Crustacean Nation?? If you’re a little confused by that statement, let me clarify a little bit. NBC bowed season two of The Apprentice tonight, and man was it finger lickin’ good. Donald and George and Carolyn and that random receptionist were all back for another round with some overly ambitious job applicants, most of which should be too smart to besmirch their impressive resumes on reality TV. It had been a while since we’d been in that wonderfully fake board room, and man did it feel good to be back. The Apprentice 2 remains just as strong as it did the first time around, if only because it introduced us to the ill-fated line of toys known as, you guessed it, Crustacean Nation.The episode started off with the obligatory meeting of the candidates and then a brief explanation of the rules by The Donald himself. There are a few new twists this season. First, the project manager of a winning team has immunity in the board room should his or her team fail the very next week. I don’t really see the benefit or need for that twist, but it doesn’t bother me so whatever. The second major move was that the teams were divided by gender again, but now each side had to surrender a member permanently to the opposition. Furthermore, this person would lead for the first week. This meant that Bradford became the King of Queens while Pamela took over on the guys’ side. It was the perfect sort of twist – it shook up the dynamics without compromising the game in the least.
The first task was for each team to name itself. The guys blurted out a few ideas with Raj, the annoying Sam wannabe, insisting heavily on the insurance company-esque moniker, Empire. In the end though, the team opted for the kinder, gentler name, “Mosaic”. I personally liked the name, but it was quickly made the object of derision by all the women. Okay, maybe the it wasn’t the most dynamic name, but it’s not like these guys called themselves “The Rainbow Tampons of Corporate Glory”.
Meanwhile, Bradford attempted to get a word in edgewise as his team powwowed over its name. Maria, who apparently had dunked her hair in a vat of crude oil, read down such a large list of adjectives and nouns that I was convinced this group had spent the past hour playing Boggle instead of doing any actual work. Ultimately, the ladies opted for Apex, a lovely name… for a technical school. Other close contenders were Team ITT and the Chubb Group.
The next day, the teams made their way over to the gargantuan Toys ‘R’ Us in Times Square where they learned their first mission: design a toy. Oh wow. That’s awesome. Seriously, that’s one of the best reality challenges ever. Of course the guys would all hone their inner child to create the perfect toy, right? Um, well, no. Team Mosaic held a frantic brainstorming session that kicked off with John suggesting some sort of backpack super soaker contraption that at first seemed silly but then looked genius after what was suggested next.
Someone threw out the idea of a magnetic aquarium or something like that. It was a scintillating idea to reach that all important quiet loner population. Building off the aquarium idea was Andy, the recent Harvard grad, who insisted that crustaceans are awesome and the toy should revolve around that central concept. As we at home were in mid laugh, we soon came to realize that he was not only serious, but he had sold the team on it. Next thing we knew, Andy was showing off weird drawings of figurines that boasted lobster torsos and interchangeable parts such as fins and claws. The grand slam name for this oddball toy? Crustacean Nation.
First of all, kids refer to their mollusks and crustaceans and other piscine creatures as either fish or shellfish. Crustacean Nation is already too high level. Secondly, did these guys even bother to think about what they played with as children? Apparently not because the whole group honed in on this unfortunate idea without even coming up with a few decent alternatives that might appeal to, you know, kids. Throughout the chaos, salesman Rob was decidedly mute. He eventually realized he had to contribute, so he pitched his own addition to the Crustacean Nation line of action figures: an electro static eel that could crawl out of water and grow legs – and those legs could be interchanged with other Crustacean Nation appendages! The guys all shot him down and rightfully so. Still, they did it with an air of authority by saying adding legs to an eel just doesn’t seem to work. Yeah, because a lobster torso with interchangeable claws is so much more believable.
We finally left the mess of Mosaic and dropped in on Apex, which was conducting a far more productive meeting, at first. Everyone went around in an orderly circle and threw out their ideas. I could just imagine Mosaic listening in: “Sharing ideas? Discussing what appeals to children? What is this strange ritual? It’s almost as if these brains are storming! I shall call this process, brainshower!!!”
Anyway, the girls’ ideas were not so wonderful at first. They pretty much revolved around dumb notions like an Easy Bake oven for boys. Eventually though they started thinking about what would actually appeal to demographic and came up with a damn good idea initially called “The Ulitimate Car”, which would be a remote controlled car that could be fully customizable with parts from other vehicles like tanks and sports cars, etc. I don’t know if anyone else had this reaction, but I found myself going “Gimme! Gimme!” With the team on a roll, project manager Bradford enthusiastically suggested a bizarre little toy that would essentially be a remote controlled car base with a small football player on top, and if I’m not mistaken, the football player would catch balls or something. It was the perfect combo of cars and sports! ……… cricket cricket……
Bradford’s idea wasn’t nearly as idiotic as the Crustacean Nation fiasco over with Team Mosaic, but it was up there. The girls all shot him down, but as project manager, he made an official decision and that was it. Around this time, we all started to feel badly for the kids who would potentially have two crappy new gifts under the Christmas tree. Luckily, the Mattel people scoffed at Bradford’s bizarre idea and the Ultimate Car won. A few hours later, a prototype was built and Apex brought it to a children focus group to test it out. Of course, it was a huge hit.
Faring poorly in the focus group though was Pamela’s team, which saw it’s hopes go down the tubes as the kids stared at the Crustacean Nation in confusion. Only a shade less annoying than the Patriot Nation, the Crustacean Nation was a huge bomb as the toys kept falling apart. Pamela, however, seemed to care less about the toys and more about bashing the kiddies. From behind the two-way mirror, she literally made fun of a kid’s hairstyle, calling it “Dumb and dumber.” Carolyn was not happy. You know, nothing says class like making fun of a little boy on national television. Christopher, aka the show’s resident Josh Charles, just shook his head in disbelief.
Later, while waiting for the challenge results, Stacie J. full on went nutty on her team. I mean, it wasn’t a crazy Omarosa showdown, but it was kind of like a “Where the hell did she find cocaine to snort?” moment. All the girls seemed confused, especially that cute twelve year old in the corner. Oh wait, that’s Stacy R.. Did anyone else notice that? She looks like she’s ready to enroll in gymnastics camp, not The Apprentice. Nevertheless, as Stacie J babbled to the team about who knows what, bridal store owner Sandy shrilly told the camera that she has to be the next one voted off. I half expected her to add “or else I’ll tell mother.”
Ultimately, the good people at Mattel gave the prize to Apex, which meant child-hater Pamela and her team of men had to go to the board room. Andy claimed that he would tear everyone to shreds because he was a nationally ranked debater. This of course led to a round of gleeful “Andy’s a master debater” jokes across America.
In the board room, Pamela put on her best Hope Davis face and Candace Bergin voice, but she still sounded sort of obnoxious when Carolyn called her out about the child-bashing comments. After this rough start though, Pamela answered all questions directed at her expertly, and I have to admit, gritty exterior aside, she seemed pretty capable. Rob, on the other hand, was a mess. When teammates accused him of not stepping up to the plate, he frantically argued that he was never asked to step up. Yes, spoken like a true leader. In Rob’s defense, he did have that awesome eel idea. I know that’s what I always wanted to play with when I was a kid: a big, plastic eel.
Well, Rob’s lack of participation and his scowling Yosemite Sam demeanor in the boardroom sent him down to the street while Pamela and Andy returned up to the suite. Donald and his crew did their usual “That was tough” accolade to themselves, while in one last odd image, Rob strode to his taxi wearing a sketchy tan trench coat. It made me wonder if he was planning to go flash people in the park afterwards. Hey, I’m sure it’s a good way to relieve tension.
Next week promises a Make Your Own Ice Cream competition which should have me either salivating or cringing. Plus, NBC is boasting that we’ll be talking about the next board room, “guaranteed.” Well don’t you worry. We’ll be talking about it right here on TVgasm.