Brian McKnight the eighth contestant fired from 'The Celebrity Apprentice'
By John Bracchitta, 04/13/2009
R&B singer Brian McKnight became the eighth contestant fired by Donald Trump during last night's second-season The Celebrity Apprentice broadcast which also featured the surprise return of first-season champion Piers Morgan.
"I didn't love the boardroom too much, nobody does," McKnight said following his elimination. "It's kinda like being a six-year-old in the principal's office, every time you go in there you don't know what's going to happen. But I thank that if you look at who's responsible for the loss I think that he fired the right person because I was the leader."
The Celebrity Apprentice's eighth second-season episode began immediately following the previous episode's elimination with the remaining contestants shocked to see that Keeping up with the Kardashians star Khloe Kardashian had been eliminated by Trump over country singer Clint Black.
Comedienne Joan Rivers -- who had openly refused to work with Black again after clashing with him on the previous challenge -- was particularly frustrated by Trump's decision.
"I'm was really upset because Clint is a jackass," she said. "I don't wanna spend two more days with Clint Black because I had stomach aches the whole time, and I don't find this fun. I really mean it, I don't give a flying f--k!"
Black blamed himself for Kardashian's elimination, saying that he had only brought them in because he was sure they were safe from elimination and had planned on going home himself.
Rivers' daughter Melissa Rivers added that she had not agreed with Trump's decision to punish someone who was trying to correct their mistakes.
"I am vehemently opposed to drunk driving, but this is not a girl who was taking what she did lightly," she said. "You don't punish someone for trying to change."
The next day, the contestants met The Donald outside of a New York City Courthouse. Trump immediately assigned McKnight, who had missed the previous round because of other commitments, to Athena before suggesting that anyone who had a problem with his boardroom decisions speak up.
Joan said she was "disheartened" that the project manager -- who was Black -- had not taken the fall for the team's efforts while Kardashian had instead. Trump responded that he "hated" Kardashian had been arrested for a DUI and had "to suffer the consequences."
The Donald then revealed the contestants next task would require them to work with executives from Lifelock, an identity theft prevention program, to create a package and retail store display for the company. Because LifeLock is a service, LifeLock's CEO Todd Davis, who flanked Trump at the announcement, added that they would have to "turn the intangible into the tangible" through packaging and presentation.
Both teams then picked their project manager. Kings Of The Universe (KOTU) selected LPGA tour professional Natalie Gulbis to be the project manager for their team.
"It's definitely nerve wracking being project manager, especially after I knew that there was a lot of conflict between Clint and Joan, so we'll see what happens," Gulbis said of her role for the upcoming task.
Athena chose to go with McNight, their newest member, to be project manager of their team.
"I hope and pray that everybody just does their job," McNight said. "I'm really not the kind of fingerpointing, you're fired kind of person. I do not like that kind of confrontation."
Trump added that the project leader for the winning team would receive $20,000 for their charity before dismissing them.
Each team then had an executive meeting with Lifelock, during which Davis noticed that professional poker player Annie Duke had seemed take charge of Athena's meeting instead of McKnight. After their meetings, both teams began their planning.
Joan suggested that KOTU try and use a humorous angle for their campaign, while Gulbis agreed with Black's idea that a safe be incorporated into their display but suggested that they also expand the concept to include giving little toy safes away.
Black added that the safes could include all of the information about becoming a member of the service. Black also came up with the tag line "Are you safe?" -- which was later adjusted to "Are you secure?" -- which seemed to cause Joan to roll her eyes and suggest the idea was "dreary." While she said later that she had wanted to make the ad funny, she said she had held back in order to be good team player.
Gulbis split the team up after the idea had been formulated, with Joan taking care of the team handling the packaging while everyone else handled the display.
Meanwhile over at Athena, McKnight assigned the display design to former Monster Garage star Jesse James and said that he was fine using Davis, who had traditionally been the company's spokesman, as the focus of their campaign.
James also came up with an idea similar to KOTU's where they would give away CD's with information about the product in small safe-shaped cases.
The group also expanded on a tag line by Melissa to come up with their campaign slogan: "Identity secured. Peace of mind guaranteed.," while Dukes worked on the writing for the pamphlets.
While KOTU was quick to get their ideas to the display builders, Athena lagged behind and did not even contact them until Duke checked in with them and learned that they needed to rush their designs over by 4PM. After contacting James and letting him know, Duke wondered why McKnight had let the deadline get so close without doing anything.
"If Brian isn't telling people what they have to do, then we won't have half of the requirements," she said.
Things were only made worse when James suddenly became sick and threw up while en route to the designers. However he added that he wouldn't use it as an excuse to get in the way of getting the challenge done.
Over at KOTU, Joan worried that the display was too bland and decided to use use her team's celebrity by adding each contestant's face to the display. In order to make room for the faces, Black had the designs adjusted and began worrying that the revised designs may not get done in time.
Black also created funny quotes to go with each team member's head shot, causing Joan to later admit that she no longer despised him as much.
"Last week I hated Clint. This week the both of us knew we had to work together," she said. "He's very funny, but he's so stubborn. He's not gonna change so just move around him."
Meanwhile at Athena, Dukes continued to take over the room while McKnight seemed to further fade into the background by stressing that the designs needed to be given to the printer by 8PM so they could get made in time.
Although KOTU finished their design and submitted it with plenty of time, Athena continued to struggle and eventually realized they were running out of time, forcing them to send out an unfinished design in order to meet their 8PM deadline.
"Brian should have been more aware of the deadlines, and I think that he certainly should have been more on pint with the other side of the team," Dukes said. "I think he was too laid back."
While Dukes was initially also mad at James for not being more aware of the deadline, she eventually "gave him a pass" after traveling to the workshop and seeing how sick he had been. However, Dukes still remained upset at actress/model Brande Roderick, who had accompanied James to the shop but failed to step up when he became sick.
The following day, both teams had predictable reactions to their assembled displays. Although KOTU was impressed with their bank vault unit, Athena was disappointed with their display which featured a simple padlock and the company's name.
"I think it looks like sh-t," James said.
"There's so many little details that just aren't right," added Melissa. "It's very hard to look at something that you feel isn't your best work."
KOTU did run into a last-minute issue when they discovered that their headshots were too small for the display, however Gulbis easily resolved the problem with a call to their printer.
Both teams then went ahead with their presentations, with Joan leading KOTU's presentation and McKnight doing the same for Athena. McKnight seemed to earn rave reviews from his teammates despite his earlier management issues, with Roderick saying he did a "great job."
The teams then convened for their boardroom session with The Donald. Gulbis complimented her KOTU teammates, calling them "incredible" and adding that Joan and Black had "worked so well together" and were "respectful" of each other.
Joan added that Black was "stubborn as hell" but "terrific" while Black said he had gotten along "great" with her. Black also added that Gulbis was "great" as well and had involved everyone in the process.
McKnight was similarly proud of his team and said everyone had done their jobs as needed. Melissa added that James had fought through his sickness and complimented him on toughing it out.
Regarding their designs, Ivanka Trump said that KOTU had earned positive remarks from LifeLock's executives for their presentation's "great and original idea" and a "great use of celebrities for humor," but criticized the display for not being able to hold the product.
Regarding Athena, Trump learned that the executives had thought McKnight's presentation was "spectacular" and liked the display's brand messaging. However they also criticized the design for being "a spin" on their earlier designs and lacking creativity.
Trump then revealed that KOTU had won the challenge, explained that their use of celebrity and imagination had made their display superior.
When the conversation shifted to time management, Duke added that she had made a point to try and keep Athena on track, but added that she felt McKnight had dismissed her claims.
While Melissa, when forced, said that Roderick had been Athena's weak link, Roderick, James and Duke disagreed and singled out McKnight as the team's weakest player.
McKnight added that he felt the team had lost because they did not have as good an idea as KOTU and wasn't afraid to speculate that he might be the one at fault for that.
"We took a different approach," he said. "If it's my fault because I didn't crack the whip enough than maybe it is my fault."
When pressed by Trump, McKnight selected Melissa and Roderick to return to the boardroom with him and face firing.
Upon hearing that Melissa would be returning to the boardroom, Melissa threw her drink down and said that Duke was not stepping up to save Melissa despite having told her privately that she would be gunning to get Roderick fired the first chance she had. Joan also added that she didn't want to be in the same room as Duke, but later confronted her outside the waiting room and called Duke out for not gunning for Roderick as she had promised.
"Joan is so protective of her daughter, and honestly I think overly so," Duke added later. "She felt like I didn't defend Melissa enough or lay into Brande enough."
Duke attempted to apologize and said she had tried to single out Roderick, however Joan didn't want to hear it and said she would leave the show if Melissa was fired.
Once back in boardroom, McKnight said that he was not surprised that Athena had lost given the time management problems they had encountered.
Melissa said that she was surprised she had been asked back into the boardroom, to which McKnight responded that he had only done so because he needed to select two people. However he then added that he did not have the ability to actually fire someone and could not say that Roderick should go home either.
Roderick said that she had gotten the idea that McKnight did not want to be in the competition anymore -- a suggestion McKnight did not completely deny.
"This is tough to do," McKnight told Trump, who added that he felt McKnight had lost his desire to win since returning from his concert absence.
"It wasn't necessarily [the desire] to win," McKnight said. "It's just there's so many other things that are going on with me right now."
McKnight added that it was "difficult" for him to continue going through with the competition at the moment.
Trump responded that he respected McKnight but he had lost the "fire" he'd had at the beginning of the competition and promptly fired him.
Meanwhile, although Melissa survived the boardroom, Joan still held her grudge against Duke, who had correctly assured Joan that Melissa would would not be the one fired.
"Annie is totally two-faces. Annie is a manipulator, and you suddenly realize this is such a snake in your midst," Joan said.
Following the elimination, Trump summoned all of the contestants back into the boardroom and surprised them with the news that they would begin their next task immediately.
The Donald informed them that they would all be working on putting together a fashion and jewelry show and auction at the Fashion Institute of Technology featuring -- of course -- his daughter Ivanka's new line of jewelry. In addition to choosing the jewelry from the collection that would be featured in the show, the contestants would also be choosing and outfitting the models.
Trump also told the contestants that one member of each team would serve as auctioneer, and encouraged them to invite all of their rich friends.
In order to not make it look like she was purposely avoiding being project manager, Duke agreed to serve as Athena's project manager when personally asked to do so by Trump. Trump also suggested that Joan serve as KOTU's project manager and cited the potentially large cash donation that she could win for her charity if she won the task.
"I will kill to win because Annie is totally two-faced," Joan said later. "She bluffs, she lies. That's all what you do in poker. She's not an honorable person."
Both teams got right to work, with Duke quickly sitting down her teammates and assigning tasks. James was assigned to design the brochures, Melissa was tasked with picking the jewelry and Roderick was given the responsibility of contacting the modeling agency and picking the models' clothes.
Roderick immediately got on the phone with the modeling agency to send over their models so they got first pick. As Duke complimented Roderick and seemingly ignored Melissa, the younger Rivers said she felt "stabbed in the back" by the lack of attention thrown her way.
Over at KOTU, Joan also delegated out assignments to her teammates, with Gulbis being chosen to select the jewelry and Black selected to act as the auctioneer. Joan also set an aggressive fundraising goal of $105,000 and asked all of her teammates to call their friends to get bids, noting that Duke would likely be calling on her many deep-pocketed friends.
Meanwhile, Duke later confirmed that she was planning to raise as much money as possible for her team. She added that being able to out-raise the rest of her team would not only help them win, but save her from elimination if the team ended up losing as well.
The following day, KOTU also came up with a strategy to maximize their profits by pooling all of their donated money together into a bid for one inexpensive piece that they could sell for maximum profit.
Both teams then took decidedly different approaches when picking out their jewelry, with Gulbis selecting simple and traditional jewelry that anyone could wear as Melissa picked more fashionable pieces that appeared to have "more value."
After returning with their respective jewelry selections, both Gulbis and Melissa were disappointed by the lack of positive response from their teams, with Melissa feeling largely ignored by Duke and Joan saying that Gulbis' selections didn't have enough "wow."
As both teams continued to try and fund raise, Duke and Roderick continued to bond as they pulled in donations -- including one donor who told Roderick he was willing to bid "a billion" if he needed to.
Meanwhile, over at KOTU, Black said he may have up to $30,000 raised while Walker said he was sitting at $45,000.
"I think Herschel an Clint did a great job raising with fundraising," Gulbis said. "They raised a ton of money."
Gulbis then admitted she felt awkward calling her own friends got had an idea to call poker players who may potentially want to beat Duke and try to hit them up for money.
Both team then had their modeling auditions to select who would be wearing their clothing and jewelry, with Roderick, Duke and Melissa choosing for Athena while Walker and Black chose for KOTU. During the casting sessions, Athena decided that Roderick would wear the piece that her prospective donor was interested in while Walker and Black were more flirty with their models.
After choosing their models, Athena took them shopping to pick out their outfits while Joan and Gulbis handled all the shopping for KOTU.
As Roderick and Duke talked on the phone after they had finished their shopping, Melissa continued to stew over Duke's new friendship and later said that she was showing off her "two-facedness."
Back at Trump Tower, the episode concluded with The Donald calling in Piers Morgan, the first season Celebrity Apprentice winner, for some extra help to help manage both teams and keep any potential fueds in either team under control.
The next episode of The Celebrity Apprentice will air Sunday, April 19 at 9PM ET/PT.