'Celebrity Apprentice' Recap: I'm Your Puppet

Teams must create 'miscreant' characters for improv

celebrity apprentice
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC
Lisa Lampanelli and Clay Aiken on 'The Celebrity Apprentice'
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Lou Ferrigno's firing last week has left an imbalance – and not just in terms of testosterone and muscle tone. His team is left with only three players, while the other has five. Noticing this, both Lisa Lampanelli and Aubrey O'Day pray to the Celebrity Apprentice gods (a.k.a. the producers) that Donald Trump breaks up budding besties Clay Aiken and Arsenio Hall, the way he did to them. Well, ladies, your wish is granted, as Trump moves Clay over to the other team, so each now has four contestants.

After the shakeup, the teams learn their task is to put on a live-improv puppet show for adults. (Oh, the things that thrive off-Broadway.) They are expected to create two new "miscreant" characters and will be judged on their puppet designs, quality of their improv puppeteering and overall live performance. The project manager of the winning team will receive $20,000 for his or her charity. Not too shabby for playing with some Muppets.

Lisa and Paul Teutul Sr. step up as project managers. Never mentioned: Why Arsenio, the only comedian on Paul's team, didn't take on the task, a fatal flaw that saw race-car driver Michael Andretti fired during a car-related task. But Trump has his favorites, and they can do no wrong. Ahem . . . 

Anyway, as Lisa's team brainstorms, they're clearly working at an advantage, considering they have two comedians in Lisa and Penn Jillette. While Lisa will stick her hand up a puppet's butt and give it life, Penn cannot, as he's deemed too tall to be a puppeteer, so he's relegated to host. Filling his void is Clay, who tells his new teammates he used to puppeteer at his church. Alrighty then . . . who can argue with that?

Dayana Mendoza does, of course, as she pipes in that she has taken improv classes for over a year now. That makes her an insta-pro, right? But Lisa refuses to let her insert herself into the show. A good move, if you ask me, as Miss Universe 2008 has run her course on this show. But since the beauty pageant is a franchise the Donald owns, he keeps stroking his own ego by keeping her around. Man up and cut her loose, Trump!

On Paul's team, Aubrey is very aware that she's been called out the last few weeks for being too bossy and not enough of a team player, so she consciously tries to step back. Usually a hater, Arsenio compliments her on dialing things back and playing well with others this week. New besties? Nah, not really.

Meanwhile, on the first day of the task, Paul throws his back out, which renders him rather useless. So he basically lounges in a chair, drinks coffee and drops the F-bomb the whole time.

When Dayana continues her quest to be in the spotlight, Lisa puts her in her place by saying she doesn't have the comedic chops and her accent is hard to understand. Dayana feels marginalized, as if she's purposefully being pushed to the sidelines. Which could be true. But it could also be because she's a weak link who's riding Trump's coattails. Hopefully not all the way to the finals.

When it's time to design the puppets, Lisa thinks this is a good chance to give Dayana "busy work," so the Venezuelan actress is tasked with creating Lisa's puppet while Penn puts together the other one. They're both cognizant of keeping the puppets as generic and all-encompassing as possible.

Back on the other team, Paul is striking an extra laid-back attitude as he nurses his bad back. He lets Arsenio and Teresa Giudice design their own puppets – a mohawked rocker and a tacky Jersey girl. Aubrey doesn't think their characters are universal, but she doesn't say anything for fear of being labeled difficult. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, eh?

Next the teams are given a lightning-speed lesson in improv and puppeteering. While Lisa, Clay and Arsenio pick it up quickly, Teresa struggles with, well, just about everything. While some might find her ditziness endearing, it's certainly not "funny" in the same way the other performances are. Plus, she has a hard time grasping the concept that her puppet's mouth has to move with every syllable, mostly because she doesn't seem to understand what a syllable is.

As the improv show approaches, Dayana is left looking for something to do since she's not going to be on stage. When it's suggested she carry props so it looks like she's at least involved, Lisa explodes, annoyed at Dayana's constant need for attention. After a heated argument, Dayana walks outs crying. Then Lisa loses it, calling Clay and Penn out for not having her back. In reality, they probably played their cards best by keeping their mouths shut and watching the fight unfold. Where's the popcorn when you need it?

The night of the performance, Clay does amazingly well, although he and Lisa get a little too raunchy in their dialogue. On the flipside, Paul's team flails when Teresa breaks all the rules of Improv 101 – like using a lot of negatives and not coming up with anything very interesting to say.

In the boardroom, Trump immediately pits Lisa against Dayana. He loves a good girl-fight. But when pushed too far, Lisa starts crying, saying she doesn't want to be portrayed as the "bad guy." Oops, too late, honey.

But their fight is a moot point when it's announce that Lisa's team won the task, leaving Paul and his players to face the firing squad.

Despite Arsenio and Aubrey being called out as "good," overall the team played it "too safe" and the puppets themselves were "too complex." Although Arsenio admits his rocker puppet wasn't designed well, he immediately defends himself from being fired. And Paul agrees, granting Arsenio the only guaranteed "safe status" by bringing Aubrey and Teresa back into the boardroom to duke it out.

Facing off, both women think Paul should be fired because he was too laid back and not very interested in the task. "He'd rather be riding his motorcycle," Teresa points out.

In addition to their gripes, Trump latches on to the idea that Arsenio should probably have been brought back into the boardroom rather than Aubrey because he admitted the puppet he created wasn't that good. After a few merry-go-round rides around who should go, Trump finally fixates on Paul's lackadaisical attitude and lack of interest in throwing Arsenio under the bus. So, Paul, you're fired.

Last episode: Extreme Couponing

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