2005-04-01

Apprentice Update: Of Magna and Meatballs


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Challenge ten is in the books and, stop me if you've heard this one ... Magna wins again. Even with a minor re-shuffling, the game continues to be about a sizeable gap in talent and ability between the two teams.

Early loft action had the Book-Smart memmbers of Magna; Alex, Kendra and Bren pledging allegiance to each other. This was short-lived as the Donald called for a much needed re-shuffling - Net Worth got to pluck the player of their choice from Team Magna. The deciding process took all of two seconds - Alex would switch jersies. The looks on the faces of both teams; glee for Net Worth and shock for Magna; were a testimony to Alex's strength. Unfortunately his strength may be his undoing as he is now stuck on the trainwreck that is Net Worth.

Our episode also found Chris sticking to his recent pledge to quick chewing tobacco. Unfortunately it also found him with a lip full of sunflower seeds - just as attractive as chaw, but at least they aren't carcinogenic. He also confessed to Angie that he'd probably be a little short for a while! This is kind of like the Donald saying that he's got a little bit of money. Chris' fuse, even when he was chewing, was so short as to be almost non-existent.

For this week's challenge, the teams needed to create a new pizza for Domino's and then spend part of a day selling pizzas from a streetside booth.

One Louisville note: Usually when a product is involved, that product gets quite a bit of ad time during the show. It just so happens that Papa John's has their HQ here in Louisville and they must have bought up all the local advertising time because they were ready with a bunch of "rebuttal" spots.

Anyway, as the teams were departing, Trump let slip that he likes meatballs on his pizza. What new pizza did the teams "create"? Magna - Manga Meatball. Net Worth - Meatball Masterpiece. I'm surprised Trump didn't ping them both for lack of originality.

Let's face it. As long as you don't put something bizarre on it, pizza is pizza. This boiled down to a sales and marketing task.

Net Worth wisely hired some day labor to market their product. Unfortunately they didn't follow up and strategically deploy their sales force to take advantage of the pockets of commerce around them. In addition, Stephanie, NW's PM, headed off on an hour and a half subway trip with Angie to deliver pizzas that the over-eager team had pre-sold the day before. Mind you, the teams were down to four members, so that's 50% of team on the bench for a critical part of the mission.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer Chris was running hot and he and Alex had four-letter words.

Bren headed up Magna, but strong leadership was not needed this week. Magna appeared to have learned from last week's brief brush with attitude and rode a solid team effort to victory. Their key to victory - on the marketing front they took full advantage of the offices in their immediate surroundings and booked a lot of big orders.

Magna was rewarded with breakfast and face-time with the Donald himself. I'm assuming this was out of the ordinary for all concerned because that breakfast was "heart attack on a plate!"

As Net Worth prepared for yet another board room battle, Stephanie set her sights on Chris and tried to draw Alex into the hunt. This is where the drastic quality difference between the remaining players was on full display. Alex flatly told Stephanie that he wouldn't commit to a full-scale attack on Chris. In an aside, he explained that while Chris has his rough edges, he also has potential, and that Stephanie had nothing more to offer the team.

The boardroom focus quickly narrowed down to Chris for his temper and Stephanie for poor leadership decision-making. Stephanie brought Chris and, in a move that surprised Trump's team, Alex back to the boardroom, sending Angie who had contributed zilch on this mission back to the suite. Much of the early talk had centered on the altercation between Alex and Chris, and I'm sure Stephanie was banking on that continuing.

Eventually, Alex shared his earlier thoughts, that of the two (Stephanie and Chris) he'd rather work with Chris, because there was un-tapped potential there. Stephanie was fired. And as the three left Trump warned Chris, "You'd better step up!"

Kudos to Alex for his integrity and clarity. Unfortunately, next will still find him on Net Worth, teamed up with Angie who is generally lame, and Chris with whom, last we saw, he was not on speaking terms. Hopefully his words in the boardroom, which went a long way toward saving Chris, will help thaw the situation.

Outlook:

Blue Chippers: Alex (NW) and Kendra (M) - These two have emerged as clearly a step ahed of the rest. I'm picking them to be the final two, with one caveat. Alex is in a dangerous situation right now. His team is horrible, and as good as he is, one person can not solve the problem. He also can't keep himself out of the line of fire. Net Worth is down to three members and I fully expect all three to find themselves in the boardroom again next week.

Strong: Bren and Tana (M) - These two are the brightest and most all-around talented of the rest. They are my pick for the Final Four. Both are great as supporting cast, but don't have the strength to win it all.

Potential: Craig (M) - Had a great mission last week in a situation where his leadership was key. His stock has to be pretty strong in Trump's eyes right now. Unfortunately he has communication issues. Like Bren and Tana, he's a great team player, but isn't solid enough to win the whole thing. I would not be totally surprised to see him wind up in the Final Four however.

No Hope: Chris and Angie (NW) - Angie could well have been fired this week if she'd been brought back to the boardroom. Trump and Co. haven't seen nearly enough success to offset how much they've seen of Angie in the boardroom. And Chris ... it's a miracle he's still around. For two weeks in a row, he was dangerously close to getting yanked. And it's not as if he impressed the Donald with his brilliance in battling his way out of trouble. Last week Erin stepped and left Trump little choice to to fire her, and this week Alex saved his butt.

The only shred of hope for Chris is that Angie may be fired before him, forcing Trump to pull another Magna player over to Net Worth - he may yet find himself on a good team. Still, he can't hide forever. Even if, on a fluke, he makes it to the Final Four, they'll shred him in the interviews.

The little, "... and that's a fact!" or even more empatically, "... and that's a proven fact!" that Chris tacks on to any opinion of his own worth won't get him through any more battles. Just saying it doesn't make it so, and his temper is impossible to miss.

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