You can tell The Apprentice was formatted and conceived by businessmen and not television executives. No one working within the industry would ever propose let alone go with an end of the season scenario in which two people were simply cast off based on a solitary interview. It’s too abridged and anticlimactic to really generate suitable viewer intrigue, but as a mechanism for actually choosing the best players, The Apprentice’s whittle down is second to none. Had a more standard format of competing to stay alive been in play, poor Meatloaf may have had a fighting chance, but under the interview rules, he was basically eliminated before he even said a word.

Lil Jon probably would have been better off had he not said a word during his interview, but once he bizarrely opined that Marlee, not him, was more likely to make the finals, his fate, like Meatloaf’s, was sealed, leaving arguably the season’s two strongest players, Marlee Matlin and John Rich, to battle it out for their charities. As much as I would have loved to see a Johnz finale, the showdown we got was probably the best possible scenario, and part way through, it’s shaping up to be a close one.

The challenge is to design the 7-Up Retro launch, and each remaining contestant was allowed to pick from the discarded former contestants. John Rich somehow ended up with the incredibly stacked team of Lil Jon, Mark McGrath and Star Jones, while Marlee made some questionable picks en route to getting Meatloaf, Richard Hatch and LaToya Jackson. I fully support the Richard Hatch selection, but beyond that, Marlee could have done a whole lot better. We’ll see whether she sinks alongside her team or rallies the troops in time to upset perennial Power Rankings leader John Rich.

The Celebrity Apprentice Power Rankings are a combination of ordered lists put together by Cinema Blend writers Mack Rawden and Jessica Grabert. Each week, every remaining contestant is ranked based on likeliness for ultimate victory. Sixteen points are awarded for a first place vote, and this week, as only two contestants remain, fifteen were given for a last place vote. Fourteen contestants have already been eliminated; thus, they automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here’s a look at how this week shook down…

Celebrity Apprentice
The Last Two

#1) John Rich (32): John Rich is a great businessman. You can tell because he speaks his mind in the boardroom without alienating any of the people he’s bashing. It’s not about what he says, it’s about how he says it. Star Jones could learn a thing or two from his tone of voice, and everyone else could learn a thing or two by how he delegates, including Marlee. When John Rich wants something done, he puts someone else in charge but makes it clear he still has ultimate authority. That’s how he reigned in Meatloaf’s solid-yet-scatterbrained ideas week-after-week, and that’s how he let Mark McGrath propose the concept of the commercial without making his buddy Lil Jon feel usurped. If I were hiring someone to work for my company, I would pick John Rich over Marlee in a second. It’s really not even close, but whether that translates to being named the Celebrity Apprentice is anyone’s guess.

#2) Marlee Matlin (30): I wasn’t sure Marlee Matlin could roll with the big boys, Star included. But after Star was fired and Marlee handled herself impressively in an interview with Brett Michaels, Joan Rivers, and Piers Morgan, there was no doubt in my mind she could pull the win in the final task. Her competition—a fierce and passionate John Rich, whose fierceness has lately been running off the rails into anger—has not kept the cool Matlin has exuded in every step of the challenge thus far. And Matlin’s been dealing with the over-the-top Meatloaf. Two steps into the challenge, it’s looking like Matlin’s team might win for 7UP can design but might not follow through with the best commercial (her team has had some problems securing the celebrity they need). It’s a head-to-head race, but with Marlee’s stage skills, I’m betting she’ll come through in the clutch.

Here’s a look at how each of the two ballots shook out:

John Rich (16)
Marlee Matlin (15
John Rich (16)
Marlee Matlin (15)

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