NeNe Leakes versus Star Jones interrupted by La Toya’s return, breaking news

Last night’s long-awaited Celebrity Apprentice showdown between Star Jones and The Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes was interrupted not just by breaking news of Osama bin Laden’s death, but by the return of La Toya Jackson, who Donald Trump assigned to the men’s team.

NBC stayed with the show until around 10:45, but cut away to its news team in the middle of Star Jones’ sentence. Trump asked Star, “Who going forward do you want on your team…?” and Star’s reply, “I definitely–“, was lost. NBC broadcast the show on time to the west coast, but gave no word about what would happen to the remaining segments on the east coast. However, the full episode is online (watch it below, because I do reference the end later in this story) and will be rebroadcast on CNBC this Friday night at 8, and an NBC affiliate reports that “a decision will be made Monday on whether the reality show will be re-broadcast.”

Ultimately, the NeNe versus Star fight basically bookended a so-so episode–this is the third week in a row of tasks that have fallen kind of flat–and kept it alive. For me, the most fascinating part was NeNe’s sudden freak-out, which was reminiscent of the way John Rich and others turned on Gary Busey. Perhaps that’s editing, but in both cases, the other contestants seemed to be responding on camera for the first time to something that had been happening for quite some time off camera. (Of course, NeNe hasn’t exactly had a glowing opinion of Star in recent weeks, but her reaction still seemed disproportionate.)

At the end, when NeNe and Star returned to the suite, NeNe said they needed to have a conversation, and Star agreed–but she also said, “You can stop, because I’m not going to do this in front of the cameras.” That seemed to be an acknowledgement that there’s a lot that happens off-camera here, unlike, say, Survivor, when cameras try to catch everything.

But the show did break the fourth wall at one point to show NeNe literally corner Star after the task introduction, when the cameras were probably going to be off; from the lighting rigs to the number of crew members, it’s a massive behind-the-scenes production just to film Donald Trump and his raccoon eyes introducing that week’s sponsor and task.

The preceding confrontation and ensuing conversation/shouting was full of quotable lines, like NeNe asking, “Who the fuck died and made you in charge of the product managers?” and Star saying, “This is not The Real Housewives.” NeNe also said, “Shut the fuck up, punk-ass bitch” and, in an interview, “You evil, fat lady. You may have lost weight on the outside, but your brain is still very fat.”

Meanwhile, in one of those decisions that was clearly about what makes better TV, Trump ultimately fired Hope, the model who has been a non-presence all season. Because we know that Trump’s firing is arbitrary, and because that gives us another week of NeNe and Star, I’m fine with that decision. And it does make some sense: Trump pointed out that NeNe and Star together might be “impossible to beat,” and both do have more of the passion he likes so much.

After all of this, we also had the return of La Toya Jackson, who came to visit Trump in his office (where there were cameras!) to beg to be returned to the show. Again, totally set up, but since that’s part of the conceit of the show, it was okay. He returned her to the men’s team, insisting, “I’ve never done it before in 11 seasons, and I’ll never do it again.”

And we also had some good interaction on the men’s team, where John Rich and Lil Jon met their stylist for the task, whose name was Jon, and Meat Loaf cried out from his second trip to the bathroom this episode, “I’m in the john.”

Here is the full The Celebrity Apprentice episode, with the best Star and NeNe stuff at the beginning and end:

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.