Arsenio and Clay battle it out until the very end and wait to hear The Donald’s decision

By Dalton Ross
May 21, 2012 at 05:44 AM EDT
Image Credit: Mitch Haaseth/NBC
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Whew. What a weekend. Man, I am bushed. Think I’ll just kick back with a soda pop, see what that miserable drunk Andy Capp is up to in the funnies, and maybe take pity on my cats and change their litter for once. Then perhaps I’ll turn in early because I’ve got a big day tomorrow and…. Wait, what? The Celebrity Apprentice finale is tonight? Holy smokes! I’ve got to get to my computer and start writing my Celebrity Apprentice recap! Mr. Whiskers, get me the fastest driver anywhere in the world!

Mr. Whiskers: “Meow.”

Dalton: “Don’t sass me, Whiskers! This is serious business. I need someone to get me to the office so I can get cracking on this pronto! Make some calls! Hurry!”

Mr. Whiskers: “Meow.”

Dalton: “What do you mean you can’t dial numbers on a telephone with your paws? What good are you then? Ugh, never mind. But if you think I’m going to go change your litter now, you’re crazy!”

Mr. Whiskers: “Meow.”

Dalton: “WHAT?!? Aubrey O’Day did not deserve to win! Now you’re talking crazy talk is what you’re doing.”

[Mr. Whiskers lifts hind leg and starts cleaning self]

Dalton: “Hey, that’s uncalled for, Whiskers! Look, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on the Aubrey thing. Now let me call my mother-in-law and see if she can get her 1998 Chevy minivan over here and drive me to the office in between the speeds of 25 and 35 miles per hour. As for you, tell Adrian to get the elevator ready.”

Mr. Whiskers: “Meow.”

Dalton: “I DON’T CARE THAT WE DON’T HAVE AN ELEVATOR! TELL HIM TO GET IT READY ANYWAY!”

What an entrance! Just when you thought The Celebrity Apprentice could not get any more wonderfully absurd, along come Donald Trump and Mario Andretti in a race car, zooming through the streets of Manhattan CGI style before pulling up at the Natural History Museum for the big finale. This was an amazing entrance on many levels, beyond just the fact that Donald Trump arrived in a freakin’ race car. There’s also the fact that it was both daylight and raining outside — meaning this was clearly recorded on Tuesday day as opposed to Sunday night. There’s the fact that over-enthusiastic sign language interpreter Jack Jason was in the aisle Trump walked down when he arrived, and was forced to awkwardly abort an attempted high five when the Donald just kept walking past him. (I would have thought someone who works with his hands that much for a living would have been a bit more agile.) And, of course, there’s the fact that who was there to greet Trump on stage but none other than phony baloney Boardroom receptionist-turned-coat check girl Amanda Miller? What can’t she do?

Trump in a race car? Jack Jason? Amanda Miller? It’s as if someone raided my dreams and put them on national television! The only thing missing was the cast of Paradise Hotel cheering along from an onstage hot tub while the sweet sounds of Flickerstick blared out of the PA speakers. Of course, this bizarre entrance just made me long for the days when Jeff Probst used to jet ski/sky dive/motorbike the Survivor votes from oversees to the United States. Get back on that, Probst! You just got Trumped!

So, while tonight was ostensibly about who would be named the next Celebrity Apprentice winner: Clay Aiken or Arsenio Hall (and Arsenio would ultimately take home the proverbial crown), the evening also offered up the promise of lots of head-scratching and side-splitting moments that can only be found when you put people named Gotti and Ferrigno on live TV. Before we get to the actual final task — and I will offer my take on who won each of the three elements (PSA, party, performance) — let’s pay tribute to a few of those wonderfully crazy live shenanigans.

NEXT: Trump tries to get people to stop talking about money

Celebrity Zombies

Well, they’re not quite zombies, I suppose, but the finale is always a great opportunity to see contestants who were fired come back from the dead to offer confusing answers to even more confusing questions. Speaking of which, how appropriate that both father Mario and son Marco got more screen time than actual contestant Michael Andretti, who along with Cheryl Tiegs was completely MIA. Not that they were missed.

I honestly don’t know which moment from the fired celebs was my favorite. Was it when Trump asked Victoria Gotti, “With the background you have, did that help with how well you did at Celebrity Apprentice?” even though she was the second person fired? (He also asked Adam if he did so well because he’s a funny guy, even though Adam was fired seemingly back in 2003.) Was it when Lou Ferrigno bragged about raising $41,000 for his Muscular Dystrophy charity and then dropped the check triumphantly on Trump’s desk? (Why is he giving the money to Trump? Shouldn’t that go to someone from, you know, the actual Muscular Dystrophy Association?) Was it Adam saying that Teresa thinks the word naïve is “a brand of douche?”

No, the best moment for me was when Trump thought he would go in for some quick and harmless back and forth with Patricia Velásquez. “Mr. Trump, I am having really, really hard time,” she began when asked how she was doing before going on about how 90 percent of the money she raised to build a school ended up going to the other team and now not only could she not build the school but she could not go back to her donors asking for more money since they had already given that money and it hadn’t gone to where they intended. Trump’s response to this sob story? “Well, you’re doing well. You’re doing well.” Brilliant. Sweep that s— under the carpet, sister! I got an entertainment show to run here!

The brush-off continued later with George Takei when Trump tried to cut Sulu off once he started talking about all the money he had raised outside of the show. The host was basically saying, “I don’t give a crap about the money raised for charity. Let’s go see a Lisa Lampanelli drag queen!” And you know what? He’s right! I do want to see the Lisa Lampanelli drag queen!

The only live part of the finale that was a bit of a yawner was the Clay and Arsenio duet on “Lean on Me.” For one thing, busting out a backup gospel choir is one of the biggest reality competition show clichés there is. Secondly, if I want to hear Arsenio Hall sing I’ll go put on a Chunky A record. And I do not want to go put on a Chunky A record.

As for the outcome, I long ago — right around the time Joan Rivers won over Annie Duke — stopped trying to figure out how these Donald decisions are made. What percentage is the final task? What percentage is the season as a whole? What percentage is who is more famous? What percentage is who is more likable? What percentage is whichever name Melania whispers in Trump’s ear when he gets up in the morning? What percentage is whichever name Mario Andretti screams at him over the roar of an Indy Car series engine?

NEXT: Did the right person win?

I’ll break down the three elements of the task below but must say that for the season, I would have given it to Clay Aiken. Is that because he was my episode 1 pick to win so I would have looked like freakin’ Nostradamus had he pulled it out? Partly, perhaps. But he was consistently sharp and more consistently involved. Plus, he didn’t go berserk in the Boardroom as Arsenio did at Aubrey. But that’s just me. Trump obviously felt differently. As for the final task, it was very, very close. Let’s break it down by each of the three elements, starting with…

The Ads

Oh, you crafty Celebrity Apprentice producers. Much in the same way that old-school 7-Up pitchman Geoffrey Holder magically agreed to appear in John Rich’s ad after last year’s dramatic cliffhanger, we had a feeling that the sideways Magic Johnson snafu would be resolved about 20 seconds into this week’s finale. And sure enough, up popped a proper camera angle of the basketball legend. Even knowing that was coming did not did not diminish the hilarity of last week’s hijinks. The producers of this show truly know how to milk every possible second of dopey drama. They are geniuses, plain and simple.

Now that Arsenio had his Magic money shot, whose ad would come out on top? To me, this one wasn’t even close. Clay’s was earnest and fine. Arsenio’s was memorable and fun. Now, don’t get me wrong — some of the looks in Arsenio’s ad didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Arsenio himself resembled a cross between Michael Jackson (with the jacket), Run-DMC (with the gold chain), and Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington (with the hair). But this was an ad to be shown at a party. People at parties like to laugh. And the sight of a dude in a handlebar mustache with a Bette Midler wig on is pretty damn funny. Throw in Magic Johnson not talking to a wall, and you have the makings of a pretty great PSA.

As for Clay’s, it went for tears rather than cheers. It also was a bit of information overload. Clay was talking so fast I thought he was busting out his celebrated John Moschitta impersonation. The ad wasn’t bad, but it kind of looked like every other charity PSA you’ve ever seen — one that makes you feel vaguely bad about yourself for not helping disadvantaged people more before you find yourself being blissfully distracted from such unpleasantness by a delicious bowl of Cool Ranch Doritos. Speaking of which, I still can’t figure out why Cool Ranch turned into Cooler Ranch for a few years, and then went back to Cool Ranch. I can’t handle that much confusion and indecision in a snack chip. Wait, what was Clay’s PSA for again?

So in terms of the ad, I score this one a clear victory for Team Arsenio. After all, any spot that gets Adam Corolla looking like Prince & The Revolution drummer Bobby Z is good by me.

NEXT: Clay knows how to party

The Parties

Element two of the final task was the party. I’m not a big party guy. Parties involve too much, like, talking to people and stuff. Now, show me a party where Debbie Gibson is hula-hooping while spinning plates on sticks, and well, that’s a whole other story! Last week the majority of the drama over Clay’s party centered on Aiken’s demand to see sketches from Debbie’s cousin before he would allow her to paint a big mural on the wall.

Like most drama from penultimate Celebrity Apprentice episodes, this spat was resolved within minutes of the finale. But there is always new drama to be had if Aubrey O’Day is around. When some random dude in a baseball hat (who must have been important for some reason that was never explained) showed up, Clay began to introduce himself…only to watch Aubrey step in, hug, and then attempt to escort the man away. (I have a strange suspicion that is not the first time someone used the words “Aubrey” and “escort” in the same sentence.) But Clay is no push-over…unless he is being pushed by Ruben Studdard, of course. (Have you seen The Velvet Teddy Bear? That dude is huge! He could push Clay two states over.) “You want to let me do this since this is my show?” Clay asked rhetorically. Oh, snap! Wait, do people say “snap” anymore? I may be dating myself, which is bad news when you’re around Aubrey because she’s likely to make approximately 1,372 age jokes at your expense. Especially if your name is Tia Carrere.

Well, needless to say, Aubrey did not appreciate being reminded that she was no longer the center of attention. “If I wasn’t here, he wouldn’t have a show,” Aubrey informed us. That’s a catty comment to make, but I will say this: Clay put Aubrey in charge of getting the party together and the party was going to look awesome…if they could just get the painting done, that is. To get the room completed in time, they had to pull out all the stops, including forcing a mute magician into manual labor. And while Teller was busy with a paint brush, what was Clay Aiken up to? He was busy getting trashed!

Unfortunately, that is not to imply Clay was drunk. I say unfortunately because had he gone and gotten wasted for his final task this would have been the best Celebrity Apprentice finale of all time. (If only Dennis Rodman had made the finals back in season 2. Now that guy you know would have been hammered.) But no, the trashed I refer to is due to the fact that Clay Aiken eschewed his business attire for an actual trash bag, which he then put on over his shirt and tie. Was Clay modeling the latest hot and hip fashion from Ivanka’s clothing line? Nope, he was painting the walls like everyone else.

We saw far less preparation from Team Arsenio because their party was far less elaborate, with no discernable theme to speak of. And while Arsenio had a clear edge in the number of celebrity check givers — he counted Jay Leno, Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy, Georg Lopez, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno again, and a drag queen version of Lisa Lampanelli; Clay’s only truly big name was Kelly Clarkson — Clay brought in a lot more money: $301,500 to $167,100. When it came to actual celebrity attendees, it was a tight race as Clay welcomed Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser, while Arsenio had Whoopi on his arm…and yes, I realize how unfortunate the phrase “Whoopi on your arm” is.

But the bottom line is this: Clay’s party was unique, fun, and fabulous looking. Arsenio’s resembled any other Manhattan cocktail party. Just a little too sleek for my taste. Arsenio may have won the ad, but I score the party a clear victory for Clay.

NEXT: Dee Snider says goodbye to his street cred

The Performances

Whether you preferred Arsenio’s variety show or Clay’s probably depends on whether you like comedy or crooning.  The danger with comedy is that if it doesn’t work, it really falls flat (see: Paul Teutul, Sr. attempting to ad lib on stage). The danger with singing is that different people have different tastes. A Twisted Sister fan probably doesn’t want to hear a whole lot of Debbie Gibson, and vice versa.

Adam, Lisa, and Arsenio are all professional comedians, so they knew how to work a room. Sure, cracking jokes about Trump’s hair isn’t exactly reinventing the comedy wheel, but I’m assuming the goal here was to make the comedy as broad as possible. Lisa also made a joke about how unshocked she was when Clay finally came out of the closet, commenting that “the only thing that’s Aiken is Clay’s ass!” Zing!

Clay’s show was just…bizarre. It began with Dee Snider and Debbie Gibson serenading each other with “Baby Love,” causing Dee to recycle his joke from last week about how he would have punched someone in the nose if he’d been told back in the ’80s that he would be singing with Debbie Gibson. Why does the mere mention of Debbie Gibson’s name keep making Dee Snider want to punch people in the face? Was he more of a Tiffany man or something? What’s the real story here? Shake your hate, Dee!

Dee and Debbie then turned the stage over to Aubrey, who performed “I Will Survive” — although I’m not sure Aubrey technically “survived” this competition since she was…you know, fired and all. Any questions over the literal accuracy of the song in question were immediately washed away, however, by much more pressing matters — namely, why is Penn Jillette grinding and dirty dancing all over Aubrey? This was very uncomfortable to watch.

Speaking of uncomfortable, Dee and Debbie are back! The less-than-dynamic duo at least busted out some of their songs this time, constantly interrupting each other to do it. MASHUP!!! Finally, Clay took the stage. I was personally hoping for a little American Idol flashback with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (which would have certainly fit the charity theme), but instead of Simon & Garfunkel, he went for another duo instead: Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes! Don’t worry, I have no idea who they are either, but after a quick Google search it appears that they apparently sang that Dirty Dancing song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

NEXT: Donald Trump becomes a Twisted Sister fan

But Clay doesn’t go this one alone. Aubrey O’Day storms the stage to join in, sucking face with Clay for the second time while she’s at it. And then out come Dee and Debbie as well. The fact that heavy metal god Dee Snider is now singing the theme from Dirty Dancing in a cruise ship type revue kind of makes me want to punch him in the nose. And you know what, ‘80s Dee Snider would be kicking 2012 Dee Snider’s ass as well, because THAT DUDE IS NOT GONNA TAKE IT!

While Arsenio clearly won the ad, and Clay clearly won the party, the show is a hard one to call. I mean, make no mistake, Team Clay’s performance was so cheesy there was a pool of Velveeta literally congealing on the stage when they were done. But often cheesy is funny — unintentionally funny perhaps, but funny nonetheless. So I’m going to go ahead and score this one a draw. Of course the best part of either performance is the fact that it became abundantly clear in the Boardroom later that Donald Trump had never heard “We’re Not Gonna Take it” before in his life. “I love that song!” he gushed. “You must have a lot of money in the bank. That song is big! That’s a biggie!” He’s right, it was big…28 YEARS AGO! Trump can slap that song on his iPod right in between some other hot new jamz: Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy” and Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom.”

But Trump, of course, did not score this season a draw. He scored it a win for Arsenio. I don’t necessarily think it’s the right call, but it’s not a surprising one either considering Arsenio’s fame and ability to bring in the even more famous Magic Johnson. What do you think? Did Trump blow it, or get it right? Hit the message boards and let us know. And if for some reason you missed it, make sure to check out our hilarious podcast interview with Arsenio and Clay in which they relive the highs and lows of the entire season. And hardcore fans will definitely want to listen in on our exclusive podcast interview with Boardroom receptionist Amanda Miller. Plus: I just posted a brand new interview with winner Arsenio from this morning. And that, ladies and gentlemen, will officially conclude another jaw dropping season of inanity and insanity.

Thanks to all of you for playing along all season. Your kind words have been much appreciated, and just knowing there are other loonies out there as obsessed with this wonderfully ridiculous television show as I am has made me feel just a little more sane. Not a lot. But a little. I’ll see you again in 2013, and until then, for more reality ramblings all year long you can follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss. And now as we wave goodbye, say it with me one last time: Cluck, Cluck…Splash!

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