The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Episode 1: Working At the Car Washby Betsy Wasser -- 01/08/2007
It’s time for the sixth season of The Apprentice. If you want a quick snapshot of this season’s changes and an introduction to the candidates, check out my preview article. Ready? Let’s go.
Trump calls his wife Melania from his car phone. He tells her that he’ll see her in Los Angeles soon, and we hear their son Barron coo adorably in the background. Trump introduces himself, as if we didn’t know him already, especially given his current feud with Rosie O’Donnell. Trump drives past some palm trees in a gorgeous convertible and tells us that he loves L.A. and is building a house there. But at the same time, of course, he is looking for someone to run one of his companies. He wants to find someone who is a problem solver and an ace negotiator – someone who will be his next Apprentice. There are 18 candidates vying for the job, and Trump says that they are a talented group with diverse backgrounds.
Trump arrives at the mansion where he has a temporary office, complete with boardroom. Melania and Barron (who is totally cute) greet him. The three gaze seriously at the camera (okay, Barron might not look that serious) as Trump tells us that only one candidate will be the next Apprentice.
The candidates arrive in the reality TV standard fleet of black SUVs, meeting Trump in the driveway of the mansion next to his. Trump welcomes them and promises them “a very, very tough time.” All of the candidates briefly introduce themselves. They all seem very confident in their impressive resumes, but one of them in particular seems to make an impression on those assembled. That’s Angela, an Olympic medalist and Harvard graduate. Trump says he saw her play and gives her a hug. Several more candidates introduce themselves, then we come to Martin, who tells Trump that he’ll hug him too if he can take a bathroom break. Trump, ever the harsh one, tells him to hold it. If I were in a job interview and the prospective boss wouldn’t let me use the restroom, I’d be out of there in a flash, but none of the candidates seem to see this as a red flag.
Introductions over, Trump tells the candidates that they’ll get to know each other by completing a task together. He directs them to the yard next to the mansion and tells them to assemble a large tent. Once the tent is up, they will meet him in the boardroom.
The candidates swarm on the tent box like very well dressed mice on a glob of peanut butter. Things are pretty chaotic at first, but Heidi yells for everyone to pay attention to her. She says she’s done a lot of camping and knows what she’s doing. People follow Heidi’s directions. But then, Angela tells us in an interview, Frank decides to take over.
Frank does that loud whistle with his fingers in his mouth, which my mom used to do and I could hear from about six blocks away. He tells them to pull together all of the bases, to make sure they have all the pieces they need. James says that Frank is frenetic, like a cartoon character. Trump, watching from a window, observes that Frank has a loud voice and yells at him to keep it down. Ironic.
Let’s step back for a minute and look at what’s going on. Frank’s idea – having everyone find the bases so they can start there – is a good one. It’s kind of like putting together the flat edges when you make a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately, his approach was off putting. Heidi was doing just fine leading the group. Things seemed to be running smoothly. But Frank, it seems, couldn’t leave well enough alone. Heidi wasn’t quiet when she took charge either. It’s not like her yelling was more pleasant than his whistling. But the difference is that when Heidi got everyone’s attention, there was no one steering the ship. He was desperate to take charge, so he steamrollered over everyone else.
Anyway, the tent building continues. Frank notices that Martin is standing on a rock watching everyone else. In an interview, Martin explains that he was taking “a supervisory role,” to unify the group. Something tells me that others won’t see it quite the same way. The tent is complete, and everyone gives a group cheer of “TRUMP!” They group walks over to the mansion, wondering what’s going to happen next. Aaron thinks maybe someone will go home already.
The candidates meet in the boardroom, where they are joined by Trump and his awesome daughter Ivanka. Trump tells everyone that Ivanka will act as his eyes and ears, and that he will have “a special guest” join them in the other chair later on. He asks the group if putting up the tent was hard, and someone says that there were too many chefs. Frank, though, says that the tent is nice and, “I’d sleep in it tonight.” Poor guy. Little does he know that’s a real possibility. Trump asks him who the best leader was. Frank, too modest to answer himself, names Heidi. James says that both Frank and Heidi were active, vocal, and stepped up to take charge. Trump names the two of them team captains and the first project managers.
The two pick teams. Heidi gets Derek, Amy, Marissa, Angela, Surya, Christine, Muna, and Jenn. Frank selects Carey, Tim, Aaron, Nicole, James, Stephanie, Michelle, and last of all, Martin. Martin is upset at being last picked. In an interview, he says that people don’t like him at first, but tend to warm up to him later. “At first, they can be standoffish.” Oh, Martin. Do you really think that every other person in the universe is at fault here? That it’s not, maybe, you who is the problem?
It’s time to get back to work. For the first task, the candidates will run a car wash. The team with the most money at the end wins. The losers will go to the boardroom, and the winning project manager will remain project manager until his or her team loses. Ivanka, of course, will observe.
Frank’s team gathers at a car wash, and the first order of business is that old Apprentice favorite: running to Kinko’s to make flyers. They quickly agree on a base price of $10, with optional upgrades. Martin says that the scene was absolute bedlam, comparing it to the beach and Normandy. Someone else says, “Frank led like a hyperactive three-year-old on grape soda.” Alas, we don’t know who said it. More’s the pity.
Frank grabs Aaron, and the two of them take off to make flyers. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t yet set the upsell prices. Tim decides to take over, gathers everyone together, and quickly sets three price points. Frank then calls them and tells everyone to hurry up and get some cars in. He’s afraid the other team is already making money while they stand around. He wants the women in the street pulling in business. To the women’s credit, when they change clothes it is not, as I’d feared, into bikinis, but rather shorts and tank tops. Big love to the women for their lack of skankiness!
Meanwhile, Frank and Aaron run like crazy to Kinko’s, not quite sure where they’re going. In an interview, Tim says they’d better come back with something really great to make it worth this effort.
Heidi’s team is also hard at work. They quickly grab pieces of cardboard and make really crappy looking signs that offer a free lunch with a car wash. Heidi explains that their car wash is located in a gay neighborhood, so they hired some guys to stand at the street shirtless holding their signs. Is it sad that I find it a wee bit of progress when this show exploits men instead of just women? Yeah, I think it’s sad.
Ivanka arrives, and tells Amy that she’s surprised that they’re not doing more detailing. Amy says that they are going for volume, rather than the more expensive but slower service. In an interview, Ivanka observes that it’s an interesting strategy. She’s not sure if it’ll work. Ivanka then says hi to one of the shirtless guys. He asks, “You want to take your shirt off and help us out?” Ivanka laughs and politely declines.
Let’s just take a moment to think about how our dear departed Carolyn would have shot ice daggers into that guy for asking her that. It would have been a thing of beauty.
Over at Frank’s car wash, the flyers are finally there. The team does their best to yell at passing cars and show them the flyers, but the papers are just too small. In an interview, Carey says that while he loves Frank’s enthusiasm, they really need signs to be effective. He grabs someone (Frank, I think) to buy some posterboard and markers at a nearby store. Nice work, Carey.
Just then, Ivanka arrives and is surprised that Frank isn’t around. Aaron shrugs and says that Frank is delegating well. It’s nice to see that he’s not ready to immediately badmouth the team leader. Ivanka notes that they really need signs. Aaron tells her that he’s tired, and Ivanka laughs that it’s awfully early for that. Meanwhile, Martin wanders aimlessly, no cars to wash.
Heidi’s team has the opposite problem. Cars are backed up and they don’t have enough people washing. Surya wonders if maybe their marketing was too effective. Customers are getting frustrated, so Heidi gathers everyone around and assigns them to new tasks, concentrating on washing cars. She crouches down in her lovely suit to scrub someone’s car. Marissa says that everyone pitched in. Angela says that the only reason she can think of that they’d lose is if things are a little too chaotic.
Frank’s group is finally getting some customers. James says that two-thirds of the way into the task, they got signs, and it seems to really be making a difference. Tim, Martin, and James are working on up-selling the customers, and Martin appears to be failing. Martin sees it differently, explaining that he has a more subtle approach. He says that there’s an old saying: Drip, drip, drip, water cracks the stone. He is like that water. As the day ends, James notices that Martin is reviewing a little notebook with his sales in it. James takes that to mean that Martin is worried that his efforts might not have been good enough – he and Tim aren’t at all concerned about how much they sold.
Time’s up! The candidates all gather in front of the mansion. Frank is confident, saying that they had a constant flow of traffic and did lots of up sells. Heidi is proud of her hardworking team. Both, of course, think they won. Who did win?
Ivanka has the results. Frank’s team focused on trying to attract customers, earning $2,345.54. Heidi’s team rolled up their sleeves and washed cars, earning $2,463. They all cheer as Ivanka congratulates them. Trump tells the winners that their reward will be dinner with Trump at Spago. They’ll be joined by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The winners will live in the mansion, and Heidi will be the project manager until they lose.
Trump then adds that as winning project manager, Heidi will join him in the Boardroom to help him make a decision. Everyone looks nervous at this prospect. Trump tells Frank that he’ll get the chance to live in the tent that he so admired. They will stay in the tents until they win a task, at which time the opposing team will move into the backyard. Everyone grimaces or laughs at this news. Trump says it’s a case of haves and have nots. They’ll have to shower and do all grooming outdoors.
Derek says that the mansion is amazing. Everyone wanders around, scoping things out. Heidi enjoys the champagne, stocked fridge, and bedroom. All of the beds are in one room, which they’re not all thrilled about. Heidi says it’s “like camp,” and Derek wonders where the closet is. They agree, though, that it beats living in a tent.
The other team grimly sets up another tent and looks at the outdoor sinks. They hate listening to the other team celebrating. Frank says that he’s not a loser, and that when you lose, you don’t get the luxuries in life that you want.
When the sun sets, everyone looks for flashlights. Stefani says it feels like third world conditions, thus insulting any impoverished person out there, not that they’d watch this show. The other team relaxes with champagne in the hot tub.
Tim and Frank talk. Tim says he’s dreading the “who would you fire question,” and admits that he’d have to say Frank. Not that Frank is the weakest candidate, but they lost with marketing. Frank disagrees. With the margins so close, it wasn’t a lack of marketing, but a lack of hustle. As his voice gets louder, the other team starts to eavesdrop. Not that it’s hard to do, with Frank as loud as he is. Frank gets angrier, saying that not everyone gave 100%. He asks who didn’t give his all, and Tim names Martin. Tim acknowledges his point, but says that the project manager is more to blame than a bad salesperson. Martin is right there, listening to all of this. Awkward.
Frank thinks that Tim is playing Monday morning quarterback. He doesn’t think that’s fair, and says that if Tim wants to play hardball, he will. I’m sure Frank also said “step up to the plate,” but we went to commercial before he could bust out another sports metaphor.
Night falls, and while Heidi’s team peacefully snoozes, Frank’s team is subject to noisy dogs and sprinklers. We see lots of tossing and turning. The next morning, Martin looks contemplatively at the view. Tim hops out of the tent in his sleeping bag. Martin says he thinks he heard a rat, which totally freaks out Nicole. She then squeals when one of the guys points out a lizard.
Meanwhile, the other team floats in a pool. Nicole and Martin look at them over the bushes. She declares that they are going to win the next task big time. Tim says he’d love to get in that pool on such a hot day.
Tim, by the way, looks like Ryan from The Office and Heidi looks like Erin from For Love or Money. Also, I’m going to go ahead and call dibs on Tim as my Apprentice imaginary boyfriend.
Team Heidi gets glammed up and takes a limo to Spago. Surya is very excited about the reward. Trump and Melania arrive at dinner, then Puck joins them. Puck says that he loves what he does, and Trump declares that’s what makes him the best at it.
Team Frank eats outdoors at camp tables. They talk about how much they hate losing. Meanwhile, the others enjoy their dinner. Angela says she liked getting to know Trump. But Trump kills the fun by asking who did the worst. He then says, “This is a reward, what am I doing?” It’s a good thing none of them took the bait and answered, because that would have killed morale.
Back in Tent City, there’s nothing to do but dissect what went wrong. Was it the price points? Tim thinks the basic price should have been $15 instead of $10. The team recalls that Frank was the one who set the price. Martin takes this opportunity to trot out another African saying: Seize every opportunity as if it were your last. He says in an interview that he knew he was in trouble, so he tried to put the focus on Frank.
He asks Frank if they should have spent more time setting the price point. Frank thinks the price point was fine. Martin says that’s interesting, since the rest of the team disagrees. Frank says that considering how hectic and chaotic it was, it turned out great. Martin suggests that things would have been less chaotic if they’d spent more time planning. Frank, as you might imagine, does not appreciate that one bit. Tim says that many of them wish they’d spent more time talking. Martin feels like he’s managed to manipulate the rest of the team. “If I can pull this off,” Martin concludes, “I will be the greatest Apprentice ever.”
Good luck with that, Martin.
The next day, Heidi’s team talks about the opportunity she has to advise Trump. She says she has a bit of the strategy. She wants to keep the weak link. Heidi sees this as a reward, a chance to benefit her team. Everyone loves the idea.
Frank’s team walks next door to the dreaded Boardroom. Ivanka and Heidi are already there, then Trump arrives. Trump asks Heidi what she’s heard about the other team, and she replies simply that they lost. Very smart of her to not mention the conversations that her team overheard, lest they wise up and stop! Trump asks Michelle what she thought of Frank. She says that Frank maintained a consistent energy. But, Ivanka asks, was there a strategy? Martin says “absolutely not.” He thinks that they made three “mission critical errors.” Planning was too scattered, the price point was wrong, and there were marketing problems. Ivanka asks how much time they spent on marketing. Frank says that they needed to get started right away. Heidi’s team, Ivanka argues, focused on volume. They moved as many cars as possible, rather than focusing on higher price points. Frank says he’d use the same strategy again.
Heidi asks if anyone other than Martin thinks they were lacking strategy. Tim would have liked more brainstorming, but thinks it was important to get started right away. He thinks they started low. Trump asks who set the price. Frank says it was a group decision, but Trump pushes him for a name. Frank says that Tim was in charge of the salesmen. Tim says that was right. Ivanka is surprised that Frank wasn’t in charge of sales. It was, after all, a sales task. She says if they’d had more people there, they could have moved more cars. Heidi’s team was sweating. “Martin, you had your tie on,” Ivanka says incredulously.
Martin recalls telling Ivanka that he was exhausted and that she said he shouldn’t be on the first day. I have no idea why he pointed that out, since it didn’t make him look good at all, especially considering that Ivanka’s visit appeared to come early in the day. Martin asks James and Tim if he worked hard. Tim basically says that although he worked hard, he wasn’t good at what he was doing. Ouch. Who did work hard? Tim says that sales is not Martin’s forte. Trump asks Aaron his opinion, and Aaron says that Martin was the weak link in sales.
Trump asks Frank what his strategy was. He says he wanted to get as many cars in as possible and to upsell them. Martin wonders, “How?” Ivanka puts it more neatly: where was he during the beginning of the task? Was he not at Kinko’s making photocopies? Frank replies that it was a tactic to get things going. Martin says that tactic failed. Heidi thinks someone else could have gone to Kinko’s.
Frank says they didn’t lose by a landslide, so he blames Martin. He likes Martin personally, but he didn’t hustle. Martin is stunned, saying that Ivanka saw him “rockin’ and rollin’.” Ivanka says she saw no such thing. Trump adds that Martin was the last chosen and that he asked to go to the bathroom during the introductions. Frank says that Martin should have tried to prove himself after that.
Martin says that Frank made some fatal errors that cost them the task. Frank points out that he was selected as a project manager, so he must have something good going. Trump says that sometimes “a favorite gets their ass kicked.” Nicole tells Trump hoarsely (she lost her voice yelling at the car wash) that maybe if she’d done something else, stood higher on the ladder, something, they would have won. Trump tells Heidi that she came very close to losing, to which she just smiles and nods.
Frank says that it was very close. Heidi asks who didn’t pull his weight. Trump tells him he’ll soon be able to choose two people, but first, he wants to survey the group. Michelle would fire Frank. Carey sits on the fence, but after Frank encourages him to name someone, says he’d fire both of them. Frank says he’d rather hear the truth, even if he doesn’t like the asnwer. Trump tells Frank he thinks he’s terrific… though he might fire him anyway. James would fire Frank. Stefani thinks she’d fire both Frank and Martin. Tim names Frank, though he likes him. The task was as much about marketing as sales.
Trump says that everyone likes Frank more than Martin, that Martin comes across as “a bit of a pompous ass.” Tim says that Martin makes a bad first impression, but that he’s actually a good guy. Ivanka suggests that Frank is at a disadvantage because he’s the first leader and doesn’t know everyone’s skills and talents. Frank appreciates that. Nicole would fire Martin because Frank was a great motivator and has great potential. Aaron likes Martin, but Frank has better energy and skills.
Trump tells Frank to choose two people. The rest of the team can return to the tents. Frank, predictably, picks Martin. The other is Tim – as sales project manager, he should have taken control of his men. As everyone leaves, Frank adds another note. He says he’s hungry, aggressive, and will fight. Trump tells him to save it – he’ll be back in five minutes. Ivanka says he doesn’t lack spirit. Frank leaves the room promising, “I’m here for you sir.” Calm down, dude.
Trump asks Heidi for her opinion. Heidi says they’re her competition and would like the weakest to stay. But, barring that, she’d fire Martin. Ivanka says Martin’s attitude wouldn’t fit the company or Trump. Trump sends everyone back in.
Frank says that Tim should have kept him abreast of how the sales team was doing. As team leader, “I gave my all.” Tim shakes his head. Martin should never have asked to go to sales, Frank says. Martin says that Frank didn’t actually assign anyone to anything. Frank responds that he didn’t know anyone and had to trust them. Trump confirms that Frank would not fire Tim over Martin. Trump tells Tim to leave. Good enough, and it looks like Tim is going to wisely keep his mouth shut.
Martin criticizes Frank for even bringing Tim in. Frank says Martin was the one who dropped the ball. Trump says the two don’t like each other. The men disagree, which is cool. Not everything has to be personal, Trump. Frank says that although he likes Martin, he wouldn’t be an asset. He adds that if he’d lost by a landslide, he’d blame himself. In the future, he’ll know the team better and will do better.
Martin, as it happens, has a homily to use. “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners.” That saying makes no sense in this situation. Wouldn’t Frank be the old broom in this scenario? Isn’t that a pro-Frank sentiment? Martin says he can motivate. Frank asks why he didn’t step up, then. Trump asks Frank how he can reconcile that Tim, who is very good, thinks he should be fired. Frank says he was protecting himself. Trump wonders if the price was too low. Martin says it was, and that Frank should admit it. Frank says that James was friendly and jovial. Martin says, “That was me!” Ivanka tells him that it most certainly was not. Ivanka saw everyone in action, and says James was impressive. Heidi points out that both James and Tim, who worked in sales with Martin, picked Frank to be fired.
Trump says that Heidi’s team worked much harder. Frank says he worked very hard. Ivanka adds that all of Heidi’s team rolled up their sleeves. Trump asks Martin what his education is. Frank blusters that Martin is brilliant. Trump says he shouldn’t say that about his opponent. Why build him up? Frank says that bookwise, Martin is very accomplished. Trump continues to harp on it. Why say that he’s brilliant? Trump thinks that Frank is outstanding, but shouldn’t he be the one to go? Frank says he’s full of fire. Trump says that he sees fire as well as stupid things. Frank wants to prove himself, and adds that he stepped up. Martin, he says, should have proven himself. Martin says that Frank is not brilliant. Martin tells us he is an attorney and a professor.
Ivanka says that Martin wouldn’t fit in with the company. She doesn’t like the way he projects himself – it’s all rhetoric, no passion. She’d fire Martin. Trump thinks Frank is a worker and that Martin wouldn’t get into the nitty gritty of everything. He thinks Martin has a lot of great qualities, but he’s fired.
Martin says, “No, no, no.” Frank’s face lights up, and he practically claps his hands with glee. “He said, ‘Martin, you’re fired.’” Trump dismisses them. Martin says that it’s unheard of and that Trump has made a horrible mistake. Trump thinks Martin should work as a lawyer and professor, not for him. He says it was a tough decision, that Martin is smart as hell, but he had to make a choice.
Ivanka and Heidi agree that it was a tough choice. Heidi says that Frank is passionate. Martin wheels his suitcase away to a waiting sedan. It’s weird to see losing candidates head out in daylight.
Martin says that he can’t believe he got fired. He worked hard. It’s hard to be the first to go, but it’s better than being third or fourth. He doesn’t regret saying he had to go to the bathroom, because it was just true!
Really, I could have gone either way on this one. Martin is indeed a terrible salesperson. I also trust Ivanka’s judgment that he wouldn’t fit in with the company. That’s an important thing to consider when you’re hiring someone. The margin was very close, so a better sales effort would have made a different. Frank, however, is such a loud, braying, chaotic mess that it actually makes me tense just to watch him on TV. I’m afraid he’s going to keel over from a stroke at any second. It’s good to be ambitious and to have that fire, but he needs to dial it down every once in a while. Not every word outr of his mouth needs to be loud. He also should have taken the time to establish a plan with his team. Everything that worked out was someone else’s effort – Tim and Carey set the price points for upgrades, Carey suggested the posters, and James and Tim did a great job of selling. All of that was in spite of Frank, not because of him.
But if I had to pick someone to fire, I’d pick Martin. Frank gets a bit of an edge because he did take a leadership role (obnoxious as it was) in the tent task. He showed a lot more drive and ambition than Martin did, and at this point he’s going to kill himself to get Trump’s approval, whatever it takes. Should be interesting to see.
Next week, the teams will design swimwear. And there’s a big twist: The winning team will be exempt from the next task. “Aw, hell no!” says Carey. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but it’ll be interesting to see. And in the Boardroom, Trump and Ivanka go after someone. Nice!
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online. She can be reached with any comments at firstname.lastname@example.org