Thursday, March 1, 2012

Celebrity Apprentice Recap - Getting Medieval, COMPLETE

Let this be known: as I typed the title of this episode, I was VERY careful to spell the word "Medieval" correctly. Because the lady is correct: It's inexcusable to spell the word "Medieval" incorrectly in a professional context when you've got the word directly in front of your face. A mistake that big is enough to make somebody go all medieval on you, especially if Trump's gonna fire you if you screw up.

This episode is brought to you by Medieval Times. Do you have a Medieval Times in your area? Well, Trump wants you to go visit it. Do not be confused; Trump is not trying to raise money for charity. Not really. He wants to scratch the back of the people who are scratching his back, and he's almost refreshingly honest about it. We still don't want him as a Presidential nominee.

As we open, we see a sweet shot on the kid who is our inspiration for the week. Gabriel has leukemia, and Paul is here to grant him his wish from the Make a Wish Foundation. Paul, who won the challenge last week, gives Gabriel a huge check for the foundation. Gabriel tells the camera that the children like him who suffered great hardship deserve to have a wish come true. You cannot possibly pay me enough money to make fun of this child, and I hope he had the time of his life. And may it be a long life.

The Donald meets with his Celebrity Apprentices to deliver a long love letter to Medieval Times, and then tells the celebrities that they will be creating a show for that chain of restaurants. To his left is a mousy looking guy named James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio, who is somehow involved. Since Medieval Times involves hammy anachronism, and The Actor's Studio is about serious students of the theatrical craft, it seems an odd fit for me, but I am in a generous humor and will leave it alone. Please bring me another bottle of mead. James anticipates my confusion, and explains that he is a Knight. Since his title sounds fairly cool and legitimate, I am even more confused, but I LIVE for this fantasy stuff and I think it's going to be right down my alley. He's got armor, he's got a horse, and he's ready to rumble.

The assignment is this: They are the intermission entertainment at Medieval Times for one very lucky audience that I totally wish I had been able to be in. They have to come up with a hammy, gimmicky show that will get a lot of votes for being creative and entertaining. The men choose Penn as their project manager, and I approve; I've actually met the guy, and he's tailor made for this job. He knows goofy, over the top entertainment, and my husband's got the weird little key to prove it. It's a long Vegas story. Lisa is chosen for the women. Then Trump quite specifically demands that the women provide a Lady Godiva, a request not made of the men. He even pinpoints whom he thinks ought to have to take off her clothes. Ya know, Donald, in the real world the sexual harassment lawsuit would come so fast... Adam Carolla has to drop out for this episode only. Well, that's one way to last longer than he did on Dancing With the Stars.

$40,000 to the winning team.

The women begin. Project Manager Lisa is very, very, very, very bossy. Very. She gets interrupted and there is blood in the water right off the bat. She refuses to be interrupted, and that's tricky when she's on a cell phone in one car and the women in the other car can't tell when she's completed a thought. Right after Queen Lisa finishes ordering her peons not to interrupt her, Dayana begins to discuss the demographics of the audience, and Lisa gets angry at the interruption again. Dayana cannot tell that Lisa has the floor, but she can tell, already, that the production is headed into pretty racy territory and she thinks there should be something for all members of the family. That will be important later. However Lisa, so hell-bent on making sure that others listen to her, does not appear to want to return the favor. Lisa's idea: they will take something very current and spoof it in a medieval way - The Real Housewives" will be transported to Camelot. Teresa Guidice, herself a Real Housewife, is honored by the idea, and Debbie Gibson suggests that they brown-nose by fighting over Trump.

And here it is! The Medieval Times machine! Where the jousting is bloodless, the good guys always win, and you too can spend sixty bucks to eat chicken with your hands. The men are at the show entrance and Penn's already got it all figured out. Penn reminds us that they have to create a fifteen minute show that can be ruled cooler than a Miss Universe running around pretending to be Lady Godiva. Lee Cordner, the Creative Director for Medieval Times, introduces himself and offers up trainers to keep these guys from looking stupid and hurting each other during the fight scenes... he will not be completely successful in this. Arsenio is already getting into it; he eagerly informs anybody who is living under a rock and hasn't heard of this chain that they offer a trip back to horses and jousting and kings. Arsenio spends more time at Medieval Times than he does in LA strip clubs, but he's in luck; the women will offer the best of both worlds during this task.

Cornder advises the women to use a lot of action in their production, combining Disneyfied history with modern technology. Dayna's still worried about the kids watching the show. Cordner reminds them: the show is VERY VISUAL. What you SEE is very important. As they discuss the importance of decency in their skit, Lisa, the raunchy comic, is thrilled by the challenge of producing a clean, funny show- with nudity.

Debbie explains that the women are going to be the Unreal Housewives of Camelot, all vying for the favor of King Donald Trump. As if the man's ego was not through the roof already. Lisa will be playing Trump; given that she's even louder and ruder than he is, this is a good call. Dayana is still insisting that they make the show kid-friendly. She's beginning to irritate The Lisa. Dayana is summarily silenced so that Aubrey can bark orders instead, and Aubrey is the one who officially orders Dayana to wear the nude body suit and pretend to be that great Unreal Housewife, Lady Godiva. That's what she gets for wanting the show to be kid-friendly. Tia at least asks her if she's OK with that, and Dayana resignedly decides to take one for the team and flash everybody. She's clearly not happy about it.

Now the casting is coming thick and fast... Tia's a great actress, so she will play a whore! Tia thinks Victoria should be queen! No, says Lisa. She's got a great job for the daughter of the mob! Victoria is going to be off-stage entirely running lights and sound! She's going to make sure they aren't running around in the dark with dead microphones!

Victoria is not happy about her job, either. She feels like she's been deliberately left out. Lisa seems to have a talent for giving people jobs they hate. Funny how that worked out.

Penn is giving direction to George as we move to the men's side, and there's at least one consistent story here: Once again, all the cast members are vying for the love of the same person. In this case, rather than it being The Donald, the lady who inspires such passion will be played by that most twisted of sisters, Dee. Dee actually appears to like his assignment, and Penn's got the joke to finish off the skit; when the winner of the joust sees Dee up close, he will fall on his own sword.

Indeed, Penn seems to be very aware of the skills sets of his cast: he knows that it's always a good idea to let Clay Aiken sing to his Claymates, and he hopes the Star Trek fans will thrill at the sight of Sulu in the flesh. He wants to appeal to Arsenio fans as well, and underlines Arsenio's appeal by pointing out how kind and patient the man is. How patient is he? He lets Penn stand behind him and create a unique Male Bonding Moment by juggling tomatoes in front of him. Once false move, Aresenio, and... splat! But Arsenio's a good spot, trying to bite the fruit that dangles in mid-air in front of him. So we leave the guys laughing congenially and joking with each other, and go visit the women, who are quite prepared to claw each other's eyes out. Or maybe it's just Lisa.

The segment begins pleasantly enough as the women enter the costume room and begin to look over the lovely dresses, but then too many of them begin to show signs of independent thought and the need to speak, which Lisa finds completely unacceptable. She's gone back to medieval times, all right, and I am ready to hear her bellow "Off with her head!" when Tia says she's hungry and needs to eat lunch. Lisa bellows to the camera about how these women are all being pains in the ass, seemingly uninterested in finding out whether or not others reciprocate that sentiment. When Lisa begins to curse, it looks like the peasants are ready to rise up, and then she throws her rattle across the room, stamps her foot on the floor and screams "HOW OLD ARE WE?" to a room full of people she's now completely alienated.

Over on the men's side, Penn and Arsenio are playfully recalling the epic injustice of a legendary season of Essex Idol... Penn is confused and thinks Clay won that contest, but Arsenio reminds the entire world, once again, that it was Ruben Sandwich of Studdard who stole that title clean away... and I can't tell if Clay is amused or ready to tear his hair out that the hanging chads of that strange and suspicious result night seem to be his lasting legacy in pop culture. Fortunately, the memories of past wrongs never righted fade into the ether as James Lipton staggers towards them. Lou Ferrigno fawns over Lipton briefly to the camera and then approaches him with a blade, demanding to know why the Actor's Studio never called him, the Incredible Hulk, in to discuss the craft of turning green and growing to the size of a Macy's Parade balloon.

Penn eagerly gets Lipton up to speed on the cross-dressing joust for love that they are planning for their show, and Lipton wrinkles his nose as if to say... "Yes, I sold my soul to David Trump... now I am facing the consequences." He appears to be quite annoyed that the men are choosing to be funny. After all, asking a bunch of faded celebrities to pretend to joust while the audience gnaws on spare rib is a veddy, veddy serious thing indeed. Veddy.

Tia and Teresa are getting into the violent spirit of things with some good-natured roughhousing while Tia informs the camera of why she thinks the women will win this challenge. The audience votes. It's a Jersey crowd. The Real Housewives are from New Jersey. What could go wrong? Teresa is stunned and starstruck to be performing with people like Tia who got to be celebrities by, you know, having actual talent. Tia's a Grammy winner. I did not know that. Teresa has to learn actual lines and everything...Bring it on, wench! Once more, with feeling! Now feel your own boobs while you do that, and tell us that Real Housewives have Real Boobs!

On a more serious note, The Lisa is working grimly on the script as The Donald's son saunters in with an air that says "I could buy and sell you all in a heartbeat." Lisa anxiously asks him if The Donald would be upset to see Lisa impersonating him in a wig, but Jr. thinks it will OK as long as audience likes their presentation better. Aubrey explains the concept of The Unreal Housewives and Jr. thinks it's great for this New Jersey crowd as long as they also throw in some good action.

Victoria and Dayana are not with the rest of the group. Lisa has sent them to the store to spend money, and Don Jr. notes some tension. Lisa feels she gave Victoria the most important job to do, and Victoria didn't like it. Don takes us aside and explains in very diplomatic terms that these two women are both hard-headed ball busters and the fireworks are going to be intense. "I have no frigging patience" says Lisa as if it were a virtue.

The men are playing with knives. And swords, and other large, hard, sharp objects. Lou Ferrigno is hurling his sword around with all the considerable and worrisome power of his impressive physique, and he's actually scaring Paul, who is the target of his imaginary assault. Lou likes the sword fighting. He really, really likes it. He does not want to do anything else. At all. Even when told to quit, he keeps going over the sword fighting. I guess it's understandable. After all, the Incredible Hulk had to destroy things with his bare hands. Being armed and dangerous is a brand new sensation for our gentle giant, and he likes it.

Clay explains the problem. You see, it's a play. Occasionally they have to work on something else, and Lou just doesn't know when to quit. He's like a little kid with a light saber, and it's hard to pull him out of the narrow thing he's looking at to see the big picture. And really... the Incredible Hulk has a sword and he's not afraid to use it. Who is willing to complain first?

Over on the women's side, the swordplay is slower, clunkier, and less likely to end in a genuine decapitation, unless Victoria works Lisa's last nerve completely. And she's getting there. Lisa's not the sweetest person at the best of times, but she's got a legitimate beef. Victoria does not want to do her job. She does not want to stage manage, does not want to give other people direction, and doesn't want to step one inch away from her comfort zone. Unfortunately, when Lisa gives in and allows the spoiled mob princess to try her hand at sword fighting, we find that she's little better at that. Victoria's idea of sword play involves a very unusual bit of body armor - her large purse slung over her rear. Yeah, that will help your mobility, Victoria. Exasperated at Victoria's incompetence here, Lisa gives her a computer, hoping that she might understand how to research something, but alas, google is not Victoria's friend. Apparently Victoria thinks that the Unreal Housewives have gone to a really mid-evil period in world history. And you know what you get when you google mid-evil? You get to learn about the Modesto Irrigation District, which is not a very medieval organization and probably can't help with the task. Maybe Lisa would not have been quite so annoyed if the word "Medieval" were not plastered all over the stationary. The tough broad Lisa wanted to have run the assignment does not know how to do basic high school level research. Maybe her dad had His People do her research papers for her back in the day. Given that Victoria is a writer by profession, this is particularly embarrassing.

This season, the Unreal Housewives of Camelot:  four females - calling them ladies is a stretch - shall vie for the love of one man... or at least, shall vie so as not to be tossed to the curb by one man.  Of course, if they are already housewives, meaning they are married, are they vying to become his mistress?  And how soon will their  husbands be led to the guillotine?   This skit should make his elephantine ego go through the roof.  Lisa impersonates a town crier, and Victoria impersonates a zombie.  She's so terribly wounded by Lisa's refusal to let her limply fling a sword around, she's lost sleep.  She's suffering, people!  Can't you see the bags under her eyes?  Victoria toys with the idea of going to the men's side, but any fool can explain to her that this will not work because jealous bickering and seething resentment are all part of the Celebrity Apprentice Experience.  It wouldn't be any fun if they didn't hate each other. And truth be told, Penn might get fed up with her in ten minutes, too.  Maybe he'd find a more tactful way to call her a spoiled pain in the ass. 

I will say this:  it's either very clear that Lisa has done a poor job of explaining Victoria's job to her, or she's done a poor job of sidelining her, because I know good managers who can make you feel great about cleaning the toilet, and Lisa's not one of them. She tries rather lamely to fire Victoria up by talking about how important the sound and lights will be today, but Victoria won't even look at her.

The first thing the men do when they get to Medieval Times that morning is to check out Paul's noble steed - a rolling anachronism, a medieval motorcycle that makes Dee go into orgasms of delight.   Lou tries it on for size.  Meanwhile, George Takei is trying on the town crier costume for size, and the result is kind of funny.  As Clay points out, George is as giddy as a little kid on Halloween and he won't take it off for love or money.  He has to Get In to Charactah!  He needs to be comfortable in his costume!   Right, George.  Just practice your lines, please, and try not to die of heat stroke in that thing.  George thinks they should all play dress up all day, especially Dee,  who must wear drag and ride side saddle.  Now that I know Takei's feelings about practicing your odd costume, I'd love to have seen him on the sound stage during the filming of The Naked Time.  Clay asks for permission to call him Sir George.  

The women rehearse, and Victoria actually attempts to do something.  At first Lisa is so encouraged she suggests to the audience that Victoria may actually sorta do OK, and that's supposed to be high praise because Lisa thinks everybody is a screwup, and I've decided I never, ever want to work for this woman.  But then somehow the Court Magician has given Victoria a script that differs from that of everybody else, Lisa panics that the lights won't come on, and she wants to do the lights herself.  But maybe the lights aren't as important as playing The Donald after all.

Meanwhile, Dayana is miffed because nobody will listen to a word she says.  She thinks they ought to rehearse with the lights and music, but Aubrey assures her that she needn't worry her pretty little head because looking good is what she's good at.  Victoria may want to be on the men's team, but it's Dayana who is working with the chauvinists.

In other news, Lou Ferrigno, inspired by his knightly costume, decides to beat up Clay.  I am sure Claymates everywhere were quite prepared to beat up Lou.  We are a protective crew.  Dee looks magnificent in his beautiful robes and his flowing golden hair and his deep, gravely voice doing sound check.  Unfortunately, George can't seem to get the script right, and his creative misreadings are causing big problems with the lighting and sound cues and a huge headache for Clay.  Lighting and sound seem to be big problems for everybody.  Clay finally takes charge of the situation with a directness and authority only his fanbase saw coming, strongly urging George to hit the marks.  Some part of me can't help wondering if George was thinking, "Son, I was a legend decades before you were an Idol, so back off."    And then Clay shakes his tamborine, scares the horse who is carrying Dee Snider, and causes our Twisted Sister to have a twisted finger.   Clay mishears and tries to make a song about a broken nail, but unfortunately, it is the finger that is broken.  Ah, the things we do for art and reality TV.

Dee needs to go to the hospital, but the men need him to stay and be their Queen; nobody else would look quite as pretty as he does in that dress.  What on earth are they going to do?   The suspense lasts for a commercial break, but there was never any real doubt:  the show must go on!  Dee will go to the hospital later, and this courage makes Penn so please he results to flattery... If Dee was on the women's team, he'd be tying a few of them for physical attractiveness.  Note that on the men's side, the pretty one gets to talk. 

Meanwhile, the peasants gather for the feast.  Adorable children in precious costumes!  Can't you just feel the excitement?   The men's presentation begins, and as Penn points out, it is loud and cheesy and deliberately intended to keep the children in the audience entertained... funny how that point keeps coming up... Penn eats fire, Arsenio fires up his fans, and George reads from his script correctly so that he won't end up getting fired.

Lou Ferrigno comes in on his trusty steed, Paul arrives on his chopper, and Clay sails in on his trusty glory note, singing to his delighted crowd as he accompanies Dee Dee into the arena.  It's been almost ten years since we've seen Clay wail a glory note on a reality show, and it's as clear and stunning as ever.  The crowd is properly appreciative.  Penn admits that there's no plot.  The whole point really is just that they are hilariously themselves, and he hopes that will be enough.  Lou defeats Paul for the right to kiss Lady Dee, and then kills himself in despair when he sees what he's actually won.  After the presentation is complete, Clay points out that the broad comedy is a risky choice, and if the men do not win, Penn may have a problem.  This whole thing was really his baby.

Next up;  The women, whom I am inclined to review far less exhaustively for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I personally didn't like their show as much.  Lisa may think that Jersey Shore and the True Housewives are "Iconic" but I am not sure they are quite as universally well known as she thinks they are, even in Jersey.  The men scored points by making fun of themselves while telling a story that was basically self-explanatory.  I understood what was going on in every frame.  The women counted too much on people being deeply immersed in very specific and limited pop culture references, and it just was not as interesting to me.  But then, I live in Texas, not Jersey.  Maybe it's a regional thing.  Among the ironies of the night; Dayana may have been wearing the nude bodysuit, but her outfit was a lot less revealing than that of several of her colleagues.  If their skit had been a Super Bowl Halftime Show, the fines for wardrobe malfunctions would have bankrupted Trump.  And sure enough, in the sound booth, Victoria missed her cues while Lisa went completely insane.

I know who has won this challenge before they even go to commercial.

At this point in my recap, I realized two things:  the person I am most interested in in this show is Clay Aiken - in fact, he's the only reason I am watching it at all - and this is also true of most of the people who are currently reading the Celebrity Apprentice portion of my blog.   So what's really important from our point of view is two things:

1. What, in general, happened.
2. What, in specific, Clay did to make it happen, and how I think he did.

This will be shorter and more focused next week, and yes...  I'm going to be a shameless fangirl about the whole thing.   After all, I'm not covering this because of my great admiration for The Donald. 

What, in general, happened after that is that  Trump caught up with both teams in the Board Room and grilled the women first:  Lisa thinks they won, and The Donald is overly interested in the fake and real nudity.   Pervert.  Victoria calls Lisa strict, and whines some more about how she didn't get to play dress-up.  I wonder if she's aware that people who may do business with her in the future are watching this.  On the men's side, Trump has decided that they are all just too classy and they are all behaving much too well, so he deliberately causes a conflict by forcing Penn to choose two hypothetical people that he might take back into the Board Room with him if they hypothetically lost the challenge.  Penn's reply could not be classier, gentler or more delicate, but he's caught in a rotten situation and... he happens to choose a real hothead as one of his two people.  I am relieved to see that Clay will not be forced into the Board Room for scaring the horse that broke Dee's finger; instead, Penn suggests that he would take George Takei, presumably for messing up his lines so many times, and Lou Ferrigno, possibly for being more interested in pretending to beat people up than anything else.

Yeah, well, Lou Ferrigno was the Incredible Hulk, and he's turning pretty green right about now as he screams and hollers and howls and completely misses the point that Penn was required to call out SOMEBODY whether it was fair or not.  It is possible that Lou, who is hearing impaired, really did not hear the conversation well and thought he was actually going into the Board Room.  At any rate, that argument did not matter, because the women lost the challenge.  By a lot.  By a whole lot.  Maybe the entire world does not revolve around The New Housewives after all.  God knows I didn't know, or care, who Snooki was, and that whole ending fell flat for me.  I suspect the kids in the audience were just bored.  It's much more fun to see guys eating fire. 

And that's it for the men, and for Clay, this week.  Lisa had to take Victoria and Dayana into the Board Room with her, which was entirely unfair to Dayana, and Victoria got fired.  I personally think Lisa's concept lost the round for the ladies, but Victoria Gotti was so useless for two consecutive weeks that I can see how Donald would decide it's just best to cut bait and move on with her.  She's not going to be a good player in general.

How did Clay do?  Well, aside from that long, beautiful glory note and his snark on George Takei's inability to hit his marks, Clay was not in the forefront.  I was a little rueful that his loss to Ruben is STILL a dominant topic of conversation almost ten years after it happened; the fact that Clay has had, for the most part, the much more impressive career does not seem to matter as much as clogged phone lines on one fateful night.  But this is the interesting part... after her elimination, Victoria Gotti spoke to the press, and said that she thought Clay Aiken was the person who would win this season.  Trump has said something similar. 

He's got tricks up his sleeve that we have not seen yet.  

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