Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lisa Rinna Thrown Under Bus in Celebrity Apprentice Season 4

This article was first published as TV Open Thread: Lisa Rinna Thrown Under Bus in Celebrity Apprentice Season 4 on Blogcritics.

The Celebrity Apprentice is back with a cast more akin to It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World than Barnum and Bailey's three-ring circus. Actually, Season 4 of the star-studded reality romp plays more like a hybrid of the two with a pinch of Rocky Horror Picture Show thrown in for good measure.

Following in the career-enhancing footsteps of such reality fare as Dancing With the Stars and American Idol, this season boasts more than its share of name celebrities. There's Oscar Winner Marlee Matlin (complete with her own sign language interpreter), Oscar nominee Gary Busey, Grammy winners Dionne Warwick and Meat Loaf, former teen idol David Cassidy, and supermodel Niki Taylor. Add Playboy centerfold Hope Dworaczyk, country crooner John Rich, rapper Lil Jon, author and baseball slugger Jose Canseco, Michael Jackson's sister LaToya Jackson, former host of The View and current attorney Star Jones, reality housewife Nene Leakes, Harry Hamlin spouse Lisa Rinna, Survivor heavyweight and tax evader Richard Hatch, and Sugar Ray vocalist Mark McGrath to the mix for a season chock full of star power. The higher star wattage may have something to do with celebrities such as Bret Michaels, Piers Morgan, Joan and Melissa Rivers, Curtis Stone, Holly Robinson Peete, and Sharon Osborne enjoying upticks in their careers, all of whom appeared in seasons past. I'm just happy to see so many familiar faces on a show I have followed since its debut.

Sunday night's installment opened with a recap of the week before. The men and women were divided into two teams, Team Backbone and Team A.S.A.P., respectively. After the men lost the selling pizzas task, David Cassidy got the boot for rubbing Project Manager (PM) Richard Hatch the wrong way. He also wimped-out in the boardroom. Jose made no bones about wanting to punch Richard in the face, but refrained from making a scene in front of The Donald. Meanwhile, having raised over $169,000 -- the most money ever raised on a first challenge -- A.S.A.P. PM Star had the honor of transfering the gargantuan sum to her favorite charity, The American Heart Association.

The two teams briefly trash talked in the waiting room, then regrouped for their next task. Each received orders to create and write a children's book to be performed for four and five-year-olds. Judging the task would be children's book publisher Margery Cuyler and children's book author and former contestant Holly Robinson Peete.

Meat happily agreedy to act as PM for the men while pouty Lisa reluctantly accepted the reins for the women. Later in the show, she admitted she wasn't comfortable in the role, saying almost anyone on her team would have done a better job. "Does that signify weakness," questioned Don Jr. in the boardroom. "No," replied Lisa, "I just wanted to wait longer." Poor stupid Lisa didn't realize there are no brownie points for honesty. At least she had the sense to recognize a sorry lack of team support. Nene basically confirmed as much, privately confessing they chose Lisa because they knew she couldn't handle it and wanted her out of the competition early.

Fits and starts in the creative process hampered each team. Jose tossled with John over semantics in their story rhyme, arguing certain words didn't apply. Cursing ensued after Meat sent Gary and Jose to the wrong theater location, not once but twice. At one point, Jose looked as if his head might spontaneously burst into flames, but thankfully that didn't happen. When the men went to pick out costumes, Gary flew off on some ridiculous tangent, taking a shine to some prisoner costume rather than appropriate little boy clothes for his character. John had difficulty focusing Gary and the men started to run out of time.

But that was peanuts compared to the women. As Lisa desparately tried to formulate a concept, LaToya privately called her "discombobulated." Marlee wrote on a piece of paper: "Tell me what to do." Clearly, Lisa's team was not on her side. Dionne quickly hijacked the creative process, nixing Marlee's idea for a deaf lion and claiming deafness might sadden the children. Privately, Marlee called Dionne ignorant and publicly took offense. A frustrated Lisa declared the lion would not be deaf, leaving Marlee very unhappy. Marlee also thought their concept, a happy lion who needs to learn how to roar, had been done before, in fact, way overdone. For the record, Niki criticized the story lesson of "just be yourself" as too complicated for four and five-year olds. As expected, nobody cared.

Lisa delegated the task of creating the book to Star and Nene, a mistake if there ever was. Star refused to give final approval for the cover and ordered Lisa to leave rehearsal to complete it. Adding insult to inury, Star wanted cover credit for writing the story. Dionne piped in that she also wanted credit for creating the concept, to which Star readily agreed. Unfortunately, Lisa would have none of it. Story credit would go to Team A.S.A.P. or no one at all. "I'm the captain," Lisa privately complained, "we're on the Titanic and we're going down." Within the group, the fighting raged. LaToya almost cried while Hope showed support for Lisa. Sadly, it was not enough.

Everyone needs "to behave," chastised Lisa as Dionne took offense. She laid into Lisa who in turn dug in her heels. "Bring it on," taunted Lisa privately, "but I will not be brought down by a bunch of bitches. No way." Back in the group, Dionne sighed, "What's next" as jaws visibly dropped at the spectacle. "We're done," pouted Lisa. And they were.

"It was as if Lisa wanted plausible deniability," fumed Star. "When you try to take down the queen, make sure you kill her." Star the self-appointed queen? I'd like to see her and Dionne duke it out.

Overall, both performances went well, although both had noticeable defects. "I know my ABC's and my one-two-threes" the men rapped as children and parents happily clapped along. For their part, the women mesmerized the audience with sign language and cute animal costumes. Privately, Nene bragged she was the best animal in show even though her part lasted all of two seconds.

The judges liked the men's rhyming, but didn't like Jose and Meat's performances. They thought the women's theme was a little too complicated for four and five-year-olds and the font in their book too small to read. "I shouldn't have to squint," Holly complained to The Donald. She and Margery unanimously chose the men's team to win. "You're gonna make me cry," sniffed Meat as the winner was announced in the boardroom. The Donald promised to publish the men's book, saying money from sales would also go to Meat's charity, Painted Turtle, a camp for sick children.

Left alone in the boardroom, the women ganged up on Lisa, save Marlee who soundly denounced Dionne and Hope who sat mute. "She intimidates me as a person and people tell me she's a legend..." Marlee began, referring to Dionne. "Don't you know she's a legend" interrupted The Donald? "Well, I'm deaf," Marlee replied. Touche.

Marlee added that she was demeaned by Dionne. The Donald seemed unfazed. As expected, Lisa chose Star and Dionne to come back to the boardroom to see who would get the ax. Watching the ordeal from the waiting room, Lil Jon couldn't get his fill. "Catfight!" he cried out when The Donald snapped, "Turn off your TV." Let the clawing begin.

But it was not meant to be. Lisa basically crumbled under a constant barrage of criticism from Star. She said Lisa led from a position of fear rather than one of knowledge. "I did the best I could under the circumstances," countered Lisa. "I crumbled under the pressure of the whole team wanting me to take over as PM and you threw me under the f------ bus."

The Donald was flacidly unimpressed. "Lisa, you're the PM, but I'm just not seeing a lot of fight in you," he said. Lisa countered that she didn't want to fight the intense negative energy of her team. Dionne, showing her claws, said she would fight much harder as the PM. "Don't you see what they're doing," asked The Donald? "Star is playing you a little bit as a child. Same thing Dionne. Can't you see that?" Star quickly chimed in, "She's not fighting completely crazy because at her core she knows she failed as PM."

Fighting completely crazy? Man, I'd pay good money to see that.

In the end, as always, The Donald had the final say: "We're all giving you points, Lisa but you're really having a hard time with it. Look Lisa, you were the PM, your team lost, everyone thought you should go, and I have to say Lisa, you're fired." Boom. Skinny Lisa dejectedly walked out in her leopard-print dress, hands behind her back in defeat.

Fired for not having any fight, the usual black town car whisked Lisa away. She said it was an honor to work for Trump, then added, "I put myself out there and they threw me under the bus. Do I think he made the right decision? No. Are you f----- kidding me?"

Sorry, but with thousands of charitable dollars up for grabs, possible endorsement deals and a comeback in the balance, I'd say this is no laughing matter. And adding the f-word to otherwise meaningless rants does not a leader make.

Read My Other Season 4 Recaps:

Niki Taylor Thrown Under Bus
Meatloaf Meltdown
Nene Leakes Rips LaToya Jackson a New One