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'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: The tale of the class act and the 'hussy'

March 21, 2011 |  7:45 am

NUP_143136_0034I must admit, I almost didn't feel like watching "Celebrity Apprentice" on Sunday night. It was rainy, I was tired -- I couldn't take such drama. Or so I thought. The producers knew all I needed was a little NeNe to get into it. 

She's been flying under the radar on "Celebrity Apprentice"  -- and, alas, she continued on that path last night -- but she's what hooked me in. And the fact that she was in an RV only helped: The last time a television audience saw NeNe in such a vehicle, she had joined fellow Atlanta housewives Kim Zolciak and Kandi Burruss on tour and lashed out Kim in another one of their brilliant blowups.

Unfortunately, being stuck in an RV didn't rekindle any anger in NeNe. But it was a heck of an episode, nonetheless, with Gary Busey and Dionne Warwick picking up the slack, to be sure.

But I jumped ahead: Why was there an RV involved in the first place? The assignment this week was for the two teams to market Camping World and their recreation vehicles. Busey was project manager for the men's team; Niki Taylor led the women. 

Busey led the team as one would expect. He muttered; he was disorganized, keeping no tabs on the proceedings. He was perfectly content, offering up acronyms for words that needed no further explanation. ("Team," for example, means in Busey speak: "Together everyone achieving more.")

Mark McGrath just kept flipping out, constantly panicking but doing very little to fix it. Jose Canseco was just a big lug who contributed nothing. 

The saving grace for the men came, once again, from the two strongest, classiest and respectable men on the team: Meat Loaf and John Rich. Rich, especially, worked tirelessly, picking up everyone else's slack and carrying the team with wit and creativity. 

After the mess that last week was for the women -- and even before that, with the pizza parlor -- Team ASAP managed to pull itself together under Taylor. They gussied up the RVs, they got along relatively well; it seemed to go smoothly and without any of the catfights that have, unfortunately, plagued the team thus far. 

But then there's Dionne Warwick.

Star Jones toned down her antagonistic ways. But Warwick was sassy and difficult to work with and just plain rude. That episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger" she was in will never be the same to me again. She has contributed little to the show and the chemistry of its cast.

This season's cast has shown a remarkable cohesiveness. Just as we saw in the first episode in which Canseco stood up for the seemingly meek former teen idol David Cassidy, a spirit of camaraderie has persisted throughout the show. In just this episode, we learned that the marvelous Marlee Matlin helped Busey, who apparently is hearing impaired, get fitted with virtually invisible hearing aids. 

But Warwick has gone completely against that. She doesn't even push buttons in that it's-OK-it's-just-reality-TV kind of way. She simply comes across as a fading legend to the rest of the world who's still queen in her own mind, thus giving her the clearance to demean those around her. 

I must credit her with a line worthy of the pantheon of reality-TV quotables, though, which came after she raised a ruckus with Taylor: "I got your number, hussy!" I can see that printed on T-shirts.

Ultimately, the men were the dark horse, propelled by Rich and Loaf (should he actually be called Mr. Loaf on second reference?), to win the contest. And for a second week, the women had to stay behind. 

It was a quick and simple firing but perhaps historic for the Boardroom, in the class and dignity shown by those fired. Taylor refused to throw her teammates under the bus, even with Warwick, who should have gone home. 

Taylor said it was her team; she was project manager, and if blame was to be assigned, it should go to her. 

It speaks volumes about a show when the one who's lauded by everyone in the room for her integrity, for her grace and for her honesty is sent home. The troublemaker who contributes next to nothing survives to see another challenge.

— Rick Rojas

Photo: Dionne Warwick goes shopping for wares to decorate one of Team ASAP's RVs on "Celebrity Apprentice." Credit: Douglas Gorenstein / NBC