'Celebrity Apprentice' Recap: It's All Just Window Dressing

The teams create fashion displays on Fifth Avenue

celebrity apprentice
Douglas Gorenstein/NBC
Debbie Gibson works on the window display for the women's team on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.'
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We've said it before. We'll say it again. Reality TV is a dish best served dramatic. And after the women unleashed a fangs-out melee in last week's boardroom brouhaha – ultimately, mob daughter Victoria Gotti got shelved – we can now rest assured that Celebrity Apprentice has reclaimed its patented I'll-stab-you-in-the-back-to-get-ahead mojo.

Having suffered two straight losses to start the season, the women's team is in dire need of a victory entering the third week of competition. "It was not fun," says Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, having just escaped Trump's wrath in the boardroom. Comedian Lisa Lampanelli, after going all psycho-chick on Gotti, spells out the women's team's objective going forward: "We've gotta kick those men's asses."

Magician Penn Jillette, the men's project manager on their last task, delivers a $20K check to his charity, Opportunity Village, a non-profit serving those with intellectual disabilities, after which the two teams convene and are given their next task. Trump explains: The men and women are going to be designing and staging a live window display, a.k.a. "window dressing." The displays, which will be located in the Fifth Avenue windows of department store Lord & Taylor, are to showcase Trump's daughter Ivanka's clothing and accessory line. "Window dressing" seems like a foreign concept to comedian Adam Carolla, who has now returned from his mysterious absence last week. "I thought it was somewhere between ranch and Thousand Island," he says. Ivanka and Lord & Taylor's Scott Devine will be judging the task on creativity, brand messaging and overall presentation. And who will be project managers this week?

Meet the 2012 'Celebrity Apprentice' Contestants

On the women's side, Mendoza steps up and accepts the challenge. Jersey's finest lady, Teresa Giudice, having hoped to lead the team, is hardly pleased. "The girl from Jersey can't get a chance," she says. The men decide to go with absurdly slow-spoken Star Trek alum George Takei. Why? Because, well, as Carolla says, "he's gay." "We will boldly go where we haven't gone before," Takei says in a Trek-ian intonation.

The teams break off to plot out their displays. Despite Mendoza being project manager, it's once again reality TV star Aubrey O'Day who takes a vocal role. O'Day suggests a "timeless" theme, whereby the women's displays will follow a day in the life of a woman in power, like Ivanka Trump. Not all the women are pleased with O'Day's assertive nature. "It was the Aubrey show," says Eighties pop princess Debbie Gibson.

The men aren't all that cohesive, either, and it seems to be stemming from Takei's unassertive demeanor. "George is a little bit slower to process information," says American Idol's Clay Aiken. The men ultimately decide to go with a "Day and Night" idea, which will include Jillette's genius idea: Twins. "I've seen smoke, I've seen wind, I've seen robot movement," Jillette says, flexing his window-display knowledge guns. "But I haven't seen twins." The men aim to show Ivanka's clothing line as adaptable to both a business and nightlife setting. Naturally, identical twins partaking in both activities makes sense, right?

The women, meanwhile, decide that Mendoza and O'Day will serve as models in their window displays. Gibson wants to get in on the action, but Mendoza politely tells her she doesn't fit the brand's 25-35 demographic. (Translation: she's too old). At this point the women must split up. Half go to Brooklyn to help construct the physical sets, while the other half pick out the clothing and help style the models they've hired. Once in Brooklyn, Lampanelli points out that the sets are much smaller than the women had initially thought. The women's grand ambitions must be scaled down. Donald Trump Jr. visits the women's squad to check in, but he's a bit puzzled by what he sees. "The ladies think they have a theme, but I have no idea what it is," he says.

The men's team is also split into two halves. Carolla, who apparently is a former carpenter, is in Brooklyn cranking out the set building while Arsenio Hall, along others such as Aiken and Takei, has been tasked with styling the models. Rocker Dee Snider is not in either place. He's at the hospital getting his finger assessed; it was damaged during last week's Medieval Times challenge. As it turns out, he needs immediate surgery. "This is your fault, Trump," he says before being put under. He does return later, in a full sling. Hall wonders how Snider will be able to do the show with one hand.

We now interrupt this recap for a MAJOR announcement: Amanda, Trump's gloriously underrated secretary, makes an appearance. Yes, contain yourself. It's true. Trump's assistant Amanda, who apparently lurks in the shadows and doubles as Ivanka's clothing line employee, helps the men with their styling. Don't worry, however. She barely even gets a word in; her mystique remains intact. The men, however, are having some trouble not even an Amanda sighting can cure. Takei is all over the place, lacking any ability to delegate. As Hall says of Takei and Aiken's lack of fashion sense, "our gay teammates aren't that genre of gay."

The next morning both teams put the final touches on their displays. American Chopper's Paul Teutul Sr., who was tasked the day before with making "Ivanka Trump" signs, apparently messed up in his technical execution. Yet when the displays are finally put into action, they look quite sharp.

The women are also scrambling. They'd planned to display sketches of Ivanka's clothing in one window and pictures of models in the other. However, the model pictures were never printed. O'Day responds by reacting on the fly, coming up with a concept where she'll act as a "designer," blowing kisses to the street audience. Hey, it was last minute. Cut the girl some slack.

As the displays rise hydraulically from the bowels of Manhattan to street level and the curtains are pulled down, both squads' hard work is finally on public display. Ivanka, along with Lord & Taylor's Devine, assesses both teams' work. Takei fumbles through his explanation of the men's windows. The women are far more polished in their presentation. What do the finished displays look like? The men's two windows see Aiken and three models in an office setting in one window and Hall and three models on a red carpet in the other. The women's, comparatively, have Mendoza looking model-y in one and O'Day blowing the aforementioned kisses in the other. Ivanka vaguely indicates she doesn't love the men's clothing choices, but that the women's displays look a bit amateurish.

And we're now in the boardroom. The women, typically quick to bite each other's heads off, are surprisingly civil. Neither Mendoza nor O' Day – hell, none of them, for that matter – will speak badly about their teammates. And the men are equally kind to one another, though there does appear to be some consensus that Takei may have been a bit too "hands-off" in his leadership approach. After Trump's two sons explain Ivanka's assessment of both displays – she liked the woman's attention to detail but didn't like some of their display's aesthetics, while she felt the men had solid brand messaging but didn't pick out stylish clothing – Trump reveals that the women's team has won its first challenge.

The women file out feeling giddy, and for the first time the men must go to battle. But the word "battle" assumes there's conflict. It's not to be found. For a bunch of strong-wllled dudes, the men come across as tough as a plush teddy bear. Trump starts by announcing that due to his injury Snider is getting a pass this week. The men soon start complimenting one another. What gives? In between the steady stream of man-love being thrown around, it appears that most of the men are in agreement that Takei wasn't a strong leader but that Hall was also to blame for making poor styling and fashion decisions. One of them has to go. Because he has to pick someone else besides Hall to join him back in the boardroom, Takei chooses Lou Ferrigno. Apparently the Hulk-of-a-man "misunderstands directions" and "got in the way."

Back in the boardroom, Takei lies down and lets the bus that is Donald Trump run him over. Yes, it was Hall who made all the awful fashion and styling choices, but Takei essentially concedes. Before giving Takei the verbal sledgehammer to the head, Trump throws in one last compliment. "You know who else has the most respect for you," Trump asks after both Hall and Ferrigno profess their undying love for the man. "Donald Trump." He may have gotten fired, but at least Takei knows a sleazy billionaire likes him. That has to make the pill at least a bit easier to swallow.

Next Week: As if the product placement isn't already shoved down our throats, next week both teams will be hawking cars – more specifically, the new Buick Verano. Prepare for the women's team's boardroom bickering to resume: Debbie Gibson is project manager, and the singer is taking no prisoners.

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