Keeping a team member in play when no one else wants to work with them will damage your overall energy. At Team Backbone this week, John Rich, Lil John, and Meat Loaf were working against a total, soul-sucking, energy hole. The fact that they could even raise their heads enough to try to bring the challenge in was a tribute to each of their commitments to their charities.
Continuing from last week’s firing of Mark McGrath, Backbone was visibly stunned to see Gary Busey walk through the door. Meat Loaf and Lil Jon were clearly unhappy, while John Rich went to a safe place in his mind, deciding that Gary must be the ‘savviest player’ in the game. It was either that or have his brain explode. John even confronted Gary with his new theory. “You’re either crazy or a saboteur.” Gary, blank faced, neither confirmed nor denied. However, he later told us that he was shocked his team was against him. "Sure, when some people see me they think somewhere there's a village missing their idiot. But that's not true because I have an eternal wealth of knowledge. I will not let that cat out of the bag." And then he pretended to be a cat.
For their part, the women of ASAP couldn’t conceal their glee at finding out that Gary would be around to torture the men another week. That was their real win. And LaToya got to present her winnings to her charity “AIDS in LA,” which she breathily informed us was one of her brother’s favorite charities. Good times for the ladies.
And so, on to this week’s challenge. Meeting at Trump’s Tower Grill, the teams met representatives from Omaha Steak. Their mission: write, produce and host a live cooking demonstration. They are to create three occasion-specific meals, including a variety pack that they will create and name. (What, Omaha Steaks doesn’t have a promo group?) The presentation will take place at the Institute of Culinary Education and will be evaluated on brand messaging, originality of the variety pack, and overall presentation.
Hope Dworaczyk, who neither cooks nor eats red meat, will be PM for the ladies. Gary will be Project Manager for the guys. Trump takes the opportunity to tell the execs that Gary is “either a genius or a moron. We haven’t figured it out.” And we’re off!
With Star Jones interrupting every word she says, Hope tries to brainstorm with Team ASAP. Star clearly has little faith in Hope’s abilities. Before blood can be shed, the execs from Omaha arrive to explain a little more about the products. Star takes the opportunity to talk about healthy eating, since she has had open heart surgery. (We know, Star, you tell us every week.) After the Q&A, Hope assigns the cooking: Star will work on a healthy ‘petite filet’, NeNe Leakes will do a surf and turf, and LaToya Jackson, a sirloin steak. Marlee chimes in that their variety pack theme should be ‘Poker Night’. NeNe says that would be six burgers, six steaks, and six condoms. Say whuh?
Without asking for input, Gary makes Meat Loaf their Chef. Meat Loaf doesn’t know how to cook. Lil Jon does, but he’s miffed that he wasn’t asked, so he’s not telling. When the Omaha execs arrive, John Rich asks a few intelligent questions about the steaks, while Gary seems off on a tangent. When the execs make the mistake of referring to flash freezing the meat as ‘suspended animation,’ Gary can’t grasp the concept, as ‘animation is moving.’ Yeah, that Gary’s one mysterious guy.
Later, Meat Loaf suggests a surf and turf, chateaubriand and a bone-in rib eye for a Father's Day theme. John will be spokesperson. Gary adds, "It would be great to bring your dad a kite." Um, Gary, are you telling John to go fly a kite? With Gary clearly out of his depths, John calls the Omaha Steaks customer service line. Gary grabs the phone and tells the poor rep all about Backbone’s plans, as though the rep a) knew all about it, and b) worked for him. He even asks about the chef costume Meat Loaf will be wearing at the challenge. Mr Loaf, meanwhile, is grabbing his head and rubbing his eyes. When Gary steps out for a smoke, Lil Jon, Meat Loaf and John Rich worry that the team is doomed.
ASAP arrive at the kitchen, and NeNe points out that they have two steak dishes. She thinks they should have a burger as well. Hope asks LaToya if she’d mind doing burgers instead of steak. LaToya says it’s ok, but tells us she thinks she’s being set up for failure again.
Meanwhile, BackBone is just beginning to think up their variety pack. Gary tosses out several suggestions, all of which are long and wordy or inane, like ‘multi flavored steak packs.’ Considering that this is not an option offered by Omaha, John thinks it unlikely the company will create a new product, just so that Gary’s idea works. Lil Jon and John Rich, fleeing to another room, crack up at Gary’s inability to understand this concept. Finally, Meat Loaf comes up with an idea: they’ll add one of every type of steak, and call it “The Ultimate Celebration Pack.” Done.
LaToya gets a lesson in cooking the burgers. She doesn’t know how to cook, because she grew up in a house with personal chefs, and she still does – of course. She listens attentively, taking notes. NeNe cannot believe that a woman cannot cook. Especially not burgers … in America!
Star has spent most of her time creating the branding, menus, and aprons to give away at the presentation. As a visual aid, she asks the ladies to decide on the orientation of the printing with a live demonstration on their helper chef. Holding the graphic across his crotch, she demands to know which looks better, the vertical or horizontal presentation. The young chef smiles nervously, as the girls try not to laugh out loud. Thankfully a decision is reached before anything else arises.
Next, the ladies rehearse the big show. Marlee will be hosting, via interpreter, as the other women cook. The rehearsal is interrupted when Hope sends Marlee and NeNe out to fetch whatever additional food is needed, and Star asks if they could pick up her aprons as well. NeNe spits that it’s not fair that Star just sits around and does graphics all day. Jr pops by for an update. Hope is grateful for all of Star’s help. Jr says that, although Star is definitely one of the most outspoken members of the women’s team, if they lose, she’ll be held accountable for directing so much of the project.
Meat Loaf can’t cook either, but he thought he’d get some help from the others. Gary’s on the phone, John is looking at graphics, and Lil Jon wants the ear buds so he doesn’t have to hear anything. Meat Loaf becomes increasingly nervous as he contemplates preparing the three meals by himself.
Ivanka arrives, ready to hear about the Backbone presentation, but feels like she’s walked into a group therapy session instead. Meat Loaf looks like he’s going to cry, while Lil Jon whispers “take me with you, please!” Gary can’t explain himself to Ivanka, who tells us that the challenge is for Gary to figure out what he wants to do, and then explain clearly how he wants it done. Simple enough, no?
Gary’s next great idea is to hand out numbers to the audience. Three numbers will be drawn, and the winners will get to eat the food they’ve presented. Lil Jon is handed the task of cutting up paper into squares on which the numbers will be written. Although John has been working on the menu with a designer, Gary pushes in with his thoughts, and John tosses his hands in the air. Have at it, Gary. With twenty minutes left, they have no option but to print out what they have and run with it. John again wonders if Gary is causing distraction on purpose. John refuses to proof the menus, but Gary signs off on the printing as is.
On the way to the presentation, John is noticeably upset. All he knows for sure is that he’s pulling numbers out of a hat. And earlier, Gary apparently (we don’t see the exchange) called John “Boy”. John is incensed at the slur – he’s nobody’s ‘boy.’ Meat Loaf, ever the trooper, doesn’t seem to be sweating the morning’s cookathon. Later, John finds comfort in being Meat Loaf ‘s sous chef.
At the Institute, the ladies are rehearsing, prepping, and trying out presentation ideas. NeNe’s dish is surrounded by too much garnish. Through her interpreter, Marlee tells NeNe to ‘trim her bush.’ When LaToya accidentally sets her burgers on fire with too much oil, NeNe says “she’s trying to do a Michael Jackson on me.” (MJ’s hair was famously set accidentally on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984.) Hope tells LaToya that she has to speak up when they present, then tells us that if LaToya keeps baby talking, someone is going to end up hitting her. She’s also concerned about NeNe, who she finds nervous and sensitive. Interesting that when Hope finally gets a chance to speak, she’s ready to diss the other ladies.
Lil Jon looks on as Gary attempts to put their variety pack together with steaks and tissue paper. As time ticks away, Meat Loaf is scrambling to get the food plated. Gary arrives with the menu, and there’s been miscommunication, as what they’ve prepared for appetizers doesn’t match the menus. Gary immediately says John Rich handled the menus, but John’s not having any of that. He unloads his frustration at Gary, including Gary’s calling him ‘boy’. Gary, of course, denies having done so, and looks dumbfounded when John won’t accept his apology.
Show time! The ladies go first. Hope and Marlee act as presenters, using Star’s tag line of ‘how delicious really tastes.’ LaToya, Star and NeNe present their dishes, with NeNe proud to be the only one actually cooking her lobster tail on stage. They conclude with handing around the aprons Star had made, and feel fairly confident that they’ve done well.
Meat Loaf is a complete nervous wreck, feeling he’s never been under so much pressure with so little rehearsal. Nevertheless, he’s a professional, so when he strides out onto the set, he takes command of the room. Gary blathers on about the anniversary meal until everyone’s eyes glaze over. The real disaster happens when Gary begins to explain the Father’s Day meal, going on and on about kites. No kite actually appears, but Gary seems to see it. Hilariously, the execs comment on how Meat Loaf really knows how to cook! Finally, numbers are drawn, and three audience members are invited to taste the cooked products. An exec has one of the numbers, and says someone else should have a go, but finally does taste the steak, pronouncing it perfect. Gary feels that his audience inclusion was the best part of the presentation.
Trump sits down to debrief the Omaha Steak execs. They praise Meat Loaf’s skill, and the team’s enthusiasm. They also liked the women’s team. They’re a little nitpicky, to my mind. And the winner is?
Boardroom time, and the Donald starts with Backbone. Gary thinks he was a good leader, in a subtle way, by giving Meat Loaf the task of being the chef. Meat Loaf looks exhausted and wrung out as he tries to explain how he felt about Gary’s management, but John has no such problem. He states, flat out, that the task was a “catastrophic collapse of time management.” Gary thinks that’s just John’s opinion, but the others agree with John. Meat Loaf says he’s never gone into any performance without knowing exactly what he is to do, and how to do it. Jr says he can sense that Meat Loaf is having a hard time dealing with his frustration, from his hesitations and stutters. Ivanka points out two misspellings on the menu, while Jr snarks he wondered what ‘Key Lim Pie’ was. Meat Loaf also points out that it was also the wrong menu overall.
Trump asks about Gary’s soliloquy on the Father’s Day meal, and Gary goes into another long speech. Trump listens politely, then says he has no idea what was just said, while Ivanka says he lost her at the word ‘kite.’ Lil Jon says Gary was orbiting outer space for the last two days, and voices his frustration at being assigned to paper cutting and tissue paper overseeing.
Now it’s Hope’s turn on the hot seat. She says the ladies were all great, and did their assigned jobs. The Donald points out that Hope is by far the youngest member of Team ASAP, and wonders if anyone tried to take over her turf. She says everyone respected her. When NeNe is asked how Hope was as PM, she dithers over whether Hope was good, or great, but Marlee, Star, and LaToya think Hope was spectacular.
Jr explains how the execs felt about the women’s team, positive and negative, noting that they liked the aprons and the Poker Night theme. Ivanka does the same for the men. Apparently the execs thought so highly of Meat Loaf that they thought he could be a brand spokesperson. And they thought having audience members come on to the stage to try the food was a little awkward. But … the women won.
Hope’s charity made $20,000. and will receive a portion of the profits off the Poker Night themed packs, which will be put into distribution. So Omaha Steaks didn’t have to pony up the usual $20,000? As ASAP drink to their win, NeNe seems upset, and Star tells Hope that NeNe doesn’t like feeling like everyone thinks she’s negative, because she’s not. NeNe sulks to Star that the labels she’s getting from the team are unfair.
With the ladies dismissed, Trump turns his attention to the men. Meat Loaf is almost inarticulate as he tries to explain how frustrated he was during the challenge, and seems near tears, hugging himself, and rocking slightly. Lil Jon says the first thing he would have done is ask everyone who could cook. John Rich says he exercised his patience, even enduring the humiliation of Gary calling him ‘boy. ‘ Gary says he was saying ‘C’Boy’, as in Dallas Cowboys inner circles slang, but no one has ever heard the term. Ivanka points out that John is from Texas, yet has never heard of ‘C’boy.’ Could Gary be making it up? Gasp! Or hang on, maybe it’s a Garyism for something, like ‘Come By Our Yard.’
Well, John says his name is John, and that’s what he wants to be called. When asked who Gary should bring back into the boardroom to be fired, Gary says they were all excellent. Trump says that Gary may be different, but he’s nice, and his difference makes him interesting. The team try to half-heartedly agree. Trump decides to put Meat Loaf out of his misery, and fires Gary. Meat Loaf is the last to wearily rise from the chairs, and seems drained.
Gary puts a good face on for the limo driver, but interviews that his team mates just didn’t like him, and were determined to oust him at the first opportunity. He blathers something about "I can turn a thunderstorm and a tornado into a rainbow," and rides off into the night.
Next week: The teams create an ad campaign for the Trump Hotel Collection. Star and NeNe get on each other’s nerves. Backbone’s got the makings of a supergroup with the trio of John Rich, Meat Loaf and Lil Jon.