Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celebrity Apprentice Recaps: Episode Four! The Unravelling!

If you have any sense of fair play then this episode will infuriate you.

We already knew the tasks were a farce with Team Trump trading business for buffoonery, but in Episode Four the entire show implodes as a limp, wrong-headed Trump (puppeteered by unseen producers) makes a pre-determined firing which has some unexpected consequences. A major player leaves as his bewildered team is unnecessarily punished.

I’ve honestly never seen an episode of the Apprentice quite like this before. Quite frankly, the once fierce Trump seems short-sighted and silly, when a smart, strong team rallies against his weak (and scripted?) assumptions and successfully manage to school him at every turn. By the time the credits roll it feels like he has lost the respect of everyone - except for his sycophantic children who bray like donkeys and congratulate him for enforcing the worst decision ever made.

This episode makes me want to shit a kitten into a bonfire in front of a bus filled with overly sensitive kids.

Want to know more? Join me after the jump and we’ll try to make sense of this mess!

The task is slightly more business based that usual. The teams must perform a 10 minute presentation for Buick’s new 2012 model, highlighting its four major features, followed by a10 minute Q and A session at the end. Last week was about fashion, this week is about cars. Got it?

But here’s where the seeds of controversy are sown. Trump makes the simplistic assumption that this is about cars, and Andretti has spent the most time sitting in a car, and therefore he is the best choice for Project Manager on the men’s team. However, this is not a task about driving or racing - the key skills required are marketing and performance/presentation, which doesn’t necessarily suit the quiet-spoken and laid-back Andretti who is far more comfortable behind a wheel than a microphone. With this in mind, comedian Adam Carolla steps up to lead the team, his qualifications: he is an excellent presenter/public speaker and he knows a lot about cars. In fact he appears on a show about them. Makes sense. Right?

Meanwhile, on the women’s team, eighties pop idol the reasonably delightful Debbie Gibson leads. Her qualifications? She giggles at the camera that they’re just a bunch of “chicks” who don’t know anything about cars, but she’s performed before so “how hard can it be?”

How hard indeed, Debbie. Let’s find out...

So apparently the executives at Buick are kind of humourless assholes. They don’t want any lowbrow laffos to tarnish their highbrow brand. Carolla, however, is convinced that comedy is the key to ensure that the dial-a-crowd don’t fall asleep. This causes a minor upset with Penn Jillette and the other (lesser) men who feel that the team should play it safe and tow the corporate line. But Carolla is king and his faith in his vision is strong. He believes he can balance the comedy and corporate speak - imparting the info while still splitting some sides.

Adam’s no slouch though - he knows about the car and is smart enough to have Andretti take it for a test-drive. With a famous race car driver’s testimonial up his sleeve, it’s a sure-fire win. Right?

Meanwhile poor old Lou Ferrigno is still a gargantuan musclebound square peg in a round hole. As per usual, all of his ideas revolve around taking off his shirt and flexing his muscles. Lou is desperate to be made up as the Hulk and begins instructing them on the type of green paint they will need to acquire. The team - not so tactfully this time - basically tell him, “You were the frigging Hulk seventy-five billion years ago, Lou. It’s time to move on!” “Hulk smash!” thinks Lou.

The women are far more artsy and conceptual. They talk about “reflections” and “love” and probably “clouds” and “ponies”. Debbie Gibson proves competent enough but once again it’s Aubrey O’Day who is busting out the ideas.

Now, I’m prone to exaggeration, but I’m not being flippant when I say that Aubrey O’Day is a conceited monster. She’s like every deluded non-celebrity reality TV contestant before her, continually rabbiting on about how exceptionally talented she is and how her entire team would crumble if it weren’t for her ideas. Show us, don’t tell us, Aubrey. If you were truly smart and talented you wouldn’t need to keep reminding us. When the women travel to the task in two separate vans Aubrey feels the need to tell us that she was in “the cool van” with the “cool people” and that she has always been in the “cool van” her entire life. I wanted Tina Fey to burst in with a copy of Mean Girls and beat her around the head with it.

The women present first and it’s just about everything you’d expect. Tia Carrere overacts, Debbie Gibson sings (sorry, she refers to herself as “THE Debbie Gibson” when her arrivals fails to have an impact), and Aubrey O’Day shares some self indulgent bullshit. It’s typically awkward pandering stuff, but it’s par for the course given the nature of the task. They do okay. In fact one of the Buick executives laughs ridiculously hard at some of the lamest, most throwaway stuff - so much so that I wonder if he spends much time out of his house?

Carolla starts off shaky but is it all part of the act? His knowledge of the car is impressive, he brings in a characteristically reserved Andretti who gives a genuine account praising his experience with the car, and then we devolve into a bit of good natured heckling from the planted celebrity teammates, the highlight of which is the giant Penn squeezing into the trunk of the car.

It’s awkward at times too (especially when Lou, as “security” removes a comically abusive Paul “The Walrus” Teutul) but they’ve got an edge on the women through their knowledge of the product alone. (It should be noted that Aubrey O’Day, despite being the most talented of all, screwed up the name of the car. Twice. From now on I’m going to call her Audrey O’Gray).

Okay, so that’s the dull part. Now let’s head to the boardroom where Donald Trump takes a shit in the fan...

If you’re astute then you know where this is heading. So let’s get the women out of the way first...

Last week’s resolve to not be “bitchy or catty” has eroded and the women attack. The biggest point of contention is the fact that one van is cool and the other sucks shit. Tia Carrere is particularly pissed at being stuck in the shitty van and she and Debbie Gibson bicker before a mildly amused Trump. He asks Tia’s opinion on something and when she fumbles her answer he manages to humiliate her for the 100th time this season so far. Donald does not like Tia for some reasons. Oh, and did I mention that Aubrey looks like an evil Wilma Flintstone?

Anyway, it’s all academic because the women earn a shock win. The men are truly bewildered at this outcome, especially super sharp project manager Carolla who was 100% convinced that he’d led his team to victory.

And here’s where it gets real interesting. Before the winner announcement, Trump posed his usual bullshit question to Carolla about who he would bring back if he lost. Carolla said he wouldn’t bring back anyone. It was his to win or his to lose. And he thought he had won. There’s no bravado in this statement - Carolla truly means it - so when the surrpise loss happens, will Adam go back on his word?

But first the bullshit. Trump needs to justify why the team lost. The crux of this argument is that the project manager should have been Andretti because he has sat in a car the longest. Carolla makes his own stance incredibly clear with the logical and reasonable argument that Andretti is not a performer/presenter, he is a driver, and was not the strongest candidate to lead the task. Carolla also draws the analogy of football saying that a quarterback is a jock who is out there in the middle of a game living it, whereas the nerds that sit at home and watch it study all the facts and figures. The result is, they often know far more about what’s going on than those in the game. Carolla is the nerd. Andretti is the jock. Carolla is the right choice. But holy shit does Trump fail to latch onto this.

Carolla schools Trump. Again and again and again. And as one argument is quickly and sensibly rebutted, Trump starts moving the goalposts. Only to be rebutted again. Trump’s no match for Carolla and looks like a simpleton in this battle. Trump says that members of the men’s team weren’t utilised enough in the task. Carolla rebuts that it wasn’t part of the judging criteria. Trump goes back to bitching about Andretti not being used again. Carolla points out the fact that Andretti was on stage for most of the presentation and gave a testimonial. Trump says Andretti doesn’t have enough energy. Carolla tersely points out that Andretti is not Al Johnson - he sits in a car, wearing a helmet. He is not a presenter!!!

It’s extremely obvious that Trump wants to fire Andretti. Or at least the producers want to fire Andretti and Trump is their mouthpiece. In fact Trump seems like such a puppet at this stage in proceedings that I believe the only reason he’s behind a desk is to hide the guy controlling him with his arm up his arse.

And it’s not because Andretti performed badly in the task. They want to fire him because he is boring. He’s quiet. He’s easy-going. He fades into the background and doesn’t create tension. And the producers don’t want that. Because they’re not interested in business skills - they want a circus. And they want to keep Lou Ferrigno who is currently their biggest clown.

The team are supportive of each other but they are turning on Lou. They each put him forward as the weakest link and Donald is dismissive of them. He wants to keep Lou because Lou is interesting. Fair enough, but change the concept of the show. Make it Celebrity Circus, or Celebrity Freakshow, or Celebrity Humiliation or something. Take out the business aspect all together, because it’s frustrating to see a team do exactly what the task asks of them and then be punished anyway.

So did Adam Carolla keep his word?

Yes. Absolutely. When asked again to bring back the two weakest links to the boardroom, Adam refuses. He’s hard to read because he plays it all completely focused and straight-faced, so I honestly can’t tell what’s motivating him, but it feels like a, “Fuck you. If you’re going to play your silly show unfairly then take me out of it. I’m not going to play along any more.” Whatever it is Adam Carolla has my respect. He’s been a powerhouse on this show and I really think he showed Donald up to be a stooge. Trump has a tantrum and is left with no other option. He’ll fire two people. He’ll take out Adam (because he no longer has a choice, and Adam - for the moment - is Trump’s strongest opposition) and then he’s free to set his sights on the pre-determined Andretti.

So Adam Carolla leaves the show. But he keeps his dignity. Trump erroneously says that the team has singled out Lou and Andretti as the weakest remaining links and the team is kind of shocked. No they didn’t! Andretti is shocked! He performed very well! Trump goes back to his old chestnut of, “You sit in a car, therefore should have project managed”. Lou is protected and an incredibly bewildered and insulted Andretti is fired. The remaining men leave with a sour taste in their mouths. None of them (except perhaps Lou) seem pleased with the decision and it’s like Donald Trump has lost all credibility and respect.

Trump’s children are his only support. They tell him it’s a “no-brainer” and that he did the right thing. In a way they are right. No brain was involved in any of these decisions.

In his exit interview Andretti is perplexed. He says that he would have felt better about leaving if he’d done something wrong. Andretti is right. It doesn’t add up.

Now! Let’s play devil’s advocate...

We primarily want this show to entertain. It’s not a real business test, and I have to be honest - this episode was incredibly engaging and entertaining. Future shows will be better for having Lou bungle his way through project management, and I’m happy for that. However...

I think we watch reality TV with a great deal of prejudice and judgement. Above all, we want to see “justice” carried out. We want evil/stupid people to be punished, and we want good people to prevail. If people fail we take great pleasure in seeing them fired, and if they succeed then we want them to win. And that’s fine... providing you have a group of easily manipulated contestants who are, at all times, completely under the producer’s control.

But the crucial mistake with this season is that they’ve cast far too many people that are proving far smarter than Trump. In the remaining men’s team alone I think that Penn Jillette, Arsenio Hall, Dee Snyder, and even Clay Aiken are proving to be incredibly sharp. They articulate men who respect each other, can articulate their ideas, and can hold their own against Trump’s simplistic arguments and bullying. Trump has nothing to hold over these men. He has no control over them. These aren’t fresh-faced business nobody wannabes who live or die on Trump’s decisions. This is a game changer.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

1 comment:

  1. I concur with all of this. Also extremely pissed that Carolla left. I was looking forward to a Carolla/Penn endgame showdown.