Sunday night marked the second episode of Season 2 of NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” Last week in the season premiere, Poker News Daily columnist Annie Duke rubbed some of her teammates the wrong way with her direct nature. Tonight’s episode featured a showdown between the World Series of Poker bracelet winner and talk show host Joan Rivers.
The show kicked off by reminding viewers of a comment made by Rivers during last week’s episode. On Duke’s leadership style in the kitchen while baking 1,000 cupcakes, Rivers commented, “Mussolini made the trains run on time, but no Italian smiled at him when they got on and off. That was an Italian train station” Last week, Duke’s fundraising efforts and a successful taste test meant that Rivers’ charity, God’s Love We Deliver, received a check for nearly $126,000. The organization helps those afflicted with life-altering diseases such as HIV, AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s feed their families by delivering food.
This week’s show featured Erin Burnett as a guest host, who collaborated with “Celebrity Apprentice” host Donald Trump on CNBC’s “The Billionaire Inside.” The 15 remaining contestants, who are divided into two teams of men (Kotu) and women (Athena), were tasked with creating a new superhero and four-panel comic strip for Zappos.com, which is an online clothing retailer that started up 10 years ago and has grown to reap over $1 billion in annual sales. The contestants, who include Duke, were also asked to produce a costume for their new superhero and pitch their ideas to a focus group of comic book enthusiasts.
The women picked reality star Khloe Kardashian as their Project Manager, the person responsible for leading them to victory or directing their ultimate failure. The men picked figure skating icon Scott Hamilton. The women began their creative process by meeting with Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, to learn what his company’s brand image was. Duke explained her mindset heading into the important meeting: “The thing I was concerned about was getting information out of him. I’m a poker player. I know how to do an end-around on people.” Duke has relayed in private NBC interviews how she’s been able to apply the basics of poker to the “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Amid the chaos that ensured during the women’s team’s brainstorming session, Duke stepped up to try to provide some order. She recommended, “We should divide into groups. We should have a design group and a script-writing group.” On trying to assume a leadership role, she told “Celebrity Apprentice” cameras, “I’m going to do what it takes to win. That style is probably going to piss off some of my teammates. Your job is to win the task, not worry whether people’s feelings are getting hurt.”
Duke recommended that “Deal or No Deal” model Claudia Jordan collaborate with her on creating a script. The decision rubbed Rivers the wrong way, continuing a wealth of friction between the two. Rivers explained, “Annie has totally taken over and decided that she was going to write the presentation. I thought that was stupid considering I’ve had four plays written for Broadway. You’re an idiot.” Rivers also won an Emmy Award in 1990 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Friction on the men’s team focused on country singer Clint Black versus nearly all of the other members of Kotu as well as Hamilton against comedian Tom Green. Meanwhile, Jordan came up with the concept of a superhero later dubbed “Ms. Z” (the Z aligning with Zappos’ brand name). Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, took credit for the entire concept, but was not publicly called out by Jordan until the boardroom at the end of the episode. Rivers remained hurt that she was not asked to lead the writing team: “Annie – I think she hurt the team tremendously by not using me as a writer. The frustration of not doing what I should be doing is really difficult.” Ultimately, professional golfer Natalie Gulbis donned the outfit of Ms. Z.
On the men’s side, the lack of a plan forced Hamilton to pick a character name at the last minute. The result was “EEE,” which stood for “Everything. Everywhere. Every time.” Growing consternation between Hamilton and Green over the latter’s lack of focus and constant disruptions during the task would carry over into the boardroom. Green questioned the name “EEE” given Zappos’ brand name has no “E” in it.
Jordan fell ill late in the evening on Day 1 of the two-day task and, charged with giving the presentation the next day, asked to go to bed. This rubbed Duke the wrong way. The World Series of Poker bracelet winner explained, “I would have never, in a million years, asked if I could go home for the night. All of us are in a situation where we’re all tired. None of us have had sleep. Whatever you want to say about how direct I am, I work.” The next day, Jordan’s presentation, which she admitted she crammed for at the last minute, was plagued by stumbling in several key spots. She admitted, “If I had to grade myself on my presentation, I probably would have given myself a C.”
In the boardroom, the friction between Rivers and Duke finally boiled over in front of Trump. Rivers quipped, “Annie, you are smarter than everybody. You are better than everybody. You talk even louder than I do.” Trump brushed off the struggle, saying that Duke would be a “diplomat” by the time the show was over. The real estate mogul has stood up for the poker icon in both episodes that have aired so far.
In the end, Hamilton’s decision to name the team’s character “EEE” was too critical of a mistake to overlook and he was fired, as the men lost for the second straight week. As the winning Project Manager, Kardashian earned $20,000 for The Brent Shapiro Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Awareness.
Next week’s episode is only one hour in length and airs at 10:00pm ET on NBC.