The Apprentice 5, Episode 1: What’s the Big Deal?by Betsy Wasser -- 02/28/2006
We begin the fifth season of The Apprentice by seeing several candidates talking about their qualifications. A redheaded woman does yoga and talks about being “totally self-made.” Another woman says that her background in athletics gives her the drive to win. One woman’s Filipino mother is her inspiration. A man who owns a building company says that he is “a lot like Donald Trump.” I remember last season, Markus said the same thing.
Trump speeds down the road in a gorgeous silver Mercedes. He tells us that he’s always looking for new talent. His plane takes off for New York, where he’ll be meeting 18 new candidates, selected from over a million applicants. These candidates will have to push themselves through a grueling interview process.
We meet a few more candidates. One is a guy who grew up in public housing and has a will to succeed. A woman brags that she is “tough as nails.” A guy with a British accent says that the job is “a done deal for me.”
Trump says that all of the candidates have exceptional skills, but only one will get the dream job of a lifetime. Who will be the next Apprentice?
With that, it’s time for everyone to dance in their sofas to the theme song. Don’t pretend you don’t do it.
Trump’s plane lands, and George and Carolyn lead the candidates into the plane for a meeting. Trump talks on his pretend phone about how he’s about to meet with the candidates. They all nervously agree that this is the best way to travel. Trump tells them that perhaps someday, they’ll have planes like his. Well, presumably, they’d want to plaster their own names on the sides, but you never know.
In an interview, Tarek, who bears a striking resemblance to Orlando Bloom, says that this was a reminder of what they’re all working for and might achieve.
It’s windy outside the plane, and Trump jokes that this proves he has real hair. No, it proves that if it’s fake hair, he has really good glue. He introduces George and Carolyn, and as we all know by now, they are his eyes and ears. Trump directs the candidates to introduce themselves. There are too many quick notes to go through, but you can meet all of the candidates in my preview article. Trump says that they all have impressive accomplishments, so this will be a tough competition.
Now it’s time to put together the teams. Trump says that Tarek, who we learned is a member of MENSA, has an IQ second only to Trump’s own (I think we can assume he’s kidding). Tarek will be one of the first project managers. The second will be Allie, because Trump respects her degree from Harvard Business School, second, he says, only to his own alma matter, the Wharton School. So really, Trump would prefer to make himself the project manager, but will settle for Tarek and Allie. He’s a modest one, our Trump.
Allie is given the first pick, and she admits in an interview that it caught her a little off guard. She chooses Tammy and ignores Trump’s suggestion that she chose a woman first, saying that she was impressed by her credentials. Tarek selects Dan because he’s a father. Allie picks Andrea next, and Tarek is disappointed- he was impressed by the fact that Andrea owns several businesses and wanted her for his team. The picks go on, and Allie jokes that Sean’s fabulous British accent might be fake. In an interview, she says that Sean has a great presence about him. During the show, Jenn Brassler emailed me claiming Sean as her Apprentice boyfriend. Let’s just see which one of us gets her Apprentice article posted first, Brassler. Ah, being the recapper has its advantages! Brent is the last one picked, for Allies team. In an interview, he says he was always picked last for sports teams. It didn’t bother him much then and it doesn’t bother him much now.
Trump tells them that their task will combine “aviation and advertising.” Specifically, each team will be given a Goodyear blimp to advertise memberships at Sam’s Club. The team that sells the most memberships or upgraded memberships will win. Someone on the losing team will – that’s right- be fired.
Allie is pleased to be project manager, but admits that she would have liked a little more time to assess her team. It puts her out there a little faster than she would have liked. She tells her team that she thinks they are the nine best ones. That team, by the way, is Allie, Sean, Tammy, Pepi, Andrea, Roxanne, Brent, Stacy, and Michael. Pepi suggests they get right to work choosing a name. Brent suggests Killer Instinct. They all hate it. Sean says that this gave him an immediate negative opinion of Brent. He thinks Brent has a very awkward way of presenting his ideas. Pepi suggests Synergy, and it’s a hit. Everyone applauds.
Tarek leads his team in a general brainstorming session that he says will lead to specific plans to be executed. He says that being a MENSA member allows him to think quickly on his feet. His team consists of Dan, Bryce, Charmaine, Leslie, Theresa, Lee, Summer, and Lenny. Tarek suggests Gold Rush for their team name, and with little discussion, they go for it. That was simple enough.
Summer says that she is a small business owner, just the target audience for Sam’s. She actually has a membership and thinks she has a good understanding of how to sell the concept. Lenny actually lives in East Brunswick, New Jersey, the area where their store is. He thinks that will be a real advantage.
Theresa is in charge of coming up with slogans or taglines for the blimp. She decides that the store already has a strong logo and tagline, so why mess with success? She has the blimp read, “Sam’s Club. Come see the big deal. 7:00-3:30. Sam’s Club.” Well, that’s simple, albeit uninspiring.
Meanwhile, Synergy agrees that the blimp will be eye-catching, but they want something else to drive customers into the stores. Brent suggests a karaoke machine out front. Allie nixes that idea- she can’t see suburban moms or small business owners stopping to sing on their way to buy giant palettes of toilet paper. In an interview, Allie says that she questions many of Brent’s ideas, but does like his energy. “He’s full of it… full of energy,” she says with a smile.
Brent’s next idea is free makeovers. He says that women love to get their hair done. We women, always wantin’ to get purty. Andrea agrees, but suggests that she’d rather get her hair done in a nice salon, not a big warehouse. Good point. Tammy suggests massages, and over Brent’s claim that he gives good ones, Allie says she likes the idea. When she praises Tammy for coming up with it, Brent looks very unhappy. In an interview, Brent wonders why she ignores his ideas. Is she threatened by him, he wonders. Yes, I’m sure that’s it. The team quickly lands on the idea of a mini-spa set-up. They’ll give out quick massages, polish changes, and will sell the upgraded memberships. “Heck, I’d come,” Allie says.
Over at Gold Rush, Summer is in charge of calling restaurant owners to sell them on memberships. She says that she wants to call them before the dinner rush, which makes sense. Tarek put her in charge of this task since she herself is a restaurant owner. Summer makes one phone call and really doesn’t get anywhere with the woman who answers the phone. This woman clearly just wants to hang up. Summer complains that she really doesn’t have any kind of hook to offer them, so it doesn’t make sense to call. There’s nothing going on. So, because of that, she gives up and stops making calls. Charmaine looks on and is amazed at Summer’s inability to make any kind of connection with these prospective customers.
And now it’s time for the Trump Lesson of the Week: “Change the team.” Trump says that successful people know when to pull bad people off their teams. I guess that means it’s also time for the Betsy Lesson of the Week. This week’s Betsy Lesson is this: Don’t tell people what your IQ is. As soon as Tarek told everyone he was a MENSA member, he was setting himself up for a fall. Now any time he screws up, the other people in the boardroom will point at him and say, “I thought you were a member of MENSA.” He should have just shut up about it and been content to play chess with Geena Davis.
Brent is not happy at all that the rest of Synergy has put him in the blimp. He scoffs that it is a waste of his talents. But, he says, he’s not a trouble maker, so he’s not going to complain. He’d like to add, though, that he was the one who got them on the topic of makeovers in the first place, so for the record, this was kind of his idea. He’s going to keep his mouth shut and hope they win because he is a team player. Yeah, the kind of team player who complains about his team as soon as he gets a chance. Brent is a bit of a blow-hard, isn’t he?
Inside the store, Sean uses his sex-say accent to make announcements about their promotions. Michael, Allie says, is a total go-getter. He does a great job of selling to the customers. Sean, of course, works well with the women. Jenn and I aren’t the only ones who love him. George stops by and says that he likes their strategy. They have two areas at the very front of the store that will attract attention, and that the team is giving the customers friendly service.
Tarek calls Lenny, who is on the Gold Rush blimp. He asks him to have the blimp go across route 18 to attract more customers. Lenny’s partner in the blimp is Summer. Tarek says he chose Lenny to go in the blimp because he knew the area, but Summer because he has no confidence in her given the lousy job she did with the phone calls.
Gold Rush is giving out free Sam’s Club tote bags to the first 485 people who walk in the door. As customers come in, they get their tote bags and hear about the benefits of upgraded membership. Tarek thinks it will generate excitement. Carolyn is a bit confused by the plan at first- are the bags for people who get the upgraded membership? Tarek says no, everyone gets one. Then Carolyn thinks it’s a gift bag, meaning there are gifts in it. Again, no. The bag itself is the gift.
It’s not a terrible idea, but what happens when they run out of bags? Then they’ll literally have nothing. Lee is concerned as well. He says there is no big idea there. That said, he thinks the team will sell well enough to make up for it. Theresa agrees, and in an interview, says that she, Leslie, and Lee are selling especially well. Leslie connects well with the customers. She brings up the excitement level. And Lee, wearing a suit instead of a Sam’s polo shirt, is “doing some business consulting.” Because of what he’s wearing, he commands a bit more respect. “We are,” Theresa says, “a force to be reckoned with.”
With that, it’s time for the Boardroom. Trump asks Lee why he’s dressed differently. Lee explains that he was there to give business analysis and advice. The rest of the team was fine with the plan. It was also a good idea because Lee looks- and is- very young. Putting him in a suit instead of a polo shirt got him a lot more respect. Allie thinks her team did a fantastic job and would be surprised if they lost. Tarek feels the same way and says that his team performed well. Summer, on the other hand, says she would have changed a few things. Tarek does not look pleased.
Carolyn says that Gold Rush did quite well. They used the existing Sam’s Club slogan and simple marketing techniques to bring in 40 new memberships. George reports that Synergy took a different approach, offering free massages and manicures. They sold 43 memberships. Synergy wins and will have lunch with Trump at the Wharton Club.
At this point in the show, I said “Wow” so loudly that my husband came downstairs to find out what was going on. I am truly impressed at how well Lee, Theresa, and Leslie must have been selling that they lost by such a narrow margin. Synergy put a whole lot more work into their promotion and probably spent a lot more of their seed money to do it. If this were a real business challenge, and not a TV show, I think that Gold Rush’s effort was actually more successful. They probably spent less money getting each of those memberships and got nearly the same result. That is impressive, much more so than Synergy’s victory.
Back at the suite, most of Gold Rush is on the balcony talking about who should be fired. Who didn’t give 110%? The consensus is, overwhelmingly, Summer. Theresa feels like she already threw them under the bus for saying she would have changed some things. She was “negative, ineffective, and didn’t follow through.” Had she made more phone calls, they would have won. That may be true. Since the margin of victory was so slim, just a little more foot traffic might have made the difference.
Lee is quiet. He isn’t comfortable talking behind Summer’s back and says he’s never done that before. Apparently his 22 years have been rather sheltered. It’s easy to gang up on her, he adds, but she’s not totally to blame. Lee thinks the blame falls on Tarek for not coming up with a more creative idea. They didn’t have the right idea at the right time.
Synergy goes to the Wharton Club for lunch. Michael asks Trump how it feels to be a brand. Trump is philosophical and says that when you look at all of the big events that happen in the world, doing business just doesn’t seem that important. It’s a rare moment of humility, and I’m sure he went and bought, like, four buildings right after to cheer himself up.
Summer and Lenny talk back at the suite. Summer says she felt like she had no hook for calling people, plus it was a bad time of day to call. Lenny thinks she’ll be in the boardroom and wonders if he will be as well. He’s afraid that the perception will be that he worked less. That’s unfair, he says, because he did his job and did it well. I agree. It wasn’t the most glamorous, but it was still important. Lenny suggests that Summer keep quiet in the boardroom, adding, “We heard you already.” Everything Lenny says sounds totally badass because of his Russian accent. I hope that at some point, a challenge will require him to say “moose and squirrel,” but I guess that’s not likely.
Tarek asks Lee for his support. When Lee hesitates, Tarek tells him that if he’s critical, he will be setting himself up as a target. In other words, keep your mouth shut, Lee, if you know what’s good for you. Wow, that’s evil.
In the boardroom, Trump immediately proves the Betsy Lesson of the Week to be correct, asking “genius” Tarek how it feels to lose. Tarek hates it, but not because he’s in MENSA, but because he’s competitive. He takes responsibility for the loss as the project manager, but says that they didn’t lose because of a lack of leadership, but because two people didn’t step up: Lenny and Summer.
Lenny is immediately on the defensive. He explains that he’s from the area, and that’s why he was on the blimp. Trump jokes that he was sent to Siberia. Because he’s Russian. Do you get it? Yeah, I didn’t find it funny, either.
Lee thinks that the task was mismanaged, and that there were no creative ideas. Theresa disagrees, saying she liked Tarek’s excitement, and that most of the team respected him. Trump says that Tarek did not have the respect of Lee or of “the Russian.” Theresa thinks that by only making one phone call, Summer gave up on the team. Summer claims that no restaurant owner would have taken the call during the dinner rush, though she admits that she only talked to one person. Charmaine says that, going forward, she’d prefer not to have Summer on the team. Trump points out, though, that Summer was right – they did lose. Dan argues that the only time Summer was ever outspoken was in the boardroom, criticizing the team. Good point, Dan.
Tarek chooses Summer, Lenny, and Lee to come back to the boardroom. After they leave, Carolyn says that she thought Tarek lead well and that Summer should have made more calls. George says it was tough for Tarek to lead first and agrees that Summer could have brought more people to the store.
The candidates return, and Lee says that he now has “disdain” for Tarek. Lee tells Trump about how Tarek told him he’d take him to the boardroom if he spoke out against him. Lee makes Tarek look pretty weak and afraid here, I think. Lee says that he respects intelligence, but he’s not impressed with Tarek. Trump thinks he lacks common sense.
Why did Tarek bring Lenny back? Tarek says Lenny didn’t step up. George disagrees- Lenny knew the area and was able to direct the blimp. There’s value to that. “Tarek,” George barks, “didn’t this thing fail because of you?” Tarek again blames the others for lack of effort.
Carolyn asks Summer what she contributed to the team. Summer claims that her value wasn’t easy to see. Carolyn agrees and demands again to know what it is. Summer stammers that she knew product knowledge. No one is impressed. Lenny says that Summer is a strong woman and deserves to stay.
The viceroys then ask Tarek why he didn’t give anything bigger away. Lee and Lenny laugh at the gift bag with no gift. The tide in the boardroom is definitely turning against Tarek. Just then, Summer tries to interject in his defense. Trump doesn’t like that one bit, but she says she has to be truthful. Trump says that’s stupid- he was about to fire Tarek, but Summer interrupted her. He also thinks Carolyn is right that Summer didn’t contribute. Summer is fired.
Lenny shakes his head. Trump tells Tarek, “She saved your ass.” Lenny ominously says, “Not for long.” Man, do not mess with Lenny. Summer tells Tarek in the lobby that the truth will come out. Carolyn thinks Trump made the best, most obvious choice. Trump agrees, but thinks, “Tarek is totally overrated.”
I think Trump made the right call overall. Lenny and Lee both did a fine job in their respective tasks and really shouldn’t have been in the boardroom at all. Tarek made some huge mistakes. He should have come up with a more creative gimmick than he did. More importantly, he shouldn’t have alienated Lenny and Lee by bringing them to the boardroom. He now has two people on the team who don’t respect him. He was completely unfair in bringing in Lenny, and he actually threatened Lee. Good luck working with those two, Tarek. But Summer had one task that she should have been able to do well. She didn’t even try. I’m sure what she said about calling during the dinner rush is true, but she should have found another time to make those calls. Just a few more people through the door would have meant the difference between winning and losing.
Next week, Lenny and Brent cause problems for their teams. Trump’s daughter Ivanka fills in as a viceroy, along with Bill Rancic. See you then!
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. She can be reached with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org