The Apprentice 3, Episode 13: That Was Easyby Betsy Wasser -- 04/22/2005
Tana, Craig, and Kendra hang out in the suite, wondering who will get the axe. It would be awesome if they took bets. Imagine Bren walking back into the suite and Craig turning to Tana and saying, “Well, it looks like I better make you dinner.” Anyway, Tana thinks Chris will go. Craig and Kendra think it’ll be Bren. Pay attention, as I do believe that’s the last time the two of them will agree this episode. Kendra explains that Bren is funny, “but on tasks, he’s a big zero.” Alex and Bren return to the suite, and there are hugs all around. Alex says that the suite just isn’t the same without his buddy Chris.
Alex and Bren report that Chris was pretty upset at getting fired and that he teared up. Both of them admit to thinking that Bren would be the one fired. Bren is afraid that at this point, Trump has a pretty low opinion of him. He tells everyone about how they criticized his writing. Tana asks him if it hurt to bite his tongue, and he admits that it did. In an interview, he elaborates, “Quite frankly, I’m tired of the blood in my mouth… Or is it making me thirsty for more?”
Alex and Bren go out for drinks. Bren says in an interview that he never thought he’d come on the show and meet a new best friend, but that’s what happened. Aww! The two of them smoke cigars as Alex tells us in an interview that Bren is his oasis of normal in a group of morons. Bren, he’s found, is steady and will always do a good job. If you delegate a task to him, he’ll do it. Ooh, is that foreshadowing? The two of them agree to work hard on the next task.
The next morning, Tana gets the phone call from Rhona, who tells them to meet Trump in his office “right away.” Tana is wearing a pink hoody and some kind of argyle pants, and she’s yawning – are the other candidates even awake? As I imagine them heading out to meet Trump in various jammies and bunny slippers, we see a grooming montage that shows that “right away” means “after you take the time to get pretty.” And is Alex blow drying his armpit hair? What the hell? Who does that?
Trump is meeting with two executives from Staples, and you’ll never believe it, but business is great at Staples! They’re huge! Who knew? I notice that Trump has a framed picture of himself on a ledge behind his desk. Awesome. The candidates arrive, and Kendra should have spent more time on her hair, because it looks like she just stuck a clip in it on her way to the gym. Trump blathers about the wonder that is Staples (they’re doing great!), then cuts to the chase. Every year, Staples has a contest in which people invent new office supplies. The candidates are challenged to come up with a new product to manage office clutter. Trump indicates his own cluttered desk and says he could use something. The teams will have access to a design and manufacturing team that will put these products together for them, then the teams will present their new gizmos to a group of Staples executives and office managers. The team with the most innovative product will win. Kendra, Trump reminds us, is exempt and is guaranteed a spot in the final four. But after this, there will be no exemptions.
Alex volunteers to be the manager of Net Worth. He says in an interview that he wants to put himself in a do or die situation. It’s time to take a risk – either do great and impress Trump or get fired trying. He thinks they should call office managers to do a focus group, and Bren volunteers to do that. Bren says it’s imperative that they win.
Craig is in charge over at Magna, and he begins by asking his team to put any ideas down on paper. Kendra, he says, is his biggest obstacle. He wants her to respect his leadership as he respected hers. Huh, I must have missed that part of last week’s episode, because as I recall, he didn’t really listen to her, then went home early. Kendra suggests that they talk to some office managers, and Craig pretty much shushes her and tells her to put it on the paper. He says he’s looking for tangible ideas. Also, Craig apparently likes his brainstorms to be as quiet as possible. More like a brain misting that a noisy storm, if you will. Kendra says in an interview that Craig is a poor communicator. Most of the time, she has no idea what he’s talking about. She vows to keep her mouth shut, let Craig talk, then do what she was planning to do anyway.
Alex and Bren go to Smart Design and learn about the different materials they might use. What kind of materials? I have one word for you: plastics. They try to call one of the Staples executives, but they have a bad connection on the cell phone and keep getting cut off. Alex explains in an interview that he made the decision not to meet with the Staples execs personally, because it could all be done in a conference call. Also, they are “just judges.” Right, no need to put any extra effort into impressing those who will directly determine your fate.
It’s time for the Trump Lesson of the Week. This week: “Take Control.” Trump tells us that you must control your subordinates, or you’ll be a lousy manager. He adds that this is true, “whether it’s a he or a she.” Huh? And now for the Betsy Lesson of the Week. If you’re having a hard time picking out a wedding gift, I’ve found that Christmas ornaments make a great gift (that is, if the bride and groom celebrate Christmas, because if not, your gift pretty much sucks). It’s a keepsake that they’ll use every year forever, and if the bride and groom are young, they may not have very many yet.
Magna goes to Staples to meet the executives in person. What a novel idea! Tana asks them if they have a slogan they should know about, which frankly she could have found out in about ten seconds by looking at their website. The slogan is “That was easy” because their customers want an easy shopping experience. The product they’re looking for doesn’t have to be revolutionary – last year’s winner was a padlock with a word as the combination instead of numbers. In an interview, Kendra says that they learned that they don’t need to invent something new, just improve on something that already exists.
The three of them go to a Staples store, and Kendra and Tana immediately start interviewing customers. They meet an office manager who is buying supplies for new employees. He has a ton of stackable file holders, which the two women make a note of. Meanwhile, Craig wanders the aisles and looks at desks. Kendra says in an interview that she has no idea what he was doing while she and Tana were gathering information.
Alex reminds Bren that he wants a focus group. Bren asks how he can find office managers to talk to, and Alex basically hands him the Yellow Pages and tells him to go for it. That idea goes pretty much as badly as you might think – no one wants to answer Bren’s “short survey.” Bren laughs at the futility of the task and calls it “nonsense.” Alex tells him that he’d like it if he could talk to at least two office managers. Way to aim high, Alex.
Magna goes to Smart Design. Kendra and Tana show Craig the stackables, and he says he can’t imagine the “dimensions of usage” for such a product. Really? It seems pretty simple to me – you put folders in them. Craig complains in an interview that Kendra can’t conceptualize anything. He then comes up with an idea. Take four stackables, stick them together to make a square, and store stuff in them. Kendra is rather huffy about it in an interview and says that “it stinks for me” that Craig pretty much stole her idea, but the upside is that at least they’ll be coming up with a product that came from their conversations with a consumer. To be fair, I didn’t hear Kendra come up with a specific idea, other than that they should do something with stackables, so I think Craig deserves credit for this one. He suggests that they put the stackables in portrait format, rather than landscape so that it’s not too big. I see his point, but my immediate thought is that my file folders and all of the paper in them would fall out the sides.
Bren and Alex want to come up with an idea that’s simple, yet creative. Finally, Alex sketches a table on wheels with baskets in it that will hold papers. Bren’s not sold on it, but admits that Alex is a better risk-taker than he is. Alex explains the concept, which is that this thing is basically an extra desk next to your normal desk. Is he serious? Let’s start shooting holes in this thing, shall we? Is the average office worker going to have room for that kind of thing? Wouldn’t it be expensive, thus limiting sales? And if people have a second table, wouldn’t they be basically moving their clutter from one surface to another? Or, even more likely, having two desks to clutter up instead of just one? This is a bad idea.
Craig, Alex, and Kendra go to Staples to buy stuff to put in their organizer. Kendra pulls out some file folders, but Craig says that won’t work because of the orientation of their organizer. It would be for loose papers. Kendra thinks they should show it with folders because that’s how most people would use it. Craig tells her that by not showing it with folders, they’re better representing how it would work. “Let me run this by you slowly,” he says. Kendra is offended by his condescending tone, and she tells him so. Good for you, Kendra.
Alex’s desk is finished, and he loves it. He and Bren are confident that this is a million dollar idea. Bren says in an interview that he’s usually pessimistic, but he feels good about this idea. He claps Alex on the back and says, “I fear the lashing Magna Corp will take in the boardroom.”
Tana thinks Net Worth’s product looks great, but Kendra still wants to put file folders in it. She just wants to be realistic - most offices use file folders. Just as he did in the pizza episode, Craig tells her to be careful with generalities. Whatever, Craig – Kendra is right. Every office I have ever worked in has used file folders, and I would never buy this product because I wouldn’t be able to use them in it. That’s a major flaw in their design.
Craig tells Kendra that she should listen to him because he’s older and more experienced than she is. Kendra tells him he’s being condescending and is talking to him like a child. He says that maybe that’s because this is exactly how he talks to his kids when he has to repeat himself all the time. Kendra says that he’s not an effective communicator. Craig then rather proves her point by saying that she doesn’t even know what “condescending” means when she obviously does. Kendra tells him that their conversation is over, and he says that it’s not because he’s still talking. Tana looks uncomfortable.
Craig then says, “I’m giving you respect you don’t deserve, young lady.” Craig is only 11 years older than Kendra, so that comment is even more inappropriate than it otherwise would be. Kendra is livid. She says that every time she has asked Craig to do something, he’s said no. Craig calls her a liar and asks if that’s “condescending or the truth.” Kendra snarls that he is doing “a piss poor job” of creating a positive team dynamic. And then, in one of the funniest moments ever on The Apprentice, Tana takes a big bite of her sandwich and goes, “Mmm!”
As the team heads to give their presentation, Tana says it’s a bad situation – Craig and Kendra hate each other, and now they have to work together. Kendra’s not worried. Even though they don’t see eye to eye, they both want to win, so they can fake it like faking a marriage that went bad years before.
The presentation begins. Craig is sitting behind a desk covered in a mess of papers and office supplies. Kendra explains that they met with consumers, and that they love stackables to control clutter. Craig knocks over a cup of pencils, which is cute, and acts out, along with Tana, putting all of his stuff into the organizer. They even put it on a lazy susan so that you can reach all of the sides. It looks so good that I forget for a minute that I wouldn’t be able to put my folders in it. The office managers ask if it comes apart. The middle lifts out, Tana explains. No, the lazy susan doesn’t lock, but they think the spinning would be handy. The group agrees that it’s a little big, but overall, they like it.
Alex and Bren are next, wheeling out their table, which they’ve named The Pack Rat. Alex demonstrates how he can put his stapler and such on the shelves as he says in an interview how impressed George and Carolyn look. Hmm, it must look different to him, because on my TV, they seem pretty unmoved. He also thinks the focus group is loving it, which again does not seem to be the case. Oh, and the desk is worse than I thought. It has a plexi lid, which you lift up, then stick your in and out boxes in it and cover. Alex then shows how you can put more papers on top of it. Are you kidding me? Nobody would be able to put anything in your inbox or take anything out of your outbox, which, as you can tell by their names, is kind of the point. And if you pile more papers on top of the lid, not only will you not be able to see what’s in your baskets, but now other people would have to move all of your piles of stuff in order to get to those baskets. One of the executives starts pointing out all of these flaws. He says it’s not really functional. Alex has no response.
Trump arrives. Tana tells him she’s confident, but Bren thinks his team’s product is “spectacular.” The first Staples exec says that Magna really connected with their customers. The product is innovative and practical, and the office managers in the focus group said they would buy it. Net Worth, on the other hand, had a great presentation, but an impractical product. Magna wins – and for their reward, they’ll be having breakfast at the Rainbow Room with… George and Carolyn! Wow, that is seriously an awesome reward. I’m jealous.
Craig, Kendra, and Tana arrive in a private room with a breathtaking view of the city. Carolyn and George soon join them. Craig says that it was nice to see the human side of the two of them. He assures George that knocking over the pencils was indeed part of their presentation. Kendra says in an interview that it’s nice to see the two of them joking around. Carolyn tells them about her children and the other George in her life, her husband. Tana says in an interview that she loves this experience. George tells the candidates how when he met Donald, he was in his twenties with a plan to renovate a hotel. George thought he was crazy. Carolyn says she’s been with the Trump organization for ten years and jokes, “What the hell was I thinking?”
I thought it was completely awesome on American Idol on Wednesday when Seacrest asked Bo to choose the group with the most votes and Bo refused to play along. I know that doesn’t have anything to do with this show, but I felt like sharing.
Bren and Alex go out for coffee. They agree to be honest in the boardroom. The two of them still believe that their product was better. Oh, boys. Bren scoffs that he’s a lawyer and knows better than to think a judge’s decision is infallible. Yeah, try telling Trump that and let me know how it goes. Bren says he has faith in their design and will stand by it. He adds that he’s done being humble – it’s a matter of principle. Alex agrees. In an interview, Alex says that all he can think about his how much he’ll miss Bren when one of them is gone. Aw.
In the boardroom, Trump points out that both of them are lawyers. Are lawyers uncreative? He calls their product a monstrosity, but Bren says it’s spectacular, and Alex adds that he’d love to have the rights to sell it. Trump figures that wouldn’t be a problem. Trump asks about the impractical plexi top. Alex tries to justify it – that you’d put your work immediate work on top and your less pressing stuff under the lid so you can still see the stack. I bet neither of these guys has ever worked in a tiny cubicle. Trump says, “I don’t get it.” Alex admits that it was his idea, an idea that came from “an uncreative lawyer.” Frankly, creativity wasn’t the problem. A peanut butter and motor oil sandwich is creative, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.
George says that, as a fellow lawyer, he’s embarrassed. And why would they use a basket instead of a drawer that would have been easier to get to? Alex says he likes the visual. Carolyn says she still doesn’t get the design. Bren and Alex maintain that their design is wrong. Carolyn asks, rather gently, if the Staples executives and the office managers are all wrong. She adds, “I think you’re the only two people who think that [this product is better].”
Carolyn goes on to criticize them for not talking to any consumers. Bren asks where they might have found those people. She answers that the other team managed to do it. And since Bren was on the winning team for the American Eagle task, he should have known that it’s a simple matter of talking to customers in the store. Alex admits that it was his idea not to meet with the executives – considering their deadline, he thought a phone call was adequate. Trump says that a face to face meeting is always better. Alex says he was relying on Bren to come up with a focus group (which, as you’ll recall, he did volunteer to do), and he let him down. Trump says he should have led more, relied less.
Bren says that he works harder and has been more consistent. Alex disagrees – he’s the hardest worker of all and is hungry for this job. Just as I’m thinking things look bad for Alex, out of nowhere, Bren says that he doesn’t like to take risks. Alex is better at that, but he is better at working with people. Big mistake, Bren. Trump wonders how Bren thinks he could work with Donald Trump if he doesn’t like to take risks. Bren says he took a big risk by quitting his job to go on the show, but Trump’s not impressed, since all of the candidates did that. Bren says that he’s been trying since then to take more risks, but admits that lately, they’re not paying off.
Alex says Trump should fire Bren because he’s not a risk taker. Alex says that he risked a career as a professional ski racer, then when he was injured, went to college –risk!- then law school – risk!- studied in Israel – risk!, then moved to DC to become a lobbyist – risk! Um, those things are kind of risky, but I’m rather reminded of Jen last season claiming that moving to California for work was a big risky move, compared to Sandy who risked her entire financial future to start her own business, but no matter.
Trump tells Bren that Alex is killing him, and that he’s doing a bad job of fighting back. He adds, “Branson went after me. I killed him. Cuban went after me. I killed him.” Trump loves the self promotion! Bren answers rather weakly that they both made mistakes, so it’s up to Trump who he wants.
Carolyn asks who wants it more. Naturally, both men think their desire is greatest. Alex says he’s hungry for it. Bren argues that he wants the job so badly that he left his job, wife, and kids to try this. Trump says that risk is necessary in business. He doesn’t mind teaching someone how to take risks, but Bren is too far behind. Bren is fired.
Bren and Alex hug goodbye. Trump says that Bren may be a good lawyer, but he’s not an entrepreneur. In his cab ride home, Bren says that the boardroom wasn’t as harsh as he thought it would be. He noticed that Alex didn’t lash out like he said he would. Bren admits that he could have fought more, but that he’s exhausted; it seems Alex really does want the job more. He adds that he made some great friends and learned that what he was looking for was in his own back yard. Then he clicks his heels together – there’s no place like home.
The more I think about it, the more I think Bren was the right one to fire in this case. Alex screwed up pretty spectacularly with a really bad idea. But Bren didn’t have any ideas at all. All he was really supposed to do was get a focus group together, and he never quite made it happen – even though, as I mentioned earlier, he should have known from the American Eagle task what to do. And telling Trump that the doesn’t like to take risks was a bad move. Trump talks all the time about the importance of taking chances, and is certainly not a conservative person.
Next week, we’re down to the final four. I hope the candidates have job interviews again, because that is always good. Keep an eye on RNO for my upcoming article analyzing the performances and chances of all of the candidates. So far I was right about both Bill and Kelly. See you next week!
Betsy Wasser is the Associate Editor of Reality News Online and has about a billion red file folders on her desk. She can be reached with any comments at email@example.com.