2005-05-06

Apprentice Update: All Woman Finale


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It turns out that way back in week 3, when Verna, despite the Magna group love-in, decided to leave the game, the real victim was Alex.

I had been wondering why the producers decided to wait until there were only three candidates to do the interviews this time. The thing is, almost all of the tasks in this season featured a prominent corporate sponsor. Plus, I'm sure that NBC has other advertisers on the line for each show as well. So, contractually, Trump was probably not at liberty to cancel one of tasks, even after losing a player out of turn.

Trump has fostered this image that there isn't anything he won't do. But it seems that he won't fire more than one person at a time, even though there have been times where that would have been fitting. On the body wash task, for example, where both teams did a horrendous job, I was wondering why he didn't can one member from each team. The Donald knows that it is never smart to abandon all that advertising jack.

So, here's how Alex was victimized in a big way by Verna. If Verna doesn't leave, the interviews would have occurred with four players remaining and Alex still in play. I have no doubt that Alex would have fared very well in the interview process, especially after seeing snippets from the other three. The execs were unanimous in rejecting Craig, but were split on Tana and Kendra. I believe Alex could very easily have been the favorite of those execs and found himself in the final two. Once there, faced with a task that is management and leadership driven and light on marketing and creativity, who knows what might have been?

Enough speculation, on to this week:

This episode opened with interviews of the candidates by four highly-placed corporate executives.

As I had anticipated, Craig's poor communication skills came back to haunt him. The one thing that all four interviewers could agree on was that they wouldn't hire Criag. No depth was the common complaint. The four were pretty evenly split on Tana and Kendra. A couple questioned Kendra's depth, and the other two were wary of Tana's lack of education and experience in a high power environment.

One of the interviewers complained that Kendra's answers seemed scripted. Granted, making a scripted answer seem not scripted is one of the interviewing keys. But, this is to be expected from a college grad and corporate experienced candidate. It is as much a fault of the interviewer for asking the usual questions as it is of the candidate.

Trump dispatched Craig with little preliminary discussion, and Kendra and Tana were on to the finals!

They returned to the suite for one last night before the battle, and found champagne and a photo album with pics of the other contestants waiting for them. Note to the producers: Two women looking through a photo album is not good TV. Way too much shrieking and squeeking.

Even funnier: As they looked throught the album, the two gushed over and seemed to deeply cherish and miss every one of their former teammates or opponents. The next morning however, when they were each given three of these ex-candidates to assist them with their final task, the two were less than thrilled. Tana went so far as to refer to her crew as the "Three Stooges." Perhaps someone should have told them that this is television and the "stooges" in question will see it eventually.

The two finalists' apprehension is understandable however, as Trump and Co. were particularly diabolical in how they went about manning the teams. In past seasons they mainly brought back the last six players to be fired, or close to it. This time, they brought back the three biggest hotheads (Brian, Chris and Kristen) from the Street-Smart team to help Tana, and the three most unpredictable and useless slugs (Michael, Erin and Danny) from the Book-Smart team to help Kendra. These teams had to have been hand-picked. There is no way both teams wind up being the worst conceivable combination of incompetence by chance!

Tana has been assigned to run an Olympic promo event and Kendra a Play Station tournament. As in previous seasons, both tasks are logistically giant and will require great coordination among a team half the size of what would normally be assigned to such events.

How are the teams managing? When we left them, Chris and Kristen were begining their second hour of driving around looking for a parking spot. Over at Magna, Danny had pulled the Best Buy and EA Sports execs aside and, lacking anything of substance to contribute, instead shared an updated version of his Team Magna song. The execs were non-plussed, even after he included the names of their corporations in the song. Yo. Danny. Down on the corner that may impress people enough to get them to throw a couple quarters in your hat, but this is the kind of thing that got you fired in week three.

Meanwhile, the Sony Kiosks arrived while Kendra had her hands full. Michael assured her that he had it under control. Indeed, he oversaw the moving of the kiosks into the basement area ... a dirty, dingy, disgusting basement area. And now, with the kiosks in place, Michael is nowhere to be found. Hey! He's already done more than he did in his entire five weeks as a candidate. For one cliffhanger, we are left with the possibility that Sony may pull out of the Video Game Championship if Kendra doesn't exact a serious overnight spruce up.

And, both teams have already had their, "Hey! It doesn't matter how this turns out - we've already been fired and have nothing to gain," moment.

Now this is one place where I don't like the Apprentice formula. Granted, as George pointed out last night when Tana asked if they could rearrange the teams, working with difficult employees is part of business. But, working with an entire team of incompetent employees who have absolutely no stake in succeeding and who would be unaffected by being fired is not realistic.

If they want to make sure that the teams throw a few wrenches in the works, they needn't worry. The groups they've assembled this time will screw up plenty even when they are trying. I think that it would actually make things more interesting if Trump and Co. would incentive-ize this last task for the teams. $10K for each member of the winning team might light a fire under them.

Outlook:

It's anybody's guess. If it is Tana vs. Kendra straight up, it's a close race. Tana got better praise from the execs on the interviews. On the other hand, she was also a whisker away from being fired because Trump, Carolyn and George had decided that she didn't have the juice for an organization like Trump, Int'l. And, I'm still convinced that Kendra's education edge is a factor. Trump may be willing to overlook that, but I don't think he can forget it completely. In previous seasons he has expressed how important he thinks education is.

If this last task is going to decide everything, I'd hate to be either one of these girls. It won't come down to their performance or ability, it will come down to which team of yahoos burns their leader by screwing up more.

Tana's team seems to be working harder for her than Kendra's. The irony is, Kendra would be better off if her team were making an effort, Tana would be better off if her team weren't!

At the outset, Tana gave her team much more free reign to take action. In fact, in my opinion given her team, I think she gave them way too much liberty. If Brian, Chris or Kristen were actually listening, she will live to regret this. Not that what either leader says is going to harness their team all that much, but Kendra is at least trying to keep a reasonable grasp on things.

I'm sticking with my pick from last week, Kendra. At the rate they are going, neither team is going to perform so overwhelmingly that this task will sway Trump's decision much. As mentioned above, I believe that Kendra will begin the final board room with a slight edge, and will fare better in the ensuing battle.

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