Riding Coattails: Apprentice Arm Wrestle

Nice try, Martha. After viewing the first (and surely for me, the last) episode of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, I found myself utterly bewildered as to why this woman, marked by the dual badge of success and scandal, would voluntarily subject herself to further public humiliation. Besides, she already had a perfectly good TV show; why did she need another? If this is Martha’s way of redeeming herself to the American public after getting out of prison, it ain’t gonna work. The show, which replicates the structure of Donald Trump’s original, presents her as a bumbling mother hen flanked by her daughter Alexis and that ridiculous guy who inexplicably affects an unlit cigar at all times. And what the hell is “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics doing as the theme song in the opening credits? I can’t believe Annie Lennox agreed to that. It’s a disgrace, really.

The Donald, on the other hand, proves that he’s still got it, launching into his fourth season of The Apprentice. Some of my friends and coworkers can’t believe that I’m still interested in this show, that it became lame immediately after Bill Rancic was crowned the first winner. I suppose that if I had a shorter attention span or a less obsessive personality, I might feel the same way. However, the observation of human interaction is inherently interesting to me and when some of those humans are behaving like royal a-holes, well, I’m fascinated. I doubt that I could ever tire of watching the candidates run around NYC, performing like dancing monkeys for a man who thinks he’s the greatest thing since the 21 Club.

I’ve never had many positive things to say about El Trumpo, but after watching Ms. Stewart choke her way through a board meeting, I have to admit that he has at least a few redeeming qualities. For one thing, he’s quick to the verbal punch, while Martha tends to hem and haw. He’s also got his friend beat on the style front, accessorizing with pink silk ties instead of ankle tracking bracelets. Honestly, how are any of Martha’s candidates supposed to take her seriously when she’s wearing that? I can just imagine the retorts when she accuses anyone of doing a shoddy job: “Oh, yeah? Well, at least I’m not a convicted felon.” I predict that at least one person will use that as a parting shot, although I just don’t care enough about the show to tune in to see it.

So back to Mr. Trump. He was in fine form during the opening sequence, going through the usual chatter about the hell he was planning to put the players through this season. The teams which were divided by gender again for the benefit of the Donald, who claimed that “sometimes it’s hard telling you apart.” To that I say, “Spare me.” The fact that Trump didn’t want to make the effort to learn more about these people was disappointing, but not out of character. And in true Trump fashion, He dragged everyone out to his gold course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he kicked off the competition with a race to find his chopper, which was sitting somewhere on 500 plus acres of green. One of the boys, Mark, got to it first, despite the fact that the women hijacked a couple of golf carts. The reward for the team that won this silly little footrace was a helicopter ride back into the city for two of the men, thus giving their team a head start on the task.

The task itself, which involved designing and marketing a new class for Bally Total Fitness, was a good one. The teams worked from two Manhattan locations in Chelsea and Spanish Harlem. Kristi jumped at the chance to be Capital Edge’s project manager, while Markus reluctantly took the reins for the Excel Corporation (whose name makes me think of spreadsheets). I cringed as Kristi and her teammates took to the streets, handing out flyers to promote their class. Now, the team has only one NYC resident, Toral, but anyone who has spent more than 24 hours in this town knows that there are people handing out flyers at practically every street corner. And the fact that the team’s red flyers had three Xs practically screaming off the page certainly didn’t help. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Meanwhile, back at the Excel ranch, Markus was underwhelming the guys with his constant calls for conversational timeouts and comment card-esque requests for feedback from the team on his performance as the first PM. He also left Trumpo less than impressed during their first phone conversation, in which he babbled on about absolutely nothing. However, despite the pussyfooting of Excel’s leadership, the team made the right decision to market their half-hour class to Bally members inside the gym. I felt certain that Excel was going to kick Capital Edge’s ass mightily, but they only won by $11. Still, a win is a win, and for the first time in the show’s history, a woman was the first firing casualty.

Melissa’s dismissal was bittersweet. On the one hand, she was obviously the most disruptive, mouthy member of the team. On the other hand, it would have been great fun to have her stick around and continue to stir things up. I admired Kristi’s gutsy move to bring only Melissa back into the boardroom, since she didn’t appear to have a problem with anyone else in Capital Edge. It was a slightly risky strategy, but it paid off and left Kristi on good terms with the rest of the women on the team. Kristi’s people skills outweigh her business savvy, which will more than likely cost her in the end.

Here are the candidates that caught my eye during the premier:

Marshawn
I knew she looked familiar. The former Miss District of Columbia competed for Miss America in 2001 and came in fourth. Anyone with beauty pageant experience is likely to be tough and on their game. The only problem Marshawn may run into is convincing Trump that she’s ready to make the leap from law to business.

Randal
This man has so many degrees, he’s practically on fire. All of this education (two master’s degrees, a Rhodes scholarship, and a PhD) may come back to bite him in the ass, though, as it did with the academically inclined Kevin in season two. I feel bad for him losing his grandmother while competing in the first task. However, in a flashback to Heidi’s plight in the first season, Trump was human enough to fly Randal out to the funeral. Of course, he would have looked like a giant dick if he hadn’t, but that’s beside the point.

Toral
She didn’t put in much of an appearance in the first show, but I was impressed by what she said about Melissa’s lack of professionalism. Toral gives off the air of someone who is very together and won’t crack under the pressure she is certain to encounter during this process.

Alla
This woman is an animal! A Russian immigrant, mother of four, and salon/spa chain owner, Alla has already proven that she can prevail. I have a hard time imagining that anyone could mess with her and get away with it. Fortunately, she seems more assertive than aggressive, which puts her in a good position with her teammates. I predict that Alla will be one of the last ones standing.