It's Sunday, which is the perfect day to fantasize about throwing cream pies at your annoying co-workers. So it makes sense that this is the night FOX treats us to the spectacle of a boss so twisted, so horrid, and so thoroughly confusing that we can only squirm with evil glee as he tortures a gaggle of business school hopefuls. On the other hand, Monday would be a better day, since it's the worst day of the work week. On the other hand, by Friday you've built up a week's worth of work frustration. On the other hand, get the hell out of this paragraph!
I Love a Good Short Story
We begin the episode right where we left off; namely, the night of the first
boardroomconference room elimination where we learned the show's catch phrase and the importance of buying suits off the rack. The contestants are on tenterhooks to see who comes through the door of their penthouse suite. The whole situation puts me in mind of something, but I can't quite put my finger on it. The time I ordered food over the phone and it was delivered to my door? That time I thought Ed McMahon was ringing the doorbell but it was just a kid begging me to buy a magazine so that he didn't turn around and fire up a crack pipe? No, silly me; it's exactly like the openings scenes of The Apprentice, where the survivor(s) take(s) the elevator up to another few days of ruthless (pointless) competition (torture). The only difference I can detect is a mysterious lack of rolling suitcases.
While they wait, the contestants guzzle wine and talk about how scary Mr. N. Paul Todd is. Square-jawed David wussily calls him "intimidating." Saving face in front of the women, the men quickly move on to bragging about the firm, united stance they took before the judges. How quickly they forget their girly squirms of nervousness - not to mention, puzzlement. Eventually, their fretful anticipation is over, as Robert (lugging - not rolling - his bags; who is this Ivy League faker?) returns to the suite to a chorus of welcome. He fills them in on the BFOB's catch phrase, and shares the criticism he received on the project - his lack of altitude. Naturally, everyone thinks it's outrageous that Mr. Todd called him short. Kerry calls it "un-politically correct," and Michael rambles on about what HE'D do if someone made fun of his height. He'd put baby ear medicine in the boss's pudding cup. Or something more macho, but I was too distracted by his mystic tan to pay attention. Will one of these early criticizers catch on to the con? We'll have to wait and see.
Meet the Folks
To reward the team bosses for their hard work, Robert and Tonia receive word that they can take two team members each to tour Mr. Todd's money pit for a glimpse of the billionaire lifestyle. Tonia gets the note as she sits on the deck in her overalls next to bikini-clad Annette and Kerry. She tells the bikini girls they can join her in the visit, since they happen to be sitting next to her when she reads the note. I get the feeling that Tonia isn't befriending any woman in particular. No worries, Tonia, the other women are pretty much interchangeable anyway. I keep having the haunting feeling that I've seen one or all of them on a soap opera or an ad for toothpaste somewhere.
Tonia, her bosom buddies (in matching white suits, looking spiffy enough to star in a tampon commercial), Robert, Douglas and Damian are driven by limo to an $18 million brownstone surrounded by an imposing iron fence ("to keep the poor people out", as Robert notes accurately). Mr. Todd greets them with another catch phrase: "Welcome to my world." The eager beavers laugh inappropriately, since it really wasn't funny so much as, well, a greeting. The contestants, we're told, are to be shown a glimpse of the billionaire life, all juiced up and tempting like a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. From the looks of it, they're ready to slurp down some Vitamin C. (Mystery boss, anyone?)
Mr. Todd introduces them to his daughter Danielle (played by an actress, naturally) who describes her character as the "not-as-bright-cousin of Paris Hilton." (Wow, can she say that? Oh, Paris is coming back on FOX soon, isn't she?) Suffice to say that whatever Danielle's role is for the show, we don't see any more of her after this point. But look for her soon! On FOX! Meanwhile, the actress playing Lynn Todd tells us she is the typical billionaire's trophy wife. She is young, blond, and nearly interchangeable with the blond hotties of Femron. But we can infer that she's their polar opposite by her fashion statement of wearing all black. Good girls wearing white. Bad girl wearing black. We got it now.
You Never Forget Your First
The tour of the lavish house begins. The decor is French, expensive, and lavish; still, to my eyes, it's no Trump Palace of Pomposity. Lynn Todd points out gold leaf in the molding, then stops the tour (both literally and figuratively) with the question, "Who here has heard of Napoleon?" The rapper? Oh, the megalomaniacal French emperor. Lynn points to a pair of vases, and says they were in his home, "probably." If you didn't catch it, he was the little guy painted on the side of the vase, sticking his delicate little hand into his miniature coat. So adorable.
The contestants don't want to look like their intelligence has been insulted, so they smile and nod appreciatively. Meanwhile, we're the only ones who know what's really going on - the Todds are making it up on the spot, improvising, exaggerating, and story-telling. Fabulando ex ano, you might say (if you spoke Latin or you're a word nerd). From this point on, the tales get taller until they reach skyscraper proportions (you know, right up there with our beloved site admin John).
The BFOB shows them his 1929 Steinway piano, and his wife begs him to showcase his skills. When he plays, it's juvenile - just a chord with a few running notes on a sadly out of tune instrument - but the tourees enthusiastically cheer his talent. On to the next eccentricity, which turns out to be a room where Mr. Todd displays something near and dear to his heart. He waxes sentimental; it felt real sweet getting it and it broke him of his millionaire virginity. Huh? He steps back to show the object of his affection: a big box of money, "his first million," set in a display case that is jauntily tilted and resting on a pedestal. It's a ridiculous, extravagant, and garish sight, but even more so when he whips out an unmarked spray can and sprays into the seemingly empty air...revealing hidden laser beams crossing the room.
Everyone has seen a Bond flick, so they catch on instantly. Robert calls it eccentric but is wowed by the sight of so much money. Annette, panting with excitement, jabbers incoherently that money is the perfect motivation to make more money. The BFOB tells us the lasers are really a bunch of cheapo laser pointers distributed around the room, and the box of money is empty, with a few real bills taped on top. He tells the money-hungry contestants that they, too, can enjoy boxing up their first million someday. No one pipes up with any of the questions on my mind: wouldn't this tie up your cash flow? How did you pay your taxes that year? If you boxed up your first million, wouldn't you just be starting from scratch with a few bucks? They must have answered those questions in business school, since no one makes a peep.
By now, the con team is racking up the successful scams. Fake family? Check. Fake residence? Check. Fake talent on the piano? Hard to believe, but check. Fake money? *snort* Another check. It's time to up the ante.
Somewhere, Merlin is Laughing His Black Magic Ass Off
Mr. Todd leads the group to what he describes as the most magnificent piece in the house; a little item he picked up at an auction in Hong Kong. They are now standing in front of a glass case containing a rather plain-looking sword showing signs of heavy wear. The artifact, he tells them, was determined by experts to date back to the time of King Arthur's court. Yes, they are looking at the true, original Excalibur, given by the Lady of the Lake to the knight who was pure of heart. Never mind that no one knows if King Arthur really existed, much less his magical weapon. The contestants say nothing. At this point, I think they'd believe it if the BFOB showed them a light saber and said it had been acquired from Obi-Wan Kenobi himself. Come on, people! Excalibur? That reminds me, I need to check ebay to see how my bid is coming along on the Holy Grail. Some loser keeps bumping me up by two bucks.
Damian gushes in his confessional that there's only one of those in the world and how priceless it must be. Cut to Mr. Todd telling us viewers the real history of the sword - it was purchased on the internet, then run over by some production assistant's car for weathering. The camera zooms in on Tonia standing in the back of the group with a shuttered look on her face. Is she harboring doubts?
Tonia grabs a few moments of screen time to herself, telling us that Excalibur could only be wielded by a man with a pure heart. She pauses; could she be the first to cry foul on the fake boss? She looks disturbed enough, and has some knowledge of the legend of King Arthur ... but no. It only makes her re-think the BFOB in light of the knowledge that he has handled the sword. That would give him god-like powers, and she's awe-struck. Whew, that was close.
Hey, That's My Line!
The tour continues on to the upstairs bedrooms. Kerry distinguishes herself in front of the group by posing the following question/jest to Mr. Todd: "You know what would look good in this room? Me." Cue the batting eyelashes. We didn't see her resume, but I'm guessing her last job was as a Scheming Whore. Lynn Todd looks fit to kill - a reaction the actress tells us later that she didn't have to fake. She was genuinely appalled at Kerry's blatant play for the boss. Kerry, meanwhile, is all innocence. She doesn't want Mrs. Todd's husband, she wants Mrs. Todd's house. If Mrs. Todd is going to get all offended, it just means that there's some insecurities in her relationship. Interesting to see how this woman thinks - she's already planning her exit strategy. Go for the gusto, Kerry!
For now, it's mission accomplished for the con team. The lucky few who toured the mansion are drooling with envy, easily sucked into the lavish lifestyle of a billionaire. You can see it in their faces; they're going to box up their first million, plaster their walls with gold leaf and scour the earth for fake artifacts. Now that's what I call being goal-oriented.
Before the Soup, the Salad - the Eskimo/Devil/Bee Salad
Chicago, mid-July. Hot wind ruffles the business casual attire of the assembled contestants. The sun is blazing, but they couldn't care less as they lap up the sweet, soothing balm of Mr. N. Paul Todd's business philosophies. Today's lesson will be about customers. Mr. Todd loves his customers, but here's his personal philosophy about them: they're not too bright. They need to be told what they want, the loveable little sheep. Why, a good salesman could sell them hot soup in summertime, which turns out to be their challenge for the day. They will learn first-hand the business principle of force feeding a product down the gullible throats of consumers. And they will be so grateful, they'll swallow every drop. We're still talking about soup, right?
Mr. Todd's fictitious COO, David Hickman, puts them on the spot in what they're told is an IOCOR floor exercise. He plants himself in front of Kerry and tells her he's an Eskimo; now sell him ice. For every answer she comes up with ("this is special ice") he has a dismissive answer ("I don't like special ice, I like natural ice"). Soon Kerry is flummoxed, and he moves on to a new victim. As he passes over to the men, we can see Christy favoring him with a perplexed look while trying to maintain a Go Team! smile. To Robert, he declares himself the devil; now sell him fire. Robert puts in an enthusiastic pitch for a great deal on fire, while David counters by a demonstration of his satanic powers: pointing his finger and pretending the ground goes poof.
Damian, the one who was slobbering over the priceless sword, is up next. David tells him that he's a bee; now sell him honey. As Damian struggles with arguments about his all-natural, purified honey, David counters that he's a bee; he's got all the honey he needs inside of him. Damian pitches gamely, but the exercise degenerates into David buzzing, then blurting out "I'm a bee!" in a manner that makes you wonder if it's a weekend hobby (wink). Damian, who is shaping up to be the best brown-noser in the group, praises the exercise as a valuable tool. Lousy kiss-ass. Bring me a cream pie to smash in his eager face.
Soup's on! That's funny, right? Or not. Just so you know, that lame bit of humor was brought to you from the BFOB, not me.
The women, led by Annette, lap up her soup strategy: Femron is now a catering company, and they are trying out a new flavor on the public. But there's a snag, and I don't mean the glaringly obvious fact that taste tests are supposed to be free of charge. Christy, it seems, is annoyingly straight-laced. She's not willing to lie. It's quickly obvious that she's the only member of Femron burdened with a conscience. As for the men, they don't waste time bickering about principles, they dive right into their strategy of sabotaging the women's sales. Are they putting the baby's ear medicine in the soup? No, they hang around the women and make nasty comments so that no one will be in a soup-buying mood. Is anyone else detecting a theme in these challenges?
The Day of Soup continues. Soon the women are using their flirtatious ways to win customers at four dollars a pop, and the men have taken a page from last week's board room and are expressing their sexual sides. David, one of the team's blond hotties, is billed as an Abercrombie model who is available for casual photos and soup servings. Despite the blisteringly hot weather, the sales pitches are working. In fact, Team Con thinks that the teams are finding the challenge too easily conquered, and sends in reinforcements in the form aggressive Italian ice vendors. Not only is their product more palatable on a hot summer's afternoon, they are aggressive sellers. When the teams move their soup carts, the vendors follow tenaciously, easily selling their icy treats while the soup sales lag.
Christy suggests they move in front of a fast food restaurant, where they can shine a bit as a healthy alternative to burger grease. When you consider that the foot traffic will be people looking for lunch, it's not a bad idea. The other women don't agree, concluding that Christy comes up with these suggestions because she doesn't want to lie and she's not a team player. She's thinking all the time, Kerry complains. It gets in the way.
At the End of the Day...
...Wayner's head explodes. But also, we learn that the men were more successful in turning a booty shake into soup sales, as they have outsold the women by about a hundred dollars. Jamie Samuels, the female BFOB henchperson, blasts the women for trying to sell soup with their sex appeal. What a flurry of angry confessionals follow this pronouncement! I caught the phrase "double standard" and something about turtlenecks. However, "cute doesn't cut it" is Jamie's final (cutesy) assessment. The women look to be in varying stages of rage and disbelief - especially the moment when Jamie is lecturing them on being too sexy, and Mr. N. Paul Todd throws the gals a wink. The confusion level soars even higher.
The men are assessed by David Hickman, who if you remember, chided the men last week for not feeling they are sexy. He compliments the men for looking good in their business clothes, and says they beat the women on that score alone. In fact, the men are exuding sexuality, and it worked for them during the challenge. You're not imagining things - this is the exact opposite of the women's critique, and convinces most of the men that David may be mixing business with his personal preferences. The women are infuriated at the blatant double standard. Still, Kerry's suggestion - putting a potato down her pants and pretending to be a man - doesn't seem to be a practical solution.
Since their performance was substandard, the BFOB warns them that one of "you broads" will be going home. The sexism antennae spring to attention on their bleached blond heads. Bosses are not but NOT allowed to call a woman a "broad." Unless they want a stiletto heel rammed into their gut. Christy looks mad enough to aim for an eye, and the boss had better beware. She looks like she's got a good throwing arm, that one.
The Conference Room of Confusion
The women enter the conference room prepared to defend their shoddy soup salesmanship. At first, the meeting proceeds as you might expect, with Mr. Todd coming down hard on the women and demanding that they not hesitate to point the finger at their teammates. As he puts it, "this is swimming with sharks - and I'm a killer whale." Which, you might notice, sounds slick without saying much.
For Team Con, the goal of the night is to leave the women angry and frustrated. Mr. Todd starts off strongly by purposely getting the facts wrong. He demands to know who on the team had complaints about the flavor of soup they were told to sell. The women look blank and shake their heads, and he shuffles through his notes. Next, he addresses team boss Annette's performance, concluding that she was "just Annette." I'm not sure if that was meant to be a compliment, but Annette thanks him. He then adds that it was not enough, since "from what he heard," Elli was running the show. Both Annette and Elli are quick to label that information false, wondering who told him that. Mr. Todd ignores them, and goes back to shuffling his notes. Then he raises his head, and looks right at Elli. "Well done," he congratulates her. We see both Kerry and Christy looking downright confused. Sit back, girls; Mr. Todd is just getting started.
The BFOB says that the team is not listening to one another, exemplified by no one following up on Kerry's idea to move the cart in front of a fast food restaurant. Christy goes from puzzled to annoyed in a flash, and waves her hand to get the boss's attention. He tells her to let him finish, then continues praising Kerry for Christy's idea. Christy bites her lip, but eventually can't keep from blurting out that it was her idea, although maybe Kerry repeated it later. The boss looks annoyed in turn, and gesturing towards Christy asks the others, "who's this here?" For the next few minutes, he points at the women and gets all their names wrong. You can tell the women don't know whether to laugh at this cheapo reality show they're participating in or be appalled that the boss could be so lacking.
After the awkwardness of the mixed names, the business talk begins again. This time, Whitney is right in the middle of blathering about teamwork when a cell phone rings. She falters to a stop, and stares as the boss pulls out a cell phone and tells his wife to call him back. Does this happen to Trump, I wonder? The boss has heard enough blather, and tells Annette to name her two nominees. Annette names Christy and Kerry as the two who are not team players, and the others make their escape.
Finger Pointers Gone Askew
As we know, the BFOB is not calling the shots, so whatever he asks the women won't really impact their position in the game. But it is fun to watch them fighting for their lives. First, the boss makes Kerry squirm by telling her to list three reasons why he should hire Christy. Reluctantly, Kerry drags out the most tepid praise she can about Christy, while Christy rolls her eyes. Now it's Christy's turn to point out Kerry's good points...or is it? The boss asks her to name three reasons why he should fire Kerry. Christy happily complies. If looks could kill, the conference room would be a pile of corpses about now, especially when the boss shoos them out the door without giving Kerry a chance to defend herself.
The actors are alone now, and can relax for the moment. What was Jamie up to as she scribbled away diligently during the proceedings, David wants to know. Appropriately enough, she was drawing a boot. With that, the BFOB heads off to hear the mystery boss's decision. We glimpse the back of an oversized leather chair, but get no clue as to who is seated in it. Unless you think it's a clue that they can sit in a chair at all. Meaning that in the very least, they have a butt. Too bad for the Magic 8 Ball theory.
But Wait...That Was Only One Hand!
Christy and Kerry return to hear the verdict. The BFOB, we're reminded, has a name to eliminate, but no reason behind the mystery boss's choice - leaving him free to make up his own on the fly. It goes something like this: on the one hand, Kerry has a negative attitude, but on the other hand, sometimes that's needed in business. Christy, on the one hand, is not a team player. On the other hand ... "get the hell out of my office!" The boss sits back and looks a little smug as Christy seems frozen with shock. Then, without a word, she does just that.
Kerry simpers and giggles at being left behind, and is now doubly lucky because she will be the next week's team boss. As for Christy, she walks away lugging a duffle bag, no rolling suitcase in sight. Not surprisingly, Christy doesn't think she's learned anything from Mr. Todd. On the one hand (can you believe she actually used this phrase?), he taught them to be ruthless but on the other hand, he owns a magical sword that can only be touched by the true of heart. Now add up the facts and carry the two, Christy. As the city skyline fades to black, we see a cheesy graphic of Excalibur plunged into the heart of the city. Which means what, I wonder? Maybe King Arthur is the mystery boss.
Next week: the ladies are pressured to go hot tubbing with their obnoxious mentor, and the teams are challenged to make a mascot for a chemical company. FOX tips its hat to "The Benefactor" by conscripting third graders to judge the teams' efforts.
Look ma, no hands! firstname.lastname@example.org