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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)

NeNe Leakes is a weasel for just abandoning her charity for abused women. That was the rudest walk off I've ever seen. I think it Marlee will ultimately win.

There was rumor that [some of] "the blacks" might not stay on the show after Trump's irate rants as of late. I think he has not signed his new deal because NBC realizes that most of us have tuned out from the show and are watching ABC and CBS before we endorse this man on any level. I stumbled up on this article, I did watch the show until the veil came down and the true Trump came to the surface. I always just thought he was arrogant, I didn't realize that he was a monster of sorts. NeNE probably jumped ship because he rubbed her madness into a state of complete insanity...she was best to leave then to snatch that wigworm off of his head.

I hope Marlee wins. I'm sick of looking at John Rich in his cowboy hat. When did hats become indoor garb? Lil' John needs to take off his glasses. What's he trying to hide? Meatloaf just needs to control his temper.

I don't watch the show since DT showed his true colors. But DT's only reason to have Star and LaToya was to keep the drama going with the 3 black women. So, without ignorant NeNe there would be no drama since LaToya and Star don't carry themselves that way. I'm sure DT realized that he might as well fire them and bank on Meatloaf nutting up under pressure. It looks like the ratings were down 23 % last week and probably more this week. DT needs to apologize for his efforts to fan the flames of racism. It's 2011 and our country doesn't need his divisive behaviour.

I like every celebrity on there this year and wish they could all do a television series together. Is there anyone else who thinks this would be a good idea?

Star Jones was probably so surprised that anyone would actually call her an endearing name, she went into shock. What a bitch! She should have been fired weeks ago for her nasty, condescending attitude. She holds herself above everyone like she is the only one with any intelligence ("I'm an attorney so I'm so much better than the rest of you peons"). She's an ugly person inside and out. She and NeNe are cut out of the same pattern, This is the first time I've been disappointed in the way Donald Trump has conducted this show. LaToya should not have been fired, and Holly should not have been fired, and last night's fiasco was the result of those bad decisions. At least the final four are individuals with integrity and class. They are there for the right reasons; to earn money for their charity. They are not self-centered, egotistical asses like Star and NeNe. GOOD RIDDANCE.

Hooray! Star Jones is gone! She was always first to hang everybody else out to
dry but she is hanging on the laundry line now. After the pathetic stunt she
tried to pull on Meatloaf she got what she deserved. As for Nene to simply
walk out and quit for charity demonstrates her worth....


I am from Texas! We call people honey, darling, and sweetie all the time. Better than the B word, which I would probably have called her. She needs to understand that lawyers don't really have much respect anymore. They are just well paid liars.

NeNe had a good reason for leaving she didn't want to do anything that would haunt her. Trump was out of line when he said "star kicked her ass" he should repect NeNe and her choice he really thing NeNe cares. It was a matter of time before star got fired. She sets people up to get them fired. LaToya came back because she knew she she could do it. Star is great for the show but u can't everybidy head off to win. And she tried to get Meat fired

i like this celebrity apprentice. i liked all the cast too. the comments on here are really interesting as well. keep up the good work!

You've captured my feelings about Star's arrogance and feelings of superiority
exactly. Someone should have brought up how her multimillion dollar
wedding was all paid for through her solicitations to others. I find her
pretenses obnoxious. She changed expensive outfits for every scene, and
the wigs almost as often.
I really admire Little Jon and John Rich, and had never seen them before this
show. MeatLoaf is a fine man, if a little emotional. There's nothing wrong
with caring deeply. Ms. Matlin is above reproach, if not very effective.
At this point, I won't be disappointed with any of them winning. But I will
bet on John Rich. JUST GLAD IT IS NOT STAR!

I'm still upset that Star was fired =( She was the reason why I tuned in. People fear a strong black woman. She knew how to play the game and that made people fear her. Nene, on the other hand, keeps feeding the stereotype.

I'm rooting for Marlee now, the only woman left!

@NameRequired Seriously? You don't know who Dionne Warwick is?

The rules changed, no fair- and Ivanka looked apprehensive and submissive in the penumbra of an off-screen Donald Trump tirade, I'm guessing. Feeling Trump's personal disapproval, desperate and cowardly, Nene sneaked out the back door and she seemed oblivious to yesterday's Today Show's insincerity and condescension toward her as they smilingly disclosed her late arrival and other character flaws, handshakes and cliches. Run away, run away! FYI Dancing with the Stars pays better and how does Star Jones earn a living anyway and do contestants donate Celebrity Apprentice wages ($16,000.00 reportedly) to their charities.

Ms. Leakes had a target on her back for a while, Star too, both clearly held in contempt and disgust by Trump- not race based but personal- Nene for ignorant bombast and Star for alpha status as she was silenced many times, made to beg (ugh) to state her "argument" in the boardroom- reminiscent of a poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estes 'How to Silence a Woman' which applies to all people, Meatloaf too, in fact. Laughable leadership by Mr.Trump baiting unhealthy competition so corrosive to teamwork, speaking to lip enhancement, BMI (Booty Mass Index) and La Toya's "nice pants." Rumors that Star hired security insults the production value of the show and the ratings greed of the contestant selection proved incendiary with collateral damage that just isn't entertaining.

And then there's John Rich who has won the thing already through dignity and consideration for others that only comes from true self respect- my gosh, his young son hit the jackpot with such a fine fellow for a father. Same is true for Marlee Matlin and the keen intelligence badge goes to Lil Jon, daunting and refreshing.

I was so glad to see Star Jones fall. I think she should have gone instead of Hope, but she allied with Nene and saved her ass. I'm so over Nene's drama. The woman has serious problems. She can be funny as hell, but she can also be annoying as hell. As Nene herself would say, "bay bay...plonk!" - she did herself in. Looks like Marlee and John Rich will end up in the finale. They are the most stable players. Little Jon won't make it because Trump is a racist pig and Meatloaf if too Busey to take the heat, even though it seemed he had a strategy to get rid of Star, including possibly messing things up just a bit and letting Star take the heat (something she tried to pin on him but Trump wasn't having a woman blaming a man for the mess). The show is entertaining and I like the celebs, but Donald Trump is a clown. How anyone thinks he could ever be president is beyond me. Donald Trump, you will soon be fired!

I'm starting to like how this is ending up. The weak players got fired first (Lisa, David) and now all the backstabbers and mudslingers are gone (Nene, Dionne and Star), so we're left with the best business people for the finale. Of course Star should have been fired. If branding wasn't her job, what was? Stenography? Realistically, Don Jr said it best - There were reasons to fire any of the three. I'm satisfied with how it turned out.

Truth is Lil Jon shows terrific stamina, energy and reliability with no signs of being frayed and worn out by the grueling few weeks The Apprentice was taped. And still, there's something about Nene's take on no-one's the boss of me that I respect...... hope she gets a modeling gig or something to finance her independent spirit. She's a commodity and could be a role model with some help and insight.

I would love to see Meat Loaf win. That was genuine passion and sincerity in those tears. He is a true gentlemen and a great family man. It is okay for a real man to cry-not everday - but under those circumstances. These are the types of celebrities America needs as role models. Yes, he did lose his temper with Gary Busey- but, honestly, i think most of us would have in his shoes. Also I know they edit the show to sometimes come across differently. What i like is all the final four all have good characters and come across as honest sincere folks. Those who manipulated or attempted to play dirty all lost.

I like Nene most of the time I really thought she was going to go for the win but in retrospect I have noticed that Nene is a lot better at dishing it out then being able to take it.

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