After briefly recapping last week’s debacle, it’s time to have a look at the celebrity line-up for this, the ninth episode. Minus castoff LaToya Jackson, Team ASAP is down to 4 ladies; Nene Leakes, Star Jones, Marlee Matlin, and Hope Dworaczyk. The men, Team BackBone, have 3 members; John Rich, Meat Loaf and Lil Jon.

We join John Rich as he visits a patient from St. Jude’s Hospital. He presents a check for $649,900. That’s a chunk of change that the families of the littlest patients can really use.

This week, the celebrities have gathered in a parking garage, where they meet up with Donald, Ivanka and Eric Trump, delivered by limo, as well as the owner of Farouk Hair System products.  The Donald discusses what an important role hair plays in looking good. The celebrities somehow do not fall down, rolling in hysterical laughter, which is what I would have done, had I been there. Instead, they nod wisely and listen to the task – produce a hair show. The usual criteria apply. The men resort to rock, paper, scissors to choose Lil Jon as Project Manager. The ladies argue, but NeNe is chosen, against her will. NeNe is not pleased – “it’s going down,” she says repeatedly. Star says she’s just trying to give NeNe a chance to win money for her charity, but NeNe is not having any of that. Towering over Star, NeNe berates Star, who keeps moving back until she’s forced to take shelter behind Marlee.

“You talk a good game, now bring your street game,” flings NeNe at Star, with both teams, the Trump family, and the Farouk representative watching agog. As the teams disperse, Star interviews that she is determined to show America how an educated black woman handles stress. NeNe continues to advance threateningly on Star as they leave. When Star tells NeNe, “I don’t do threats,” NeNe counters with, “No, but you can put them out.” Star pretends to have no idea what NeNe is talking about. NeNe is nothing but street as she continues to accost Star verbally. I’m guessing things are not going to go smoothly with team ASAP. There may be more hair torn out than styled this week!

BackBone figure they have this challenge wrapped up, with NeNe so angry she can’t even think straight, and Star having to defend herself against being a puppet master. At the offices, Lil Jon shows the men a video of a Farouk hair show, and they realize it really is like a rock show. It’s decided that Lil Jon will emcee the spectacle, and they establish their plan; it’s going to revolve around the theme, the fashion, and the celebrities. As they toss around names of possible celebrity friends to model, John Rich has a brain wave – they’ll call in Niki Taylor, ousted earlier in the series, and really blow Trump’s mind. Niki agrees!

Team ASAP gather to plan their moves. No one is speaking at all. NeNe finally says she knows they started off bumpy, but she doesn’t want to yell anymore, just get through the day. As PM, she then tells the team that her home town, Atlanta, has a big hair show every year, and describes some of the entries. Meanwhile, Hope interviews that she has no respect for NeNe showing no respect for Star, and Star interviews that they still have a job to do, regardless of personalities. NeNe watches Marlee moving to music and says, “Shake your beauty. Hey! That could be the theme!” With the ladies dancing around the room, shaking their hair, the ice begins to thaw.

Both teams meet with Farouk, asking questions and hearing his thoughts on hair, beauty and made in America products.

What is this? LaToya Jackson pops by Trump’s office. Apparently, she still can’t understand why she was fired. And she wants to come back! She feels she didn’t have a chance to show her strengths since the other women kept her down throughout the challenges. She wants a second chance, but this time, she wants to be on the Men’s team. The Donald says he’s not saying no, it’s an interesting proposal, especially since she did well, regardless of what the ladies said about her. He’ll think about it over the next 24 hours. As she leaves the office, he calls out ‘nice pants,’ in yet another inappropriate non-sequitor.   

Seizing on Farouk’s pleasure in his products being American made, BackBone plan a campaign. As Meat Loaf heads for the bathroom, Lil Jon and John Rich continue to brainstorm, and come up with “Feeling Good in America,” which Lil Jon imparts to Meat by knocking on the bathroom door. (That’s why I watch this show – the impeccable good taste shown by all involved. Flush.) ASAP also close in on a strategy. NeNe asks Star if she knows any street dancers, and despite Star still being angry with NeNe, Star does indeed buckle down and call her contacts.

The ladies meet with their stylists and models. Hope interviews that she is tired of always being the model, even though that is what she is, but NeNe’s PM, so she’ll do what has to be done. Clearly, Hope’s heart is not in this challenge. Star outlines the PowerPoint presentation she’ll organize for the show. When Marlee and Hope are sent to pick up wardrobe, Marlee asks Hope what the heck happened that morning, during the Star/NeNe fight. Both are amazed that there have been no fireworks since then, but feel like another explosion could happen at any time.

When the guys see their stage set up, they finally feel in their element. John Rich will be stage manager, and Meat Loaf will do the lights. A stage is a stage, they say. Lil Jon takes his models shopping and says he feels like a pimp, with 4 sexy ladies behind him. Classy!

Both teams arrive at the salon where the hair preparation will begin. It’s just a huge room, with the ladies on one side, and the guys on the other. “Like a party with no music,” says Lil Jon, sipping a glass of wine. Eric Trump pops by to check on the ladies’ progress, and notes that NeNe is not backing down in the face of Star’s strong personality. When Ivanka shows up to check on the men, she’s amazed at how relaxed everyone seems. Are they overconfident?

Niki Taylor arrives, and happily greets the men. The women are completely rattled to find that Niki has opted to work with team BackBone. NeNe is immediately convinced that Hope and Niki, who are in contact all the time, have been conspiring against her, while Marlee is incensed, feeling Niki has betrayed them.  

Next morning, the teams arrive at the venue. Backbone, still crowing over scooping Niki for their side, are even happier that she’s called in 3 of New York’s top models to do the show with her! How can they lose, with that kind of talent? Especially since the stylists and models for ASAP have been on site since 8 a.m., for a 10 a.m. rehearsal, but team ASAP wander in half an hour late. NeNe, rather than apologize, thinks they should all just relax. Star greets the dancers she’s called in, who seem to have arrived with a plan and a wardrobe. The stylists, already peeved at being delayed earlier, are snippy with Star’s handling of the PowerPoint graphics. NeNe chuckles as Star becomes visibly angrier by the moment and the stylist’s cues are fumbled.   

The men begin their rehearsal, still confident that they have the challenge in the bag. Meat Loaf, wearing a native feathered headdress, for no apparent reason, works with the lighting crew. Lil Jon rushes through the rehearsal, to Meat’s dismay.

Lights! Camera! Action! The audience file in as NeNe tries to pump up the energy of the dancers. The stylists, models, and Marlee give a great show, with the finale to be Hope walking on stage alone. I’m not sure what the team hoped to accomplish with Hope’s promenade, but with hair pumped out 10 times it’s normal volume, and a short poufy dress, she does look, as NeNe said “like Big Bird.” The audience is not impressed.

Now for BackBone’s show. First problem, Lil Jon’s microphone isn’t working. But he’s game, and he gets the crowd going. As the two stylists cut and primp two models, the show sags. But in comes their secret weapon, Texas beauty Niki Taylor, looking amazing, and followed by a California girl, and a friend in the audience, Quest Love of the Roots. Lastly, Lil Jon presents the New Orleans ladies, who arrive with beads for the audience. They finish with a Mardi Gras Queen, and crazy mood lighting.

Are you ready for the BoardRoom? NeNe is quick to say she doesn’t feel her team were working to their full ability. Ivanka asks NeNe if she really thought that starting her task with a fight with Star might have had something to do with her team not being fully behind her. NeNe thinks not, as her problems are with Star, but Ivanka says it certainly set the tone for their interactions after the confrontation. NeNe defends herself by saying that Star has been a problem since the beginning, and accuses Star of being a disloyal backstabber. Star says that, whatever anyone says, she stays on task. NeNe continues to tell Trump all about Star’s devious, evil actions … yep, she’s telling on you, Star! NeNe also calls Hope a ‘puppet on a string.’

Things get interesting when Trump asks Star who she’d rather continue playing with; NeNe or Hope. Star’s answer implies that NeNe is more valuable, but the volatile nature of their interaction makes the work difficult. Unfortunately, NeNe is so busy telling the Trumps all about Star that she can’t really hear the compliment Star is paying. She just wants to make her point, that Star is mean, vicious and backstabbing. Marlee admits that NeNe sometimes scares her. Star admits she worried that NeNe’s verbal attacks would turn physical, but NeNe says that would never happen. (I hope not, as her charity defends abused women!) Ivanka cites NeNe’s physical encroachment on Star as an act of dominance. Star says she wasn’t afraid of NeNe, but did worry that she wouldn’t maintain her dignity in the face of NeNe’s anger. NeNe then calls Star’s reputation into question, but doesn’t have anything to say to back up her point.

This is all starting to seem like an intervention to me. It looks like NeNe’s past as an abused woman is coming out as a need to defend herself against Star’s real or perceived dominance, with Trump as the divorce lawyer. Sadly, NeNe is really her own worst enemy.       

The men have waited patiently through the tantrum. When asked, Lil Jon thinks the men have won the challenge. Trump asks about their bringing in Niki Taylor for the challenge, and John Rich says it just made sense. Lil Jon says they didn’t have a weak player, and furthermore, they didn’t lose, so he’s not worried. Trump thinks they may be overconfident. Ivanka gives an overview of Farouk’s thoughts on the men’s team, followed by Eric doing the same for the women. The men win again.

But wait! Trump has LaToya brought in, and she takes a seat with the men. The Donald admires her moxy, so he’s giving her a second chance, and she’s joining BackBone, as a sort of nod to losing Jose Canseco through no one’s fault. LaToya backs up NeNe’s assessment of Star and Hope. The men, with LaToya, leave the BoardRoom, and the women must face The Donald.

Trump begins by saying he thinks both NeNe and Star are ‘nice.’ NeNe admits that she’s guilty of letting people walk over her for too long, and then blowing up. She then cites Hope as the weakest link of the team. Hope notes that NeNe’s defense is always mentally and verbally abusive. Star again points out that NeNe, when not feeling attacked, is one of the hardest workers she has ever met. Marlee thinks NeNe should be fired as Project Manager, no hard feelings. Whoah, says Trump, what I really meant is who would be the best person to take forward into the next combat against the men. Marlee says, then that would have to be NeNe. Marlee gets a pass, so NeNe, Star and Hope will be coming back in to be judged.

The Trumps have a little confab before letting the ladies back in. Star says she felt humbled by the barrage of insults hurled at her by NeNe, but decided to suck it up and do the best she could under the circumstances. Ivanka agrees. Hope thinks NeNe should be fired for blowing up in front of a client. Still, NeNe says Hope is not a strong player, so Hope should go, even though Star will continue to be a problem for her. Hope brings up NeNe calling LaToya Casper the Ghost, and LaToya living on her brother’s fame as evidence that NeNe can be hurtful. Yet, says Trump, when LaToya was asked who she liked on team ASAP, she cited NeNe! While Hope has been very much under the radar, NeNe remains the stronger player, says Star. With respect to Hope probably becoming a big, big star (due to being on Celebrity Apprentice,) Trump fires Hope as someone not able to stand up to the twin juggernauts of Star and NeNe.

As Star and NeNe leave the boardroom, NeNe asks Star for a conversation, but Star doesn’t want that to happen right then.

In the bye-bye limo, Hope says she played her game as herself, but thought NeNe should have been fired. Still, it was cool to be fired by Trump.

Next week: Game on. Looks like they mix up the teams. And there are two tasks in one show. Meat Loaf can’t stop crying, to Star’s dismay, and the Star vs NeNe battle is definitely not over! But hold it - THREE people will be fired next week!