Celebrity Apprentice, the Finale: Good Versus Evil – A Winner Is Crownedby Brian Towers -- 03/28/2008
Last week: Players were called back to the Boardroom and sent on executive interviews that resulted in the elimination of first Lennox Lewis, then Carol Alt. Initial stages of the final event followed, including the selection of assistants from a pool of previous competitors. Both sides seemed to hit some early bumps in the road, with Trace not understanding the “needs” of the Backstreet Boys, and Piers being let down by a seemingly unconcerned and disinterested Steven Baldwin.
For your reference, here are the players on the two teams:
Team Piers Morgan:
Team Trace Adkins:
The episode starts with Trump asking his kids about the two candidates. Ivanka says both are competent and effective, though they are totally different – Trace has great people skills, while Piers is effective at raising money. Don Junior says it’s a difficult decision and both played the game very well. He likes how Piers is never afraid to ask for money, and adds that when Trace speaks, it usually means something.
It turns out that although it looks like they are in the usual Boardroom, this scene is live in front of a robust audience in New York City. I see George Ross in the first row!
Trump says he likes a good fight between two competitors who are very different. Then, voiceover-guy launches into a recap of material you’re already familiar with if you’ve been reading my articles all season, so let’s move ahead.
In fact, more than the first hour is on tape, with Trump jumping in a couple of times for about ten seconds to frame some of it. I will recap that the finale is being judged on “tickets sold to the event, money raised during the auction, and how well you run your part of the event.”
The next scene shows Piers calling on his “rich Brits” friends to get unique auction items. Sharon Osbourne is contacted with unknown results, but we see Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber offer opening night tickets to the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera musical.
Piers make the point that one does not build a fabulous Rolodex without putting in the effort to develop and maintain these contacts. He makes some cold calls in a taxi ride. Baldwin sits beside him and admires Piers’ fundraising skills, saying, “You’ve got talent,” a play on the name of the show he appears on as a talent judge.
Piers tells Baldwin he never meant to insult Steven on a personal level, apologizes to him, and they shake hands while Baldwin sings a falsetto “Hallelujah” chorus. Piers adds, “Despite all your obvious flaws, you’re not a bad guy.” Piers and Baldwin admit they’ve missed working together.
In the next scene, Trace meets with the production manager for the Backstreet Boys. Trace asks him if they’ll give him a rough time if things aren’t perfect. The response he gets doesn’t relax Trace at all, and he fears that they might refuse to go on if all their needs are not met.
One of the group calls to asks if Trace can get them some black fingernail polish. Trace is bewildered by this new request, and also admits he’s still searching for a source of wheat grass juice! So, a highly heterosexual cowboy and the three-time heavyweight champion of the world reluctantly hit the streets of New York to buy a man his fingernail polish.
Four hours before the event is to begin, Piers has his team focus on ticket sales. Baldwin is reenergized after the cab ride, and makes some more calls. However, he’s having no more success than last time. I will admit that this time, he does seem to be honestly trying. Piers asks how many tickets he’s sold, and… it’s only five! Piers admits he’s panicking. He’s finding that this task might be tougher than it seemed.
At the airport, many of Trace’s country music stars call him to report that they’ve arrived from Nashville. Trace must be tired, because he doesn’t seem to be very excited by the news. In fact, it seems only a camera crew greets them. I wonder if one of them brought wheat grass?
Trump comes on screen to say that he wants to see how “these two guys react under pressure.” Sure enough, the scene at the venue is mayhem, and Trace isn’t reacting well. The stress is leaving him exasperated, and we see him being short with both Carol and Baldwin. No one seems to understand the schedule (if there is one).
However, Trace gets the refresher he needs when his wife and kids surprise him with a sudden appearance. For a few moments, everything else is forgotten. Baldwin tells the girls, “Girls, your daddy needed that hug!” Yes, he probably needs that hug even more than he needs wheat grass juice!
Now there’s just one hour before the charity event begins. Carol says the food looks great and she’s ready to serve it to the patrons. However, Piers feels “less is more,” because, as he tells the event staff several times over, rich drunk people spend money more freely. Good plan!
“BSB” is what Trace now calls the Backstreet Boys, so I will too. It turns out that one of the BSBs needs a knee brace. Trace is stumped by that one. He still hasn’t found wheat grass juice, either. Myself, I’d be asking Marilu about the wheat grass juice, because she’s a local and she’s into the healthy eating gig. She must know of a health food store somewhere in the area!
Trace says, “Working with the BSB has given me new appreciation… for myself!” He says he’s done shows with a broken leg, with kidney stones, and once, he went to the hospital right after a show to get 18 inches of his colon removed! “God,” he says discouragingly, “Don’t get me started on the BSB.” I agree!
The event is beginning. Trace’s country gang is there, including Ronnie Milsap, who has 40 number one records (so far). The Grand Ole Opry presents him with a check for $10,000, and others have checks and cash to deliver, too. On the other side, Piers’ veterans have shown up. So have the Trump trio.
The auction begins. The first item is Trace’s Superbowl package, and it goes for $18,000.
Next is the private tea with the Duchess of York. Bidding skyrockets from $15,000 up to $100,000, bid by Howard Lutnick, CEO of a company famous for their misfortune on 9/11, financiers Cantor Fitzgerald. He’s a friend of Piers.
Lot three is dinner with Trace. Bidding is slow, and when Ivanka bids $6,000, she wins it. Way to stay neutral, Ivanka. I’m wondering if she was trying to push up the bids and got trapped. Either way, she’s there as an observer and not a participant, and most certainly ought not to have been bidding!
The fourth lot is a night with Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne. If the bid is over $50,000, Ozzy promises his band will play a concert anywhere in the country. The same CEO nails that one for another $100,000.
Trace is trying to stay resolute and not get too discouraged. He knew he was in danger of getting thrashed pretty soundly in this aspect of the challenge, and from what we see, it’s happening.
Lot five is original Taxi memorabilia, but they start skipping items quickly and we don’t hear any more winning bids. Also in there is the original Phantom Of The Opera mask, time on QVC, and a day with the BSB. The latter is probably plummeting in real value with every passing minute.
The last item is the shopping trip with Ivanka Trump, and bidding gets quickly up to $20,000. Piers then walks up to the center of the hall – he has Simon Cowell on the phone, and ready to bid. They joke about being unloved Brits in America, and how they don’t like each other. Bidding now escalates quickly, between the on-site guy and Simon. Finally, Simon gets the prize for $100,000!
Trace finds the call “distasteful.” Hardly… that’s how these things work in the big leagues. If someone donates six figures, they usually like a little public recognition in return.
Trace meets with the BSB’s manager. He never got the wheat grass juice, but he did find the nail polish and the knee brace. It must have been enough, because the group performs. Trace says it feels like the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders.
Piers tells us they’re all tired but he’s proud of the way both teams performed. Trace tells us that when the six of them stood together at the end of the concert, there was a mutual appreciation for the event they’d put together.
We are told of another way to support the finalists’ charities. You can text the message TRUMP to 30101. Cost per text is $1.00, plus the usual service provider charges, and you will receive a thank-you message from Donald Trump for your generosity. Trump further announces that CEO Howard Lutnick promises to match all these donations, up to a total of $250,000.
Trump next introduces Erin and Jim, the MSNBC folks who aided him last week in the interviews. Trump then segues to what turns out to be the first of several segments of footage from a Boardroom held after the task completed.
Trump asks Lennox which player is better. Lennox says Trace is more laid back and he allows you to do your work, and Piers is more in-your-face. Sleepy Boy likes Trace’s approach better. Piers says Lennox is his friend for life, and that Lennox is a great guy and one of the few who understands his sense of humor. Lennox echoes these sentiments.
Trump asks Piers about picking Baldwin. Ivanka calls the pick “risky” and a “surprise.”
MSNBC’s Jim says the BSBs seemed difficult to work with. Trace is too polite to agree. Trump asks why they were so difficult and about the things they wanted. Trace mentions they had brand choices for snacks and other things. Trace repeats his fears that the band would not go on stage, and thought those were the signals they were sending him.
Ivanka asks Piers what he’d have done. Piers says he’d have told them where to get off, because for 20 million viewers, they’re going to show up and perform. Trump says Piers might have gotten away with it. Trace says he could have beaten up the whole band by himself.
Don Junior has the auction results. Piers sold items for $376,000, and $64,000 for Trace.
Ivanka has the ticket sales numbers, and Trace won, $38,000 to $12,000. Carol makes the point that Piers gave away half his tickets so veterans could be at the event.
Piers tries to make the argument that his combined total is much greater than Trace’s, but Don Junior shoots him down, says there were multiple criteria to the challenge, and both won one of the first two.
Piers says he didn’t just beat the other side, he pulverized them. Trace says it hurts his people more to bid $5,000 than for a billionaire to bid $100,000 and Piers is making that seem less relevant. Piers says, “I don’t follow that argument,” and Trace quickly retorts, “I knew you wouldn’t.” A clearly confused Piers insists that he did not insult Trace’s donors.
I see it that Trace is the one who made the snotty remark this time. Piers takes offense and asks for an apology. Trump jumps in and says that if Piers didn’t say it, “Whether he said it or not, absolutely he thought about it, because that’s the way he is.”
That is, of course, insane. Even for a man who hates to be bothered with facts like Trump, that’s insane.
Carol defends Piers first, then Piers takes offense and tries to debate that insult. Trump talks over him and suddenly, the topic shifts to the food. Yes, because $250,000 is going to be won or lost on cheese puffs. Trump knows he was wrong, and he got called on it.
Trump asks about the food, and Piers reiterates it was his strategy. Baldwin says he doesn’t like the approach of using alcohol to loosen up bidders, and Piers attacks Baldwin’s constantly taking the moral high ground. The Trumps defends Steven repeatedly, but Piers asks why he has to sit there and take it. Piers reminds Trump that he (Piers) is a Christian too.
Trump now decides to comment next on how much Piers sweats. Idiot.
Ivanka says Piers raised a lot of money and the only argument against him was how he deals with people. She wonders if he should hold his thoughts sometimes. Piers tries to ask Trump a question, but Trump decides to talk over him, saying “good versus evil,” which he morphs into “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” then he wants to know, “who’s ugly?” and then how the women love Lennox. Why is any of that relevant?
Piers asks Trump to clarify if this was a contest to be the nicest guy or the biggest charity fundraiser? Trump knows the real answer and wants to avoid saying it, so he has Trace answer. Trace says he wanted to represent his charity without bringing dishonor to anyone.
Prompted by Trump, Trace says his opinion is that Piers has behaved “in a questionable manner.” Piers reminds him that he’s raising money for wounded soldiers, and if the price to pay is that Steven Baldwin is upset how Piers talks to him, it’s a price he’s willing to pay.
Piers asks Trump, “Is it a business game, or a popularity game?” Trump says that if it was a popularity game, he’d be long gone.
Finally, taped segments are done and the rest of show is going to be live. Trump brings Trace and Piers on stage. Right off, Trump asks Trace if he likes Piers. Trace says, “Nah, I don’t like him much.” He remembers that the business-savvy MSNBC duo thought Piers should be fired. Piers says, “Trace is a great guy. And I’m an evil, obnoxious, disgusting Brit!”
Trump next brings out the eliminated contestants. For some reason, Carol is announced out of sequence, three people early, so there’s an odd pause as she’s shunted to the front of the line. Gene Simmons is missing; he’s away shooting a movie in Japan.
Omarosa is brought out specially, preceded by clips of her battles with Piers. Trump asks Omarosa why she doesn’t like Piers. She makes a stupid comment about his dental hygiene. That was her best effort, with months to prepare? Even Trump says that was lame! Trump asks Piers what he thinks of Omarosa and he asks who she is again – going back to his point that she’s not a real celebrity. She stupidly retorts that she was going to ask the same question of him. The problem here, as it was when she first tried to use this “I’m rubber, you’re glue” ploy, is that Piers has been a star of a top TV show, while she is only known for being a bitch on the first season of this show. Again, Trump shuts her down.
Trump asks Lennox about the two candidates. He describes Piers as aggressive and high-strung, but needs to use more tact. Both candidates are competent. There’s no time for him to address Trace.
Carol gets the same question. She says she was not insulted to be picked last. About Trace, Trump ties to cut her off and insults her response – which has to do with her belief that she should have been one of the final two – but she’s having none of it. Trump is an idiot.
Baldwin is asked if he sabotaged Piers in the final task. Sidestepping the question, Baldwin isn’t sure if he is one of Piers’ new friends or not. He says Trace is “ten times better than Piers” any day.
Vinnie is asked if he’s sorry he quit. He wishes he didn’t resign, but the rest of the reply isn’t serious.
Lennox wants to say who he best wanted on his team, which might be something he got cut off from saying earlier. He says that at the time, he felt Piers was the stronger performer of the two.
Trump chats briefly with some of the other contestants. Nothing newsworthy. Trump then polls the contestants for who they like more. Almost all prefer Trace.
Next, Gene Simmons. After recap material, Gene is contacted from Tokyo, Japan. Trump asks Gene if he’s changed his mind regarding the Kodak task. Trump reports that Kodak has doubled their sales. Gene says he respects Kodak, but they have made a short-sighted decision and he stands by his opinion. The Kodak exec is on hand to say that Gene is wrong, because sales continue to skyrocket. Face it Gene – you were wrong on concept, and wrong in execution.
Trump asks Gene to pick his winner. He says Piers outperformed Trace financially, but Trace represents the flag and goodness, so Trace is his pick.
The next clips are about the charities. Trace’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network is first. We get more details about severe food allergies and learn that if his daughter even comes in contact with peanut butter, they have seven minutes to react or she could die.
Trace next sings his new #1 single, “You’re Going To Miss This.” For two weeks, you can download it from iTunes and the money goes to Trace’s charity. (If you don’t use iTunes, you can get it from Amazon.com instead – though not for the charity.)
Piers’ charity is profiled next. There are some tough scenes here, with veterans who have suffered severe injuries. When we return to live, several are on stage, and get a standing ovation from the audience. During a second ovation, Trace comes over to shake hands with them.
Several items related to the show are being auctioned off between now and April 3rd . You can click here for details.
Trump announces he’s tossing in another $250,000 to the winning charity. Actually, this has been in press releases since the season began.
Trump asks each contestant why he should pick them. Trace says he supports the military and has been decorated as a civilian, but his charity represents a problem that people don’t understand.
Piers agrees that Trace is a fine man, but this is a business competition with a premium on raising money for charities. He won nine of eleven challenges, raised more cash than all the rest combined, and produced more celebrities. Again, Trump cuts him off, and Piers says being loved isn’t important to him and reminds Trump that he’s not loved either. So true!
Ivanka reiterates that Piers lacks tact. She refers to his “bedside manner” and Piers makes a joke of it, saying she doesn’t know how about his bedside manner. First she says “touché,” but then decides to be upset. Sorry, no sale here, Ivanka, you’re the one who brought up the euphemism.
Piers says he stands behind everything he’s done and says his integrity is intact and he doesn’t like it being called into question.
Trump gets a quick comment from his son but then must make the final announcement. He compliments the efforts of both players and says, “For tonight: Piers, you’re the Celebrity Apprentice!”
Cue the confetti! The Donald tells us they’ll be back next year, and beyond.
My Comments: Trump picking the winner because they’re “nicer?” Come on, never going to happen!
My thanks to those who took the time to write me this season… it’s been an exhausting journey!
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these Apprentice articles from earlier this season:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email.
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