2005-12-13

Apprentice: Endgame


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Trump - Apprentice 4Time to catch up on the Apprentice.

When I left off, we were down to four candidates heading into a two-on-two task for Microsoft. Randall and Rebecca vs. Alla and Felishia. And wow! This one did not go quite as I expected. I was rooting for Randall and Rebecca - IMHO the two most quality individuals in this season's cast. But Alla came into this one as almost a lock to make it through to the interviews or whatever was next, win or lose. Apparently that was her thinking as well. More on that later.

The teams were tasked with creating a commercial to promote Microsoft's Live Meeting. The winner would be decided by the subjective judgment of two reps from the software giant.

Felishia and Rebecca came into this task having weaker records as PM than their partners. Over at Excel, Rebecca wanted to prove her worth as PM, and Randall said that he wanted to get her a win. Case closed.

For Felishia and Alla I'm not sure the matter was ever really settled. And the funny thing is, THERE WERE ONLY TWO PEOPLE ON THE TEAM! How much PM'ing is going to be going on anyway!? The two agreed that Felishia would be PM. Then, as they got ready to start shooting their video spots, Felishia had to stop and establish that while she was putting Alla in charge of the video shoot, Felishia was still in charge overall, and if Alla started to try to take over, well ... she made this gesture, but I'm not really sure what it meant, and I'm not really sure what Felishia thought she was going to do. Most of all, I'm not really sure why these two spent so much time talking about who was in charge of a group of two on such a time-sensitive task.

When it came to editing, the peace and conflict showed. Randall and Rebecca were not wowed by the actors-for-hire and had decided to have Randall play the role of the flustered executive whose life would be a whole lot less chaotic with Live Meeting. The acting spots were a little cheezy, but they put together a semi-professional video. Carolyn messed with Rebecca's head a bit by asking, "How long did that take you?" after watching the video. Randall felt it meant nothing. I was with Rebecca on that one. Carolyn is hard to read in those situations, and often that question is a subtle way of saying, "I don't think you spent enough time on that."

Capital Edge on the other hand, was not at all pleased with their action video and wound up going back to the drawing board in the 11th hour. Alla had a sudden brainstorm! They decided to use snippets of the video they had shot, but to convey the main message with text ... lots and lots of text in a 30-sec spot.

In the end the execs felt that Randall and Rebecca had conveyed their desired message with feeling and clarity, while Capital Edge's effort was disjointed and confusing. It probably didn't make a difference, but Randall and Rebecca showed up for their presentation matching the power suits of the MS folks stride for stride while Rebecca and Alla showed up in matching outfits which were cute, but very, very casual. Bad move.

Toward the end of the task, I won't say Alla tanked it on purpose. But she did appear to care less and less and seemed to be relying on her read that if she and Felishia lost, Felishia would be sent home, based on Alla's superior performance over the course of the contest. And that's pretty much how the board room drama unfolded. On the one hand Alla was difficult to manage. On the other, Felishia has been generally weak throughout and it showed in her insecurity on this task. Here's what I don't get. Alla was the key to all of the MS exec's talking points when they explained why Capital Edge's video fell flat. Yet Felishia never attacked on these points. It might not have helped, but it sure wouldn't have hurt.

The most gratifying moment of the evening came just after the Donald fired Felishia. Alla stood to head back up to the suite and her place in the final three, when Trump told her to sit down and as soon as he was done with Felishia he whirled and fired her. Prior to this task, Alla had come across as a strong competitor. She may not have had the charm or personality of some of the other girls, but she was talented and a winner. This week she turned into a straight-up witch.

So there it is. No interviews. Randall and Rebecca on to the finals.

I've got to say, this season has stoked my curiosity as to how much is planned in advance. This time there were some format changes. But also there were big-time corporate partners lined up for each week, and I'd be surprised if there weren't some prime product placement juice coming in. They couldn't possibly have foreseen firing four people in one week, so did they have to cancel some tasks or do they hold off and sign on some corporate partners after filming is already in progress? I'd love to get a look behind the scenes on the planning.

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