Celebrity Apprentice: The Ghost of Penn

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The Celebrity Apprentice S12E10: "Winning by a Nose"


Dark fog rolls over the stage. Around a deep grave, described minimally by cutting a hole in the stage floor, six figures are gathered. They are AUBREY the dancing girl dressed only in a belt of coins, LISA the hag swaddled in cloaks, her face almost obscured by her hood. ARSENIO the smiling one, two goat horns apparent on his head in the manner of Pan. CLAY, lyre-player with head wreathed in beautiful flowers. DAYANA, the beauty dressed in the manner of Athena, and THERESA the mother, holding a baby upon her hip.



At the head of the grave stands Trump in a swirling robe of pale pink satin, surrounded by attendants: girls holding tall fans, several small boys holding dishes of figs and chalices of wine. His face is covered by a great mask, but sorrow seems to consume his entire figure as he stares into the grave. Trump pauses by the grave as if he would kneel, but stops himself, and instead raises his finger, pointing at each of the mourners in turn, who lower their heads.

Wordlessly, Trump returns to his entourage, four gladiators carrying a litter (one of those enclosed beds balanced on four posts, enclosed by gossamer curtains) lower it so he can enter, and then the company leaves stage right.



The hag Lisa falls to her knees, keening at the grave. Aubrey, with the movements of a snake, approaches her, as if to comfort her, and seems to whisper in her ear, pointing at Dayana, who skirts nervously away from the ensemble. Lisa looks at Dayana with rage, Aubrey continues to gesticulate toward Dayana, Lisa rises, her mass swaddled in layers of wormy cloak, and lumbers towards Dayana, Clay tries to intercede, but Lisa will not be calmed. Horrified, Dayana runs to the grave and throws herself prostrate beside it. Timpani drums beat wildly, and Penn, his hair wild, a white cloak falling from his shoulders, steps up out of the grave.


PENN:

Laid low in the limousine I was carried

away from the towers of Olympus!


The company is shaking before them, he laughs heartily at their shock and distress.


PENN:

But what have you to fear? Only if my my passing was unjust

would it give you such pause.

Such stirring which, dare I say

have the look of regret.


LISA:

That is just it: It was unjust.

You were the greatest of us all.

Penn, how many times have we used

your skills, your wisdom, your good calm sense

and now at the moment where we might have repaid—

instead we threw you to the dogs of Trump’s bloodless war!



THERESA:

How ironic too, that a challenge to define

the essence of success, that you of all should fail

who arguably is the most successful of us all.


Musical laughter. Aubrey steps from the group and moves, undulating her hips like a snake, amongst the crowd.


AUBREY:

Speak for yourself, child-woman

I am O’Day, a borderline creative genius

a one-woman team, who again claimed victory

O, the Lords of Walgreen's, the Princes of Macy’s

see how they have have laid their laurels at my feet?

Penn, you have my regards!

(she bows, almost sardonically, then shimmies around the grave, her coins clinking fantastically)

But against me, you are all hopeless

I am mini-Trump, and have already won


ARSENIO:

Apologies, Penn, for the dancing girl’s manners

she speaks in riddles whose answers are all obscene

In this challenge I felt the heat of her loins

against the back of my neck

I heard the screams of the damned issue from that hellmouth


Aubrey laughs at this and writhes around Arsenio, he looks at her with something like hate and then softens.


ARSENIO:

And yet, siren, how you do delight

more than my eyes, a borderline genius! Yes—

an imaginative slut, is there any greater prize

even if your cologne display looks like the photo background

that kids would take pictures against for the prom.


Aubrey stiffens, and hisses at Arsenio, sliding from his embrace.



LISA:

How much better it would have been to see Dayana go

figuratively, although literally I would certainly kill her

and with my thick fingers how easily I could crush her throat-


PENN:

Silence!!!


Dayana, at his side, looks up at him with appreciation.


PENN:

Aubrey, do you think winning this contest

proves anything but cunning, deceit, and the ability

to shield yourself from blame?

Or that in any way this game means honor?


CLAY:

Crowned with glory is the one who is chosen

the apprentice, the greatest, the true celebrity


PENN:

And by what criteria chosen?

I could match you Clay, thought for thought

and have thoughts enough left to pave the world

two or three hundred times over

for strength I could best you

as easily as a lion steps upon a dandelion

for courage I could roar you

into a silence as deep as a closet

in which a child sits hushed,

holding its breath with fear.

There are no rules in this game, and how it is won or lost

is whim, is Trump’s pleasure

there are no actual rules for celebrity apprentice

and the best are buried alongside the worse

with equal pomp and measure


THERESA:

What does this fill me with such sorrow to hear?

to know despite all my running in heels

neither my kindness nor my violence can protect me

the dogs of ambition shall chase

the thrashing rabbit of my abilities

until its innards are strewn haphazardly

along the path that ends in weeds, that ends in worms

No, it cannot be!


PENN:

And yet it is so. “You earned it”

was a false epitaph for success, I see now in this game

as in life, we are struggling toward a meaningless crown

a golden symbol that signifies little but envy

and it is not who at last wrests the meaningless prize

but how we have appeared in playing the game

who we have helped, and who we have chastened

on this threshing floor, the diamonds fall first, not the chaff.


He reaches for Dayana’s hand, she rises. They stand he in the grave, she upon its edge.


PENN:

And if they should take you next

at week’s end, if you should lower into the abyss

of that elevator, sad-eyed receptionist whispering goodbye

will you know that you go down there

the victor of them all?

that your patience, your tolerance, your respect

they crown you with a victory

that gold will never know?

Dayana, weeping, kisses Penn’s hand.


DAYANA:

May all the Gods

rain blessings on you, Penn.


PENN:

I am only a simple trickster, an illusionist.


Dayana shakes her head but smiles with understanding.


DAYANA:

And I a vacant beauty queen, yes?


Penn turns and addresses the audience.


PENN:

No rule book shall guide you

and your worst missteps may grant you the best prizes

your weakest moments may gain the strongest applause

and yet I implore you

remember the emblem of success—

the one who is kind where there is no kindness

the one who would never weigh gold

against respect.


QUESTIONS:

– Is Dayana going to get voted out next week or what?

– Was Penn just too good for this show all along?

– What is going on with Aubrey and Arsenio? It's clear she pretty much hates him but isn’t he kind of doing this like, “I hate her but I want her to be into me” thing?

– Were both cologne presentations completely stupid or what?

– What’s your definition of success?

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