Celebrity Apprentice, Episode 5: I Smell A Rat… Or, Is It A Mole?by Brian Towers -- 02/01/2008
Last week, in a task that on the surface was about selling Broadway tickets but really was another battle of Rolodexes, Team Empresario came this close to winning. The key was that a Piers Morgan contact delivered in the last minute for Hydra, while one of Nely Galán’s contacts just missed the closing bell. In the Boardroom, Jennie Finch was sent home, essentially for not being a cutthroat you-know-what.
For your reference, here are the team rosters as the episode begins:Hydra
Action begins back in the suite with contestants discussing recent events. The women indicate that Carol is the one they want gone. Trace asks why, and Omarosa responds, “It’s personal. She’s a twit. I don’t like twits.” Well, if that isn’t the pot cal… ahh, let’s not go there again. I think the real reason is because they know Carol could potentially win and they know Jennie never had a chance of winning.
When Carol and Marilu return, Omarosa is somehow the first to hug Carol. A few minutes later, Omarosa hides her disappointment by whispering to the camera, “Everybody has to go at one point in this process. As long as it’s not me… oh well.”
Action shifts to Vinny delivering his check to his charity. You may remember that he is playing for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, donating in honor of his deceased friend Mitchell Berke. For them, $50,000 is a very significant amount.
In the next scene Trump meets with the surviving contestants in Macy’s department store. Daughter Ivanka, son Don Junior, and two sponsor representatives accompany him. Trump announces that due to another commitment Tito is not here this week, so the Hydra advantage will only be one person.
Trump tells Empresario they have one last chance, and then he’ll have to give them some help. He encourages Carol Alt to be the PM for Empresario, and that’s what happens. Piers is going to be the PM for the men of Hydra.
The featured product this week is the footwear, Crocs. Two sponsor executives step up to explain that they want the celebrities to create an awareness campaign for a new program called “Soles United.” The program solicits the donation of old Crocs that the company recycles, making new shoes to be donated around the world. This sounds worthy. The teams must build collection booths for the shoes. The winner will be decided by the subjective decision of the Crocs executives.
In the van ride back, Carol says their approach should be “simple, direct, and from the heart. This is really a ‘heart’ campaign.” She thinks their focus should be “brand recognition, creativity, and overall design.” Omarosa notes there is no specific logo to work with and it is the shoe itself that is recognizable. It sounds to me like they are on the right track! Carol tells us she knows her team is demoralized and fractured, and if they don’t win, she’s probably done for.
When it’s time to sit down for some serious planning the teams discover their two war rooms are right next door to each other, separated only by frosted glass walls. Very subtle planning, Mr. Trump!
Piers starts off by telling Hydra that the two main things are “brand messaging and creativity.” That sounds somewhat familiar. Trace comes up with the knockout slogan, “Wear them, share them.” I love it!
Trace thinks he detects the women outside their door, trying to overhear the Hydra discussion. The way they keep shouting their slogan that wouldn’t really be necessary, but let’s get past that. Vinny takes a peek into the hall, and one of the ladies is seen returning to their room. They seem to be walking at a normal pace and not running, but the clip is so brief, I cannot identify them for sure. I think it must be Nely, though. The men believe they have been spied upon, and devise a counter-plan.
Piers has the idea that he will fake a fight with Vinny so Vinny can leave their room and hang about outside, possibly eavesdropping right back. Every member of Hydra is smiling, laughing, and visibly supportive of this joke.
In a solo moment, Vinny insists he has been given an assignment and is just following orders. So, he decides to take it one step farther. He knocks on Empresario’s door, tells them he’s been cast out, and asks the girls if he can work with them instead. The ladies send him outside while they think it over. Inside Empresario’s room, Marilu wonders if this is a setup, but business-savvy Omarosa is sure it is not. They decide to take Vinny up on his offer. Really?
Vinny comes back to Hydra ostensibly to collect his belongings, and there’s time for a moment of talk. Piers asks him to infiltrate Empresario and report on their plans. Vinny agrees, with no reservations. No one else from Hydra is on camera, but we definitely see no discussion or disagreement to the plan.
Watershed moment, here. What started out as a joke has passed the point of no return. Buckle up; it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
In a cameo, Piers points out that Trump told the women this was their last chance to show they could do this without the men, yet the first chance they get, they jump at the chance to enlist the aid of a man. He’s sure Trump will see this as a weakness on their part. He says they should have seen though this plan, and it’s a bit embarrassing for them that they didn’t.
Vinny tells the women he’s angry with Piers and wants to see the women win. As best I remember, he’s working harder at this task than any we’ve seen so far.
Marilu puts forth the slogan, “Soles United: Share the Love.” Not bad, but I like the Hydra one better. Then Omarosa offers the idea that they design their booth like an oversized croc shoe. Vinny suggests that it’s time for Carol Alt to use her celebrity and put her image in the display.
Regrettably, no one suggests that Omarosa dress up in a crocodile costume. Too bad – she has the jaws for it! Nonetheless, I’m very impressed how well this team is working together. Everyone is contributing and everyone is animated.
Omarosa then shares with us how pleased she is with Carol’s progress from “a twit” to “a really smart cookie” who is a strong project manager.
Over at Hydra, it has been decided to use Lennox Lewis’ image again, because this is a new client and a different market. Again, all team members seem to be contributing, though Baldwin exhibits a tendency to interrupt. The idea of oversized Crocs for Lennox is proposed and adopted. Trace has been placed in charge of directing the booth construction, and after everyone’s input is incorporated, Piers likes what they end up deciding to have built. It’s simple and cheap to make, and the sponsor’s message is clear.
Surprisingly, both teams’ solutions are similar, in that the basic design involves oversized Crocs and showing a team member making a donation of old shoes. Both found a simple slogan to center on.
It’s nice to see some task planning details and the generation of ideas again, isn’t it? That’s been missing a lot this season.
Vinny sees himself as one who is generating a lot of ideas and is starting to resent that Piers made him take on the role of the mole. But it’s time to ratchet up the tension a little.
Vinny and Marilu depart to supervise booth construction for Empresario. There’s a moment when Vinny and Baldwin are alone in the anteroom, and Vinny tosses a note to Baldwin.
Surprisingly, Baldwin decides that this passing of information is cheating and he starts dancing about the note like it’s a maypole. He doesn’t want to pick up the note, so without telling Lennox why he’s required, Baldwin makes him come out of the war room and retrieve a note that was literally less than an inch away from Baldwin’s foot! Fortunately, Lennox collects Vinny’s note before Marilu comes along and further complicates things.
In a Baldwin cameo, Stephen explains that God would not want him to partake in cheating. However, it seems it’s all right if he uses an unwitting Lennox to facilitate cheating. That doesn’t seem to me to be very complimentary toward the boxer, either!
Piers reads the note to Hydra. A visibly upset Baldwin says repeatedly, “This is very wrong!” and in a cameo, tells us he thinks this is cheating. By his body language we can tell Lennox sides with Piers. Piers reveals in a cameo that he sees Baldwin as “unspeakably hypocritical” for suddenly not wanting to read the note. Baldwin’s ensuing cameo expresses his displeasure of Piers and his dark side. Eventually they decide the note doesn’t really matter, because they’re committed to their own concepts anyway.
It’s about this time that Vinny has second/third thoughts of his own. He feels he’s been used, Piers is a $%#^%#, and that “the women need a win” and he’s going to help them get it. During the cab ride he confesses to Marilu that he has been “a rat,” but that it’s over. Marilu doesn’t know what to believe and figures Vinny still thinks he’s on The Sopranos.
For Hydra, Lennox accompanies Trace to get their booth built. At one point Ivanka has come to observe Hydra in their war room. Piers spills the whole Vinny plot to Ivanka. Ivanka laughs and tells them she is “shocked” that the women didn’t see through this. She tells us it’s a ploy from “the Omarosa playbook” and can’t believe that Omarosa bought it. To Baldwin’s amazement, Ivanka also admits she doesn’t mind a little sabotage! Piers knows it was important to get Ivanka onside with the plan now.
As both teams work on their booth construction, Don Junior comes upon Empresario to tell Vinny he’s the ugliest woman he’s ever seen. Ha! Vinny tells him he wants to see the girls win, plus see Piers lose. He insists that in real life, he is not the character “Big Pussy,” but his own man. Remember that for later.
Don Junior asks Vinny if he is being a mole. After confirming that the answer is only for his ears, Vinny tells Don Junior that he really has swapped sides and wants to see Piers fired.
Back with Hydra, Trace admits to Lennox that he didn’t like the spying idea either, but never spoke up. Lennox laughs. Further, Trace says he regrets not speaking up. I find this attack of conscience poorly timed.
Piers say he and Baldwin are very creative together, while usually detesting the sight of each other. Nun-educated, Roman Catholic Piers is particularly annoyed by Baldwin’s preaching and how his religious beliefs are not matching his behavior. He points out that since both have prayed to become the Apprentice, “one of them will be massively mistaken.” Baldwin laughs, as though he’s never considered the idea that those on different sides of a competition have never prayed for the same result before.
For reasons that escape me, Piers and Baldwin call Nely out of her room and unsubtly let her know that they know the Empresario booth design, and then Piers repeats the Empresario slogan several times to her. Baldwin thinks this is hilarious, so I guess he’s okay with the espionage now.
Nely doesn’t see any humor in this at all and gets understandably irate. She and Carol quickly deduce that Vinny is a rat. Piers and Baldwin are laughing in their war room, but Nely thinks Piers is “evil and dark” and feels he will be fired because of it.
Meanwhile, Piers and Baldwin are still enjoying the moment, and Piers calls seeing Nely’s reaction one of the best moments of his life. As a tabloid editor with potentially limited contact with the more important aspects of reality, he just might be right.
Well, it’s all been fun and games to this point, but it’s time for the balloon to burst. Carol calls Marilu to warn her that Vinny might be a mole. Vinny tries to direct Marilu’s responses, but the mole is out of the bag.
Back in the war room, Omarosa hears the news and is stunned and irked that Vinny is a rat. She calls him on the phone to express her displeasure/give him crap. She asks if he betrayed their trust and told Hydra their plans. Omarosa insists on a response… Vinny is a dead fish (again). It comes out that Vinny had told Marilu he spilled some information, but she insists he’s revealing more ugly details now than he did before. Omarosa tells Vinny, “We no longer need your services.” PM Carol backs this up.
The ladies in the war room are upset, but in a few minutes they figure out that they are wasting energy in a non-productive manner. However, back at the construction location, Marilu is still mad and argues further with Vinny. She sends him out to find a cab.
Vinny is now sure that there is no one in the game who will trust him (he’s right). However, he’s starting to quote Goodfellas and use Mafia parallels about killing rats that just aren’t going to happen. Perhaps no one will talk to him, but even with Omarosa in the game I’m fairly confident his kneecaps are safe.
When Vinny returns to the war rooms, he is welcomed back into Hydra’s room by Piers with open arms. An upset Vinny goes into a “you don’t rat on a rat” shtick, but Piers points out that this isn’t the real world and he’s not on his way to Kuwait, chopped up in a suitcase. Trace is pacing about rather uncomfortably, but Baldwin thinks this is all too hilarious.
In a cameo, Piers says he subscribes to the Donald Trump school of business, which says that if your opponent has one good limb left, you take it out. He says he’s like James Bond, he is chivalrous off the clock, but deadly during business.
Alas, even the wackiest moments must come to an end. That evening, we see the Empresario product delivered to their war room, and it looks great. It’s like a green six-foot Croc shoe! The Carol Alt cut-out looks inviting as well. Nely knows that they have done well in their materials, but they need to practice their presentation.
The Hydra product is pretty nice too. The supporting materials for both teams (signs, pamphlets, etc) impress me as well.
As they assemble and arrange their displays, Piers asks Vinny why he doesn’t help. This seemingly-innocent question sets Vinny off all over again. Piers calls Vinny “the hypocrite of the year.” Vinny responds, “Did you really think I was going to spy on those girls for a Brit?” Nice. I’m now officially hoping Vinny goes home.
In a cameo, Lennox expresses his disappointment in Vinny. He sees Vinny as letting the whole team down.
Piers says that he feels better knowing Vinny designed the Empresario concept. Ha! As he storms out, Vinny shouts to Piers, “I’m not talking to you, you arrogant Brit!” in his most derisive tone. If not Piers, I wonder who he was talking to? Does he know Lennox was born in London, England and is also a celebrated British citizen?
Cast out, Vinny bumps into Trump while waiting for an elevator and explains that he’s an outcast. Trump tells him to hold off on the details until the Boardroom.
It’s time for the teams to make their presentations. Empresario is first, and they do a great job. All four speak part of the message, though Carol has the lead. Some of their stuff makes no sense in a real world environment. For example, who is standing besides hundreds of these things across the country, handing out tee shirts? In fact, have you EVER gotten a tee shirt for tossing used clothing into a drop box – I haven’t!
Hydra presents next, with Piers doing the talking. The booth is good, but it’s a standard square box and Trump doesn’t seem impressed by it. Overall, the sponsors are impressed for a second time, though.
Trump talks with the sponsors. They liked Empresario’s big shoe and think it’s friendlier for kids. They prefer Hydra’s slogan and think their box featuring Lennox wasn’t bad either. Asked for drawbacks, they opine that Hydra was lighter in the area of supporting materials, while the Empresario booth would be harder and more expensive to make. They say they have a winner, but we don’t hear who that is yet.
Finally, the teams assemble in the Boardrooms. Both Omarosa and Piers have snarky comments for Vinny. Trump prompts Vinny for the story he wanted to say before, and although it takes a while for the story to come out, it does. The key point finally comes out that Vinny was acting when the women first took him in.
Piers points out to Omarosa that his plan was not espionage, but to sabotage Empresario by sending a lesser talent to their team. This is the second time he’s corrected her misuse of English words to make his points… you think she’ll be picking her battles a little more carefully in the future?
Somehow, Vinny decides now to play the race and Godfather cards. Pathetic.
The women insist that they did not spy, and Vinny will not back Piers up. I believe Trace may have unwittingly led them astray on that one, and Vinny may have seen Nely doing something completely innocent, like returning from the washroom.
Piers reiterates that he was sure Vinny could not contribute to a Hydra victory, and the team was stronger with him at Empresario. He adds that he and Vinny have had a breakdown on a personal level.
Ivanka asks Trace’s opinion. He says he didn’t like the idea of the mole, but admits he didn’t speak up. Baldwin tries to imply he didn’t agree, but Nely reminds him that he came into their room to gloat over knowing their plans. Yahtzee!
Baldwin tries to retreat to a moral plateau, but as they go to commercial, Don Junior asks the $64,000 question of Baldwin – pointing out that probably one of Vinny and Piers has to go, Don Junior asks Baldwin to chose which one he wants to continue with in the game.
Baldwin knows he is on the spot and for the first time in the whole series, words are not glibly flowing off his tongue. However, he soon sides with Vinny. So does Trace. Those are game play answers, not truthful ones. Lennox chooses to support Piers, though. Baldwin asks Trump to see if the women could find it in their hearts to take Vinny back. Trump is having none of that and the proposal dies on the table.
Trump tries to put words in Vinny’s mouth about why he wanted the women to win. He suggests that he hated Piers and wanted to get rid of him. Vinny dodges that one, saying he felt the women needed to win.
Finally, Trump decides to announce the winner. He says the sponsors thought the men were fantastic, but Lennox is being over-utilized. Conversely, they loved Empresario’s design, especially the shoe-shaped collection box. Finally, Empresario wins! Their relief at finally winning is both obvious and audible.
Now, for the windfalls. Crocs will donate 10,000 pairs of new shoes to people in Africa. Carol wins $20,000 for her charity, and she is so overcome by emotion, she can hardly mention it. It’s The Tony Alt Memorial Foundation, which benefits children.
Vinny tries to get the women to admit he helped them “a little” in their campaign, but they will not throw him even that bone. Vinny says he no longer feels the environment is healthy for him and he wishes to resign from the show. Trump chases the women out of the Boardroom and they return to their suite to celebrate. As they leave, Omarosa whispers to Vinny, “You don’t have to quit!”
Discussion ensues about Vinny’s attempt to quit. Trump asks him that if he were to fire Piers, would Vinny stay? The answer is yes. Back in their suite, the women are sure Piers is going to get fired.
All the Trumps try to convince Vinny that he quit too readily. However, Trump also says that in business as in golf, there are no “take-overs,” and one doesn’t normally “un-resign.”
Vinny asks Trump what he should do, and showing he’s desperate for guidance, The Donald looks to Baldwin for advice. Baldwin uses many words to say that for him, it’s integrity over winning. Baldwin asks Trump if he’d do anything in business to win, even if it hurts someone else. “No comment,” replies Trump. Heh.
Trump asks Lennox about quitters, and the response in that Lennox doesn’t like quitters. Vinny interrupts to reiterate his desire to resign. He says it’s not quitting… but it is. Trump accepts his resignation. I believe he was about to fire him anyway.
As the men leave the room, Piers comes up to and puts his arm around Vinny. “Hey,” says Piers, “Business, not personal.” “I know,” replies Vinny, and they walk out together.
The show ends, not with a cab ride, but with a black screen and the abruptly terminated strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Just like in the final episode of The Sopranos… Cool.
Next week: Omarosa and Piers argue and she pours a drink over his head. And now Baldwin wants to quit! What, I have to reap two-hour episodes PLUS induct someone into the Hall Of Shame every week? Sheesh!
In my opinion, Vinny started all the trouble when he took it upon himself to try and join Empresario. Piers is in no way innocent, but it spiraled out of control after Vinny asked to join Empresario. Piers is his PM on a TV show, not his Godfather, and Vinny needed to say no before things got so out of control. I say the right one went home.
I’m also not too convinced that the information Vinny came up with had value anyway!
Phew, that was some special episode! Next week looks hot too. 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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