Tonight’s Celebrity Apprentice finale wasn’t quite as tense as one would normally would expect given some of the strained moments we saw among the celebrities this season. A lot of the ease between the final two had to do with Bret Michaels’ making it to the finale, which was up in the air, given the health issues he had this week.

The finale started with the completion of the Snapple competition. Last week, things weren’t looking good for Bret and while he did hit a few snags (losing his script) in what was shown tonight, we did see more footage of things actually coming together for Team Trop-a-Rocka. Bret was on his game, giving out instructions and creative ideas. He even managed to solve the dolly issue using a cart.

We saw less of Team Compassion-Berry’s efforts to put the final touches on their ads and promotional materials. We did get to see Holly, Curtis and Maria catch a glimpse of the Trop-a-Rocka logo, which they critiqued in detail. The task ended with a launch presentation. The way Holly’s was shown, she was pretty dry in presenting the facts and the concept of the tea. Bret seemed a bit on the stiff side for his but he loosened up in the end. I’m sure it helped that he had his daughter in attendance to provide a little inspiration. By the time he was done with his spiel, the Snapple people were laughing and applauding him.

Trump sat with the Snapple execs to talk about both teams and get their input on who produced the better product. It was interesting to me that Donald Trump asked if they thought Bret made a mistake in choosing diet. Did Bret even have a choice? He’s playing for Diabetes. A drink filled with sugar promoting awareness and funding for diabetes research would’ve been a bit on the ridiculous side, especially considering the people he was trying to help wouldn’t be able to drink it. The Snapple people’s response to that was that there was a good market for diet drinks. Sure, diet never tastes quite as good as regular sugar/corn-syrup-filled drinks but for anyone watching their blood sugar and/or their caloric intake, they’re a tasty alternative to water.

The teams met in the boardroom so Trump could go over the task and question them on some of the decisions they made. He liked Holly’s “Compassion Berry” drink name and the cover of her print advertisement. Bret got credit for incorporating his celebrity name into the brand and for the content of his print advertisement.

Bret’s been great with words throughout this competition. It’s probably his best asset in this game. So when Trump called Summer out and asked her if she thought Bret was a good product manager, she seemed to have a hard time in committing to the word “good” or “great” and settled on “He was a decent product manager.” Bret politely pointed out that while Summer’s heart is with her friend Holly, her mind was with him on this task. In other words, he knows she can’t/won’t say too much to help him win this task because her friend is on the other team. It was an awkward moment but certainly not as tense as when Bret and Holly were glancing at one another while they commented on each other’s drink-name concepts.

Joan Rivers and Bill Rancic were back to discuss their thoughts on the final two. I thought it was pretty great that Joan was open and honest about pulling for Bret now because of what he’s been through. Sure, that shouldn’t be what the competition is all about but the fact that the man had a brain hemorrhage last week and he’s managed to make it to the finale, should be taken into account. Ignoring it or pretending it had no bearing on the final decision would’ve been weird.

When Holly and Bret came out for the live portion of the show, Trump asked Holly if she thought she lost her front-runner status due to the sympathy Bret was getting for his illness. Her response was to smile and say she already felt she’d won after walking into a store and seeing her Snapple bottle and the label she created for sale. Bret’s response to the question about his illness giving him a boost was to say that Holly, in her “baby-making dress” tonight, was playing the hotness card, so he’ll take whatever help he can get. So it was laughs all around for everyone and no tension among the final two contestants, which is a stark contrast from the last Celebrity Apprentice finale.

Cyndi Lauper performed a song from her upcoming new album. The performance included a table-dance where she said something about Trumps arch-nemesis “Rosie O’-D,” which got some laughs. Then it was time for the results.

Looking back, Holly won more money and let’s face it, she played this game hard. Bret stumbled on occasion but he too played a good game. Putting aside the health issues, I think Ivanka was right in stating he made it to the end on merit and I also think it was important that she say that, given all the talk there was about him getting sympathy.

Before Trump revealed the winner, he announced that both of their charities would receive a quarter of a million dollars. So, while the charities benefited equally, it was Bret who scored the big win tonight as Donald announced that he was hired. Predictable? Eh, maybe a little but no less satisfying for those of us who were hoping Michaels would pull this off.

I’ll admit, I’ve never seen an episode of Rock of Love, nor have I ever been a Poison fan, and I’ll also admit that in the beginning I thought Michaels’ was going to coast for as long as he could in this competition but I was wrong about that. I wouldn’t argue with Trump for saying the guy’s flaky. He is, to an extent but when the spotlight’s on him and he’s being called to explain himself or to sell something, he shines. In the end, I think that’s what got him to the finale and certainly helped him with this victory.

What do you think? Was the win deserved? Could Michaels’ have won against Holly if not for the “sympathy card” (of which everyone else played on his behalf more than he played himself tonight)?

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