Before Donald Trump chose his third "Apprentice," he had the two remaining candidates select the jobs they’d take if selected.
Kendra Todd decided she’d like to redevelop a mansion in Palm Beach, her hometown, while Tana Goertz chose to run the Miss Universe pageant. Kendra’s background in real estate and Tana’s energy and creativity were perfect fits for the jobs they chose.
After a 16-minute recap of this season, in which Trump shouted at us about Kendra and Tana’s performance throughout the season, it became clear that both were successful candidates. The winner would clearly deserve her victory, regardless of who was selected.
Faced with such a tossup decision, Donald Trump should have hired both women.
Naming both Kendra and Tana as the next Apprentices would have been an acknowledgment that there aren’t always just two alternatives. Faced with two choices, both can be rejected, as Trump demonstrated this season when he deemed both teams losers for their awful commercials. Alternately, both choices can be embraced.
But this is an era where the false dichotomy reigns. And because Trump is incapable of thinking outside his self-constructed Bristle Block box, he had to create a fake reason to fire one and hire the other.
That fake reason was hammered relentlessly during the finale and during the penultimate episode, and focused on Tana’s interaction with her team. She apologized for her more flippant comments about her teammates, suggesting she was guilty of poor attempts at humor. But that admission had little effect.
Keeping Tana on the defensiveMost of the 45-minute live portion of the finale was used once again to beat up on the obvious loser. Since last week, all signs have pointed to a Tana loss. The evidence continued to mount during the finale on the live boardroom set at NYU, which looked exactly like a courtroom.
Judge Trump was center stage with the fired candidates in a jury box off to the side; to his right and left were his clerks, Carolyn and George. Beside them, his previous apprentices sat, pages ready to respond the second he barked at them.
But Trump didn’t play the part of an even-handed jurist; instead, he kept Tana in a defensive posture and ensured Kendra remained on the offensive. Although we were spared Regis Philbin during this finale, Trump should have at least borrowed from the playbooks of two other daytime TV personalities, Judges Judy and Marilyn Milian, asking questions designed to acquire information so he could render a competent decision.
Instead, his (obviously pre-scripted) queries were idiotic. Trump hammered Tana with the same questions he’d asked before about the way she interacted with her team. After reprimanding Kendra for crying, he asked her if it was a sign of weakness.
During the course of this charade, Trump unexpectedly stumbled upon a truth. That resulted in perhaps the most revelatory moment in three seasons of the show, as we learned that Donald Trump apparently makes his decisions based upon the same cleverly edited footage that viewers see.
The shape of thingsOne of Kendra’s biggest victories was her creation of a slick, circular brochure for Pontiac. In between throwing bowling balls in the form of questions at Tana, Trump tossed another Wiffle ball question to Kendra, asking her why she let her team take credit for the Pontiac brochure. This prompted Tana to reveal that the circular design had actually been her idea, which Kendra admitted was true. Sensing that this was her only chance to shatter Trump’s image of his golden child Kendra, Tana started to freak out, noting that “that shape was the reason they loved it,” and then pumping her fist into the air while shouting “woo! woo!”
Trump was taken aback, and not just by Tana’s channeling of Arsenio Hall; clearly, this new information didn’t fit with his neat, prepackaged idea that Kendra should be his next apprentice.
Who knows what he’d think if he saw other omitted footage, like the scene from last week’s episode that showed Tana being praised by both her team and executives she was working for?
Perhaps Trump would dismiss it, just as he just ignored this surprising new evidence. He said, simply, “Let’s say you both did a good job.” A better idea: Let’s say you’re a myopic billionaire who surrounds himself with people who help attach your blinders every morning.
This behavior has been on display in the boardroom before, when Trump let qualified candidates go for insignificant reasons instead of looking at the broader picture. Right before he hired Kendra, he announced that he was essentially doing so because she performed better during the final task. And he admitted that he was once again ignoring complexity for the sake of simplicity.
Book Smarts-Street Smarts was a false dichotomyIn his final speech, Trump told Tana she was the stronger candidate, even though she did make a mistake on the final task.
“I just didn’t like the way you treated your team. However, for every week other than the last two, you were truly a star, more so, I think, than Kendra,” he said.
Then, Trump decided that he didn’t really want to think about all 17 weeks; he just wanted to think about the last two. He said, “Kendra, in the last couple of weeks, stepped up to the plate and just knocked it out of the stadium.” Then he returned to his central thesis, hiring Kendra because, as he said, “it was amazing what you did with that team. Very much the opposite of Tana, and for that reason, I’m saying, Kendra, you’re hired.”
Seventeen episodes ago, “The Apprentice 3” began as a competition between college-educated people and candidates with only high school diplomas. While dividing the teams based educational experience is more logical than teams divided arbitrarily by sex, the division was still a fake one, a false dichotomy that oversimplified the candidate’s abilities and backgrounds.
That became clear during the live finale when “street smart” finalist Tana admitted that she was just 28 credits short of her college diploma. In other words, the street smart/book smart division was fake and pointless. Distressingly, Trump refused to recognize that choosing between two smart, competent candidates was just as pointless.
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