Stefanie S.: Mitchell Haaseth
Whitney Pastorek
April 23, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The ”Apprentice” finale: In a way, we all lose

When I was a little girl, I believed — as so many of us do — that the rain was God’s tears. But even if I hadn’t paid attention in elementary school science class, ducklings, I think tonight’s drippy, overcast Apprentice finale, live from the great outdoors of the Hollywood Bowl, would have at last disabused me of that notion. Because no way was God crying about this damn show finally being over. Personally, I choose to believe He was grumpily referencing the purportedly refugee-camp-like conditions of Tent City, although why he’d punish the audience and leave Trump’s hair warm and dry is beyond my theological comprehension.

Whoops. Sorry. I don’t mean that to be as crabby as it probably came across. You see, after last week’s non-episode, I really had to suppress my tendencies toward crushing negativity just to turn the TV on tonight, and so I’m really trying to make a commitment to goodness and light as I polish off what I can only hope will be my final TV Watch on this show. I mean, the franchise has got to be dead now, right? They’ve just given up, haven’t they? How else to explain the way it dragged its legless torso over the finish line and into a final episode so drab that even the fireworks seemed half-assed?

So let’s just try and blow through this sucker. After all, despite having virtually no content for the first 38 minutes, it still managed to generate some ancillary points of interest, like when Trump started off by calling the Hollywood Bowl setting ”unbelievable.” That it was! Largely because I find it hard to believe there are 17,000 people — the Bowl’s capacity — who can still muster up the energy to woooo for Trump! And the audience got even more entertaining once I started imagining them as last week’s Idol overflow crowd — shanghaied, drugged, and kept in seclusion since Wednesday. I felt so bad for them as they huddled in the rain, subjected to little more than an endless full-season debrief (during which we learned that Nicole’s only real contribution to the tasks at hand actually was that one time she taught James about close-ups during the Soft Scrub commercial), replays of the Renuzit movies, endless repetitions of demonstrably false statements such as ”out of millions of applicants” and ”you’re all winners,” and the appearance of a much touted ”special guest” who turned out to be George, rattling his chains across the stage like the Ghost of Boardrooms Past. For their troubles, they did get to see Stefani wearing what I estimate to be 75 percent fake hair, and they seemed to really get a good titter out of the time Frankie said ”erect.” Past Apprentice winners — predictably not including Bunker Bill or Sensibly Staying Far Far Away Kelly — showed up to give a fond, forced smile-and-wave. (Omarosa? Was that you, leaning into the shot?) A live band was forced to play the brassy version of the ”dun-dun, dun-dun,dun-dun, duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh, dun-dun” song about a thousand times. And I think Ivanka was wearing a very expensive hoodie.

But really, in terms of actual meat, there wasn’t a lot here to talk about. And yes, it was 10:38 p.m. before Trump got around to firing the first Apprentici in two weeks, at which point he unceremoniously dismissed Frankie (for making a bad Renuzit movie and for bringing Surya* back for the final task) and Nicole (for making a bad Renuzit movie and for making out with Tim).

[* I can’t believe I never thought of this before, but the minute Surya made a lame Sanjaya joke when asked who Trump should hire, I realized that he was in fact the Sanjaya of this season’s Apprentice. Think about it: Of Indian descent. Exciting but not entirely attractive hair, which changed dramatically at least once during the run. Totally incompetent but hard to get rid of. Seemingly unaware of own incompetence and, as a consequence, disproportionately cocky. Dear Reality Show Producers: Are Clueless South Asian Dudes the new Crazy Black Ladies? Please say no.]

So we were down to the final two: James and Stefani. And as they set about pleading their respective cases, it didn’t take any kind of expert to see that Stefani was basically the only choice to win. Sure, they tried to make a stink out of the fact that she’d never been project manager, but as Kristine astutely pointed out, ”You don’t have to scream the loudest to be the strongest.” (So articulate for a soon-to-be nekkid Playboy model, Kristine!) And it’s true: While she achieved Helen Keller-esque levels of mute in the middle of the season, Stefani never was brought back to the boardroom, never caused a stink, never failed to do her job, and won everyone’s respect. A couple people tried valiantly to put up a fight for James. Aaron, for example, touted James’ experience with technology, and post-firing, Frankie assessed the remaining candidates by saying, ”Mr. Trump, you have two individuals up here.” But at the end of the day (whee!), Trump’s decision came down to one defining, deciding factor: He turned to James and praised him for being an all-around great guy, then added, remorsefully, ”There were certain things and certain dialogue that you gave during the course — and you know what I’m talking about — that bothered me very much.” And at that point, I think we could all agree that —

Wait, what the eff is Trump talking about? Certain ”things”? Certain ”dialogue”? I’ve gone back through all my TV Watches this season, ducklings, and I can find absolutely no reference to anything even remotely controversial in James’ behavior, short of being obnoxiously chipper and loud. I’ve got no problem with Stefani winning — the woman defends big business against workers’ comp claims, for chrissakes; it’s like she’s found the mother ship — but I sure as hell want to know what that statement means. If you’ve got any clue, please, please leave it in the comments. It’s driving me nuts.

Um…and that’s about it. Sure, there’s more I could say — we haven’t even addressed this season’s crazy grab bag choice of gigs, between a resort community in the Caribbean and a high-rise in humid Hotlanta — but I guess I feel like I’ve given The Apprentice enough of my time already. By all accounts/ratings, you feel that way, too. And so, if this does actually turn out to be the last one of these damn things, I want you all to know that it’s been three years of good fun, and I will miss you all terribly. I want to come up with some sort of deeply profound parting words, but I can’t imagine there’s anything that could sum up this season — and this show — any better than the following quote from Frankie Suits, delivered in The Apprentice: L.A.‘s premiere episode: ”In business, you always have to win. If you don’t, you know, you lose.”

Keep that close to your hearts, ducklings. Embroider it on a throw pillow. And until we meet again, feel free to use the comments space to debate whatever you please.

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