Striding towards the camera, Donald promises "18 celebrities, 18 egos - all fighting to become The Celebrity Apprentice" as a nearby fountain erupts in triumph. And what a bunch - there's musicians, comedians, broadcasters, actresses, racing drivers and reality TV personalities. Apparently at least 25 people were turned down for this season's show.
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They're all talking tough already, Arsenio Hall tells us "Losing is not an option", Victoria Gotti tells us to watch our backs and George Takei exclaims: "I'm George Takei, dammit!" Easily the best way to win an argument, if you're George Takei, anyhow. And we then cut to a full orchestra playing the show's theme as Donald Trump walks in to meet the contestants at the Lincoln Centre. Never knowingly understated.
Donald tells the contestants that the centre raised over a billion dollars recently for renovations. Singling out a few individuals, he asks what they've been doing. Comic actor Arsenio Hall has been doing some stand-up and taking care of his son. Teresa Giudice from Real Housewives - all shiny hair and beaming grin - gives us her elevator pitch, confidently declaring "I'm gonna win" at the end of it. Donald Trump points out that Lisa Lampanelli roasted him on Comedy Central; she seems full of nervous excitement about her latest challenge.
"Firing you is going to be quite scary for me," Donald admits to Victoria, who says that she's still sizing up the competition and sees Lisa as a threat as she seems so determined to win the show. "There are many ways of doing this, but the way I like best - men vs women - [it] just works," he continues. The teams are now dispatched to pick project managers, name their teams and will then be told what the first task is. Cue lingering show of Trump Tower!
Getting started - Team names and the first project managers
As the men gather, broadcaster Adam Carolla suggests 'Trumpeteers' and 'The Honey Badgers' as possible team names - the latter of which seems to be lost on everyone apart from Penn Jillette (yep, he of 'Penn & Teller' fame). American Idol alumnus Clay Aiken's not impressed. "Mr Trump does not suffer childishness and there's a lot of frat boys on our team," he says wearily in a VT. They eventually elect for the name 'Unanimous', after 45 minutes of debate. Quite unsurprisingly, it is a unanimous decision.
Meanwhile, the women are admiring the decor in their meeting room. Supermodel Cheryl Tiegs feels that the girls have a very strong team. "I think we should pick a name that shows we're not going to be the team that's bitchy and catty with one another," says Lisa. She proposes 'Forte', which eventually achieves consensus. Actress and model Patricia Velasquez pitches to be project manager, and tells us about her charity the Wayuu Taya Foundation, which is working to build a new school. "I have no doubt that if we are together, we're gonna win it," she says.
Back with the men, Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno tells the group that he only has partial hearing, explaining that he told them this as he doesn't want to come across as rude if he has to ask people to repeat what they're saying. Nobody appears to want to be the project manager, and eventually Paul Teutul Sr - with his 40 years of business experience - is put forward. "I think I was the last person they thought of," the American Chopper star admits in a VT.
The challenge: Celebrity Deli
We're back to the boardroom, where Donald introduces his advisors - children Ivanka and Donald Jr, saying: "They're two great people - and they do give me some very good advice." Donald then explains that young Indycar racer Marco Andretti is missing from the men's team, following the death of his friend and fellow Indycar competitor Dan Wheldon in a truly horrible accident at the Las Vegas International Speedway. "They have such a great affinity for their charity Racing for Cancer that [his father] Michael is coming in shortly to take Marco's place," he adds.
For their first challenge, the teams will be making and selling sandwiches for charity. The men are going for a carnival vibe for their stall, using Penn's circus skills to attract punters. Adam thinks the sandwiches themselves should be "basic and simple and fast and easy to make". Penn thinks that branding of the sandwich will be important. "He's gonna be the huge fundraiser, there's a lot riding on Paul," says Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider (who's surprisingly understated through much of this episode).
Oh dear! Forte float the idea of a carnival too, before Victoria gets all health and safety. "We need permits for that in New York!" she pipes up. Patricia is keen on a red carpet "celebrity club" theme, and Debbie Gibson suggests taping one of her songs to play. Singer and reality TV star Aubrey O'Day gets a bit snippy when they start discussing who's the most recognisable. "Of all the people here, I have the most Twitter followers," she pipes up in a VT. Miaow!
Meanwhile, a straightforward Paul - who has set an ambitious fundraising goal of half a million dollars - has already got his team buying stock and making sandwiches at Cafe Metro. George is making a shopping list. Paul says that he is feeling the pressure as project manager. "I think I've bit off a bit more than I can chew here - we'll see tomorrow," he admits. Meanwhile, Ivanka's come to check up on the boys. "$500,000 is an aggressive goal, but I like that," she says after their meeting.
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The girls have taken a different approach, with Patricia focusing on bringing in the money as her team do a ring around. "I called every single person in my phone. I called ex-lovers... I called everybody," she quips. "We were all trying to get people to show up, but I have to admit - I want to save my big donors for myself," says Cheryl.
As dusk falls, the men are about to get stuck in to more sandwiches as Michael arrives. Meanwhile, the women have arrived at Cafe Metro to start prepping their sandwiches. Debbie says that she is "expecting the unexpected" from Teresa, who she thinks is more vulnerable than she lets on.
The stores open for business
The following morning breaks, and Victoria's a no-show for the ladies. Aubrey's not surprised. However, she cheers up when they reach the store, admiring the red carpet and decorations. Victoria eventually arrives an hour late - she's been to see a doctor for a suspected torn cornea in her eye.
Meanwhile, Team Unanimous are unanimous in their sense of anticipation, with former bodybuilder Lou getting changed in the deli. "If I were that shape, I would be getting my top off all the time," George jokes. They are creating a carnival atmosphere outside their store, signing customers' red and white sandwich boxes, which bear a specially designed 'Chopper' logo. "I think we're breaking several local ordinances, but I was having a blast," says Dee.
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Meanwhile, Aubrey's relishing in her role meeting and greeting outside the restaurant, and a very special guest in the form of Wyclef Jean appears. Patricia is clearly very moved by the appearance of her friend and fellow Wayuu Taya advocate, who starts a jam session with Debbie and Aubrey in the restaurant.
The ladies are raking in the big money, and Tia Carrere is speechless. Teresa's pleased that Bravo chief Andy Cohen turned up, and a lot of the girls' calls do seem to be bringing in the big bucks. They even manage to rustle up a $10,000 vegan sandwich for Russell Simmons at short notice. Donald Jr's come to check up on the girls too, and seems to be impressed. Meanwhile, the men's team are worried that nobody seems to be coming into their stall during the lunch hour.
Mr Trump's been keeping busy, meanwhile. He gives each team a call, challenging them to take their best sandwiches on The Rachael Ray Show, with a 'considerable' donation on offer for the team which produces the best one. The men's sandwich is 'well balanced', according to Ray, while the women's is commended for its "texture".
The pressure seems to be piling on Paul, as his teammates (mainly Clay, despite the fact that some women arrive and literally throw money at him) continue to press about the fact that he'd promised them big donations in their VTs. Meanwhile, Patricia says she's feeling the pressure as if she loses the task, she doesn't get the money.
Patricia says that her compatriot and fellow model Dayana Mendoza was her biggest star, bringing in money and people, and her sentiments are backed up by her peers. She struggles to name Forte's weakest players, but after some pressure from the boss, calls out Cheryl and Victoria. Patricia says that Cheryl is a team player, but didn't bring in a large volume of sales. Victoria thinks that she's been nominated because she disagreed with a lot in the planning stage. Patricia blames her lack of communication in the morning when she sought eye treatment.
Donald turns to the men and officially welcomes Michael to the show, asking him to say hello to father Mario who is a good friend of his. Paul says that he was "blown away" by his team, naming his biggest star as Penn, for his enthusiasm and showmanship. Paul also struggles to name his weakest players, eventually plumping for George and Arsenio. He says that George isn't a strong enough personality (to the Star Trek actor's visible surprise). Er, come again, Paul?
Donald quite rightly points out that George is a very well-known LGBT rights activist and he doesn't think "meek" is a very accurate description of him - perhaps "quiet" might be more appropriate. George says that he was taken aback by Paul's description of "meek", explaining that he has had to fight for a lot in his life from being a child. Paul apologises, and says it probably wasn't the best word to choose. He adds that Arsenio was a random pick as he had to choose two people.
Donald then announces that Rachael Ray has chosen Paul's sandwich as the winner, and that Cafe Metro has donated $35,000 to their team. He says that both teams have "done an amazing job". Forte have raised $126,962 - a series record for the first task. Unanimous, however, have raised $332,120. This includes a total of $305,000 from a personal friend of Paul, who thus wins the challenge for his chosen charity - the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
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Patricia again backs up Dayana in the boardroom, and says that Teresa and Aubrey also brought in a lot of people. Donald puts Debbie on the spot to ask who should be fired. She sticks up for Victoria, saying that she missed her when she was called out for the Rachael Ray appearance, and names Cheryl. Cheryl argues that she brought in $10,000 to $15,000, which Patricia disagrees with having been next to her on the cash register. Aubrey thinks that Victoria should be fired, although she appreciates her "gumption". She also asks Donald if he can bend the rules and let Patricia keep the money she raised as she brought most of it in, but he refuses, saying: "I know what you're going to ask me!"
Tia repeats her claim that she didn't mind being sent to the boardroom - which Donald called her out on earlier in the episode, saying it wasn't "smart". She is adamant, however, that she can defend herself. One by one, other team members say they think Victoria or Cheryl should be brought into the boardroom. When Donald Jr suggests that the project manager should have responsibility, most team members shout "No!"
Who gets fired?
Cheryl, Victoria and a teary Patricia now face the panel. Cheryl fights her corner, saying that she was busy working hard behind the scenes and used the fact that she is recognisable to draw people in and sell. Patricia still disagrees, and thinks that everyone was holding contacts back. Victoria argues that she was intending to keep contacts back when she was project manager, but says that Patricia's charity touched her on a personal level. Patricia argues that 90% of the money brought in was from her. Cheryl admits that she did hold back, saying that she isn't based in New York and doesn't have many contacts in the city, but Patricia says that she doesn't either and doesn't accept it as an excuse.
Donald asks Patricia if she regrets accepting the risk of being project manager and she says no. "If I can get Victoria to really focus... with a load of pain in my heart, I have to get rid of Cheryl," she claims. Victoria, when asked by Donald, says that she would fire Cheryl. "I know that if I stay here, they're on my team," she adds. Cheryl says that she would not fire project manager Patricia, adding that she is proud of her. Cheryl also admits that she's "shy and quiet... but a hard worker. I've built up 12 companies and worked since I was a teenager, so I know about hard work."
"I don't think you feel comfortable in this environment, do you?" says Donald. Cheryl admits that she might not be. "You know, I respect you for saying that," he tells her. "Everyone on your team felt that you didn't step up. You yourself admitted that you held back money." He says that Cheryl is an "amazing success story", but that she is fired and will be leaving the show. Some light banter with Donald and Victoria then follows as he implores her to focus. "You've got to show that passion, Victoria!" he shouts after her as she walks out of the boardroom.
"She's not quitting at all - she felt she didn't fit in," Donald muses, saying that he thinks his decision was the right one as Cheryl departs into the night. "To be honest with you, I think I did as good a job as I could... I don't think this environment was right for me," she explains as her car pulls away. "I'm certainly as intelligent as any of the women, but there's a toughness there that I don't have."
Next week, the teams seem to be staging some sort of medieval pageant and something makes Victoria Gotti cry. But what? Only seven days to find out...
The Celebrity Apprentice airs Sundays at 9/8c on NBC.