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Connections – The Apprentice Martha Stewart, Premiere

Connections – The Apprentice Martha Stewart, Premiere

by Carrie

I’ve been saying for a long time that The Apprentice could do with someone besides Donald Trump at the helm, just to freshen it up a bit. So how will Martha Stewart do in Trump’s position? Well, she has better hair, for starters.

After scenes of Martha’s sprawling estate, she takes us through a brief timeline of her career. She has always loved home keeping, and has studied and read everything she could get her hands on regarding homemaking. She wrote and published a book in 1982, called “Entertaining”. From there, she has published several more books, branded her own line of products with K-Mart (and become a spokesperson for them), created a magazine and television show (Martha Stewart Living), and started up Martha Stewart Omnimedia, which made her the first female self-made billionaire in the US.

Martha alludes to her time in prison on charges of insider trading, as we see clips of her walking out of a courthouse. She says that the road hasn’t always been easy, but she has learned much along the way.

We see Martha driving to work, and she explains that she’s looking for someone who is a team player and has big ideas. She walks through her office, stopping to say hello to people along the way, check fabric swatches, and show us the airy decor. I wonder if she’s this cordial every day? Can’t you picture her rushing through the office, coffee and briefcase in hand, not meeting anyone’s eyes? I can too.

Meet the Candidates

The loft that will house the candidates for the job is in the same building, on the same floor, as this office. Speaking of the candidates, here they come. Shawn (female) is the first to arrive. She says that she knows it’s cheesy, but she has tears in her eyes just being there in Martha’s office, realizing that she could actually work there at the end of this. Howie says that he and Martha have a lot in common, and that he can learn a lot from her. Good attitude, Howie.

Cue the credits. Martha’s theme song is “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics. Hmm. Not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it. Somehow I don’t see Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart reuniting for the finale.

Back to the office, where Martha tells her colleagues that the candidates are waiting for them. Martha enters and leads everyone into a conference room, which will serve as the board room for the show. She introduces her “eyes and ears” – daughter Alexis, and Omnimedia bigwig Charles. Alexis says that she was the original apprentice, and hasn’t been fired yet. Charles has been with Martha’s company for about a year, and previously worked in the music industry.

Charles mentions that it’s a small world – he knows candidate Bethenny. Apparently she is or was good friends with his daughter. Isn’t that special? Charles assures everyone that he didn’t know that Bethenny was applying, and that he will treat everyone fairly. Now why wasn’t this addressed as a potential conflict of interest before filming even began? Either Bethenny or Charles should have been replaced, no question.

The candidates head to their loft, which is, of course, decorated beautifully. None of the gaudy, over-the-top stuff that you see on The Trump Show, that’s for sure. Martha’s signature colours adorn the walls and fabrics.

Carrie (yay, there’s a ‘Carrie’ finally!) says that meeting Martha was a dream come true, and a culmination of everything she’s worked towards. Let’s not get ahead of yourself there Carrie – you just met the woman. She hasn’t hired you yet. The group finds champagne and a cheese tray, and they toast to Good Things. I wondered how long it would be before that phrase showed up.

Selecting and Naming the Teams

They find a note from Martha that asks them to split themselves into two teams based on something they have in common, and think up names for their teams. Someone complains that they just got there and were hoping to relax, but now they have a task. Because dividing a group into two and thinking up a name is very tasking, apparently. Someone’s on the wrong show, methinks.

Bethenny explains to everyone that she lived in Paris with Charles’ daughter, and also dated his son. Great. Let’s hope for her sake that they broke up on good terms.

The group starts to think about how to break up into teams. Hmm, as long as they don’t do men versus women, or book smarts versus street smarts, they should be okay. But then someone suggests creative professions versus corporate professions, and I’m thinking maybe not. But since this is the easiest route – there are equal numbers for each team – they’re all on board. Ugh. Creative people usually have trouble working in large groups, especially with relative strangers (yes, it’s a sweeping generalization – I’m aware). And an all corporate team? Doesn’t anyone remember the table/desk created by the book smarts team on The Apprentice 3? This can’t be good.

Jeff, a creative team member, says that his team looks okay, but feels that a lot of them will need babysitting. Nothing wrong with Jeff’s ego. They start brainstorming, and the name “Flair” is suggested. Jim, who is like a living, breathing cartoon character, puts the kibosh on Flair, as he says it makes him feel “limp-wristed”. Suck it up and get comfortable with your masculinity, Jim. For his part, he suggests “The Mamas and the Papas” as their team name. Shudder.

The First Task

The following morning, Martha calls the loft to instruct her candidates to meet her at Random House book publishers. She stresses that they should not be late. Cut to one of The Apprentice’s famous scripted scenes, where this time Martha is talking with the Random House bigwigs about how to create a good children’s book. At least she isn’t saying something like, “So how’s business?”

Martha and her cronies meet the candidates in the lobby. Jeff is the project manager for the creative team, and they’ve named themselves “Matchstick”. Martha smiles and compliments the name, describing what she thinks their logo would look like. For the corporate side, Dawna is PM, and they have named themselves “Primarius”. Ew – not liking that one too much. Neither does the spell-checker.

Their first task will be to take a classic fairy tale and update it for a modern audience. Two execs from Random House will judge the teams and decide the winner. They have access to illustrators, and will end up with a bound volume of their story, which they will then present to a focus group of grade one students. Those grade one kids are a tough crowd, let me tell you. Martha stresses that the goal of this task is to connect with their audience – not only the children, but their parents as well.

As Trump gives us a business tip each week, so does Martha in a segment called “Ask Martha”. This week the question is about connecting with your audience. Martha explains that this connection is of the utmost importance, because, of course, if you don’t connect with your customers, they will all leave you when you get arrested for insider trading. Or something.

Primarius (I will never get used to typing that name) decides to use Jack and the Beanstalk as their story. They brainstorm a bit and come up with the idea to have it set underwater. Okay, this could be interesting. Dawna is a bit annoyed that everyone is speaking over each other, so she breaks her group up into teams – one will scout out kids for a trial focus group, and the other will work on the story.

Over at Matchstick, Jeff decides that he wants to do Hansel and Gretel. He’s going to put them in an urban setting and they will run away from home. The moral of the story will be that it’s dangerous to disrespect your parents and break their rules, or something like that. They put Dawn in charge of writing the story, because she is a writer by profession. When Dawn asks for some peace and quiet so she can work on the text, she is met with strange looks and criticism from Jim and Jeff. For a team who are supposed to have something in common, they sure have little respect for each other.

Jeff decides to do something about the situation, as any good PM would. But instead of trying to make Dawn more comfortable or assigning tasks to the others, he makes the decision to take over the writing himself, relegating Dawn to providing occasional feedback – but only when asked. What is the rest of the team doing? No idea.

Primarius assembles a small focus group and has Howie read their story. He’s very animated and connects with the audience, which, as we know, is key. The kids seem to like the book, but Carrie is still a little worried because she knows that the other team is full of the creative people.

Meanwhile, Jeff has finished his version of Hansel and Gretel, and reads it to his team. It’s a rhyming story, and he’s quite chuffed with himself for pulling it off, since rhyming is difficult to do well. The rest of his team isn’t pleased at all, however. They don’t like that Hansel and Gretel change their names (why?? Why would they change their names?), they don’t approve of the message it sends to kids (that they can run away and find their way back home – no big deal), and Jim points out that the story is very dark. Jeff doesn’t care though. He likes it, and that’s that. Way to be a good leader there, Jeff. Hope you didn’t unpack your things.

The following morning, Jeff brings the completed book to the suite. Dawn will be reading the book to the kids, so they want her to do a dry run. She says she’s hungry and wants to grab a banana first, which appalls the rest of her team, especially Jeff and Bethenny. When Dawn returns, she says that she’s planning to sit on the floor so she’s closer to the kids’ eye level. Jeff dictates that she must sit on a stool so that she will connect more with the execs. This would have been a perfect time for flashback of Martha telling them that they must connect with the children and their parents, but I’m not part of the editing team, so that doesn’t happen.

Dawn gets angry and objects, but Jeff shuts her down. She asks him sarcastically if he’d also like to pick out her wardrobe for her, and he’s had enough. He tells Shawn that she will be doing the reading. The team disperses – but what about the dry run that everyone was so anxious for that they couldn’t wait five minutes for when Dawn wanted a banana?

Dawn challenges Jeff, but he tells her that the argument is over. He says that he’s going to take a shower and she’s welcome to join him in there if she needs to keep talking, but he’s “going to be naked”. Yuck. This guy is a piece of work.

It’s Show Time

Fast forward to the readings. The kids are assembled at Random House, and one of the execs tells them that her friends will be coming in to read them two stories. The rest of the panel, including the team members who aren’t reading, and Alexis and Charles, sit behind a two-way mirror to catch the action.

Shawn arrives dressed in neon colours and sporting a huge flower on her lapel. She sits on a stool with her legs crossed and delivers the story, sounding rather condescending and overly animated, kind of like Barney the dinosaur but without the annoying songs and costume. The kids listen to the story, but reactions are nearly non-existent. Hen the story is over, the children pronounce it “good”, and Jeff puffs up his chest and commends himself on a job well done. He thinks the win is in the bag.

Next up is Howie, with the underwater Jack and the Beanstalk tale. The kids apparently like Howie’s hair, and tell him so. He’s much more comfortable and personable with the kids, and they laugh and react to the story. Dawna tells us that when Howie reads the story, he becomes Jack himself. The kids clap when the book is finished, and everyone loves it. The team is optimistic that they’ve won, but still cautious because they don’t know how well Matchstick might have done.

And the Winner Is …

Martha arrives and meets with the execs, and is told that there is a clear winner. The teams are called in and both are congratulated for doing a good job on their books. Matchstick is told that the illustrations (which they didn’t actually do) are wonderful, but the rhyme doesn’t work and sounds forced; they didn’t quite pull it off. Heehee, sorry Jeffy-poo.

Primarius is commended for their unique take on Jack and the Beanstalk, and the execs loved that the beanstalk went down under the water instead of up. The children also liked this book better – so Primarius is the obvious winner. For their reward, they will meet up Martha and a local chef to enjoy dinner in one of their test kitchens.

Primarius shows up for dinner, and is served gorgeous plates of sushi. Mmmm, now I’m hungry. Martha mentions that wasabi is grown under running water. How cool. I love that she knows stuff like that – I think she’d be a fascinating person to have dinner with. Martha praises Howie for connecting with the kids, and everyone agrees. Howie says privately that he may just be falling in love with Martha Stewart. Heh.

Back at the loft, the campaigning begins. Jeff is speaking with Bethenny and pointing the finger of elimination at Dawn. He thinks that Dawn held the team back because of her negativity and refusal to follow directions. Bethenny agrees, and thinks Dawn will be the one going home. Oh dear. Someone slap some sense into Bethenny.

Jim also approaches Bethenny; he thinks that they need to take Jeff down now because he’s a bigger threat to get to the end than Dawn is. Please people, have you not seen what’s been going on within your own team? Jeff’s an idiot. He couldn’t make it to the end under any circumstances, unless the rest of his team were actually this clueless. Anyway, Bethenny disagrees and says that she will be going after Dawn. Jim is very excited about the “game” and the prospect of someone besides himself being sent home.

Dawn knows that Jeff will come at her with everything he has, which fortunately for her doesn’t amount to much. Jeff says that if he can’t beat Dawn in the board room, then he doesn’t deserve to be there anyway. Indeed.

Who’s Going Home?

Team Matchstick gathers in the conference room with Martha, Alexis, and Charles. Martha points out that the creative team lost a creative task. She’s holding the book, and says that as a parent, she didn’t like the messages that the book sends out. Most of the team agrees with her. Alexis thinks that the story was too complicated for the focus group.

Martha asks Dawn if she wrote the story, since she’s a writer. She says no, and points to Jeff as the author. Marcela says that Dawn didn’t pull her weight on the task, and was a negative force to work with. David agrees, but adds that Jeff didn’t give her any creative space to work in and she had a hard time trying to work around them. Dawn says that she was under utilized, and that she had some great ideas but no one wanted to hear them. And by “no one”, I’m assuming she means Jeff.

Jeff pipes up and says that he had to keep the team positive despite Dawn’s negativity. He brings up that Dawn had the audacity to want to nourish herself during the task, and points out how much sleep she had the night before while he himself was working on the book. Never mind that he banished Dawn from writing anything.

Charles asks Jeff if he feels that they would have won if Dawn hadn’t been part of the team. Jeff, in true denial, gives a non-answer about a lack of support for the team. Jim says that he feels Jeff took on too much and didn’t make use of his team. Jeff is asked who will return to the conference room with him, and he picks Dawn and Jim. Surprise surprise.

The candidates are sent out – most to return to the loft, and Jeff, Jim, and Dawn to wait to return to the conference room. Charles tells Martha that Jeff just did not connect to the target audience, and Alexis is concerned that Dawn must be very negative for everyone to say that about her. Martha nods and has her secretary call them back in.

Jeff is asked why he brought Jim back with him, and he says that Jim is disruptive. He didn’t see Jim working much at all during the task; he was always goofing off and making jokes. Jim says that he likes to have fun, but he worked very hard. Dawn supports this and mentions that Jim was behind the layout and illustrations for the book. Jim points out that all the things that were wrong with the book were Jeff’s doing. This is so very true. But why is no one pointing out that Jeff led them like a dictator?

Martha has made her decision. She needs people on her team that care about quality and take great care in their work, in order to, say it with me, connect with their audience. Jeff did not accomplish this – his messages were inappropriate and he couldn’t even connect with his teammates. “Jeff, you just don’t fit in,” says Martha. And now we know what her line is. I kinda liked “You’re not a good thing”, but I guess that’s just me.

Out by the elevators, Jim apologizes to Jeff, saying that it’s just business. Jeff rails back that he looks forward to Jim failing. What a charmer this guy is.

Back in the conference room, Martha begins penning a letter to the departed Jeff, telling him that he didn’t fail, he just didn’t fully succeed. Hahaha. I love it. She wishes him the best of luck, sings the letter, and folds it to put in an envelope. Okay, so it’s not as hard-edged as Trump’s pointing his finger and saying “you’re fired”, but it’s SO Martha.

Next week, everyone gets their knickers in a twist over their task of selling flowers. Chuck expresses his desire to leave, and someone gets told off for crying. Sounds good!

So, did you connect with Martha and the show? Let me know what you think at carrie@realityshack.com.


Freelance writer, webmaster of realityshack.com, chief editor at applemagazine.com, contribtor to TechLife News and maketecheasier.com, martial arts instructor, and mother of two.