After two celebrities are fired, the two finalists get their retro on

By Dalton Ross
Updated May 16, 2011 at 06:00 AM EDT
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I’ve often joked about and taken delight in how arbitrary and absurd the elimination process is on Celebrity Apprentice. There is clearly little-to-no logic involved in Trump’s firing decisions, as he scrambles to keep the people that he thinks will create the most drama. (Need I remind you that Gary Busey made it all the way to episode 7?) And often the most entertaining tasks were the ones that were completely bungled on every level. (Need I remind you that La Toya Jackson refused to allow the Playmate of the Year to get in a bikini to sell sunscreen…and somehow still won over the equally inept men?) However, one of the things I do want from Celebrity Apprentice is worthy people in the finals, and allow me to say that is the best final two in Celebrity Apprentice history! (Granted it’s a pretty short history, but still.)

Piers Morgan was a force to be reckoned with in season 1, but Trace Adkins — as nice as he was — didn’t quite measure up. Annie Duke completely dominated season 2 (not just in fund-raising; she also beat professional musician Clint Black in a jingle-writing contest) yet was faced against an unworthy Joan Rivers in the finals. (Trump then made the situation even more inexplicable by naming Rivers the winner because he didn’t want to award it to another allegedly unlikable personality — still the most egregious decision in CA history.) Bret Michaels was a great feel good story last year, but his face-off against Holly Robinson Peete was hardly a clash of the titans. But John Rich vs. Marlee Matlin? Now we’re talkin’! Both smart, talented, and worthy of the Celebrity Apprentice throne. (A throne built out of congealed Veleveeta perhaps, but a throne nonetheless.)

The only problem is that because they’re both so awesome, there is no clear person for me to root for. On one hand, John Rich sports a dope handlebar moustache, and that’s worthy of my support right there. On the other, Marlee raised a freakin’ million dollars on one task, and is fun and self-deprecating enough to treat us to her brand of “deaf comedy.” Also, a victory for her is, by extension, a victory for interpreter-to-the-stars Jack Jason. And you know how I feel about Jack Jason. I feel so good about Jack Jason that I am considering having earplugs surgically implanted in my ear canal so I can steal him away from Marlee and have him come work for me instead. First he’ll have to teach me sign language though. And rob a bank for me so I can afford to pay him. Ugh…the surgery, learning, and bank robbing — it’s all too much work. You can keep him, Marlee. And you, dear readers, can keep the Five Awesomely Absurd Celebrity Apprentice Moments of the Week.

1. Three cheers for Piers!

Piers Morgan may be a slightly skeezy character, but he’s straight up money on this show. We were reminded of this when he and the other two CA winners — Joan Rivers and Bret Michaels — interviewed the final four candidates before Trump chose his final two. Whether asking John Rich “It’s quite an annoying hat, isn’t it?,” chastising Lil Jon for saying that he didn’t deserve to be in the final two, or challenging Meat Loaf about whether he cried all the time and had anger management issues, Piers went in with a mission of testing each of the candidates. Mission accomplished.

Of course, Joan and Bret had their moments too. Joan’s came after Lil Jon explained that he wanted to be on Celebrity Apprentice “To show that not all rappers are blunt smoking, crack smoking ignorant people.” “Can you give us names?” she replied. For Bret, you may as well have set a timer to measure how long it would take for him to hit on Marlee. The only problem is, before you even had time to set the damn thing he was already blurting out that, “I’ll tell you one thing, you’re forgetting the fact that she’s hot and not hard to look at at all.” It seems to me someone is itching to go out and demonstrate his famous Tour Bus Thrust! Just make sure you let Trump know how it goes, Bret. He apparently likes to keep tabs on what Marlee’s up to in the bedroom.

NEXT: Why is Meat Loaf so damn happy?

2. Meat Loaf: The most excited fired contestant of all time

You all know I think the world of Jack Jason. But if anyone could surpass him as the world’s foremost sign language interpreter, it is Meat Loaf. The man can never stop moving his hands! Whether pointing his finger at Piers to punctuate every single syllable, or waving his arms around like they had each shotgunned a six pack of Red Bull while in the Boardroom, the man is clearly emerging as a possible threat to the Jack Jason celebrity interpreter empire with his fleet and fluid hand motions. He seems to have just oodles of God-given talent in that regard. Should he ever be able to get through a sentence without cursing or crying, and be able to actually verbally translate what those signs mean, he could pose a serious challenge. Watch your back, Jack! There is a Loaf approaching from the rear! (Wow, that sounded kind of gross. Sorry about that.)

Anyhoo, what also struck me about Meat Loaf was how damn thrilled he appeared to be fired. Who knows, he may have been delirious. After all, he did tell Trump, “I admire you more than you can imagine.” (You sure about that, Meat Loaf? Because trust me, when it comes to people admiring him, there is no limit to what Donald Trump can imagine.) Next thing you know, Meat’s slapping high fives with Adrian the elevator operator and winking, pointing, and awkwardly exchanging devil horns with Amanda the receptionist. At first I thought maybe he simply misheard Trump and thought he said “hired’ instead of “fired” — and, by the way, tell me that would not have been the most awesome misunderstanding in television history — but no, it appeared the walking emotional roller coaster just happened to be at a peak and not a valley. But that valley would come soon, and its name was Geoffrey Holder.

3. Schoolyard pick ’em

Sometimes Trump just assigns former players willy-nilly to help the final two in their final task (I’m sure Bret Michaels was positively thrilled to get the comatose Darryl Strawberry on his squad last season), but this year he let Marlee and John Rich pick whom they got from the six returning players offered. The task was somewhat reminiscent of last’s year’s final Snapple challenge, but this time the beverage was something called 7UP Retro. Each team had to design retro packaging, produce a commercial, and launch a star-studded event.

Marlee got to choose which decade she wanted and went with the 70s, which included an appearance by the Harlem Globetrotters. This seemed like an odd selection because it meant John Rich got the 80s, which came with a Def Leppard performance. Why in the name of gunter-glieban-glauchen-globen would Marlee select the Globetrotters, thereby giving her musician opponent a musical concert to work with on the final task? (I know she’s deaf, but that doesn’t make a difference in terms of organizing an event.) Who knows? Maybe she was hoping Flight Time and Big Easy would show up, giving us our long awaited Amazing Race/Celebrity Apprentice crossover episode, complete with U-Turns, Road Blocks, and funky Phil Keoghan eyebrow arches.

NEXT: Star and John Rich make a baby…in Star’s mind

But since Marlee got first choice of decade, John Rich got first choice of celebrity assistants. He went with the obvious pick of Lil Jon, but here’s where things got interesting. Instead of going with semi-ally Star Jones, Marlee chose the scatterbrained Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf? Really? That guy is an emotional ticking time bomb! Last week, I joked about how he had stolen Sugar Kiper of Survivor‘s title as reality TV’s biggest tear-shedder ever. What I failed to mention, however, was that Sugar’s dad had recently died and she was roughing it out in the wild for 39 days. Meat Loaf? No such drama or dreadful conditions, yet he still morphed into a human sprinkler. I was shocked when Marlee chose him first. (Maybe it’s a try out to replace Jack!) And then, after John Rich took Mark McGrath, Marlee once again skipped over Star to pick Richard Hatch, a guy who was fired early and she had never worked with once.

Listen, as anyone who ever was picked last for a team knows, a schoolyard pick ’em can be a humiliating experience. I never like to see any person put through that…unless that person is Star Jones! Sorry, I’m not trying to be horrible, but I think we can all agree that Star was due for a heaping helping of humble pie. I actually think Star was a good pick for John Rich. She’s very task oriented and since she no longer has a shot at winning, she’s not likely not to undermine John or set him up to fail. When you size the teams up (John’s team: Lil’ Jon, Mark McGrath, Star Jones; Marlee’s team: Meat Loaf, Richard Hatch, and overall last pick La Toya Jackson), I think you’d have to give the edge to John. But once the teams were set, we were introduced to…

4. Star and John sitting in a tree…

Once she was fired and the competitive juices stopped flowing, we were treated to a kinder, gentler Star Jones. Why, she was even mildly funny, revealing that “Honestly, I have the biggest crush on JR. I love Big Daddy Rich.” See, mildly funny! Mildly disturbing, perhaps, but mildly funny a well. Even funnier was the pinpoint perfect timing of John telling us, “Star Jones says that if I wasn’t married she’d want to date me,” followed immediately by one of the framed photos falling off the wall. It’s as if the room was shouting at him, “DON’T DO IT, BIG DADDY RICH! DON’T DO IT!”

5. 7UP Retro, keepin’ it reeeeaaaaaaal

I got a bit frustrated when John Rich came up with the idea of getting an 80s icon to show up in their ad. He threw out names like Pauly Shore, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson before wondering what other 80s icon they might be able to get on such short notice. Um, hello? Am I the only Celebrity Apprentice historian here? (I am? Oh, well, never mind.) There’s an 80s icon that lives right there in New York City who also happens to be a former Celebrity Apprentice contestant herself. I’m talking about Cyndi Freakin’ Lauper! Remember back when she sang, “If you’re lost you can look and you will find me — time after time?” She’s singing to you, John Rich! Remember when she sang, “If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting — time after time?” She’s singing to you, John Rich! And remember when she sang “She bop, he bop, a-we bop, I bop, you bop, a-they bop?” Well…she’s singing about masturbation there so that’s not exactly relevant in this instance, but the point is, you could have gotten Cyndi Lauper — easy!

NEXT: Shocker! Meat Loaf is freaking out again

But the fellas found someone that wears just as much makeup by scoring Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. Dee’s big drama would be whether his Rock of Ages producers would let him shave us his Fu Manchu, but once they said yes, it was showtime. The transformation from makeup-less Dee Snider to glamed up Dee Snider was incredible. All of a sudden it looked as if the guy hadn’t aged a day in 25 years. He and those dudes from KISS are on to something. I have to start painting my face and wearing permed-out wigs. Fountain of youth, baby!

Over on Marlee’s team, when Meat Loaf was not telling someone to “blow me,” he was complaining about the boom box not being used on their 7UP Retro 12-pack box. “I think we’re making a huge, huge, huge, giant mistake,” said Meat. Seriously? Huge, huge, huge and giant? Damn, that’s, like, the biggest mistake EVER! (And not for nothing, but while the boom box did start to come into prominence in the late 1970s, it’s traditionally thought of as much more of an 80s thing with the rise of breakdancing and hip-hop. Just saying. I honestly shouldn’t have to school Meat Loaf on matters of music from that era, but there you have it.) Unlike the newly mellowed Star, Mr. Loaf seemed to be getting as uptight and antsy as ever, which culminated with him writing an awful script that made no sense, putting on an unfortunate wig, and yelling “I’m gonna throw this f—ing phone across the room!” after there was a hold-up on the contract for 7UP icon (is that an oxymoron?) Geoffrey Holder. It was at this point that I was praying Trump would send Gary Busey in to push Meat Loaf completely over the edge. Maybe waving a bag of paints — just for the hell of it.

I have to figure the Geoffrey Holder situation will work out just fine for Marlee’s team, but she still could be in a bit of trouble, as that John Rich soda can and ad look pretty dope. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. But even more than that, I can’t wait to see how Trump drags out the decision for as long as possible, polling every single one of the contestants — well, except Richard Hatch, who is in jail — in addition to former players and random other people from the audience. (Please, Lord, don’t let Jim Cramer be there.) It will be our very last Celebrity Apprentice therapy session together for 2011. Until then, let us know what you think. Happy with the final two? Who got the better team? And who has the early lead? Hit the message boards and let us know. Then check back Friday for my special @InsideTVPodcast interview with Marlee and John Rich! And for more Celebrity Apprentice news and views, follow me on Twitter @EWDaltonRoss. Until next week’s finale: Cluck, Cluck…Splash!

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The Celebrity Apprentice

Donald Trump, “you’re fired” — you know the drill.
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