Riding Coattails: Clay Finally Cracks

It was only a matter of time. What is most amazing to me is length of time between Clay’s initial irritating antics and his firing. Seventh place ain’t small potatoes on a show like The Apprentice, but Clay certainly didn’t land there on his own merits. In fact, Clay embodied the name of this column to the extreme; he was a major coattail rider. Even when he was project manager on the Dairy Queen and Star Wars tasks, his contributions did not lead his teams to victory. On the former task, it was Mark’s willingness to dress in drag in front of a bunch of executives and Capital Edge’s major suckage that enabled Excel to win. And last week, it was clear that Alla was literally calling the shots on the Star Wars display, as she managed the photo shoot and arranged the display.

Although Clay’s bio and accent reveal that he’s from the South, his passive aggressive nature totally reminded me of the Midwest. As a native Minnesotan now living in New York, I can speak with some authority on this type of behavior (and will admit that I have dabbled in it a bit myself). Full New York immersion is a great cure for people who say, “No, of course I’m not mad. Why would I be mad?” in high-pitched, nasal voices. Now when I’m pissed with people, I tell them and we work on a solution. I think my time in New York has even made me like the Donald a bit more. He seems much less abrasive this season, but I don’t think he’s changed that much; I have.

However, I don’t think Clay was in New York long enough to really soak in the directness of the culture and thus will continue to play head games with people. Being forthright can save a lot of time, and on these Apprentice tasks, time is of the essence. I saw it again and again in the candidates’ eyes when Clay would pull one of his B.S. lines. They were thinking, “I don’t have time for this crap.” Too bad Clay was too oblivious to notice how he was affecting people; he was busy asking the question, “What about me?”, his idea for a catchy chorus line in the song he was writing with Rebecca, Randal, and their artist of choice, Jide.

The task, which involved composing a song to air on XM Radio was pretty cool, but again, I was a bit disappointed that the players were hit with another subjective project. There have been so few objective tasks based on dollar amounts this season, and I can’t help but feel that the producers have veered too far from the original premise of the show, which was to recruit a leader to work for Trump and make tons of cash. That said, I think the tasks should be more focused on the candidates’ abilities to turn major profits in a more straightforward way.

There’s not much more to be said about that, but I have plenty of comments regarding the remaining players and where I think they now sit on The Apprentice totem pole:

1. Felisha
Wow, talk about coming through the back door. Felisha kicked ass on this task as project manager. It didn’t hurt that she already had the respect and friendship of teammates Adam and Alla, either. In the first few weeks of this season, I wasn’t sure if Felisha was the real deal, but she’s proved that she can get along with people and make good decisions. She smoothly walked into the recording studio and asked her musicians to tone down the jazz quality of the song, ultimately making the song a good fit for XM Radio. That act was key in her team’s victory, and she handled it really well. I can’t really see Felisha winning in the end, but for now, she’s in a very good position. Whether or not she’ll be able to hold onto that remains to be seen.

2. Alla
She’s still a star, but I’m a bit worried that Alla’s negativity during interviews is going to hurt her in the end. Alla complains a lot when no one else is around, and does a fair bit of complaining even when people are present. Although I don’t hold much stock in anything Clay says, he did mention in the taxi after being fired that he expected Alla would find someone else to pick on now that he was gone. So far, Alla hasn’t been nasty without provocation, but it will be interesting to see if she can keep her cool as things get down to the wire.

3. Rebecca
I must say, I didn’t have much hope for Rebecca when the season began. Her loyalty to Toral was making her look bad, and her first experience in the boardroom led me to believe that Rebecca was too pig-headed to survive another one. And while she is very determined, it’s clear that Trump admires her honesty and drive. She wasn’t a bad project manager on this task, but some of her actions were undermined by Clay and Randal. She also did a much better job of standing up for herself in the boardroom, which is the main reason I put her ahead of Randal in the rankings.

4. Randal
Randal’s mistake this week of putting the wrong channel number on an XM promotional poster for Jide was blown out of proportion by Trumpo. When the XM executives noticed it, they called it a “small detail.” While it’s true that other players have been fired over details, such as Jennifer W. and her “Tethno Expo” cake, Randal owned up to his error in a professional way. George helped him out by remarking that Randal’s mistake did not cause the team’s loss; their presentation was subpar and their song didn’t fit the radio station. Randal could have said these things himself, but he tends to get quiet in the boardroom, which is not going to serve him well during the next few weeks. I still think he’s a great player, but he’s going to have to work pretty damn hard to get back in the Donald’s good graces.

5. Adam
It’s not that Adam did anything wrong this week. On the contrary, he was a great team player with Alla and Felisha. But that’s precisely why Adam isn’t going to get the job: he’s not a leader. Not yet, anyway. It’s not his fault that he’s only 22, but his lack of experience definitely puts him at a disadvantage. While Rebecca is only a year older, she has proven that she had leadership abilities. By comparison, Adam appears to be more of a follower. Not to mention a hell of a nice guy. He’ll be successful no matter what, but it’s unlikely that the Trump Organization is going to shuttle him to fame and fortune.