The Apprentice: Survivor

The Apprentice: Los Angeles, Sunday January 21, 2007, 9:00pm, ABC

One of the contestants tells The Donald just where he can stick his apprenticeship and walks out, giving a jaunty wave to the film crew as she exits. I love it!

Even if you've never watched an episode of The Apprentice, you probably know the basics. Donald Trump runs a bunch of yuppies through a 15-week "job interview", eliminating one person a week until the last one standing is the "apprentice". I've watched this show since the first season, and while formulaic, it's always been entertaining, especially if you work in corporate America. I've come to recognize many archetypical co-workers as portrayed by cast members on The Apprentice.

This season, however, it's changed. I guess The Donald ran out of apprentices. This time, rather than an actual job, the last person "wins a one-year apprenticeship in the Trump organization" - a prize which, no matter how you look at it, is a far cry from the original season's promise of finding Donald Trump's new, personal apprentice. In addition, this season added a bunch of weirdness that seems lifted directly from Survivor or The Amazing Race or other shows like that. Example: the losing team has to sleep outdoors in tents, basically camping out on the lawn. And, instead of good old Carolyn and George, crusty veterans of real estate might operating as The Donald's right and left hands, we have... his two adult children.

So, this ain't The Apprentice we're used to. The producers tried to alert viewers to this by slightly changing the title to "The Apprentice: Los Angeles". I'd be willing to bet, however, that the contestants weren't aware of the changes, and most likely thought they were in for more or less the same thing as depicted over the past five seasons of The Apprentice.

Frank and I both think the new version is downright weird; it's still somewhat interesting, but a lot of the fun has gone out of the show. Which brings me to this week's episode. Michelle was a typical Apprentice type: the ever-questioning perfectionist who gets on everybody's nerves by never making a decision and constantly looking for positive reinforcement. When her team lost the task, veteran watchers knew damn well she'd be getting the axe. And, not being a very likable candidate, probably deservingly so.

But wait just a minute! What's this? Michelle does a "Oh no you didn't"! Before Trump can even ask for a list of heads for his chopping block, Michelle interrupts with "Can I say something?" and quits. Not just quits, but tells him this "is not what I signed up for", never stops smiling, and seems quite sure that she's making the right decision, thank you very much, and walks off the show. The last shot is her walking away, pulling her suitcase, giving a jaunty wave. No doubt thinking, "screw you losers, I'm sleeping in a real bed tonight".

Michelle's departure had us both clapping. Frank said the only thing that could have made it better would have been if she'd really popped Trump's balloon when he was trying to convince her that quitting his little game show would be something she'd regret the rest of her life. "Oh really? Quitting your silly little TV show contest - I'm gonna regret that for the rest of my life? Uh... I don't think so. See ya".

I predict she will have a long and fruitful career and will never, ever regret her decision to walk off the set of this turkey.

So, my hat's off to Michelle. Let her smiling departure be a lesson to all of us: When you're stuck in a bad situation surrounded by idiots who enjoy playing head games, sometimes the best thing to do is to just say "Fuck you very much", and walk away with your dignity intact, and your head held high.

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