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Type A ‘Apprentices’ need an intervention

Personalities clash, candidates crumble, and Carolyn comes to the rescue. By Andy Dehnart
/ Source: contributor

Moments after he sat down in “The Apprentice 3” boardroom, Net Worth team leader Brian did something few people ever do: He took Donald Trump's power away.

“Do you think it's your fault that you lost?” Trump asked him.

“It is my fault that I lost,” Brian replied.

“Should I fire you now?”

Stone-faced, Brian replied, “Yes, you should.”

That was not the answer Trump expected. Momentarily stunned, he said, “That's interesting. That's amazing. I've never been in this position before. This could be the shortest board meeting I've ever had.”

Net Worth melts down
Earlier in the episode, one of Brian's “Apprentice 3” colleagues on the other team also gave up, although much more passively.

Early in the morning, Magna team member Verna packed her bag, left the seaside New Jersey motel her team was tasked with renovating, and walked away. “I'm tired; I have quit. I'm just not playing this game any more,” she told a teammate. Later, she said in an interview, “I put so much pressure on myself. I really just wanted to get out. I wanted to escape.”

Despite the dissimilarities, both Brian and Verna became victims of their own drive, their unrelenting passion to succeed at all costs. In just its second episode, “The Apprentice 3” was completely consumed by the effects of similar overextended passion and overpowered drive from its assembled gang of hyperactive Type A personalities.

While conflict hasn't been absent on the previous two seasons of “The Apprentice,” this cast is populated with people who are high on their status as “Apprentice” candidates, their chance at winning a job with Donald Trump, and probably a lot of caffeine and sugar. “Type A” barely begins to describe them, as they're more like Type A+ personalities. And working on their second task, they unleashed their myopic fury.

After they're fired, “Apprentice” candidates sometimes talk about how grueling the experience is, how there's no time to sleep or eat while they live in a cramped apartment with strangers and a ubiquitous camera crew, competing in complex challenges. This week's task was particularly rough as the teams had to completely renovate rooms in a motel, opening it for guests after only 48 hours of work. The little amount of time they had to plan and execute their assignment made the situation all the more volatile.

Anybody got a match?If executive producer Mark Burnett had soaked these candidates in gasoline, handed them sparklers, and sent them to work in a gunpowder factory, that would have been far less explosive. In Verna's case, the pressure pushed inward, and she collapsed. In Brian's case, the pressure pushed outward, and he exploded — as did some of his teammates.

After constantly fighting with Brian, for example, team accountant Kristen finally became so irate that her teammates Audrey and Angie leapt onto her and tore her to shreds. Waiting in the van to go on a food run, Angie pleaded with Kristen to “just be quiet, just for a moment.”

Kristen continued to rant, and Angie jumped up, nearly screaming, “Honey, shut the f--- up! How about if I talk to you that way? Give us some money and get the f--- out of the car!” Both teams were marred with conflict, but it was especially apparent at Net Worth, where they were fighting more than they were painting. Their focus on winning arguments with one another killed their chance for success, just as Brian's desire for success caused him to self-destruct.

After Brian offered himself as a boardroom sacrifice, Trump quickly regained his composure, and took back his power as master of the boardroom. Being the consummate showman that he is, Trump couldn't let the boardroom be over after just a minute, so he turned the floor over to Net Worth and let Brian's colleagues rip their leader apart. This also gave Brian the chance to really hang himself, which he did with a string of f-words and excuses.

During this time, though, Chris suddenly unleashed a screaming, finger-pointing tirade, yet another explosion from a volatile personality.

But although the Trump we saw in “The Apprentice 2” might have fired Chris for his outburst, Brian's aggressive personality ensured his dismissal. Once Brian realized he was going to go, he started fighting for his survival. Had he been fired immediately, it would have been a result of his own actions; he would have, ironically, been successful by getting himself fired. But Brian couldn't tolerate being dismissed after his team gnawed on him and Trump spit on him. So he shifted his strategy; after Trump insisted that he didn't like people who give up, Brian implausibly argued that he wasn't a quitter.

Compassionate Carolyn?When Verna gave up, her teammates also turned on her. Being good little Type As, most of them focused on how to spin her departure, prematurely blaming a potential loss entirely on Verna's abandonment of her team. Alex said, “She screwed the team, she screwed herself.” The only person who showed concern was, unbelievably, Carolyn.

Normally, when she's not issuing biting one-liners in the boardroom, Carolyn can be found on the sidelines of tasks making faces like a Cabbage Patch doll. But after Danny explained that Verna had quit, Carolyn was suddenly in her car. She drove around until she found Verna wandering the streets, dragging a suitcase behind her. When Verna saw Carolyn — and the camera crew, of course — she tried to flee.

But Carolyn was persistent, stepping outside her role as the aggressively critical observer. “Verna, what are you doing? Besides walking and walking? ... Are you okay? Listen, I know it's tough, I know it's stressful. If you want to talk to me and tell me what's going on, I'll listen.”

We may never know what happened then, because the editors cut away. But soon after, Carolyn and Verna returned to the motel.

Verna went back to her team, full of apologies, ready to sacrifice herself if her behavior caused the team to lose. She blamed her meltdown on the pressure to succeed. “I was feeling really down, I was feeling like I didn't have control of myself, and I know part of it was because I didn't have control of the team,” she said.

If the other candidates can learn from Verna's introspection and Carolyn's example, they might realize that success also involves looking inward and looking to others. Considering how rabidly they all want to win, though, others are bound to self-destruct like Brian did, giving in to their own narcissistic, egomaniacal desire to achieve. They're so obsessed with success that they're destroying their ability to be successful.

is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.