Celebrity Apprentice Power Rankings: Why Is Clay Aiken So Good With Puppets?

This week’s Celebrity Apprentice episode began with a loose tie-in to FAO Schwartz’s 150th Anniversary Celebration. A part of me was hoping the task would involve stuffing teddy bears, but my daydreams were dashed when Trump introduced the contestants to Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son. For this week’s challenge, contestants were expected to head to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, create two puppets, and learn the art of puppeteering. Later, those puppets and improv puppet skills would be put to the test during an adult-oriented, improvisational comedy show.

Before any project managers were chosen, Clay was transferred to the team featuring Penn, Dayana, and Lisa to even the numbers out. If anyone believed Clay and Penn would fight it out again this week, that idea was quickly deflated. Who has time to be angry when there is Lisa to contend with as a project manager?

On the other team, Paul Sr. reluctantly took the lead, which was just the tip of the iceberg regarding the team’s challenges. Paul Sr. soon hurt his back and was out of commission for the improv show, leaving Teresa and Arsenio to do their best with puppet creation, as well as comedy. The comedy was in Arsenio’s wheelhouse, but the rest seemed to stump the former TV host and his Real Housewives partner.

On the other team, things would have run smoothly, had Lisa been able to maintain an aura of authority and not one of a crazy person. The bond she created with Dayana last week was nowhere to be seen and the two squabbled back and forth prior to the boardroom and then again in front of Trump. As far as skill sets went, this team dominated, however. Dayana rocked out with puppet creation, Penn capably riled up the crowd, and my God was Clay great with puppet voices.

Lisa’s team did so well the group’s two critiques involved Penn’s missed timing on one of the sketches and Lisa and Clay taking another one of the sketches a step too far into racy. We didn’t get to see the whole sketch show, but from what we saw, Lisa’s team put the other to shame.

Apparently, the executives thought so, too. Between Arsenio and Teresa’s too specific-looking puppets, Paul Sr.’s lackadaisical management style, and Teresa’s inability to follow the rules of improv, it was pretty clear one of those team members were headed home. Surprisingly, Aubrey was a team player and a good host this week, but she still did not manage to avoid the boardroom. After Aubrey defended Teresa, Paul Sr. was sort of left stranded and ultimately, Trump fired him. No real surprise there, as Paul Sr. should have brought Arsenio back.

The Celebrity Apprentice Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Grabert and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Seventeen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, eleven were given for a last place vote. Eleven competitors have already been eliminated; therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the celebrities might fare moving forward.

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The Favorites

#1) Clay Aiken (34): If you didn’t watch this week’s episode, find it immediately, if for no other reason than to watch Clay manipulate puppets. I couldn’t even believe some of the sounds coming out of his mouth. If the whole singing thing doesn’t work out, he could easily have a second career in voice acting. Every character he played had a different tone of voice, and some of his off-the-cuff lines were brilliant. I can’t say enough positive things about the American Idol contestant this week.

#2) Penn Jillette (32): Sure, the executives made a few comments about Penn letting a sketch or two run a bit long, but his work as the evening’s host was top-notch. Aubrey did an excellent job leading her team too, but it was obvious Penn was in his wheelhouse interacting with the crowd. Even the notoriously hard to please Lisa was singing his praises apart from not cutting the one sketch that ran too long. In addition to his on-the-task performance, the magician was once again wonderful in the boardroom, speaking exactly the right number of times and offering words of insight. Aubrey took to Twitter to sing his praises about the bravery and fear comment, and I’m sure most viewers had the same reaction. What a wonderful mind.

#3) Aubrey O’Day (30): It kind of makes me want to spit up in my mouth a little to say I was proud of Aubrey during this week’s task, but she certainly showed good judgment when she took Ivanka’s words from last week to heart and played as part of the team. She also did a great credit to her team during her tenure as host when she cut sketches off at the right times and riled up the crowd. There were no mistakes from Aubrey’s end this week. If she can manage to maintain this balance in the upcoming tasks, she is almost a shoe-in for the finale. Then again, that’s still a very big ‘if.’

#4) Arsenio Hall (28): Arsenio screwed up a bit by not making his puppet versatile enough, but his on-stage performance during the improv puppetry was a clear high point for his team. He continues to quietly contribute in whatever fashion he’s assigned. Unfortunately, with only a few weeks left to show his strengths before it’s decided who makes the finals, he needs to step up and start dominating. Only two people are going to compete in the end, and right now, I think it’s safe to say Clay, Penn and Aubrey are all a bit ahead in terms of the number of tangible contributions they’ve brought to each task. I wouldn’t write Arsenio off, but I do think there’s a lot of work left to be done.

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The Contenders

#5) Lisa Lampanelli (25): Look: I don’t know if Lisa Lampanelli is generally this emotionally imbalanced or if the high-stress environment of Celebrity Apprentice is just too much for her to handle. I do know that she has worked a lot harder than many of the people left on the show and she knows how to rapid-fire ideas. Normally, this would be a great asset, but between screaming, crying, and being demeaning in every episode, I simply think she is going to corner herself into a firing at some point. Still, if people on her team keep making more missteps than her, she has a shot.

#5) Dayana Mendoza (25): For the life of me, I don’t understand why Dayana wasn’t put in charge of making both puppets. The one she created for Lisa was amazing. The workers in the creature shop were ready to offer her a job. That’s huge praise given it was the first one she’d ever done. Unfortunately, she was only given one and beyond that, assigned absolutely nothing to do. I get why Lisa didn’t want her on stage. She clearly picked the right people for the roles, but if project managers would trust Dayana more, I think they would find she can be a very valuable asset.

#7) Teresa Giudice (22): If Paul Sr. had brought back Arsenio rather than Aubrey, I really believe Teresa would be gone right now. Instead, Aubrey was forced to defend Teresa due to the many, many weeks where Teresa backed Aubrey up. At the end of the day, Teresa has been the weakest player for multiple tasks. It is difficult to hate on someone who has energy and seems to be the nicest person left on the show; but, a level of competence should be expected from a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice and especially one who makes it beyond the top 10, and Teresa just does not have it.

Here’s a look at how the ballots shook out…

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Jessica:Clay Aiken (17)Penn Jillette (16)Aubrey O’Day (15)Arsenio Hall (14)Dayana Mendoza (13)Lisa Lampanelli (12)Teresa Giudice (11)Mack:Clay Aiken (17)Penn Jillette (16)Aubrey O'Day (15)Arsenio Hall (14)Lisa Lampanelli (13)Dayana Mendoza (12)Teresa Giudice (11)Row 0 - Cell 2