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November 15, 2004

The Apprentice 2: The Raj Mahal

On November 4, I was lucky enough to again be still under the influence of opiates from sinus surgery, so I missed the live show. Shortly after I was back into it though and got caught up on work. Ok enough excuses, lets get to the real goods...

At the outset I was hopeful for my pal Raj being picked as project manager for Apex. The guy is in real estate after all (so he says). Sandy gets the nod on for Mosaic. I am looking forward to seeing Sandy in action as she has not been very involved in prior tasks. Nice hair though. The producers must be feeling the mid season blues because they felt the need to throw a wrench (or wench) into things by bringing back some of the previously fired people. Apex got Bradford (still cocky) and Stacie J (still crazy). Mosaic got Rob (still earnest but no leader) and Jennifer (still a bitter backstabber). I hope my man Raj comes through. The producers also played to the lower IQ audience (are they polling something I don't know about) by having the Donald set up the key success factor for the task up front. "contractors will pick you pocket if you let them". Funny as I was just having a similar talk Saturday night at a fundraiser I was at with Kenny Logins (don't ask). Did you know he wears Prada boots on stage? (Alex noticed). So I am chatting with one of my table mates about contractors and architects as we are going through that with our house now. My key learnings are that you need three things for a successful large scale construction project. 1. An architect that shares your vision and won't try to sell you stuff you don't need. 2. a contractor that you can trust to meet budgets AND schedules and 3. a contractor and architect that have worked together before. Oh, but I digress, this should be about the Apprentice yes?

The Donald calls the teams up to the deck of the $35M penthouse of an apartment building he is renovating and has them stand in a queer line with these silly yellow construction hats on. Raj, undoubtedly worried about his hair, makes a statement by holding his hat under his arm. The task is to renovate two crappy houses in some hellhole outside Manhattan that still has single family houses. Similar to the Apartment renovation task last season. I doubt Maria will be wearing her distracting earrings for this one! I wonder what Raj will wear. Can you do house demo in a bow tie? I am sure he will try. So off they go. Immediately on Apex Chris starts whining. He is dropping in my book. Doesn't want to scratch his Rolex in this task probably. Their house is a mess and Raj decides to invest in a bathroom upstairs (good) minimal changes in the kitchen (bad), consolidate two bedrooms upstairs into a master (getting REALLY bad), and siding for the house (ouch Raj, you are really killing me here!). First thing is to get a contractor. Kevin calls around and gets a referral to one from a contractor that is too busy (watch out). Ivana and Kevin sell the contractor to Raj who has zero input (a surprise) and doesn't even interview they guys (at least that we see on camera). Raj starts to show some of his kookie side waxing poetic about the inner human need to destroy and create. Well this is part of the lovable side of Raj we all love, but I am hoping that it hides a killer inside that will come out here. As things progress it is clear that they have chosed a bad contractor. He would rather eat tacos than finish the job. Jennifer is rock'n on this task, a real driver. Raj is disorganized as a team leader and lets the contractor not finish the job. I can't believe this guy is in real estate. I believe his father is really in the business. Oh, well. When the appraisers come to see the house, the work is not done and looks like crap. The bathroom doesn't even have the fixtures bolted in and the new carpet in the stairs is dirty. They cringe at taking out a bedroom. A master is nice for the uppity neighborhoods, but not here Raj! Apex spends $20K and moves the price of the hosue from $385 to $412 (not even your cap ex dudes - the siding was a waste). 7% improvement. Bad news.

For Mosaic, Sandy turns out to be a pretty capable leader. She has a good artistic sense and knows where to make the investments, bathroom and kitchen. Stacie J. starts some ruckus with Ivana in the suite, but on the job works her skinny little butt off (good work). The first contractor they chose I am suspicious of. Lucky for them, another contractor is driving around the neighborhood and notices the cameras and work and decides to come in and fix it. The guys are Lenny, Vinny, Johnny, Paulie, etc. Big cigars are a must. Everyone is related. But they are good guys who actually pour lots of people at the project and start making excellent progress. I have no idea if they blew the budget, or pulled any other tricks, but the NJ mob definitely saved Mosaic's butt getting the work done and clean up on time. In the end their house went from $390K to $430K, a 10.26% increase. And more importantly an increase of greater than the capital expended. It was the major kitchen remodel that did it. Winner, Winner, chicken dinner.

The Boardroom. I predict Raj, Ivana and Chris. Raj because he had a poor plan and executed it like crap. He should know better. Chris for being a whiner. While Ivana got lots of paint on her shirt, I still didn't see much from her and she needs to go. Raj picks Ivana and Kevin (for choosing the contractor). I guess I agree with Kevin over Chris. Note this is the first time I have missed the draw. On his way out, Chris popps off about how disfunctional the team is and how they are going to loose next week again. Donald gives Raj the chance to keep Chris in the room for being disloyal, but he doesn't take it (big mistake). Chris's blabbing gets him set as project manager next week when I predict he will be fired. Right off The Donald asks why Raj took a 4 bedroom house and made it a 3 bedroom. Raj stumbles. Donald makes sure Kevin knows he messed up with the contractor. Donald doesn't think Ivana should be there. He fires Raj. Raj did step up to take responsibility for the loss, but he should have done better as a leader. Come on, this was real-estate!

So I am 7 for 9 , batting .777. Up this week!

Ivana, Chris, or Andy should be one of the next to go

Two of my three choices for top finalists are gone so I will have to make new picks. My top three now are:

Jennifer (hard core and straight up)
Kelly - solid organized, player.
Wes - he is playing a waiting game. I don't think he is great, but he is keeping his head down.

My choices for most likely to go sooner rather than later are:

Andy - On Donald's shit list and will mess up again.
Chris - He is a boisterous blowhard.

Posted by Martin at November 15, 2004 9:54 PM

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