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Celebrity Apprentice: Puppet Up!

April 16, 2012

We’re down to eight now, and I was kind of surprised at this week’s elimination—I won’t spoil it yet. Another surprise is this apparent Clay-Arsenio alliance mentioned in the “previously on” segment that opens the show. Did that exist last week? I thought it was all about Lisa actually being cordial to Dayana. Nevertheless, it evidently exists so the Trump can break it up by moving Clay from Unanimous to Forte. You’d think with them back on the same team, they’d push Clay’s tiff with Penn, but this week the fireworks are all lit by Lisa and her increasingly irrational dislike of Dayana.

We get a hint that Lisa’s going to be this week’s volcano when, immediately upon returning from the Board Room, she starts snapping at Clay, who, albeit unprovoked, reminds everyone that for all Lou’s 110 percents, he is still a person. I’m glad to see him gone, too, but I have to admit that his little point to the elevator on exiting last week was pretty snazzy. Then there’s a few minutes with Teresa and her charity (after 11 weeks, she’s kind of growing on me).

Speaking of bizarre, the week’s challenge is to perform a puppet show in celebration of FAO Schwartz’s 150th anniversary. And, once again, you have to love Trump’s description of it: “It’s a great store. I used to come here with my father. Great store.” More specifically, they have to create two original “miscreant” puppets and do some improv with them. “We all hear that puppets are for kids,” Trump adds, and yes, not a day goes by that someone doesn’t impress that on me, but this show, called Stuffed and Unstrung, is intended for adults, and among our executives for the task is Jim Henson’s Robert-Englund-looking son.

Stepping up as project leader for Forte is Lisa, largely because she’s the only member of her team who hasn’t won any cash for her charity, and Paul, Sr. volunteers for Unanimous because what the hell? You’d think Aubrey would follow suit with Lisa, being the only other player left besides Lisa who hasn’t won as project manager, but this week she says she simply wants to be a team player—or rather that she’s “not allowed to step up and take over.”

Right away Unanimous hits a snag with Paul’s back, which we’re told is a tricky little devil that frequently goes out and leaves Paul lethargic. Still, it doesn’t really seem excessively threatening (Dee Snider broke his finger, right?) but it’s played up pretty hard. Much as I like Paul, it’s clear he’s the not the guy for this task, and I wonder if he’d not headed the project, what wonderful thing he could have come up with—is there any other player this year who’s been able to whip up something incredible at a moment’s notice? Oh well.

Arsenio shines again—as with Penn, I liked the guy before, but after seeing him in all his edited glory on this show, my opinion has just gone up. Yeah, he did blow up at Aubrey (though I think it could have been anyone), but he really seems to be trying to put their differences aside for the good of the team and give her credit when it’s due. Also, I think Teresa may have a crush on him—yes, the words “Jungle Fever” did come out in the van.

Back on Forte, Clay reveals that he’s had some experience with puppets, in church, of course, and Lisa’s quick to put him and herself in the improv roles and Penn as host, with apparent disgust at the idea of Dayana doing anything. Cue mental images of the classic Far Side cartoon “Trouble Brewing.”

At the, uh, puppet factory? Dayana shines at fabrication, getting a job offer from the puppet-people, while Penn wisely prefers suicide to the task of constructing a puppet. Sitting around the table, Clay spurs Lisa’s impersonation of a Latino—to which Dayana’s reaction feels like another bit of forced drama. Then Eric Trump, one of this week’s overseers, arrives, and his back and forth with Dayana, or at least her iciness toward him (“This is the first time, Eric”) really makes me wonder if those two had something going on—or if Eric had her family shot.

Over to Unanimous again, Teresa ponders deeply over her puppet’s name until Arsenio tosses out the temporary name “Fabulina,” and Teresa runs with it, pausing for a moment to hawk (hock?) her new cookbook, and demonstrates her ignorance of nursery rhymes. Aubrey’s stifled creativity finds an outlet in a bevy of snide comments regarding Teresa and Arsenio’s taste in fashion and hair and compliments aimed at herself “I usually impress myself,” while Paul sits back and agrees with each decision everyone else makes. The task delegation goes much more smoothly—Paul behind the scenes, Arsenio and Teresa as the improvisors, and Aubrey as host. And there’s some good advice from the host-master: Keep laughing, and end on a high note—even if you haven’t reached the time limit.

But what everyone wants to see is Lisa’s epic blow-up at Dayana. It appears to come out of nowhere; one moment the four are sitting around, 10 minutes before the show, and the next, Lisa’s attacking (not literally) Dayana’s puppets and yelling about how Dayana always wants to be the star of the show. I don’t get that sense at all, but, again, we’re watching the edited, drama-filled version, and I’m sure this is cut to make Lisa look like a crazy person, something I take to mean her future isn’t looking too bright. Granted, Lisa tends to get slightly hyperbolic in condemning Dayana and insisting that she shouldn’t have to do everything, I have to admit that Dayana does have a tendency to persistently ask what she can do—she sees it as an offer to help and being a teamplayer, Lisa sees it as having to come up with something for her to do. Dayana leaves in tears, Lisa gets miffed at Penn and Clay not having her back, and Penn swoops in and save the day, going outside to talk to Dayana. “I’ve often found that in situations where someone’s upset, if you just shut up and look at them, that’s usually the best thing to do.” Good advice, Mr. Jillette.

The actual performances go off as expected – Lisa and Clay nail it, and Penn, as always, is an utter joy to behold in his element. And where else would you hear someone, when asked for a historical figure, scream out angrily “Genghis Khan”? The sketch about medicinal products wanders into some blue areas, but, hell, all throughout the episode we’ve seen the adverts for Stuffed and Unstrung and their emphasis on “Adults Only” and “Uncensored,” so what’s the big deal?

Unanimous plays more like a fun train wreck. Arsenio has to improvise a bit as a Norweigian dentist, which appears to work, but I think his admission that he’s never been to Norwegia was funnier than anything said on that stage. Teresa…well, there’s some awkward pauses, and she “goes with a lot of negatives,” something that’s constantly brought up as a no-no, but the show says she pulled it together, so who the hell am I to say, “No”?

And the winner is…no surprise.

In the Boardroom, Lisa gets props for pulling a Carolla and refusing to bring anyone back with her. Paul is the same classy guy he always is, first admitting that he doesn’t know bleep about puppetry, compliments the team, and politely explains to Teresa why she’s the weakest player.

Okay, Forte wins, so Lisa’s gamble pays off. Dayana’s puppets get props, Penn gets criticized for not cutting the show off at one point, and Clay and Lisa get chided for some sexual humor. Seriously? “Adults Only”? “Uncensored”? I don’t understand how that’s held against them.

Arsenio and Aubrey get well-deserved kudos, Teresa and Paul get criticized for breaking the improv rules and a lack of effort, respectively. Teresa gets a little miffed at Paul and calls him out for being slow to act then turns to Aubrey for support. The girls support the girls and the guys support the guys, so when somebody’s saved from the chopping block, Paul chooses Arsenio. It’s the nice thing to do, but Lisa immediately brings up a good point—had Paul chosen Arsenio and Teresa, they could have had each other’s backs and teamed up to take down Teresa.

And it turns out Lisa was probably right. Aubrey says she has no idea why she was brought back, and Trump nips at Paul for not bringing Arsenio back. Aubrey takes that as her cue to team up with Teresa to take Paul down. It works, and Paul, Sr.’s out. Dang. I really liked him. But he won a challenge, raised a bunch of cash for his charity (and I suspect his mystery donor from way back in Episode 1 was himself—either he gave someone $300,000 or whatever it was to donate once he made the call or agreed to do some restoration work in exchange), and came off as one of the better people on the show.

I was hoping for Paul to win it, but with him out, I’m starting to suspect that it’s going to come down to Clay and Aubrey, with Clay winning it. Unless Aubrey steps up soon and wins a challenge, that’s going to hold her back—aside from all the nasty comments. Lisa’s a bit too unstable, and when your arch-enemy is sponsored by Trump, that doesn’t bode well. Similarly, Clay, Penn, and Dayana all seem to work well together, making Lisa the odd woman out, and at this point in the game, you shouldn’t be asking for a helping hand from your teammates.

Teresa may hang in there so Aubrey can have someone to help take out Arsenio, but I’m sure Aubrey’s looking forward to taking Mrs. Housewife down soon.

Next week we apparently get to see Arsenio and Aubrey back at it when the teams push Trump’s new cologne.


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