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It’s the Hotheads vs. the Scatterbrains

Tana battles Kendra to be first female Apprentice. By Craig Berman
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

This season of “The Apprentice” started out as Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts. It will finish that way as well, with one finalist remaining from each team; Kendra from Magna, Tana from Net Worth.

But as far as the final task is concerned, Tana got it right when the two women returned to the boardroom after Craig was fired. It’ll be the Scatterbrains vs. the Hotheads.

See, Donald Trump might be willing to hire one of them as his next “Apprentice,” and even put them in charge of a major task. But that doesn’t mean he was going to let them pick their employees. They might wind up with a coherent, effective team that way, and that makes for pretty dull television during the May Sweeps.

Instead, he gave Tana and Kendra one pleasant night to relax in the suite, with a bottle of champagne and a photo album of the dearly departed ex-teammates. Then came the bad news.

Into the boardroom the next morning walked Danny, Erin, Michael, Brian, Chris and Kristen. The first three were Magna originals; the latter were from Net Worth. None of the six had inspired a whole lot of hand-wringing when they were fired, and Kendra and Tana looked like they wished all six had stayed away.

That was not to be. Trump gave the Book Smarts trio back to Kendra, the rest to Tana.

At least he had the good sense not to be present for the announcement, instead giving it via the miracle of video conferencing technology. Why pay George and Carolyn the big bucks if not to stick them with the undesirable tasks like explaining to the two remaining finalists that their hopes and dreams now rested on the shoulders of six people who they were excited to see fired in the first place?

Kendra thus has the unenviable task of trying to plan “The Best Buy Video Game World Championship,” featuring EA Sports’ new Fight Night Round 2 game, with a trio who might technically qualify for Mensa but can barely remember what city they’re in. And Tana must promote New York’s’ longshot 2012 Olympic bid at the “The NYC 2012 Athlete Challenge” with three people who are uncomfortably good bets to kill each other, if not one of the participating athletes.

‘Is this some kind of sick joke?’Early returns aren’t promising. Can Trump really hire someone who would — intentionally or not — leave the bizarre Danny in charge of meeting with key sponsors for 10 minutes while she makes herself scarce? Looking at the expression on the face of the Best Buy representative, it was tough not to wonder if he was considering calling up Mark Cuban to see if any of the contestants on his failed reality show might be available to step in.

Then again, can he hire someone who keeps calling her charges the Three Stooges and left Chris and Kristen to drive around Wall Street trying to find a parking space? It has to be a bad sign when Chris is the calmest member of any gathering, and NBC must be grateful that the show doesn’t air live given Kristen’s ability to fire off the F-bombs like they’re going out of style.

(Note to Tana: New York has these things called taxicabs that will drive you to your destination for a nominal fee. It also has subways that are even cheaper. Both options eliminate that whole parking issue entirely.)

Who has the tougher task? Hard to say. Kendra will probably have to do most of the work herself to keep things from going awry, but the potential for police involvement is far less. As an unusually self-aware Erin said, “if you can manage us, you can handle the Trump organization. But if you can handle Chris, Brian and Kristen, you may deserve a medal of honor.”

That would spell trouble for Tana, and she also seems a lot less willing to let one of her new employees sink her. As soon as they left the boardroom in the first place, she quickly asked George if she could make a trade, but got rebuffed. Back at the suite, she said it all: “I was like, ‘what is up with this? Is this some kind of sick joke?’”

While George made a big deal that project managers could use, or not use, each of them as she saw fit, he later specifically said that part of the purpose was to see how they each handled problem employees. Tana talked tough about being able and willing to fire someone if needed, and that comment has to at least give her food for thought.

Poor Craig began the episode with a dream of being one of the final two, but was instead dismissed with a lot less fanfare than usual. It was a rare week where the boardroom was the least dramatic part of the episode. With only three contenders left entering the night, apparently it was too much to ask the producers to come up with something that caused them to compete against each other in an actual business-related task.

Instead, the trio had to endure a series of four interviews. Domino’s CEO David A. Brandon, QVC President Darlene Daggett, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate chairman Howard M. Lorber, and Burger King chairman Greg Brenneman put Craig, Kendra and Tana through the paces.

Going through a job interview with any one of the above would be nerve-wracking; dealing with all four in rapid succession had to be even worse. And yet, it didn’t make for a riveting premise for TV. Even with the hundreds of cable and satellite TV programs out there, there’s still no such thing as the Job Interview Channel for the simple reason that they’re almost always extremely dull.

This was no exception, and after just a few minutes of watching all three contenders sweat and stumble through their paces, the scene shifted straight to the boardroom. Kendra was dinged for being too scripted, while some questioned whether Tana had what it took to make it in New York. But all four thought Craig’s answers lacked substance, and none suggested Trump hire him.

That left Trump with little choice; even a guy with his ego knows that you can’t ask four prominent business leaders their opinions only to summarily declare them of no worth. It probably helped that this would also leave him with one book smarts and one street smarts person, keeping the theme alive.

So after all these weeks of patronizing comments – and probably the best project idea of the season in his Home Depot toy box clinic – Craig was quickly fired for not being a good interview.

He made up for it with the best exit quote yet. “It was a great journey. I’ve grown a lot. My wife and children will have a lot of people to thank for the work that has been done on Craig.”

In hindsight, he might have gotten off easy.