The Apprentice 2, Episode 1: Toy Storyby Betsy Wasser -- 09/10/2004
Welcome back, my friends, to another season of The Apprentice! If you haven’t done so already, I humbly recommend that you read my preview article so you can get to know all of the candidates.
Welcome to New York City. Donald Trump tells us that here, “the sky’s the limit. Believe me, I know.” Trump gives us a brief resume, including the interesting fact that he owns over 100 companies. So, conceivably, we could be doing this through The Apprentice Season 100. Trump tells us, “I thrive on energy.” And he got a lot of energy from Apprentice Season 1 winner Bill, who he just visited in Chicago. Trump tells us that this is not a game, it’s a job interview.
Competing for the job will be 18 candidates from all walks of life, varied educations, in an array of different fields. “They are the best and the brightest,” Trump tells us. And he plans to put them through an array of grueling tasks. Last year, the candidates sold lemonade, but this year, they’ll be working with bigger companies. Trump assures us, “I’m not playing games.” Happily, he doesn’t take this as an opportunity to plug his new board game. These candidates have a chance to win their dream jobs. And with that, we roll the credits, which rock just like they did last year.
Trump reminds us briefly of the rules. These 18 candidates will live and work together. Every week, one will be fired. Trump says, “It’s brutal. It’s tough. It’s business.” The candidates begin to arrive at Trump Tower. Jennifer is first, and she’s a bit nervous. The others file in, and Raj immediately stands out from the crowd, as he is one natty dresser. He’s sporting a bow tie, red pants, and black and white bucks. It’s a unique look, and he seems to pull it off. Andy notices him right away, and says he looks like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack. Something tells me that is not the look Raj was going for. Andy adds that he hopes Raj will teach him how to tie a bow tie, because he looks, “P.I.M.P.” We get a montage of the candidates nervously ringing their hands. Maria is sizing everyone up. She immediately notices Bradford and thinks he looks sharp. Bradford is also checking out the competition, particularly Pamela. He says she looks like Cruella DeVille and thinks he’ll be able to push her buttons.
Finally, the candidates enter the boardroom. Hey, it’s George and Carolyn! I’ve missed those two! Trump arrives, welcomes everyone to New York, and introduces Carolyn and George. He says that Carolyn is tough and nasty, but can also be very nice. George is also tough and nasty… but not so nice. Trump reminds us that the last time around, the women did well at the beginning, but in the end, a man got the job. Will that happen again? We may find out, because once again he will divide the teams by gender. He reminds us of the rules – the teams will be assigned a task every week. They must appoint a project manager, and that person will be partially responsible if the team fails. But, in a new twist, if you are project manager and your team wins, the next week if your team loses, you’ll be exempt from the boardroom. Trump says it’s another incentive to take a leadership role. Interesting.
The candidates file out. Andy says in an interview that he wants to see and interact with Donald Trump as much as possible, but doesn’t ever want to have to do it in the boardroom. Actually, he might not want to sweat that too much. Last year’s winner Bill recently wrote a book about his business experience, including his time on the show (which I’ll be reviewing right here on RNO shortly). In it, Bill said that one of his goals was to learn as much about Trump as possible, and that by seeing him in the boardroom, he really felt like he understood how the man ticks. In fact, Bill wrote that Amy might have had a slight disadvantage since she saw Trump in the boardroom so few times. Isn’t that an exciting little teaser to make you want to watch this spot for my review? I thought so.
The candidates arrive that the suite, which is, if you’ll forgive me… sweet. Andy tells Raj how much he loves his red pants. It’s like Andy is Dorothy and has just set foot in the Technicolor world of Oz for the first time. The candidates quickly find the champagne and caviar and dig in. Wes toasts the men dominating, which does not impress Ivana. I am not impressed by the fact that Wes is drinking the champagne directly from the bottle. Classy!
Ivana calls the women together for a meeting, and the men do the same. They read from a letter from Trump. In it, they’re told that each group must swap one member to the other team permanently. That person will be the project manager for the first task. Bradford speaks up first for the men. He thinks they should either just have a blind vote or pick names out of a hat. Wes asks if anyone wants to join the other team, and Bradford decides that he wants to do that. Interesting. In an interview, Bradford says he’ll always be the first one to step up to the plate, then continues with a long baseball metaphor that I’ll skip for now. He goes over and joins the women’s team, which seems to make Maria nervous. Pamela volunteers to go to the men’s team, and everyone is fine with it.
Pamela joins her new team and says, “My penis is getting larger with every minute.” Pamela will now have to work extra hard to win me over after making a dumb remark like that. Rob says that Pamela has a very strong presence, due in part to the fact that she’s very tall. They all agree that they should choose a name for their company. Raj thinks that British battleships are excellent sources for names. Someone else throws out the idea of the name Mosaic, because a Mosaic is a bunch of different parts put together to form something beautiful. I kind of like that reasoning, but Raj doesn’t. He thinks the name sounds wimpy and would rather go with Empire. It’s a strong name, not to mention the best Star Wars movie yet. They take a vote, and Mosaic wins. Raj isn’t happy, and adds, “But if that doesn’t work, it’s Empire.” As I’m thinking Raj needs to let this one drop, he has more to say about the subject in an interview. He hates the name and finds it meaningless. “It’s antithical to my character and I don’t like it on a fundamental level.” Uh-oh… looks like someone’s a bit of a blowhard boor.
The other team also brainstorms on names and comes up with a very long list – including Empire! Maria thinks Bradford may be overwhelmed by all of these women talking over each other. Bradford pushes for a quick decision, but he gets shot down. Finally, they all vote and choose Apex. Eh. It’s a good message, but it feels a little generic. They learn that the other team has chosen Mosaic, and Bradford says he thinks it’s hilarious that the mostly female team chose a more masculine name for their company. The women all laugh at the name Mosaic. Raj is probably seething.
At 6:30 the next morning, the Trump phone rings. Everyone is to meet at 8:00 at Toys R Us. When they arrive, I immediately notice that Raj is carrying a cane. Oh, honey. I was okay with the bow tie… kind of. But a cane? What’s next, a straw boater hat? You’re trying so hard you’re practically sweating. Trump immediately zeroes in on the cane and basically says it’s weird since he’s got two legs that work. Trump then learns the two teams’ names. Apex? “Sounds good.” Mosaic? “Wow, that’s awful.” Pamela says simply that it was the team’s choice. Trump says he respects her for taking the initiative to be the first leader, and says the same to Bradford. Trump then tells them about the task. Toys are big business, and their first task will be to develop a new toy for Mattel, present it to the top brass there. They’ll be judged on who has the most marketable toy. The losing team will, of course, face the boardroom.
Mosaic gets started, and Pamela tells the guys to take their ties off right away. No one at Mattel is wearing a tie, and she wants them to feel like Mattel executives. It’s too bad she doesn’t take off her scarf in the same spirit, not because it’s too corporate, but because it’s kind of ugly. They start brainstorming. Andy likes the name Crustacean Nation, and comes up with the idea of action figures with exchangeable appendages that come with trading cards. Kevin adds that there can be a team of good guys and a team of bad guys, and that all of the toys in the line could have swappable parts. Wes notices that Rob doesn’t seem to be contributing much. Rob throws out one idea – that maybe they use eels instead of crustaceans. No one loves that idea, especially because an eel is snake-shaped and… doesn’t have any appendages. Nice try, though, Rob. Rob says in an interview that he’ll do what’s best for the team, and maybe what’s best for the team is for him to just hang back.
That is monumentally stupid. Did Trump say that he’s looking for a leader? For someone who will not step up to the plate or come up with big ideas? Is he hoping for a decent middle manager? Rob is so screwed.
Apex is busy churning out ideas as well. Ivana throws out the idea of a wardrobe for a junior drag queen, an idea that doesn’t exactly wow anyone. Someone else suggests an Easy Bake oven that blows stuff up. Bradford says that he knows what boys like (and apparently, the focus of the task is to come up with a toy for young boys specifically). He has a sketch of a football toy that is remote control. He thinks it’s great, but no one else is excited about the idea. Jennifer M. says that she doesn’t think Bradford’s idea is sophisticated enough. Oh, Jennifer. If you don’t like his idea, that’s cool, but don’t pretend that the fact that it’s not sophisticated is going to hurt you. Little boys aren’t exactly sophisticated. I remember well how much fun my brother and his friends had smashing his He-Man action figures with a hammer. That’s not exactly sophisticated.
Stacie suggests that they do something with cars, maybe do a remote control car with all of the coolest parts from tanks, trucks, and so on to make the ultimate vehicle. The other women like this idea, but Bradford says, “No. We’re going with the football idea. I’m making an executive decision.” He tells them that the discussion is closed, and if they don’t like it too bad, and, “It’s my ass on the line.” Maria says in an interview that she was ready to strangle him.
So, how about that for an example of really bad leadership? Sometimes it’s a good idea to make an executive decision. Nick did it last season to settle the discussion about which artist to choose for the art task, and it worked out just fine. But in his case, he was working with a much smaller group of people, and they all knew each other a lot better. Plus, there were people on his team who liked his decision other than… you know… him. Bradford has now, in essence, told this group of people whom he barely knows, “We’re going with the idea that only I like, and now all of you have to work on this project and believe in it.” And that is not going to happen. It’s too bad that this seems to be a sign that Bradford is not long for this show, because he’s kind of cute. Oh, well.
It’s time for the Trump lesson of the week! Trump tells us that when you’re making a decision, “Be quick, but be careful.” Are you listening, Bradford?
Stacie tells us what we already knew, that no one is excited about Bradford’s idea. They meet with the design team. Bradford asks if anything like his idea is on the marketplace, and if it’s been successful. One of the designers says that he doesn’t think it would fly. Bradford asks about the ultimate car idea, and the designers love it. Ultimate car it is. Bradford says in an interview that he switched his leadership style to be less dictatorial. I don’t think it was that so much as that it became incredibly obvious that his idea wasn’t going to work, so he finally dropped it. Or, even less flatteringly, that he wasn’t prepared to accept that criticism from a room full of his teammates, but was willing to listen when an outsider offered it. Anyway, now that the team is committed to the ultimate car idea, Apex is excited about the task again.
The designers stayed up all night making prototypes of the toys. Wow, that is impressive! But the true test comes in the form of a focus group of boys in the target demographic. The boys first look at Apex’s toy. They’re excited right away about the ultimate car and can’t wait to get their hands on it. They dive right in to playing with it and immediately crash the prototype on the wall. Elizabeth says that they’ll win or lose based on what the kids thought of their toy.
Next, the same kids check out Mosaic’s toy. Pamela notices that one kid isn’t interested in the toy at all. She says, “He wasn’t believing in Santa Claus anymore.” That same kid notes that the toy falls apart too easily. Pamela then makes fun of one of the little boys’ haircuts. She says he looks like something out of Dumb and Dumber. Pamela might be dumbest herself, because she said that right in front of Carolyn and several Mattel executives. Not smart.
Apex is waiting for the results. With a dramatic flair, Stacie grabs a Magic 8 Ball and asks everyone to watch while she asks if they’re going to win. She’s excited to see that it says, “Outlook is good.” Right here on my desk, I have a Muppet Magic 8 Ball that says Muppety phrases. I’m going to ask it a question: Is Stacie insane? The Muppet 8 Ball chooses to answer as the Swedish Chef: Bork, Bork! I love my Muppet 8 Ball.
Oh, was I supposed to be writing a recap? Sorry. I drifted off a bit there.
Maria notices that Stacie is wigging out a bit. A bit? Stacie asks why no one is listening to her. Um, maybe it’s because you’re playing with a toy and demanding that everyone take it seriously? Let’s see what my Muppet 8 Ball says! Okay, just kidding. I’ll leave it alone, I promise. Stacie says in an interview that the mood was both anti-social and anti-Stacie. She goes into full-on paranoia, demanding to know why no one is listening to her and what’s wrong. One thing that’s wrong is that she’s wearing a midriff-baring shirt with a suit, but I doubt that’s what everyone’s upset about. I think they just want her to calm the hell down so they can eat their lunch. In an interview, Sandy predicts that Stacie will be the first person fired from their team because she is bringing them all down. Sandy pretty much just guaranteed for me that Stacie will survive at least one trip to the boardroom.
Stacie then asks Bradford what’s going on. He tries to calm her crazy ass down, but it’s not working. She gets hysterical and says that they’ve won and they might as well go right now and claim their prize. Everyone does their best to ignore her.
Trump heads to Mattel and pretends to tell his assistant to cancel his meeting, because he wants to see how things are going there. C’mon, Donald. We all know you didn’t have some other meeting. Anyway, the candidates, the Mattel execs, George, Carolyn, and Trump all gather to hear the results. The head Mattel guy says that both teams put forth a great effort and both did well. The action figure wasn’t as fresh or wacky as they’d hoped for, though. And the kids weren’t quite sure how to play with it. Apex’s toy, on the other hand, would be a good compliment to some of their existing lines. Plus, the kids loved it. He says there was a clear winner – Apex. They all cheer. Their reward will be dinner in Trump’s apartment with the man himself and his fiancé Melania. Trump reminds Bradford that if his team loses next week, he cannot be fired. Trump then turns to Mosaic and tells them that he’s about to say those two little words to one of them: You’re fired.
Apex heads to Trump’s shiny gold apartment. Trump asks the group if Bradford did a good job, and they all say he did, though we all know that if they’d lost, those women would be singing a very different tune. Meanwhile, back at Trump Tower, Mosaic is suffering from their defeat. Raj says it was humiliating. John says that he hates the fact that the women are getting to know Donald Trump – that’s the worst part of it for him. Meanwhile, Jennifer C. is working very, very hard to use her best table manners to impress Donald Trump. As they enjoy their dinner, Trump asks the question we’ve all been wondering: “What’s up with the guy with the cane?”
Back in the suite, the men start playing basketball. The accidentally knock a hole in the drywall. Ooops. Pamela says that it’s hard being the only woman on the men’s team because they all bond over basketball and share bedrooms, whereas she is with the enemy. Right, because women can’t play basketball. I hate the way my ovaries get in the way when I try to do free throws. Pamela talks to Ivana about the upcoming boardroom, and Kevin and Andy notice them talking. The two guys agree that they need to get rid of Pamela as soon as possible.
Andy says that the biggest problem the team faced was a lack of leadership. The men wonder which of them Pamela will take to the boardroom. Rob is pretty sure he’ll be one of the ones going. He figures they’ll say, “What did Rob do? My answer is going to be what did you tell me to do?” Yep, he’s one heck of a leader, that Rob. Andy suspects that Pamela will target him because he’s the youngest. But one of the reasons he’s there is that he’s a nationally ranked debater. He’s not exactly nervous about facing her in the boardroom.
It’s boardroom time. Pamela starts out by saying that she’s not sure Mattel was really on board with what was on the dossier. Carolyn cannot believe Pamela is blaming Mattel for her team’s failure. She adds that the team clearly didn’t understand kids, and that as a parent, she found some of Pamela’s comments offensive. She says that Pamela called one kid chubby and made fun of another kid’s haircut. Trump says, “I have a bad haircut,” which makes me love the man just a little bit more. Pamela is rude to Carolyn and defends herself badly – saying that the kid did, after all, have a bad haircut. Wow, shut up, Pamela. You’re digging a hole for yourself.
Raj tries to tell them that he didn’t have any toys as a child, and that he just enjoyed his imagination. He then adds, “I had a truck, I think.” George thinks it’s crazy that none of these guys had any idea what kind of toy a little boy would like. Shouldn’t they know that boys that age like motion?
Kevin says that they had no plan or direction. Wes thinks that Rob was underused and was not assertive enough. Rob agrees that he was underused, but thinks it’s because Pamela was a bad leader. And he manages to interrupt Carolyn in answering that question. Laws, you people had better learn to respect Carolyn! She has the job that you chumps want! Rob adds that Pamela was a bad leader. She has charisma, but didn’t delegate well. Chris says that Rob didn’t do enough, but that it wasn’t his fault. Andy says that it’s okay for a leader to fail, but not to be surprised, and that due to her lack of direction, Pamela was constantly surprised. Kelly adds that Rob was the team member who contributed the least. John thinks that Rob’s excuse that he was underutilized is flimsy, and that he should have worked harder. Pamela tells Rob that she considered his ideas, but didn’t use them.
Trump tells Pamela that she can bring either two or three people with her into the boardroom. Pamela asks what the advantage would be of bringing three instead of two. Trump can’t believe he has to explain to her that by bringing three people, she’d have a one in four chance of being fired compared to a one in three chance. Trump shows impressive restraint by not firing her on the spot for not figuring that one out. She says she’s going to bring two people with her – Rob and Andy.
Trump and the viceroys deliberate. Carolyn says that Pamela was strong and stepped up as the first leader. George says that Rob should have been used more. The three candidates return to the boardroom. Trump notices that neither of them pulled out Pamela’s chair for her, and Pamela says, rightly, that there was no need. She says that she is a better candidate than Andy due to his lack of work experience. He’ll get there eventually, but he’s not there yet. Rob is great at sales, but has no depth. Rob says that he was underused, causing Trump to wonder aloud why he wasn’t used more. Andy says that he’ll work hard and will earn the job of apprentice. He adds that the only reason he’s in the boardroom is that he’s young. Rob says that all Andy contributed was the name of the toy, and that doesn’t matter because they lost. Andy seems to be thinking that it’s more than Rob contributed, so he just lets Rob talk.
Trump tells Pamela that she has a very hard edge, and he doubts that will ever change. Rob didn’t contribute much to the task and shouldn’t have waited to be asked. He admits that he sees new college graduate Andy as a bit of a project, and he’s not sure if he’s experienced enough for the job. But for now, Rob is fired.
It is, without a doubt, the right choice. Pamela and Andy might not ultimately be the right people for the job. Pamela is indeed a bit harsh, which might make it hard for her to relate well to customers or to people working under her. And making those disrespectful remarks about the kids in earshot of the other executives was a huge mistake. Make fun of that kid’s hair on your own time, sister. But she did volunteer to be the very first leader, and that shows real initiative. Andy is probably not going to go straight from college to running one of Donald Trump’s companies, but it’s not his time to go just yet when there’s a much better choice. Rob opted to sit back and let other people do the work and take the risks. He didn’t fight for any ideas or offer to work on any projects. Donald Trump is looking for someone who is a good leader, and Rob didn’t even prove himself to be an especially good follower.
As Rob takes the elevator ride of shame, he looks very sad. Back in the boardroom, Trump says, “That was a bit tough.” George and Carolyn remind him that it’ll get tougher.
Next week, on The Apprentice, Stacie continues to lose her ever-lovin’ mind. The candidates are charged with creating a new ice cream flavor. One of the guys offers customers a free kiss from one of the women with any ice cream purchase, an idea that does not seem too popular with the women. And we’re promised a boardroom we’ll all be talking about the next day. Awesome!
In his final cab ride, Rob tells us that he accepts Trump’s decision, though he’s disappointed to be the first to go. He says that all of the candidates are very strong, smart, and cocky.
The bad geniouses at NBC are re-running this episode of The Apprentice on Saturday at 9/8:00 Central. And to really suck us in, they’re adding an extra 20 minutes of boardroom action to the show. I cannot resist it, so I will be watching and promise to give you the highlights here.
Betsy is the Associate Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached with any comments at email@example.com.
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