There are many traditions that have become part of the American experience: barbecues on the Fourth, football on Thanksgiving, and wassailing to merry mirth at Christmastime. Monday night, we got to enjoy another one of these hallowed pastimes: the great American witch hunt on The Apprentice. Yes, the claws came out as Team Synergy — I’m sorry, the Synergy Corporation — as the bumbling pretty people all but accused portly Brent of slaughtering twelve babies and housing Osama Bin Laden. It’s all par for the course, especially this early on in the season when people are looking for any excuse to excise their competition (if Brent can be called that). Let’s not forget what happened with Stacy J. and her infamous Magic Eight Ball misstep. Granted, Stacy’s behavior was terribly frightening. The way she mildly raised her voice was pure evil incarnate. I actually feared for my own safety, and I wasn’t even there. Thank goodness her team survived the ordeal. But would Synergy be as lucky??This week’s episode began with Tarek, Lenny, and Lee returning to the suite as if they’d just braved the rice patties of Vietnam. Tarek looked absolutely destroyed and traumatized, forever doomed to wake up with night terrors for the rest of his life (perhaps set to the theme to Platoon). Surely, I thought there’d be massive fallout from last week’s turbulent, finger-pointing Boardroom, but instead, the show merely focused on all the raucous good times as the rest of the contestants welcomed their buddies back into the fold. And by the way, I think it’s been quite some time since we’ve seen such an outpouring of pure joy from fellow Apprentice-ites. There were hugs, cheers, and smiles everywhere. It was like Crash winning all over again (minus a red-haired, big breasted woman with mouth agape and dress on the verge of wardrobe malfunction. You know which one I’m talking about).
The next morning, the teams gathered on the sidewalk to meet Trump, who stepped out of his limo not with George and Carolyn, but with the ultimate JV squad of Bill Rancic and, yes, dearest Ivanka. Lovely, blank-faced Ivanka. I didn’t know how to feel about this. Over the past two seasons, Bill has proven himself to be a non-entity in the Boardroom, and Ivanka, well, who knew what she had to offer beyond a disturbingly female version of The Donald’s face. Anyway, Trump soon outlined this week’s task, which had to do with text messaging. “This is new technology to me. It’s old technology to you. But to me, what the hell do I know about text messaging?” he laughed (causing all his supplicants to roar with undeserved laughter as well). I found it surprising that The Donald so easily ‘fessed up to not knowing much about text messaging. Surely, he must know something about it. For starters, I think it’s abundantly clear that text messaging is a THIRTY BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY!! Sorry, I do that every time. Tell me if it’s getting old. I can’t help myself. I’m addicted. Being addicted is a THIRTY BILL– okay, okay, I’ll stop myself.
Of course, this challenge wasn’t really about text messaging. That was just a mere conduit for grandiose product placement, as usual. This week’s lucky brand? Gillette, the company famous for comparing a dinky razor to an aircraft carrier / space rocket /race car/ a thousand bald eagles soaring triumphantly over the mountains of destiny. Unsurprisingly, Trump happily boasted, “Gillette’s been making the finest shaving products for over one hundred years. I use ‘em. I love ‘em. They’re the best.” Wow. For sure I thought he’d plug some new product like “Trump Razor” or “Epi-Trump,” but maybe that was just wishful thinking. Things then veered into the odd and uncomfortable when Trump suggested that the women use the razor too, but not on their faces. Okay, let’s just move on before Gloria Aldred shows up and begins screaming.
Anyway, the big challenge (kind of forgot about it, didn’t you?) was to develop a text message marketing campaign to generate buzz for the new Gillette Fusion something or another. Each team would receive a keyword, and the group that generated the most text messages to that word would win the challenge. Pretty simple concept. After explaining all this to his wannabe protégés, Trump then kissed Ivanka on the cheek (aww) and headed off. Poor Bill. No kiss for him.
The first team we caught up with was Synergy, which was led by Pepi (pronounced Pepé). He was an affable guy with a funny accent and a bewildered, overwhelmed look in his eye. He had absolutely no control over his team which was chaotically attempting some sort of brainstorming session. Brent, who always looks like he just ran ten blocks, tried to contribute ideas to group, but criminal defense lawyer Stacy continually cut him off. You see, she kind of, well, had absolutely no respect for the poor guy. Sure, he may be fat, and sure, his idea may be silly, and sure, he may be a complete mess, but… where was I going with this again? Anyway, Stacy then told us, “I just cannot imagine how somebody gets anywhere with zero skills, zero ability to make a decision, and who constantly has to be the center of attention.” It’s called going on reality television.
After enough rude interruptions from Stacy, Brent decided to pull her aside and tell her to stop. “You’ve been cutting me off the entire time, and you gotta stop doing it, or I’m going to start doing it in front of the entire group,” he said. I was sure what “doing it in front of the entire group” necessarily meant. Best case scenario: a confrontation. Worst case: something involving bodily fluids and/or movements.
Brent likes the “I just ran up twelve flights of stairs” look.
WELL. No one speaks that way to Stacy. The lawyer returned to the war room and announced, “Excuse me, I need some team support. I just got confronted by Brent outside with a finger in my face, telling me that I’m aggressive and basically pushing up into me, and I cannot work like that.” Of course, what she neglected to say was that the confrontation took place in a confined corridor, and that, along with the camera man and Brent’s natural girth caused the “pushing up into me” effect. Still, Stacy was not above a little embellishment as she then added, “He’s essentially threatened me.” Threatened you? With what? Unfortunately for Synergy, Pepi was completely unable to control this flare up, and now Stacy and her sidekick Tammi had spiraled out of control with fussiness. They wanted Pepi to actually have the group fire Brent for the task — simply because he basically called Stacy on her shit. Look, I think Brent is fairly worthless, but at least hear him out. Don’t make him sweat more than he has to.
We then broke for commercial, and when we returned, Trump had his big lesson of the week: “People are strange.” Huh. That’s profound. This was accompanied by a vaguely Doors-ish melody from the wonderful world of Public Domain music, and soon Trump piped up, “Sometimes you’ll see a person — they’re dressed beautifully, they look great, they’re sharp, they speak well, everything’s perfect. But they’re losers.” We then cut to Trump shaking hands with people in line. Did that mean that Trump was a loser? No, probably not. It was most likely an indictment on those nice, unsuspecting people. Ha! LOSERS!
Trump then said, “Then you’ll see somebody that doesn’t look as good.” We then cut to some random dude, who shall now be known to America as “somebody that doesn’t look as good.” Memo to self: never let the camera catch you next to Trump. I can just imagine myself winding up on The Apprentice, smiling with Trump as his voice narrates, “Some people are complete douchebags.” Hey, that’s not nice!
Ultimately, Trump concluded this segment by declaring, “You never can judge a book by its cover.” Profound advice. Profound.
Over at Gold Rush, Lee had taken the helm as Project Manager and was already enjoyably spiraling out of control. This was sweet revenge for Tarek, who felt he’d been betrayed in last week’s boardroom by the fresh-faced kid. “I think he’s going to be overwhelmed in this task,” Tarek smiled, adding, “Much in the same way I was overwhelmed by the box office failure of Elizabethtown.” Because he looks like Orlando Bloom, you see.
Anyway, Lee’s style of leadership was of the “let’s take thirty votes on one small thing to make sure everyone’s on board, and no one can doubt that I’m an excellent leader.” He spearheaded a rather useless discussion about the team’s keyword, causing Lenny (“The Russian”) to twiddle his thumbs impatiently. “It was simple, simple task, you know? More simple than the whole earth, okay? Than the air. Than the water, I don’t know. It’s so SIMPLE!” Lenny complained to us. And yes, Lenny is the best. Only he could somehow make this task seem metaphysical and mundane at the same time.
Eventually, Lenny simply hit the streets with Charmaine and Leslie in tow, getting a large head start on Synergy, which was still wasting all its time trying to get Brent fired. Unfortunately for them, Pepi was incapable of making a decision, and so he hemmed and hawed, until finally allowing Brent to stay on, despite Stacy’s objections. Now everyone was mad, and Michael told us that they wasted so much time on Brent that they didn’t have a clear strategy on how to market the Gillette stuff. Well, hey, that wasn’t Brent’s fault. Blame Stacy. She’s the one who started the witch hunt and kept squawking about it all day long. Anyway, as the team rode an elevator out of the Gillette offices, Michael came up with a brilliant (read: awful) plan for his team. Everyone should show up the next day wearing only bathrobes. You see, this would pique pedestrian curiosity — after all, seeing people in bathrobes is crazy! A spectacle! Unfortunately, it’s the same sort of spectacle as a homeless bum banging on a cereal box. Sure, you might look, but chances are you’ll be clutching your wallet and secretly wishing a magical force field were surrounding you.
Nothing too exciting happened later that night. There was some mild conflict over on Gold Rush as Lee continued to flail about in general disarray. Lenny and his ladies wanted Lee to join them down in Times Square, and when Lee talked about going back to the suite and changing outfits and whatnot, Lenny barked over the phone, “Hey, hey, hey! Cut the bullshit! We need you here!” Uh oh. The Russian is mad! “Our phone dying! We need you here!” Oh Lenny. Every day, it’s like he’s riding blimp all over again.
The next morning, Roxanne from Synergy woke up at 6:30 AM and realized that hey, no one else from her team was awake. And even more disconcertingly, Gold Rush was already out the door. A-woops! Being the good egg that she is, Roxanne then went from room to room, waking her various teammates from the world of slumber. I personally enjoyed Stacy’s chaotic rise-and-shine moment as she bounced her head up urgently as if there were some air raid taking place. This was followed by confused glances (very hamster-like) and then shock and embarrassment as she realized a camera was right in her face. She then recoiled back, and finally, the producers mercifully cut to someone else. Yes, Stacy wins the award for most frantic waker-upper in Apprentice history.
Once she’d calmed those early morning nerves, Stacy then set about choosing a location for her team, and unsurprisingly, she opted for Times Square. Her team then gathered ’round the table to eat breakfast in their working clothes, which today meant bathrobes and undershirts. Resident Brit Sean took the shower motif to realistic new levels with his whole “shampoo-in-the-ear” thing; although, something tells me that wasn’t entirely intentional.
Anyway, while Synergy dined in the suite, Gold Rush camped out at the TKTS booth where they could easily cater to a captive audience. I would tell you more about them, but seriously, we all knew they were going to win. Why bother wasting any time with their wonderful success? The real drama was on Synergy which continued to flounder on the street. The passers-by seemed completely disinterested in finding out what the big deal was behind the people in the wardrobes, and for their part, the team hardly did anything to stoke the imagination of the public. Andrea in particular was quite lame as she twirled some devil sticks and quietly asked, “Aren’t you curious to know what’s going on today?” Uh, no, not really. Now get back, you crazy woman in the robe!
Michael, meanwhile, babbled to us from in front of the Seinfeld Diner, which was cool, but I sorely missed that trademark twangy synthesizer. Think about how this season of The Apprentice would be with that twang? I bet the ratings would go up. Try it, NBC.
With Synergy crashing and burning before our very eyes, there was only one person who could save the team from total annihilation. And his name was Brent. Yes, the oft-sweaty insurance lawyer-turned-marketing guru had a brilliant idea: dance around like an idiot and bang your sandwich board. It was a fail-safe plan — kind of like when Ivana dropped her pants on season two of The Apprentice. Who needs dignity when you’re interviewing to be the next great corporate leader of the Western World?
Of course, Brent was glad to put his own unique spin on his performance: “I was able to use the sign and my other creative talents.” And by “creative talents,” he meant “doing the robot.” By that rational, I have many creative talents too: The electric slide, the Macarena, the funky chicken. I could go on. I’m just that creatively talented.
Anyway, the teams eventually wound up back in the Boardroom where Robin didn’t merely just say “You can go in now.” Bitch actually got up, went INTO the Boardroom, and held the door open. She’s really clamoring for screen time these days. Must be still riding the high that came from The Donald tossing her his jacket on last season’s live finale. Well, Trump asked his cronies how each team did, and surprisingly, Ivanka was quite articulate and self-possessed (and yes, I know these parts of the show are somewhat scripted. Still, she was nervous and jittery like Bill or the dreadful days of Matthew Calamari.) As for the results, Gold Rush managed to cull 683 text messages while Synergy — SHOCKINGLY — only netted 458. “Losing by almost a 50% margin,” Bill said. Well, actually, it’s more like a 33.3% margin (exactly), but that’s okay.
Well, Gold Rush’s big prize was not a fancy dinner or a shopping spree at Harry Winston’s. No, it was a lame “give something back” reward that had the team working with Career Gear, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged men get clothes for job interviews. “This is something that’s much more important,” Trump said.
“Absolutely more important, sir,” Dan echoed. Shut up, jerk. Stop trying to kiss up.
We then headed out to the Trump Menswear showroom where down-and-out businessmen John, Robert, and Vaughn came in for fittings. As we watched our Apprentice-ites help pick out shirts and ties for these gentlemen, we got to hear a little something about them. John McKay, for instance, used to be a stock broker, but after 9/11, he “went through the motions for two years after that, and basically one day I found myself on public assistance just trying to survive.” Hmmm… I feel like we glossed over something — probably in that whole “went through the motions for two years” part. I’m sensing a little substance abuse. Alcohol? Cocaine? Meth?
Robert similarly breezed over his career decline. “One thing led to another, and basically I lost my job,” he said. Again, a little shady on the details. What are you not telling us, Robert? Did some time in the big house? Busted in some illegal black market slave ring? The less you tell, the more we assume…
The good news for these guys was that Trump himself showed up to kick start their new lives as unemployed dudes with really nice suits. “You’re going to have great times now because Trump is lucky,” he said. Well, sort of lucky (we won’t mention the dwindling ratings — damn you, people! It’s still a good show!)
Back at the Suite, the witch hunt was brewing anew as Synergy rallied against their new favorite scapegoat, Brent. The women were now accusing him of being “not mentally stable,” and when one person suggested that they didn’t have the psychological training to use such terms, they revised their attacks to “not socially stable.” Nice fix! Michael, he of the bathrobe brain trust, worried that Brent might snap, and when he does, it will be scary and dangerous. Mind you, this was all based on Stacy’s overly exaggerated claim that she had been threatened. She made Brent seem like a vicious predator who just happens to carry around a spare Uzi for those “not socially stable” moments. Funny thing about Stacy, though. Remember how earlier she said she had felt threatened? Well, now, she had revised her statement to “I was uncomfortable for a moment.” But you weren’t threatened? “I wouldn’t characterize it as a threat,” she then said. Why, that’s awfully convenient. Anyone else want to smack this woman?
In the Boardroom, Trump kicked things off by grilling Pepi, who predictably offered up Brent as the sacrificial lamb. The whole task failed because of Brent, he explained. They all spent too much time on him. Too difficult to manage. Actually, it was more like they all spent too much time on Stacy campaigning to get rid of Brent. But that’s neither here nor there. Almost everyone lambasted the rotund outcast (Roxanne being the only exception), and Michael in particular put on his “I’m a dick” hat when Trump asked him if he thought Brent was a smart guy. “Brent??” Michael asked incredulously. “Mr. Trump, I unfortunately do not.”
The team may have been pushing for Brent’s ouster, but to The Donald’s credit, this wasn’t just a retread of Stacy J’s unjust firing. Bill smelled a rat in Stacy and furthermore said that location was this task’s downfall. And oh yeah, who was in charge of location? STACY. Ivanka then busted the group for arriving at Times Square too late and herding. Plus, the bathrobes didn’t “speak to the quality of the brand.” That’s true. I’m sure if Gillette had its way, the company would have had turbo mach 3 supersonic vehicles zipping through the city, awing people to drop what they were doing, run to Duane Reed, and buy buy buy those amazing razors!
Anyway, Andrea once again reiterated that Brent should be fired for usurping so much time, causing Bill to retort, “I think that’s lame. I gotta be honest with you.” Oooh, Bill’s finally showing a little sass in the Boardroom. It’s about damn time. Trump then inquired about the bathrobe idea — whose was it? Andrea said it was Michael’s, not that he’d ever ‘fess up to it. Instead of taking responsibility, he merely pointed his finger at Pepi like a twelve-year old and replied, “I’m not the one who has final approval of that.” Oh, shut up. It was your idea. You were bragging about it before. Just accept it. Alas, Michael was determined to look like a complete jerk; and so he got all prissy and reminded everyone that Brent threatened Stacy. But wait, just before, Stacy said that she “wouldn’t characterize it as a threat,” right? Well, not so much anymore. “I felt threatened,” Stacy told Trump, but he didn’t buy it for a second.
“You’ve seen criminals, you’ve seen the toughest people on Earth, and Brent is gonna scare you?” The Donald asked. Oooh, she’s so busted. Nevertheless, it was time for Pepi to choose who’d be returning to the Boardroom, and since the whole team was such a disaster, Trump even told the PM that he could bring in three people instead of two. Oh, and one more thing. Since it was such a disastrous loss (based on the disastrous rounding-up skills of Bill Rancic — 1/3 is very different than 1/2), Trump announced that he’d be firing two people today.
Well, Pepi selected Stacy, Michael, and Brent to be the unlucky souls to face The Donald’s wrath. While they waited outside in the lobby (seriously, can Robin even offer them a refreshment? Water? Coffee? Anything?), Trump polled his sidekicks to see what they had to say. Bill wanted Stacy out — he didn’t like how she completely avoided taking responsibility for anything. Ivanka didn’t like Brent, but felt like Pepi was really to blame for this task falling apart. With that in mind, Trump brought the bickering group back in, and almost immediately, the anti-Brent attacks resurfaced, more biting than ever. Luckily, Brent was up to the task as he angrily defended his honor with a series of “You should be ashamed!” type accusations. As for Stacy, she just kept towing the company line, saying that she was threatened and a finger was in her face and it was scary and blah blah blah. Bill finally said it was a he said/she said scenario and that they’ll never get to the truth. Finally. It’s about time someone stopped this nonsense.
Ultimately, Trump delivered his trademark insult: “You, Brent. You’re a total disaster.” But somehow, Brent survived this craziness as the axe fell on Stacy and Pepi. Michael escaped firing by the slimmest margin, with Trump saying, “You did a terrible, terrible job.” And then, “If you do it again, you’ll be fired so fast, your head will spin.” I actually would really like to see that. It could be either really funny or really gross.
As Stacy and Pepi strolled up to their taxi, Trump, as usual, fished for reassurance that his decision was correct. And like the sycophants that they are, Bill and Ivanka backed him up 100%. “Okay, I’m satisfied,” Trump said. Well, I’m glad he cleared THAT up!
What did you think about this episode? Were the right people fired? Or should Brent have gotten the heave-ho?