The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Weekly Performance Review, Episode 2by Brian Towers -- 01/16/2007
In the second task, Arrow lost again and Carey was sent packing. How did each applicant do on the job? Let’s take a look at their performance reviews. (If you’d like a full explanation of my rating system, check outlast week’s column.)
This week, I was very disappointed in the whole show. The task was settled by a skill that has nothing to do with running a Trump company and was just a cheesy way to get people into bathing suits. The reward – more of the same. Trump’s dopey comments about the pretty girls are no longer amusing, nor are his thoughts about whether pink is an appropriate color for men.
Now, before saying this next part, I know this is supposed to be an entertainment show and not really a job interview, but asking people if they are gay is simply not allowed in the employment process these days. And the inane limitation of providing only four models so two of the contestants were forced to get into swimsuits – would that be legally actionable in the real world, or is that a requirement of employment at a Trump company?
Further, the editing of the show was terrible, with minimal footage of the teams accomplishing the project by actually performing assigned tasks. For example, riddle me this about both teams: who designed the clothes for each gender, who supervised construction of the suits, who worked with the models, who coordinated the details of the show with Trina Turk, and how were the price points set?
And finally, where were these nifty new team names last week?
At any rate, the task this week was to design swimsuits, price them, supervise their construction, and present them at a fashion show to sell them to retail outlet buyers. Gross sales to those buyers were the yardstick of final evaluation. Let’s look at how the players performed.
Kinetic had little face time as individuals. Therefore, I regret that I have NO RATING for Aimee, Angela, Derek, Jenn, and Muna. Really brief clips showed Muna and Jenn as part of the group designing female suits, but not enough that I feel obligated to make comment.
Kristine and Surya: Not much was made of it, but bravo to this duo for also stepping up onto the runway to display product. Their rating is SATISFACTORY, because for the most part in this episode, they were in the same generic boat as the five mentioned above.
Marisa: We did learn that Marisa was responsible for the first women’s swimsuit. Perhaps it was a pedestrian affair, but it was certainly a marketable product. She stood behind her work when challenged by Heidi, and I liked that.
Marisa’s rating is GOOD. At reward she showed us viewers a little resentment of Heidi’s role as PM. As this was an aside I will not alter her rating because of it, but I think we need to be wary of teamwork issues in the weeks ahead.
Heidi: For quite a while, pretty much everything Heidi did on the task was hidden from us, and I was beginning to fear that I’d actually have to give NO RATING to a project manager! We didn’t really see her until she was shown being negative about Marisa’s suit design. When she told us that she allowed it to be included, but planned to turn on Marisa if things went badly, I questioned her teamwork.
I’d really prefer to write more about her communication and resource deployment skills, or perhaps her deft costing decisions or the way she avoided some pitfalls, but I can only guess that must have all been satisfactory and uneventful.
In the Boardroom, Heidi did better this time at subtly directing the flow of the debate. She deflected Carey’s attempt to put focus on a perceived weaker link, Michelle. Heidi’s efforts earn her a GOOD rating.
Boy, is this group ever in trouble! They didn’t remember who the client was, they were unsupportive (or fake-supportive) of each other, and they talked so loudly that the other team could hear them air their dirty linen. Now, next week they’re essentially competing against themselves. I’m almost ready to predict that there will be no winner!
Aaron: Aaron expressed his doubts about Carey’s designs while in the back of the van, but no one seemed to react to the straight man’s opinion. He gets a SATISFACTORY rating for being right yet no more because he didn’t put his opinions out forcefully enough to sway others.
Frank: Except for being perhaps a little too exuberant in his celebration of not being fired, Frank was a good boy this week. However, when Frank mentioned he was sleeping outside Trump still saw fit to comment to him, “Don’t worry. You’ll be back in the Bronx very soon, don’t worry about it.” That was an unfair snipe, but it does indicate that Frank will not win The Apprentice: Los Angeles.
One more point… Frank is a very bad liar. When he first saw Carey in the pink suit, he said, “I like it,” in a manner so unconvincing that I’m surprised no one either laughed or slapped him. Still, for this week’s efforts Frank earns a SATISFACTORY rating.
James: We learned in the Boardroom that apparently, James had a role in the pricing. Since Trump felt the pricing was fine, James gets credit here.
Also in the Boardroom, James said his choice would be to send Nicole home. Yet, when she pressed him, he didn’t really back it up. In fact, Trump had to put words into his mouth that I rather doubt were forthcoming. It’s good to show a unique opinion, but you know this question is coming and one needs to be ready to succinctly back that opinion up. Netting these items out and getting generous, James barely records a GOOD rating this week.
Stefani: NO RATING.
Tim: Tim was again responsible for loud talk outside that the other team could hear. Maybe when (if?) he ever gets on the other side of the hedge, he’ll figure this out.
I think others look to Tim as a natural leader. When discussing an upcoming Boardroom, Tim’s opinions have been sought out in both weeks. The time can’t be far off when these leadership skills will be called on to take on the PM role.
In a cameo that preceded the Boardroom, Tim tells us this week he saw “no obvious screw-up,” which is an odd statement considering the sales numbers for men’s suits. Nonetheless, Tim gets a SATISFACTORY rating for the week.
Michelle: Michelle has dug herself a big hole with her teammates. When she didn’t support Carey’s pink swimsuit, she was proven correct, and I consider it a positive that she made her point so clearly. However, Carey’s response was essentially that he shushed her. What’s worse, no one else spoke up despite feeling the same way.
The second disagreement was a worse one for Michelle, when she chose not to voice an opinion about pricing because she hadn’t been working on the pricing aspect of the project. She was correct to made her point known that her opinions were uninformed ones. Nonetheless, when the entire team is pressing you hard for a response, however “qualified” you make it, a response must be forthcoming. As it played out, she appeared to the rest of her team to be shirking responsibility and prematurely building a Boardroom defense.
In the Boardroom, Trump identified Michelle as having “a lousy personality.” Ivanka added that she was “a weak link,” and The Donald added the shot, “But other than that, you’re doing great, Michelle.” Those kind of perceptions by those ultimately responsible for the hiring will keep her from becoming the The Apprentice: Los Angeles.
I have the impression there must be more to the team’s negative feelings about Michelle that we didn’t see. Maybe it will be in the Yahoo clips? Two teammates even named her to be fired over two more realistic targets. For now, her rating must be NEEDS IMPROVEMENT, because rightly or wrongly, her co-workers and the Trumps think poorly of her and she needs to take immediate steps to project a more positive image.
Nicole: I like how Nicole got working on the task right away. It was obvious that Carey and Michelle knew this designer’s work, and (I think) both were assigned design tasks.
Nicole is a likeable person so it’s not a big surprise that she described her management style as, “To make sure that everybody is so happy that they give it their all.” Now, people pretty much do seem to like her and they even accept working FOR her. But in this show, relationships are not permanent and “benevolent dictator” is as open and friendly as one really ought to get. In actual fact, we saw that team members questioned decisions along the way in cameo interviews, but never brought them up to the team or the PM.
Nicole said one thing along this line that worried me a lot. She said, “If somebody says something and you don’t agree with it, you really don’t have to say anything, you keep going.” Well, when Michelle said Carey’s design didn’t work for her and no one agreed, how did that work out? These are 18 of the brightest and best the country has to offer, not a bunch of yes-people. A good PM can take advantage of differing opinions and steer the group toward a consensus; Nicole never ever discovered the majority opinion.
The editing let me down a bit here, but we were led to believe that Nicole and James did the research on pricing. If so, it was incorrect for her to solicit and then demand input from everyone on pricing. Was it an attempt to share the glory, or spread the blame? Methinks both.
I did like the fact that Nicole checked her humility at the door and agreed to fill in as the sixth model. That was a bold move, but a bad one; this is not what a PM does. Had a situation developed where she needed to deal with an emergency that had been overlooked, Nicole had made herself unavailable.
In the Boardroom, Nicole defended herself well against Heidi when she initially suggested the PM was ultimately responsible for the loss, and again against James who named her responsible for the loss. She even got James to admit she was “a great motivator.”
We never saw Nicole pointing out that although they didn’t do well in the area of men’s suits, they sold over $19,000 of female suits. Had her name percolated to the front of the firing line, this point may have helped steer attention back to Carey. Her rating is GOOD, but just barely.
Carey: The common view of this episode seems to be that Carey took a bad risk by designing suits that would not appeal to the majority of men. While that’s certainly true, I think Carey’s big mistake was that he lost focus on exactly who the customer was. These retail buyers were not the cutting-edge crowd one would expect to be throwing hard-earned cash at Project Runway-style product, and Carey’s designs were pretty wild. Perhaps his perception of what percentage of the population is gay or metrosexual was wrong?
I actually could not decide which of those three suits sold even $360 worth. However, it was great fun to watch him model a suit that was his right from the sketchbook stage, and I enjoyed his sense of accomplishment.
One criticism teammates made of Carey was that he “ramrodded” his designs. For the most part, I think he stood up for his creative product. However, when it came to Michelle, he said, “You’re falling on deaf ears at this point,” and that’s my current definition of being a ramrod. It’s reality-TV karma that she was one of the last three in the Boardroom, highlighting his shortcomings for The Donald.
Initially, Carey did well in the Boardroom when there were three of them present. He seemed to have successfully shifted the focus to shortcomings on Michelle’s part, such as her “indecisiveness.” However, Heidi stepped in and stopped that. His rating is (just) NEEDS IMPROVEMENT. Hey, in other episodes we’ve seen so much worse!
Did Trump make the right decision? Yes. In a season where being the PM early puts you at great risk, I’m glad to see Mister-whitest-feet-in-America looking beyond the obvious choice of firing Nicole. Although I cannot see why that affects his ability to run a Trump company, Carey’s design were the reason Arrow lost the task.
Here’s a wee spoiler about next week’s guest judge. To see the spoiler, drag your cursor between the brackets. Don't do that if you prefer to remain spoiler-free! [ Ivanka is out earning her keep next week, so brother Don fills in for her! ]
That’s all for this week. Please feel free to let me know what your thoughts are at the address below.
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Brian lives in Toronto where he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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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