The Apprentice 2: Why Maria Lostby David Bloomberg -- 11/19/2004
Last week, I was planning on writing an article called, "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" I didn’t have time, and now we don’t have to worry because Trump gave us an answer – he fired her! Somehow, despite numerous screw-ups and attitude problems, Maria managed to stick around for quite a while. Why did she go this time? Why did Maria lose?
By now we all know how we’re going to answer that question – by looking back at What ‘Apprentice 2’ Applicants Should Have Learned and going over the principles contained therein. Sure, it might seem obvious that Maria should have been fired, but if it had been that obvious, Trump wouldn’t have fired Wes at the same time. Let’s see what we can figure out.
The first rule is to show leadership. I’m trying to remember a task when Maria was in charge, and it’s not coming to me. That’s not a good sign. Actually, I should clarify – I’m trying to remember a task when Maria was the Project Manager. She pretty much always seemed to think she was in charge, as we saw in her last episode. Oh wait, now I remember (okay, I cheated – I went back and looked at Mel’s article summarizing the first ten episodes and handing out corner offices and mailroom duties). Maria was Project Manager of the clothing line challenge, which really should have been won by the women even if Elizabeth had been leading them.
In other words, Maria was not a good leader. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t want to work for her. Or with her. Or anywhere near her, for that matter.
One reason is that she was completely unable to stay cool under fire (coincidentally, Trump’s lesson for the week – maybe he’s been reading my columns). Let’s address her nonstop blinking, first. OK, maybe it’s a nervous tic. But whatever the reason, it does not scream “confidence.” She was obviously nervous in front of the camera at QVC and it’s a wonder her eyelids didn’t cause enough of a wind to blow the sponges off the table.
In addition, her arms seem to take on a mind of their own when she is under pressure. She threw them around in spastic motions during the QVC challenge and then again when she was presenting to the Levi’s people this week. (What the hell was her team thinking, allowing her to present after the QVC fiasco?!) Maybe she can’t help it, but it does not make her look cool under pressure.
Then let’s look at the way she handled Wes telling her to hurry things up. One of my personal pet peeves is when a person gets in your face and then yells at you to get out of their face. Hello, Maria. If she had jabbed her finger at me the way she did at Wes, she’d have been lucky to leave with it still attached. And if I ever did that to my manager – hooo boy. It would not be pretty. But there Maria was, reacting under pressure like she was the queen and all had better beware her temper.
And then again later, when she was under a deadline pressure (caused in no small part by her inability to speed up, as Wes had asked), she snapped at Sandy and shooed her out of the room when all she wanted was to see how they were doing. To further pile on, she then cried during her apology after fighting for 20 minutes about it.
In the Boardroom, Maria was never much better. I don’t know where she works, but where I work it’s not customary to make bizarre faces at people just because you don’t like what they say. Get over it.
After all of that, Maria did fine in the third rule, having a backbone. Hell, she had enough backbone for several players (maybe she could have loaned some to Elizabeth). Indeed, she had more than enough backbone to roll right over Wes. When she thought she was right (which was, of course, all the time), she made sure everybody knew it.
Maria stood up for herself in every situation, even if she was lying through her teeth. When she had not properly negotiated a deal with the printer in the Crest challenge, she stood up for herself and claimed that she had. She lied. When she had failed to make sure the phone number was on the e-mails in the wedding salon challenge, she stood up for herself and blamed theknot.com – who then noted that in fact Maria had looked at the final e-mail before it went out. So she lied again.
She stood up for her ideas at other times too, such as when she insisted that the NYPD ad needed sex appeal. Sex appeal? Like what, women throwing themselves at cops? Somebody asking, “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” Luckily, Andy was strong enough to stand up to her and tell her no. Of course, she still thought she was right.
The fourth rule says you can’t be one-dimensional. Maria kept telling us and her teammates about all her experiences. She knew home ec., so she could do the clothing line challenge. She’s in marketing, so she could do advertising. She teaches presenting and speaking so she could be the on-air personality for QVC. Funny – almost everything she said she was good at, she pretty much screwed up. Maria’s not one-dimensional; as far as I can tell, she’s zero-dimensional!
Fifth is to be loyal. Maria was not particularly disloyal in the way that, for example, the way Tammy was in the first season. But she was not respectful of the Project Manager’s position, either. When Wes tried to tell her to do something, she acted like he was an underling, not her acting boss. That was a big problem.
The sixth rule says not to show your hand. This one is getting a bit less important as we cut down the numbers. It was pretty obvious that Maria would be targeting Wes. But beyond that, she announced it to the world, and Wes knew it was coming. That gave Wes some time to think about how to respond to her charges. If she had kept her mouth shut (yeah, I know, not likely) or tried to misdirect Wes into thinking that she was targeting somebody else, he might not have been quite as prepared.
As we move on to the seventh rule, playing well with others, I think our answer is pretty obvious. Maria flat-out lied, she got in people’s faces and made faces at people, she argued, she was bitchy, etc. Simply put, Maria did not play well with others.
Maria also was unable to focus on the long-term. For example, in this last challenge she was so determined to do things her way that she ignored the game aspect. When Wes told her to hurry up and that they had enough shots, she should have listened to him not only because he was the boss, but also because then if they lost she could have blamed him for ignoring her expertise in the area. That thought never appeared to enter her mind, though. She was focused on showing off how great she supposedly was, and that was pretty much it.
Apex (in particular Ivana) did a good job of thinking outside the box. Rather than simply create a strict catalog, they went for something different. Maria, who took the lead on the marketing aspect of this task (because we all know how great she is at that), thought well within the box. She gave Levi’s a rather dull catalog that didn’t even focus on the one thing that people look for in jeans – the butt. So much for Maria’s expertise. And so much for her ability to think creatively.
Finally, we have the rule that a player needs to use common sense. Without repeating too much, is it common sense to not have a specific price worked out with a printer when you are on a strict budget? No. Is it common sense to send out an advertising e-mail without a contact phone number for appointments? No. Is it common sense to lie about these things when the people who can show that you’re a liar are right there? No. Is it common sense to insist that you are a great presenter when you blink so rapid-fire as to make people uncomfortable and flail your arms about in wild motions? No. No. No. No. Maria is in serious need of some common sense.
Looking back, we have to wonder how Maria managed to stay as long as she did. A lot of it was happenstance. Perhaps the only thing that saved Maria back in the third episode (after her screw-up with the printer) was all the women ganging up on Stacie. After that, she was lucky enough that other people picked up the slack and her team won even though she screwed up (as in the bridal salon challenge), or other people screwed up more than she did (as in the QVC challenge).
For a while, it looked as if that might happen again this week. Sure, Maria screwed up, but Wes allowed it to happen. Might she convince Donald Trump that the loss was really Wes’ fault for not reining her in? Well, yes. Wes was indeed fired. But Maria went first.
Maria showed herself to be pretty much incompetent in almost every task she undertook. She lied, she overstated her abilities, she was unable to see her own shortcomings, and she didn’t get along with other people. She couldn’t lead, she couldn’t follow, and she wouldn’t get out of the way. That is why Maria lost.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Betsy Wasser’s Apprentice 2 Episode 11 recap:
David Bloomberg is the Editor of RealityNewsOnline and can be reached at RNO@pobox.com.
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