2005-10-03

Apprentice Lesson #1: Listen!


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Trump - Apprentice 4As the curtain rose on this week's Apprentice, the candidates milled about their suite, waiting to see whether Melissa or Kristi would return from the first board room. Privately Chris hoped Melissa would be victorious. She was a divisive force and would keep team Capital Edge weak he reasoned. Of course, Melissa had become the game's first casualty and Kristi soon re-joined her fellow candidates.

This week the teams were assigned to work on an ad campaign for Lamborghini and Linda Kaplan of the Kaplan Thaler Advertising Group. Besides a host of top tier clients, Thaler is known for her recent book, Bang! Getting your message heard in a noisy world, a great read. On a side note, I hope this doesn't mean that there won't be a Deutsche task. As a talk show host Donnie Deutsche makes a great Ad exec, and he's been my hero ever since he thumped both of the loser teams in season 3.

The guys were salivating from the get-go on this one. Chris stepped up to be the PM for the men by virtue of his advertising background, and Marshawn led the women. Chris struggled with Markus throughout while the women had some problems with Marshawn's hands-off approach. In the end the judging was no contest. The women's presentation was concise, coherent and passionate. The men produced a hodge-podge of cool ideas along with some confusing messages and problematic text. The women voted to give Marshawn immunity next week, while in the board room, Chris chose to go head-to-head with Markus and lost, becoming the game's second victim.

A note on cheezy editing: Some things have become highly predictable on the show. A couple of rules for viewers: Anytime one of the candidates boasts that his team will win the current task in a "slam dunk," the other team is going to win, and the person who mouthed off is probably not going to become the Apprentice because they are a freaking idiot! Also, when you are given a strong sense that one team is kicking butt while the other is in disarray ... the team that seems to be struggling will turn out to have been doing just fine and will win.Both techniques were used to the full in this episode.

Most baffling this week was Chris' board room strategy, or lack thereof.

Throughout the task Chris had battled Markus who seemed to open his mouth at the most unfortunate times: first to run his "smooth as silk" tagline idea by Ehren Bragg, the exec from Lamborghini after being told by Chris not to, and then during his team's presentation when Thaler brought up something that Markus had commented on during the task, Markus couldn't resist getting in an "I told you so." He was quite right and quite unprofessional. As a result, Chris gave Markus very little responsibility in this task.

You can't blame Chris for this, as Markus is a walking disaster. However, after sidelining a team member for the bulk of the task, it was going to be a hard sell convincing Trump to fire them. Still, Chris pressed the issue. Even after Trump and Co. clearly pointed out that Mark had been primarily responsible for many of his team's worst mis-steps in this task. Even after the Donald repeatedly pointed out that Markus wasn't responsible for the loss, and strongly suggested that Mark had some answering to do, Chris opted to bring only Markus back to the board room. Well, Mark owes Chris a Christmas Card and then some this year, as he headed back to the suite when he should have been preparing for hand to hand board room combat and, very likely, termination.

As happened last week, the board room came down to the person who held a great deal of responsibility for their team's loss against the person who is their team's biggest general screw-up. First of all, Trump will almost always fire the person specifically responsible for a loss before the generally bad person. Last week was an exception, but last week's task was a narrow loss for the women and there weren't any huge errors that one could blame the $11 difference on. This week the men lost handily, and besides an overall poor effort there were a number of key errors and an obvious culprit - Mark. And, the Donald did everything but stand up on the board room table with a megaphone to point this out to Chris. The PM's biggest mistake was not recognizing the right decision as to who to bring back, despite having it nearly handed to him. In Trump's mind then, the choice boiled down to a guy who actually stumbled upon a couple of the right answers during the task despite himself, and bore little to no responsibility for the loss and the guy closest to the person who was responsible. It was a difficult but clear choice.

Going forward, Markus has clearly been identified as Team Excel's albotross. Even Trump admitted that he didn't like Markus' chances. Until they can rid their team of this bumbling mouth, the guys will be at a marked disadvantage cohesion-wise. On the women's team, Kristi did plenty of complaining about Marshawn. And last week, as PM Krisit locked horns with Melissa. When it came time to vote for immunity for Marshawn, Kristi was the lone dissenting voice. Is Kristi the one who is difficult to work with?

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