Pretty much the only recognizably Apprentice episode of this entire season: smart, fast-paced, interesting, not too cartoonish or silly, lame only in the way of real business. The Final Four go to "dinner" -- which in this case means cocktails in an abandoned warehouse -- with four of the most boring people in the universe. It's the prior Apprenti! Minus Bill! They say a lot of boring things to each other and pretend that they're famous for awhile, and then Kelly gives the two teams (Stefani/James and Frank/Nicole, naturally) thirty seconds to come up with their chosen cobra'd sequesterees. Stefani and James choose Aaron and Angela, for reasons they cannot explain. Nicole chooses Tim immediately, and then she and Frank pick...Surya! Also for reasons they can't explain. Even Surya thinks it's weird.
The task: create a "mini-movie" for air freshener. Team James/Stefani decide to focus on some kind of a crime scene or something -- they put a dog on trial? Or use air freshener to destroy evidence, or something. Whatever. Stefani gets irritated by James's meandering OCD, showing him up pretty much all over the place. Aaron is there to be looked at; Angela is invisible throughout. James pushes Stefani around the same way Frank does Nicole, for the same reason, and hyperfocusing on anything he can, resulting in a Lynchian masterpiece of banal weirdness. Team Frank/Nicole decide on a grim story about hurt kids and homeless jokes. Nicole works the execs, brilliantly, which Frank finds confusing; Surya does nothing too terrible or too interesting; Frank is a great director but outpaced overall; and Tim is just kinda there. Frank makes a huge ass of himself for no reason, fighting Nicole on every single point so she looks like a controlling jerk, which she's not; she's actually the coolest person in the entire episode -- though her editing choices are totally surreal and Mentos-esque, the commercial is an audience hit.
The execs love James and Stefani, but sell out Nicole in Frank's unsavory favor; Surya makes no sense as usual and seems to think Frank would not be out of place at MIT; Aaron adorably plants the seeds for a James/Stefani double-hire, and then...Trump makes no decision at all and sends everybody home. What? The task itself wasn't that exciting, but the strange conclusion will make for a really exciting finale. Next week might be a four-way bloodbath, but this week was really pleasant. See you there.
The weird part is, I made up my mind last week to let Nicole off easy this week no matter what, because it's really tiresome to bitch and moan and complain about the same thing every week, not to mention the fact that everybody has their entire lives edited down to these tiny little nubbins of a personality. Nicole's mom is awesome, and all her teammates really respect her... so is she really the Fourth Horseman? Doubtful. Now, I don't feel bad about the actual hatred, because the Nicole nubbin they created is A) completely calculated to make me lose my friggin' mind -- I mean just a checklist of the disappointing things about people that make me most angry -- in much the same way as the Heidi nubbin is pretty much everything I like in a person, and what they both say about me, good and bad. But also, B) it's not like those things are fictional or untrue, about Nicole. The letters A-M, while not representing the entire alphabet, are still verifiably letters in the alphabet. We can talk about the evil of Donald Trump all day, but if he were a relative of yours, that slightly embarrassing, grandiose, clueless, racist, misogynist homophobe uncle, or your dad even, you'd see past it. If we can admit that, then we can admit that Nicole's probably pretty fun, a good and caring friend, and a savvy business person -- that's not what this show's ever been about.
The facts of life, as I am given to understand them, are that you take the good and you take the bad. This show doesn't give us much of either: just a narrowly defined "type" that suits the story they can tell. Nicole's a reasonably complex person, and even a very simple person, even Frankie Suits himself, can't be perfect. So I think with Nicole it's an issue where we don't have a lot in common, just as adult people: We both think Tim is awesome, and we both have no idea how bad the jellyfish sting hurts until we know how much it hurt other people, and that's all there is, to the two of us. One is a small thing, the other is huge to me, but then if they shaved off everything in her complexity that I would have found redeeming... because it is an asshole, this show. And the precise way in which this show is an asshole means that I have too many options to be outraged by. Is Nicole painted down to the bare-assed insecurity we've all come to know, does this happen because she's a woman? Because she's gotta look trashy so Arrow all fits together in one big trashy mess? In order to bring about the most shark-jumpiest possible Final Four? Is it so that the women of this season that made it through to the end are immediately discernable from each other? So many different ways to be offended by this show, it's choice paralysis (though at this very second, I'm thinking it's mostly the last option). That's what watching TV is like. That's the point of TV, in my opinion: taking it apart and taking yourself apart in the process, and putting both things back together better than they were. Either way, Nicole's not actually the worst thing in the world, as I may have led you to believe. She's a person. She doesn't need to be redeemed, she just needs to be Nicole. She's working on it. We all are. So what's interesting is how enchanting I found her in this episode, because like I said: I was already planning on being nice. Which is a good thing, because if I was still looking for reasons to insult her, this episode would have been crazy frustrating.