tickets from their booth as well. Egos get out of control again. Piers accuses Baldwin of holding back on his contacts and calls him“ a shallow little man” if he does so. Baldwin fires back by calling Piers “Boomerang,” and saying he sees through Piers. Communication degenerates from there. Again.
Vinny, Trace, and Lennox head out to set up the location while Tito, Piers, and Stephen stay behind to call high rollers. Piers calls “The Rebel Billionaire,” Sir Richard Branson, who is the head of the Virgin companies and sews up a commitment for $10,000. Baldwin and Piers laugh gleefully over nailing that one down. Nothing heals a rift like a big infusion of cash!
Vinny and Trace are walking the streets of NYC to find their booth. Vinny says he feels like “Ratzo” Rizzo walking with the Midnight Cowboy. Ha! Meanwhile, Empresario is setting up their booth. They have free merchandise from each of their shows to enhance their displays, plus volunteers to provide extra help.
Three of Nely’s real estate contacts show up and as promised, they buy a pair of tickets for $2,500 each. Nely squeals gleefully and hopes this shows Trump that she’s a star, not a loser. One of Marilu’s old friends is actor David Hyde Pierce, who is starring in one of their shows. He’s here to help out. More on that later.
Meanwhile, Carol Alt and Jenny Finch have taken on the thankless duties of actually selling tickets and handling the cash. Carol tells us that they are always taking the garbage jobs that nobody else wants.
Somehow, Vinny obtains a “Spamalot” costume and convinces Piers to dress up like a knight and walk about to try and drum up business. At first, no one knows who he is. Bob Saget then drops by the Hydra booth and meets Piers. We don’t see him making a purchase, though. Next to drop by is Ivanka, and she can see business is booming. Piers deadpans for us, “I think she found me oddly attractive in that chain mail.” Trace is chipping in, too. A contact at EMI has a check for $5,000 for them. Next, Trace talks to a group from Austria who can’t understand his accent. No sale there. A few minutes later, some Brits come upon Piers, and they do recognize him. Another sale!
Back at Empresario, Jennie feels she is hidden in the tent. Omarosa calls her “vulnerable from day one,” and adds that they see her “as a sweet girl, but not as a leader.” Vince McMahon comes to Empresario’s booth to see what’s going on, and finds David Hyde Pierce standing around inconspicuously in a baseball cap and regular-Joe clothes, not being utilized. Vince comments that the women are doing a good job at taking orders for sales, but are not doing much to attract passersby. Nely then screeches over a $2,000 sale, and tells us she’s just getting big-ticket items from her contacts. Could Nely be the one to lead Empresario out of the darkness? There’s a slight hiccup as one friend of Nely’s is sent to the bank to change her donation into a cashier’s check.
With less than ten minutes to go, Piers is concerned that the Branson donation has yet to arrive. Nely has similar concerns over her friend who is getting the cashier’s check and is yet to return. Those two situations have not changed as the last two minutes are counting down. Luckily for Piers and Team Hydra, the Virgin Atlantic people arrive just in time with a $10,000 check. As the segment ends, Nely is still looking for her friend to return, and her mournful “Where are my Latinas?” is heard echoing among the spires of nearby skyscrapers. Uh-oh!
Task over, the teams assemble in the Boardroom to hear the results. Vinny doesn’t sound as positive as the Trumps would like. However, the rest of the men are positive they won. Tito reports to The Donald that Piers did the best job for Hydra. On Empresario, Marilu thinks they pulled out all the stops, but Vince McMahon points out how David Hyde Pierce was underutilized.
It’s time for the numbers. Vince McMahon reports that Empresario sold $31,757 worth of tickets. That sounds good to me, until Ivanka reveals that Hydra’s sales are a little over $33,000. (The exact amount could not be heard over Hydra’s cheers.) It was close, but Hydra wins again! Asked by Trump to explain what went wrong, Marilu feels they are overmatched in terms of “star power, size, and black book.”
Omarosa gets the Boardroom rocking by saying to Piers, “You were dressed up like a clown.” He pointedly reminds her that King Arthur was no clown, and Vinny staunchly stands up for Piers as well. Omarosa has no response. I love it! Nely then admits that her big contact didn’t make it in time. Trump points out that this was the difference between winning and losing, and says they planned badly. I agree. It was foolish of Nely to plan for rain and count on her friends to manage their own time.
Trump informs Vinny that $50,000 will go to his charity, with the rest (about $15,000) going to “The Fund For Public Schools.” Vinny speaks of his charity. He is playing for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, donating in honor of his deceased friend Mitchell Berke.
Hydra is then excused from the Boardroom and they return to the suite and celebrate.
Trump begins digging in to find out what went wrong for the ladies. Marilu feels her teammates either overpower each other, or else are satisfied to take a back seat. Conversely, the guys seem to be maximizing their members’ contributions. Omarosa opines that she does not feel overmatched, and then Jennie chimes in with more defeatist talk. Back in the suite, the guys can’t believe what they are hearing. The discussion couldn’t be more complimentary to them even if Empresario were composed of all their mothers!
Vince McMahon points out that Carol Alt was hidden inside the tent, but could have been more valuable working outside. Trump tries to identify who assigned Carol to inside duties, and it seems as though blame might fall partly on Marilu and partly on herself. Omarosa interjects that Carol flies below the radar on purpose, and has done so every week. Seeing Jennie nod her agreement, Ivanka turns the question on Jennie for confirmation about Carol. Instead, Jennie stumbles verbally without responding, then says the problem is over-thinking things.
Trump now takes a straw poll of Empresario, asking, “Who would you fire?” Omarosa names Carol Alt, and Carol says Omarosa (with Omarosa babbling incoherent trash in the background), because her negativity and attacks are eating up the group from the inside. Prompted by Trump, Carol admits, “As a business woman I have no respect for (Omarosa) at all.”
Nely chimes in that the team has good workers, but not strong leaders. It’s also her opinion that Marilu ought to be fired, because she shouldn’t have stepped up to be PM, but taken on a more visible role instead. Trump disagrees. Nely’s generally good week is starting to go sour.
Two must come back with Marilu to the final Boardroom, and she names Jennie and Carol. The men are amazed by that choice. They feel sure that Nely didn’t get named because Marilu needs her down the road. Lennox says, “She’s going to need a drink after that one.”
Trump sends the candidates out of the room so he can discuss things with his viceroys. In the anteroom, Carol and Marilu discuss Omarosa. Marilu says that when Omarosa smells fear, she gets worse. Carol calls Omarosa a cancer, and says that what’s worse is that the others are allowing her to operate that way.
Inside the Boardroom, Vince is surprised Jennie isn’t showing more competitive spirit. Ivanka feels Marilu must stay if the team is to have any chance of winning. Back in the suite, Vinny doesn’t see any fighting instinct in Jennie.
The trio is called back in. Marilu starts her defense by saying that it’s been hard to find a way to get the group to work cohesively, and avows that she’s been working hard in every task. Trump wonders if maybe Omarosa ought to have been called back instead, but Marilu feels that she, Omarosa, and Nely work well together, so she didn’t want to break that group up. However, she confirms for Ivanka that she can do without one of this pair. I’m sure the one who doesn’t go isn’t too happy to be hearing that.
Trump turns to Jennie and tries to get her to show some spirit. Nope, there’s nothing there, so... “You’re fired,” says Trump almost apologetically. After the other two leave the room, Vince and Ivanka agree with Trump’s decision.
In her cab ride to the airport, Jennie says losing is tough. She thinks she didn’t get a chance to show her leadership skills. I say that if you’ve agreed to work in the back of the tent four times in a row, you’ve made a conscious choice.
Next week: a two-hour episode. Piers and Vinny fight, and Stephen Baldwin is the calming influence. Naw, that’s got to be an editing trick!
Jennie needed to go.
For those of you who have asked: Yes, Gene will be inducted into the Reality TV Hall Of Shame for essentially quitting the game last week. I’m working on the induction article “in my spare time.”
Last week’s episode generated a lot of email. Most saw how Gene cleverly engineered his escape from Oz. Many female viewers were glad to see him go.
Readers are invited let me know what you think about it all at the eAddress below. And next week, join me here for a recap of all the action, sprinkled with my own reactions and opinions.
Brian lives in Toronto. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machines in generally unsuccessful attempts to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He can be reached at email@example.com. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.
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