Polish off your resumes and get ready for your close-up. The Apprentice is back.
Donald Trump's latest 15-week televised job interview kicked off with 18 eager applicants vying for "the dream job of a lifetime" (if televised humiliation is your bag) and "a hefty six-figure salary" (nearly enough for a "Jr. one-bedroom" apartment on the Upper East side).
Like last year, contestants were broken off into teams by gender. However, the first twist of the game came when they were asked to send over a member of each team to serve as project manager and join the opposing crew permanently. Bradford sidled over to the ladies and to join the team called "Apex," while Pamela commuted across the massive Trump Tower suite to join the men of "Mosaic." Another new wrinkle is that the winning project manager is exempt from being fired the following week.
Their first task: Come up with the next big toy for young boys. Eventually the teams met with executives at Mattel (NYSE: MAT ) , where Apex presented a remote control car -- the Metamorpher -- with interchangeable parts. Mosaic proposed a line of crustacean characters, also with interchangeable parts.
Anyone who knows Mattel could have told you that Apex had this in the bag. While Mattel's most popular toy (Barbie) and its fastest-growing line (American Girl) are dolls for young girls, its boy lines revolve mostly around Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and remote-controlled Tyco cars.
Crustaceans? That would be the shrimp that the winning Apex crew were downing at Trump's penthouse after they won.
Spoiler alert (avert your eyes for the next complex sentence if you want to be on pins and needles for the rerun): Mosaic's Project Manager Pamela, despite making some cruel remarks about some of the young boys in the toy focus group, was spared as the reticent Rob -- who overutilized the word "underutilized" -- was given the boot.
Dayana: Can you say "product placement"?
Rick: Whoever is in charge of product placement for the show should get the cobra action: "You're fired!" The contestants flew in on Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL ) -- a company that announced massive layoffs this month and is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. They entered the huge flagship Toys "R" Us (NYSE: TOY ) store in Times Square as an icon of toy retailing, even though the country's leading seller of playthings for the past few years has actually been Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) . This is supposed to inspire greatness? Jujyfruit, Dayana?
Dayana: No thanks. So did Stacie J. shake that Magic 8 ball and receive the "Freak Out" response? That was almost creepy. I also noticed that while Pamela told her team to remove their neckties she kept that scarf tied around her neck. There may have been a mixed message there, but in the end she was no Meg Whitman, that's for sure.
Tim: At least this time we were actually treated to some real business. Even The Donald made fun of last year's lemonade stand project in that opening infomercial for The Trump Organization and New York. But this time he stacked the deck for the men, presumably hoping the women wouldn't again run the table by making the task to design a toy for young boys. Oops. This should have been a cakewalk for Pamela's crew, but it was Bradford's women who were cool under the pressure. I can't wait to see what happens when the candidates start working with the big names on the big projects. Maybe it's me, but I don't think Raj's fake cane and loud red pants will work as well in the boardrooms of PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) . Raj is definitely the new Sam.
Dayana: Except that he could actually get a date. So, did Trump make the right call in sending Rob down to the street?
Rick: The first cut is always the shallowest. But if I can come to Rob's defense. I have never understood the logic of firing the person that contributed the least to a losing project. Shouldn't it be the person who contributed the most? If the implication is that the guy who laid low could have steered the team to victory -- ummm, I say keep him. It's like canning the water boy when a quarterback throws an interception.
Ultimately, yes, Rob was weak. Andy didn't belong in the boardroom. Why was he there exactly? Because he was too young? As if great leaders are determined solely by the number of rings around their bark? Oh, I'm sorry, Michael Dell, you can't start Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL ) in your dorm room. It's fitting how there was a clip of the new Alexander the Great movie on during the show. Didn't he just about conquer the world while he was still twenty-something? As for Pamela, she may not last long, but she went from Cruella de Vil to Coup de Ville in the boardroom when it mattered the most. Tim, here's the popcorn.
Dayana: I think Rob was probably the right choice. Mosaic was working on a toy line called Crustacean Nation, and Rob suggests they go with -- get this -- an eel? Someone clearly failed marine biology.
Rick: At first I thought it was a terrible idea, but when they started talking about interchangeable parts, I thought it could work.
Dayana: A football that could be scooped up and hurled toward goalposts for the football player -- then his shell could come off to be replaced by a net-swinging hockey player, hoops-shooting b-ball player, etc. What would the printing costs be for that assembly manual?
But Pamela doesn't get a pass, either. With cameras rolling and Trump's assistant Carolyn within earshot, she blasts little boys for their haircuts, girth, and calls one Dumb and Dumber? That was dumb -- and dumber.
Tim: Yeah, that was ugly, but so was the humbling Bradford suffered at the hands of his inherited all-woman team. Frankly, he's lucky they won. He tried twice to make executive decisions, and twice he was overruled. He at least deserves some credit for listening to the Mattel design team after they bashed his weird football car game. But let's be honest: He skated through. And now he's guaranteed an extra week because of Trump's new Project Manager bonus. Rob wasn't any better for Mosaic. Pamela's hard edge may be Omarosa-esque, but Rob was paralyzed in the team brainstorm.
Trump said it best: You don't have to be asked to do a job. You just do it.
Until next week, suite dreams.