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'The Celebrity Apprentice' Premiere: Who's the Big Bread Winner?

A sandwich competition sheds light on the NBC competition's bias toward its more expressive leaders on Sunday's fifth season debut.

George Takei Michael Andretti Celebrity Apprentice 2012
NBC

NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice isn’t exactly the place for quiet leadership. That’s the lesson that was reinforced on Sunday’s Season 5 premiere.

Note: Spoilers if you haven't watched Sunday's episode, "Hero Worship."

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The men (Team Unanimous) and the women (Team Forte) were tasked with raising money from the sales of their own celebrity-branded sandwiches. And, of course, people can pay whatever amount they wished for the meal.

The job of the men’s first project manager fell to American Chopper patriarch Paul Teutel, Sr. -- by default because no one else stepped up. The story was very different on the women’s team as trailblazing Latina model, Patricia Velasquez, was eager to prove herself and raise some money for her charity.

The men decided to throw a good ol’ fashioned three ring circus with a carnival barker (Penne Jillette) and a strong man (Lou Ferrigno). Everyone else was inside the deli making sandwiches and the like. Biggest surprise of the day (besides whatever he did to his face) was American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken’s talent for the upsell. And earlier in the show, Paul said he could probably bring in half a million dollars. That pronouncement would be his cross to bear, because as a result the men decided they could reserve their own big ticket donors for when they really needed them.

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Over at the other deli, the women were holding a red carpet affair. The fact that Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa Giudice was unanimously voted the most recognizable of the group was a pretty good testament to Bravo’s franchise. Teresa was tasked with getting the people in from the street. Eighties pop star Debbie Gibson was performing inside (which an ignored former Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day resented, though she worked herself in when Wyclef Jean made a surprise visit) while the rest of the women worked the counter.

Patricia seemed to be doing a good job of bringing in the big donors and fellow Venezuelan, former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, also helped her idol with a big donation from one of her contacts. There was some early strife with mafia princess Victoria Gotti who didn’t like the early brainstorming on the event (though she didn’t offer any real alternatives), made personal calls while others were reaching out to donors, and then showed up an hour late to opening day complaining of eye troubles.

Before the day was through, the teams had to bring their best sandwiches to the Rachael Rae Show where its host would choose her favorite sandwich. We’d learn later in the boardroom that the team she picks would receive $35,000 added to their fundraising total.

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Back in the boardroom, everyone started out very certain of their win (as per usual). But, of course, the finger pointing starts when Donald Trump quizzes the group on its decisions and forces the project managers to reveal who they’d nominate to receive his trademark “You’re fired” finger. Patricia nominated Victoria for not focusing on the task and for not utilizing her financial resources. Finances were the reasoning for model Cheryl Tiegs’ nomination, as well. In addition, her quiet (Debbie would say slow) demeanor didn’t help matters for her.

Paul was hard-pressed to pick anyone from his group who he felt represented the weak links. Perhaps subconsciously (as radio talent Adam Carolla jokingly tried to explain) he picked the team’s representative minorities: Black former talk host Arsenio Hall and Gay Asian Star Trek actor George Takei. I think even Paul was embarrassed when that was brought to light. It got increasingly uncomfortable when he referred to George as meek – something the actor argued very eloquently he wasn’t.

Thankfully, Paul was saved from further digging his own grave when it was revealed that not only did Rachel Rae choose his sandwich, but also that he had landed one huge donation to the tune of about $300,000. That easily nabbed his team the win and gave the Make-A-Wish Foundation a nice check.

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Meanwhile, everyone seemed to feel horrible that Patricia had raised about $150,000 for her charity, the Wayuu Taya Foundation, and lost it to the men’s team. She took the loss in stride. Nevertheless, someone had to go. Should it be Victoria who didn’t work to her fullest abilities? Or should it be Cheryl whose pace appeared slow to her teammates and who raised very little money?

Well, the iconic model made the decision easy for Trump. Cheryl admitted that she wasn’t quite feeling that her leadership style fit into this competition and pretty much cut herself. That isn’t exactly the kind of boardroom brawl the show is used to, but I make no judgments on Cheryl. It takes a certain amount of bravery to say that you’re not up to something and to leave gracefully.

Do you think Cheryl Tiegs threw in the towel too soon? Can a more reserved style of leadership (like George’s) end up winning Trump’s competition? Sound off below.

Email: Jethro.Nededog@thr.com; Twitter: @TheRealJethro