The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Episode 6 Performance Reviewsby Brian Towers -- 02/22/2007
I think the sixth episode of The Apprentice: Los Angeles set a record. Even including the recap of last week, the theme, and all those commercials, it was just 23 minutes after the show started that the actual task concluded. Further, the Yahoo webisode contained very little new material! To say that there are unanswerable questions is like saying that Sisyphus has a problem with a stone. Despite such a thin layer of data to mine, its time for “Performance Reviews” of the remaining applicants!
Finally, after watching them sell bathing suits, fast food, and then jars of honey in three of the last four weeks, we get to see a project based on something other that gross sales. Yay!
This week, the task is simply to convince people to fill in computer ballots to win a free trip, and the team that had the most entries submitted was the winner. Although attracting the attention of the public is still a big part of it, there’s more emphasis on closing the deal and no concerns about price points or bulk sales.
However, this task was the first one to toss them a real hidden twist. That twist was in having the teams pitch to an audience containing a high percentage of non-English-speaking people.
However, from the few views of the crowd we had, it didn’t seem as though Team Arrow’s mall had as many Latinos, and everyone they contacted inside the mall seemed to understand them. If the malls did not both feature the same challenge, is that fair?
I’ve no idea how these guys won, and I guess we have the editors to thank for that. From what we saw, no one except Frank seemed able to bring in clients, Surya was a terrible leader, and if it was necessary, they didn’t appear to address the Spanish issue.
What we do know is that in Kinetic’s Boardroom, Trump described Arrow’s efforts as “passionate” and that “they didn’t want to lose.” I think it could be argued that of the twelve people that started this episode, the five most animated and passionate ones are on this team.
Looking at some details, I see Arrow did very good work advertising the Priceline sweepstakes. Almost the whole team distributed flyers to many a passerby. I did see the flyers were in English only. Utilizing the continuous-play in-mall ads was a good move as well, though I personally see them as noise pollution. Alas, we don’t know who put forth any of those ideas.
Frank: Frank was given the task of getting people to the kiosk. Well, we know he got it right at least 359 times! Additionally, I’m also going to assume he had at least some part of the ideas I lauded in the last paragraph.
Frank described himself as “a sales machine,” and we saw the machine in action. Now, that machine might be wound a little tightly, but the Priceline exec confirmed Frank was a standout performer to Trump, and that’s worth a lot.
What they didn’t see was Frank’s childish sketch of Surya that he felt necessary to share with Tim, Nicole, and possibly James. Idiot. Do I need to outline how that doesn’t help team morale or show even the minimum respect for a leader? The result is a rating that would have been GOOD or even EXCELLENT dissolves like a Mento in a Diet Coke, and I feel generous giving a SATISFACTORY rating to Frank this week.
James: I don’t have lots to say about James this week, except that his enthusiasm and effort levels continue to excel. It’s infectious for the rest of the team and to potential clients.
It’s a SATISFACTORY week for James.
Stefani: It seems Stefani was given the tasks of setting up the display and deciding how the team would look. I don’t know if these items could possibly win you the task, but done badly enough they could lead to a loss. It’s safe to say that Arrow’s setup and apparel was no impediment.
Right from Surya’s first arrival on Team Arrow, Stefani is the one who has least embraced him and his “new” methods. Then, while Surya was still in the last Boardroom, Stefani said in an offended tone that Surya needed to step up and be the next PM if he’s so great in sales. Well, he did. So, her “fake hug of encouragement,” though possibly having the appearance of being a good team-building move, was basically a dishonest sentiment.
Like Surya said, they all have jobs they need to go back to. Sincerity matters. So, a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating seems warranted here as well.
Nicole and Tim: Even Tim seems to recognize his poor timing in starting the “Showmance-lite,” and until they set it aside it will be a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating for both. However, a short look at their performance is indicated.
I’m not sure whose idea the “incremental sweepstakes” was. I thought it was Tim’s from the way he was explaining it, but in a cameo he gave credit to the group. Of course, we never actually SEE it in action, but it sounds like it could generate the required buzz… if it were bilingual.
On the lighter side… fess up, as we saw Nicole being carried off to the doctors, who among you didn’t think of Season 4’s Rebecca? As it turned out, all that happened was that she and Tim missed the best part of the reward. Alas, a golden opportunity to gain “Trump Bonus Plucky Points” fades silently away…
Still on the lighter side… do you remember how a jellyfish sting was dealt with in Survivor: Marqueseas? Kathy peed on John’s sting! Now, Tim could have stepped up and saved the Trump organization the cost of an emergency doctor’s appointment, had he just peed on Nicole’s foot. However, my personal recollections include no occurrences of me peeing on a girl’s foot and then dating her, so perhaps he did the right thing after all. But sometimes, the team has to come first.
Surya: Surya did not start this episode out in control of his emotions. There’s not too much he can do about the outburst Nicole heard right after the Boardroom, but by the time he returns to the tents he MUST have himself emotionally under control. I understand it is infuriating to think you have been lied to or lied about. However, if Surya is still that upset that he’s ranting, it’s too soon to return to the group.
It was intelligent of Surya to recognize that after the beating he took in the last Boardroom he needed to step up and take on the PM role. However, had he not volunteered he probably would have been forced into the role by the Stefani-led mob anyway.
Again, Surya over-managed what is a simple project. Yes, it was smart of him to try and force this group of free-thinkers into smaller, more manageable and focused segments. But he needs to look around the room and see the people he’s working with. Except for Nicole, none of the others are business majors. His unwavering adherence to his strict methodology is falling on deaf and unappreciative ears.
Also, it’s counter-productive, time-wise, to force the ideas to be represented when not in his sacred format. For example, why is Surya stressing “strategy” over “execution?” If he’s that anal about it, he should have let Frank get his whole thought out, then fed it back to him in the structure he wants. This would indicate to Frank what his expectations are, while still meeting his own needs. Most importantly, it doesn’t stifle Frank’s creativity. But the real answer is, Surya needs to massively increase his flexibility on these one-day projects.
Despite his self-professed selling skills, Surya is no one-on-one salesman. He approached people who were obviously going about their own business and not welcoming his diversion. But the bigger point is that it was completely inappropriate of him to strike out on his own and attempt to gather customers when the rest of his team was unaware of his location. His place is at the kiosk – all day – and if there’s running around to do, that task needs to be assigned.
Normally there isn’t anything to comment about on the reward, yet here is a second item for this week. At the dinner, the banter between Frank and Surya was not the lighthearted Frank/Tim-in-the-honey-factory banter of last week. This was confrontational and personal. If Surya thinks he has gained any respect out of this win from his team, he’s quite mistaken. This is further confirmed by a cameo opinion from James, wherein he states that Surya was lucky to be on a team where the others stepped up.
In the Kinetic Boardroom, Surya was not shown as contributing much more insight than Aaron did. However, in the Yahoo clips, he shows slightly more presence. He asked Aimee what she would have done differently, had she been aware of the demographics of her audience, which gave Aimee the opportunity to show how she might have adapted.
However, Surya didn’t make much of an effort to deflect attention from Aimee after she helped him so greatly last week. In fact, when alone with The Donald and Don Junior, he said that the communication problems Aimee suffered “may have been indicative of her style that they didn’t feel comfortable telling her.” Ouch!
I still think it’s looking pretty gloomy for Surya’s long-term stay in the game, but Trump called this “a great win” and for Surya, that’s all he needed to hear. Mind you, the difference was only ten percent, but, whatever. Nonetheless, his rating only increases marginally, to NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.
We’re led to believe that Kinetic lost because of a language barrier with the large Hispanic population in their mall. It certainly was a major factor, but I think Aimee was only marginally better than last week as a PM, and that’s not good enough.
There were other Kinetic people beside Aimee who didn’t seem to notice the ethnic makeup of the clientele either, or at least, not soon enough. For example, all the signs were in English. By the time Heidi and Angela figured the twist out, the task was well underway. Were Muna and Kristine as unobservant as Aimee, or merely as silent as Derek? Certainly not a soul among them suggested hiring interpreters to expedite the bottlenecked computer process. It’s too bad Aimee never brought these points out in the Boardroom to show she was indeed not getting the level of support she deserved. It seems safe to say that the blame needs to be shared, so no one on this team is getting great ratings this week.
I also thought it was a bad moment for all of Kinetic when, before having Don reveal the results, Trump asked for opinions of Aimee’s performance as a leader and no one responded. In fact, Trump prompted them again, and still there was no reply. Trump wants his people to have opinions and not to be afraid to express them.
Angela: In the Yahoo clips, Heidi tells us, “Angela was told she was working on marketing, but at some point that went away, and she was only working on signs.” Angela herself said she was “confused” by Aimee’s leadership. Certainly this was a matter to discuss with Aimee, not Heidi.
While walking the mall with Heidi trying to drum up business, she seemed to get the clue first that there was a language barrier. However, some of the people she approached were a waste of time, such as the only guy working at a grill. As if he was going to leave his job unmanned to submit a sweepstakes entry! Instead, they should have asked to post a flyer beside his register. Know your audience, that’s the primary message this week!
Despite getting a first-hand taste of the language barrier, Angela never had an idea about getting some Spanish signs posted. This is the kind of action I’m still waiting to see from Angela.
Angela spoke well in the Boardroom when she told Trump about Aimee’s problems delegating and then following up. In fact, Trump even commented positively on how Angela spoke in the final Boardroom when Angela wasn’t even present.
I still feel the need to give Angela a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating. She seems to be impressing Trump, but except for trading on her celebrity (once), she hasn’t yet shown a major business behavior that’s materially influenced results.
Derek: Derek is an enigma this week. He stepped up and used his ability to speak some amount of Spanish to help out those trying to enter the sweepstakes who didn’t speak English.
But let’s get to the big one. Derek asked a direct question of their mall rep about the demographics, yet did not share this key information with his PM or the rest of team. Unforgivable. No matter how obvious it was to him, I don’t buy it that Aimee should have picked up on the nature of their audience by wandering around the mall. Her place is at the kiosk. More on this later.
In the Boardroom he tried a little too vigorously to push Aimee under the bus by trying to give opinion on a conversation between Aimee and Jenn that occurred when he was not present. What’s worse, he got called out for it.
The Priceline execs gave a rave review of Derek to Trump, which is good. However, in the Boardroom, Don seized upon Derek’s not sharing key demographic information. In fact, he called it, “really dumb.” Derek has to take his full share of the blame for this loss and he receives a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT rating as a result.
Heidi: I saw Heidi was active but rarely successful in getting people to participate in the sweepstakes.
Heidi said that it wasn’t necessary to post the contest rules, just to have them lying about on the table. I’m no lawyer, but I would suggest that posting the sweepstake rules is the proper thing to do. Mind you, I’m guessing the rules were only available in English!
Her best moments came in the Boardroom. She gave an intelligent breakdown of Aimee’s faults as a PM, mentioning that she’s not good at the big picture and this may have led to problems with communications between groups.
It got even better for Heidi when a couple of teammates said she was the better PM. “Better than Aimee,” not so hard… but all Trump heard was “better,” and we know how important his preconceived notions are in this process.
Weighing these pluses and minuses, I’ll serve up a SATISFACTORY rating for Heidi.
Jenn: Jenn had the task of designing the booth and was also responsible for the outfits they all wore. She did very well here with the tropical theme, even if there was a plastic pink octopus hiding in the rafters.
However, Jenn’s defining moment this week is that she was along with Derek and also heard the indicator that there may be a language barrier. Not speaking Spanish herself, she should have more readily seen that as a potential problem.
At this point, I’m about ready to say that Jenn has to take some of the blame for this loss as well and it’s a NEEDS IMPROVEMENT for her as well.
But here’s when it all gets fuzzy. An “uncut” scene on Yahoo of the final Boardroom shows Jenn suddenly remembering that she DID pass the information about the demographic onto the marketing team. Now, apparently that meant those doing the signage (Angela?), but I can’t put names to the rest of the members of the marketing group. Myself, I was amazed that this statement went unexplored by the Trumps in the Boardroom!
Since this information was not proffered earlier in front of those who could confirm or refute it, I think I need to take this with a grain of salt. Had it had come out earlier it may well have changed Aimee’s decision about who to bring back with her, perhaps even sparing Jenn the danger of the final boardroom.
I’m not sure if I’m buying Jenn’s memory burst. It’s certainly incredibly important information to have gotten lost to everyone until the eleventh hour. If she’s wrong, I’d be I’m tempted to lower her rating to UNSATISFACTORY (or probably, UNACCEPTABLE) for blatantly losing contact with the truth. But if she’s right, I’d rate her a little higher, probably SATISFACTORY and lower ratings for those marketing folk who apparently sat on the information themselves. I suspect we’ll never know.
Kristine: When tasks were being assigned in the bus as they first drove to the mall, Kristine raised the points that some people were being misallocated, either double-booked like Muna or underutilized like herself. This is good for Kristine and I’m glad she spoke up. I think the above scene was included to show Aimee as a confused PM, misallocating her resources yet again. However, so soon after the project has begun it is unreasonable to expect Aimee to accurately plot every task. I mean, they hadn’t even seen the mall yet!
But Kristine couldn’t let it go, and she reiterated her concerns in a later cameo. I think she has a nasty surprise coming when it’s her turn to lead. Other than that, I don’t have much for Kristine this week, so her rating is ALMOST SATISFACTORY.
Muna: Muna was assigned two tasks, initially – monitoring of timelines, and assisting with the marketing. My first thought was, shouldn’t the PM be developing the timelines? However, Muna complained that these tasks couldn’t co-exist. I put forward that timelines is not a full-time job in this project, so what time she had left was to be diverted to helping Angela. But it became a moot point, as she ended up using her language skills full-time.
Muna knew that she was most effective helping the Spanish-speaking clients work the computers. I give her credit for showing the initiative to dissuade Aimee from shifting her to a less critical task. Alas, I fear some of the sandbaggers on this team might have just done what Aimee asked, then held it against her in the Boardroom.
Muna’s rating is GOOD for using her language skills to try and save a bad situation, and for knowing how best she ought to be deployed.
Aimee: Aimee got off to a good start this week, going directly to the mall to scout out the location. Further, on the way she began assigning areas of responsibility to her team. Excellent!
Obviously, before they even arrive at the mall she can’t have every detail set in her mind and I think the criticism she received from her team was unwarranted. In the limited, non-real-world timeframes available to the applicants in this series, assigning general areas of responsibility and then adjusting as the project develops is the best a PM can do.
Let’s discuss something “fishy.” Whenever I see a pink toy octopus in the future, I’ll be sure to remember Aimee wanting to call a team meeting to discuss the one hiding in the rafters of their kiosk. Her crack decision to remove it could have won the task for Kinetic. Yes, I’m kidding. Her efforts to make sure to get opinions slanted her way before that meeting is the icing on the cake; and she appeared ludicrous throughout this whole segment.
In one telling clip, Aimee came up to Muna while Muna was very busy helping non-English people work the computers. Despite the fact that there was more business that they could handle, she asked if Muna wanted to stroll the mall with her to drum up more business. This idea of Aimee’s was a terrible use of resources; fortunately, Muna stayed on the more critical task. This indicates Aimee didn’t really understand the flow of activity under her control. It also indicates that Aimee didn’t know her place is at the kiosk, not wandering about the mall and away from the action like Surya.
Another clip shows Aimee admitting there were more Hispanics than she thought. However, she felt that that between the help supplied by folk’s own kids and the Spanish Derek and Muna could provide, the language issue was under control. So it’s untrue of her to say in the Boardroom that she didn’t know there were a lot of Spanish-speaking people that were slowing down the process. At this point, whenever it was, Aimee was aware that language issues were slowing down their process, and chose not to act.
Pre-Boardroom, Aimee told us she thought she did a great job. No. Her decision to tell Jenn she was going to be brought back into the final Boardroom was also poor planning, as it confirmed Jenn would be fully prepared and gunning for her. There’s no way highly regarded Derek was going home; so Jenn was the only alternative to herself.
I don’t know if Aimee was looking for support from Surya as a way of payback in the Boardroom, but it wasn’t forthcoming. We never saw him try to put the blame for the loss on someone other than Aimee.
Every team member voiced a criticism of Aimee in the Boardroom. She was either micro-managing (per Derek), delegating badly (Angela and Kristine), unobservant (Muna and Derek), outright lying (Derek and Jenn), or unassertive (Derek). Trump himself was convinced she was too assertive. So after two weak performances as the PM, Aimee must get an UNACCEPTABLE rating. I like it that she left in a feisty mood, though… who likes to lose, especially when the prize is this big?
Did Trump make the right decision? Yes. I also feel that Derek and Jenn have both had a bad week and might be on shaky ground.
I found this to be a very unsatisfying episode, with too many key questions unanswered. Were there a large number of people who didn’t speak English at Arrow’s mall, or was the challenge unfair? Did everyone on Kinetic except Aimee know 50% of the people were Hispanic? We saw longer lineups at the fast food drive-through, were there lineups really so bad? Or, like Martin, Michele, Marisa, and Aaron before her, was the unpopular kid pushed out the door?
I’m going to repeat the link to Yahoo videos for you one final time, because I will continue to refer to some of the content that often ought to be part of the show. I highly recommend that you add this link to your “Favorites.” The webisodes and any “deleted scenes” are usually the best viewing.
That’s all for this week. Please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are at the address below.
Brian lives in Toronto. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machines in generally unsuccessful attempts to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He can be reached at Uncle_bto@rogers.com firstname.lastname@example.org and would be willing to correspond regarding your opinions of all things Apprentice-oriented.