"The Celebrity Apprentice": Contestant pulls a disappearing act

Penn Jillette Age: 56 Occupation: Magician, best known as half of the duo Penn & Teller Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Penn Jillette on "The Celebrity Apprentice."
NBC

(CBS News) "Success" eluded one contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night as the two teams tried to outdo one another in creating a Macy's display for the new Donald Trump cologne of that name. (SPOILER ALERT)

Pictures: "The Celebrity Apprentice"
Read more: Debbie Gibson takes us behind the scenes of "The Celebrity Apprentice"

Magician Penn Jillette was fired after his team, which also included Clay Aiken, Dayana Mendoza and Lisa Lampanelli, lost the Success cologne challenge. The mild-mannered Jillette left with equanimity, telling the camera as his car sped into the New York night that he enjoyed his time on the show, even this last episode.

Echoing what probably must be on viewers' minds as well, Jillette questioned the unpredictability of Trump's firings and the reasons he gives for wielding the ax. This time, Trump said, the judges - marketing execs from Macys and the Trump organization - disliked the slogan, saying "You earned it" seemed smug. Since Jillette had come up with it, he was fired.

Did he deserve to be fired? Possibly, but he never really pressed his real defense: He also came up with the asset the judges liked best - a photo of an amorous Mendoza nuzzling the chest of a well-toned male model, seen only from the neck down wearing a shirt and tie from the Trump collection.

Then again, as Aiken pointed out early in the episode, Jillette had demurred on leading the project and then showed with his ideas that he could have done so quite competently.

Aiken, for his part, avoided the mistake that got Paul Teutel Sr., fired last week. When Trump said the judges didn't like the slogan, he brought its creator back to the boardroom. But his other choice reflected, not what was done or not done in this particular task, but on a long-range view of who would be best to continue on in the competition.

He took the weaker player, Mendoza, to the boardroom with him and let the stronger contestant, Lampanelli, join the winning team in the suite upstairs.

But, judging from what viewers saw, the usually creative and strong-willed Lampanelli did relatively little on this task. Should she have been taken to the boardroom instead?.

This clearly was not the time to fire Mendoza. Her efforts with the photo won praise from the judges and she even suggested that they create take-aways for the display, something Aiken nixed for lack of time.

We're just guessing here, but had the other team (consisting of Aubrey O'Day, Teresa Giudice and Arsenio Hall) lost the challenge, there would have been fireworks in the boardroom.

'Day's egotism and carping about how she was carrying the entire load alone did little to endear to the judges, her teammates and the Trumps. And Hall, who came up with the slogan, had murder in his eyes when O'Day took credit for it. The slogan - "Always trust your instincts" - was something Trump himself had said and that Hall had discovered by doing research on the computer.

Instead of giving the winners time to vent, Trump sidestepped their disagreements and he sent them upstairs to celebrate. And everyone yet again pretended to get along.

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Get the inside scoop on "The Celebrity Apprentice" from former contestant Debbie Gibson:

  • Mary-Jayne McKay

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