Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

donald trump Archive

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25

April 2018

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Far Cry 5 Is (Unsurprisingly) Not a Political Game

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Politics is everywhere in American culture nowadays. It feels like forever since we lived in a time when major news organizations didn’t dedicate significant coverage to the social media habits of tweeter-in-chief. Far Cry 4 came out two years before Donald Trump’s inauguration, and only a few months before his final season hosting Celebrity Apprentice. It seems rather natural Far Cry 5, with its Montana setting and fanatical religious zealots, would draw comparisons to the Trump presidency, especially as it is the first game in the series to have a domestic setting. Numerous articles have popped up over the past few weeks noting this phenomenon, many suggesting a deliberate association between crazed cultists and the man who once implored his Twitter followers to check out a sex tape in the middle of the night.

Having played Far Cry 5, I can’t really say there’s much more evidence to further the theory that the game is meant to be a commentary on Trump. I don’t think the game has much to say about cults either, except for the fact that they are bad. The game has a hallucinogenic drug called Bliss, clearly inspired by the opioid crisis, but the big takeaway from its inclusion is also fairly rudimentary. Drugs are bad.

Far Cry 5 is not a complex game. You liberate a county in Montana from a cult leader by going around and shooting things. You can customize your character with various perks, but those processes are far less complex than something out of Fallout 4 or Skyrim. Essentially, the game is a cross between Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed: Origins. There is no real point where the character stops to examine the morality of their situations or the broader ramifications for a country that allows religious zealots complete autonomy over full counties.  For many, that’s not surprising.

What might be surprising to people is that Far Cry 5 was made in Canada, a joint venture between Ubisoft’s studios in Toronto and Montreal. Ubisoft itself is a French company. While these facts certainly don’t disqualify them from being able, or wanting to create a narrative that offers complex commentary on the current state of American politics, it is not insignificant to note that the people developing this game do not necessarily live in an environment where everything revolves around Trump. It is possible that they just wanted to make a video game.

A not surprising notion is that a major company would not want to potentially alienate, or anger, much of America by turning a video game into a political referendum. That dilemma cuts both ways, potentially pissing off the Trumpkins as well as those who would rather just blow things up than consider what the narrative says about society as a whole. Politics often bleeds into entertainment, but video games tend to skirt the association. Far Cry 5’s $310 million dollar opening week probably best explains why.

Far Cry 5 clearly did not want to explore the nuances of the deplorables. Its main villain Joseph often sounds like a cross between Matthew McConaughey and Albert Wesker in the final battle of Resident Evil 5, offering extremely lame lines that rarely evoke feelings that hardly suggest there’s something philosophical underneath the layers of generic evil. I could see him as a radical televangelist appearing on a Hannity segment, but not as anything resembling an intellectual.

Ironically, Far Cry 5 has received criticism for being too apolitical, or bland, which is where I see the danger in associating everything with Trump. The game drew fire in 2017 for its perceived attacks on Christians, and then got slammed for avoiding that subject. Neither of these positions reflect the actual substance of the game, which does carry a certain sense of blandness in its repetitive gameplay and uninspired villain.

The reviews for Far Cry 5 have mostly skewed positive in spite of those criticisms, earning a B- score if you average the Metacritic scores across PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. From my own experience, that’s a fair rating. It’s a fun game, but a flawed one.

I can’t shake the idea that the whole Trump controversy made it so that the B- ratings essentially represented the ceiling for the game. The gameplay might be a bit bland, but the story was essentially destined for that label by token of not containing the politics that people assumed would be there a year before the game came out. Far Cry 5 can’t be evaluated solely on its own merits because of a media “controversy” that it never really deserved.

You could apply the same standard to any game. I could write an article on how the Nintendo 64 game Yoshi’s Story, which was released in North America in 1998, was meant to be a commentary on the rising obesity epidemic using the game’s Fruit Frame plot device as the basis for the argument that the game is subtly trying to get kids to eat healthier. That theory might sound ridiculous, but if something had raised that point before the game came out, some of the reviews would naturally address whether or not the cute dinosaur had ulterior motives for his adventures.

Is there an ulterior motive for all these healthy foods?

Is that fair? No, but that doesn’t mean a compelling case couldn’t be made, especially before the game’s release. Just like that, the story structure of an entire team of developers that took years to create could be undermined by a think piece that draws lines between things that don’t necessarily need to be related.

Far Cry 5 was probably inevitably going to draw comparisons to Trump, which is unfortunate. It shouldn’t have to be viewed through the lens of a political scope just because someone can do that. Anyone can do that for any game. The fact that this one had a Montana setting and bunch of religious loons might make it easier for someone to write an article connecting the two together, but that doesn’t mean it was deserved. The kind of logic is lazy, and gave a bland game a predetermined aura of blandness that seems like the only possible outcome.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of Far Cry 5 for my review. I’ve had Yoshi’s Story since I was seven and still play it often.

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Tuesday

17

February 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode 8

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Last night I picked Geraldo Rivera to become the next Celebrity Apprentice.

I was wrong.

I haven’t spent much time fretting over my inaccurate prediction. My recaps have spelled out many of my thoughts on Leeza’s chances. I never thought she couldn’t win, just that there wasn’t a clear logical reason to pick her over Geraldo. It’s one thing to want her to win over Geraldo (who doesn’t), but to say she was a better player is a bit of a stretch.

Before I go into that, I want to point something out. For the past few weeks I’ve talked about Trump’s love of playing kingmaker. I’d cite this as the only real reason Arsenio Hall beat out Clay Aiken. The trouble was that Geraldo is rooted at Fox News and Leeza didn’t appear to want to make a comeback.

Trump snuck in a potential Today Show’s opportunity for Leeza. While I won’t say that played a “deciding factor,” I will say that if he had ever said that before, I would’ve picked Leeza easily. The Today Show’s ratings are bad enough that this seems like a possible option.

Leeza had one thing going for her over Geraldo. She possessed a far better record. How much does this matter?

Less than you’d think.

If record mattered, Trump wouldn’t have canned all of Infinity in the last task before the finale. It was kind of ironic to see Johnny Damon bring up Leeza’s record repeatedly considering he was also part of the team that won five in a row. Trump was never going to have a finale that included the semi-articulate Damon or a Real Housewife.

Let’s explore the five-task win streak. If you looked at the pieces, you don’t really see this powerhouse that should curb stomp the likes of Geraldo and Lorenzo. That’s not to downplay the legitimacy of their wins. They had the better concept more often that not, especially with the Nordstrom task.

How much was Geraldo to blame for those losses? Nordstrom, not at all. Chock full O’Nuts, meh. They lost that one to a bizarre video featuring fake fighting between Brandi and Kenya. I won’t pin that on anyone, even Leeza as project manager, who mostly deferred to Ian.

Then there’s the booze cruise. This is really the task where Leeza’s prowess proved better than Geraldo, though Hooter’s was more of a downfall than his “screw the terrorists” comment. We’ll give credit where credit is due here.

The Trump National Doral was a disjointed mess as a task. Could have gone either way, at least from what we saw on TV. I wouldn’t say either Leeza or Geraldo factored into the decision.

Which brings us to Babies Luv Buns. Another task where Leeza and Gerlado could have sat out the task completely and made no impact on the outcome. You didn’t need a helicopter to beat Babies Luv Buns.

What’s the point of this? Leeza might have had a better track record than Geraldo, but in that five loss streak, she only truly bested him once and that wasn’t the task she was PM on. Was Leeza a better candidate to become Celebrity Apprentice?

No. Don’t believe me? Find a point in the show where Leeza won it for her team. Difficult, right?

The final task worked in her favor as well, even though it was basically an afterthought. She raised more money in the last task, but the emphasis on collective earnings throughout the show during the finale seemed to indicate that wasn’t much of a deciding factor. Tony Orlando seemed to be better than Olivia Newton John (apparently the Josh Grobin mention in the previous episode was a complete afterthought). Who knows?

So why did she win? Despite my analysis, which picks apart her legitimacy as a candidate, she really wasn’t bad either. The 3-0 record as PM matters. It stands up well against Geraldo, who had a 2-0 record prior to the finale. She played safe. Safe won.

The fact that Geraldo won both Lorenzo and Ian over makes his loss all the more puzzling. He raised more money and wasn’t completely hated like Annie Duke. So why did he lose?

As far as finalists go, Geraldo looked like Piers Morgan and Leeza resembled Arsenio Hall. One was dominant. One was not. I don’t think anyone is going to shed a tear that Leeza won. I’m not, but it was the wrong call. Unless Leeza ends up working for the Today Show. I did probably overestimate how much of a factor Trump’s love of Fox News would play, but the man does love his nepotism.

That’s it for Celebrity Apprentice recaps. Thanks for reading them. I’m going to take a break from recaps until Game of Thrones. My new book, A Trip Down Reality Lane, comes out in a week. I encourage you to check it out (what’s a little shameless self promotion).

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Tuesday

3

February 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode 6

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Last night’s episode featured quite possibly the two strangest boardrooms in the show’s fourteen season history. First up was the case of the forged menopause tweet that quickly degenerated into a battle between Kenya Moore and Vivica A. Fox to determine who was more ghetto. Couple that with the earlier focus on Shawn Johnson’s period, this season could easily be summed up by its emphasis on the female reproductive system, which Trump seems to love to preside over.

That was quickly trumped (hehe) by the second task, where Trump showed us all, in case we forgot who rules his kangaroo court. Is there anyway we can look at the decision to fire an entire team that won five episodes in a row and not come to the conclusion that this thing is completely rigged? The simple answer is, no.

From a purely competitive standpoint, this makes no sense. That’s never what Celebrity Apprentice has been about. The show is Trump’s circus where if you don’t fight to the death, preferably bringing as much about the inner workings of female private parts into the boardroom as humanly possible, you go home. Ian Ziering deserved the sack, but that left a Real Housewife and Johnny Damon. Which is boring. The solution was simple. Fire them all.

It didn’t matter than Geraldo and Vivica lost week after week. Winning the challenges has always been less important than carnival antics. Performance should not be completely discredited, as we saw with Ian.

I had Ian pegged to be in the finals against Geraldo. I was wrong. Is this surprising? Sort of.

I did also last week say that Leeza was a dark horse who needed another win to become a legitimate contender. That did happen. But more importantly, something else happened.

Ian sunk his own ship with his plagiarized “La Cucaracha.” Let’s get one thing straight. Using the song would not be copyright infringement. It’s a folk song. No one owns it. Apparently that didn’t matter, even with a businessman like Trump in the room (though for all Celebrity Apprentice intents and purposes, he’s the red queen).

The truth is, it didn’t matter. It was stupid. It would’ve lost. Both tasks weren’t even close. That’s why talking about them isn’t interesting. Kenya was sunk with #babiesluvbuns before the menopause and the stolen phone and Ian was sunk for his poor attitude and overall crappy boardroom performance.

The boardroom took a turn when Trump decided that Ian wasn’t enough. The closest thing this mirrored was the Celebrity Apprentice 5 task where Trump wanted Adam Carolla to serve him Michael Andredi on a silver platter. Carolla took the bullet and Trump sent them both packing.

That task was early on in its season. This week was the last one before the final four. Knocking off both Brandi and Johnny doesn’t exactly change as much as you’d think. Trump typically sends two of the final four home anyway in a dated adherence to the show’s original format.

Problem is, it does matter. Trump could’ve fired the whole team by advancing one of them to the final four and sending them packing with Vivica, which is going to happen. This would’ve made the whole thing look less rigged. Why didn’t he? Maybe he doesn’t care.

It’s been a weird season of Celebrity Apprentice. It’s the first season since the original to air the majority of the tasks in one hour blocks, though the first did one a week. This cast hasn’t been all that interesting. Lots of narcissism and plenty of fights, but the competition hasn’t been one for the ages.

Geraldo could have changed this. He looked like the second coming of Piers Morgan (albeit with reversed political views) in the first few tasks. Then he transformed into the reincarnated Aubrey O’Day, who forced her ideas down her teammates’ throats and lost. Rivera will make it to the finals. Will he win?

Seems likely. Leeza Gibbons is the new front-runner. Before you say “oh look Ian was wrong,” consider this. In the show’s condensed format, we haven’t seen a lot of Leeza. She flew under the radar all season. Before this week, there was no reason to suggest she belonged in the finals. Nepotism, yes, but that really only takes you to the final four (now the final three).

I have a feeling this is it for Celebrity Apprentice. The show went off the air for almost two years and when it came back, NBC has burned through the episodes with little fanfare. We’ve been down this road before as NBC cancelled the original version of the show, only to bring it back because its lineup faltered. It seems likely that this could and probably will happen again.

The finals will pit Geraldo against Leeza. No doubt about that. In order to determine who has the upper hand, we can ask a simple question.

Who gains the most from winning?

Trump likes to play king maker. He took all the credit for Piers Morgan’s CNN show (to be fair, he did deserve some of it). He picked Arsenio Hall over Clay Aiken because he knew Hall’s increased exposure would lead to a new late night show which he could also take credit for.

Geraldo and Leeza are both old and established. Leeza has a radio show. Geraldo works for Fox News. Trump can’t really take any credit for Geraldo’s future fortunes. If Leeza says the words, “I want another TV show,” the crown is hers.

If that doesn’t happen, it’s still probably hers to lose. Geraldo will probably go for broke on fundraising and do something bold for the finals. That could win it for him if he fights hard enough. It should be an exciting finale.

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Tuesday

27

January 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode 5

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Trump has done something unusual for two weeks now. He’s used the phrase “a lot of money” to refer to the amount that the winning Project Manager gets for his or her charity. He’s never done this before, leading one to think he’s hiding the dollar amount because it’s less impressive than previous years. The fact that NBC has basically cut this season in half seems to back this notion. $20,000 is typically the standard amount for a non-fundraising task plus occasionally the sponsor throws in more money.

The problem is that if he’s hiding the money amount because it’s lower, then the $25,000 gift to Sig Hansen doesn’t make much sense, as it would be higher than the winning amount. I’ve seen reports that Brandi got $50,000, but have been unable to verify them. Trump withheld the money again with the task that he personally sponsored, making this all the more confusing.

Despite Trump’s insistence that a boat task would cater to Sig Hansen, I’d argue that his team was at a disadvantage from the start. This wasn’t a “boat task.” It was a “party task.” Team Infinity had a certain player that plenty of people want to party with.

Johnny Damon.

Who wouldn’t want to dance on a boat with a World Series champion New York Yankee (putting aside my Red Sox fan bias for a second)? Sig knows boats. He doesn’t know parties.

Geraldo supplied the line of the night with “screw the terrorists.” It’s hard to argue with that notion. But it was supposed to be a party and having a Fox News reporter deliver a “fair and balanced” tour isn’t exactly as fun as dancing with Johnny Damon. At the very least, they could’ve incorporated taking shots into the “screw terrorism” theme. Apparently having Hooters was enough.

So they lost even though the other team didn’t really have a theme. Which was still better than Mardi Gras. They didn’t need a theme. All they needed was music and Johnny Damon and for Kenya not to screw things up with that horrid song.

Sig loses. Sig goes home. Another downside of the compacted episodes is that we don’t really get to know everyone. Sig is usually the least interesting person in the room, unless Eric Trump is there. His team missed him. Geraldo gave him money. Despite his temper tantrum, he seems like a nice guy. Right from the start, he had about a 0% chance of winning. Fishermen don’t win Celebrity Apprentice.

The second task was just okay. I’m not a big fan of the Trump centric tasks, even though I would win them all if I were on the show. Winning them is easy. Suck up to Trump and make it classy. Kate Gosselin failed with the latter.

The class element might have been harder than you’d think. This task pitted the star of a TLC reality show about her excessively large family against the star of Sharknado. Yet Ian pulled it off. Again.

The Kenya/Vivica fight was a little much. Shopping takes awhile. This had always been the case. Kenya wasn’t Project Manager. Her not being at home base when she was on a team with only four people should not have been treated like a snub. But it was.

Kenya did establish herself as a dominant boardroom player, even though it was pretty clear that Kate was a goner. Trump hinted this in the last task when he singled Kate out in his firing of Sig. Kenya makes better television. She fought in the boardroom. Trump rewards people who make his show interesting.

Only three weeks left. Feels odd and a little sad. After waiting a year and half, we’ve been rewarded with condensed episodes so NBC can air boring knockoffs of other network’s hits. What a shame.

I’m going to stick with my final four predictions from last week. Kenya is emerging as an interesting player, but I don’t think she’s a legitimate contender. She’s too hated. Being called the next Omarosa is nice and all, but she was never a legitimate contender either.

The one question that’s surfaced since last night is, can Geraldo win it all after losing so many tasks? He’s three for nine overall. The answer to this is simple.

Yes.

Trace Adkins made it to the finals in season one with an 0-2 record as Project Manager. Winners Bret Michaels and Arsenio Hall had far less impressive track records in their respective seasons than he has. At 2-0, he can survive without even needing to tap into his boardroom abilities.

This was a big win for Ian. He’s 1-1, but his loss came with $300,000 raised for his charity. Brandi, Kenya, Johnny, and Leeza are all 1-0. Whoever wins next week will practically guarantee themselves a spot in the final four.

I feel comfortable calling Geraldo-Ian in the finals. There’s history between the two. Trump isn’t going to put Brandi, Kenya, or Johnny in the finals. They’re not strong enough. Vivica could make it with another win, but it seems unlikely she’ll get that chance. She also suffered her fair share of unfavorable boardrooms.

Leeza could be a sleeper candidate. She needs another win as PM to get there though. If she doesn’t step up, Trump won’t reward her.

Ian and Geraldo hate each other. That above all else is what matters. Unless one of the two screw up, this is the likeliest outcome.

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Tuesday

20

January 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode 4

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It looks like two tasks an episode is going to be the standard for this season. For those of us who have waited over a year for Celebrity Apprentice to return, this is kind of a bummer. Not every episode is worthy of two hours and this has often been a problem.

Shawn Johnson’s immediate departure was a complete no brainer ten minutes into the episode. Not stepping up is more often than not a bigger death sentence than being project manager and losing. Jamie Anderson might not have gotten the can if she was a halfway competent boardroom player. Gary Busey survived many boardrooms and only about 80% of that can be credited to being good television.

Her excuse was stupid as well. Who among the contestants was “fit” for a Nordstrom’s task? Vivica A. Fox certainly wasn’t. Kenya looked comfortable as PM, but her qualifications are hardly better than an Olympic gymnast, putting aside the fact that Johnson’s career doesn’t require her to wear shoes. So Johnson’s termination is hardly a surprise to anyone.

Athletes are historically terrible at Celebrity Apprentice. Johnny Damon has a win, but it was against a fellow athlete (Anderson). Furthermore, they’re boring. Jose Canseco was the only one in the history of the show to display true flare, but he had to leave to be with his dying father. Lennox Lewis wasn’t exactly a dynamic player, but his partnership with Piers Morgan made for great TV. No one will miss Shawn. Flying under the radar doesn’t work. Unless you’re Sig Hansen.

Lorenzo Lamas’ firing was tragic because he’d actually blossomed into a decent player. He’s shown ample character for a complete has been and appears to be a good guy. I’m not sure I can completely blame him for the loss either.

This is a downside of not having one task per episode. Under the usual format, we get to see the teams meet with the executives. Which is usually boring, but it would have shown us how risqué the Chock Full of Nuts people wanted their viral videos to be. If I were Lorenzo, I wouldn’t have necessarily thought to do something as inappropriate as having two Real Housewives rolls around in bed together.

Which is why Lorenzo probably would have survived. He could’ve served Sig or Kate Gosselin up on a silver platter to Trump. Hansen appears to be a nice guy, but he’s boring and has a limited skill set. He also hasn’t been a project manager. It’s hard to believe Trump would have kept him over the Lamas, who by all indications did a decent job.

This wasn’t a particularly interesting episode, except for Kenya’s quip about Brandi’s marital embarrassments. A quip which will probably cost her in Trump’s eyes down the road. Both boardrooms were fairly obvious right from the get go.

So let’s turn our attention to this question. Who can beat Geraldo Rivera? The man displays a Piers Morgan like dominance over his teammates, but also an Aubrey O’Day desire to control the entire creative process. Being a journalist and not a member of the Pussycat Dolls should help him look more like the former to Trump.

My answer to this question in the beginning was simple. Geraldo’s biggest enemy was himself. Domineering contestants self-destruct. But now Geraldo is dug in. He’s 2-0 and is practically guaranteed to make the final four. Sig needs to be PM, probably next week, before Geraldo is even eligible to do it again. Even then, he can survive a loss if he doesn’t completely implode. I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out either.

Vivica is good. Kenya is good. Ian is good. Kate is probably better than anyone wants to admit, but the fact that no one seems to like her is a huge problem. Brandi will likely face off against Sig in the first task next week if the cards fall the way they’re supposed to.

If I had to make a final four prediction now, I’d say it’s going to be Geraldo, Ian, Vivica, and Leeza based on records and Trump’s nepotism. I wouldn’t necessarily say Leeza is all that deserving, but she’s got a win and Trump likes her more than most of the contenders. Kenya’s battles with Brandi are cute, but Trump isn’t going to reward that sort of behavior with a final four appearance. As we saw with Kevin Jonas, things can change, but I feel comfortable with this prediction.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge Joan Rivers’ final appearance on the show. I wrote a Celebrity Apprentice centered tribute to her shortly after her death that you might find interesting. Rivers saved what was a pretty weak season two cast and had continued to entertain in her appearances as a boardroom advisor. She’ll be missed mostly for her actual comedy work, but also for Celebrity Apprentice, at least in my mind.

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Tuesday

13

January 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode 3

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Before we tackle part one of this episode, which once again featured two tasks, I thought I would clarify that Trump was wrong in saying that allowing the Project Managers to keep their own money had “never been done before.” This was also done in the fifth task of season 3, which featured John Rich against Marlee Matlin, arguably the two most impressive fundraisers in the show’s history. More on that later.

I tweeted last night that Jamie Anderson might be the worst player in Celebrity Apprentice history and having slept on that, I still find that to be the case. Comic relief contestants like Gary Busey, Rod Blagojevich, and Dennis Rodman all drew the ire of their teams time and time again, but that was the singular least impressive Boardroom showing in Celeb Apprentice history, potentially of all time. You’d have to go back all the way to season one, where Omarosa knocked off a few of the women to find comparable instances.

Jamie made three horrendous mistakes. She admitted early on that she was bullied into the concept that she didn’t quite believe in. More importantly, she didn’t set anyone up to take the fall. This was problem one.

Problem two was that she was completely indecisive in the boardroom. Her team was chaotic in deciding who to set up for the fall. Kate, Brandi, and Kenya were all targets. Jamie could have made a case to plea for any of their firings and probably could have knocked off Kate or Brandi. Kenya would have been tough considering she’s the only competent player of these four.

Had Jamie picked a target, maybe she could have survived. She could have even defended bringing Kate and Kenya back as Kenya was responsible for the loss and Kate is disliked. But then she admitted she made a mistake. Then she tried to see if Trump would bring Brandi back. It was over for her before that, but this was just embarrassing. LaToya Jackson made a similar mistake during All-Stars in not bringing back Omarosa, but at least she put up a fight.

Jamie? No, there was no fight here. After years of this show, it’s clear that certain contestants come into the game knowing how it’s played. Jamie wasn’t one of them. She made nearly every basic mistake in the book and this was no surprise.

Let’s go back to the money predicament. Geraldo and Ian collectively raised close to $600,000, a figure that Trump later raised to that exact sum. Jon Rich and Marlee Matlin back in Celeb Apprentice 3 raised over $1,600,000. Big difference, right?

It can be easy to forget that the whole “winning team gets all the money” is highly problematic when you’re hitting your big donors up. Especially when you’re a D list celebrity like Ian Ziering, who probably doesn’t have many rich friends. His charity, The EB Medical Research Foundation, needs that money. The person who gave the $165,000 check probably had ties to that cause. It would have been pretty awkward had the money gone to Geraldo.

We saw this in Celeb Apprentice 5, where Patricia Velasquez lost her $126,962 to Paul Teutul Sr. In that season’s finale, she tried to explain to Trump that a school couldn’t be built because her donors spent their money only to see it go to a different charity. That was awkward for many reasons and the truth of the matter is, these are the rules.

But the way they framed the narrative with Ian’s emotional plea would’ve made it difficult to see his money go to Geraldo. While Trump (as usual) exaggerated the significance of his decision to allow them to keep their money, it was the right call. This show is mostly about entertainment, but it’s nice to see them act like human beings every once in awhile.

Fundraising tasks aren’t very interesting. It’s fun to watch the people who barely raise any money look awkward, unless it’s Ian trying to get Terrell Owens to do something. Despite making close to $70 million in the NFL not counting endorsements, Owens is broke. It’s no surprise he has no rich friends.

The show usually adds some sort of contest element to the task to get the participants to actually care about their product to raise some extra cash. That’s rarely a difference maker. Ironically, it would have been the case here. I’m not really sure if there was a single element to this task besides selling, which is unusual.

It’s rare that the two weakest players in the game get fired consecutively. Trump made the right calls. Athletes have rarely made for interesting contestants on this show. Damon is just as boring, though not entirely incompetent. He made for a decent PM, albeit one steamrolled by Geraldo.

If I had to pick the final four now, I’d go with Geraldo, Ian, Kenya, and Leeza, though I fully expect at least two of them to screw things up for themselves. Leeza is a dark horse, but one that Trump likes. Sig Hansen looks to have most of Paul Teutul’s negative traits in that he’s quiet and awkward, but also doesn’t have the large Rolodex. He could be a dark horse, Jesse James type sleeper candidate, but that’s also because there are far worse contestants still on the show.

Brandi’s meltdowns resemble NeNe Leakes’ too much for me to care. Leakes quit. I imagine Brandi might as well. This is a weird season without any overly dominant players aside from Geraldo, who’s too bold for his own good. But we get to see Joan Rivers next week! I miss her.

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Monday

5

January 2015

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Celebrity Apprentice Recap: Episode One

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It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since Celebrity Apprentice All-Star. Which means it’s been three years since we were introduced to an entirely new cast of D list “celebrities” to participate in Donald Trump’s faux reality competition. With stars like Kevin Jonas, Gilbert Gottfried, Shawn Johnson, and Terrell Owens on board, this season looks to be a strong one for the venerable rigged contest.

First episodes are always more about the contestants than the task itself, which makes fundraising challenges the perfect type to start with. It’s important to note that at no point was pie making a central focus of the task. The money is the only thing that matters.

Over the years, we’ve seen Trump and the show itself try to circumvent the fact that the battle of the rolodex doesn’t exactly make for suspenseful television. The past two seasons have featured project managers Paul Teutul Sr. and Trace Adkins bring in such large donations that they barely cared about the task itself at all.

This is where naivety can really come to bite you in the ass. It was pretty clear about thirty-five minutes into the two hour show that not only would the women lose, but that Keisha Knight Pulliam would be the one to go. What was unusual was how blatant Piers Morgan was in essentially telling her that social media didn’t matter at all. Not very Celebrity Apprentice-like to be upfront about it being all about the big money.

Starting off with a money challenge also shows the audience who the real players are right off the bat. It’s an unwritten rule that the PM has to pull most of the weight in a money challenge since his/her team is the only beneficiary of the money that people are presumably saving for themselves. Lorenzo Lamas isn’t going to hit his mother up for two hundred dollars if it’s going to Geraldo Rivera. Surviving a task like this is all about bringing in enough to not draw attention without wasting any of your own high rollers.

The task was pretty straight forward. No one expected Pulliam to beat Rivera. The boardroom was a little more interesting than expected. The Rivera/Jonas dynamic is one to watch out for, especially when Rivera is no longer PM next week. But there was a ton of potential for a Pulliam battle with Kate Gosselin, who had the weirdest boardroom rants since Lou Ferrigno and his 110%.

Raising chump change on a money task when you’re the project manager gets you fired plain and simple. But Gosselin could have been taken down by a savvy player like Omarosa. Problem was that Pulliam was boring. Gosselin had a chance to sink her own ship, but she’s entertaining and that’s what matters. There’s a reason why the show keeps people like Gary Busey, Dennis Rodman, and Rod Blagojevich around as long as humanly possible. They make for good TV.

It’s hard to see who the real frontrunners will be moving forward. Rivera’s attitude doesn’t seem like it will help him in the long haul. He looks destined for more of a Gene Simmons type tenure. Jonas is the most complete package of any of the contestants. He’s outspoken and has a lot of money. Johnny Damon could be a darkhorse, but the men don’t appear to have a ton of juggernauts on their team. It remains to be seen whether Sig Hansen will resemble Paul Teutul or Jesse James in terms of usefulness.

The women’s team is complicated. With two Real Housewives, two Olympic Gold Medalists, and two has-been TV personalities weighing down the team with contestants who have neither star power nor rich backers, Team Infinity doesn’t look very strong.

I don’t think the money will flow quite like it has without a deep roster of money laden celebrities. But the personalities are certainly there. Gottfried delivered right off the bat, looking like savvier Adam Carolla. Snowboarder Jamie Anderson showed charisma and personality. Even Gosselin was surprisingly likable until she started rambling in the boardroom. It should be a very exciting year for The Celebrity Apprentice.

Recaps will continue every Monday throughout the season. The best way to insure you never miss a post is to subscribe to ianthomasmalone.com or to like my Facebook page. Thanks for reading!

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