The Apprentice 5, Episode 2: Razor Burnedby Betsy Wasser -- 03/07/2006
Tarek, Lee, and Lenny return to the suite, having escaped firing. Dan seems especially happy to have Tarek back. There are high fives all around, and the team seems pretty happy with the results. Tarek is feeling relieved and says that if not for Summer, he’d be gone. He says he’s not going to make excuses or tell Trump that he was wrong. He’s just going to do better and win.
Trump meets the candidates, but George and Carolyn are nowhere in sight. Instead, he has with him former winner Bill Rancic, and his daughter Ivanka. Trump says that Ivanka is a graduate of the Wharton School, works for him, and is “a true apprentice.” Trump tells the candidates that even though they’re outside, there are people all around him doing business. We see shots of people calling and text messaging on their phones, no doubt voting for Paris Bennett. Trump says that text messaging is a new thing all of the kids are doing, sending messages on their phones. Trump totally sounds like an old man here, but to be fair, I can’t be too critical. Last year, my friend Dan (Hi, Dan!) sent me a text message that totally shocked me. Not because of what the message said, but because I had no idea that I could receive text messages on my phone.
For their task, they’ll be working with Gillette, whose razors Trump personally endorses. I think having Trump endorse razors is a world different than him tout, say, shampoo. Gillette has a new shaving system called Fusion, and the candidates will be using text messaging to promote it. Fusion is part of Gillette’s quest to get as many blades on their razors as possible- we are now up to five. Teams will choose a key word and have people text that keyword. The team that gets the most people to text wins.
Pepi volunteers to be the project manager for Synergy. He notes that they should look for a place with good phone reception, which I suspect isn’t that big of a deal in Manhattan. He wonders what might make certain people stop and text. The team agrees that certain people use text messaging and some don’t (see the above example with Dan and me). Roxanne thinks they need something with shock value.
Brent, the king of shock value, starts to make a point, but Stacy interrupts him, saying she wants to finish her point. In an interview, Stacy says she can’t imagine how someone with “zero skills, zero ability, who constantly has to be the center of attention” like Brent could have come so far in life. Brent throws out the idea of having someone with shaving cream on his face out on the streets. Stacy hates it, and I suspect that it’s not because it’s a bad idea (which it kind of is), but because it was Brent’s idea. Brent says he’s not done, and keeps talking. Roxanne bends over to give Stacy a comforting hug. Things are bad for Brent already, and they’ve barely gotten started. In an interview, Brent says that his team doesn’t know how to handle him. He stands out, he always has, and he’s proud of it. Dude, it’s great to be an individual, but we as a society have in fact agreed on certain norms that you’ve chosen to ignore. And don’t pretend it doesn’t bother you, because obviously, it does.
Brent decides to confront Stacy about her cutting him off, so when she leaves the room, he follows her. He is confrontational and clearly upset. Stacy is still not interested in his point of view and does everything she can to physically get away from him and avoid having to listen to him.
The two return to the conference room, and Stacy asks for “some team support.” She says that Brent put his finger in her face, “basically” pushed up into her, and “essentially threatened her.” She wants him out. Pepi is taken aback and wants to know exactly what happened. Brent says he stands by what he did, adding, “If you’re going to treat me like a piece of crap, you better be prepared to get a response.” He says that Stacy is overreacting. Stacy counters that she will not be physically confronted.
I think both of them handled this poorly. Let’s look at Brent first. I can understand why he felt frustrated and undermined by Stacy. Her disrespect for him oozes from her, and he’s right- she does cut him off. Since the two of them have to work together, he was well within reason to talk to her about it, and if he wanted to talk to her about it in private, I think that’s okay, too. But instead of launching into a confrontation, he should have taken a softer approach. Had he told her that he needed to talk to her, and then with respect, asked her not to cut him off and to give him a chance to express his ideas, she might have listened to him. If she hadn’t, he’d have had a much stronger case. He should not have followed her around, put his finger in her face, and invaded her personal space.
Stacy was also well within her rights to feel uncomfortable with the way Brent talked to her. But I think she should have been very reluctant to use the word “threatened” to describe the way she felt. That’s a loaded word, especially when a woman is talking about a man and should not have been used lightly. She should have told him that the way he was talking to her was making her uncomfortable and demanded that they have the conversation in front of Pepi at least. Had she come to the team with a little more calm and a little less drama, it wouldn’t have been such a huge deal.
Now it’s time for the Trump Lesson of the Week. This week’s lesson is “People Are Strange.” Trump says that sometimes, you’ll see a person who looks very polished and put together, but they turn out to not be very talented. Conversely, sometimes a person will look like a mess, but will be very smart. The fact that almost all of Trump’s candidates have been smokin’ hot is something that perhaps we should not notice. And now for the Betsy Lesson of the Week. This week’s Betsy Lesson has been inspired by this week’s task: Don’t buy cheap razors. Seriously, the amount that you’ll save will more than made up for with the money you’ll have to spend on band-aids.
Over at Gold Rush (remember them?), project manager Lee (and yes, I agree, he looks like former candidate Andy) puts some of the razors on the table for inspiration. He gets the team to brainstorm potential keywords. Tarek thinks that because Lee is just 22, he’ll have trouble being in charge and will feel overwhelmed. The team comes up with the word “Closer,” and he asks for a show of hands of who likes it. When Lee eventually gets fired, I predict that the fact that he leads by committee will be part of the reason.
Lenny thinks the entire thing is ridiculous. They’re spending too much time focusing on the word. The word itself doesn’t even matter- it could be a single letter. All they have to do is get people to text it and they’ll win. “What else could be simpler?” he asks. He’s ready to get out and start having people text. He, Charmaine, and Leslie take off while the rest of the team stays behind to come up with a plan. I think Lenny’s one letter idea is actually brilliant. He’s right- they just need lots of texts. One letter would be fast and easy.
Synergy is still dealing with the Brent thing. Stacy says she feels distracted and vents to Pepi and Tammy about it. Tammy thinks that Pepi is handling the whole issue poorly and should have been more decisive. The entire team is upset. Andrea says she hates having to deal with Brent at all. Pepi takes Brent aside and says that the team wants to bench him for the task. Way to not own it, Pepi. Brent argues with him, and Pepi feels conflicted. Ultimately, Pepi lets him stay. The team does not look happy.
Michael says in an interview that they wasted so much time dealing with the Brent mess that they never really came up with a plan or an image. He suggests that they all wear bathrobes and slippers to get attention and tell people to text to find out what’s going on. The team agrees on this idea, and they are literally in the elevator on the way to the suite when they come up with this plan.
Gold Rush brainstorms slogans. Charmaine calls Lee on her pretty red cell phone that I am now coveting. She, Lenny, and Leslie want the rest of the team to join them right away so they can get to work. Lee isn’t ready for that, and wants to give them a list of clubs they can go to Lenny tells Lee to cut the B.S. and get the team out there. Can they start their campaign now? Because if they can, the other team is crazy for not having started yet. Lee suggests they meet at the suite at 9:00. The street team disagrees- they need everyone right away. Lee suggests that they compromise by meeting in Times Square in 40 minutes. “What are you, nuts,” Lenny asks. Leslie sighs at what a waste of time this is- they need to get to work. The street team hangs up, leaving a confused Lee holding the phone.
The next morning, Roxanne wakes up the rest of Synergy. She heard the other team leaving while her team slept and figures they have no reason to wait. Immediately I like Roxanne- she’s a hard worker. She’s frustrated and thinks Pepi needs to take control. Pepi listlessly stirs his cereal, but at least in his robe, he is dressed for work. Stacy is in charge of choosing their location, and using a computer monitor that may be larger than my TV, picks a place. She is a native New Yorker, so everyone figures she knows what she’s doing. That never, ever works on this show.
The Gold Rush team is already working, set up in Times Square. Lee says that he realizes now that Lenny was right- it’s not complicated, they just need lots of text messages – that’s it. He says it’s a lesson learned, and he had the wrong approach before. The team focuses on the people standing in line at the TKTS booth. It’s a captive audience, so it works well for them. Bill comes by, and Lee tells him proudly that they were out and working before the other team was even awake.
Synergy is at Times Square too, but they arrived much later. Michael notes that most people in Times Square are on the move, so it’s hard to get anyone’s attention. He doesn’t think their location is a good one. She thinks that Stacy should talk to Pepi about moving. Ivanka arrives and comments on the bathrobes. As she looks on, the team gets really no response. We see several shots of people throwing out their flyers.
Brent thinks it’s time to go “full force ahead.” They need to get attention, so he puts on a sandwich board and starts doing the robot. He then proceeds to dance like a maniac. Stacy won’t even look in his direction, so desperately does she want to distance herself from this spectacle. She says that she’s a criminal defense attorney, but she’s never seen anyone quite like Brent. Ivanka says that he’s hard to miss. My boyfriend Sean encourages people to honor the crazy antics by sending text messages. Brent says in an interview that without him, Synergy would not have had nearly as much attention. He says that his “overall talents, such as dance, robotics, and overall just being a nutcase” were what they needed. He reminds me in this moment of Napoleon Dynamite listing off his skills. Brent thinks that his team is finally realizing how talented he is. Don’t hold your breath, there, Brent.
The teams gather in the Boardroom. Ivanka says that Gold Rush was smart and impressive. They got 683 text messages. Bill says that Synergy got a late start and never quite found a location. They only got 458 texts, a loss margin of almost 50%. Trump says that it’s easier for him when a team loses so badly. The reward for Gold Rush will be the chance to work with Career Gear, a charity that helps outfit men who are “down on their luck” and need new job interview suits.
Gold Rush goes to a Trump suit showroom, where they meet three men and help them get suits. Dan seems to be having an absolute blast with this reward, perhaps because he owns a clothing company. The men look really fantastic in their new suits, and Trump arrives to give them words of encouragement. He assures them, “Trump is lucky.” He hopes that these men just need a little extra help to get on their feet again.
Back at the suite, as expected, everyone is talking about how impossible it is to work with Brent. Pepi wonders if Brent is mentally stable. I’m happy to say that after Stacie J. was basically diagnosed with mental illness by a group of women who had no idea what they were talking about, the team says that they don’t want to go that far. Pepi says that Brent seems to treat women differently, and they all do agree that he is not “socially stable.” They think he could snap at any time. Michael fears for the day that Brent snaps and doesn’t like that he can be aggressive. Tammy and my boyfriend Sean agree that it was especially weird when Brent was pounding on his sandwich board. Pepi says that Brent is a clown- “He might as well be wearing a big red nose.”
Now, what about Stacy feeling threatened by Brent? Well, she has a slightly different story now. She says she never felt like she was in danger – she was just uncomfortable. Pepi coaches her through how to phrase it in the Boardroom. Considering that she’s a lawyer, I think she can walk that line just fine. Roxanne is frustrated that Stacy has apparently changed her story. Stacy admits that, in the moment, she was upset, and Roxanne says that she was under the impression that Stacy wanted something done right then and there. Roxanne says in an interview that Stacy has lost credibility in her eyes. Stacy claims that she never used the word threat, but she totally did.
The long and short of it is that I think Stacy now realizes that she overreacted and that using the word “threatened” was out of line. Unfortunately, once something like that is out there, it’s hard to get it back again.
Meanwhile, Brent is well aware that everyone is talking about him. He says in an interview that they all think he’s dumb and doesn’t know what’s going on. “That’s all right,” he says, “I’m smarter than them.” He is confident that he will do well, and if they don’t recognize it, that’s their problem. “Brent is not going home this evening. That is for sure.” I’ve seen this show enough times that, alas, I agree. You don’t get rid of the crazy person in the second episode!
The team gathers in the Boardroom. Pepi says that they lost because they wasted precious time on the distraction that is Brent. Brent can’t believe it and says he was a star. Pepi disagrees, saying that Brent is a big part of why they lost. Trump brings up the very good point that the other team had a 100 vote lead before Synergy even got started. Michael says that Pepi did a good job as project manager, but he couldn’t manage Brent. He never gets to answer Trump’s inevitable question of whether Michael could have handled him better, because Brent has to argue with Pepi about whether or not he’s smart. Brent says that he wouldn’t hire Pepi to organize a kid’s birthday party, and that if Trump hired Pepi, he wouldn’t get a single night’s sleep.
Bill says that Stacy did a lousy job of choosing their location. She disagrees, saying that they were in Times Square just as Broadway plays were starting and as people were going to dinner. Ivanka says that the other team had a much better spot, even though they too were in Times Square. Now seems like as good of a place as any to mention that Ivanka is incredibly smart and articulate. I hope we see more of her. Trump, Ivanka, and Bill say they hated the bathrobes. Trump goes on an icky tangent about how he would only want to see some of the women in bathrobes, not the men.
Sean says he’d fire Brent. Allie would also. Roxanne, however, says that they lost the task because they didn’t have any manpower until noon. She blames Pepi for that. I like Roxanne and will be watching her. Andrea would fire Brent because he wasted their time. Bill thinks that blaming Brent for wasted time is “lame.” They need better management skills on the team if Brent can derail them so much.
Michael admits that the bathrobes were his idea, and Trump says it was terrible. I don’t think it was that bad. It was eye catching, and that was part of what they needed. They didn’t lose the task because Brent looks bad in a bathrobe; they lost because they slept too late. Michael then tries to weasel out of responsibility by saying that the bathrobes were his idea, but that Pepi approved it. That’s weak. Michael then shines the spotlight away from himself by saying that a male member of the team threatened one of the women.
Stacy explains that Brent’s “words and conduct” made her feel “threatened and uncomfortable.” Trump thinks that surely as a criminal defense attorney, she has seen worse. Ivanka wants to know exactly what he said. Stacy says that he put his finger in her face and screamed at her. Trump can’t believe that, with her experience, that would scare her. Brent says, “Shame on Stacy as an attorney.” He says that Stacy cut him off and was rude and disrespectful. Trump points out the elephant in the room by saying that everyone disrespects Brent.
Trump tells Pepi he can bring in three people instead of just two. He adds that because of the size of their loss, he’s going to fire two people. Pepi chooses Brent (shocker), Stacy, and Michael. That doesn’t bode well for Pepi. If Trump is that upset about a loss, he’s bound to blame the project manager.
Bill says that Stacy has got to go. She doesn’t take responsibility for her actions. Ivanka thinks Brent is a liability. She doesn’t think he’ll stay around for much longer (leaving unsaid that this might not be the week to fire him, because she’s no dummy), but thinks Pepi let things spin out of control.
Trump calls the candidates back in. Pepi says that Brent is a negative force and cannot be contained. Brent interrupts him, saying that Pepi is “chaos.” Ivanka wants to know how Pepi guided the team. He says that he is consistent and is a good manager. Trump says, basically, not this time, he wasn’t. Pepi agrees.
Brent says that he was the one who created a buzz, and that people were looking at him. He was a star. Stacy says, “He was the star in a clown role.” That woman hates him so much. Brent thinks that Stacy is disrespectful. She reminds us that he put his finger in her face. Again, hasn’t she seen worse? Stacy says that no one else was there to see it.
Trump says he’s fired many people, and it’s usually tough, but not this time. Pepi was a bad leader, Stacy chose a bad location, Michael came up with a bad concept, and Brent is “a disaster.” But Trump knows that location is key, and Stacy picked the wrong location. Plus if she can’t handle Brent, she probably can’t handle on of his businesses. Stacy is fired.
Michael, Trump says, has great potential, but did a terrible job. For now, he’s safe. If he screws up again, he’s gone. Michael promises not to disappoint Trump again.
That leaves Brent and Pepi. Trump says that Brent is a disaster and will be gone soon. But Pepi didn’t lead the team well. Pepi is fired.
In the lobby, Pepi and Stacy commiserate briefly. They head downstairs. Trump says that it was not easy. Ivanka says that they were nice people, but not apprentices. Pepi and Stacy share a cab. Pepi says that he did his best, but there were circumstances beyond his control, plus Brent was a big distraction. Stacy thinks the team is destined for failure as long as they have Brent.
I’m mostly okay with this firing. I don’t like that Michael tried to shift the blame for his idea on Pepi, but I don’t think the idea was that bad. As for Pepi, he made a number of mistakes. He should have handled the Brent situation conclusively. Brent should have either been benched, or Pepi should have somehow made the team feel okay with having him on it. He should have gotten the team mobilized much earlier. That alone could have made the difference. If given the choice, I would have fired Brent over Stacy. He is completely socially inept, and Trump is looking for a manager. Someone like Brent doesn’t exactly inspire devotion, does he? He needs to polish his people skills before he can hope to be successful in this kind of setting.
That said, I’m okay with Stacy being fired. She didn’t seem to understand the nuances of choosing a good location, but more importantly, the way she handled the Brent situation was just as much of a distraction as Brent himself. She also came across as completely weak that she couldn’t handle something as simple as a finger in her face. We’ll just have to patiently wait for Trump to fire Brent.
Next week, the candidates literally swim with sharks. 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