It was the frontal assault versus the stealth attack on "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night, and the Sherman tank won. As strategy, it was absolutely fascinating.
Vegas poker champion Annie Duke should have won. She outmaneuvered her opponents all through the season. She smiled sweetly in the board room, and backstabbed her way through her opponents. She raised a ton of money and showed the kind of laser-like focus that defines a winner.
Joan Rivers, on the other hand, certainly showed a determination undimmed with age. But she raised less money, her celebrity friends failed to show up, her daughter Melissa was revealed to be the poorest of losers and, God, was she hard to look at.
But last night Joan Rivers clinched the Donald through sheer spin. She repeated continually and in hysterical tones, that Annie was dishonorable, got money from the Mafia, had lied and slandered her.
That didn’t seem to be the case.
Sure, Annie was a snake for weeks. But as we all saw, the interior designer did — as Annie claimed — quit as a result of Rivers’ pushiness, leaving Annie’s side (and Joan’s) in crisis.
But ultimately, the savvy poker player allowed herself to be steamrolled; she sat there on live television with a confident smile on her face, believing that her actions would speak louder than Joan’s words.
Un-unh. Therein lies the moral of the story: It’s all about the messaging. Annie — whose calm public face was usually an asset — let herself be defined by the shrieking Joan. And somewhere around the moment that Rivers, in her final, ringing defense, defined herself as part of a new, more honest way of doing business, aligning herself with Obama-like transparency, Donald believed.
In truth, "Celebrity Apprentice" turned out to be more interesting than it had a right to be. It offered up some authentic moments — including Dennis Rodman’s being accused by Jesse James of having a drug abuse problem. Unlike most of our exposure to celebrity culture, it made for real drama. Hard to believe, but … the Donald delivered.