Don't Touch That Dial
The Apprentice: Martha Stewart: Episode 8
Previously, the self-proclaimed blondes-in-charge Sarah and Carrie took over the helm of Primates-R-Us and didn't do much of anything other than balancing accounts and making spreadsheets. As a result, the Primates were completely lost and had to improvise on a Tide-to-Go mobile billboard task with hilarious and totally awful results. Martha sent Sarah packing along with Carrie in a two-in-one special. This week, Martha wonders who will be sent packing at the end of the episode. With that, let's bring on the credits.
Evening, the Loft. Jim has a disbelieving audience listening to him as he, in his usual Daffy Duck manner, regales the Matchsticks about the conference room session that he has just left. It is depressing me how Ryan's idea of casual wear in the Loft seems exclusively limited to baseball cap. I don't mind the tight-fitting singlet though since it sets off his biceps - ten points for metrosexuality! - but with that baseball cap, he comes off like some loser boyband member trying to rejuvenate his career as the new Eminem. Sure, it makes sharing clothes with Howie so much fun but as a self-professed metrosexual, Ryan isn't doing himself any favors by looking like a former boyband member desperate to cling on to his faded glory. Back to Jim: he is telling the others about the "botchery" that took place in the conference room - points deducted for not using "de-baaaaaah-cle" - and how he left the conference room because Sarah decided that he was the strongest member in that task. Leslie can't believe Jim when he says that. Then again, can Jim be believed in any way when he's on his usual post-conference room tall-tale storytelling session? Especially when the word "botchery" is used? Jim snorts and tells Leslie that he is not as weak a player as she thinks he is. Indeed, he isn't. While Jim has been annoying often, has there any moment in this show where he failed to deliver? Being on the losing team isn't the same as being the loser, if you ask me.
The door opens and in walk Bethenny and Howie. Everyone gasps because Carrie and Sarah are both sent packing, but Ryan is especially thrilled because at least Howie is still here to lend him that wifebeater he fancies so much. Bethenny proclaims self-righteously that both Sarah and Carrie were let go for being liars. She calls them "snakes" and explains how Sarah tried to say that everyone in the Loft has issues with Howie when it's not true. She adds to the camera that she is glad to see the last of them. Back to the Loft, Ryan goes "Wooh!" like he can't believe how mean conference rooms can be (he has a short memory, I see, since it was only in the previous episode that he was whining about how mean he was to Marcela) and says that he'd love to be a fly on the wall.
Bethenny then jokes to Jim about how their next task is going to be finding a bagel or a "good quart of pizza" in New York and those two along with Howie run along with that joke to laugh and make all kinds of noise while the likes of Dawna look on and act as if they have never seen such ill-behaved louts before in their lives. Jim tells the camera that he is certain that the Matchsticks will view Howie, Bethenny, and him along with their boisterous, can't-be-serious natures as a team to be underestimated. It's just a hunch of mine but I'm sure that Jim, Bethenny, and Howie are already underestimated by the likes of Ryan and Amanda all along, even if they aren't loud and somewhat annoying. I am quiet charmed though by how Bethenny and Howie seem to be making fun of the trivial nature of the tasks they are doing. I won't be surprised if a quart of pizza does show up next in a task... wait, it already did in Season Three of Donald Trump's show, along with a Whopper. Moving on, Bethenny notices how the Matchsticks are looking at the Primates like the Primates are losers and announces that the next task will probably be trying to stay silent for 24 hours. She wonders whether the team with Ryan and Marcela or the team with Jim and Bethenny will win, heh. Call her what you want but I don't think we can call her devoid of self-awareness. Dawna announces to the camera obnoxiously that she has never worked with Jim and Bethenny and she hopes that she never will. If the Matchsticks keep up with this attitude, I'd be rooting for a Primate to bag this deal. Wait, I already am.
Julia calls the next morning and informs Bethenny that the Apprenti at Martha's office at 9:00 am. Martha, Alexis, and Charles have this staged conference where they talk about evening out the playing field by sending someone from Matchstick over to Primates-R-Us. When the Apprenti show up, Martha asks for the Matchstick with the best track record to join Primates-R-Us. Oh no, Dawna, her greatest fear has come true! Martha then gets down to business. She points out to the Apprenti that they are standing in a room full of Martha's furniture that will be sold under her furniture line. For this episode, the teams will have to sell an "outdoor product" of their choice from QVC's vast inventory of overpriced thingies and hawk this product on a short clip in QVC's informercial show that the teams will also have to come up with. The QVC folks and their studio equipment and prop will be available for the Apprenti to use and abuse. Before she sends them on their way, Martha points out that she sold many of her books on QVC back in those days. Then again, Martha has more time than what the Apprenti are allocated to come up with her sales pitch in her own show and she was selling something she worked on so it's not really the same thing as sending someone to the QVC storeroom to pick something to sell, is it? If you can't tell that I'm not fond of this task by now, well, now you know. Oh, and Martha stresses that the winning team will be judged by the "revenues" generated, not by how many units of the product moved, which... well, my feelings about this would come up eventually so I'll leave it at that for now.
On their way to the Pennsylvanian QVC HQ, the Primates try to, er, "discuss things" in their charter vehicle. Dawna tells the camera how sad she is to leave Matchstick, and to drive home that point, Dawna stares wide-eyed at the other three as Jim, Howie, and Bethenny - she is the Project Manager for this task - start joking and laughing while rummaging through their papers and what-not. It's definitely a culture shock moment as Dawna, the quiet and serious type, finds herself surrounded by three people who can't do anything without making a joke or laughing about something irreverent. I guess the show is trying to drive home how "wrong" the attitudes of Jim, Bethenny, and Howie are but personally I don't see what's the big deal is about those three's antics as long as they get things done. It's not as if they aren't doing any work, for Bethenny has her laptop switched on and they learn that QVC's policy is not to go for the "hard sell" approach but rather the "hey, I'm sweet and nice because I have an Acme Frilly Super Self-Heating Thermal Underwear and you should have one too if you want to be sweet and nice like me" approach. Bethenny tells the camera that it is very important to send the correct persons to star in their upcoming informercial clip because that can be a make-or-break moment. They decide that Howie and Dawna should be these people. Better Howie than Jim, I suppose, because we don't want Jim to start telling QVC viewers to hang themselves using the bath drapes now, do we?
With that done, there's nothing to do but to kill time until they get to the QVC storage room and pick a product so the three usual suspects start their round of jokes and laughters again. Dawna, of course, is not amused and says wryly to the camera that her new team has more "energy", at least, compared to the Matchsticks. Maybe she prefers it when the other three spend the rest of their time staring creepily at each other's face in silence. Jim tells the others about some "fat bastard" that "eats like a pig" - Donald Trump, is that you? - when Bethenny, working on her laptop, tells him to "reel it in". Bethenny tells the camera that she knows how to handle Jim because she knows how to get him to do what she wants him to, such as to "reel it in". That's nothing to do with the fact that she and Jim seem to genuinely like each other, of course, heh. Bethenny continues to say that Dawna needs a very "quiet and controlled" environment to do her thing, the quiet and controlled thing which is something these people don't do well, as Dawn could have told Dawna. The lesson of the day from Burnetto, people, is that Jim, Howie, and Bethenny are very, very hyper and I hope you all get that after the latest unsubtle beating of the head with it in this episode.
Things aren't going so well in the Matchstick vehicle either. Ryan is once more the Project Manager of Matchstick but Amanda decides that this is her time to shine in all her glowing insane brand of crazy. Ryan, Leslie, and Marcela try to discuss what they should do but Amanda steamrollers everyone by constantly interrupting them in midsentence. It's not that she's actually adding to the conversation, it's that her interruptions cut off the flow of the discussion in an obvious attempt to steer the topic of the conversation to All About Amanda. I don't know why she is doing this; maybe she's always like this and the show is revealing this crazed motormouth aspect of her to me for the first time. She seemed pretty bossy in a benign manner when she was the Project Manager for the Westin suite task, oh dear! An example of her rude interruptions is when Leslie is trying to talk about what kind of product they should be looking for and Amanda interrupts to talk about her experience in making film demos. As a result, Amanda just babbles on and on while Ryan throws his head back and stares at Amanda in exasperation, Leslie rolls up her eyes and prays for strength, and Marcela eyes Amanda as if Amanda is some nasty flea-ridden cat that has sneaked into her house when she isn't looking. Poor Ryan tells the camera that he'd rather not fight with Amanda that day.
Martha's Moral of the Week time. Martha stands before that MSLO color-chart banner thingie like she did in the first episode and talks about how to give a good sales pitch. What she's saying is pretty much common sense material - believe in the product, et cetera - but as I've said earlier, it's not going to be easy to have faith and passion in a product you're supposed to sell on QVC if you happen to walk in and pick up that product just because you think it can sell to plenty of suckers out there.
The two vehicles finally pull up at the QVC HQ, no doubt to the relief of some of the Apprenti. It's now time to venture into the depths of the QVC inventory storeroom to pick up an item that each team believe they can sell enough to bring them a victory. Ryan and the Matchsticks look over some gardening tools before Ryan's eyes light up when he spots the Reel Smart Automatic Hose Rewinder. Ryan likes to play with hoses, especially long ones that can do tricks like extending and curling itself back. Amanda however wonders why anyone would pay $99 for the Reel Smart hose when a regular hose costs about $35. Ryan talks about how the hose can wind itself back and he's really into this magic hose, it's obvious. He tells the camera that he's setting the price to a few cents below $100 because everyone knows that people would be happier to pay $99.97 for a stupid hose instead of $100 even if it's only a three-cent difference. Tell that to me, I hate keeping one-cent coins and would rather pay $100 instead of $99.97 but I guess that's just me.
Elsewhere, Primates-R-Us looks around and they finally settle for either a foldable hammock or the Bon-Aire Cordless Air Inflator. They also notice the Reel Smart hose but pass it over because, as Howie says, it doesn't seem likely that people will happily pay $99 for a hose. Jim and Howie decide to test the hammock by setting it up according to the instructions but it turns out to be more complicated than they realized. Finally they manage to somewhat set up the hammock. Howie tries to sleep on it only to have the hammock collapse. In his post-show interviews, Howie says that his head suffers from heavy bleeding, which causes him to be less than enthusiastic for the rest of the episode. Personally, I'm sure they would have shown Howie being taken to the doctor if he is actually injured because they showed Omarosa and her encounter with the ceiling plaster of doom in the first season of Donald Trump's show. Anyway, back to the Primates. Since it is easier to demonstrate the Bon-Aire Cordless Air Inflator, they decide to pick it as their QVC guinea pig. Jim blabs about how everybody will love the Bon-Aire just like everyone was fighting to get his or her dog on a Paul Sorvino movie. Meanwhile, Bethenny decides to price the Bon-Aire at $44.78, a price that she feels is reasonable for something that everyone can use to inflate tires, matresses, and balls with. Lady, for $44.78, that stupid thing should very well inflate those tires, matresses, and balls!
Bethenny later tells Dawna and Howie that they should rehearse for their upcoming informercial clip. Of course, she thinks that they can always ad lib later on but she wants to get some idea of how the presentation is going to be. Howie tells her that it is too early to rehearse since they haven't come up with a concrete idea of what the presentation is going to be. Dawna agrees. Bethenny, to the camera, decides that Dawna is going to be a problem for Matchstick. In fact, she doesn't think that Dawna has the charisma to get people to start calling up QVC demanding for a brand-new Bon-Aire to be sent to their homes. Dawna, on the other hand, thinks that Bethenny is making her nervous with Bethenny's in-your-face style of management. Bethenny fires back to the camera by saying that Dawna is a bore because it's obvious that Dawna was not the cool kid in school. This is the cue for me to launch into a "Revenge of the Nerd" diatribe about high school is evil, I suppose, but I don't know. Bethenny's right in a way: as Dawna frets to Bethenny nervously whether she will be halfway decent in front of the camera, she isn't making a good case for herself to Bethenny. I'm sure she will be crushed if she learns that Bethenny thinks that Dawna needs to be, you know, watched. Don't expect me to feel sorry or offended on Dawna's behalf that she is the unfair target of first perceptions when Dawna herself has dished out the same treatment to the outsiders of her team before.
In the studio that is to be the set of their shoot, Ryan discusses with the Matchsticks the way he thinks the presentation should be done. Marcela will be setting up the props. Ryan wants Amanda and Leslie to be on air, with Leslie being the main presenter - the star, so to speak - while Amanda will play the happy owner of the Reel Smart hose. In short, Leslie will be walking around chatting up a storm to the camera while Amanda will only smile and demonstrate the use of the hose in the background. It's a good idea because Leslie has this utterly fake and insincere insurance saleswoman way of speaking when she's at the camera (which is to say, she is so utterly fake in her confessionals during this show) that viewers will be comfortable with because everyone selling on QVC sounds fake and insincere. Amanda immediately frowns. "So, I'm not speaking at all? I just don't like that!" She tells the camera that she is a good leader and she has proven in the past that she can sell things to people (I'll just have to take her word on that) so she doesn't understand why she isn't the star of the show. Well, she's the star of this episode. I wonder whether she likes the limelight. Amanda insists to the camera that people respond well to her. Maybe by "well", she means "their fingers are well on their way to changing the channel". The discussion now moves to a conference room where Amanda is telling Ryan in front of Leslie and Marcela that she is too valuable a talent to be "out of place just randomly working the product". She tells Ryan that it is "dumb" to have her just stand there in the background playing with the Reel Smart hose. In short, she's telling Ryan that she, the fabulous Amanda, should be the new QVC star. Let Leslie do the dumb things! Leslie has had enough and she manages to sink some blades into Amanda's gut while sounding so polite - in short, she's Martha's Mini-Me - by telling Ryan that he can do whatever he wants with Amanda and Leslie because to Leslie, it's not about her "ego" or her "five minutes", she just wants to be the best salesperson for the team. Amanda, completely missing Leslie's insult, chimes in her agreement.
At that moment, Charles and Alexis drop by so everyone pauses in their arguing to give a fake and cheery hello to those two. And then, it's back to the Matchsticks' circular argument where Amanda insists that she can sell, Ryan insists that Amanda can "communicate" (boy, she sure does that a lot, doesn't she?) rather than "sell", and Leslie says that there can only be one "expert" in the presentation to carry the "story". Ryan tells the camera that he prefers Leslie to be the "expert" because he believes that Leslie can "soft-sell" better - just don't let her stuff vinaigrette bottles into shopping carts, that's all - and that Leslie knows "market research" better than Amanda. The market research angle is odd because it's not like Leslie is going to be conducting a market survey to determine the primary audience that the Reel Smart hose can be targetted to. Maybe all this diplomatic bull is Ryan's way of saying that he can't bear the thought of giving Amanda the spotlight that she craves for because he's had enough of her. Back to the conference room, Amanda is now telling Ryan that they have to "work in" Amanda into the starring role so that the audience will "understand" the presentation better. The world will be lost and deprived of enlightenment without Amanda on the TV screen! QVC does not exist without Amanda! The dogpiling on poor Amanda continues when even Charles joins in the fray, saying to the camera that he likes the idea of Leslie being the main presenter but he's certain that Amanda is not happy because she harbors aspirations to be a QVC superstar. Back to the meeting, Leslie tells Ryan that she hopes he will make the right decision for the "right reasons" - right being Leslie, naturally - and eventually Ryan puts his foot down and says that Leslie will be the "on-air personality" and as Leslie suggests, there will be only one "expert" on the presentation. Amanda, her face pinched in a most unbecoming manner, grudgingly concedes defeat. Thank heavens that Ryan knows when to make an executive decision because I'm starting to worry that Amanda will never stop.
The Primates have less drama in their preparations. Bethenny thinks that Dawna is doing well in her rehearsal but she is worried about Howie who doesn't seem willing to practice, look over the Bon-Aire inflator, remember its name, or let her know what he is doing to get ready for the presentation. He tells her instead vaguely that he will get around to doing all those things when Bethenny keeps egging him to. Bethenny insists that he sits down to familiarize himself with the inflator because they need to win this task. Howie shrugs and nods absently. I try to see whether there is any bandage at the back of his head at repeated viewings of this episode because I like Howie and I want to understand why his morale takes a nosedive like never before in this episode but the camera angle doesn't allow me even one glimpse. Drats. Later, it's 2:00 am and Bethenny tries to get Howie to rehearse one time with Dawna. Dawna has her lines and role down pat, so that's good. For all her reservations about Bethenny and Jim, it doesn't stop her from trying to deliver the goods. Howie, however, still fumbles with his lines. He doesn't even remember the name of the product. It's Bon-Aire! How hard is it to remember that name? Bethenny complains to the camera that Howie choking this time means that he didn't prepare like he said he would. She could only conclude that Howie has wasted all of their time. I like Howie and I also like Bethenny (oh, be quiet, people), and I know these two genuinely like each other as friends, so I can only imagine that Bethenny is really on to something there when she makes such a dramatic proclamation about Howie. Bethenny has no choice but to pull Howie off the QVC presentation. That leaves only Jim to replace Howie. Oh dear. Dawna has a million reservations about Jim being her co-presenter. She confides to the camera that she is worried that Jim might say something inappropriate on TV. Don't worry, he already has so many times in the past. His saying that he stuffed sausages into lower intestines as a past career springs to mind. Bethenny is probably less confident of her decision to pull Howie off the presentation when Jim tells the Primates that he is worried about becoming "like, a nut" on TV. I wonder whether he said the same thing to his wife and friends before he went on to be a contestant on this show.
The next morning. The Matchsticks are scheduled to go on air first so Marcela is hard at work making sure that the set (a house with a garden located in front of a hill) looks great and attractive. She's doing a good job at it, and as she tells the camera, she is very comfortable in picking up sets and props, especially when Amanda goes away to work on her presentation, guffaw. However, as soon as she says that, look who's back but Amanda herself. Amanda starts telling Marcela what she thinks Marcela should have done before moving on to argue with Leslie about the positioning of Reel Smart hose before the camera. At this point, Ryan comes in to stop the nonsense. He authoritatively announces that since he's Project Manager, he would like to know what is going on so that he can make a decision about it. Oh, the Golden Boy can't do wrong, not yet at this point anyway. Finally he takes Leslie aside so that they can talk about Amanda. They both agree that it's not in them to talk over people like Amanda, oh no - I sigh and wonder why these people have to drag in their "I'm so much better than her" complex to ruin everything when I am starting to like these two - so Ryan will sneakily make sure that the camera stays only on Leslie. Leslie cackles in delight. It's not their way to talk over other people, they just smile and do diabolical things to that person when the poor sod is not looking.
It's now time for the show to begin. Ryan goes into the control room to look handsome wearing a headset. He continues to look handsome as he smiles when he sees Leslie and the QVC spokeslady on the monitor. He then ruins everything by telling me in a confessional that the show is Leslie's and therefore if Leslie can "tell a story" about the Reel Smart hose instead of hard-selling it to the audience, they will be on their way to victory. Ah yes, I know once the story of this long hose that can do special tricks like... um, never mind, I'll let Leslie tell the story. Leslie, to no one's surprise, nails the role as this person you'd feel comfortable watching as a salesperson on QVC. The gullible will believe that she's really sincere about this magical hose that will change the world for the better while the cynical will think that she's so full of it but that's to be given, being that she's on QVC, so they will still feel comfortable buying that hose from QVC. Ryan gushes that calls are coming in while the camera zooms in on this chart on the computer screen where the line surges upwards. Martha is seen watching the show in her office. Aww, the poor dear, she can't get out of the house except for business so she has to now incorporate her TV watching into MSLO business affairs. Maybe the next task will involve shilling plastic surgery so that Martha can watch Nip/Tuck in her office TV in peace. The reward will be filming a simulated sex scene with Julian McMahon in an upcoming episode and I'm so applying to be on this show if that happens. When Amanda gets on the TV screen, however, Ryan quickly barks at her to get out because apparently sales starts to drop when Amanda is on the screen. Poor Amanda. But she's supposed to be good with people! The fact that people apparently shriek in terror and quickly drop the telephone whenever Amanda is on TV will shatter her fragile psyche, I tell you. Then again, she'd probably argue that sales are dropping because people pause in their calling to stare admiringly at her stunning profile on TV. When fifteen minutes have passed, the production crew call for a wrap. Ryan announces that everything has been perfect and the Primates all share a group hug, every petty misgiving forgotten momentarily.
Now it's the turn for Primates-R-Us to shine in the spotlight. Their set is simply an SUV parked before a house. They are obviously going to use the Bon-Aire inflator to inflate the tires of the SUV and maybe even balls and other fun things you would bring along for a day at the beach. While waiting for the cameras to roll, Jim that scamp can't resist teasing Dawna by pretending to forget the name of the inflator. Dawna looks like her eyes want to pop out of their sockets, the poor dear. She is probably the studious one as opposed to the most popular in high school, I think, judging from her reaction to Jim. Of course, Jim insists to the camera that he is not a "nervous lick", whatever that is. Bethenny and Howie take their place in the control room, with Bethenny announcing that she's ready to "Oliver Stone" the informercial. Howie fiddles with the controls, however, he fumbles when he tries to contact Jim only to get Dawna twice. The bad news is that Charles is watching him while Howie is fumbling with the controls. If previous episodes are anything to go by, Charles is the one who will bring up all sorts of bad things the Apprenti do in the conference room. Jim continues to tease Dawna, suddenly leaning against the SUV to pat his backside. He tells Dawna, who looks like she's going to die on the spot, that the control room is telling him to drop his trousers. He then proceeds to spank himself. Oh dear, I'm laughing. Please don't hold that against me. Dawna tells the camera that she is worried dearly that Jim would start making comments about his balls that would get the QVC slapped with a hefty fine by the FCC. Well, if Dawna can handle the crude remarks made by Ryan one episode ago about a blouse, I don't understand why she is intimidated by Jim but not Ryan. She can tell Jim to behave like she told Ryan to, after all!
But when the camera rolls, Jim is in fine form as he and Dawna play each other off with surprising chemistry. These two have better be careful or it will be Moonlighting all over again. Bethenny smiles from her place in the control room as she watches Dawna and Jim, saying that it feels "insane" to see those two doing their thing. Dawna announces that she has six Bon-Aire inflators in her garage. Don't ask me why she needs so many of them. Howie tells the camera that at first there aren't many calls coming in. Then Jim picks up a beach ball and starts talking about how his daughter always wants the beach ball inflated quickly so that he and she can have a good time at the beach. That's when those calls start coming in. Bethenny says that Jim is like "a Midwestern, goofy dad" like she wanted him to be on TV. I won't go as far as to call Jim that - I don't even find him goofy - but he's going a good job on that show. However, he commits an understandable mistake: he moves on to demonstrate how to inflate a tire using the Bon-Aire inflator but the vehicle is angled in a way that Jim ends up showing his back to the camera and worse, he ends up standing at the extreme right side of the camera. Howie half-heartedly tells Jim to get back into the shot but he doesn't seem to do anything more than that. Martha, in the meantime, watches the informercial in her office with an inscrutable expression on her face. This scene is obviously staged but since Martha seems to know quite a lot about what happens on every task, either Charles is really giving her detailed reports or she personally takes the trouble to find out what went on in a task. It's within the realm of possibility that she actually watches the presentation before the conference room, I think, especially when she seems really serious about finding a worthy employee at the end of the day from the show.
Back to the Primates, they wrap up after fifteen minutes are up and everyone is happy with the job well done. Dawna tells the camera that she is impressed by the chemistry between her and Jim. Tell me about it. I never expected to like Jim when I first watched this show. Don't fight it, Dawna, it's easier to just surrender. Bethenny tells the Primates that she can't imagine Matchstick doing better than them while Dawna prefers to err at the side of caution by saying that it will be a close result. Come to think of it, I like the Primates' informercial better because there is an element of familiarity in it that I can relate to (going to the beach, needing to inflate a tire) and I find buying an inflator more sensible than buying a retractable hose at the prices that they are going for. For close to $100 for that hose, the only way I will buy it is if it comes with a free Ryan wearing only skimpy underwear to decorate my garden.
Conference room time. Martha waits until all the Apprenti have filed in. She then asks Bethenny how it feels to be Project Manager. Bethenny says that everyone has had fun. Martha wonders how Dawna fit in with the Primates and Bethenny says that while Dawna may be a little startled by the way the other Primates work, she did a great job in this task. Martha asks Alexis for the lowdown on the Primates. Alexis says that the Primates chose to sell the Bon-Aire Cordless Air Inflator and then she pauses to smile dreamily as she says that she loves the inflator. Hmm, I wonder whether the inflator can do anything... special... to make Alexis so happy. Then again, Alexis is probably happy just inflating balloons all day long when she gets back from home. Anyway, Alexis announces that the Primates moved 266 units of the Bon-Aire and raked in $11,911.48 for QVC. Charles now spills about the Matchsticks. Matchsticks sold the Reel Smart Automatic Hose Rewinder and they moved only 143 units. But because the Reel Smart hose is priced higher, Matchstick ends up bringing in $14,295.71 for QVC so Matchstick wins in this task.
Boy, am I annoyed that this show learned nothing from the Pamela fiasco in the second season of Donald Trump's show. I don't understand why a task that seems to be designed to gauge salesmanship is judged solely on revenue brought in and not on other factors like the number of units sold. In this task, Matchstick is obviously the poorer salespeople if we are to judge solely by the number of hoses they managed to move but they win just because they set the price of their units higher. Does that make sense? It didn't make sense when this QVC task was introduced back then and it doesn't make sense now. Martha says to Primates that in the end it all boils down to dollars, which is the sad truth, really. The Primates should have tried to sell a car because it takes only one person to buy that car to beat the Matchsticks.
Back to the show, Martha announces that the Matchsticks will be rewarded with a helicopter ride to Martha's Easthampton home where they will then get a tour of that house led by Kevin Sharkey, whom Martha says is the "decorating editor" of Martha Stewart Living. Either he edits the decoration tips in that magazine or he is decorating the staff roster as a non-functional editor. Hey, he's giving tours of Martha Stewart's homes. I can't be blamed for thinking that he can't be that important an editor to the magazine if he is called to do this kind of thing!
In the Loft, Bethenny wonders whether she can call in sick and not attend the conference room session with Martha. Knowing Martha, she'd probably drop by and have the session in the Loft if that's the case. Howie gives her and Jim some Richard Nixon quote about directing your negative feelings inwards in order to be a good loser, and heaven knows Richard Nixon should know a thing or two about losing. To the camera, Howie complains that he hates losing, especially when he loses out on a superb once-in-a-lifetime helicopter ride to Martha's Easthampton home. Is this guy for real? I can't imagine anyone but Marcela wanting so badly to visit Martha's home unless it's for a chance to steal her ugly stuffed fish and burn them all for the sake of mankind. Indeed, the Matchsticks are given a tour of the house where the most noteworthy thing is the fact that Kevin praises Martha for being "the biggest animal lover there is" while without irony showing the Matchsticks the collection of stuffed animals arranged neatly all over the place. Or maybe he is being ironic in that "creative bloke speaking in an ennui-ridden voice" way, just very subtly so that he won't be fired when Martha watches him in action. Or maybe he's being literal in the sense that a "stamp lover" collects stamps so an "animal lover" therefore collects animals. And since animals make a mess and Martha doesn't like mess, she probably finds it more sensible to have them stuffed. I don't know. Leslie tells the camera that all these rewards by Martha are special because it allows people like her to get a glimpse of Martha's life. This puzzles me because I'm sure no good employer will encourage the blurring of personal and professional boundaries. Leslie must be trying to rationalize why she's not getting Gucci outfits or a chance to rap with Wycleaf Jean.
Back to the Loft, Dawna and Bethenny are having a blunt conversation where Dawna tells Bethenny that she can't work with someone like Bethenny whose energies Dawna insists aren't "focused enough". She says that if Martha is looking for someone like Bethenny for MSLO, then she won't be hiring Dawna. While I'm glad that they are not being at each other's throats, I wonder why Dawna feels this need to lay it out to Bethenny like that. Of course, as I shall learn in the next episode, pretty much all the corporate types of pre-shuffle Primates-R-Us feel that they are above and better than Primates and if they lose, it's because Martha wants some "loser" out-of-control type like Jim and Bethenny. I really find it hard to root for the "good" guys when they are being condescending and arrogant about their abilities, especially when they go out of their way to let the "bad guys" know how much better they think they are compared to the "bad guys". Bethenny a little tearfully tells the camera that she worked very hard in the task and she is so disappointed that they didn't win. I know. The Primates moved slightly less than double of units, which means that they are better salespeople in that task, and yet they lost because they didn't priced their item above $100. It doesn't make sense and it's so freaking disappointing. Meanwhile, Dawna says to the camera that Bethenny should go. Because she doesn't fit Dawna's vision of what a Martha Stewart employee should be, I suppose. All these smug corporate Apprenti never asked Martha what she is looking for and yet here they are assuming that they are the ones Martha is looking for. Sheesh.
Later, Bethenny and Jim are talking. Jim is telling Bethenny that if it comes down to Bethenny versus Howie, he'd rather see Howie go. Howie then comes into the room and Jim quickly changes the topic to getting rid of Dawna. A Dawna bitchfest ensues where the three of them agree that Dawna has quite the nerve to come into their team and expect them to change to conform to her standards. And after listening to Dawna's speech to Bethenny in the previous scene, I can't blame them for being annoyed at Dawna. I probably would to if I am in their shoes. Jim tries to get Howie and Bethenny to bring up the fact that Dawna can't adapt in working environments outside her comfort zone. To the camera, he says that this won't get Dawna fired because Dawna had nothing to do with the team's loss but if he can get Bethenny and Howie to plant doubts in Martha's mind about Dawna, he's all for it. Oh, and notice how he wants Bethenny and Howie to do his dirty work for him. As strategies go, this isn't too bad although I have my doubts about its rate of success. I mean, so what if Dawna can't work with crazy and loud types? Martha probably believes that she runs a company that leans towards the quiet and efficient sort as opposed to the Jim and Bethenny Road Show so she probably won't think worse of Dawna for not fitting in with the Jim and Bethenny Road Show culture.
Martha, Alexis, and Charles are waiting as the Primates shuffle with their bags to the conference room. Julia is, as always, smiling like she's enjoying some secret joke at the Apprenti's expense. I can't help thinking that she and Alexis should change roles on this show. I like Alexis but I think I will like her better if she's the receptionist that keeps throwing dagger-like stares at the Apprenti from behind her table. Once Bethenny and her team mates have taken their seats, Martha asks Bethenny who she thinks is responsible for the team's loss. Bethenny says that she can't think of anyone because she believes that everyone worked hard on the task. Hmm, she can't be such a bad team leader if she's so loyal to her team mates, I must say. Charles then cuts in, as per his style, to ask Dawna what she thinks. Dawna thinks that Bethenny should go because she tends to get "hyper" and Dawna thinks that Bethenny's method fauled to motivate her team. Dawna says "team" but she actually means "me", of course. Bethenny defends herself by saying that sure, she actually pre-judged Dawna at first but she changes her attitude and realizes her mistake when she sees how well Dawna was doing during the rehearsal. Speaking of the presentation, Martha asks about it and Dawna chuckles as she talks about how "shocked" she is that Jim didn't do anything untowards on screen. If this attitude of Dawna continues, Dawna will be best friends with the Primates by the end of the season and they will drunkenly moon Martha during the finale wrap-up party. She reminds me a lot of Paris from that TV show The Gilmore Girls when Paris still couldn't decide whether Rory Gilmore was despicable, a threat, or a nuisance.
Howie tries to blame the Bon-Aire product selection as a reason for their loss but Martha overrides him, saying that she thinks that the problem was in the sales pitch. I don't know about you, but the fact that the Primates sold almost double that what the Matchsticks sold suggests to me that the sales pitch wasn't the problem. Howie is partially right in this case: the product, or rather, the price tag of the product was the problem. Still, Martha continues to insist that the Primates could have done better, like Jim shouldn't talk over Dawna often in the presentation, how Jim didn't look at the camera, and how his back was to the camera at times. I never see Jim talk over Dawna but hey, I also believe that there is really no way Martha can insist that the problem with the task was in the sales pitch when the Primates sold nearly double the number of units the Matchsticks sold, so there you go. Martha thinks that the presentation could be more polished and rehearsed. Oops. I'm sure Howie is dreading the moment when this matter will be brought up. Jim says that the reason he didn't have enough practice was because Howie "backed out". Howie argued that he didn't back out, although how being benched by Bethenny is better than backing out, I have no idea. Howie insists that he wasn't in the presentation because things mysteriously didn't work out. Alexis asks Howie whether he wanted to present and he said that he did. Martha wonders dryly whether it is because Howie has no "magnetism" that Howie ended up being dropped from the presentation. Howie actually blushes as he says that perhaps he and Dawna have no chemistry. Dawna will go back to the Loft and hug herself hard later tonight as she mulls over the scary fact that she has plenty of chemistry with Jim, of all people. Bethenny starts to explain why Howie was benched, telling Martha that Howie didn't seem interested in presenting and Howie didn't know the name of the product hours after they have started rehearsing. She catches herself in the midst of her sentences speeding up and her voice rising, and ruefully admits that she needs to catch her breath before she becomes "hyper". Martha actually smiles upon hearing this. She takes the opportunity to cut in and tell Bethenny to pick one person to send back to the Loft. Bethenny noticeably hesitates before picking Dawna because Dawna had a "good track record" and a "great dynamic".
But just when I'm thinking that Bethenny is smart enough not to fall for Jim's machination, she starts apologizing to Jim while they wait for Julia to call them back in the conference room, whispering that she doesn't believe that Jim deserves to be here but she has to send Dawna back so there is no one else to take along to the conference room with her. Jim nods and says that it is okay so she can let "it" go. "It's all business," he tells her and we all know from his confessionals that he means that completely. As Bethenny sits down between Howie and Jim, she now whispers to Howie how sorry she is to take him to the conference room. He just nods but doesn't look at her face. She tells both men that that Martha may fire her if she takes the wrong people to the conference room. I see someone has learned a lesson from David's stupidly taking Dawn and Marcela into the conference room during the wedding cake task. Now both men start bagging on Bethenny for being easy on Dawna. Jim wonders why they are all "tiptoeing around Dawna" - not that he brought up Dawna's name in the conference room, as you've noticed. Howie says that it doesn't make sense why Dawna is safe and they aren't. I don't think he wants to know the answer to that one, heh. Both men say in their typical passive-aggressive manner, complete with obnoxious "hey, I'm a martyr now" expressions, that "it is too late now". Bethenny looks absolutely gutted when to these men when she should have reminded the two men that she didn't have to be the only one to try and take down Dawna before Martha. Howie says again that it's too late for regrets. It looks to me like both men have made Bethenny agree to target Dawna and from Howie's brusque tone, Bethenny has chickened out of that deal in the last minute. Bethenny apologetically tells the two men that she would bring up Dawna's apparently heinous sin of not being some "true" Primate the moment they return to the conference room so that the "record can reflect that". And right on cue, Julia tells them that Martha would like to see the three of them. As the three Primates walk through the door, Bethenny says to Jim that she is going to "say it". Jim simply answers that she can do as she likes.
Back in the conference room, Martha brands the team's effort and Bethenny's stint as a Project Manager an "utter failure". Sheesh. What's not a failure then, Martha? The Primates selling four times as many as the Matchsticks did? This is getting ridiculous, the assertion that the Primates somehow did worse than the Matchsticks. Martha asks Bethenny what the problem is that Bethenny can't deliver a victory for the Primates. Bethenny doesn't actually answer the question, instead she defends herself by saying that she gives her "500%" to the task and she worked very hard. That is true, from what I've seen in this episode. Bethenny then tries to bring up Dawna but Charles quickly shuts down that subject by saying that Dawna isn't in the conference room so there is no need to talk about her. Howie says that Bethenny is at fault for not taking a "dry run" and "right off the bat decide who was qualified" to present, which is complete nonsense as he was the one who didn't want to rehearse until later in the day. Bethenny starts to protest and Alexis points out to Howie that it was he who didn't want to rehearse until later in the day. Bethenny and Howie then start arguing in a circular manner that involves plenty of passing the blame around and around until Martha has had enough and cuts in to tell Howie that he had an entire day to prepare for the presentation and the fact remains that he didn't "step up to the plate" and "take hold of the sales pitch" when he had the chance. To Bethenny, Martha says that Bethenny recognizes her own faults but all she did so far was to tell Martha that she would work on "this" and "that". In short, it was all talk and no action for Bethenny. Bethenny protests, saying that she is a hard worker with "such passion" who will put her "blood, sweat, and tears" in any "arena" - what a charming bloodthirsty Roman she is - including jumping around and making a fool of herself. Heh, just like she did in the previous episode!
However, Martha thinks that Bethenny is "kinda sorely lacking" in leadership skills and Bethenny should look into "those". Lady, Bethenny led her team into selling nearly twice the number of overpriced thingies compared to Matchstick. What does Martha want Bethenny to do? Lead the charge at Waterloo and win? Martha also thinks that Bethenny can't make a decision in a timely manner, which is the only thing that's fair coming from Martha about Bethenny's actually decent Project Manager stint. Martha however still likes Bethenny who is a hard worker, albeit an easily excitable one, that puts her everything into the task. Not to mention that, apart from Marcela, Bethenny may be the only person here who will genuinely be happy to work for Martha Stewart. Martha turns to Howie and says that he doesn't show any passion. In MSLO, she says, employees must feel "real passion" for "the work", and since Howie obviously blanked out on this particular task, she has no choice but to dismiss him. "I just don't get what you would do in our kind of company," she says and gives him her hand as she bids him goodbye. Howie thanks Martha for the opportunity and takes his leave.
Outside, Bethenny asks Jim nervously whether she should say something to Howie. Jim advises her not to but tells her that it's up to her to do what she wants to do. As Howie approaches the elevator door, Bethenny loses it and starts hugging Howie hard as she apologizes to him, asks him not to be mad at her, and tells him that she loves him. Jim gives Howie a goodbye hug too. Howie gently lets Bethenny know that he's not ready to forgive her yet. Julia watches those three with a weird grimace on her face like she's not sure whether to giggle or to cry. Jim calms a shaken Bethenny as they both walk into the elevator that will take them back up to the Loft while Howie walks out of the office through the other door.
Back in the conference room, Martha says that Howie just didn't have the passion. Alexis says that Howie is not a risk taker. Charles agrees. Martha says that Howie didn't have a "competitive spirit" and Alexis, on a talkative mood in this episode, thinks that Howie only cares about competing when he knows that he is winning. Zing! Alexis makes the most astute observation of the episode when it comes to why Howie seems so disenchanted and listless this episode. Yeah, he is vibrant and alive early in the season but when he finds himself in a reshuffled Primates-R-Us and on a losing streak, he starts going down that slippery slope until he reaches the bottom in this episode. Martha thinks she made the right decision to dismiss Howie and Charles quickly agrees with her. Martha writes a letter to Howie:
"Dear Howie, I know you are successful and I think that if you do put the efforts into your home-started business with your wife, it will burgeon and grow. You are proud of your customer base. Continue to service it and you will reap great rewards. Best wishes, it was nice to see you here, Martha Stewart".
She is referring to Howie's fashion business Priorities, by the way.
The elevator ramp is pulled up and Jim and Bethenny walk back to the Loft, two against the world, hyperactive misfits against the corporates who don't think much of them. The door closes behind them and the show is done for the day.
So, did Martha make the right decision? In my opinion, absolutely. It is hard to actually say that Primates-R-Us lost the task when they sold many more units than the Matchsticks, but they did lose because at the end of the day, the winner is decided by how much money they bring in and not how many they sell. Howie is the only one who not only didn't put any significant contribution to the task but also inadvertently hampered the progress of the team when Bethenny had to substitute him with Jim at the last minute. Jim worked and delivered, Bethenny worked and delivered, Dawna worked and delivered, and Howie... didn't. It's an easy decision, actually, and one of the easiest Martha has to make in the season.
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