The Apprentice: Los Angeles Weekly Performance Review, Episode 13by Brian Towers -- 04/20/2007
The show tossed me a bit of a curve. I’d been led to expect there were interviews with executives this week, followed by a double firing, and then the end of the episode, some hoopla showcasing the choosing of assistants for the final task. My tipsters are FIRED! But at least we got to see a little more of the actual task this time.
Instead, we got part one of the finale, with all four applicants still in the running for the title. And true to the nature of this season, we end with a Hollywood task instead of the traditional charity event, or, God forbid, a real estate task.
This week’s task had our duos creating a one-minute commercial for a favorite product of The Donald’s mom, Renuzit. They had access to all the skills and materials needed to produce a top-quality piece of work.
Results would be shown live at a local theater. Also on hand to judge were Ivanka and Don Junior, plus two Dial execs. This was the second appearance this season for the makers of Renuzit, Dial. The subjective opinions of the four provided input into Trump’s final decision.
A pair of previously fired contestants assisted each team. More on that later.
There were many similarities between this task and the one back in episode 9 when Muna was fired. Too many. This task had a larger budget, many choices in set, access to props and costumes, plus more people to coordinate, albeit cooperative ones. But this was a much simpler project than what we’ve become used to in a finale.
So what was missing, compared to the usual end-of-season challenges? How about hands-on, hard-to-please sponsors? Volunteering celebrities… and this in LA! Receptions with VIPs being feted. Charities receiving much-needed funds! Trump, making a grand arrival and needing to be “received.” And because all those things were missing, there were often insufficient activities to keep all members of a four-person team active. I was hoping the Yahoo! extras would show me how the minions were secretly being utilized, but there’s nothing to report from that source.
Enough. It’s on to the final four, listed in the sequence they presented their mini-movies.
This was another strong performance from the duo who best used teamwork to combine their complimentary skills and lead a well-functioning unit.
Right off the top, I thought they made intelligent choices for partners. Aaron is probably the best first choice they could have made, especially with the other side removing Tim and his issues from the equation. The inspired pick of Angela had the potential of filling the gap left when the partnership lost workhorse Frank… had such needs ever surfaced.
It may have not made it through final cuts, but Yahoo! clips showed us Angela played the role of “juror number nine” and Stefani provided some voiceover work.
It was said that James and Stefani co-managed their project. Stefani was controlling the use of resources and monitoring the time, so I’d say she managed most of it. She tried to give James all the freedom he needed as a director, but finally she had to be firm and take control of the situation like a good producer would.
Stefani took on a lot of tasks, including hiring the actors, arranging for props and costumes, and keeping the project on schedule. Teammate Angela was very impressed with Stefani’s ability to see the big picture, and the way she paid appropriate attention to details yet still completed every task on time.
Stefani made another short but smooth presentation. The Dial execs had good words for Trump about her, recognizing the organizational skills exhibited by running the show from behind the scenes. Aaron added to that in the Boardroom by extolling her contribution in “keeping the train moving.”
Although necessary so the “Jameses” of the world can look good, I’m not sure Trump is seeking “behind-the-scenes” skills. He did finally acknowledge Stefani as “a sleeper,” but is she making her true value known too late in the game? An EXCELLENT rating is the result of this week’s efforts, but her “never having led” is still the elephant in Stefani’s room.
James received positive comments from Trump throughout the episode, beginning with Trump complimenting him alone on his performance on the last task. James also received good words from the Dial execs, who called him “terrific” and “motivating” to the actors, and they acknowledged his energy.
As a director, James was definitely too particular in gathering too many takes of the simplest of scenes. As it was, the Yahoo! clips show us that even with Stefani rushing James along, they ran out of time and didn’t get their last shot. Further, in the Yahoo! clips James realized he missed taking some necessary angle, cutaway, and close-up shots. This led to unclear characters and storyline, as Aaron pointed out.
To his credit, James took personal responsibility for these problems. In a creative burst no doubt fueled by blind panic, James took over the editing direction. Refusing to sleep, he was able to recreate the commercial from the available footage to make a tight, understandable video. It was clearly his shining hour.
In the Boardroom, James was the first to made sure he gave credit to the whole team. Also in the Boardroom, Aaron cited James as a perfectionist. I think was meant as a compliment, though in Muna’s case, it wasn’t!
James dug himself out of the hole of his own making very effectively. Since all worked out in the end, the recovery overshadows the event and his rating is GOOD. I give him the inside track, but he’s not a sure bet.
This team got in trouble as soon as the teams were picked. More on that later.
I was afraid that this team was going to collapse in the editing phase. Nicole, after stepping back all day long, suddenly claimed the task as hers and resented Frank’s input. A somewhat biased Tim thought Frank was the negative factor; I’d like to hear a more neutral opinion like Surya’s myself. Fortunately, they were able to resolve the issue when Frank backed down.
This commercial seemed very disjointed to me, like two stories in one. There was a boring “in the business office” story, followed by the making light of a minor family crisis in a hospital. However, they did get the key message of “air, fabric, and carpet” across much more directly.
The Dial execs made one significant comment about this duo, saying that they didn’t use teamwork to compensate for their individual weaknesses.
Both Nicole and Frank lauded each other in the Boardroom, but it seemed more political than genuine. In fact, no one on either team seemed to want to make a bad comment about another else in the early phases of the Boardroom. More on this later, too.
This was the episode where Frank got some long-overdue respect from The Donald. Although in the mansion Trump said Frank “should have been fired,” by the end of the show he confirmed with the Dial execs, “He really comes through.” That’s quite a migration!
When they found out they had the opportunity to pick assistants, Frank somehow selected Surya. I cannot rationalize that, as Frank was the one who was the most derisive of Surya’s methods. Surya was clearly less than thrilled to be there, and Frank’s attempts at a poolside reconciliation were awkward and ineffective.
Frank was never very comfortable with Nicole’s idea of a hospital setting, but we saw him discussing it with Tim, not Nicole. It’s unusual for Frank that he didn’t confront Nicole directly. In an attempt to make it work, Frank came up with the idea to incorporate a “humorous” stinky bum. Now, I got it that he was stinky, but he didn’t look like a bum to me. This lowbrow approach was not likely to find favor with the Dial execs.
However, Frank more than made up for earlier shortcomings by doing the lion’s share of filming-related work while Nicole was distracted with Tim. This was highlighted by his effective use of time and resources while directing the shoot. Surya commented that he was impressed with how quickly Frank was able to move from scene to scene and get all the shots they needed.
Frank will never be a star at oral presentation, but having to read the correct product description (“three-in-one special odor neutralizer”) off his hand, that was a bit sad.
The Dial execs admired the way Frank stepped up to get the task done, essentially taking over the directing and presentation tasks, and in the Boardroom, Surya gave him the compliment, “Great mind.” Solid as ever, Frank gets a GOOD rating this week.
I wasn’t impressed with Nicole’s maturity at the top of the show. First off, telling Stefani that she (Nicole) thought she (Stefani) would flub her presentation – isn’t this a case of projecting your own shortcomings? Secondly, offering to cook dinner for the Trumps? Really? Did you notice they didn’t even bother to acknowledge the offer?
I was not surprised when she chose Tim to be on their team, but it devolved as one could easily have predicted. During a time when she ought to have been actively involved with the filming, she was goofing around with Tim instead. Get focus and maintain it!
It took the Dial execs showing up to stir Nicole into action. Unfortunately, it was a lame attempt at product placement that somehow the execs did not see through. In fact, they commented favorably about it. She also found time in her busy schedule to slip a handshake in there.
To her credit, Nicole made sure that the product remained visible whenever possible. Nicole also did well with her research with the Dial execs, and developed a solution she felt was directed toward the proper target audience. However… I must agree that a hospital is an odd choice of a setting for several reasons, many brought up on the Yahoo! clips. As James said, for a target audience of moms, their kid lying in a hospital is not a positive image for the Dial brands.
Going slightly off-topic here, I did a little thinking about the hospital idea. Except for those lounge areas set aside for the family of patients, where do you see carpet in a hospital? It sure isn’t between two beds; that’s a guaranteed source of staph infections and worse! Also, when rushing to the hospital, who detours to first pick up an electric guitar and other homey paraphernalia?
For someone who has a high opinion of her ability to make presentations, why did Nicole let Frank make the presentation? That decision lessened her role in this task and left a poor impression from her last presentation active in Trump’s mind.
The Dial execs gave mixed messages to Trump about Nicole. Although they liked her energy and enthusiasm and called her “very smart,” they also saw her cede the leadership role to Frank. That’s not good; Trump hires leaders.
But once again, Nicole’s week is easily summarized. With Tim returned to her side, she lost her edge to the point where the Dial execs identified Frank as both the team leader and the harder worker. Nicole retains her UNACCEPTABLE rating.
In the episode, editing constantly stressed the respect and camaraderie between the four. I believe that to essentially be true, but not absolute. In a deleted scene on Yahoo!, Trump asked the teams to critique each other’s commercials, and discouragingly, it was very petty. All four are guilty of deliberately trying not to understand what they were seeing.
For example, Nicole claimed the others didn’t focus on the correct demographic (Trump thought they did) and then she said the other team omitted the product’s ability to clean carpet (Don Junior overrode that one). Both sides said the other included a drunk character not fitting with Dial’s family image, and both sides called the other’s efforts confusing or muddled. There was almost eight minutes of such childish, petty sniping.
I don’t think either team outshone the other by a significant amount this week. Both mini-movies had positive and negative points. For example, Frank and Nicole had better product placement, but their storyline was weaker. It seemed like both teams received equal support from the audience, but that could be simple sound-editing tricks.
From Yahoo!, here are the track records of our remaining candidates. Read into them what you want!
This week’s big question for readers is, who’s going to win? Since my poll of a couple of weeks ago had Heidi way out in front, is it wide open now? Are James’ previous wins an insurmountable advantage? Can Stefani overcome having never formally led a task? Has Frank worked his way through another iffy result? Can Nicole pull a miracle upset?
That’s all for this week, so please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are at the eAddress below.
Brian lives in Toronto, where he can be reached at email@example.com. He spent a couple of decades working in middle management at The Prudential, primarily hiding behind the coffee machine to avoid his pointy-haired bosses. He’d like to hear your opinions and promises to respond to all serious email!
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