Painting in pearls – The Apprentice Episode 1


I love my job. Since I am in charge of the Names and Faces/Weekend section of the paper (the fun stuff, the fluff) I tasked myself with following Fayetteville resident Kelly Smith Beaty’s journey on the new season of “The Apprentice.” It was my duty to lie down on the couch last night and watch television for two hours.

Prior to last night, I had never seen an episode of “The Apprentice” before. I know who Donald Trump is, I’ve heard his daughter, Ivanka, on the radio and well, everybody knows who Omarosa (former contestant) is, even though it’s not clear why she is still floating out there in the reality television ether. It’s still too early to tell for certain, but I don’t think Kelly will become an Omarosa (i.e. – a person known for being so over the top on a reality show that all other shows start to either try to book her or find someone just like her) and that’s a good thing. In fact, when we spoke last week, I asked if she thought she’d end up on “The Soup” on E! (the show where all of the worst people on tv end up) and she said she didn’t think so.

Kelly’s approach, at least in the first episode, was a good one. Just work. While project manager Nicole, former assistant D.A. Mahsa and former real estate designer (or something like that) Tyana had conflict after conflict, Kelly just worked. She scraped away at the lettering on a window of the office space they were renovating and helped paint the columns and walls. She looked good doing it, too, not wearing coveralls or ratty clothes, but some designer duds and adorned with some simple pearls around her neck.

If you didn’t watch last night’s episode or you’ve never seen “The Apprentice,” here’s what happened. Sixteen people, all former professionals, who have found themselves out of work are contestants on this show. They are battling for a job with Donald Trump. There are eight men and eight women and, at least for right now, the men and the women are playing against each other. The men called their team Octane. One guy wanted to call the team Icarus, for something rising out of the ashes. He was shot down because Icarus flew too close to the sun with fake wings and died. Phoenixes, they reminded him, rise out the ashes.

What a birdbrain.

The women called their team Fortitude because it meant having strength and guts. If I had to name them based on their behavior towards the end of the show, once they had to defend themselves to Trump, I’d have called them the Shrillitary.

The project was to take an office space and make it into a ultra-modern office. The men were led by a former military man named Gene who looked lost on day one, getting caught up in decorating and not functionality, and then barked orders on day two. The most ridiculous part of the program featured the guys fighting about what kind of trees, flowers and plants were going in their space. It went on forever. The women appeared to have no clear direction of what their space would look like. They drew up a basic plan and then Nicole and others went shopping, making decisions on the fly. I believe they figured it would all come together at the end but it didn’t. It looked very hodge-podge.

They lost.

Even before that was decided by the Trumps though, some members of Fortitude could sense it was coming and started throwing each other under the bus. Eventually, Nicole, Tyana and Mahsa started yelling and bickering at each other about who was responsible and for what. Nicole, who had volunteered to be project manager, was fired. It seemed to be expected by everybody that if your project lost, the manager was the one who would be responsible and would be let go. This is why everybody but Gene and Nicole seemed to distance themselves from accepting the position in the first place. Strategy reminder: If you ever go on “The Apprentice” do not volunteer to be project manager in the first episode.

So, Kelly is safe. She makes it to Episode 2 where the teams will sell ice cream in New York City. I imagine they shot dozens and dozens of hours of tape and edited it to tell the story, but it seemed Kelly’s strategy in the first episode was to work, stay out of the way and not get involved in conflicts.

Good idea.

Business tip I learned from watching “The Apprentice” – (I’m going to try and find one thing to learn from this show each week) – People respond to different management styles and a good manager should discern what works for their different employees and, when practical, use that style. The manager should not compromise their standards but short, one on one conversations with people who seem to need that attention could help things go smoother and get things done properly and on time. Nicole was accused by Mahsa of not having a clear vision and trying to rule by consensus. Mahsa was volatile and kind of hostile to Nicole on several occasions early on. Nicole should have responded with clear directions for Mahsa – (You paint, you handle the windows, you put together this part of the office – and praised her when it was done). It might not have mattered in the end, Mahsa is a feisty former attorney who called many things an “injustice.” America, we’ve found this season’s Omarosa.

Starting next Thursday, “The Apprentice” airs at 10 p.m. on NBC.