2005-04-08

Apprentice Update: Woe is Alex


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Yet another Net-Worth-aided win for Team Magna.

This week's prospect was interesting - design "wearable tech" clothing for American Eagle. The execution was a little disappointing on both sides, however. We already have cargoes, so just adding a loop or a pocket here and there is nothing new.

No selling this time. The teams were simply to design clothes and make a presentation to a couple of American Eagle execs.

Alex took PM for Net-Worth. His team was down to 3, so no chance for flying under the radar anymore. Angie chose to focus on the presentation, and Chris stepped up to be the team's accountant ... and promptly lost one of their credit cards!

Over at Magna, the run of success keyed by former Net-Worth members continued as Tana PM'ed and directed the team to victory while Craig was instrumental in much of the design work.

Tana chose to stop in at another clothing store and survey some of the customers regarding what tech items are important to them, how they would want to wear them, etc. We were led to believe that this was a critical key to Magna's victory. For my money, they didn't come away with anything that would have been new information to someone in business.

The American Eagle execs asked each team which piece of technology was most important to their customers. For Magna, Bren without pause identified the cell phone. Again, it wasn't really a tough question. Then Angie came along, guessed that the iPod was most important, and made Bren look like a genius. iPod's may be making a big splash, but the cell phone is indispensable.

On the whole Magna did an ok job, and had plenty of issues over which they would have battled had they wound up in the board room. Bren and Craig went to a screen print shop to get logos put on their team's clothing. For their five hour investment, the team actually lost ground as the shop's employees put one logo on backward, and got stray ink spots on several of the items. Kendra, a superstar up to this point, was suddenly MIA for this task, complaining of low blood sugar. And the continued tension between Craig and Kendra would be a great source of boardroom fireworks should Magna ever find themselves in the Donald's crosshairs.

Fortunately for Magna, Net-Worth makes anyone look good. Chris, after making the initial tech purchases, was out of play as the remainder of his time was consumed with retrieving the credit card that he had left at Best Buy.

Angie seemed to relish taking on the presentation as her main focus. But, as usual, she was a bit scattered and didn't do that great. In fact, in actually giving the presentation she was horrible. To be fair, the team was late and rushed in getting to the presentation in the first place. But, time crunch was a key element in this task.

One thing that wasn't clear was Alex's role in this one. We saw his frustration with Chris losing the card. We saw the list of tasks and assignments that he came up with - and Angie complaining that she had the lion's share of the tasks. We also saw the models not arriving until the last minute after Angie started looking for them. And we saw the team arrive late to their presentation. These last two things, in my opinion, fall squarely on the shoulders of the PM. The models being late exacerbated the team's lateness. This is something Alex should have identified and corrected much earlier.

In the end, Trump blamed the team for Alex's sudden under-performance. Both Angie and Chris are riding a string of poor results. Trump fired Angie because, in his opinion, she "choked" on the presentation. I couldn't tell if she choked, or if that's just not her thing to begin with.

And then there were six. I'm very disappointed at how the middle third of this game has played out. Normally this is the time when there would still be a few candidates who really don't belong, but they'd be spread over the two teams as one additional obstacle to test the serious players.

This time, the horrible players have been concentrated on one team. While Net-Worth's members have rightfully been sent packing, one at a time, Magna has not been tested since the original re-shuffling. They've also not been to the board room, and not had the chance to have each player's relative worth explored. Throwing a star candidate like Alex onto Net-Worth was a brutal move. I want to say, "unfair," but the whole point of the Apprentice is that things aren't fair. Still this is a grand unfairness.

Ironically, it was Chris' inability to evaluate the other players that led to this horrible imbalance, and he's the one that has survived it all.

Prospects for the Final Six:

Strong: Alex(NW), Tana(M), Kendra(M): This is an upgrade for Tana, and a modest downgrade for Alex and Kendra. I'm still skeptical that one of the street-smarts can win. But Tana is doing very well, and seems to have a good mix of style and skill. Someone else is going to have to step up and beat her, because she doesn't have any serious flaws with which she will beat herself. Alex is still a star, and as much as his team is to blame, that doesn't change the fact that he has been a part of two miserable failures and had more boardroom time than one would want at this stage. Kendra showed some weakness for the first time this week. If it was just a fluke with her blood sugar, no prob. But, if she has some hidden Omarosa tendencies ready to emerge, she may not even make the final four.

With a little luck: Bren(M), Craig(M): I believe that one of these two will join Alex, Tana and Kendra in the final four. I don't believe that, everything being equal, either could win it all, but at this stage, the missions will turn on small things, and any player could move along by simply finding themself in the right grouping of players over the next two tasks. Bren continues to be the ultimate supporting cast member. He may well make it to the final four without distinguishing himself (unless you count the cucumber idea!). Craig has benefited the most from Magna's smooth road. While he has done well, there are also some clear interpersonal things boiling just beneath the surface at Magna, and Craig is a part of them. Had the team visited the boardroom at all during the last four weeks, I believe that Craig would have found himself fighting for his Apprentice life.

You're still here?: Chris(NW): Chris has no hope. Trump warned that he needed to step up last week. Step up he did - spending almost all of this task losing and then retrieving his team's $5,000 credit card. While that wasn't the key to the team's loss, being another player down certainly didn't help. Mainly, Chris needed a positive this week. Instead he turned in yet another "Chris was a screw-up, but not the biggest screw-up" performance. The game is finally out of candidates more fire-able than Chris. Unless he lucks his way onto the winning team next week, he's the next to go.

Which brings us to the question - What now? With 4 Magna members and 2 Net-Worth, another re-shuffling is in order. If Net-Worth gets to choose a Magna player, my guess is that Alex will push for Kendra, as they were tight before Alex was sent to Net-Worth. While any of the 4 would improve Net-Worth, splitting up Craig and Kendra may make Magna stronger still. On the other hand, Tana is on a roll. If Net-Worth has picked up on this, they may take her back. Chris will likely be the PM for Net-Worth. If he's deciding, as already established, he's an idiot so it's anybody's guess. On Magna, Bren or Kendra will probably be PM. If they get to jettison someone, my guess is that it will be one of the former Net-Worth members, probably Craig.

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