The unusual mechanism of Celebrity Apprentice became obvious last night when, just before announcing the task of the day, Donald Trump told the remaining contestants that Tito Ortiz would be away at a fight. You can't help but wonder what other accommodations are being made for the celebrities behind the scenes.

The two teams are told to design a receptacle for the Crocs company to collect used shoes for recycling; Carol Alt and Piers Morgan are made team leaders, and Piers is struck with a brainstorm. He tells Vincent Pastore to infiltrate the women's team after pretending that they've had a huge fight; he gets to potentially sabotage the women while getting out of Piers' face.

Amazingly, the women fall for the plot, but Vinnie quickly goes from relishing his role as rat to working actively to help the women win. The plot seems to thicken when Stephen Baldwin discovers his scruples, and refuses to pick up a note Vinnie tosses outside their boardroom door, protesting that Piers' ploy is cheating. He refuses to pick it up, but asks Lennox Lewis to do the deed; by this point, the machinations are creaking worse than a dock in a storm.

Vinnie fesses up to Marilu Henner, and while he makes her promise not to tell the other women, she admits that she's not sure if she believes him. The running gag of the night is Omarosa's apparently poor ability to read people; she's the first to fall for Vinnie's shameless ploy, and confesses that she's surprised at what a decent team leader Carol Alt is, after calling her a twit for the last four episodes. You wonder at what point she's going to turn around to reveal a "kick me" sign on her back.

At roughly the mid-point of the 2-hour show, Morgan and Baldwin get into an extended debate about accepting Jesus, a first for the show, and rare fare on primetime. Piers tries to psych the women out by making fun of their ad slogan, which makes the other Croc drop on the women's team. It's certainly the most entertaining Apprentice so far, but its resemblance to real business strains credibility.

The men have the better slogan, but the women have the better receptacle - a huge croc, which cost a fortune to manufacture - and a better presentation. Vinnie's unconvincingly shamefaced mea culpa, full of incessant and farcical wiseguy bluster, kicks off an epic boardroom where the actual winner of the challenge seems like an afterthought.

Finally, Trump tells the women that their big shoe put them over at last, and it looks like Piers' clumsy little plot has backfired, and Vinnie tries to take an early exit from the mess by offering to quit. Trump won't let him off so easy, and forces him to admit that he'd stay - if Trump fired Piers. Finally, to the strains of Journey's Don't Stop Believing, Trump lets Vinnie go; he leaves to a street full of extras from the final scene of The Sopranos, including Members Only jacket guy.

Right on cue, the screen cuts to black, and the longest, least believable Apprentice episode ever ends.

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