I called it. Not that predicting the winner of this season of The Apprentice was all that difficult once it got down to the final two, but still. I’m happy to take my small victories. Of course, the victories were huge this week for Sean Yazbeck, that British visual treat with the kissably plump lips, better than Dr. McDreamy hair, and icy blue eyes. I think Sean wins the prize for Trump’s hottest hire.
And now, he’s off the market.
That’s right, Sean’s dream of spawning baby apprenti with Tammy is one step closer to coming true, as he announced his love for her to a flabbergasted Trump at the finale. And the following day, several reports claimed that he and Tammy are engaged. That was fast. Well, probably not as fast as it seems in TV Land, since season five was filmed last fall. Still, the man is obviously smitten enough not to waste any time snagging the lady of his choice. I must admit that I was skeptical when Sean and Tammy’s budding romance was introduced on the show. Historically, The Apprentice has not been much of a matchmaker, but there’s an exception to every rule. And I was very proud of Sean for not proposing to Tammy during the finale. That would have been too surreal and Romber-esque, not to mention inappropriate enough to hurt Sean’s chances of winning.
Unlike previous seasons (especially the second and fourth), I had no pity for the runner-up. Although he’s only 23, Lee is one of the most self-assured candidates the show has ever had. Even though that loss was undoubtedly disappointing for him, I’m sure that Lee has many other exciting plans cooking on the stove and will dive into them with zest. And he came onto the show with a girlfriend, so he’s not hurting in the romance department, either. He’ll be fine.
The finale offered little of the suspense and build-up that characterized past seasons. The lack of abuse bestowed upon Sean and Lee can probably be chalked to a couple of factors. First, the two genuinely liked each other and were not in the habit of badmouthing for the sake of getting ahead. Secondly, the Donald probably realized that it was unnecessary to sit the finale two down for one more heated verbal battle, which has typically been an exercise in humiliation for the runner-up. I think that Trump liked Lee too much to do that to him. Normally, I enjoy a good boardroom bloodbath, but it wouldn’t have been fitting with these two.
With four other seasons as a basis for comparison, the penultimate and final episodes were even more interesting to watch. Although Randall and Rebecca were allowed to choose any candidates they wanted for their staffs last season, they were not allowed to sit down and talk with the fired gang before making their decision. It was amusing to watch Sean and Lee walk back into the suite and have everyone waiting for them, jockeying for position. I anticipated that Sean would select Tammy and Andrea, given his genuine (but very different) affections for both of them. Tarek was a slightly surprising choice because he was often in hot water in the boardroom and had been known to screw up royally on occasion. However, he worked very well with Tammy and Andrea, so Sean ultimately made good picks.
It was also obvious that Lee would grab Lenny straight off, but I was surprised at how much he relied on Lenny’s advice in selecting two more helpers. Lee’s selection of Roxanne was understandable, given her strong performances throughout the season. And the much-maligned Pepi. Poor guy. He was never really given a chance to shine, and when Lee offered him that opportunity, everyone just laughed. Carolyn’s comment about not recognizing Pepi was kind of mean, actually. Sure, it seemed like an odd choice, but if Pepi was good enough to be selected for the show, then certainly he could handle being Lee’s assistant. And by the way everyone, his name is pronounced like “peppy,” not “pepe,” as in Monsieur Le Pew.
Even though the outcome of the finale was predictable, it was satisfying to see such a deserving candidate walk away with the prize. Sean’s performance on the final task was one of the most seamless I’ve ever seen from a finalist. His charge was to run a charity event featuring a Barenaked Ladies concert to benefit the World Wildlife Fund at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. Sean did so many things right that it would have been difficult for El Trumpo to find any serious faults. Sure, Sean’s idea of putting a giant panda in the Pontiac was nixed, and Pontiac was a little pissed that there wasn’t any signage representing their brand in the concert hall, but those matters were fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Then there was the wild card of Andrea’s freaky blood coughing thing, but that turned out to be only a minor problem. Her absence would have royally deterred Sean and the rest of his team from putting on a successful event, but it would have been a factor beyond Sean’s control and not something that Trump could have penalized him for too severely.
Lee had more than a few curveballs thrown his way on his task of putting on a celebrity hockey game to benefit the Leary Firefighters Foundation. His toughest customer was definitely Lys from the Foundation, who continually interrupted Lee to inform him that his ideas sucked. She was understandably uneasy about having a rookie run such a big event, but her confrontational style did little to make things go more smoothly. Throw in Lenny’s poorly timed comedic contributions to the already stressful meetings, and Lee was clearly getting a headache. I still don’t understand why Lee thought that Lenny would be helpful to him on the final task. While it’s true that they struck up a friendship, Lee should have been able to see that good friend does not mean good business partner. And how good of a friend was Lenny, anyway? He was the most vocal in criticizing Lee for skipping two tasks this season to observe Jewish holidays.
Roxanne didn’t have a lot of faith in Lee, which came through in her comments about him during the final task. Pepi was pretty much in the background but seemed to be doing his best. However, Lee’s biggest error in the whole task was not personally greeting the Trumpmeister when he arrived at the hockey game. While it would have been nice to greet Jason Priestley and Jaime Pressly with trays of champagne and underwear model escorts to the locker room, the Donald probably would have been able to overlook Lee’s blunders in this area if he had given Trump’s arrival sufficient fanfare.
speaking of sufficient fanfare, I’m concerned about the declining ratings of The Apprentice. I still think it’s the cream of the reality show crop (along with Survivor, of course). Many people tell me that they enjoyed the first season but were tired of the gimmick by the time season two rolled around. I know others who think that the quality of the tasks has diminished over the last few seasons. And you know what I say? It’s all about the people. As long as Mark Burnett’s casting team continues to put interesting faces on the show, I’ll be watching. Because at the end of the day, The Apprentice is a social game wrapped around a job interview. And what’s more fascinating than watching a bunch of money whores trying to get in bed with the big boss? I’m all over that. I’m so there. See you in L.A., Mr. Trump.