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'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: In the boardroom, the weakest links survive

April 11, 2011 |  7:30 am

NUP_143139_0009 La Toya Jackson said the women were out to get her as she took the helm as project manager on "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night. They ignored her orders. Disrespected her authority. Ostracized her from the very group she was supposed to run. 

Or -- and this is a big "or," so bear with me -- maybe Jackson proved that she was woefully inept as a leader, and, basically, as a normal human being, fumbling with the simple concepts of planning and budgeting. 

Oh well, it didn't matter: It was a poor night for logic and common sense all around, in what culminated in a very confusing and frustrating sit-down in the boardroom. The wrong team won, the wrong person was sent home -- no question.

This week, it was another creative challenge as the two teams had to create interactive marketing booths for Australian Gold, a sunscreen company. Executives from the company were judging the teams on their creativity as well as on how well they represented the Australian Gold brand. 

The men were led by Mark McGrath; the women by Jackson, standing up after being dogged last time in the boardroom. 

The men, as they had in previous creative competitions, took a big risk: They chose a pirate theme, with John Rich rounding up some wenches and a dwarf pirate. It was bold, to be sure, and they all really got into the act, drawing a considerable crowd around them. But, the Australian Gold executives decided, it strayed too much from the brand's usual message, and the koala mascot was nowhere to be found. 

Somehow, the women won. They not only took no risks, their display barely made sense. Jackson showed a complete lack of leadership ability -- or just plain sense. She had no theme, then -- once something was cobbled together -- changed at the last minute. And, my goodness, why on Earth did she ask for 6,000 pounds of sand?

The display ultimately looked like a child's project, without any cohesive theme, and it looked amateurish to boot. But, thankfully, NeNe Leakes -- the one speaking truth to power this week -- wore a koala suit, so they were all good. 

In the boardroom, the Donald's opinions were completely confounding: Why must he be so supportive of Jackson. She proved to be nothing more than furniture in previous tasks, and when the team stepped up to keep this project from being more of a failure than the men's, the Donald continued to effusively praise Jackson and defend her. 

I have to give props to Leakes for speaking up, and for being so hilarious. (Also: Did anyone else notice that Star Jones was on printed-materials duty again? She sure does love her graphic design!)

In any case, the women squeaked by, and I'm willing to bet this whole debate over Jackson has only been postponed a little longer.

It was the men who had to stay behind. The once cohesive and dynamic team is beginning to crumble. It all boils down to Gary Busey, but once again the Donald refused to see that. Busey is the ultimate wild card -- you never know what he'll do or say. He operates in a world all this own, and in a show like this -- and as competitive as this one — that's dangerous. Every day that Busey is still around is a good day for the women's team.

McGrath tried to pull a Niki Taylor in choosing the dignified high road of taking responsibility as project manager. But it didn't quite work. First of all, McGrath has been a sort of grating presence throughout the season. He's a whiner and a complainer; he's always the first to freak out on a task. And he did a respectable job as project manager, but his move -- to me, at least -- didn't come across as noble and as genuine as did Taylor's.

After his teammates said that the problem was indeed Busey, McGrath tried to squirrel out of his previous statements. But Trump wouldn't have it. No matter that Busey has proved to be a burden and lacked any focus -- can you name any contribution from Busey? -- he survived.

Ivanka Trump told her father that she thought he had made the right choice. In a way, she was right. He did make a good choice; if the rubric is who will keep people tuning in to see fireworks and nonsensical statements, Busey is the best choice.

McGrath may have done a decent job and may be a star outside the show, but this is reality TV. When the alternative is a time bomb waiting to explode, working with a team that can't stand his presence, that's always a winner. And next week, he's project manager. 

What do you think, Show Trackers? Do you agree that it's Busey that should have been sent home? Should the women have won the competition? Do you think Jackson was a lousy project manager, or was she right that her teammates were just out to get her? 

-- Rick Rojas

Photo: Lil Jon was assigned to babysit Gary Busey during the project on "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC