Wow. I don’t know where to begin. If you didn’t catch last night’s Apprentice, I’m sorry to say that you missed out on quite the treat. If it’s sitting on your Tivo still waiting to be viewed, then stop reading, and watch it. This was one for the record books — although, unfortunately, due to the nature of my new job, the big ending was spoiled for me; so it didn’t have the same impact that it probably would have had I been “fresh.” That’s okay though. I could still enjoy the craziness of this episode — from the petty squabbling to the epic downfall of hubris. Plus, with all the zaniness going down, we almost forgot the best part of all: Carolyn took charge! Sort of…We knew tonight’s episode would be bad news for someone when the first thing we saw was a rainy puddle. Oooh! Ominous. But then things got even worse when we saw… a rainy bench! And then a rainy gutter! And then a rainy street light!!! It’s pure doom, I tell you!!
In the suite, Felisha was damn near close to losing it. “If Kristi doesn’t walk through that door, I’ll be devastated,” she said nervously. Well, guess what Felish? You might be feeling a little devastated because as we all remember from last week, Kristi was unceremoniously axed, leaving only the faint echo of her twang to resonate in our memories. As Jen returned from the Boardroom, everyone seemed happy by and large, but I feared Felisha might have a “spell” and faint on the carefully selected oriental furniture. Amazingly, she pulled herself together (Kristi would have wanted it that way), and then Jen addressed her team. “Clean slate. This next task, we’re gonna come together.” Yeah, sure, whatever. Another clean slate — why the hell not. We’ll just keep cleaning it until the damn thing falls apart.
Meanwhile, Alla announced that she’d be Project Manager, and since she and Marshawn seem like the most capable women (along with Rebecca), I had faith that she’d be able to kick her team’s asses into gear. “We need to function as one cohesive unit, and I’m gonna make it happen,” she promised. Sweet. Just don’t tell them how you used to be a stripper. Could be a real distraction.
The next morning, Rhona made her usual phone call, and this time, it was Clay who answered the weird banana phone. And yes, it did look quite suggestive to see him holding the phallic device. Anyway, Rhona said that teams needed to pick their Project Managers and then meet in the boardroom, causing Clay to say, “In the boardroom. Interesting.” Hey, don’t be passive aggressive to Rhona! She’s just doing her job, jerk.
Suggestive image of the night.
Well, after everyone got dressed and spiffed up, the teams headed downstairs and dammit, no George. Second week in a row with Bill. And uh oh, where’s Donald? Had I not been eagerly studying tonight’s previews for the past seven days straight, I might have been alarmed. But I knew this was the Carolyn episode, and so it was no surprise to hear her chirp, “I’m in charge today!” Excellent. She then barked, “First order of business: GET ME A COMB!” Actually, seeing that she was sitting in The Donald’s chair, it was only appropriate that Carolyn’s hair be as messy and tussled as possible.
Anyway, it was time for a corporate reshuffling. Carolyn told Alla to drop the three most worthless people to Excel, which meant that Jennifer (okay, that makes sense), Rebecca (huh? Oh yeah, Toral lover), and Marshawn (What? She’s like the best) all headed over to Capital Edge. And in return, Project Manager Josh sent back Clay (of course), Markus (duh), and Adam (sure, why not). So basically, Alla’s team was full of lame, annnoying types (except Randal), and Josh’s team had all the power hitters. Yay lopsidedness! See you in the Boardroom, Alla. Right?
With the teams all switched up, it was now time to get to business. “America loves sports,” said Carolyn. “It’s no wonder that the sporting goods industry takes in well over twenty billion dollars a year.” Okay, time for a little honesty here, and yes, sometimes honesty hurts. I love ya, Carolyn, but this is really Trump’s territory. If you’re going to throw around the “B” word, you’ve got to sell it. You know, say it big: TWENTY BILLION DOLLARS! Nevertheless, the big task was to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods and create an “interactive sales event” based on the sport of their choosing. The team that generates the biggest percentage increase in revenue wins.
Now, the instinct is to say sports + excel = money in the bank. But then again, let’s not forget the Car Theory. Note: I’m making up this theory right now; so if you don’t remember it, that’s okay. The Car Theory is that every time teams have to design some sort of promotional campaign for a new car, the guys always screw it up because they always think it’s right up their alley. Okay, the Car Theory is a bit broad and clunky. Point is — hubris is a very dangerous attribute.
Speaking of hubris, or lack thereof, Capital Edge was forthright in their complete lack of knowledge of sports. But at least they had a sense for the market, and Markus pushed the idea of golf because he knew that people were fanatic about the sport. Still, it was going to be a risky venture for the team, and Alla knew it: “We’re gonna wing it, and it’s gonna come down to our ability to sell.” Hmmm. Let me guess: the other team is going to boast about all their sports knowledge and how this task is right up their alley. (Did somebody say Car Theory?)
Before we could check in on Excel, however, there was still fun to be had on Capital Edge. Upon arriving at the Dick’s Sporting Goods store, Clay began plotting out his visions for the golf expo. For a moment, it seemed like he was going to take over the task, but I should never have underestimated the pushy Russian stereotype. This was Alla’s task, and she was gonna let Clay babble but not have the final word. And yes, this was a disaster waiting to happen. By the way, was I the only one who was giggling like a middle schooler when Clay said that the customers “can actually touch a couple of putters, some drivers, some woods.” Ew! Clay wants to people to touch his wood! Gross!
Meanwhile, over at Excel, gimpy Rebecca was psyched to be working with “intelligent” people. She LOVES honing her inner-Toral (aww, I miss that rascal). Anyway, the team brainstormed ideas for the event, and James pushed the idea of baseball strong. Sounds like a winner. It’s the American pastime. Plus, unlike Capital Edge, this team actually had a coherent plan as to how they wanted to sell their stuff. They were going to create a baseball diamond, and at each base, sell various items. I had to admit, it looked pretty high concept. I was fairly sure Excel would be the victors… that is, until James declared, “It’s no doubt. It’s a sure thing. It’s a home run with this task.” Okay, they’ve already lost it. Let’s just go to the Boardroom now.
Later, after a long day of planning and setting up, the team took a van back to the suite. I’m not sure if she was drunk or not, but Jen was slurring her words, and when she boasted, “I could sell radar guns all day,” I wasn’t sure if that was some sort of bizarre innuendo for something. But no, she really meant it. Apparently, the radar guns were the most expensive items, and Jen was going to hit a grand slam (pause for laughter) on their sales. “I love the radar gun!” she insisted, adding (seriously), “Is that what it’s called?” Ironically, it’s called a “Zathura gun.”
When we returned from the commercial break, Trump had another one of his handy lessons all ready for us: “Take it to the limit!” Challenge your teammates, he urged us, and this was illustrated by him overseeing some blueprints and blaring, “Let me see it!” To the limit!! Okay, whatever, let’s move on.
So it was finally the big day. Josh and his team arrived at their Dick’s store and found the baseball diamond all set up and looking pretty damn sweet. This was really going to test my Car Theory. I mean, these guys would have to majorly screw up to lose this task. Well, it only took about two more seconds to see the cracks in the veneer (and I don’t mean Mark’s. His teeth were still bright and beautiful). The final piece of the baseball puzzle was a much-hyped batting cage, something Josh described as the “centerpiece.” Do I smell a dud on the horizon? Or is that just me?
Sure enough, the batting cage came with its own set of difficulties. First of all, the thing was huge. Gigantic. Enormous. Not that it’s a surprise. After all, this was a batting cage (or net really). Unfortunately, the guys didn’t bother to measure it out ahead of time, and so the contraption took up the majority of the baseball diamond, causing the other store displays to be shoved off to the side, and in some cases, behind the “outfield” wall — a.k.a. the place where no one could see the products. Not such a great setup if the plan is to, you know, sell things.
Meanwhile, over at Capital Edge, the peppy “Things are doing great!” music piped up on the soundtrack, which meant we knew they’d be heading for a victory. The setup for the Family Golf Extravaganza was coming along nicely; although, Clay was acting up as usual. I like how when he was PM, he insisted that it was his way or the highway, but now he couldn’t afford that same respect to Alla. Nevertheless, he peppered every interaction with passive aggressiveness such as annoying little comments like, “Listen before you start screaming.” In an interview, Randal tried to be polite by saying, “Clay can be a difficult person to work with.” Oh, just say it. He’s a bitch. Luckily, Alla was there to put it all on the table. “Clay is not a man. He is an insecure, bitchy woman, times a thousand,” she said in an interview. Yup. That pretty much sums it up. Despite my fairly constant ribbing about Alla’s dubious past, I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed watching her work. But tonight, she went up several, several notches with the way she handled Clay. At one point, he started up with her about some stupid technicality, and with exasperation screaming from her body language, she simply looked at him and said, “Cut it.” It was so basic, so direct, and yet so perfect. It was like the anti-passive aggression (or PA, as I like to call it).
After the next commercial break, we returned to Excel who had a huge line waiting at the batting cages. But, um, was anyone buying anything? See, here’s a problem right off the bat (no pun intended). The event was designed around the baseball diamond, but the execution was centered on the batting cage. As a result, the traffic flow from the cage was completely untapped as everyone manned their stations in relatively remote areas of the event. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure Michael Moore walked in to buy a bat.
As for Jennifer, she wasn’t selling radar guns as much as she was peddling snacks. We saw her standing amongst the crowd, yelling out, “Pretzels! Hot dogs! Lemonade! Zenthura!” Okay, that last thing was made up, but nevertheless, Bill Rancic was observing, and he was not happy. Not happy at all. Good to see him return from the quiet funk he’d been in all season.
Over at Capital Edge, the golf expo seemed to be doing great; although, it probably could have benefited from one of Jennifer W.’s cakes. “Qolf Expo” perhaps? Anyway, no one could have been happier than Felisha, who described her sales tactics to us in one of her interviews. I don’t remember exactly what she was saying, mainly because I was distracted by her Mickey Mouse-sized gloves. Carolyn, meanwhile, was a bit disheartened to see that no one on the team actually knew anything about golf — Alla gave a kid a wedge to use in miniature golf — but at least she was happy to see the sales effort out in full force. Heck, even Clay rose to the challenge to sell his little butt off. And of course Alla swooped in with the back-handed compliment. “Maybe this is one of the very, very few of Clay’s talents,” she said. Ouch.
Well, it was time to finally tally up the results. The teams filed into the Boardroom where The Donald, looking a bit tubby, was conferenced in from his golf course. “It’s really nice in Los Angeles. I’m at Trump National Golf Club checking things out,” he announced in an unnecessary but enjoyable plug for his future golf course. As much as I’d love to sit and make fun of this whole “conference call,” I just have to get to the results because they were just too awesome to be ignored. Carolyn read the Capital Edge numbers first and revealed that the team boosted sales by 74%. Wow. That’s damn impressive, or as Trump said, “74%. That’s ‘uge!”
Is this a Cingular commercial?
Then it was time to see how Team Hubris, I mean, Excel did. We all knew they’d lose because their failure was telegraphed through the typical Mark Burnett motifs. But the question was “By how much?” Well, Bill Rancic began by describing the baseball event and making it sound like the best thing ever: the batting cage, the long lines, the fun times. Uh oh. He’s pumping them up with excitement. The higher they go, the farther they fall, and based on this misdirection, this was gonna be a doozy. Honestly, the thought began to cross my mind that maybe they even lost money. Sure enough, Bill’s speech changed tones and quickly went negative. My last minute gut reaction was right. Excel did go negative with its sales percentage. But not by 2%. Or 5%. Or 10%. Or even 20%. No, they managed to lower sales by 34%. DAMN. “That’s embarrassing,” said a disgusted Trump before suddenly growling, “ALLA!” It kind of sounded like he was clearing out his throat. Anyway, he asked if Alla should be exempt from firing, and of course, everyone said yes. Trump then revealed that the reward would be going out to Montauk, doing some deep-sea fishing, and then enjoying a lobster bake on the beach. And yes, I was instantly jealous.
Well, Capital Edge flew out to Eastern Long Island and boarded a boat where they were warned about the dangers of sea sickness. In an interview, Randal confessed, “I don’t like fishing. I don’t know how to fish. I hate fishing!” You would complain, SQUIDWARD!
Taking particular joy in the reward was Clay, who reveled in the sweet revenge his team’s victory afforded him. “Josh, in your face!” Clay mocked. And isn’t that what reality TV is all about? Watching spiteful people play out our vicarious revenge fantasies?
Later, at the coldest lobster bake EVER, the team dined on an awesome-looking raw bar and fresh lobsters, but the meal wouldn’t be complete without some Markus tomfoolery. The bumbling guy tried to pop open a champagne bottle with a nifty knife trick, but well, this was Markus, let’s not forget. Not the master of being smooth. Luckily, after several attempts, he got the damn thing open, but in an interview, Alla once again went in for the kill with dubious compliment: “He’s just a nice guy with very, very little ability to perform.” I’d hate to get a birthday card from this woman: “Dear B-Side: I hope you have a wonderful birthday. You deserve a happy day since your ineffectual people skills most likely bring you nothing but sadness the rest of the year. Love, Alla!”
Back at Trump Tower, Josh and Mark chatted it up to discuss some pre-Boardroom strategy. Josh wanted Jen fired for her lame sales abilities. Mark wanted James fired for his dumb batting cage idea. I personally wanted Josh gone for his cocky, smug attitude. It was fairly amusing however to watch him seethe, “I can’t believe they won. THEM.” Well, that attitude right there is what made you lose and let them win. Jerk. For the record, despite all of Josh’s haughty good-ole-boy attitude, it should be noted his success has hinged on a concept called “Smile Beauty.” Worst WASP tagline EVER!
Well, enough stalling. Let’s just get to the Boardroom. We knew it would be good because a) the abysmal Excel performance would undoubtedly lead to finger-pointing and an angry Trump, and b) it was another tuxedo night. Yes, a tuxedo Boardrooms are always the best, and how fortunate that this latest one would fall on the biggest defeat in Apprentice history.
Before we began, Trump explained his fancy getup. “I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art tonight for dinner,” he said. Oooh! I bet Melania can’t wait! She’s probably so excited she actually said three words. Anyway, Trump quickly began skewering Excel, and after buttering James up by saying how much the Mets liked him, he then attacked with one of his trademark loaded questions: “Don’t you think that [the batting cage] was sort of a bad idea?” Translation: just how big of an idiot are you?
Bill Rancic, meanwhile, suddenly came alive this week and attacked Mark about his role in the event. Basically, Mark had spent the entire afternoon loading up a ball-throwing machine. Not necessarily the most productive use of his talents. Making Bill even angrier though was Jen who had failed to sell a single radar gun, despite her professed love of them. Oh Zathura. Jen tried to defend herself by saying that the event’s scheme had changed, thus rendering her ineffective, but Marshawn suddenly piped up with “I’m not a salesperson, and I sold more product than you did, Jennifer.” Ka-BOOM! Every week, Marshawn slays someone. She could make it to the final four (great, I’ve probably jinxed her now). Nevertheless, Jen continued to fight, saying, “I sold a handful of bats. I sold several gloves.” Wow, compelling evidence! For the record, how many bats are in a “handful of bats?” Three? Four?
Anyway, because of the nature of the loss (worst ever, as we were reminded again), Trump pulled a Martha Stewart and deprived the Project Manager the right to pick who’d return to the Boardroom. Instead, he sent Marshawn, Brian (who managed to be silent the entire time), and Rebecca back up to the suite, and made the remaining four characters (Josh, Jen, James, and Mark) hang around for another round of pummeling. When the gang returned to the Boardroom, poor James had become certifiably nervous. A shiny layer of sweat had appeared on his forehead. As long as he didn’t turn into a full waterworks, like Kevin in season two, he’d be fine.
Shiny, unhappy, people.
Well, with the group pared down to four, we knew things would go nuts, and sure enough, a desperate Jennifer began fighting for her life. Like last week, she looked like she might break down into tears at any time, but somehow she managed to keep it together. She said fire Josh, Josh said fire her. James, meanwhile, also said Josh should be ousted while Mark pushed for Jen’s firing. But again, it was Jen on the defensive the most. “I DID SELL!” she nearly screamed as everyone questioned her abilities. Josh mocked her by sarcastically saying, “Ooh, six or seven bats!” Hey, what did you sell, jerk? SMILE BEAUTY??
“Oh. Oh. Oh.”
Jen then personally appealed to Trump by stating, “You should not fire me. That would be a mistake!” But Josh talked over her by constantly repeating, “You failed. Period. Period.”
“Josh, you failed too,” interjected Carolyn, completely throwing him off his game. Was the momentum shifting back to him? Would Jennifer be safe? Uh, yes and no. Trump finally shushed everyone and expressed his complete dissatisfaction with everyone. He blamed Josh for poor organizational skills, Jen for poor sales abilities, Mark for poor productivity, and James for a poor idea. But who would be going home?? EVERYONE.
“You’re all fired. All four are fired,” Trump said. Even though I knew this would happen, I had to admit. It was awesome.
“Go home. Go home,” Trump said to the stunned candidates. Silently, they shuffled out, but Mark then addressed The Donald. “Sorry, we disappointed you. I’m better than that,” he said, choking up at the end. Aww, Mark. Trump said that they all were better than that, and as the quartet crammed into the elevator, we returned to the Boardroom as Bill and Carolyn gave their usual supportive comments. Trump then stared pensively and said, “Life continues.” It was the perfect understated yet dramatic capper to this insane episode. Try as you may, Martha (or Carolyn for that matter), but there’s only one Trump.
As for the ride home? All four candidates suffered the indignity of piling into a single cab together. And then they sat there. And stared. And tried not to make eye contact.
What did you think? How did this rank in the Apprentice canon?