The end is almost near for this wonderful season of The Apprentice, and I’m truly intrigued to see the outcome. Rebecca and Randal are two of the most competent finalists ever for this show and probably the best matchup since Kwame and Bill. Going into Thursday’s episode though, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that as bright and sharp as Rebecca is, it’ll be hard for her to stop the Randal juggernaut. After all, every Apprentice showdown always seems to have a natural favorite. On season one, as much as I loved Kwame, it was fairly clear that Bill would win. On season two, while I enjoyed Jen Massey’s hard edge and determination, Kelly was the obvious choice. And on season three, it was hard to deny Tana’s midwestern spunk, but we all knew it was Kendra’s game to lose.
With the final Boardroom looming, it seemed as though Randal would be an unflappable leader to the end, but after having seen Thursday’s episode, I’m not so sure anymore. I must say that Rebecca looks to be the favorite now, and for once, I truly have no idea what will happen. It’s a shame that this season of The Apprentice has received such flack from the media because it really has been one of best ever.As avid viewers may remember, last week’s show ended with the double firing of Alla and Felisha, which meant that Trump had to go upstairs “for something pleasant” and congratulate Randal and Rebecca for making the final two. We kicked off this week’s episode by watching Trump saunter into the suite and greet his surprised proteges. “I want to congratulate you both because I fired both Felisha and Alla,” he bellowed, causing jaws to drop all around. He then announced that the two finalists would be dining with George and Carolyn at a restaurant called Megu (restaurants don’t normally get italics, but how can you say Megu without it?). “So you know what you’re gonna do? You’re gonna analyze them. You’re gonna study them. You’re gonna ask questions — how to get into my head,” Trump said, adding, “Analyzing and studying George and Carolyn is a THIRTY BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY!”
Randal and Rebecker then headed off to MEGU, home of the darkest restaurant foyer EVER, and dined with Carolyn and George, a.k.a. C-dog and Jorge. I had to admit. I was pretty jealous. Not only were they chowing down on what looked to be delicious food, but they got to spend time with the best sidekicks on reality TV. George, for one, was at his grandpa-ist best as he eyed some sashimi suspiciously. “That could crawl off the plate, it looks so raw!” he scoffed, but like the trooper he was, he stuffed it into his mouth, thus ending his career as a life-long sashimi virgin. We never found out whether or not he liked it, but something tells me he wished he were back at that retirement home munching on cookies.
If you thought this dinner was just going to be all fun and sushi, you’re wrong. There was business to attend to, people! George revealed that Randal and Rebecca would have to assemble teams for their final task. And when would they have to do this, you ask? “This evening!” chirped Carolyn like the lovable parakeet that she is. Now, I must admit that as much as I love watching the incompetent fools from earlier in the season return, having the finalists handpick their teammates makes much more sense and should raise the level of competition significantly. Randal’s picks were Josh, James, and Mark. Rebecca’s picks were Josh, James, and Chris. Uh oh spaghetti-o!
“Well, you have a problem!” declared Carolyn. No shit Sherlock!
And so began a highly enjoyable round of negotiating and bartering as Rebecca and Randal played virtual Monopoly with their picks. Rebecca offered Josh for James, but then Randal suddenly wanted Chris for his second pick. Well, Rebecca was not happy about that because Chris was her pick all along. So what else could she do other than grill Squidward and make him stammer. “You knew we’d have to meet somewhere in the middle, or did you think you were just going to get your way completely?” she asked. Ooh! Intense!
Well, Randal would not budge over Chris, and so the two decided to leave things up for chance by flipping a coin. Fortunately for Rebecca, she won the toss — and Chris — which meant Randal had to settle for Mark. Gosh, everybody loves Chris. Screw Randal and Rebecca. Make Chris the Apprentice. Nevertheless, draft day wasn’t over. Time for Rebecca’s third pick. Survey says… TORAL!!! YAY!!! Oh, wonderful reality gods, thank you for bringing our dearest Toral back to us. As for Randal, he chose Marshawn, which was cool, but I would have liked a return of The Rubble Man. After all, Brian is a medium pimp, got girls around the world.
The next morning, Rhona called up on the banana phone, and my oh my did she look glum. Why the long face, Rhone? Miss your morning gabfest with Clay? Nevertheless, as per Rhona’s instructions, the two finalists headed down to the Boardroom where Randal politely pulled a chair out for Rebecca. “Thank you Randal. That’s very nice,” Trump said. You know, Donald, people have been doing that for Rebecca all season long. Let’s not get carried away.
Anyway, after the two finalists delivered well-stated speeches to Trump about how great they are, the big man announced, “You will manage each and every aspect of two ‘UGE events.” Rebecca was assigned the Yahoo All-Star Benefit which would be a comedy fundraiser emceed by, uh, Joe Piscopo.
Randal, meanwhile, would run the Outback Steakhouse VIP Softball Challenge. No word yet on which stars would be appearing, but it’ll be hard to top Piscopo. If Randal’s lucky, maybe — just maybe — he’ll bag Shadoe Stevens. Or Sandy Duncan. Oooh! Or maybe Jim J. Bullock!
The team members then filed in and sat with their leaders, causing Trump to remark, “What a group of killers! Wow!” As Toral — who looked quite good, btw — took her seat, Trump asked, “Toral, are you surprised to be here?” To which she replied, “Rebecca recognizes talent, sir.” ToralZing!!
Later, after having sent his team off in an Escalade, Randal admitted that he had become emotional when he had seen his posse. “I’ve missed them!” he said, his voice lilting. A happy reunion in Bikini Bottom indeed! And if it made him feel any better, his team only wanted to do the best for Randal. “My job is to get Superman elected to the Trump organization,” Mark said. Superman’s gonna be on The Apprentice?? That’ll be awesome! Oh, wait. That’s just a nickname for Randal, isn’t it? Blast.
Meanwhile, Rebecca’s crew stopped by “The Blvd.” which was the oh-so-trendy venue for the big Yahoo comedy fundraiser. Everyone oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over the premises and gushed about just how awesome the whole place was. Yeah, okay, let’s just get on with this thing.
Over at Coney Island, Randal toured Keyspan Park which was where his event would take place. He acknowledged the extreme pressure he was under, noting, “We have to answer to Outback.” Yes, we wouldn’t want Randal to receive a blooming onion of failure. He then casually mentioned the celebrities that would be attending his event, including boxer/Mark-Burnett-servant Sugar Ray Leonard and G-Unit. Wait, what? G-g-g G-Unit is showing up on The Apprentice? Isn’t this show a bit, um, not street? Maybe Trump will give Lloyd Banks daps. Trump is, after all, a hip-hop luminary.
Well, we then caught up again with Rebecca as she met with the tough women of Yahoo. The corporate goal was for the high-end fundraising to mesh seamlessly with the rather low-brow comedy lineup. Look, I don’t know where these ladies came from, but I have yet to find a high society function that didn’t embrace the comic stylings of Joe Piscopo.
Later, Rebecca met with a squad of people from the Infinity Marketing Group and discussed an idea for making the stage appear like a giant computer monitor — to which one of the perky event planners replied passive-aggressively, “That’s a grand idea with a big dollar sign!” Well f*ck you too, BITCH!
Luckily, Rebecca had more support from her teammates, especially Chris, the ex NFL lineman who was previously fired for his disastrous Lamborghini campaign. “The thing that we’re focusing on is the ambience and decor of this event. I can’t believe I said ‘decor.’ I’m such a fffff–,” he said, cutting himself off. I’m not sure what was about to come out of his mouth, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been suitable for network TV. Memo to Chris: you’re allowed to say “decor” without insulting your manhood. Later, we then found Chris browsing fabrics for ottomans, and he couldn’t help but comment, “I like this one personally. It’s shimmy. I know, I just said ‘shimmy.’” Okay, “shimmy” is a bit ridiculous. Especially since it really isn’t an adjective. Alas, poor Clay. He probably was aching at home watching this, knowing that his chance to cloak a room in patterned fabrics had passed him by.
Meanwhile, Randal’s team met with the head of Austism Speaks, the charity benefiting from the VIP Softball event. Things became somber and reflective as we learned some harsh stats about autism, and somewhere in Hollywood, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was jealous. I can just imagine the executive producer ranting, “I thought WE had the corner on autistic kids!!”
Red flag #1 of the episode suddenly appeared, however, when the autism woman noted that Josh seemed like the real leader of the group. Never a good sign. Red flag #2 surfaced about two seconds later when Josh then suggested handing out megaphones to parallel to “Autism Speaks” theme. We know what megaphones mean: trouble. Let’s just hope Felisha and Alla don’t buy out the city’s supply ahead of time as bitter revenge.
That night, James and Chris headed out for dinner with Mr. Comedy himself, Joe Piscopo. “Are you excited?” asked James, to which Chris answered, “Am I excited? Does a fish piss in his drinking water?” I assume that’s a yes. Never really thought about that before. That’s sort of gross. In other news, I have now lost a significant amount of respect for the cast of Finding Nemo.
At dinner, Joe Piscopo greeted his suitors with the sort of eager glee only a washed-up actor can provide. “You know what? They call me Joey Benefit. You got a charity, I got a tuxedo baby,” Piscopo said. Seriously, he just emceed a gig at the Mt. Vernon bake sale last week.
BEHOLD! The Floating Head of Piscopo!
Afterwards, Chris and James returned to Blvd. with their tails wagging and stars in their eyes. Chris commenced his gushing instantly: “First of all, great dinner. Great meeting. Great person.” Okay, RELAX. It’s not like you just ate with Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, As Rebecca continued to work away into the night with the ever-loyal Toral by her side, it occurred to me that I was sort of rooting for her. Granted, I tend to gravitate towards the underdog, but throughout the entire series and particularly this challenge, she seemed at the top of her game and totally professional.
Aw, look! Toral types on a laptop like one of those cute secretaries!
As for Randal, he seemed to be stumbling in the final stretches. The next morning, Mark was supposed to meet with event emcee and radio DJ Jim Kerr but had to postpone the meeting twice after Randal made him accompany Marshawn to a party supply store — a fine establishment I like to call Party City. Why couldn’t Mark just visit Jim Kerr alone? Something tells me production doesn’t allow solo flying on The Apprentice.
While Rebecca’s team laid down purple carpets and chairs to the tune of a “Rah! Rah! Entrepreneurs in NYC!” score, Randal’s crew dawdled in Party City to the sound of, you guessed it, signature Mark Burnett “You stupid idiot” music. Looks like red flag #3 to me. Oh, and then because they spent so long at the store, Mark had to full-on cancel his meeting with Jim Kerr. Red flag #4! Well, Mark, if it’s any consolation, you can now spend your new free time whitening your teeth again. It’s already been three days since your last brightening.
Back at Rebecca’s venue, members of the Elizabeth Glaser AIDS Foundation, including Elizabeth’s son Jake, dropped by to check in on things. We had another tender moment as Jake Glaser talked about the wonderful things his mother and the charity have done, but c’mon. Jake Glaser had nothing on the autism lady. She was way more aggressive with the heartstrings.
Anyway, it was then time for the execs to survey the events. First up were the Outback suits who may or may not have been headed to the Bada Bing afterwards. Randal showed them where the VIP tent would be, and when the main Outback guy fretted that the tent may be too small, Randal reassured him that the weather was supposed to be splendid — no need to put everyone under a tent. Red flag #5!
Meanwhile, a trio of ladies from Yahoo dropped by The Blvd. to check in on their event’s progress. “Rebecca, I’m Wenda Millard,” said one woman. “Nice to meet you, Wenda Millard,” replied Rebecca somewhat oddly. Of course, had she been speaking TVgasm-ese, she would have said, “Nice to meet you, WENDA MILLARD.” Well, turned out this Wenda chick was one tough cookie. She seemed to have questions about everything, and when Rebecca noted that everything would be purple and white, Wenda asked, “We’re not talking about an assortment of purple food, right?” Wenda Millard HATES purple food! Shut up, WENDA MILLARD.
Over at Keyspan Park, Mark slaved away on the field as he attempted to set up everything by himself. Yup, everything: fences, tents, chairs. Up in an office, the rest of his team observed proudly. “He’s working his tail off down there,” Marshawn said. Um, why don’t you help him then? Well, Marshawn didn’t need me to tell her that, but that’s because the Outback head honcho did it for me. Well, actually, he told Randal, not Marshawn. The exec basically told Randal to go down and help Mark (red flag #6!), and when Randal politely noted that he was doing other things, the exec then said he didn’t want any glitches the next day. “You won’t be smiling tomorrow if you don’t represent my brand,” he said (translation: get your ass down there and help set up). Seriously, Randal. Listen to the man. Otherwise I think he might have Joe Pesci take out your kneecaps.
If you thought Rebecca’s near-flawless event was going to make it through the day unscathed, think again. Just when all the pieces seemed to be coming together, James received a call from Mr. Joey Benefit himself. Somehow, James resisted the urge to suddenly hyperventilate and yell, “OMG! It’s Joe Piscopo! I’m on the phone with JOE PISCOPO!!!” Nevertheless, Joe revealed that his union wouldn’t let him host the gig and that for now, his hands were tied — he’d have to back out. This was not good. And yes, James already had a shine on his forehead. However, I wasn’t too concerned for Rebecca’s team because a) emcees backing out is like nothing (remember when Chris Weber backed out of emceeing duties for Jen on season 2?). And b) there are so many standups in New York City. It’s not like Rebecca will have a very hard time finding someone of equal or higher stature than Joe Piscopo. Besides, what are the odds that Rebecca will talk to Joe’s union and everything will work out just fine?
As for Randal, his event was about to go from troubled to waterlogged. Yes, as we gazed over the dark and ominous Manhattan skyline, a mysterious radio transmission came over the soundtrack. Soon, an urgent-sounding reporter revealed that the next day’s forecast included a high chance of rain. RAIN?!?!? (cut to Randal doing the Home Alone face). And with that bit of news, the credits rolled — although not before a lightning bolt sliced across the sky! Oh no! Was Zeus not invited to Randal’s VIP tent?
What do you think will happen? Will Randal’s track record save him? Or will Rebecca pull off the surprise upset of the season?