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'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: 'Where's Barbara Walters now?'

May 2, 2011 |  8:15 am

NUP_143142_0068 Sunday night might have served as a teachable moment for Donald Trump: Don't mess with President Obama. And not only was  the Donald skewered at the White House correspondents dinner but also last night his show was trumped by historic news of the death of Osama bin Laden.

The timing was anything but fortunate for "Celebrity Apprentice" viewers east of the Rocky Mountains, who caught only part of the showdown and missed who was sent packing. Those of us out west were able to see one villain vanquished only for a new one to emerge on what was an absolutely magnificent evening of reality TV.

I expect fans to be split into two factions here over who the villain is: NeNe Leakes or Star Jones?

I have to admit, I'm in Camp NeNe. I also readily admit her faults — she flew off the handle like a madwoman in front of the client (not so good) and got a little too riled up. But that's why I love her: She keeps it real, and she won't back down. She's God's gift to reality television. And to be fair to Jones, I thought it was noble of her to put personal differences aside to work on the task at hand.

For those whose regularly scheduled broadcast was interrupted, Leakes went off on Jones at the start of the evening. It was the result of Jones' manipulation in the boardroom last week, in which she practically coerced Leakes into helping her rid the team of La Toya Jackson (hold on for more on Jackson, for sure).

The towering Leakes bent herself like a desk lamp to inform Jones that she would be the one to stand up to her, even though the rest of the women had backed down. Too bad she did all of this in front of the executive for the hair products company they would be working for. "Where's Barbara Walters now?" Leakes says, taunting Jones. 

Leakes said she was upset because Jones had essentially preordained her to be project manager, as though it was part of the nefarious plotting Jones had been up to all season. (She did become project manager, as did Lil Jon for the men — after losing a game of rock-paper-scissors.)

Moments later, though, it was like Leakes had completely forgotten. They had gotten their assignment — to put on a hair show using this company's products — and she had kicked off a dance party with the woman, centered on her theme of "Shake Your Beauty." (I kept waiting for Dwight Eubanks to pop up with offer some pithy commentary, like a "fashion show with no fashion" all over again — "Housewives" watchers know what I'm talking about!)

The men, after some initial worries and wandering to nowhere with Meat Loaf, came up with a fun, patriotic-themed event. They also managed to get inside the women's heads by calling back Niki Taylor, who had been fired weeks before. If you don't recall, Taylor was a class act after her run as project manager, sacrificing herself because she said the blame for her team's loss could be assigned to no one but the manager. Now, she had some of her former teammates mentioning betrayal.

Another twist came when La Toya Jackson, who was fired last week, had a sit-down with Trump in his office. (Side note about his office: Were you as underwhelmed as I was seeing his personal office? On the "30 Rock" scale, it seemed more Liz Lemon than Jack Donaghy. I had pictured a desk of solid gold, a shark tank — at least a bust of himself on the shelf.) She proposed that she have a second chance; she got it — she's back on the show, on the men's team now, and turned out to be one of Leakes' biggest advocates in the boardroom. That in itself is a shocker, considering how just a couple of weeks ago Leakes' big target was Jackson.

The women lost what should have been a sure thing for them. Left in the boardroom were Leakes, Jones and Hope Dworaczyk.

Note: I made no mention of Dworaczyk before now. Like I said last week, she's basically become a piece of furniture on the show. Or, as Leakes put it, the intern there to do whatever Jones commands. When she did speak on the show, it was to whine about Leakes, as though she were Leakes' target. (It's quite clear that Leakes could not care less about her.) And Dworaczyk, who whined about always having to be the model (she's a former Playmate), stunk as a model, walking around the stage like a scarecrow with robot legs. 

Despite the NeNe-versus-Star showdown, it became clear that — SPOILER ALERT! — Dworaczyk was the one who had no place being there. No matter the vitriol between them, and how crazy they may be, Leakes and Jones are far superior players. Jones has, regardless of her manipulative ways, been a workhorse; Leakes has proved to be talented and hard-working and, when she's not confusing another player for Kim Zolciak, is never tardy for the party. Ultimately, Dworaczyk — who, Trump says, is a huge star now because of "The Apprentice" — was sent packing.

The war between dueling villains continues. In the strange world of reality TV, the survival of a villain is the reason for celebration. 

— Rick Rojas

Photo: NeNe Leaks with Eric Trump on "Celebrity Apprentice," talking trash about Star Jones, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC 

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