And The New Celebrity Apprentice is…

(NBC)

Never before has the final task on The New Celebrity Apprentice been so up in the air. “I have a really difficult decision to make,” Arnold Schwarzenegger said as he proclaimed Matt Iseman the new Celebrity Apprentice.

“Matt, you were the least well-known of any of the contestants but that did not discourage you. You just kept going and going,” the Governor said as the comedian, physician and host of American Ninja Warrior beat out Grammy award-winning singer Boy George in the final task that included an advertising campaign, variety show and fundraising element.

While Matt Iseman’s campaign wasn’t up to snuff, by his standards, he raised $573,329 for the Arthritis Foundation during the final task, $100,000 more than Boy George. This all came after Arnold challenged Matt on his ability to fundraise. “So much for the fact that you can’t fundraise,” said boardroom advisor Patrick Schwarzenegger.

Carnie Wilson, the show’s second boot and Matt’s teammate for the final task, partnered up with her Wilson Phillips sisters to serenade the fill-in crowd at the variety show, impressing Arnold, Patrick and Tyra Banks.

In the end, Matt Iseman’s collective body of work netted him an unblemished record of three wins (counting the finale) and zero losses as project manager, while he raised nearly $1 million for charity. The Arnold Schwarzenegger super-fan, who quoted the new host’s most famous lines from day one all the way up until the final challenge overcame perceived anonymity to become the next, and perhaps last, Celebrity Apprentice.

“This has been more fun than I could have possibly imagined,” Matt Iseman said in his winning confessional. “The things we got to do to have the run of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to get to put make-up on for Tyra Banks to get to record a song with Boy George and Vince Neil and get to raise over half a million dollars for my charity, its been awesome. And I got to do it with my idol Arnold Schwarzenegger, so it was pretty much a dream come true.”

Plenty of game changes certain to be abound in Survivor: Game Changers

(Robert Voets/CBS)

When Survivor: Game Changers makes its dramatic debut on Wednesday, March 8, it will mark (not Mark the Chicken) the 500th episode of the franchise. Five-hundred episodes. Let that sink in. Law & Order didn’t even make it to 500!

Alas that brings us to Survivor’s 500th episode – the premiere of Game Changers, pitting 20 returning players against each other for just the fourth time in show history. Before shooting started in the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji last June Jeff Probst told EW’s Dalton Ross that he loved the direction production took with for the season.

“I thought the name was a really good brand. It brings up questions. Some people are going to say, ‘All of these people didn’t make game changing moves,'” the show’s host told Ross. “No, they didn’t. But they were willing to make a move that might change the game. And if you’ve ever played Survivor, you know the difference.”

Going back to the returning player well so quickly since Cambodia – Second Chance three seasons ago is an interesting call. Over the first 30 season of Survivor, the show had just two full casts containing all returnees. Now, over the last four seasons, we’ve had two. Cambodia was a truly game-changing season for the franchise. It reinvigorated the show after two stale seasons in San Juan del Sur and Worlds Apart, brought back a number of fan favorites through the fan voting process and saw strategic move after game changing move as voting blocs developed and transpired before Jeremy Collins ran away to a unanimous victory at the final tribal council.

The two all new player seasons sandwiched in between were very hit and miss. Kaoh Rong, the second rendition of brains vs. brawn vs. beauty had its moments but featured too many unlikeable characters and an excessive, albeit necessary, amount of medical evacuations. Meanwhile Millennials vs. Gen X may rank as the second best non-returning player (behind Cagayan) since the show’s heyday. Set in the same location as Game Changers, it featured stunning scenery, shrewd game player, a cast full of enjoyable characters and a very satisfying winner in Adam Klein.

The heightened game play since Cambodia led to an increase in high-caliber players, many of which Probst deemed worthy of another chance. “The last few years we’ve had so many new players that were good players, and the game has continued to escalate in terms of the level of gameplay that it suddenly became apparent that we actually have a lot of great game players,” Probst told Ross on location. “And so we’ve had this abundance of players now, and we felt like we had enough where we could go old school with a guy like [Jeff] Varner and Sandra and Cirie, and also go as recently as Millennials vs. Gen X with somebody like Zeke or Michaela. It just felt right.”

It’s no surprise that a number of the castaways come from recent seasons. In fact, eight of the 20 players have appeared on an installment since season 30: Ciera Eastin and Jeff Varner (Cambodia); Aubry Bracco, Caleb Reynolds, Debbie Wanner and Tai Trang (Kaoh Rong); Michaela Bradshaw and Zeke Smith (Millennials vs. Gen X). And if you do count Hali Ford and Sierra Dawn-Thomas from Worlds Apart, that’s half of the cast from the last four seasons.

(Robert Voets/CBS)

That’s not going to stop Tony Vlachos and his spy shack from pulling something magnificent out of his newly updated bag of tricks. But in order for him to replenish his satchel, he’ll need a moment, a huuuge moment.

Since Cambodia, Survivor has made a concerted effort to change the way idols were hidden during the game. It started from hiding them in challenges, moved to hiding them up way high in trees that required a super-human effort (or a stick) to obtain and don’t forget about the possibility of a super idol we had. Darn you, Tai Trang. Then, most recently in Millennials vs. Gen X, producers hid idols in plain sight. But just when the contestants think they have the hidden immunity idol figured out, the game changes.

“Usually there’s a theme. You have to find them in a certain way or work a certain amount of effort to get it,” Probst explained to EW. “Not this time. One might drop in your lap, one might be at Tribal, one might be at the bottom of the well, one might be at a challenge. It depends how often idols get played for how far down the list we’ll get…But if things go well and people starting playing their idols – which I think will happen – it could be a really fun and crazy adventure to watch them and what they have to do to get them.”

Another twist, as seen in both Cambodia and Millennials vs. Gen X, is adding a third tribe once the game has started. As Probst told XFinity’s Gordon Holmes, it will happen after the second episode.

Probst said: “That will really mess up the game…It forces you to reevaluate. And it rarely fails. I know I promised my loyalty to someone else, but they’re not here anymore. Survivor is not that complicated in terms of the twists we do. It’s just the impact of those twists that is devastating. You get the odd colored buff and you’re sent to Exile Island. ‘Oh man, I didn’t do anything wrong.’ Nope, it’s the luck of the draw. You might be done.”

While on the surface, these are the only twists and advantages we know of, come Day 39, that will most certainly not be the case. Last season in Millennials vs. Gen X, we were introduced to the Legacy Advantage and reward stealer. Surprisingly the reward stealer, which was a very low-risk, high reward advantage (from production’s standpoint) paid huge dividends when Adam Klein opted not to play it at the family visit and challenge Jay took him on the reward because he didn’t use it. After visiting with his brother, Adam gave Jay the advantage, and Jay played it just a few days later. Meanwhile, the Legacy Advantage was a total unknown and gave an already safe player in Ken McNickle immunity.

Whether it’s a new rendition of either of those twists or something along the lines of a vote stealer that Stephen Fishbach played in Cambodia, it can be almost as certain as Jeff Probst wearing an orange hat and a blue shirt that plenty of changes to the game are abound.

Survivor: Game Changers cast released

(Robert Voets/CBS)

Some have won the game, one has even done it twice. Others have come so close to victory that the million dollar check was within grasp of their fingertips. And a select few don’t even know what it’s like to have a seat on the jury, that has since expanded from seven chairs to 10 since the show’s inception.

The cast for Survivor: Game Changers, which was announced today, features a smorgasbord of contestants, includes three winners (Sandra Diaz-Twine, J.T. Thomas and Tony Vlachos) and two players from the most recent Survivor installment,  Millennials vs. Gen X (Michaela Bradshaw and Zeke Smith).

While a game changer can be defined in a very broad sense, some castaways certainly fulfill the definition. In Panama – Exile Island, Cirie Fields got off the couch and, after escaping elimination in the game’s early days, became not only a fan-favorite but one of Survivor‘s most savvy and gifted players when it came to the social aspect of the game. Meanwhile, Ozzy Lusth won immunity challenge after challenge in Cook Islands and had the guts to send himself to redemption island and win his way back into the game, in order to attempt to keep the numbers on his side, in South Pacific.

Ciera Eastin voted out her own mother and drew rocks at the final six in Blood vs. Water.

Caleb Reynolds risked his life to win some coffee and salt and pepper during a reward challenge in Kaoh Rong. That’s definitely a game changer.

Neither Jeff Varner or Brad Culpepper were truly game changers, but their inclusion on the show’s 34th cast is justified for the entertainment value they bring to the show.

Sierra Dawn-Thomas didn’t change the game at all, but perhaps someone who does nothing is the ultimate game changer – just not for them.

Survivor: Game Changers is the fourth season to feature all returning contestants after All-StarsHeroes vs. Villains and Cambodia – Second Chance. It premieres on Wednesday, March 8, with a two-hour episode on CBS.

For our in-depth analysis of the upcoming season, cast and twists stayed tuned to andrewrhanson.net over the coming weeks.

Full Survivor: Game Changers Cast:

Mana Tribe (Robert Voets/CBS)

Mana Tribe – Aubry Bracco, Caleb Reynolds, Ciera Eastin, Hali Ford, Jeff Varner, Malcolm Freberg, Michaela Bradshaw, Sandra Diaz-Twine, Tony Vlachos and Troyzan Robertson.

Nuku Tribe (Robert Voets/CBS)

Nuku Tribe – Andrea Boehlke, Brad Culpepper, Cirie Fields, Debbie Wanner, J.T. Thomas, Ozzy Lusth, Sarah Lacina, Sierra Dawn-Thomas, Tai Trang and Zeke Smith.

Recapping The New Celebrity Apprentice – Bon Voyage

(Luis Trinh/NBC)

Matt Iseman followed the perfect reality television strategy – get to the finals with as many goats as possible. Carrie Keagan, Carnie Wilson, Kyle Richards – the true dream team of who you would want to have alongside you at the end of a season of The New Celebrity Apprentice.

Oh what’s that? Those aren’t his foes? No…what…you mean that’s the best so-called dream team that the Governor could assemble for the Harry Potter loving underdog, while he gave Boy George the triumvirate of Porsha Williams, Carson Kressley and Laila Ali.

How dare Arnold Schwarzenegger!

It’s nothing new to bring back previously fired contestants to assist the two finalists during the last task, but I legitimately had to ask who the heck is that alongside Carnie and Kyle Richards. (Update: I still can’t pull Carrie Keagan out of a lineup.)

But before we can get to the absurdity regarding the contestant allocations for the final task, we have two people we must terminate first. (Oh what’s that? Absurdity? This is the Celebrity Apprentice, everything about it is absurd and if it were not absurd, we wouldn’t be watching it.)

If anything, the Celebrity Apprentice is a two-hour grandiose production of self-promotion. In the first hour of Monday’s episode, the honor went to Jessica Alba’s chemical-free cleaning product company called the Honest Company. Of the 11 tasks to feature a product or line, I recognize seven of the brands, it’s honestly frightening how in tune I am with the wanna-be infomercials that essentially run on the show. Then again, I am writing a recap about an episode of the Celebrity Apprentice!

One Down, Three to Go

After Arnold evened out Prima and Arete, it became a battle of Matt Iseman/Laila Ali vs. Boy George/Brooke Burke-Charvet. The two teams had to create an in-home demo presentation showcasing how spectacular these products are for Jessica Alba.

Aside from the continued increase in screen-time for Patrick Schwarzenegger, not much happened. Except for one thing. One glorious thing.

As Brooke and Matt each became irritated with their teammates, Brooke sent the first Bitmoji ever to be seen on camera in the history of the Celebrity Apprentice! A Brooke-moji! Brooke can’t even! In all seriousness, the two opposing sides were in cahoots (and smitten) with each other. Apparently, Laila, her team’s project manager was not a fan of Matt’s list.

In the end, despite the fact that Laila claimed to be an avid user of the Honest Company, it didn’t matter. Jessica Alba didn’t sense any creativity to hers and Matt’s presentation, giving Boy George his second win as project manager of the competition. After Laila threw a few last minute punches Matt’s way in the board room in a desperate attempt to avoid termination, the Governor told her to, “Get to da choppa!”

But Wait, There’s More

If the first seven seasons of taught us anything, well, I’m not sure we’d be any smarter. But, often times in season’s past the final four contestants would be “interviewed” in a totally fictitious, arbitrary process that would give the host the chance to eliminate the celebrities who either coasted to the end (Jesse James) or major personalities who had absolutely no business being at the final four but were there because it’s the Celebrity Apprentice (Meat Loaf).

Other times, after a contestant has been fired, as in the case of Laila Ali, the contestants are brought back into the board room for another firing. This was the case this time when Arnold first praised Matt Iseman and then Boy George. It was only inevitable that Brooke would be told, “Hasta la vista.” There’s no particular sound reason why Brooke was fired over Matt and Boy George other than the fact that it’s the Celebrity Apprentice and that there are no rules unless you’re Chael Sonnen, in which case the only rule is do not cut the cord to your computer causing self-imposed technical difficulties.

Alas, Brooke’s termination set us up with a battle of two Goliaths…err celebrities…err two former Arete teammates Matt Iseman and Boy George!

The Final Showdown

Standing with Patrick Schwarzenegger, Tyra Banks (she’s back!) and an individual that is a true winner per Arnold. “I’m talking about Carnival,” he clarifies. “The man that is standing next to me here is the CEO and President of Carnival Corporation, and his name is fitting to our Celebrity Apprentice. His name is Arnold Donald.”

Tyra and Patrick each give a sympathy laugh at the Governor’s attempt at humor.

“Arnold Donald. Who made up this name,” Matt Iseman wants to know.

Arnold Donald tells the contestants the task for their final task. They have to produce ad campaign, host a party and produce a 15-minute variety show along with raising as much money for charity.

And for the winner sure they get $250,000 for their favorite charity, but more importantly they get to join the exclusive club of Piers Morgan, the late Joan Rivers, Bret Michaels, John Rich, Arsenio Hall, Trace Adkins and Leeza Gibbons as the next Celebrity Apprentice. Just imagine for a second if runner-up Geraldo Rivera had actually won last season. That’s how crazy this whole thing is.

Anyway after receiving the terribly ill-proportioned teams, Matt Iseman and Boy George got to work. Kyle Richards tried to ignite some creativity into Matt’s ad campaign and Boy George got to dine with former Celebrity Apprentice contestant Curtis Stone. How about that blast from the past!

The rest of the episode was rather uneventful, by Celebrity Apprentice standards, until we got the blow up we had all been waiting for. Now it was no Meat Loaf/Gary Busey blow up or when Joan Rivers uttered the famous words, “you’re a poker player. A pok-uh play-uh,” at Annie Duke.

Just watching that Joan Rivers scene reminds me of how glorious (and absolutely absurd0 the Celebrity Apprentice can be. But that brings us to our latest blow up involving Boy George and production hired keyboard player. The musician kept changing the key much to the chagrin of Boy George and the song he wrote.

Eventually full meltdown mode ensued. The door shuts, and Boy George is off-camera talking with a producer explaining how he can’t work with this guy. He tells her that the keyboard player has to go, he can’t work with him any longer. After the producer tells Boy George to go speak with the keyboard player, the singer says that there is no conversation to be had. “It’s either that or I’ll just go. Do you want me to leave the show,” he asks. “No, no…” the producer fights back. Another round of “No, no, no, no…” ensues. Porsha is then asked to escort the musician out the door. Hasta la vista, baby!

Next Monday may be it, though. However unfortunate it would be if this is the end, there are no guarantees for another season of The New Celebrity Apprentice. While there haven’t been any breakout contestants, remember the show we’re now, people, it has still been a wild and fun ride. Arnold Schwarzenegger has settled in nice to the role as host. His body building stories will never, ever get old. In a week’s time we’ll find out if it’s Matt Iseman or Boy George who has what it takes to become the next Celebrity Apprentice.

Ranking the eight players left in Millennials vs. Gen X

It’s getting down to it in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X as there’s still eight contestants left in the game with just six days to play. By my recollection, that’s by far the most that has ever remained this late in the game.

With the finale just a week away, Jeff Probst informed viewers in his weekly Q&A with Dalton Ross that there is going to be two tribal councils and two votes this week, meaning we’ll head into the final episode with six people, similar to the set-up that we had in Cambodia – Second Chance.

It makes for a jam-packed finale. For comparisons sake, last season’s Kaoh Rong featured only one elimination in the finale, while Millennials vs. Gen X will likely include three.

As we’ve seen the last three episodes, though, a lot can change in a week and a player can go straight from the top to Ponderosa. After all, who would’ve thought that just a few weeks ago Jay would still have an idol and be at the top of our penultimate power rankings.

Vinaka

1. Jay

2. Adam

3. Sunday

4. Bret

5. David

6. Hannah

7. Ken

8. Will

Survivor Russian Roulette

At the final six in Survivor: Blood vs. Water, the unthinkable happened – a deadlocked vote stay deadlocked and the contestants went to rocks for the first time in 23 seasons and on the second time in the show’s history.

“I’m drawing rocks unless someone’s voting my way,” Cierra Eastin told eventual winner Tyson Apostol and the four other castaways left in the game.

Jeff Probst lauded Cierra for making the big move and willing to risk her game like that. It was the dawn of the “Big Move” era of Survivor.

Just four seasons later, at the final six in Cambodia – Second Chance, the contestants found themselves in a similar situation. It wasn’t until Keith Nale realized he was heading out the door if he didn’t side with the opposition that we avoided another rock draw situation.

But then came Day 30 in Millennials vs. Gen X.

With Zeke and David’s alliances dead set on a five-five vote after David’s side cast their votes for Zeke and Zeke’s side put all of their’s on Hannah, we entered down a similar drawing rocks pathway.

With Jay already wearing the immunity necklace, he was safe. David, thinking the opposition was voting for Ken, played his idol on him making him safe as well.

The way drawing rocks work on Survivor in the case of a deadlocked vote, if the players not involved in the tie can come to a unanimous decision, that person goes home. If not, the two people who were facing elimination become safe (along with those who have immunity), and the remaining contestants draw rocks. The odd color out goes home.

Already in possession of the Legacy Advantage, Jessica publicly contemplated flipping sides and voting out Hannah to avoid drawing rocks. Being that she would’ve been on the bottom of both alliances it wouldn’t have been the worst move in the world.

Hannah recognizing the grave nature of the situation whispered to Jessica, “Hannah, trust me. Vote for Zeke.” Jessica knew if she voted to keep Hannah safe they would go to rocks and she would have a one in six chance of going home.

Ultimately Jessica didn’t flip and she drew the odd colored rock, making her the fourth member of the jury.

The threat of drawing rocks was so great after Marquesas, that we went 23 seasons without drawing rocks. Now, we’ve its happened twice (almost three times) in six seasons.

At the final six, when players are so close to the end, it’s a calculated decision. At the final 10, no player is worth risking your life in the game for. This week’s rock draw might just have served as an autocorrect for the tiebreaker, and it will be interesting to see if players are so bold to play Survivor Russian Roulette any time soon.

Ranking the nine players left in Millennials vs. Gen X

(Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment)
(Screen Grab/CBS Entertainment)

Oh the difference a week can make – or five days if we’re on a remote tropical island in Fiji.

In a Thanksgiving double feature, the game was turned on its head as a Gen X civil war ensued resulting in the ouster of Chris followed by Jessica in just the third rock draw in Survivor history.

As Millennials vs. Gen X turns into two battering rams going head-to-head in David’s side vs. Zeke’s alliance, Jay, who was on the brink of elimination two episodes ago, managed to not only survive the back-to-back tribal councils but he did it without having to play his hidden immunity idol.

On her way out of tribal after drawing the unfortunate black rock, Jessica also willed her Legacy Advantage on to Ken.

Vinaka

1. Jay

2. Will

3. Bret

4. Sunday

5. Adam

6. Ken

7. Zeke

8. David

9. Hannah

Ranking the 11 players left in Millennials vs. Gen X

After the other half of Figtayls was eliminated after being the obvious choice for stealing food from the tribe and alienating his fellow castaways, Jay and Will appear to still be on the outs. But after getting in on the vote split to oust Taylor, they may still have a fighting chance.

At tribal council, Taylor laid it all out in a final blaze of glory, revealing Adam’s advantage of the reward stealer to the rest of the Vinaka tribe.

In what has become a tradition around the Thanksgiving time of year, we’re in store for not one but two full episodes of Survivor, meaning that two castaways will be voted out of the game and we’ll have nine left with just a few weeks left in the season.

It’s really anybody’s game with multiple hidden immunity idols in play and twists, like the Legacy Advantage, that the game has never seen.

Vinaka

1. David

2. Zeke

3. Sunday

4. Bret

5. Ken

6. Hannah

7. Chris

8. Jessica

9. Will

10. Adam

11. Jay

New reward stealer advantage a win-win

Following the merging of three tribes into one in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, Adam, the super-duper fan, was on the prowl.

Having a vast knowledge of the game, Adam was in search of a potential new hidden immunity idol to add to his stash.

Adam Klein (CBS)
Adam Klein (CBS)

After turning over several rocks and looking up into numerous trees, he headed to sniff around the tree mail stand. There, he found what he was looking for – a scroll, very ornamentally tied up.

However, when he unwound the note, instead of finding a clue to the location of the hidden talisman, he found the latest advantage to be implemented into the game of Survivor.

While the details of Jessica’s Legacy Advantage are still unknown, we were quickly informed of the twist that Adam learned of.

Adam now has the ability to steal someone’s reward. On the surface, it may not seem like much of an advantage. But it provides a unique opportunity for the viewers at home.

Simply put, Adam should not use the advantage at all. It’s a way to throw any social currency a player has down the drain for what will probably amount to a cheeseburger. The most valuable reward will most likely be a visit from a loved one, but imagine the vitriol a player would get for stealing something as precious as family and love. It’s too bad the car reward is gone or he might be able to rival a moment made possible by Yau-Man and Dreamz that happened on the same island nation in Survivor: Fiji 10 years earlier.

If Adam doesn’t play the reward stealer, it’s a twist that viewer’s will simply just forget about. A flop yes, but a no harm, no foul decision. But if he does choose to play it, ripping the hard-earned reward straight from the victor’s fingers – imagine the drama and well-timed hashtag that will pop up on the screen. It will be a moment as delicious as the reward itself.

(Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment)
(Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment)

Ranking the 12 players left in Millennials vs. Gen X

(Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment)
(Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment)

For the first time in Survivor history, three tribes merged into one. After breaking up #Figtayls a couple tribal council’s earlier, Adam tried to make amends with Taylor during the middle after the night after discovering that Taylor had raided the tribe’s stash of food from the merge feast.

Adam laid it all on the table, revealing that he had a new advantage in the game and that he wanted to vote Will out of the game.

After Will won an hour-and-a-half endurance competition to gain immunity, Adam’s plan that was never going to come to fruition was officially foiled.

Fortunately for him, Zeke and his freaks and geeks alliance along with a few Gen X’ers decided that targeting the millennial alliance was the better move and sent Michelle packing to Ponderosa.

Vinaka

1. Zeke

2. David

3. Sunday

4. Bret

5. Hannah

6. Jessica

7. Ken

8. Chris

9. Jay

10. Adam

11. Will

12. Taylor