Warning: This recap for the “Fire Up That Chopper” episode of The New Celebrity Apprentice contains spoilers.
It’s been a week since hulking action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger lumbered into the Celebrity Apprentice boardroom looking like an industrial freezer wearing a suit. It was a humdrum beginning to his tenure as Chairman of the Board as he struggled to bring out the intimidation factor many were expecting. He didn’t stub a cigar out on Boy George’s glittered Fedora or hurl Jon Lovitz through a pane glass window. Instead, the Arnie we got was less Terminator and more Kindergarten boss.
According to viewing figures, it seems Arnold was more successful in terminating ratings than contestants. Only 4.95 million people watched the season premiere, down from the 6.31 million who tuned into the premiere of the Donald Trump-fronted season in 2015. I know this because the president-elect was quick to tweet about it, and Trump’s Twitter account is where I get all my ratings news. I’m hoping he’ll keep me informed on renewals and cancellations, too; I hear things are looking bleak for Meryl Streep.
But it’s not the End of Days (get it!), it’s early enough in the season for things to improve and Arnold to find his footing; we may get to see the “Governor” dangling Carson Kressley by his ankles yet!
The first task of the night required the teams to create an eight-to-10 minute “live health segment showcase” for Welch’s grape juice. There’s nothing that screams “healthy living” more than Vince Neil, a man who probably only consumes grapes in their liquefied and fermented form. Speaking of wine, that seemed to be the primary concern for the women’s team, whose only respite from Laila Ali’s humorless management style was to drown themselves in alcohol.
Despite Laila’s reluctance to crack a smile, her hardheaded approach proved a winning formula, managing to keep her team in line and producing a well-crafted daytime talk show concept called “Get the juice,” which I think was also the slogan Arnold used back in his bodybuilding days. The ladies were able to overcome time constraints, falling décor, and a talkative Porsha Williams by keeping the segment on brand and informational.
The men, led by MMA star Chael Sonnen (picture Channing Tatum after a bad run in with a baseball bat), had a similar plan but were so focused on presenting a celebrity variety show that the brand message got lost among all the terrible grape puns. But at least football Hall of Famer Eric Dickinson delivered an MVP performance: “I put grape juice under each seat in the audience so they could have grape juice, and basically that was it. I don’t feel like I need to do anything more.” I mean, where else is there to go but down after you’ve reached the lofty heights of “stadium vendor.”
Eric sealed his fate in the boardroom when he had the temerity to say he didn’t care if he was fired. How dare you not take this show seriously, Eric! Boy George and Vince Neil didn’t form a grape-based pop band called The Polyphenols for you to sit there and undermine the very foundation this program is built on. It also didn’t help his cause that Chael decided to play the role of “cocky douche,” a classic reality TV tactic that is guaranteed to ensure survival, making Mr. Schwarzenegger’s decision that much easier.
I got hot sauce in my bag
In the episode’s second task, the teams had to create viral videos to promote King’s Hawaiian BBQ sauce. Arnold introduced iJustine as his guest adviser; now, I’m a millennial, but I have no idea who or what an iJustine is. Is she a real person? Did Apple design artificial intelligence when I wasn’t looking? I was still getting over the missing headphone jack on the new iPhone. We were promised business supremos like Warren Buffet, and instead, we get a Tumblr blog come to life. Or perhaps I’m just desperately out of touch.
The women, managed by Snooki, or as she now wants to be known, Nicole, came up with two concepts: Kyle Richards’ “saucy housewives,” which sounds like the name of a ’70s softcore porno, and Laila’s George Costanza-inspired “double dipping.” Lisa Leslie was “allegedly” the director and clashed with Laila and Porsha throughout the challenge, causing a mass of confusion and time wasting while Snooki curled up in the corner and died. Not literally, but she clearly wanted to.
Matt Iseman was in charge of the men, and while he quickly approved Ricky Williams’ football-themed video, he was a little more worried when it came to Jon’s idea. What was Jon’s idea? A group of lecherous men (played by themselves, obviously) drooling over a hot woman in the park, only the joke is, they’re actually drooling over the BBQ sauce! Hilarious! It’s only every single Coke commercial ever. Boy George wasn’t impressed, and so Jon staged a temporary walk-out until the team truly understood his creative genius.
Jon wasn’t the only one to throw a hissy fit. “This is the worst experience in my entire life,” Boy George moaned after Ricky made him stand out in the sun for an hour with nothing to do, and this is coming from a man that served four months in prison for falsely imprisoning a male escort. Later Vince stormed out of the editing suite when he’d had enough of Jon’s inability to listen. Vince was probably wishing he was on the sauce, not advertising it. It seemed the only man not complaining was Carson, and he was the one that had a right to be upset, seeing as he ended up in a sling after tackling Ricky.
Somehow the men scraped another win, their third of the season so far. I say “somehow,” but given how the women’s second video turned out the result was kind of obvious. It’s still unclear what exactly the video for “saucy housewives” was meant to be. It featured Porsha dragging Kyle along the floor by her feet, a man shoveling BBQ sauce into his gullet, and a barrage of audio and visual effects that David Lynch would reject for being “too weird.”
Nicole didn’t put up a fight in the boardroom. She took all the responsibility for the editing disaster, and honestly, it looked like she’d rather be anywhere else in the world than listening to Laila, Porsha, and Lisa bickering over camera angles. To be fair to Nicole, she was an entirely different person from the drunken, screaming “meatball” that paraded her extremities for the world to see on Jersey Shore. She appears to have done a lot of growing up and was genuinely over the bitching and backstabbing. Which of course meant she was no longer of use to this show.
Heating up or fizzling out?
Things began to pick up momentum in the second hour, but the show is still lacking an edge. Trump may have never discussed the political tactics of Abraham Lincoln in the boardroom like Arnold did this week, which was terrific, but his blustering, bullish temperament did provoke greater reactions from the contestants. Something that is now being inflicted on the world at large. Arnold is still a bit too laidback and unwilling to challenge the celebrities on their failures, which makes for dull boardroom banter (apart from when Jon told Arnie to take acting lessons).
But not all the blame can be put on Arnold. The cast itself isn’t exactly brimming with the usual Celebrity Apprentice absurdity; it’s hard to imagine a Meatloaf versus Gary Busey style screaming match taking place with this group. Apart from one or two fiery personalities, the cast, on the whole, is rather tame. I also don’t think it helps to smush (RIP Snooki) two episodes together each week as it doesn’t allow time for the characters to shine. Instead, the whole thing seems like one long product placement pitch with semi-recognizable faces. Damn, I’ve done an Eric and undermined the show’s entire reason for existing!
Is Arnold succeeding in his new role? Did you understand the complexities of “saucy housewives”? Did the right people get “terminated”? Let us know in the comments below.
The New Celebrity Apprentice airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on NBC. Watch clips and full episodes of Celebrity Apprentice on Yahoo View.