''The Apprentice''

Life Cycle

Rickshaw rides, anyone? Anyone? People aren't exactly lining up for them -- so Josh Wolk understands why the task was so hard

Heidi Bressler, The Apprentice | BOARDROOM BUH-BYE Heidi was not Carolyn's, um, favorite
Image credit: The Apprentice: Scott Duncan
BOARDROOM BUH-BYE Heidi was not Carolyn's, um, favorite

NO ONE can sell rickshaw rides

I live in New York City, and here's a list of things I will never do: touch my tongue to a subway-car seat; see ''Chicago'' when Sally Struthers is starring; and ride in a bicycle-drawn rickshaw. So I definitely knew that Protégé and Versacorp were in for a challenge on the March 11 episode of ''The Apprentice.''

Over at Protégé, project manager Troy, the idea man, came up with the idea of selling prepaid cards for rickshaw rides, for all those who just can't get enough of taking the slowest transportation in the city while being downwind of sweaty bicyclist ass. Why not just sell two-for-one punch-in-the-face coupons?

Meanwhile, over at Versacorp, Amy suggested selling ads. By appealing to their past clients (like the horny owners of Marquis Jet, which the ladies gave the concept: Marquis Jet! For Men Who Like to Think of Their Plane as a Penis!), they managed to cover their rickshaws with posterboard, which makes for the classiest ride ever. I'm surprised that the drivers weren't offered an extra $10 ''incentive'' if they'd turn and scrawl ''TRUMP WATER'' in magic marker on each passenger's forehead before starting to pedal.

Katrina got all persnickety with the group after she felt her suggestions hadn't been acknowledged. It was tough to honestly say how bad her ideas were, considering we were nudged into thinking her an imbecile when all of her ideas (''Ben Affleck and Sharon Stone'' and ''We should go to the ticket booth in Times Square'') were accented by ''clank'' and ''dong'' sound effects.

Frankly, those sounds would have been a lot more appropriate over Trump's cliché-ridden ''Think outside the box'' lecture. Thanks, Donald! With that advice can we all be rich, too? One quick follow-up question, oh insightful billionaire: when you lead a horse to water, can or can't you make him drink?

When any of the team members tried to actually sell a rickshaw ride, they had little success. The flirtatious Amy -- who apparently disagreed with Katrina's discomfort with being used as a sex sales tool -- might have had a patron had she dropped her price below $10 per person. Ten bucks for a two-block rickshaw ride? Does it come with a happy ending?

Eventually Protégé realized their ride cards were a failure, and Troy decided they should just have fun, so he changed into his hat and jeans, and turned into his alter-ego…CAPTAIN RUBE! And fun they had, frolicking with tourists and making friends and earning no money at all. Sure enough, they got trounced, by around $3,000.

At the beginning of this episode I was surprised that Trump didn't utilize his usual hyperbole to introduce the challenge: ''These rickshaws have three wheels, the classiest and most desirable number of wheels that any transportation can have.'' But now I realize that he was just dialing it down a little bit to compensate for Carolyn's ratcheting it up.

What exactly does Carolyn have against Heidi? In the boardroom, while Troy and Heidi waited outside, Carolyn said that she had never seen Heidi be a leader yet. ''That's woman on woman, that's tough stuff,'' said Trump excitedly, sounding like he was praying for a catfight. (Boardroom mud wrestling: It's the classiest and most desirable catfight you can get! Now throw some more Trump Water in that mud to get it as classily greasy as you can!)

When Heidi entered, Carolyn kept after her, saying she had seen nothing from her. Heidi's weak defense was to keep insisting she was ''feisty'': That's fine if you're auditioning to play Flo in a remake of the sitcom ''Alice,'' but there are more relevant qualifications for a company president.

But Troy didn't emerge unscathed: George assailed him for not bravely stating who should be fired upfront. Apparently Trump doesn't respect anyone who isn't frank and cruel… which makes me wonder why all of Donald's meanest lines are obviously overdubbed and not said in front of these contestants. Earlier, when both groups were in the boardroom, the cameras cut away from Trump when he angrily said ''At this stage of your job interview, I'm not impressed.'' Then we cut back to him on camera saying ''I'll see you back at the boardroom,'' and it sounded completely different. Then they cut away again to hear him say, ''I may just fire all of you,'' and, like the first sentence, it sounded slightly lower, like the acidic lines had been recorded much later, in a voice-over studio.

Regardless, Troy's weak leadership ideas trumped Heidi's nonexistent leadership skills, and off she went. ''That was good, right?'' asked Trump. ''Eh,'' dismissed Carolyn, as if disappointed she couldn't fire three more people and personally toss them out the window, down to the street. Now THAT'S thinking outside the box!

Originally posted Mar 12, 2004