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'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Three hours later, three feuding stars fizzle out

It's a sign of the times at NBC that "Celebrity Apprentice" managed to stretch across three hours of prime-time real estate. President Obama might have interrupted last week with word of Osama bin Laden's death. This week, however, Obama had only "60 Minutes" to Donald Trump's 180. 

And it was a slog, even for the biggest "Apprentice" fans. One could have watched a movie or taken a nice Sunday drive in the time it took for one episode. (I don't even want to guess how long the finale will be!)

But it was worth the time in that the story lines have finally come together in a way that you may never have expected. A lot went down in those three hours, and the trail has been blazed to the finale. (In fact, I've decided who I think will win — more to come on that.)

It started off with a huge disappointment from NeNe Leakes. She just quit. All her hollering about how she would be the one who could put Star Jones in her place turned out to be empty threats. The heat even continued this week, when Jones said she couldn't move past last week's messiness with Leakes. Then, Leakes and Meat Loaf switched places on their respective teams. Instead of going along with it, Leakes just disappeared. Donald Trump called her a quitter and said that Jones had indeed kicked her ... rear end (hey, we're a family blog). 

But if you think Jones came out as a victor, you would be dead wrong.

The almost-as-long-as-the-"Today"-show episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night consisted of two challenges. The first: The two teams had to put on a comedy show to raise money for their charity. Team Backbone — formerly the men's team — was led by La Toya Jackson; ASAP — once the women's team — was led by Meat Loaf. 

Although Loaf's team managed to win, it came as a surprise after the flood of Loaf's tears. He cried, and he cried, and he cried some more. He didn't want to raise all this money, only for it to go the other team's charity if they won. Jones even called Trump on Meat Loaf's behalf as a way to console him, asking if there were any way he could reconsider that decision. He said no; "Celebrity Apprentice" might include a charitable aspect, but it's really about winning. (What?! You mean Jones didn't throw former teammates under the bus simply for the sake of the American Heart Assn.?!) His tears turned out to be for naught — even though Jackson, with John Rich and Lil Jon, managed to put on a heck of a show. 

Now, Jackson, according to Trump, holds the record for being the only "Apprentice" contestant to be fired twice in a season. And, he said, she's the last.

On to the second challenge: Both teams had to make a promotional spot for On Star, now that the product once available only in General Motors vehicles is available for any car. Rich took the helm for Backbone, meaning he was just Lil Jon's boss, and Marlee Matlin led ASAP. It's a rematch, if you'll recall, after the huge art-show episode in which both teams brought in well over $1.5 million, and Matlin won with just shy of a million dollars. (No wonder it seems they've run out of friends to ask for donations.)  

With ASAP, Matlin may have been the project manager, but she ceded much of the control to Meat Loaf, who, well, does what Meat Loaf does. He ran wild, taking over the production. And Jones, without control, took over for Meat Loaf as the fretting member of the team.

Team Jo(h)n struggled, initially, when a sinus infection seem to have toppled Rich, but Lil Jon — I'd say for the first time this season — really picked up the slack and ran with this video. It was on message and did exactly what the On Star executives had asked. ASAP's video, however, did not, and Backbone won this time.

All this led up to one of the most interesting, and surprising, boardroom showdowns I've seen thus far. I actually thought Meat Loaf would be sent packing. Both Matlin and Jones suggested that he's the one who should be fired. But he was able to step up where Leakes had failed. He put Jones in her place and was able to force her to show her true colors. 

In the battle with Leakes, Jones could portray herself as the smart, educated lawyer who would not demean herself to a loudmouth from Atlanta like Leakes. The fact that someone as brash and in your face as Leakes was usually a voice of reason on the "Housewives" shows what kinds of characters she was up against. Here, though, it was easy for Jones to cast her aside as a simpleton with volume.

With Meat Loaf, that was much more difficult, as he's definitely a Trump favorite and, with his tearful ways, seen as a — dare I say — sweetie. Maybe he shouldn't have called her "sweetie." But the level of disrespect she showed him was much more appalling in my opinion. She cut him off and said flatly that he wasn't qualified to engage her in a debate. 

But it didn't work. This whole season, she's tried to put on the act that she's this powerful Super Lawyer, a manipulative and Machiavellian figure like Glenn Close's character in "Damages." She acted as though she was so many steps ahead of everyone else, she was watching the show on the other side of the season finale. 

But with all her talk of strategy and figuring out the moment to kill, she failed to see the weeping fool in the sequined dinner jacket, ready to pounce.

Let the countdown begin: As the season starts to wind down, who do you think will be the final two? My bet: John Rich and Marlee Matlin. Also, what do you think of NeNe Leakes walking away like that? Were you as disappointed as I was?

— Rick Rojas

Photo: Star Jones, Meat Loaf and Marlee Matlin are all smiles on stage after their comedy show, although such happiness didn't last through the next challenge. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC

Comments () | Archives (39)

Trump was totally wrong by firing Star. Meat did use the word sweetie as demeanor way. I guess you have to be a woman to see it, for sure Trump didn't. too bad.

If this was the real business world, NeNe Leakes would have been gone long ago. Her behavior was atrocious and proves that it’s just for the entertaining pleasure of Donald Trump and his kids sitting there watching as little more than “peeping toms.”
Interesting that Donald says he has a “great relationship with the blacks.” We just saw three of them eliminated last night. Just watch, the last one (Lil Jon) will be eliminated as well leaving only Matlin and Rich to duke it out – just like the 3 previous season winners.
This show is a complete joke! And, so is the Donald!!!

NeNe should have been fired when she acted up during last weeks opening. In front of a client too, and all that foul language. Now Star ain't no Saint, but she was professional at that time.

NeNe was right about Star, but she doesn't have the skills to handle it without getting Ghetto!

It's all about rating for Donald and his Kidtourage!

First off, La Toya already fingered Star, so, I knew that the first chance Trump got, she would be fired. Trump and La Toya appear to have a 'history'.

There was no other reason for Star to go, other than her playing the victim card with the 'sweetie' incident--which is a sign of weakness and desperation in Trump's world.

If the guys had lost, Lil' Jon was a goner. I agree, it's Matlin & Rich--Matlin FTW--in the finale.

So not true Star deserved to go, As far as Ne Ne goes she should have been gone the first week

fay......get a grip....Meat did not mean to be demeaning....only people like Star...who think they
are superior to everyone around them...would take it
as demeaning.....'you don't have the credentials to
argue with me'...

FVP....well said.....Trump is a morally and intellectually bankrupt carnival barker.....

NeNe shouldn't have left, too bad...the MEAN GIRLS are finally gone, including that horrible Dionne....use to be a fan

Star should "not" have been fired. Marley was the Project Manager, and she had to approve of all of the decisions made on the task. Marley was not even in the mix. How it came down to Star and Meatloaf is beyond me. And yes, Star was correct to get Meatloaf straight about calling her "Sweetie". I cant stand that either, and I call people on it all the time too. I agree with another poster that Donald Trump is a joke! He is proving time and time again, that many times he has no basis for his firings. His decisions to fire appear to based on either ratings, or simply how he feels about the person at that time, and not based on their actions during a particular task. How anyone could vote for this idiot for President of the U.S. is beyond me. I'm done with Trump and his sniveling, stuck-up kids.

Star outright lied!!! Did everyone miss the part where she scooted the team out of the studio without the close up of the box? Citing not having enough time to edit the commercial.

Star manipulated every single challenge! As for name branding she stunk each and every time!!! Has everyone forgotten that Star was the person that put together that horrendous magazine ad for Trump Towers???? The ad that the Trump executives compared to trashy ads for trashy nightclubs. Seriously people, get past the whole "she's a lawyer, public figure" garbage and look at the facts. She lacks taste and wisdom. Her taste is clearly in her mouth!!!

As for racial issues, well I'm dumbfounded. If someone wanted to follow that theory...let's look at the women's team from the beginning. Let's see, it appears to me that the black women formed an alliance to remove every white woman from the team until even the black participants couldn't stand Dionne Warwick. Geez Louise....let's get rid of the racial card here.

Trump pandered to Star Jones each and every week and she counted on that! In her exit comments she openly admitted to controlling every challenge with the exception of this week. She must of been vitamin deficient when she said that because she seriously attempted to control the outcome of this week's commercial. She harped on Marlee Maitlin for being weak and allowing Meatloaf too much creative freedom of expression.

We, the viewing public, are the victims of editing. We really don't know what truly went down this week or any other week. This show is a money maker for Trump enterprises and the shows are edited to evoke certain responses from us, the viewing public.

I don't know why anyone believes Matlin can win.
The only ability she has demonstrated is not getting fired,..hum, ok
I think I get it. Well, anyway, Rich, Lil J, and Meatloaf are the true creatives.
Meatloaf seems unstable however and I can see him losing focus at the end. Rich will become so distracted by his ability to work so well with a black man that he'll get another sinus infection. Lil John will holla his way to victory, dread locks swinging and gold teeth gleaming.

I feel a lot of compassion for NE NE, she's unknowingly carrying a vicious demon around everywhere she goes. Nature aside, strictly based on her inability to lead a successful challenge, she should have been axed a few challenges ago.

Star has the ability to forcefully opine but does not inspire or posses creativity, her graphics were very pedestrian. Trump knows how we, the viewers, like drama and people who have no self awareness, such as Star, sprinkle drama everywhere they go. That's why she survived on Apprentice for so long. I also think that Trump and Star are cut from the same cloth and likely have similar styles of doing business but since Trump is male he gets away with it. Despite all of that, Star did shine bright for a moment when she took on the demonic fury within NE NE without responding in kind.

The show is a joke. Trump keeps tripping over his ego and has brought together a group of misfits. Ding Dong Busey, Nasty Ne Ne and Meathead Meatloaf.

I'm a woman and I didn't view Meatloaf's use of the word 'sweetie' as demeaning. What I did find demeaning was Star's continuous put downs toward people who do not have a university education or professional designation. She deserved to be fired because for all her talk about being strong on brand messaging failed to ensure the video included key messaging about the On Star brand. All Star managed to prove is that she's an idiot with credentials.

They should have Gilbert Godfrey, Pee Wee Harris and Red from American Idol as the judges of Celebrity Apprentice. Then you'll see this shows ratings soar.

Thank-Goodness Star Jones is GONE!!!!!!!!What a bore she was.
But NeNe what is wrong with you? You QUIT,you silly silly loser......What a disappointment you turned out to be!!!!!

That Matlin would win this game was determined long before it started. Trump has yet to sign his new contract for the show and Matlin's million dollar contribution coupled with guaranteed fireworks between NeNe and Star sure kept the ratings up. Trump's ridiculous promise to announce IF he intends to run for President during the final show is yet another attempt to beef up ratings and sweeten his new contract. Really, Trump?? NeNe Leakes is stooping too low even for you. This show has become a joke.

The show is terrible! It's exploitative! Who are these so-called "celebrities", anyway? Dionne Warwick? Jose Canseco? NeNe Leakes? These stars then get to do a twenty-minute ad for some product! (last night it was OnStar!)

...and yet, I am strangely compelled to watch a new train wreck every week....

Think God NeNe quit.I thought that NeNe should have been fired anyway for her actions last week.I also think that her just walking out and quiting shows just how immature she really is.Trump doesn't need people like that working for him. Also glad to see Star gone.Granted she didn't deserve the way NeNe treated her. But is very much so manipulative and was lying when she was in the board room.I am glad that the older gentleman;can't remember his name;spoke up and suggested Trump to let her go.I also think that next week Meatloaf will go home if ASAP loses.He is a great individual with a very large heart.But he is also an emotional wreck.Again I don't think Trump would want somebody who can't keep it together running anything for him.Meat is totaly awesome and someone I would cherrish to have as a friend,but buisness is buisness.

It's about time Star was shown to be what she truly is - an ego with an attitude. For every task, she proclaimed herself " brand messenger" and every time, she absolutely stunk at it. Her condescending attitude toward Meatloaf for not having an advanced degree was far more demeaning than him calling her, "For once, Trump got it right . Good riddance. At least NeNe was entertaining. Bet they bring her back, somehow.

Did everyone completely overlook that the Comedy Challenge guest judge was the guy from Mad Money, Jim Cramer?! What was that about? That was the lamest judge appearance and he drove me nuts. He just sat there with his eyes bugging out and darting back and forth in the board room (yeah, I guess that's his "normal"). Never seen a guest judge with so little to say and such little value added to the episode.

Also, I agree with all the NeNe comments. To her defense, though, it was not cool for Trump to just go and switch up the teams to make Star comfortable. I think NeNe's strategy was to get under Star's skin and by removing her from the same team it undermined her game plan and gave power to Star.
Ick, still getting the creeps thinking back about Cramer's eyes in that board room!

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