The big toothpaste brush-off: On ''The Apprentice,'' Maria blows the budget with bad negotiating, so, naturally, the Sorori-Blondes gang up on sandwich-store owner Stacie

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated September 23, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Apprentice 2: Eric Liebowitz
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”The Apprentice”: The big toothpaste brush-off

Maybe it’s because I’m back on the wine again, but I found tonight’s show to be almost indescribably depressing. Like, depressing in a ”there’s not even anything all that funny to say about it” kind of way. Stacie-with-an-i-e got the boot — not because of anything she did this week, and not even because of something she did last week, but because she fooled around with a Magic 8 Ball (the tool of the devil) in the first episode to such an extent that a number of the Sorori-Blondes were afraid for their lives.

Look, I’m sorry for all the italics — and maybe I’m just upset because I kept the TV on for ER, which will heretofore be known as ”That Show Where Nothing Good Ever Happens to Anyone” — but Secret of the Schmooze broke my heart. I’m so glad I wrote my little manifesto about how the women were horrible human beings last week. It saves me the effort of acting surprised.

What can I tell you? Tonight’s product placement was Vanilla Mint Crest (somewhere a Girl Scout Cookie chef is kicking herself and screaming, ”Why didn’t I think of that?”), and the goal was to create as much ”buzz” around the launch of the marginally disgusting new toothpaste flavor as possible.

(By the way: We knew that going over budget on this project was Bad, because this evening’s lesson from the Donald was ”A Penny Saved Is a Penny Saved.” Ignoring for the moment the violent thrashing noises coming from the grave of Benjamin Franklin, it was pretty easy to see that whichever team went over budget was doomed.)

The Pamendelas tried to give away a meeeeeeeeellion dollars using some kind of insurance something-or-other business hoo-hah that me and my theater degree failed to understand. When that plan failed, they actually just had a bunch of circus folk head down to Washington Square Park, where they gave out three $5000 checks to lucky toothpaste tryers. (Big whoop. Circus folk in Washington Square Park = Tuesday.)

The former Bra-fords, on the other hand — who from now on, in memory of the late Russ Meyer, I shall refer to as the Faster Pussycats Who Kill, Kill — hired Mike Piazza (it’s pronounced with a hard z, Jennifer C.) to brush his teeth in Union Square, which was admittedly a better plan. (Mike Piazza in Union Square = Never.)

So there’s a clear-cut winner. Everyone is happy. The ladies have taken it again. And then . . . it turns out that Maria and her hatchet face screwed up. She got this tentative estimate from this printer to have fliers made up overnight for $1800, but they wound up costing three times that, and, poof! Over budget!

When the Dragon Lady screwed up the spreadsheet, I personally thought it was a forgone conclusion that we’d forever be free of her and her mixed metaphors.

But then there is the boardroom . . . always the boardroom. This week, All. The Rules. Would. Be. Broken. Which basically meant that Mr. Donald ”I’ve Persuaded NBC to Play an Actual Trumpet Fanfare When I Appear On Screen” Trump would call all the ladies back into the room, where they would stage an abridged version of The Passion of the Christ and convince him, George, and Carolyn that Stacie was a psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est, and send her packing. Because one time she had a little fun with a Magic 8 Ball.

I used to have fun with Magic 8 Balls. They had them at the checkout at Toys ”R” Us when I was a kid, and I would ask them if Gavin McMillan was in love with me, and sometimes they would tell me what I wanted to hear. Wait! Toys ”R” Us was a product placement on the first ep of this season, wasn’t it? I feel like my brain is eating itself.

Deep breath.

There were actually some interesting things to ponder tonight: Jared, the man they hired to book Mike Piazza (pronounced ”pee-aht-za,” Jennifer C.), was about as close to an actual mole man as you’re going to see on TV these days. Stacy the 12-year-old is literally a foot shorter than everyone else when she sits at the boardroom table. How did they get off the Queen Mary after dinner? And is Robin the Receptionist refusing to say last season’s catchphrase, ”You can go in now, guys,” just to spite me?

But all of these things, in light of the conclusion, are trivial. I cannot believe they kicked Stacie off.

One of my favorite things about The Apprentice is the aerial footage of New York City, and so to see a shot like the one they had tonight, swooping from the circus in Washington Square Park to the event with the mispronounced Met on 14th Street, filled my heart with joy. This place has been my home for 11 years, and it is an amazing, vibrant, tough, uncompromising place. When this show transitions with shots of the sun, or the moon, or buildings, or water, or the subway, or pigeons, or whatever, I think to myself, Wow. Wow, I am so lucky to live here, in a city that tolerates all kinds. It is a city where, for example, the morning this episode aired, a man who scavenges cans out of the garbage was featured in The New York Times. We value character and individuality and quirkiness . . . and people like Stacie. But no matter how much the show itself may respect New York, these people, these women, these pussycats they have hired for this show — they just don’t get it. Tonight’s show was embarrassing. The whole thing — with all of its racist, sexist, classist, Sorori-Blonde-ist connotations — made me sick. I will be eating Subway sandwiches for the rest of the month in silent protest. I invite you to join me.

What do you think? Should someone get fired?

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