On ''The Apprentice,'' the men excel at building a parade display to promote a movie, leaving blondes Kristi and Jen M. to battle in the boardroom
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The Apprentice (Season 4)
Credit: The Apprentice: Virginia Sherwood

”The Apprentice”: Sorority girl death match

Well, kids, I don’t know what to tell you. Either I’ve been drinking or The Apprentice was actually good tonight — and, in a rare turn of events, I haven’t been drinking.

Yes, I declare that tonight’s episode, for whatever reason, proved to be a true return to form for our little Job Interview From Hell. How do I know? Because for the last year and a half, I have been busily developing a foolproof system for judging the relative quality of each and every one of these Thursday-night Trumpfests. (Oh, you thought I was just here to type cute little hoo-hahs and make fun of the way people talk? Ha!) (Okay, yes, that too.)

Now, for the first time ever, I am proud to present…

The Whitney International Totally Shallow and Completely Non-Scientific Especially When I’m Also Watching College Football on the Other Channel Guide to Apprentice Non-Suckitude, Brought to You by Papa John’s: Papa John’s — Better Ingredients, Better Pizza

1. Is the absurdity of what’s going on here apparent, even to the people actually competing on the show? Yes! From the get-go, the boys of Team Excel seemed fully aware of how totally incompetent the women are, and immediately used that knowledge to their advantage. ”They’re acting like a bunch of sorority girls that just got caught sleeping with each others’ boyfriends,” someone said as the men lazed around on the couch, waiting for the gals to return from the boardroom. And then when the ladies returned, the guys managed to work in some light sexual harassment. Excellent work, gentlemen!

2. Can the actions of one team or group be mocked by using a political reference? Yes, again! The ladies’ insistence that they purge themselves of all negativity, that their failure so far has been caused not by gross incompetence but by the presence of one or two bad eggs — well, I can’t say for sure, but I think if this whole Harriet Miers for Supreme Court thing doesn’t work out, President Bush just might find himself on a little bit of a capital edge, if you know what I’m saying…

3. Are there several consecutive moments of ridiculous Trumposity? From Rhona’s announcement that ”Mr. Trump is very busy today” (oh, we’re sorry; were we forcing you to shoot the damn TV show again?) to tonight’s lesson, ”Money Matters,” and its accompanying Fake Business Moment, in which we learned that Trump can afford to keep Miss Universe sitting around in his office all the time for no reason, it was a parade of genius-level tics and quirks. Hell, even the phone he’s got installed in the contestants’ suite is ridiculous. You could play cricket with that thing.

4. Do the contestant nicknames flow like wine? Hooray! Tonight’s task — to design a float for the upcoming Sony Pictures blockbuster Zathura — was spearheaded by two classic project managers: Brian, a.k.a. Mini Muffin, and Jen M., a.k.a. 1987 Hair Barbie. Hair Barbie was hampered in her progress towards total world domination by Kristi, a.k.a. Stonewall Jackson, while Mini Muffin struggled with the waste of space that is Markus, the Massive Tool. Along with Crutches (Rebecca, who did an excellent job dealing with both her handicap and a rolling suitcase, btw; thanks for the help, ladies), Princess Anastasia (Alla), Josh (Josh), and Jason Schwartzman (um…), I think I now have just about everyone down.

5. Have random celebrities been summoned to participate? It’s money, baby! Jon Favreau, director of Zathura (and, happily, back up to his more cuddly Rudy weight), was on hand to judge the floats; plus, tonight’s reward was a chance to go into the studio with famed rapper, R&B star, and Fugee-killer Wyclef Jean. Both of these celebs performed splendidly, with Favreau telling people to shut up and sniggering at everything, and Wyclef sharing some intimate moments with Mini Muffin on the bongos and turning Markus into Lil Jon, all while recording the Team Excel Super Bowl Shuffle, ”Rubble Man,” dedicated to the back of Mini Muffin’s head. Ladies! If you see us in the club! Freakin’!

6. Am I having a hard time cramming everything into the recap? Sorry.

Task: Design a parade float. (Seriously. By hand.)

Project Managers: Brian and Jen M.

Lineup changes: Randal got shipped off to the girls.

Carolyn: Yes.

George: No, Bill.

Winner: The men, in a landslide.

Whose fault was it?: Probably Jen M.’s, because of her absentee project parenting and super-sad attempts to pronounce Zathura (”Zan-thura” is close, Jen, really close), but Hair Barbie will tell you it came down to the fact that Stonewall Jackson was unmanageable. God, I love that excuse.

7. Does the boardroom turn into a total catfight/popularity contest, making all ambitious women look like uptight shrews? You know it. Hair Barbie’s inability to stop talking vs. Stonewall Jackson’s diamond-cutter voice led to a classic screaming match of the No one has ever hated me in my life! vs. I poop white, fluffy clouds shaped like bunnies! variety, and it was all Carolyn could do not to incinerate both of their foreheads using the lasers that lurk behind her eyes. (For his part, I think Bill was a little terrified of/turned on by Kristi.) Trump looked at these two evils and chose, I believe, the lesser of the two: Jen M. probably deserved to be fired, but I’m not sure I could have lasted through another week of Kristi assaulting my eardrums.

And so it was that after the first decent episode all season, Stonewall Jackson found herself in a cab bound for nowhere. ”If anyone wins, I want it to be Felisha or Alla,” she yelped. Well, Kristi dear, I can assure you of one thing: Someone’s gonna win. And for the first time since midway through season 2, I feel like (sniff) it just might be me.

What do you think? Should Jen M. have been the one to go? Was this just a popularity contest? And are you more or less interested in seeing that movie?

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