2005-03-30

Apprentice Update: Magna Rolling


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Team Magna has dominated, sometimes despite themselves, in the two tasks since Trump mixed up the teams. At the time it seemed that Magna was getting the better end of the deal by ridding itself of Erin and Stephanie's dead weight, and picking up Tana and Craig, the two Net Worth members who seemed least infected by that team's growing disfunction.

The two subsequent tasks have revealed that re-shuffling to be the reality show equivalent of the Cowboys / Vikings Hershel Walker trade (for the non-sport fans out there, that was a massively one-sided trade that handicapped the Vikes for years, while quickly positioning the Cowboys for a series of Super Bowl runs) as their two pickups were the keys to their two wins.

This past week, Craig logged the best PM performance so far in this 3rd edition of the Apprentice. The teams were tasked with putting on a Do-it-Yourself Workshop at a Home Depot store. With Magna unable to reach a consensus on which project to undertake, Craig stepped in and made the decision - a storage trunk. He remained strong through the ensuing flurry of ridicule and distancing from his own team members.

Meanwhile at Net Worth, Erin openly embraced her cluelessness in regards to Home Depot as an excuse to check out of this task almost completely. She did circulate around the Home Depot trying to drum up interest in her team's workshop - something to the effect of, "Us girls think it is really hot when a guy can do projects like this." We learned that Home Depot may be the one place where sex is negligible as a sales tool.

Net Worth selected a reasonable project, a mobile kitchen island. Problem was, none of the team was exceedingly gifted in "handyperson" projects to begin with. They didn't work their presentation to where it was smooth. As a result they were so concerned with simply getting through the presentation that they neglected the customer-involvement aspect of this task. This was their undoing.

It turns out that the simplicity of the project Craig selected left wide open avenues for family involvement - parent and child. Magna put on a very successful workshop and scored a resounding victory in this task. The key to the victory: Craig confronted his team's poor attitude directly and professionally, and his team behaving like professionals in listening to, and following the direction of their leader. It was neat to watch this, and to hear, at the end, several Magna members praise Craig and admit that they had had it wrong.

This show also featured one of the ugliest board rooms so far, as trying to figure out which member of Net Worth was worse than the others proved to be a major task. Angie, Net Worth's PM, brought Chris and Erin back to the board room. I get the feeling that Trump wanted to fire Angie - usually when there is a general breakdown on a task he will hold the PM responsible, and Net Worth definitely failed in every area on this one.

George and Carolyn however, were quick to praise Angie and the Donald felt compelled to give her a pass, although he did not hesitate to revisit his frustration in this several times during the board room discussion. As soon as the three came back in, Trump told Angie straight out that she wouldn't be fired. Game on! Seeing that it was down to her against Chris, Erin immediately went on the attack, bringing up Chris' use of chewing tobacco and foul language, and his hot temper as evidence of his unworthiness. The team had already identified Erin's lack of involvement as a big problem in the week's task.

Trump clearly doesn't like the chewing tobacco thing. At one point Chris volunteered to quit, saying that if it mattered to Trump, he'd quit immediately and if he failed Trump could fire him next week. Only problem: the Donald has already made it abundantly clear that it does matter, so what are you waiting for, dude?

Erin held the initiative for most of the discussion. This turned out to be "just enough rope" as her own smart mouth got her fired.

Outlook:

Strong: Alex and Kendra (M) - Both are becoming more outspoken and bold as the game moves into its mid-phase where staying out of trouble gives way to getting your strengths noticed as the key strategy. Both Alex and Kendra have that great combination of strong skills and professional demeanor in executing their missions. All other things equal, I'd bet on Alex right now. However I still have the gut feel that Trump doesn't want a third white, male Apprentice.

Possibilities: Craig, Tana (M) - Craig did exceptional as PM this week, but still has some communication issues that will hurt him in the long run. Tana's strength is her personality and sales ability - things which have always helped players go far, but not all the way in this game. I still don't believe that someone without a college education can win. As things move along, each player's full portfolio will come under scrutiny, and there will be times when lack of knowledge will be a liability that no amount of street smarts can overcome.

Neutral: Bren (M), Angie(NW) - I've downgraded Bren. He appears to nice and fun and a good team player. But, he has yet to really show strong leadership so I've downgraded him. Angie has the misfortune to be stuck on a dismal team. George and Carolyn bought her a week in the most recent board room, but did not gain her much as far as Trump's opinion goes. I believe there will be another re-shuffling next week. The teams are unbalanced numbers-wise, but even more so in terms of ability. If Angie finds herself on a capable team she needs to quickly start showing strength.

Hopeless: Chris, Stephanie (NW) - Only the fact that there have always been better candidates to fire has kept Chris from getting the axe. He is full of liabilities and few positives to offset them, things that Trump is clearly and keenly aware of. While Stephanie has somehow managed to keep under the radar in the board room, she has not escaped the disdain of the other players on both teams. During the re-shuffling, after Kendra had dismissed her from Magna, Chris tried to send her back when it came to his turn to cast players off of Net Worth. Hidden under all the negativity and attitude Stephanie does seem to have some creativity and ability. She needs to get those things out there in short order to have hope of salvaging her own prospects.

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