How To Win Apprentice 2

posted Apr 16, 2004

Like many others in this country, I was pleasently surprised by the quality of The Apprentice, the show on NBC that if I have to explain, you will not want to read the rest of this post.

Considered as a game, Apprentice is almost identical to Survivor, with one major difference: The selection criterion for elimination. In Survivor, it is the majority vote of the rest of your tribe. In Apprentice, it is the selection of Donald Trump. Trump is a billionaire who has been to the brink and back, and whether I'd like him as a person or not, I do respect the results he has in the business arena.

I was fascinated by the different dynamics this alternate selection criterion created. Survivor creates a "back-stab and be back-stabbed" environment, Machiavellian to the extreme, where you never quite know what's going on. Apprentice had strong incentives to stick together with your team, no matter what, in an effort to be the team that does better and be safe for another period. Thus, it combines many of the interesting parts of Survivor without the constant and sometimes tiring complicated political games.

As a game, I'd say Survivor is more challenging, mostly because you are never not playing Survivor, from the second you see your fellow survivors to the moment the final vote is tallied. In Apprentice, the winners could relax and enjoy their rewards, and in the periods between challenges, there was no real need for the teams to be antagonistic. Of course, the ultimate result is the same, 15 of 16 eliminated, so in that sense they are equally difficult to win.

I'll never know if I'm just arm-chair quarterbacking, but I feel I could have done a decent job in Apprentice, though I don't know if I have the drive. There are certainly some mistakes I saw the contestants make that I would have avoided, though I'm sure I would have made some of my own!

Probably my greatest triumph while watching the show, and the one that greatly surprised my wife last night, was calling the final results of the finale immediately after the show last week (i.e., with about an hour and a half to go before the final boardroom). I correctly said Kwame would end up losing, because of his failure to fire Omarosa after she was caught in a flat-out lie. As he said, he didn't know he could fire her, which I also didn't know, but I said that even if he couldn't "fire" her, he could still strip her of all responsibility and authority, and tell her to go be somewhere else for the duration, effectively firing her even if she wasn't legally "fired". (I don't know what arrangements were made for the six "employees", but they did off-handedly mention they were unpaid last night.)

(Parenthetical: Omarosa's motivation boggles my perhaps excessively-rational mind. Here she is, in a job that is guarenteed to end in two days, with no advancement possibility, she's not even getting paid; a job with no past, no present, and no future. She gets in trouble, and what does she proceed to do but lie about a phone call to cover her responsibility. There is no potential upside to that action. There is no way it will not be found out. The only explanation is that she is a reflexive liar to cover herself. Kwame should have fired her not just on the grounds that she lied, and not just on the grounds that the lie cost him a lot, but also on the grounds that there was no rational basis, even a purely selfish one, to lie! To lie in such a situation does not speak well for her political savvy; potential employers of Omarosa the Political Consultant take note.... and on that note, can anybody point to anything Omarosa actually did, instead of trying to shift it onto someone else? Seriously, go back and watch her... she never does anything but re-assign responsibility away from herself. This, I suppose, bodes well for her Political Consulting career.)

That said, in the interests of analysing the game, and potentially helping any Apprentice 2 contestant bright enough to Google for "How to win Apprentice 2", I offer the following strategies for winning. Ultimately, since it comes down to whether Trump likes you or not, there isn't a perfect winning strategy any more then there is in Survivor. But there's a lot of mistake you can avoid making in the second series:

That's my advice for the game as a whole. Advice for the specific challenges:

There was one extremely significant ambiguity in the show; Trump and his advisors seemed to want everyone to demonstrate leadership, but leaders need followers. It remains unclear to me whether you are supposed to consider the Project Manager your boss, or if you could score major points by forming your own schism in the team and being the de facto Project Manager of the schism. I don't know if this would be considered assertive or disloyal; I saw evidence in both directions. I for one would want to ask Trump what exactly he wanted from his non-project manager, loyalty (giving feedback but ultimately following orders even if you don't think they are the "best" actions) or "leadership" (potentially disregarding the project manager).

I guess I'll see how this holds up in the next one; I should develop a checklist for scoring Apprentices. I hope the second one is as interesting as the first. If you're a contestant and you find this and think it was useful, drop me a line, I'll get a real kick out of it.


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