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Surprise! New season of The Apprentice! I guess this wasn’t much of a surprise for people who watched the Olympics, which I did, but still, there was a remarkable lack of buzz heading into this season premiere. I’m sure the new time slot on Mondays didn’t help matters much either. I hope that the ratings don’t take too much of a hit because quite frankly, this premiere rocked. Wait, let me put more emphasis on that. It ROCKED! Of course, I’m a ‘uge Apprentice fan and have rarely ever poo-pooed an episode. That’s because I firmly believe the show follows a great formula that’s only heightened by Trump’s excellent command of the Boardroom. And let’s face it, that’s where all the fun stuff is.
Truthfully, this premiere episode didn’t start out as anything necessarily better than any other Apprentice premiere — that is, until we moved into that hallowed Boardroom and all sorts of silly accusations flew. This was a fantastic showdown, replete with an angry George, a pissed of Carolyn, and a fuming Trump. And that’s really all I need. If this Boardroom was a sign of things to come, all I have to say is that Mondays might be my new favorite night of TV (24, Prison Break, Gauntlet 2, among others).Now, I know what some of you might be saying. “The Apprentice has gotten so old and lame.” Well, to that I say boo. It became very trendy this year to attack The Apprentice. I didn’t balk much. Such is the nature of backlashes — I understand them. People may forget that Survivor suffered through a backlash period that started with Africa and didn’t end until Amazon. But after this fall’s awesomely insane season of The Apprentice, I think it’s time to take a stand and say that it’s no longer embarrassing to be that guy in the corner who says, “I… I still like The Apprentice.” So now I say, let the healing begin, and let us re-embrace the show that turned corporate sponsorship into a warm and fuzzy family viewing.
You’d think NBC paid me off, but I assure you they didn’t. Lest I blow all my credibility with such ebullient gushing, let me get on with the show. The big premiere began with quick glimpses of the candidates. Okay, mainly just the hottie women — a.k.a. the women. There was one girl practicing yoga, another playing tennis (walking around in a bikini too, natch), and then another beauty talking to her Filipino mom. For variety, we also heard from a guy who bragged that he was just like Trump — yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever — and then we headed over to Republic Airport in Long Island, NY, where a silver Mercedes sped down the runway, stopping at the base of a private airplane. Are people allowed to drive their sports cars on the tarmac? I suppose if you’re Donald Trump you can. And yes, it was Donald Trump behind the wheel of this very, very expensive vehicle. In case we didn’t exactly know he was, however, he reminded us.
“I’m Donald Trump!” he blared after he stepped out. He gave the usual spiel about looking for an apprentice, and then he boarded his airplane where he spieled some more. Eventually, the aircraft took off and flew to… Manhattan? That really made no sense. Was it really necessary to take a plane from Nassau County to New York City? Whatever happened to the old helicopter? I mean, I know it’s very hoi polloi, but are you not above sensibility?
Anyhoo, we then watched the new opening credits, which was followed by more hasty introductions to the cast. You know how this goes. Bragging, bragging, stepping off a subway, bragging, bragging, hailing a cab, bragging, bragging, hey — that guy has a British accent, more bragging, and yup, just a tad more bragging on top of that. Well, once everyone was done listing all their accolades and accomplishments, they then filed into Trump’s private plane. Wait a second! I thought he was in the air, flying to New York! Methinks this plane never took off in the first place! I smell a conspiracy.
Trump, meanwhile, was holed away in his cabin, talking on the phone. “Alright, I just landed,” he said. You didn’t just land. Your plane is at the exact same airport! Besides, we SAW you drive up to the plane. You think we forgot about that? Anyway, he continued, “I’m going to see the candidates. I’ll be in in about an hour.” And with that, Trump arbitrarily dropped the phone into a little box, as if that would cause it to magically hang up. I’m all for the fake scenes, but this was really too slapdash for me.
Anyway, The Donald emerged from his room and addressed his new supplicants. And what a bunch they were. About half of them looked like somebody else. For instance, there was Andy from season two. Oh wait, that was just Lee, his long lost brother. And hey! Look! Orlando Bloom’s on this season!! Oh… mistaken again. That was just a guy named Tarek.
Well, the whole gang stepped off the plane — or deplaned, as they say. “Deplane” is my favorite real word that sounds crazy made up. Clearly it was forced into the English language by the sheer will and determination of thousands of flight attendants. Seriously, when I get out of my car, I don’t “decar.” And I don’t “deboat” or “desubway” or “detrolley.” Sheesh. Anyway, with everyone lined up on the tarmac, Trump addressed the group once again.
“It’s very, very windy out here today,” he said, adding, “Being windy is a THIRTY BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY!!!” Okay, he didn’t say that, but I sure did imagine it. The Donald had all the candidates introduce themselves and speak about their credentials. This gave us yet another opportunity to gaze upon the various dopplegangers in the crowd. I was particularly amused by Stacy, who seemed to be a careful blend of Jules from I Want To Be A Hilton and Nakomis from Big Brother 5, with a touch of Project Runway’s Nina Garcia for good measure.
There was also Theresa who bore a striking resemblance to last season’s Felisha, but with some subtle Sandra Lee touches. But then we came back to Mr. Bloom, a.k.a. Tarek, who was now trumpeting his greatest accomplishment: “I’m also a member of MENSA, meaning I have an IQ in the top two percent of the world.” And apparently such membership grants Tarek access to an infinite supply of hair gel. I personally have never met anyone so proud to be in MENSA. For Tarek’s sake, I like to think that the producers insisted that he play that up because honestly, it just doesn’t carry the weight that it used to anymore. I mean, Geena Davis is in MENSA for crying out loud. My buddy took the test as a joke and got in. Let’s not get carried away here.
Anyway, Trump decided to make Tarek and a girl named Allie the project managers (Allie was cut from the wee mini-Apprentice mold that brought us such candidates as season 2′s Stacy and season 4′s Brian). As PMs, the two were tasked with picking their own teams, a process that eventually turned into the competition for who could make the most flowery, insincere compliments possible. “The handsome man in the orange tie.” “The lovely lady in the brown.” “The gentleman with the wonderful British accent.” “The beautiful girl in the brown.” I half expected Tarek and Allie to go really wild. “I’ll take the ruggedly handsome gentleman whose baby blue eyes seem to breathe compassion while his determinedly clenched lips speak to a certain intensity, a warrior in the making perhaps — a business man, a fighter, an artist, a lover.” And “lover” would, of course, be pronounced “love-ah.”
With the teams picked, Trump detailed the season’s first task: use a Goodyear blimp to drive business towards Sam’s Club. The team that sold more Sam’s Club memberships would win. Ah yes. A delicate mixture of corporate product placement and silly airborne transportation. As her team rode in a van to their destination, Allie expressed some of that naive optimism that fuels so many early project managers. She praised her group, saying that she had the nine most talented people on her squad. Yeah, well, that changed about two seconds later when the hefty and shiny Brent suggested a team name of “The Killer Instinct Corporation.” Um. No. But I suppose it was better than his second suggestion, “The really, really good team that’ll win a lot and stuff.”
Okay, I made that last one up, but I wouldn’t put it past Brent to sneak such a title in. The team instead opted for the more palatable yet generic name of “Synergy.” Sounds good. Meanwhile, over in Tarek’s van, the greasy-haired (yet ever so pretty) project manager once again pulled the MENSA card on us. “Being in MENSA, the one thing that it allows me to do is think on my feet very quickly,” he said. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s not a quality that goes hand in hand with MENSA membership, but that’s okay. We’ll forgive you as long as you don’t make a sequel to Kingdom of Heaven. Shit, got him mixed up with Orlando again.
Anyway, Tarek pushed for the name “Gold Rush Corporation,” which wasn’t the best, but hey at least it wasn’t– hold on a second. Pausing to look away from the screen. I could have sworn that I just saw Medusa. Turns out it was just Summer, a restauranteur who housed a nest of ungainly curls on top of her head. Luckily, they were not snakes, but actual hair, so I was saved from a certain stone-like existence. Phew.
Back at Synergy, the team was now brainstorming at Sam’s club. Killer Instinct Brent was trying to come up with some in-store promotion ideas, but sadly, his concepts (karaoke, makeovers) were mostly duds — shocking, I know. Amusingly, Allie didn’t want to actually put down her teammate; so instead she cranked up the euphemism machine and said, “Brent has some professional idiosyncrasies… I appreciate his energy. He’s full of it. Full of energy, that is.” Translation: he’s a total idiot who can’t stop talking.
Eventually, Brent did stumble onto a good idea: massages. He excitably pushed the concept onto Allie, who replied, “That’s a great idea, Tammy.” Either “Tammy” was Allie’s pet name for Brent (unlikely) or the PM just completely gave someone else credit for Brent’s hard work. Sorry, dude. Unless you can learn to look like Orlando Bloom, you won’t be receiving any respect on this season.
Over at Gold Rush, Tarek put Summer in charge of calling restaurants. It was an effort to get business people over to Sam’s Club, and since Summer had plenty of experience in the restaurant field, it seemed like a perfect match, right? Eh, not so much. Summer called one person, and that was it. You see, Tarek hadn’t quite created the in-store event or promotion, so Summer became all preoccupied that she wouldn’t have any angle to work these restaurant people with. Let’s just say that thinking outside of the curls wasn’t not really her forté.
We headed to commercial, and when we returned, it was time for our big business lesson of the week: Change The Team. Trump told us how if there was one person dragging down the group, just get rid of him or her. “Pull that person before they fail,” he concluded. Huh, I wonder which of the teams will be successful in marginalizing a weak link. Cut to Synergy’s Brent being shoved into the Goodyear blimp. Yes, he was literally removed from the task, placed hundreds of feet in the air. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t mess things up. If he tried, he would DIE. “It’s a waste of my talents!” he protested. There, there, Brent. Just enjoy the ride and try not to cause a Hindenberg disaster while you’re up there. Now that’s what I call a successful execution of Trump’s lesson. I suppose this meant Synergy would win.
Sure enough, all signs pointed to yes. The team sold hard as they pleasantly but assertively pressured shoppers into memberships. They were so good that some woman agreed to leave her baby under Michael’s watch. Always a smart move. Leave a kid with a total stranger. Yay reality show lessons! Perhaps Synergey’s biggest asset was Sean, whose British accent kept all the ladies swooning. That’ll always help. Well, that and a solid cookie display — one which George happily snacked from. It wouldn’t be an event without George stuffing a cookie into his mouth.
As for Gold Rush, they seemed to be doing a pretty good job as well. Lenny wound up in the blimp, mostly because he lived in the neighborhood and could put his geographical knowledge to use up in the air. He was joined by Summer who, well, I think she just wanted to chill. Down in Sam’s Club, the team gave out complimentary tote bags or duffel bags or gift bags (it changed depending on who was talking). Unfortunately, Gold Rush was giving these out to anyone who entered rather than using them as an incentive for people to sign up for memberships. Carolyn, of course, was all quiet judgment as she said, “The gift bag is physically a bag.” Somebody wanted some shwag! Well, I suppose that wouldn’t be unreasonable. Most gift bags do usually have, you know, gifts inside.
Lee, meanwhile, wandered around in a full suit and tie. It was supposed to offset the other members of the team in their Sam’s Club outfits. He was supposed to look professional — a business consultant, if you will. A multi-pronged attack! It’s fool proof! “We were going to win this competition,” Theresa proudly announced. Uh oh. Those are bad words to say. Sounds like she just sealed her team’s loss.
After the task was over, the teams then convened in the Boardroom where Trump questioned them. Both Project Mangers were confident in their success, with Tarek being particularly cocksure about winning. As for Summer? Not riding as high. “There are things that I would have changed,” she said. Dangerous move. That sort of stinkin’ thinkin’ got Tammy fired back in the first season.
Anyway, the results were in. Gold Rush sold 40 memberships. Synergy, 43. Sorry, Tarek. Close but no cigar. Might want to apply an extra dose of mousse to comfort yourself. Either that, or you can talk trash about people. Yeah, do that instead. Sure enough, back at the suite (which was all stainless steel, as opposed to last season’s Chinese Restaurant look), Gold Rush all huddled together and complained about Summer’s abysmal performance. It was all fun and mud slinging until Lee expressed discomfort at talking so much shit about Summer behind her back. In fact, he even went so far as to suggest that Tarek might be to blame. This could only lead to bad things in the Boardroom.
The next day, Trump took Synergy out to lunch at the Wharton Club where he got to try out some of his new standup material: “In business, lunches are very pleasurable and very not so pleasurable. That’s the way it works. That’s business. That’s life. So let’s make this a bad one. I’m only kidding.” And with that, everyone at the table broke out into peels of uproarious laughter. Yes, apparently in business, lunches can be pleasurable and not so pleasurable, but always perfect for kissing up.
The Donald then made some inspirational speech about all the troubles and horrors of the world, but I was personally distracted by Allie’s gargantuan salad bowl. Seriously, the thing was huge. Sadly, all happy luncheons must come to a close. We soon gazed upon the twilight in the great city of New York as dark, shadowy blimps floating above the landscape. So ominous! It felt like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow all over again!
In the suite, Summer was preparing some last minute defenses with fellow blimp-mate, Lenny. She explained that she was not to blame for the task failure because it was essentially Tarek’s poor leadership that handcuffed her. Lenny, meanwhile, said that he might wind up in the Boardroom because Tarek could accuse of him of contributing the least. But then Lenny reminded us, “I was riding blimp.” I don’t know why that sounded so funny. Maybe it was the Russian accent, maybe it was the word “blimp,” but I’ve been muttering “I was riding blimp” for the past hour. Next time I find myself in a tricky situation, I’ll just say it. “Hey B-Side. Where are your There and Back recaps?” Me: (shrugging) “I was riding blimp!”
Elsewhere in the suite, Tarek and Lee were having a heart-to-heart. The ever charming Project Manager stated that he needed Lee’s help in the Boardroom, but the recent Cornell grad had reservations. “If you bring up to Trump that you would have changed or done differently, you are immediately gonna set yourself up as a target,” Tarek threatened. Turns out the pretty boy was a bully. Who would have thunk it? Nothing like watching a slick rick freak out under pressure.
Finally, it was time for the season’s first Boardroom — and man, it was a fun one. Tarek started off by saying that Summer and Lenny didn’t step up on the tasks they were assigned. I can understand Summer (she did, after all, only call one person), but Lenny? His task was to use guide the blimp around his neighborhood. Of course he stepped up! He was riding blimp!!
Well, Lenny defended his contributions in the blimp, but Trump had an ever so tactful way to sum it all up: “You know what they did when they put you in the blimp? They sent you to SIBERIA!” And yes, I’m sure Lenny really appreciated that shout-out to Communist prison camp policies.
As for Lee, he didn’t support Tarek at all. Instead, he went right for the jugular, saying the team lost due to a “severe lack of mismanagement.” Well, I’m sure he meant a “severe glut of mismanagement.” A lack of mismanagement is a good thing. Looks like somebody’s not getting into MENSA this year (Coy laugh, fingers covering mouth).
Theresa, however, piped up to Tarek’s defense, saying that he excelled at earning the team’s respect. Well, not according to The Donald: “He didn’t get the respect of Lee. He didn’t get the respect of The Russian. Did he get the respect of The Russian? I don’t think so.” Wow, I really hope Trump continues to simply call people by their ethnic labels. That would be awesome. “The black girl and the Russian are really butting heads, don’t you agree, Mexican?”
Eventually, the focus inevitably moved from Tarek and The Russian — I mean, Lenny — to Summer, who suddenly had to defend her professional background. She noted that she had her own restaurant, and “it runs like a ship.” Paging the mixed metaphors department. I mean, I’ve heard of running a tight ship, and I’ve heard of running like clockwork, but running like a ship — not sure if that really works. Does that mean that her restaurant has rats in the basement? If I eat dinner there, will I get scurvy? Has her restaurant ever struck an iceberg? I could go on and on.
Anyway, Carolyn quickly swooped down like the bird of prey that she is and asked, “How many people did you call? How many people did you call?” Uh oh. Carolyn was not happy. Never want to be on her bad side. Summer stumbled through an explanation for her solo phone call, and then it was time for Tarek to take two or three people back with him. He selected Summer, Lenny, and surprisingly, Lee. Why Lee? He had been fine? Oh, that’s right. Pretty boy Tarek now had an axe to grind. I had to say, as smarmy and duplicitous as Tarek seemed, I didn’t want him to get fired, only because he looks like he might shape up to be a Grade A asshole villain. I love how his confident, attractive, friendly exterior masks a cocky, bitter, and angry person (or so the editing would suggest).
Well, upon returning to the room, we discovered that Tarek and Lee were now on the verge of a male catfight. “Do you think I’m unintelligent?” Tarek asked.
“Yeah, I think you’re unintelligent,” Lee replied. I was fairly surprised Tarek didn’t counter with “I’m sure MENSA would beg to differ. MENSA zing!”
After a little more of this Lee/Tarek sniping, Trump then questioned why the troubled PM brought Lenny back in the room. He was in blimp!! Tarek babbled about Lenny being lame and ineffective, but this just caused The Donald to ask one of his favorite questions: “Tarek, didn’t this thing fail because of you?” Oh, he loves doing that. Putting them on the spot, making them squirm. Well, Tarek smugly responded, “I blame them for their effort!” Didn’t really make sense, but luckily for him, Carolyn dragged Summer out from under the table where she’d been hiding and shone the interrogation lamp on her.
“Summer, I have a question for you,” Carolyn started. Memo to Summer: RUN FOR COVER! SHE’S GONNA GET YOU!!
“What did you contribute to this team?” C-Dawg asked.
Summer’s response: huminah huminah huminah. Eventually, she pieced together an enjoyable lame answer, saying, “What I contributed to this team were not things that everyone could see.” Oh, so THAT’S it! Yeah, she really helped out the zen and feng shui. Big difference, Carolyn. Shame on you for asking.
Of course, everyone saw right through this bullshit, which caused Carolyn to repeat herself, each time more cutting then the next: “What did you contribute to this team? What did you contribute to this team? This is the third time I’ve asked.” So what did Summer contribute? Um… curly hair and a smile? Is that enough?
Just when Summer looked like she’d be done for, however, the pendulum swung back into Tarek’s court as George yelled, “Why didn’t you step up and give something away? Don’t you know customers like a freebie??” He then added, “Back in my day, we always gave away free things at the soda jerk. I once gave Sally May Hancock a free banana split sundae. That was worth a nickel back then!”
Well, George Ross had his facts all wrong in this case. Tarek DID give away freebies. “We had gift bags,” he replied.
“What was in the gift bags?” George then asked.
“There was nothing in the giftbags,” Tarek said.
“Good. So you gave a gift bag with nothing in it,” George snapped, causing everyone to laugh.
“It was a complimentary giveaway,” Tarek said, his facade showing weakness. “I don’t think that was a bad decision.”
“What? Giving away nothing?” Trump then replied, offering up his own little Boardroom zing. Trust me, it was way funnier than how I made it sound. To Tarek’s credit, he wasn’t as completely inept as all this made him seem. He actually did seem to be a good leader, per se, just not a strong “idea” man. And furthermore, he should have stopped calling the tote/duffel bags “gift bags,” considering that’s not what they were at all. Still, it was worth it for the Trump dis.
Well, after this whole gift bag disaster, Trump was ready to really lay into Tarek, but Summer suddenly interrupted, probably to say similar things as to what I just explained.
“Why should you interrupt me when I’m knocking him down?” an annoyed Trump asked her.
“Because I’m being truthful, and I’ll always be truthful,” she responded.
“How stupid is that, right?” Trump replied. Yeah, what value is there in being truthful? The Russian would never do that. Right, Russian?
At this point, Trump was really mad at Summer. I mean, pissed off. “You did a lousy job,” he said, “And here I am, I’m getting ready practically to fire this guy, and you keep interrupting me!” Well, you knew how this was gonna wind up. Boom. Summer — fired. Gotta love it when people just don’t know when to shut the hell up (Erin from season 3, anybody?).
Well, as the group shuffled out of the Boardroom, the agitated Donald suddenly boomed, “You didn’t make it by much. I want to tell you that, Tarek. She saved your ass with her own stupidity. She saved your ass.”
“Not for long,” Lenny added. Ouch! Score one for The Russian! Everyone’s getting in on the action tonight!
And so Summer went down to the street while the other three headed up to the suite. Gold Rush would surely be a team divided now. Lee and Lenny were sure to be on the outs of the popular Tarek clique. I mean, this was the equivalent of the nerd sending the bully to the principal’s office. There will be playground repercussions, and I cannot wait
As for Trump, he still had some strong feelings about the whole situation. “I’ll tell you what,” he told his cronies. “Tarek is TOTALLY overrated!” Like OMG! TOTALLY! He is soooo dunzo!
The show finally came to a close with a delightful treat. No, not a shaky-lipped Summer babbling about the experience. I’m talking about Trump encouraging people to apply for the Los Angeles season of The Apprentice. The whole promo was like Trump doing an impression of Darrell Hammond doing an impression of Trump. Totally surreal, yet totally awesome. Here’s to a strong season premiere.
What did you think? Should Tarek have been fired? Who seems to have early promise? Should Randal have denied Rebecca?
Also, check out Tarek’s very amusing website, tsaab.com. His last name is Saab, FYI. And be sure not to confuse his site with tareksaab.com, which I think might be a front to some Lebanese escort service.