TV Recap

Who's the Fairest of the Mall?

On ''The Apprentice,'' the teams can barely get shopping-mall visitors to sign up for free sweepstakes tickets; plus Nicole and Tim finally make out

The Apprentice | JUST ONE OF THOSE STINGS A jellyfish attack led to reality love for Nicole
Image credit: Nicole D.: Mitchell Haaseth
JUST ONE OF THOSE STINGS A jellyfish attack led to reality love for Nicole

''The Apprentice'': They can't give it away

Well, hi there, ducklings. It's your old pal Whitney, back here after what seems like forever away. I want to start off by thanking Helin Jung for filling in mightily in my stead, as well as by assuring you that I have in no way ''given up'' on this show. Shockingly, it is very difficult to watch The Apprentice while sitting backstage at the Staples Center and waiting for rock stars to grace us with their Grammy-winning presence. Luckily, NBC has developed the sense to move this television program out of the way of next week's Oscars, or I'd have to miss it yet again — and God knows, based on tonight's parade of unpleasantness, that I'd hate the hell out of that.

Unpleasantness. Yes, let's talk about that. With a few exceptions — Derek, Angela, Muna, James — I have decided that pretty much every single one of this season's Apprentici rubs me the wrong way. You've got Frank hollering at the top of his lungs, Heidi being snobbish and cold, Surya boring the life out of everyone when he's not delivering St. Crispin's Day speeches, Aimee being self-righteous, and a couple girls whose names I still don't know whining about the ostensibly unsanitary conditions at Tent City. I ask you, ducklings, which part of this am I supposed to enjoy? Even Tim and Nicole — who finally delivered on the kiss that's been touted for weeks — are a little too precious for their own good. Maybe I hate them for bringing the already dubious standards of this show down to somewhere just north of The Real World by making out in a hot tub. Maybe I just hate them because they're happy, and in a relationship that is clearly not a showmance (for a change). Maybe I'm just crabby. Who knows?

Here is what I do know: Aimee should have gone home tonight, and thankfully, she did. If you can't handle managing a task that a below-average Brownie troop could have executed blindfolded — persuading people to sign up for a sweepstakes, for free — you've got no business on this show. Never mind that she didn't inspire a single one of her teammates, or that Jenn went so far as to call her ''bossy and dumb''; Surya didn't exactly fire up his team either. No, Aimee's sin was being so uninspiring that her team actually ceased to function in any practical way. Oh, and also she got way too worked up about a pink inflatable octopus. I mean, really? Is that something people with master's degrees need to be voting on? Tropical-decor choices? The Brownies would say no.

Honestly, though, I'm starting to think maybe comparisons to 8-year-old girls are not misplaced in this context. What to make of the massive giggle fit started over at Arrow when Frank drew a rudimentary caricature of Surya on a napkin and passed it around? (And how did Surya not figure out what was going on? Note to future project managers: You see the camera going in for a close-up on whatever your giggling employee is doing, you maybe should ask to see it.) Or the fact that someone basically had to put a giant neon sign in Kinetic's mall spelling out ''Hispanic people here: Por favor to hablo español'' before they caught on? Aimee tried to blame Derek and Jenn for not telling her that 50 percent of the patrons were Spanish speaking, but she admitted that she ''wasn't really paying attention to who was walking through the mall.'' That classy admission was perhaps my favorite moment from tonight, second only to Surya proclaiming his sales prowess and then delivering the following pitch to a couple mall walkers: ''We're giving away a va...Okay.'' Dude: You so totally are not getting a patch for that.

Anyway, this week, as the Donald pointed out, life was a bitch. Tim and Nicole may have consummated their only-sane-straight-people-on-the-island union, but it took a nasty jellyfish sting to get them there; in fact, during Arrow's big winning reward — surf lessons in Santa Monica — I was convinced at least three of the team members were going to flat-out drown. Surya may have won the task as PM, but as I said, he lost even more respect — and appears to also have lost his hair product. (Luckily, he retained his lip balm.) Don Jr. displayed what may be a genetic inability to see when one's hair looks ridiculous. And everyone who goes to the boardroom continues to suffer under the indignity of dragging a rolling suitcase up the terraced front driveway of Trump's ''mansion,'' huffing and puffing under the weight. Somewhere, Robin is sitting in front of a quiet, peaceful bank of fake elevators and smiling....

Should I be talking more about the task? Really, what is there to say? Kinetic got 326 people to sign up for a Priceline sweepstakes giveaway at a mall; Arrow persuaded 359 to do the same. Trump declared this to be a ''decisive win,'' which seems like a bit of an overstatement, but like that's ever mattered. Aimee brought Derek and Jenn back into the boardroom; they totally smoked her; Aimee dragged her luggage into the Lexus for some bitter private time. I keep waiting for someone to get in the car and say, ''You know what? I'm totally clueless and delusional, and my team played the game like champs,'' but I place the chances of that happening somewhere between ''Frank no longer refers to himself as Frankie Suits'' and ''Tim and Nicole pull a Romber and stay together after this nonsense.'' In other words, not good.

I dunno, ducklings. I guess the main question is this: How much longer are you going to watch this show's death throes before you cash it in? And if you could somehow magically make anything happen to this group of people during the remainder of the season to spice things up, what would it be?

(Note: ''Erosion'' is not an acceptable answer.)

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Originally posted Feb 19, 2007