What an amazing show! The new season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” had a great kick-off, and as a viewer I loved watching the dynamics between the two teams and between the individual team members – wondering who would rise to the occasion, and who would have a meltdown. As a former contestant, I also felt more than a few pangs of anxiety knowing what was in store for this new crop of apprentices.

First of all, let me just say that the show has assembled a great cast. From what I saw, this season is set to be way crazier than ours! We had Piers and Omarosa, but Celeb Apprentice 2 has them in spades. Having seen this first episode, and armed with a little more information, I’ve had to revise my opinion on how I rank some of the players. But before getting to that, I have to mention that I’m puzzled by the fact that so many of the contestants made some of the same mistakes that we did on last season’s Celebrity Apprentice. Didn’t they watch the show? Didn’t they see what drives Trump crazy? Perhaps it’s what happens in a lot of corporations – a failure to do their due diligence and research, and not learning from (and/or caring about) the lessons of their predecessors.

So let’s cut to the chase:

Andrew Dice Clay – I am so happy that Trump fired the right celebrity. So often the show, as in life, is not fair; but this time, justice was served. Andrew was so busy trying to entertain his teammates, and so busy trying to avoid doing any work that he quickly became the team liability. He was grandiose, a quitter and just plain lazy. And while I will miss his antics, you can’t get away with being lazy on the Apprentice without paying the price. Say what you will about him, but “The Donald” respects a good work ethic, a never-give-up attitude, fighting for your life, and knowing how to be resourceful. I don’t understand – Dice, why would you mention quitting? Don’t you know Trump hates quitters?

You also missed a great opportunity to get some publicity for your charity. Once you got canned and packed off to the limo, you should have made mention of them in your final exit interview – instead you came across as a defeated, bitter whiner. I wouldn’t be surprised if you made the limo driver stop off for some of bagels on the way home and stiffed “Donnie” with the bill.

ATHENA (The Women’s Team)–
Joan Rivers – As I predicted, Joan is a force to be reckoned with. She volunteered to be the team leader for this first challenge – a risky move that could have been disastrous if her team had lost. I’m still concerned about her stamina though. If Andrew thought it was bad not having bagels waiting for him on Day 1, just wait a few more challenges when everyone is starved and sleep deprived. Although she’s still my number one pick, I do worry that she might snap under these circumstances. However, if Joan is smart, and she is one smart cookie, she’ll delegate more to her Mini-Me, Melissa Rivers.

Annie Duke – is a proving herself to be a major player. I’m impressed! She is smart, tough, and hard working – she’s the Mary Lou Henner of this season. The difference – Mary Lou is lovable, while Annie is perceived to be bossy and abrasive. She’s not liked by all her teammates, but who cares – Annie came to win. (I’ll have to say that the women’s team last year fell into the trap of being too nice – minus Omarosa of course.) Also, like the good poker player that she is, it appears that Annie has done her homework – watching past episodes of the show and studying up on her opponents. I’m thinking she and Joan are both right up there.

Brande Roderick – I called it – this Playmate rules! This is one smart lady. She proved to be quite the savvy businesswoman making the most of her assets, in every sense of the word. She picked the perfect location for the cupcake sales (in front of the Playboy building), knew the power of providing some eye candy (having one of her fellow Playmates dress up in the traditional Bunny outfit) and did not hesitate to crack open her Rolodex. She brought in some big spenders, and unlike Tiffany Fallon last year, she did not hesitate in calling on Hef and hitting him up for some major coin. I like that she is a scrappy fighter and doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s also a top contender.

Okay, what’s up Natalie Gulbis, Khloe Kardasian and T-Boz? They were so under the radar they didn’t even generate a blip. All three were too low key. Natalie, you’re a great golfer but on this show it appears that you’ve fallen into a sand trap and you can’t get up. Grab your best sand wedge and get out of that bunker! You guys need to step it up or you won’t be long for life! If the women’s team hadn’t won, one of you certainly would have been sent home.

Claudia Jordan – remains the big question mark. She’s a tough one to read. In her newfound feistiness is she trying to be controversial, or is she really clever and playing a good game? I can’t tell yet, but at least she is making her presence known. Could she be inching into Omarosa territory? Don’t do it Claudia – I don’t think that you can pull it off.

All in all, the women deserve kudos for winning their first task (I only wish that my team would have done as well at their first time at bat.) My hat is off to Joan! It’s still early in the competition, but it appears that Athena has figured out how best to play the game.

K.O.T.U. (The Men’s Team)–
Herschel Walker – is a true gentleman and I love him. Like a good leader, he was willing to take responsibility for both the good and the bad decisions. For a minute though I thought that he was going to be the one getting the ax, but thankfully he stood up for himself and fought. I think he has the potential to go pretty far in this race. He’s a winner.

Jesse James – I’m rooting for him. But enough with the “I’m just a blue collar guy” routine. Clearly Jesse is very talented and creative, and has to be a good businessman to have gotten to where he is in his life. I’m surprised that no one mentioned the fact that the men’s cupcake van looked amazing – a task that he pretty much did singlehandedly. I can definitely see what Sandra Bullock sees in him.

Tom Green – I’m eating my words – big time. Tom is smart, impressive and strategic. On the men’s team he definitely did the most homework – I think I have a crush. I also think he is poised to be the men’s secret weapon.

Scott Hamilton and Clint Black need to make their presence better known. In a team with such big personalities it’s too easy to get lost in the shuffle.

And in the Big Disappointment Category –
Brian McKnight- has an odd strategy of “when you stay out of the mix, the bull’s-eye can’t be on you and no way to be in harm’s way.” What? This logic is seriously flawed – surely he must realize that taking “no action” in business can be as deadly as the worst misstep. I hated the way he played the game this week!!! Brian, you are one of my favorite love song balladeers – please try and stay true to your “brand” and to who your fans think you are – it’s a far more valuable commodity. Don’t blow it.

Dennis Rodman – what is wrong with this guy? Did he think that this first task was just a scrimmage game that he couldn’t be bothered to warm up for? How could someone with such natural ability and talent have such a huge chip on his shoulders? And why was he avoiding the public by hiding out in the van during the challenge? It was agreed by all that he was potentially the biggest draw on the team. And yet, there he sat in the van doing nothing, hiding behind those sunglasses undoubtedly contemplating the location of his next piercing or tattoo.

It’s a shame that Dennis was the one most responsible for the loss of his team. If he followed in the footsteps of Lennox Lewis or Tito Ortiz or Gene Simmons from last season, he would have left the women in the dust with his sales potential. He’s the
biggest star on the show and one big missed opportunity. He’s going down — he can’t help himself. Yes, Dennis may have won five professional NBA titles, but he also a professional victim. Can you believe his antics in the boardroom? I love how Trump wasn’t having any of it and shut him down. He’s lucky Dice’s laziness and quitter mentality are Trump’s pet peeves. I do hope that Dennis stays around longer though, just because he is such a train wreck load of fun to watch. Perhaps he’s trying to be Omarosa on steroids? All I know is that Dennis could be throwing away a wonderful chance to prove his teammates, Trump, and his critics (including me) wrong.

MVP of Episode One —
Annie Duke and Brande Roderick. Congrats ladies! Even if you don’t like each other, it doesn’t matter – go win it!!!!

Behind The Scenes —
Here’s what you didn’t see on the show. These people had to learn how to bake, fashion their cupcake truck from scratch, create a marketing plan, call friends and solicit funds, and go out on the street and sell – all within the course of about 12 hours time with little to no sleep and very little food. It’s a lot harder than it looks. It’s hard… really hard. (Side Note: one interesting difference is that last season we weren’t allowed to mention Celebrity Apprentice when we were trying to raise money – making it that much more difficult.)

And of course, then there’s the boardroom – 2-3 hours of continually throwing people under the bus and those who choose to throw themselves in front of it of their own volition. I suffer post traumatic stress just thinking about these sessions! The celebs need to realize that it just gets worse with every passing week; although I’ll have to say that this bunch doesn’t seem to mind that much … yet.

Now that I can watch objectively from afar, I realize that the task and the lesson at hand are easy – make a decent product and sell the smallest amount of product for the greatest sum of money. It’s about keeping it simple and staying focused. But when you are there in the thick of it, it is often difficult to see clearly.

Can’t wait till next week – I’m already hooked.