Only four contestants remain on Sunday's penultimate episode (9/8c on NBC), whittled down from the original 16. The final four — Penn Jillette, Lisa Rinna, Lil Jon and Trace Adkins — are competent. They can organize plans, rely on teammates, and pull their own weight. And, at least at this point, they have half a brain. No more Dennis Rodman and Busey. Penn, with his multi-skill set, is looking strongest, while Adkins, a droopy dog running on empty, is looking most vulnerable. The four left are good, not great — and lucky. Marilu Henner could have easily had a spot in the final four if Lil Jon and Trace had supported her last week. If Clay Aiken were on this season's Apprentice, he would have made the final four.
A quick point about this year's "all-star" version of Celebrity Apprentice. It could have used a little work. Rodman and Busey didn't have abilities to communicate. Bret Michaels won the show once before. That is almost a quarter of the cast off the top that didn't have a shot. It was a letdown for viewers who nerd out about the competition. Add in the pure gamesmanship that is Omarosa, and there was a lot of dead weight this time around. If the show keeps going, and it should, please Apprentice producers, pick some celebrities with brain power. Busey doesn't deserve the attention he gets from this show. Sorry, Gary. I loved Silver Bullet and D.C. Cab. Let's break down the final four:
Penn, we expect, will win the show. The magician has brought his razor sharp focus back to this season after fizzling out on Apprentice the first time around. He appears to run rings around everyone else mentally. Who knew this guy had such a rockin' iPhone contacts list? He called flautists, Lisa Lampanelli, and his partner Teller into New York despite a snow storm for a luxury box suite party at Barclays Center. Not too shabby. If the last few tasks rely heavily on contacts, Penn appears to have a distinct advantage. Penn can occasionally be captive to his own arrogance — he's sniped at Eric Trump this year — but he can usually keep it curbed long enough to win.
The stars are with her this year. Having already won more than a half-million dollars for her charity, St. Jude Children's Hospital, Rinna is riding a strong wave of good vibes. Mostly, she has worked hard and stayed low-key. It's paid off. Her self-effacing attitude bumps her along. She's the only girl in sort of a male-dominated season, particularly with Donald Trump lobbing inappropriate lip jokes her way. Lisa soldiers on, keeping a smile while Busey yelled at her in the boardroom, for example.
A fierce competitor, but occasionally vulnerable to lapses in judgment. The action instead of romance theme decision on the South African tourism promotion week was a killer for his team. Brande Roderick had to lie on the grenade for that call. If you'll notice the team Lil Jon picked at season's start was decimated week after week. Lil Jon is at the heart of that weakness. Jon, a fine entrepreneur in his own right, is strong, but not enough to win it all. To his advantage, Lil Jon works his tail off in every competition. But he tends to act first and think later. Also working in his favor is the fact that fellow cast members support and appreciate Lil Jon — often giving him the benefit of the doubt (Roderick, for example). Now that no one can give Lil Jon a pass in the competitive final four, Trump may have to fire him.
Trace will wrap it up shortly, dragging his black hat to the finish line. Trace had deep contacts last time he was on the show. Those country music friends apparently were sitting on a mountain of cash. He was like this year's Penn — then. But now he's like Herman Munster: a miserable tall guy with a baritone voice. When he's on his game, Trace has the ability as a competitor to scare his costars. He's smart, appears to have been around the block a few times, and has friends with money. It doesn't seem to be all adding up for him this year, though. He could be laying in the weeds — but that's not what the tea leaves tell me.
In closing, doesn't it seem like Trump has gotten creepier this season? Mostly in the regard of making leering statements about the appearances of his female contestants, while everyone else in the boardroom is forced to laugh along. Just a note from the Donald's boss (besides NBC): the viewer.
Celebrity Apprentice airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC. Who do you think will win?