Two months ago, I thought I had Donald Trump and his Celebrity Apprentice franchise all figured out. Folks like Aubrey O’Day and Lisa Lampanelli would be entertaining, sure, but they’d be weeded out one by one like a Trump spouse until we ended up with our final two: Clay Aiken and Penn Jillette.
Then Trump did something during a scent-related challenge that made little sense: He fired Penn after Trump fragrance executives slammed a slogan that Trump himself loved. Penn, you didn’t earn it! (The firing, that is. You’ve got to love a show that makes as little sense as a masturbation-themed Tide commercial.) I rejiggered my faulty Celebrity Apprentice ESP, and predicted entertainment would trump practicality, and Clay would instead be forced to face off against Aubrey, who I also predicted would take credit for the victory at Stones River in the finale. (Still could happen!)
But then Trump fired Aubrey last night for being “transparent,” which was unexpected since Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson never showed up during the course of the show. Instead, we learned I have the psychic abilities of JP Morgan, and Trump really, really, really loves Arsenio Hall. Enough, in fact, to send him into the final two with Clay Aiken — and enough to see him win the whole shebang.
I would be surprised to see Trump hire Arsenio — not only is the businessman as stuck in the 1980s as his hair, but last night’s penultimate episode seemed to point to a victorious Arsenio. Despite being one of the best players in the competition thus far, Clay has proven to be a surprisingly ineffective and combative Project Manager. It was bad enough that the former American Idol runner-up had difficulty finding any piece of land with grass in New York — a city that boasts a 2.5-mile stretch of grass in the middle of its most populous borough — but his behavior with Debbie Gibson during Muralgate was as obnoxious as people who lazily put “gate” at the end of a word to describe a conflict.
Now, I know enough about the tricky Celebrity Apprentice to assume its producers purposefully create conflict in the final episodes to ensure the process isn’t seamless for our final two. I wouldn’t count out the possibility that producers confined Clay to a grassless neighborhood full of refreshingly priority-driven New Yorkers that won’t let you take the baseball field from their kids, no matter how many times they voted for you on American Idol. And I guarantee a producer somehow convinced Michele Bachmann’s cameraperson to step in for Adam Carolla’s contact for Arsenio’s Magic Johnson bit. Still, Clay has not only made few fundraising efforts — does it matter what color a wall is if you only bring in a couple thousand dollars? — but also made a few enemies on his own team. Aubrey’s Arsenio-direct insults at the final boardroom will mean nothing if she hurls insults at her own Project Manager as well.
Of course, the very fact that I’m predicting an Arsenio win likely means Clay, instead, will pick up the title. (Or did I just now predict Clay, which means Arsenio will actually win? You guys, Monday thinking is hard.) Still, heading into Sunday’s finale, the only way I can get over my disappointment over Aubrey’s firing — and the inexplicable fact that Lou Ferrigno wasn’t brought back to help our final two — is to “Woot! Woot! Woot!” for our late-night legend. Sorry Clay — once a runner-up, always a runner-up.
Surprised by our final two? Does Clay have a chance to win, especially without the fundraising heavy-hitters?
Follow Kate on Twitter @HWKateWard