Season 4 of "The Celebrity Apprentice" has been described as "Best. Season. Of. Celebrity. Apprentice. Ever ..." by at least one person who left their feedback footprint. Check back here (and bookmark if necessary) on Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 9 p.m. EST for my live blog of the finale. Marlee Matlin is pitted against John Rich and I've predicted John Rich as the winner.
8:05 EST - Less than an hour to go. I'm kind of excited. This has been a really great season. Promos have been showing a dearth of Dep Leppard. Do they really not show? Or is it all in the editing? Also, can't wait to see if there is a face-off between Nene and Star. It's a live finale and anything can happen.
9:00 Here it is. Finally!
9:02: Where did The Donald find the two slaves to roll out the red carpet? As he takes his seat at the head of the table, the audience applause is deafening, no pun on Marlee.
9:05 And now a retrospective of some of the best catfight moments. "Casper the Ghost," "I'm deaf, I can't hear you," "Don't turn away from me, young lady," "Don't you EVER F--- with me, I'm the last person you want to f--- with" and so on. What a season!
9:07 Last I heard, Richard Hatch was in jail. He was working with Team Marlee on the final task. Wonder if they were able to spring him for the finale.
9:10 Marlee's blue bell-bottom outfit for the task looks like something out of the 60s, not the 70s. Who was their costume designer, LaToya? Oh. No wonder. Both teams have glitches going into the finale. Marlee has the problem with Geoffrey Holder's lawyer and John has the problem with Def Leppard. Suddenly, Holder shows up in his natty white hat, white suit, red tie and cane and the audience claps its appreciation. Marlee is out of the woods. Holder still has that great deep voice and laugh. "You look mah-ve-lous!"
9:16 Ivanka sits at the table radiant. Both Don, Jr. and Ivanka are expecting children. The Donald is already a grandfather, but he's obviously excited over Ivanka's pregnancy. He congratulates both of his children and the audience laps it up.
9:18 Def Leppard shows up and takes a meeting with J.R. He tries to tell them how to open the act and all of them have blank stares on their faces. Malvin, their manager, works it out with J.R. It looks like the performance is going to work out after all.
9:19 On the morning of the task, Meat and Richard have a difficult time getting set up. LaToya complained that Marlee didn't delegate jobs. "If we don't get it done, John Rich is going to win without a doubt," says LaToya.
9:21 Everyone who was fired comes filing back in. Nene looks elegant in a strapless blue cocktail dress. Star is wearing some purple number that makes her look fat. The Donald asks David Cassidy how he feels about Richard being in jail. Looks like he wasn't sprung after all. David calls Richard's incarceration "just and vindication." David was the first celebrity fired, mostly at Richard's urging.
9:23 With some reluctance and prodding from the audience, Lisa blames Star for her firing. Star responds, "It was a game, Mr. Trump. Bring your A game." Not very satisfying. Lisa says she would rather not respond. Too bad. I'd like to see the first person Star threw under the bus hand her a little payback.
9:30 It's the Gary Busey retrospective. "It's fun to be a dog when you're human." "Circles never die." Gary makes a pyramid motion with his hand and says, "Successful." There's more, but you get the drift. "Are you crazy or crazy like a fox?" asks The Donald. "I can watch people's eyes when they're talking to me and know whether they're lying, telling the truth, or making something up that has nothing to do with what's going on," says Gary. Asked about his fight with Meat, Gary says he didn't fight with him and says he likes him well. "I was in focus and stood there like a mediator, giving him his space and his emotional level to ride with." The Donald asks Meat how he feels about Gary and Meat gives Gary a hug. Awwwwwwww. Gary insists on talking about his stint as the PM for Omaha Steaks. The Donald cuts him off. Gary doesn't shut up easily.
9:34 Lil Jon says he won't come on the show again "because it's hard." But prodded again, he said he would. Gary will not shut up about the Omaha Steaks, even though Meat tries to walk him off the stage. Now we find out why. Omaha Steaks co-opted his idea about the Dad, son, and kite. They are now using a kite to promote their product. Gary unfurls the kite and uses it as proof that his idea was good and he should have won that task as PM. Gary is vindicated! Maybe he's not as crazy as everyone thinks.
9:39 The Melting Pot Restaurant shows up with with $25K donation for Team J.R. All the money will go to St. Jude's Childrens Research Hospital. On Team Marlee, LaToya and Richard still don't know what they need to do to set up. Marlee shows up and helps set up the locker room. Meat shows up and helps unload the props. In the end, Marlee does a spectacular job on the set-up and calls the task "an emotional roller coaster." Basically the way she got it done was by keeping her eye on the prize for her charity. Good thing these celebrities aren't playing for their own bank accounts.
9:45 At the event, Meat greets the arrivals in a leather jacket and white shirt. Marlee is wearing a very tasteful green chiffon number. She looks amazing. Richard praises Marlee's presentation and the audience claps their approval. Marlee's commercial is slightly lackluster, but when Geoffrey Holder shows up at the end, everyone smiles and nods knowingly. Holder makes the commercial. Then, the Harlem Globe Trotters take the stage for a demonstration game. The audience loves them! Who are those children sitting next to The Donald? Looks like his youngest, Baron, and Don Jr.'s child. Yep. There's Melania on the other side. The Donald looks a little Presidential, don't you think? Like a wise and welcoming uncle. A very warm family scene.
9:51 Someone else shows up with $250K for J.R.'s charity. He's officially over the $1 million mark. Lil Jon greets the audience as they arrive and disappears to be with his team members. The 7Up officials are not happy. Unlike Marlee's team, there is no one to greet them. However, J.R.'s commercial goes over like gangbusters. The audience is blown away! Now it's time for the Def Leppard performance. Ooops. Where are they? J.R. screams their name and no one shows. Their roadie says J.R. was too early. It's only 6:45 and they're not due to perform until 7:00. "Unbelievable," says The Donald in disgust. I feel badly for J.R. If not for that one screw-up, his presentation would have definitely walked away with the prize. Now it's anybody's game.
9:58 J.R. beats himself up over the Def Leppard mistake. He decides to make lemons out of lemonade by stepping up to the mike with his own guitar and a special song for The Donald. "Don't fire me, don't fire me, Mr. Trump" is the little ditty. Mighty catchy! Then he does an acoustic warm-up for 7UP retro. The crowd is rocking and clapping. I think Star nearly wet her pants talking about her admiration for J.R.'s hail mary. "For real" Jon is proud of him too. He shakes J.R.'s hand so hard and so long you think there might be something special going on between them. At last, Def Leppard takes the stage and plays all their fan favorites. The crowd is on fire!
10:00 7UP officials are blown away by both teams. One says he would hire both J.R. and Marlee. They liked both cans and both commercials Marlee's only weakness was the level of signage as compared to J.R.'s SNAFU with Def Leppard and not greeting officials at the door. Hmmmm. Looking good for Team Marlee.
10:08 Most famous line form Nene to Star: "Shut the f--- up, park a-- b----. Game on!" It's time for the Nene retrospective. Believe me, there were some real doozies. Back to the live presentation, Nene affirms to The Donald that Star got under her skin. "She got to me a lot," says Nene. Star looks over at Nene with daggers in her eyes. "I was a little disheartened as I watched the episodes unfold," says Star. Then she accuses Nene of using the show to attack black women. That sets Nene off. Star keeps trying to talk while Nene talks right over her. There is no way to know what either one is saying. "As a professional woman, I was embarrassed," said Star, "as were millions of women around the country." LaToya laughs "Tee-hee" at the whole confrontation, and vouches for Nene's good heart. The Donald thinks that some day Star and Nene will be good friends again and go out to lunch. Nene and Star disagree vehemently as the audience chuckles. Is he joking? After all the venom that's come out in the news, I doubt those two will ever stand in the same room again, let alone go out to lunch.
10:14 The Donald tells Jack, the interpreter for Marlee, that he is now a breakout star and that The Donald wants 25% of everything he earns. Jack agrees. Ever the businessman, I doubt that agreement will hold water. Both teams are given opportunities to say why they should win. They each get to see the packaging and the cans of the other team. Meat likes the stuff from J.R.'s team and Star likes the stuff from Team Marlee. LaToya says J.R.'s can "pops." But the can is only part of it, The Donald reminds J.R. Ivanka goes out of her way to praise Marlee's presentation. It's looking better and better for Marlee all the time.
10:18 The Donald wants to know why Def Leppard did not come out on time. Who was responsible? J.R. answers by telling The Donald his team raised $275K in donations and that some of the money came in unexpectedly right before his show. "It threw me off," J.R. explains. This guy is one cool cucumber. He doesn't want to blame Def Leppard for showing up late, he says, but then plants the seed in The Donald's mind that they are actually to blame. I personally think Star was at fault, but it wouldn't look good for J.R. to blame a team member. Excellent strategic move on J.R.'s part to talk about the money. Rightfully so, Marlee points out that it was not a fundraising task. True. But The Donald is impressed by the numbers. Maybe J.R. is still in this.
10:21 Marlee again points out that she absolutely would have raised funds if fundraising were part of the task. Sappy music plays in the background as J.R. explains how he went above and beyond the call of duty for the task. "Largely due to your efforts, Celebrity Apprentice has raised almost $3 million this season, which is a record," fawns The Donald to all of the contestants. He sends the six helpers out of the boardroom and keeps J.R. and Marlee.
10:26 "This is painful. This is not easy. But it's got to be done," says The Donald right before he brings out both finalists live. Marlee hugs everyone in the front row, gives Lil Jon five, and reaches her hand out to those in the back. She is really working that room! J.R. comes out, tips his cowboy hat, and throws a cowboy hat on the table for The Donald. Lo and behold, The Donald wears the hat, quickly takes it off, and his hair barely budges. Who knows what that man has on the top of his head, but whatever it is, it's tougher than the a-ve-rage hair.
10:31 Asking each contestant who they would hire, Meat tries to plug his own projects and won't say who he supports. The Donald cuts him off. Nene and Gary say they like them both. Star finally says that both equal out on empirical evidence, but she likes J.R. better. Duh. Who couldn't have predicted that. Star has a mad crush on J.R. "He takes it over the top," says Star. Jon also votes for J.R. Meat tries to speak up again, and The Donald squelches him. "You had your turn, Meat Loaf," says The Donald. LaToya, Lisa and Mark also cast their vote for J.R. Only David says that Marlee should win. I wonder who Richard would pick if he had a get out of jail free card. They should have had cameras set up in his jail cell just for the chance of a second potential vote for Marlee.
10:35 They play a tape of children benefiting from Marlee's charity, The Starkey Hearing Foundation, and my heart melts. Marlee says she deserves to win so that she can help these kids. But then again, J.R.'s charity is the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. What could be more heart-melting than sick children in a hospital? Sorry, but if that's the only reason Marlee has to win this season, I say J.R. has the win in his back pocket.
10:42 Another tape rolls showing behind the scenes at St. Jude Hospital. Again, you can't help feeling for these kids. Many of them are fighting cancer. As J.R. says, they're incredibly inspiring. J.R. gives a small concert for the kids and their parents. The children's eyes are so wide and pitiful, they beat the "Shrek" Puss 'n Boots cat by a mile.
10:44 Well, here's a first. J.R. performs his St. Jude Hospital song live while Marlee and a choir of adolescents in blue shirts and red ties sign the words. They match J.R.'s outfit. Can't remember if The Donald is also wearing a blue shirt and red tie, but wouldn't that be matchy-matchy? No clapping when the number is done. Just jazz hands. The atmosphere is slightly surreal. Nicely done!
10:52 Turns out The Donald is wearing a white shirt and red tie. What is it with red ties tonight? Seven celebrities raise their hands for J.R. Only three raise their hands for Marlee. Now Marlee makes her case. She should win because she never takes no for an answer. "I refuse to back down. The whole time, I worked my butt off. I did whatever it took. I did it for Star. I did it for Hope. I raised more money in one day than any other contestant," says Marlee. J.R. says he should be the winner because St Jude saves kid's lives. "I also raised more than a million dollars. I brought Nikki Taylor back. I gave everything I had to give every time. My body of work compares with Marlee's body of work," says J.R. "I was also the PM more than anybody this season."
10:54 Copping out, Don, Jr. says The Donald can't go wrong picking either contestant. Ivanka also refuses to pick a winner. "I do need one celebrity apprentice," counters The Donald. "And we're going to be doing it in just a few minutes." Drat! He couldn't tell us the winner before going to commercial? How much money does this show have to milk?
10:58 Who will it be? Everyone is on the edge of their seats. The Donald will wait until the last possible second to announce the winner rather than just pick the winner and end the show with everyone milling about live.
"Marlee, do you have anything else to say?" The Donald asks. Of course she does. Do you really have to ask? J.R. does too. "I did not come here to hit a home run, I came back here to hit a grand slam." Well said! The Donald calls both contestants "so so so outstanding." He goes on praising Marlee for an amazing job, but you know whoever he starts praising first is the one who lost. He then praises J.R. for his leadership and for being so smart. "I'm going to do something a little different tonight," says The Donald, taunting, as if he might pick both contestants as double winners. But no such luck. I think in the end, he realized he would have to come up with the money himself for the other charity if he picked two winners. No accounting for sponsorships so late in the game.
"The winner of The Celebrity Apprentice 2011 is ......." wait for it ... "John Rich!"
Everyone behind the boardroom table claps for the winner, except Jack the interpreter. I suppose he was upset that Marlee didn't win. J.R. stands up trepidatiously, unsure what to do next. But then it comes naturally, and he hugs Marlee who is still sitting at the table, presumably stunned.
Confetti falls as I pat myself on the back. For a change, I was right. John Rich is the winner, as predicted. "Good night everyone," says The Donald. Whew! How very anti-climatic.