The Apprentice 5, Episode 4: Don’t Squeeze the Charmaineby Betsy Wasser -- 03/21/2006
First of all, big thanks to Jenn Brasler for filling in for me at the last minute last week. I was absolutely sick as a dog and could barely stay awake to watch the show, let alone recap it. Jenn is even an even better substitute than Bill Rancic- I dare say Jenn is my Ivanka.
Lee says that the boardroom was much worse this time around. Leslie thinks the screaming was worse, but Lee is especially worried about the team dynamic. “It can rip a family apart,” he says. Lenny and Tarek return, sans Theresa. Tarek says that he dodged a bullet, having been to the Boardroom twice now. He’s pretty sure that if Trump sees him there again in the next few tasks, he’s a goner.
Everyone wants to know why Theresa got fired. No doubt they missed David Bloomberg’s weekly “Why X Lost” article and feel… lost… without it. The guys say that the fact that Theresa didn’t bring Charmaine back played a big part in it. Charmaine looks totally shocked and asks, “That’s why she got fired?”
Allie says in an interview that she’s really happy to be on Synergy right now. Gold Rush is being torn apart, she says. Charmaine, for one, is so upset that she curls up on her bed and cries. Leslie comes in to talk to her, and Charmaine tells her that she feels awful. Leslie tries to reassure her- it must have been more complicated than that. It was, although not bringing Charmaine in sure didn’t help. The two of them agree that they are a team divided and must pull together for the next task. The scene ends with Charmaine still blinking back tears.
The next morning, Charmaine is the first up to answer the gold Trump phone. The teams are to meet at the Trump Grille. There, Trump is having a fake conversation with the chef about how important breakfast is and how everybody loves cereal. Trump greets the candidates and indicates that George is back and that Ivanka will be filling in for Carolyn. Trump claims that at this restaurant, they serve lots of cereal, which I highly doubt. Other than Jerry Seinfeld, who goes out to eat and orders cereal? It’s not like it’s hard to make it yourself or to clean it up afterwards. But I digress. The teams will be working with Post to design billboards promoting Post Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch. That is one long name. The two executives from Post will be judging.
Tammy is the project manager for Synergy because she has marketing experience. No one really has anything in particular to say about Grape Nuts, except that Allie remembers her dad eating them. The team heads to Post headquarters, and Brent volunteers to do the presentation, saying that he has lots of experience with presentations. Tammy, of course, is busy employing Andrea’s technique of giving Brent no responsibility. She thinks someone else would be better and asks him to help coordinate clothing for the presentation. That is the fakest bit of busy work I have ever heard. It’s not enough to just keep Brent out of the way; to really control him, you have to make him feel like what he’s doing is important. Andrea had that down last week. In an interview, Sean says that there’s no way they’d let Brent present- nobody trusts him.
Ivanka arrives as the team starts brainstorming. How can they capture attention? Brent thinks they should show a scale, but Allie disagrees- they don’t want to focus on diet. Brent still likes the idea and suggests, “Kick start your ten-plus pound weight loss today.” Tammy tells him that they’re not doing the weight loss thing and to suggest different ideas. Allie suggests that they show a dad passing Grape Nuts down to the next generation. “Finally, a cereal for everybody,” she suggests. Sean likes the idea, as do Andrea and her incredibly distracting yellow eyeshadow.
They agree that Tammy and Sean will present. Brent tells Ivanka that he’s in charge of coordinating the clothing, and it’s not exactly hard for her to figure out what the team is up to. She doesn’t think it’s going to work- Brent won’t quit so easily. She’s right. Brent takes Tammy aside and asks her to reconsider allowing him to present. He really thinks it’s a strength of his. Tammy says that she and Sean will handle it, and since they’re not talking about weight loss, she doesn’t think Brent would be an appropriate presenter. Brent takes this to mean that she doesn’t want him to do it because he’s fat, and he is fighting mad about it. In an interview, he snaps, “I can’t stand her face.”
I’m not sure if Brent’s interpretation is right. The reason Tammy doesn’t want him to present, as we all know, is that he’s a crazy, unpredictable mess. There’s nothing that makes her believe he’d do a good job. She doesn’t want to tell him that because he’ll freak out. So, she basically came up with an excuse on the fly, and what I think she was trying to say is that he’d be a bad pick because in the brainstorming he was so focused on weight loss as a selling point. There will be more about this later.
And now for the Trump Lesson of the Week: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Trump says that in marketing, a complicated message goes over people’s heads. Simple is better. And now for the Betsy Lesson of the Week. When you’re sick, like I was last week, try to keep yourself occupied with something light. I made the mistake of trying to watch The Constant Gardener and could not follow it to save my life. An old episode of Fraggle Rock was much more what I could handle.
As I’m sure everyone predicted, Charmaine has volunteered to lead Gold Rush because she wants to prove herself. Lee, obviously having listened to the Trump Lesson of the Week, thinks they should have a simple concept. Everyone talks over each other, debating if they should use an animal mascot, and Charmaine does her best to control the group. George arrives and says in an interview that she is keeping order effectively. Leslie notes that their billboard would only have a split second to make an impression. Charmaine agrees and wants to hone in on what’s important. George notes that Gold Rush is a difficult group, but that she is making them focus. Bryce suggests that they show an image of a guy chugging a box of cereal with the tagline, “It’s that good.” Charmaine loves the idea and declares the brainstorming over- it’s time to move forward.
Synergy team members Roxanne, Tarek, and Allie hit the streets of New York looking for models. They spot an absolutely beautiful woman, and Sean walks over to her asking if she is free that evening to do some photography. Wow, he sounds like a total pervert serial killer. Inexplicably, she agrees. Maybe the TV cameras made her more confident that no one would find her in a quarry somewhere. Next, they need to find a guy who can play her dad. Allie finds hottie after hottie, none of whom have seen the far side of 30. Finally, they find a man who is 34 and say he looks like he’s 40. The man manages not to be horribly offended by that and agrees to take the job. Isn’t 40 a little young still?
Gold Rush is up to the same plan. Leslie, Lee, and Tarek need to find a model. They’ve ditched the idea of a guy and are now looking for a young woman. Tarek thinks it’ll take 2-3 hours to find the right person and get her to agree to it. They want someone with a wholesome, girl next door look. Unbelievably, they find someone right away. Tarek knows how creepy their pitch is, and gets in front of it, saying, “Can I ask you something that’s going to be totally shady?” They offer the woman $200 and a sporty outfit. She looks a little scared, but she agrees. They love the model, but Tarek isn’t so sure about the idea. It seems generic to him and not really risky. He hopes the other team isn’t more creative.
Well, he’s in luck, because I don’t think either idea is especially creative. We’ve already heard the generational message with “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile,” but Gold Rush’s idea doesn’t feel especially fresh, either. The winner of this task will be the team that executes their idea the best.
The rest of Synergy is working with a graphic artist, and Brent is all over her. He wants her to add a hand-drawn spoon to the image, for one thing. Tammy quickly gets him out of the way, saying that Andrea will handle it. Andrea says she’s worked on promotions in her job and has “a pretty good eye for it.” Brent has more suggestions, and Andrea’s irritation is obvious. In an interview, she says that Brent sucks the life out of everyone around him. She wonders if they should give him more responsibility, knowing that they’ll probably lose, but thinking that might give them a chance to get rid of him.
Brent is still pestering the designer, asking her if she could make the background a different color. Andrea shoos him away again. In interview, Brent says that the only thing Andrea is an expert in is “being an @#$hole.” He hopes that she and Tammy enjoy a cab ride together and enjoy smelling each other’s crap, because they both stink. It’s really venomous and creepy. Tammy tells Andrea that she loves her and loves the graphics. Brent seethes.
The rest of Synergy is at the photo shoot, and they’re thrilled by how well it’s turning out. Tammy emails them the graphics, and they are not happy at all. It’s a whole lot of orange background with a little heart cut out in the middle for the photo. There’s no way the photos Synergy has done are going to fit in that little space and look halfway decent. Tammy calls Sean and asks how it looks, and he hesitates to answer. Finally, he says he hopes they can do something different with the graphics. Time is running out, though, and Tammy says she needs the photos in five minutes.
Gold Rush is working on finding a shot of the model in which she doesn’t have “crazy eyes.” Charmaine isn’t excited about the way any of them turned out, but figures it’s too late now. Bryce thinks maybe they would have been better off without the model. They could just show 4 empty boxes of cereal. Charmaine doesn’t want to backtrack and is mad that Bryce never said something like that before. He says he thought of it just now. In an interview, Charmaine says she’s frustrated because Bryce came up with this idea in the first place and now won’t take ownership of it. She points this out to him and asks where his excitement went. He says it’s just not coming together well. In an interview, Bryce says he’s afraid this will all blow up in his face if they lose. He really doesn’t want to end up in the boardroom again. Charmaine says the time to question things is over.
The next morning, Gold Rush is on the road at 7:30 to do their presentation. Charmaine wants to do something simple to tie it all together.
Back at the suite, Tammy gathers together Synergy. Brent is not ready yet and is still ironing his pants. That’s pretty funny considering that he was in charge of coordinating all of their outfits. You’d think he could handle a task that simple, and yet he has apparently screwed it up. Andrea is beyond annoyed and says that Brent is enough of a drain anyway without making everybody late on top of it. Brent argues that he was up until 4:00 in the morning, which apparently somehow excuses him from being on time? The two of them have a brief shouting match that concludes with him calling her “an unappreciative you-know-what.” He says she doesn’t know how to keep her big mouth shut and should be locked up in prison. Huh? Andrea then destroys any good will I might have for her by saying that she is a multimillionaire and he only makes $50,000 a year. Woman, we do not judge anyone’s worth or success just by their tax returns. Boo!
Trump arrives at Post for the big presentations. Both teams are confident that they’ll win. With a flourish, the teams’ billboards- which are actually more banners than billboards- are unfurled. Charmaine goes first. Gold Rush, she explains, is going for the shock factor of seeing a healthy, attractive young woman pouring a box of cereal into her mouth. Trump asks the question I had, which is why is Leslie pushing a jogging stroller full of cereal? Oh, that’s because this is the “new addition to the Post family.” They hand out birth announcements, and it feels kind of tacked on. Maybe there was more to it that we didn’t see.
Tammy explains that they are showing the next generation of Grape Nuts consumers, with the “older gentleman” giving cereal to his daughter. Trump and George about die laughing at the idea that the model looks like a dad, much less the young woman’s dad. Then, Sean busts out a Powerpoint presentation about their ad. Ugh. I can’t stand Powerpoint anyway, and if you have to use it to explain the billboard then you’re in trouble. Sean’s presentation is kind of boring and he stammers a lot. Trump finally tells him, “I think we’ve heard enough.”
Trump says that he has a preference, but it’s up to the Post executives. They both think Synergy’s presentation is “too complex.” There are too many words, images, and graphics and nothing to focus on. Gold Rush, on the other hand, is “brilliant.” The model says “nutritious,” and the cereal says “delicious.” There’s an energy and a freshness to it that they love. Gold Rush wins. Dan cheers, “It’s that good!” Tool. For their reward, they’ll be cooking with chef Jean George at Trump Tower. Someone from Synergy will be fired.
The candidates arrive at the restaurant and meet Jean George. They watch him cook, and Lenny encourages him to add more vodka to what he’s cooking. I love it when Lenny gets all Russian. Tarek says that Charmaine was a good project manager because she gave them a much-needed sense of calm. The chef finishes his plate, but Lenny wants to add his own touch, sprinkling some cayenne around the edges. Everyone is disgusted that he has the nerve to do this, adding to what the great chef has done. In an interview, Bryce spits, “What’s wrong with you?” I don’t know; I don’t think it was that bad. They were supposed to cook with him, and Lenny was just trying to have fun. Maybe the chef was insulted by it, but that wasn’t Lenny’s intention.
Charmaine says that the chef is creative, so it’s appropriate given that her team was more creative than the other. There was, she adds, a lot of second guessing on Bryce’s part. Rivalry brewing! Bryce says that Jean George had an extraordinary background, and it inspired him to do what you want to do every single day. The chef talks about how he doesn’t like it when customers add salt or pepper to his food, then jokes that he wouldn’t like Lenny as a customer.
Allie, Roxanne, and Sean are all piled into bed together. I know he’s my TV boyfriend, but since I am cheating on him with Chris from American Idol, I’m going to look the other way just this once. Sean says it’s going to be impossible to get rid of Brent. He didn’t have any responsibility, so he’s not the one who made them lose. They think Tammy’s head is on the chopping block. They all agree that the banner was too cluttered and note that Andrea was in charge of graphics. Roxanne thinks Andrea is to blame.
Meanwhile, Tammy and Andrea do some plotting of their own. Andrea says that the whole team missed the task, so the weakest member should go. She doesn’t name names, but I think maybe it rhymes with “bent.” Tammy says that she hates Brent- he’s rude and embarrassing.
Still elsewhere in the suite, Brent is sitting at the table with Lee and Lenny. He says that he’s not sure who Tammy will bring in, but “You save me a place at this table.” He assures the two guys, “I will be back stronger, more powerful than ever.” Had he actually quoted Obi-Wan in Star Wars directly, he might have won me over slightly. In an interview, he says that he has arguments ready and will out-argue Tammy or anyone else who crosses him. “I’m a nuclear weapon in the boardroom,” he threatens, adding, “Keep me out our you’ll be sorry.”
In the Boardroom, Trump says that he liked both billboards, but the more he looked at them, the more he preferred the other team’s. That’s an unusually kind assessment by the old Trumpster. Andrea thinks theirs was too cluttered, and George agrees. Tammy says that they came up with lots of ideas, and starts to tell them their slogan, which is so freaking long that I got tired of trying to write it down. George says that there was too much copy. Ivanka thinks the other ad was more exciting.
Andrea says that Tammy was a great project manager, and adds that when she was PM, Tammy was her right hand. Roxanne adds that Tammy was the best project manager yet. Trump asks if she was better than Andrea, and Roxanne says yes. Andrea mutters, “I don’t know about that.” Roxanne adds that Tammy motivated them to go the extra mile. Andrea is a bright shade of jealous green. Michael thinks that Tammy managed time effectively, avoided chaos, and got everyone to do what she wanted.
Trump wonders whose idea the slideshow was. Sean knows where this is going and admits that his presentation was bad. Brent smirks, then says for the record that he offered to do it, but Tammy turned him down because he was too fat. Tammy rolls her eyes and shakes her head. Brent says that public speaking is one of his skills and that he wouldn’t have “choked” like Sean did. Sean doesn’t try to defend himself, saying that he got flustered. Trump says again that it was not good.
Brent then says that Tammy stank as a project manager, and “it smells over here.” He seems to strive to put things as crassly as possible, doesn’t he? Trump notes that Andrea “almost threw up” when he said that. Trump says that Tammy didn’t do a bad job- the team wasn’t terrible, just okay. Andrea says that Brent is embarrassing and a liability to the team. Brent says Andrea is the liability. He’s rubber, she’s glue, he knows she is, but what is he, it takes one to know one, and so on. Trump says that Andrea is successful, so Brent can’t really say that. Yuck, again with the theory that Andrea is great because she has a lot of money.
Roxanne says that Brent is hard to deal with. Brent interrupts and says that his friends love to deal with him. Ivanka says that might be true, but his team sure doesn’t love it. Tammy says that they’re not working with a full team because of him. Brent says that he has saved “the team’s behind” many times. He has great ideas and put them forward, but now they’re all picking on him. Ivanka points out that Brent was the one who opened the floodgates by saying that Tammy “stank.” Before he attacked her, no one said anything about him. Maybe it’s not that they’re all ganging up on him so much as that he doesn’t approach things well. I absolutely love Ivanka. She is a smart, smart woman and really puts things well.
Brent says he was just offering his opinion. Trump wonders why he couldn’t have been more moderate about it, which is funny coming from a man who regularly calls people “a disaster.” Ivanka says that the way Brent expressed himself was offensive.
Tammy says she never said Brent was fat. She never used that word. She felt that they needed a fit person to represent the product, and he doesn’t represent that. That’s a fine point, but I think Tammy came up with it after the fact. Like I said before, she didn’t want him to present not so much because he’s overweight, but because he’s unprofessional, unreliable, and doesn’t present himself well. Now she’s just had time to come up with a better excuse. Trump says that it would be better to have someone with an attractive body (creepily pointing out Andrea and Roxanne and reminding me once again why I would not want to work for this man) present than Brent. Sometimes that’s what you have to do in life, and sometimes it would be better to have Ivanka present than him or George. Brent knows that’s how life is, so George wants to know why he finds it so objectionable. Brent says they teamed up on him.
Allie disagrees; they all came to this conclusion separately. Tammy says that everyone is embarrassed by him. She adds that she thinks Trump should fire Brent. Andrea agrees, and Brent says sarcastically that he’s not surprised. Andrea says no one would be surprised. Brent responds that no one asked her, and she agrees and shuts up.
Trump asks if we should learn from experience, whether it’s over a lifetime or just a few weeks. Brent says sure. Trump says that the team can’t stand him, and that he has learned absolutely nothing from his experience as to how to handle them or interact with them. They all think he’s a loser and a loose cannon. They also think he’s a negative influence on the team. Trump says he could sent Brent out and bring him in again, but why bother? Brent is fired. He doesn’t want to waste time.
The rest of the candidates pile into the elevator, hopefully waiting for the doors to close before they cheer. Ivanka and George agree that Trump made the right decision. Trump thinks the team will be better now.
Was Brent the right person to fire this week? Sean was right that he had so little responsibility that their loss was not his fault. Several people made small mistakes. Sean did a terrible job with the presentation. Andrea was in charge of the cluttered graphics. Tammy lead them all. Still, I can’t really point to any of them and say, “Yep, she’s the one who screwed it up.” Like Trump said, it’s not so much that their billboard was bad as that it just wasn’t as good as the other one. Still, someone had to go, and it certainly made sense that it was Brent. Neither he nor his team could function well with him on it. Every project manager would have to waste time trying to figure out the best way to marginalize him. And Brent had dug himself into such a deep hole by just rubbing everyone the wrong way that no one would listen to him. His idea of focusing on the cereal as a diet aid, for example, wasn’t really a bad one. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea ever, but it wasn’t bad. But because it was Brent’s idea, everyone dismissed it out of hand, and there’s nothing he could have done to change that.
In his cab ride, Brent says Trump made the wrong decision and that everyone sold him out.
Next week, the candidates promote a cruise ship, and their egos are as big as the boat. Excellent.
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online and ate a bowl of cereal before writing this recap. She can be reached with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org