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On ''The Apprentice,'' the robot beats the fembot: Friends, colleagues, and assorted lackeys gather to hug Kelly and smack down Jen

The Apprentice (Season 2) | PONYING UP Kelly's polo match outscored Jen's forlorn hoop game
Image credit: Apprentice 2: Eric Liebowitz
PONYING UP Kelly's polo match outscored Jen's forlorn hoop game

''The Apprentice'': The robot beats the fembot

Those of you who survived tonight's Most. Bloated. Episode. Of. Television. Ever., I salute you. You know they're reaching when Sugar Ray Leonard shows up. By the third hour of this finale, I no longer cared who won (Kelly, duh), who lost (Jen, who someone should have on suicide watch), or how many times Regis Philbin could embarrass himself (somewhere in the hundreds, although I stopped counting after he mispronounced Ivana's name for the fourth time). I just wanted the pain to end.

Here's the problem with tonight: I went to the wrap party before I watched the episode. I wasn't going to go — I have responsibilities! I cannot be out whooping it up! — but then the promise of seeing these circus freaks up close won out over my desire to get sleep, and I found myself standing in the middle of the Roseland Ballroom at 1:30 a.m. watching Omarosa and Kwame dance to OutKast and wondering how my life got like this. Not much to report from the party, really, except that everyone is freakishly tall and when you see Raj ''reporting'' for this evening's Access Hollywood, you should know that Billy Bush was standing just off-camera feeding him questions, and I totally chickened out on my plan to grab him by the bow tie and tell him how I really feel. (Insert bad flashbacks from junior prom here.)

Heartbroken, I settled in at 3 a.m. to watch the show, which I'd now like to officially dub ''Trump International Make Jen M. Feel Like an Ass Night.'' The poor girl was doomed from the start — I knew it when I saw that portentous smiley face back on Chris' knee (which I just realized very well may be some sort of horribly misguided tattoo) — and her whole basketball fiasco turned out to be flat and dull and lacking in electricity, both literally and metaphorically. Meanwhile, over in pony land, the hyperactive firees provided some of the best lines of the entire season. (Geese and frogs, singing together! Plus, Magellan discovered Kinko's, and Raj brilliantly summed up Kelly's merits as ''He understands, to an extent, human beings.'') Tony Bennett managed to survive a bathroom in which six goats allegedly puked, and the entire thing inexplicably led Kelly to sort of paraphrase Rudyard Kipling. Strictly based on editing, it was pretty clear who was gonna win.

But then we moved to our final Boardroom, where all the booted minions arrived to give their assessments of the finalists (everyone, in a massive coincidence that I'm confident was in no way staged, wearing some sort of pink), and it became even clearer who was destined to come out on top. No, not Trump's hair (it looked a little mangy, actually — time for a trip to the vet?) but rather Cub Scout Kelly, whose team managed to overcome their bitterness just the teensiest bit more in support of their leader, and whose strong, silent act just made Jen look more like a total fembitch in comparison. It hurts me to say it, because I was totally on board her radar-ducking plane, but that woman really is (yes, George) abrasive as hell.

How long was this show? By the time we got around to the live portion of the evening, Carolyn's hair had grown three inches. And as Jen perched on the loveseat, mentally sawing at her wrists with a steak knife, person after person emerged from the studio audience to pick their winner. A quick tally:

Apprentice 1 winner Bill Rancic: Kelly.

George substitute Allen: Kelly.

Shrek: Kelly.

Trump COO Matthew Calamari: Hates Jen's guts but unable to articulate why, freezes up in one of the greatest moments of live television I've seen since the Ashlee Simpson lip-synch, probably still weeping in a bathroom somewhere.

Season 1 Amy, apparently now serving as CEO of flamingos: Kelly.

Kelly's boss: Kelly.

Kelly's friends and neighbors: Kelly.

Jen's boss: Somewhat catatonic, but I think he voted for Jen.

Jen's friends and neighbors: Mostly just happy to be on TV.

And then I stopped keeping track. I remember Hottie John standing up for Our Lady of the Permasmile, which was sweet, and I remember Pamela saying lovely things and proving for the gazillionth time that in a world not run by crazy monkey people, she would have won it all, but other than that — holy crap, what a bloodbath. Jen deserves mad props for not walking out. (I'm talking to you, Survivor all-star Jerri Manthey.) I sort of wish she had. No one should have to go through a complete and total character assassination on national television.

So, yeah, congrats, Kelly! You're the big winner, and some nice shackles have been arranged for you in the dungeon next to Bill's. I'd like to congratulate you on overcoming ever so many obstacles — challenging tasks, long hours, the existence of Ivana — to triumph in the end. I'd also like to congratulate you for somehow keeping your law degree and your M.B.A. a secret (because as we learned from Kevin, two advanced degrees = dead man). I wish you all the luck in the world during your time as a low-level figurehead in the Trump Organization.

As for the rest of them, I suppose I can only offer my congratulations on their remarkable consistency. From Stacie J.'s Subway shout-out, to Jen C., self-absorbed to the last, stealing Trump's much-deserved congratulations to the other Jen for herself (good luck with that job hunt!), to Ivana's inability to utter a complete sentence, and right through to Omarosa's Day-to-Night Barbie ensemble, these folks managed to live up to every ounce of their train-wreck entertainment potential. Extra credit goes to Kevin — whose acknowledgement of the shirtless-phone-answering stuff was genius — and Robin, who at last got out from behind that desk and managed to hold her own against the caffeinated charisma attack of Trump and Raj.

But in the end, it was us, we, you and I, people, who deserve all the prizes in the world for making it through this endless show — nay, this endless season — of unreality television. I will see you back here Jan. 20th for Apprentice 3: People Who Use Big Words Vs. People With Funny Accents. Until then, remember everything we've learned: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Quitters never win, and winners never quit. It's not what you say, it's how you say it. And if you see a camera crew approaching your puppy with nail clippers, run.

What do you think? Who deserved to win? Could Kelly be any stiffer? Did Jen earn your respect? And are you looking forward to or dreading The Apprentice 3?

Originally posted Dec 17, 2004
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