Apprentice 2: Eric Liebowitz
Whitney Pastorek
October 29, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”The Apprentice”: The police get a product placement

Okay, I want to begin by saying that last week, I was depressed. The Astros lost, and I was feeling very parenthetical as a baseball fan, and I think that came through in my writing. This week, I have decided that I am beautiful, in every single way, and The Apprentice can’t bring me down. I am back to loving this show and its romantic aerial shots of the greatest city in the world and its absurd notion of what people between the ages of 22 and 30 act like, reveling in all of its absurdity and the fact that tonight’s assignment was awesome, and people said boneheaded things, and the right person got fired. Yes, it’s true: I listened to Tonight’s Trump Lesson, ”You Have to Love It,” and I took it to heart.

So, hooray! In the words of the tremendously dreadlocked Adam Duritz: Goodnight, Elizabeth, goodnight. You were a crap Project Manager, twice, and deserved to go home. I’m sure you’re a very nice person in real life.

We opened on the kids, as usual, sitting back in the loft having their family dinner, Maria trying to eat her food as her giant flower tried to eat her head, Raj dining casually in a blazer and boxers, everyone talking smack about Andy, when in the door walks . . . Andy and Wes. And Jen M. almost spit out her food. We, however, did not spit out our food — which tonight was cookies, by the way, due to the fact that the deli near my house was out of pudding — because we already knew that Stacy the Snack Cake was gone and only the tall preppies remained. Wes sat down and said, ”Is it hot in here, or . . .” something something something, but I didn’t really hear him because all I could think was, man, I miss Hottie John, and then it was morning and Rhona was on the phone telling them to be up and at ’em at 8 when Mr. Trump would have a message on the TV screen. And boy did he ever: Sitting there on his jet, his tacky, tacky jet — the man installed gilded picture frames on his plane, for the love of God — His Eminence explained to the children that this week they’d be working with Advertising Magnate Donny Deutsch, while he flew to Ecuador (Ecuador!) to administer the Miss Universe pageant with Bill (at this you could almost hear the remaining male contestants make a Homer Simpson yummy-donut noise in their heads, imagining their prospects for the future).

The assignment was to make recruiting ads for the New York Police Department, the winning team would win, and the losers would go to the boardroom, blah blah blah etc. All his televised message was missing was a warning that it would self-destruct in 10 seconds (which I almost hoped for, imagining Maria’s giant flower being blown to smithereens, but then I remembered that I was trying to be more positive this week) (also, I was trying to use fewer parentheses, whoops). After the announcement, our heroes traipsed downtown to Donny’s office, where we were treated to another lovely staged Corporate Moment as Mr. Deutsch said officiously, ”Send them in!” into his phone, and then, in his Casual Friday Best, greeted the group and explained how he wanted these NYPD ads to really hit people in the center of their $80 Izod shirts. Oh, wait. When he banged his chest, he meant ”heart”? My bad. Okay: The NYPD ads were supposed to hit people in their hearts. Wow. It’s like everything Celine Dion ever tried to teach me has just gone in one ear and out the other.

Apex, with Project Manager Elizabeth, immediately set about saying offensive things courtesy of Chris (who has the same dentist as my friend Al — can you believe it?). ”It’s not a friggin’ tampon commercial!” he brayed, in response to Lizzie’s suggestion that they maybe tone down the militaristic aspect in order to better hit people in the center of their Izod shirts, and I was on Lizzie’s side when she said no no no, it needs more emotion . . . but no one else was, and then she basically lost the ability to speak English, and as far as I was concerned, it was right then and there that she was a goner. Finally, I thought, the promos reflected something accurate: the rest of her team — Chris, Terror Raj, Ivana (who has picked up a nasty habit of just repeating whatever anyone says near her and passing it off as an original thought), and Jen M. — really did stage a total coup against her incompetence, and only Increasingly Indignant Kevin, for reasons that remain a mystery to me, tried to help, but to no avail. I’m not sure what I think of him telling her to shut up to her face — I could never pull that off with my boss, not even when he’s coming over to my desk at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights when we’re on deadline and insisting that I play with him — but maybe it was warranted, because Elizabeth simply would not shut up and listen, and so Apex ended up with an ad campaign that looked like the high school AV Club turned loose at a hardcore paintball convention (my favorite moment in the commercial was the cop rappelling out of a helicopter that was about seven feet off the ground), and they managed to spell front line wrong, making it one word, frontline, which if I’m not mistaken is a PBS show and not a place for officers of the law.

Mosaic, on the other hand, led by Champion Debater and Constant Reminder of His Wunderkind Status Andy, managed to come up with a great slogan despite the best efforts of Maria and her constant need to scream out, ”That’s a wrap!” Dragon Lady kept bitching about how there wasn’t enough ”sex appeal” — which confused me, because everyone knows if you want to get laid, you join the fire department — but Wunderkind tuned her out as they marched to victory with a campaign that, if I’m being totally honest, had me a little choked up. ”When was the last time you saved a life?” the commercial asked, and through a mouth of Chips Ahoy, I choked, ”Oh, my God, never!” and then I shed a silent tear.

But the time for emotion was gone as quick as it came. The contestants were ushered back into Donny’s office, past the giant Wagnerian metal desk staffed by a hobbit (or wait, was that Stacy?) and into the conference room for their presentations, AV Club vs. Steven Spielberg, and it wasn’t even close. The Mosaics were driven off for their ”surprise” reward, in which New York City was going to pay them back for all their help or whatever, and I’m thinking, ”Free apartment?” but really it just turned out to be a screening of their commercial on the DiamondVision screen in Times Square, which is a crap reward, even for this show, but it didn’t matter. They were all happy, and why not? They made a damn fine ad campaign. The Apexers, on the other hand, were all preparing their Skin Lizzie speeches, and even though Wes crossed team lines to try and help her figure out how to defend herself in the boardroom (was there a showmance that we missed? Were Wes and Elizabeth macking behind the scenes? And has anyone ever given worse advice than his ”Curse as much as possible in the boardroom”? Yeah, I don’t know, Wes. Maybe less David Mamet for you), Project Manager Indecision 2004 was dead in the water — so dead, in fact, that Donald didn’t even have the Inner Circle convene tonight and just fired her in front of everyone.

By the way, the firing in front of everyone was supposed to be the Big. Boardroom. Moment, but neither Al nor I was surprised. If you listen to the music, you know when someone’s getting voted off. Burnett needs to be more careful, because it worked on Survivor tonight, too. There’s always that moment of musical calm before the elimination storm, and it tips their hand every single time.

Additionally, it seems everyone is upset about all the overdubs. I keep trying to get indignant about this, but dudes: It was going on last season, too. I’m over it. Trump has no public-speaking skills. That being said, he could buy you and me and our entire families 87 times over — can’t he buy a decent sound engineer?

Really, the only huge disappointment tonight, in my opinion, was the absence of Robin. Overall, it was a great ep, not to mention: those scenes from next week! It’s the return of the Crazy Black Woman, er, I mean Stacie J., and Rob and Bradford! Can’t wait. Welcome back, Apprentice. Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

What do you think? Did Elizabeth have bad managing skills or a bad team? And what do you think Stacie is going to do?

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