2005-12-15

Apprentice: Finals


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Trump - Apprentice 4The finale is tonight so I'd better get caught up.

When we left off, it was down to Rebecca and Randal. In a great twist, the two went out to dinner with Carolyn and George and during the meal the wound up choosing and negotiating for the three former-players that will help them on their final task.

We learned a lot about some of the other players. For example, Josh, whom I had suspected would have been pretty good, was the top pick of both finalists. Josh was lost in the monsoon firing that wiped out 2/3 of Team Excel.

In the past the finalists had been confined to choosing from the last six players fired. This was how you had Omarosa royally screwing Kwame in season one's finale, and Brian just not doing much of anything useful last time. And, under that format, Rebecca would have missed out on the opportunity to bring back Toral!?

Actually that is working out pretty well. From what we've seen so far, Rebecca's team is doing a much better job of managing time, serving their clients', and staying ahead of schedule. This team is putting on a charity comedy event, sponsored by Yahoo! to benefit the Pediatric Aids foundation that Trump is always helping.

As usual, I'm suspicious of the editors whenever it appears that one team is clicking and the other is dropping the ball. So far, Randal has been surprisingly unimpressive. The team is not managing its schedule well - the entire team went along to the party supply store to purchase decorations. Randal's task involves getting set up for a celebrity softball game, and while it took four people to buy a few bags full of decorations, only Mark was tasked with setting up all of the tents, tables and chairs while the other three team members kicked back in one of the stadium's luxury boxes. I'm sure there was a little more to it than that, but one guy assigned a task that the entire team would have trouble completing in the allotted time? Outback is sponsoring this event and it has been amusing to watch Outback's CEO giving Randal a hard time.

Stormclouds: We saw just enough to know that both teams will be facing daunting obstacles before their task is complete. With one day to go Joe Piscopo, who was to have been the host of the comedy event, had to pull out due to union concerns. There was a smidgen of hope that the team could negotiate with the union, but everything we've seen suggests that Piscopo will be a no-go, and any potential alternates may be precluded by the same issue.

Now, this isn't the first time such a big obstacle has appeared. We've already seen celebrity hosts waffle, equipment fail or go missing, etc. In season one, after much frantic searching Bill Rancick finally found a key sponsor's billboard next to the golf course's dumpster! I'm always curious how much of this is random and how much is injected into the situation by Trump's team to test their finalists. How else does a union conflict go unnoticed until the 11th hour?

But if Trump engineered the obstacle that Randal is facing, he has really outdone himself! The previously sunny and clear forecast has given way to almost certain rain for the day of the softball game ... the outdoor softball game.

I will be interested to see if Randal's team was able to complete the setup that night, and how both team's will manage the day of their events.

Outlook: This is an awesome final. The best so far, IMO. Season one's Kwame-Bill matchup was pretty good, but Kwame was over-educated and under-experienced. This season we've got two all-star leaders. Randal is also heavy on education, but it doesn't stand in the way of his ability to get the job done.

So, a lot will ride on how the Donald evaluates this thing. Over the course of the season Randal did a much better job, but one could argue that he also found himself on much better teams than Rebecca did. On the other hand, as mentioned, we've been shown Rebecca doing a much better job on her final task. At the end of the day however, the final tasks don't seem to yield a significant difference between the two players. There are glitches in rough spots, but the events ultimately go just fine.

In the boardroom I give a slight edge to Rebecca. Randal may have the sharper mind, but he is also softspoken and nice. Rebecca doesn't fight nasty, but she is a fighter and very strong-willed. I have no doubt that she'll come ready to rebut the edge Randal has gained by his performance over the course of this season.

Either way, Trump is going to wind up with a strong Apprentice, and he needs one. On Donny Deutsche last night it came out that Bill Rancick will finally be leaving the Trump organization this coming spring. We haven't seen much of Kelly Perdew (season 2) and nothing of Kendra (season 3), and I have a feeling that they haven't turned out to be nearly as dynamic and talented as Rancick. Both Rebecca and Randal however seem to have the juice and the class to take over as the poster child for Apprentice winners.

As luck would have it, I've got a board meeting tonight that promises to run long. I may wind up having to wait until CNBC re-runs the show tomorrow night, so no one say anything!

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