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The Apprentice 3 - Episode 14 Summary

'Sun Tzu and The Art Of Getting Fired' By Estee
Original Airdate: April 28, 2005

Isn't this an interesting situation.

Let's face it: summaries generally aren't used as catch-up tools. Normally, people see the episode, form their own opinions of it, and then check in to see what the summary writer thought before yelling at them because they dared to disagree with the sixteen thousand threads concerning Craig's hair pick, which most people now consider to be some sort of auxiliary antenna transmitting old Cosby Show reruns directly into his brain. But this week, thanks to the machinations of Your President And Maybe Mine On Alternate Thursdays, The Honorable And Non-TV Watching Shrub Junior, standard programming between 8 and 9 p.m. EDT was wiped in favor of a 'Gas wouldn't be so high if Clinton had thought to bomb somebody first' speech, which ultimately made a hundred million people say 'Okay, if you say so, Fearless Leader' and put Survivor directly against this episode in a lot of very big, very populous media markets.

Which in turn meant that the vast majority of people did what came naturally. So how'd you like your food auction this season?

So this is an episode which only about a third of the normal audience saw. Most of you aren't here to review and criticize my dubious talent for taking a piece of moderate over-the-air carp and turning it into a mountainous pile of fetid word salad. You're here to find out what happened, because you were busy watching the theoretically-possible, never-seen successful all-female-alliance fall apart again, which I'm sure came as a complete shock to you. And that means that if you want to know how the Final Four became the Equally Final Three, you're going to have to -- trust me.

Y'all are so screwed...

Previously on The People Who Never Would Have Been Cast Into Season #1, Staples paid out the big bucks to be the infomercial of the week, asking the contestants to design a product which would reduce desk clutter. Magna, consisting of Craig, Tana, and Kendra -- you have to try and keep the first and third separated -- actually went to Staples, talked to the customers, checked out their shopping carts, and came up with a Lazy Susan rotating cube of stackables, which, in honor of contestants long departed, has been renamed to the Lazy Michael. Forever. Networth, which was down to Bren and Alex, took a slightly different approach by effectively going nowhere, speaking to no one, and reducing desk clutter by building -- another desk. That's right. It's the Office Island, a cross between a kindergarten flip-up top and a complete waste of your floor space, coming soon to absolutely nothing near you unless you happen to live next to the Staten Island landfills. Magna's product was loved, adopted, sold out at Staples nationwide, and is currently being auctioned on eBay for more than the original retail, although that should stop as soon as Craig runs out of money. Alex and Bren were filed in their own 'Out' box (where they were clearly visible through the plexiglass lid) and wheeled into the boardroom, where Donald finally got a chance to look over our Southern-fried lawyer and say 'Wait a minute -- aren't you the man who came up with the cucumber idea?' and turned him into a Southern-fired lawyer several weeks past his predicted expiration date and way after his hair gel had started to smell rancid, although very few people picked that up within the massive stink continually emitting from Suite #1.

Are there any corporations left willing to pay big bucks to be featured on this show? Have any of them noticed that the stock prices of all sponsors drop by an average of eighteen percent the day after the episode airs? Could it be that Todd, who may be promoted to burger flipper any day now, was actually the most qualified candidate, given that all of the remaining people truly, heroically, and, most importantly, long-term suck? Were the ratings on Thursday lower than the three thousandth rerun of the Sik-End Dog-Eat-Dog episode on GSN? And of course, who will be fired this week?

Answer: the NBC schedule producer who didn't bump this episode to 10 p.m. Roll opening credits.

Night in Manhattan, with scrolling green stock prices making strange reflections in mirrored windows. The camera focuses on the black and white pictures taken of Bren and Alex in happier times, also known as 2004 B.C. (Before Clutter-Mistake). Craig, perhaps finally starting to see the inevitable looming before him, is practicing his most fundamental job skill, and my, don't those shoes look shiny. Meanwhile, Tana and Kendra are doing the normal 'hey, we're not in there' Boardroom dissection while they wait for the survivor to arrive.

'I don't think it's going to be that ugly in there,' Tana admits, completely ignoring Bren's hair, suit, tie rack, and existence. 'Those boys aren't going to tear each other apart.'

'We'll see soon...' Kendra replies. 'Bren will be walking through the door if Alex admits the desk was his idea.' This is followed by her swinging into the first confessional-tell of the night, namely 'From a strategic standpoint, it would more beneficial to me if Alex was fired. Bren is weaker competition. So if Bren comes back from that Boardroom, that's one less person I have to beat.' That's right, Kendra. The objective of this game is to eliminate the best players and make sure the weakest person wins the job, because that's the only way to get ahead: eat the strong. Which assumes Alex is one of 'the strong', which really stretches the definition beyond what it was designed to accommodate, but it's a time-proven strategy on a Burnett show, isn't it? (See, Survivor watchers? Thematically, you wouldn't have missed a thing.)

Alex walks in. Cue fake hugs.

'Four times in the Boardroom,' Alex ruefully tells the others as he looks back on his streak. 'I have no equal.' (Don't worry, Alex: there's lots of people who suck just as much as you.) In c-t, he adds 'I feel like it's me against the world.' (That's right, Alex. We all hate you.) 'You know -- the worst person to get into a fight with is someone who has nothing to lose.' (That's also right, Alex. You've lost all respect, credibility, future job prospects, the endorsement of the American Metrosexuals Council...) 'And that's me.' And he points at his head. (Very true, Alex. The loss of your head really wouldn't make a difference in your performance on this show.) 'I'm letting Magna think I'm weak when I'm strong, right out of Sun Tzu's Art of War.'

Actually, Alex, you're letting Magna think you're delusional when you're -- well, delusional, which really isn't helping your situation much. But since you've brought it up, let's check the book to see what Sun Tzu has to say about a man in your position.

'On desperate ground, fight.'

Very profound. After all those Boardroom visits, you're definitely on desperate ground, and your best -- only -- chance is to prove yourself. This is the time to go into battle. You can't just wait for the other people to stab themselves any more: you have to get out there with your sword and give it a new scabbard in someone else's heart -- wait, there's more here...

'The wise man in a Boardroom seat will be honest. He will be forthright. He will make his opponent look bad with the weapon of The Truth. And he will always, always keep the weaknesses of The Other in mind. Especially if The Other has a weakness for clueless white males in suits. How do you think you got this far, round-eyes?' I'd better keep this handy.

Kendra and Tana have realized that the next move belongs to Alex: since he can't operate as a team of one (or, as we've seen, as part of a team of any size), there's going to be another corporate restructuring in the morning. Alex will get to choose someone from Magna to work with him, and strategically, his best move is to take Tana, because as Sun Tzu says 'When your allied opponents secretly hate each other, give them every opportunity to tear themselves apart', and it's not even as if it's a secret any more, because Kendra and Craig have been at each other's throats for five tasks. Without Tana to buffer them, they may not be able to do anything except their best mutual impression of a self-destruct button. Kendra's very aware of the problem: she just doesn't know if Alex is man enough to make the move. Of course he's man enough, Kendra. To wit, he's a white man. That's why he's still here. Don't you read Sun Tzu?

There's a mood shot of a homeless person sleeping on the street -- wait, that's Verna -- and then it's morning. Craig gets the phone, which tells the contestants to meet Donald in the lobby of Trump Tower in one hour because

A. Donald hasn't satisfied his gilt complex for the season and
B. Given the amount of trouble the contestants have had finding their rears with both hands, it's probably best to give them a destination where they can just find an open elevator shaft and fall forward.

The contestants reach the lobby with only minor bruises -- they landed on their egos: plenty of cushioning -- and only have to wait a few seconds before Donald, George, and Carolyn walk in. Donald begins by noting that our Final Four are all that's left from the million people who applied for the show, which means that there are no losers here: there's only people who suck beyond all boundaries of common sense, reason, and possibly the laws of physics, which kind of makes you wonder what the 999,982 people who didn't make the show were like. Of course, Donald notes, this is real life, or at least a stage-rigged bad approximation thereof, which means that three of them are going to lose and one of them is going to be Donald's personal booby prize.

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