2005-11-18

Apprentice: Catching Up


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Trump - Apprentice 4OK, time for some catching up. On my last post, Trump had just decimated Team Excel by firing four of its members, setting up the quietest four-person cab ride in history.

Prior to the next task, Trump allowed Excel to choose one member from Capital Edge, and Randal returned to his former team. At the time I thought they had set up a dream team: Randal, Rebecca, Marshawn and Brian.

The first task seemed to bear that out as the teams developed an adult learning class for the learning center. Randal led Excel in taking the safe road. Their subject - getting noticed. While Harvard B-School may not be co-opting the course any time soon, the topic allowed the Excel members to play to their own strengths. Their bright personalities and communication ability won the day. Essentially Excel laid back and left it to Capital Edge to make fatal mistakes.

That they did! Their topic, "Sex in the workplace," was a potential blockbuster! But, it turned out to be no more than a sophomoric, locker room/slumber party type gab session.

Two big controversies for CE in this one. First Markus wasn't playing well with others, again. He adopted what had become his normal strategy of, "If you don't take my instant big idea and run with it, then I'm just going to sit in a corner and sulk for the whole task."

And then Clay directed what appeared to be an anti-Semitic remark to Adam during the team's presentation. Granted, Clay has been an uncooperative boor, pretty through this whole season, but I've got his back on this one. Adam, is a likeable but innocent person. And he played off of that several times during his part of the presentation with "... but I'm just an innocent Jewish boy from (wherever)," type remarks. When Clay interjected his comment it appeared that he was just trying to continue on this rhetoric. Unfortunately the specific words he used were poorly chosen, but it's Clay. That's how he rolls.

In the boardroom Adam was under the gun for the team's overall concept, which wouldn't have been an issue had the team executed on it better. Clay was under the gun for the previously mentioned remark plus some other crude comments that he made.

But Markus won the pink slip for his continued non-participation. With his habit of using many words to say nothing, Markus was unable to mount anything resembling a defense in the boardroom. On his way out I believe that Markus was probably the most openly defiant to the Donald's face of anyone in any season to date.

So, it appeared that Excel had a strong team and was ready to go on a roll. The following week the teams were tasked with developing a promotional display for the release of the Star Wars III DVD and video game at a Best Buy store.

At Capital Edge, Clay took the reins and proceded to pretty much let Alla run things and do a great job. However, when any of the Donald's team were around, or the execs who would be judging, Clay did a fabulous job of appearing to be on top of things. The team was on the brink of losing whatever advantage Alla's great concept had earned when she and Clay engaged in subtle verbal sparring during their presentation.

Over at Excel the roof caved in. PM Brian severely underestimated travel time and caused his team to miss their meeting with the corporate execs - the meeting at which they would have learned what the priorities for this task were, and subtle Star Wars knowledge such as ... Darth Vader is a main character! As a result, the Dark Lord of the Sith was not to be found on the team's display. To make matters worse, Marshawn was assigned the presentation and then decided to bail 30 minutes before showtime. Rebecca jumped in and did a noble job, but the mission was already too far gone.

Capital Edge won a clear victory, but the team voted unanimously NOT to give PM Clay immunity. At his best Clay does nothing. At his worst he's a major obstacle for his own team.

In the board room the heat was on Brian for missing the meeting and a general poor performance, and Marshawn for abandoning her team at the last minute. In the end Trump fired them both, and once again Excel found itself gutted.

Trump opened the most recent episode by inquiring if Clay was happy on his team. Clay openly requested a change of scenery. Surprisingly, when asked Randal and Rebecca were both enthusiastic about the prospect of Clay joining their team. My theory: it really looked like Trump was going to move Clay regardless of what the Excel members thought, so Randal and Rebecca were trying for a smooth start with the difficult Clay, and to show the Donald that they could tackle any disaster with a positive attitude. Welcome Clay!

This time the teams were tasked with auditioning artists and then producing a song to air on XM Radio's edgly alternative station, XM Cafe. Both teams seemed to really get into the auditioning process and laid solid groundwork with their artists.

Then the Clay factor emerged as Excel's volatile new member resorted to his "my way or the highway" ways.

Having shed the dead weight of Markus and Clay, Capital Edge looked like the dream team, and the XM reps loved their product. While Excel came up with a cool song, they failed on two fronts: 1. Their song didn't fit the XM Cafe audience, and 2. Randal developed a promo poster but listed the wrong channel for XM Cafe. Capital Edge wins again.

In the board room no one was safe. Rebecca took a hit for a general poor performance by her team. Randal's station number snafu got him in trouble. And, it was once again pointed out that Clay has been a royal pain in the hinder all along. In making his decision, the Donald fell back on the candidates' past history - Randal and Rebecca have been stars while Clay has been living on the edge. At long last, Clay was sent packing.

Outlook:

So we're down to five, and I must admit, it appears to be a strong field. If the teams hold, Randal and Rebecca against Felishia, Alla and Adam should be a great match for the final pre-interview task (assuming this season will follow the same end-game as previous seasons).

No chance: Adam. Nice guy, very likeable, but he's weak. In the intense board room battles to come, he won't be able to hold his own.

Weak: Felishia. She and Alla are like twins, but it has become clear that Alla is the talent and Felishia is riding her coat-tails. Felishia's not bad, but she clearly isn't as good as the others.

Strong but has some work to do: Rebecca. Clearly a favorite of Trump's team, but! She seems to shine the brightest in losing efforts. In addition, she's on crutches right now. Sounds strange, and it shouldn't be a factor, but late in the game the tasks always seem to involve a lot of running around. So far Rebecca has handled it well, but it's an extra load that the others don't have to carry. If, however, she and Randal can post a big win in the final task, her stock goes up and she communicates well, so I believe she'll do well on the interviews. Don't count her out.

Blue-chippers: Randal and Alla. Alla has last season's winner Kendra's creativity, but she combines it with an appealing personality and strong business instincts. It doesn't hurt that she's blonde and attractive. I have a hunch that might play well with the Donald. Randal is intelligent, likeable and also has great business instincts. A Randal v. Alla final would be awesome.

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