TV Article

Bell Bottom Blues

The historic double firing on ''The Apprentice'': Putting together a jeans catalog, scary Maria gives us 501 more reasons to dislike her and takes Project Manager Wes down with her

ZIP IT, PLEASE Maria was gone in the blink of an eye
Image credit: Apprentice 2: Eric Liebowitz
ZIP IT, PLEASE Maria was gone in the blink of an eye

''The Apprentice'': The historic double firing

To begin, a bye-bye tribute in song to Maria: Blink-blink. Blink-blink. BLINK-blink. Bli-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni. Blink-blink.

Actually, I sort of wish I knew more Billy Joel lyrics so this entire thing could be in song like this, to the tune of ''Piano Man'': ''Now Wes, he's a blond, he's a friend of mine./He answers the phone in a shirt./He took on Maria./Trump said, Well, I'll see ya./That double firing had to hurt./Oh, la la la, la la laaaaaa....''

Yes, tonight we lost both Blinky ''The Dragon Lady and What's With All the Pointing?'' Maria and Wes ''No Defining Characteristics'' Wes in a double fire that was less shocking than maybe Mark Burnett had hoped it would be but still entertaining when the two firees had to share a cab. (God, I dream of the day when I can be on a reality television program and my parting words can be ''I would at least like my own cab.'')

The project was a giant Levi's commercial: Hey! We're Levi's! We still make jeans! And they make your ass look good, sorta! Whooo! Our teams had to come up with an in-store catalog, and our Project Managers were Sweaty McShiny Head, a.k.a. Kevin, and Wes ''Still No Defining Characteristics'' Wes, both picked at random beforehand, and both, as usual, at the mercy of the girls. Wes had Maria, a megalomaniacal marketing manager, and Kevin had Should Be Gap Manager Ivana, whose ability to perfectly assess the Easy Fits was, I guess, bound to come into play sometime. Both teams traipsed down to the Levi's showroom, and after a Totally Staged Business Moment featuring Levi's president, the Bald Business Cowboy, they were assigned a task in which they had to make some sort of catalog and etc., blah blah blah — frankly I was distracted from the project announcement by D.T.'s proclamation that not only had he been wearing Levi's since he was two (down on the farm?) but he still wears them sometimes now, which almost made me spit out my wine because that, my friends, is not a visual image I plan on treasuring.

All proceedings were then interrupted by the appearance of last season's winner, Bill, subbing in for George. Bill looks like he's lost about 25 pounds, mostly in hair, and maybe Trump's been keeping him locked in a basement somewhere. Seriously, the dude looked ill. But there was no time to worry about ''Mr. Rancic,'' because it was off to the races: Blinky vs. Ivana in a fight to the death. Who cares about the task — this week was all about the two people I currently hate most in all of the world (well, okay, hi, Mr. Ashcroft) fighting it out on national television. As Billy Joel would say, ''You have to something something something — pressure! You're just like something something something — pressure!''

Now. Let's talk honestly about some things. First: I thought the way Mosaic . . . Wait. Apex? Okay, I have no idea what the team names are anymore. Alinta? Sigh. I thought the way Kevin's team took pictures of themselves was weirdly endearing and, additionally, totally cost-effective. I mean, for all their faults, this is not an aesthetically unpleasant group of people, and I liked watching them try to be models. It was cute. I'm a sucker for that stuff. Next: I liked the number of times everyone said the word ''ass'' tonight with complete and utter sincerity. Finally: As Maria slowly but surely lost her mind, I got legitimately giddy. Like, Al and I kept pausing the DVR so we could make weird pointing gestures with our hands just like her and so I could write down the completely psychotically bizarre things that were coming out of her mouth. A couple fan favorites: ''Give me bitchy or give me death. '' Oh, or how about, ''If sexy is wrong, I don't wanna be right!'' Or, wait, my favorite: ''It angers me to be called a control freak, because I'm just quite simply not.'' Blink-blink. Blink-blink. BLINK-blink. Bli-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni. Blink-blink. . . .

Best non-Maria line of the night: ''When Maria flew into the studio on her broomstick. . . .'' Ah, Wes. Too bad you had to go down with the ship, buddy.

So, in the world of The Apprentice, Gap Manager apparently trumps (ha! get it?) Blinky Pointy Marketing Manager, and so Ivana's weirdly creative jeans wheel (dammit, it's not my fault she had a good idea) beat the literal pants off Maria's ''If These Jeans Could Talk'' Amy Grant song rip-off campaign. Yes, I just referenced Amy Grant, shut up. And so even though Kevin sweated right through his promotional t-shirt and carried a strangely feminine striped tote bag during this episode, he and Ivana and Jen M. and Kelly (who was traded off the other team earlier because, we can only assume, even they could not come up with anything to differentiate him from Wes) trotted off to collect their handsome reward: a chance to go to the Broadway theater where Billy Joel's Movin' Out is playing and be awkwardly serenaded by Billy himself.

I should interject now to say a few things on my Apprentice-watching buddy Al's behalf. First: She is from Long Island and therefore loooooooves Billy Joel, and she made it quite clear that I am not allowed to make fun of the fact that she danced to that ''Goodnight My Angel Something Something'' song at her wedding. (It really was kinda sweet and lovely.) Second: Al is a professional theatrical production manager, and when Billy Joel described the place where the Movin' Out band sits as a ''travelator,'' she busted out with the worst case of the giggles she's had in a while and yelled, ''I don't think they're telling Billy the real words for things!'' because apparently there is no such thing as a ''travelator,'' and I believe her. [Oops! Further research indicates this is in fact a real thing but is still a funny word, much like ''capelet.'' ]

On my behalf, since I am prone now to imagining the rewards as things that they are not, all I know is when Trump started talking, I heard, ''For your reward, you are gonna go to the Trump International Broadway Theater, where you will be trapped in a very small room with Billy Joel whether you want to be or not, and you will stand at his piano, and if he wants to sing 'Allentown' for six straight hours, dammit, you will listen appreciatively because he is an American Icon. Also, please do not touch Melania. Enjoy.''

I am sure that some controversy tonight will surround the way that Jen M. — who spent much of the episode sequestered in a room doing busy work far away from the action due to her inability to imagine Ivana's jeans fit-wheel thing in three dimensions — got a lot of the credit in the end. (What happened for those who didn't watch: Ivana had all the ideas, but in the presentation Jen jumped in and articulated them, and then when Trump asked the Levi's Business Cowboy who did the best job, he said Jen did.) Here's my perspective: I don't really care. I like Jen. Jen does not act like a 12-year-old. Jen does not stomp her foot on the floor and pout petulantly when things do not go her way. Jen is a grownup. I like Jen, I think Jen is playing the game, I am interested to see how long Jen lasts.

As for the rest of them, well, Trump hates Andy. Kelly has no defining characteristics. I still can't tell Sandy apart from like five people who have been voted off. And no matter how well Ivana did tonight, I am convinced that she's secreting a slow-acting poison from her hair. So as we slowly come down to the wire, I offer only this verse, and a prayer that my cable won't go out next week like it did tonight, requiring me to call my boss in hysterics:

''What's the matter with the show I'm watchin'? (Can't you tell that it's out of touch?)/Will the P.M. ever not get fired? (Don't you think that you ask too much?)/ Nowadays you can't be too sentimental./The best characters are gone, and everyone is mental./Blond chicks, Trump's tricks, who picked these big — Anyway, it's still rock & roll to me-heeeeeeee. . . .''

What did you think? Do you hate to see Ivana do well? Was the double firing fair? (Bonus points for posts alluding to Billy Joel lyrics.)

Originally posted Nov 19, 2004