Annie Duke Survives Another Week of Celebrity Apprentice

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Well, I survived another week...yay! Tonight I watched the show while commenting on Twitter. I tweeted on the @CelebApprentice account. Really fun and Joe was replying to some of my tweets.  I mean he was sitting right next to me but he wasn't telling me what he was tweeting and I just kept bursting in to laughter during the show whenever I saw one of his replies. One great example of a Joe tweet tonight was something like: Next week the task is who can drink the most in gay bars while wearing a wedding dress. Rodman project manages.  I love my man. He is freaking funny.

Anyway, on to my analysis of the episode. I was pretty sure going into this challenge that from a strategic standpoint the women winning could be bad. Here is why. Personally, I really knew my team at this point. I had a good understanding of what everyone's strengths and weaknesses were. I was finally getting along with them (well most of them). The men's team was a bit of a mess. I had no idea what any of their strengths or weaknesses were. I knew Rodman was a complete, disruptive mess. I also understood that if the women won this challenge the teams would be reshuffled. They can't have the teams be 8 on 4 and I did not want a reshuffle. I was comfortable where I was... that on my team I was unlikely to be brought into a boardroom and I wanted to keep it that way and avoid the reshuffle.

In poker we call this a freeroll. I figured if we won the challenge then I would avoid the boardroom which is always good. It is always good to not even fade the possibility.  But I also figured that if we lost the challenge I could keep myself out of the boardroom and then not fade the reshuffle of the teams. Two weeks ago I was begging for a reshuffle of the teams. Now I was going to be happy staying put where I was. Two weeks can change a lot. Because I considered it a win either way and the only sure way to stay out of the boardroom was to win the task, I was going to work my ass off to try to make sure we won. But if we lost I was probably okay with it, too.

When I heard the task I knew that I could not contribute much to the show itself. Putting on a stage production for a product launch is definitely completely outside the realm of what a poker player's skills are! I assumed Melissa was going to step up since it sounded like a big production thing which is what Melissa says her skill set is. I definitely didn't think it was a good task for Claudia. It seemed like something someone who has experience mounting live shows should take on and that would be Melissa or Tionne. But Claudia seemed really excited about it so I guess the group let her take it.

The men did not make the same mistake. Brian McKnight stepped up to the plate and he has put on tons of live stage shows. It is what he does. It is completely in his wheelhouse. That being said, even with all that experience, the volatility of he men's team might get in the way anyway.  And the fireworks started right away. When Clint and I were negotiating for the order in which the shows went on Rodman was sitting away from his team and there was clearly tension. But then that tension erupted with Rodman completely getting in Clint's face in a very threatening way. I thought it was a joke at first so I wasn't really scared about it but then I figured out it was real and was completely freaked out. Dennis is a huge dude in person. His hands alone are bigger than my head. And to see that kind of anger erupting from that body is, frankly, scary. It was very uncomfortable. And then Dennis stormed off and quit.

But I am going to talk about Athena first because I think the dynamics on Athena were the most interesting this week, despite the Rodman meltdown.

After the Rodman scene, the girls went on our way to start working out the details of our presentation and two things were clear right away: Claudia was not a great leader and Melissa and Claudia really, really did not like each other. Talk about a personality conflict on steroids. Holy cow. Now interestingly, early in the day that conflict really did come from Melissa. Melissa was pushy and aggressive with Claudia and, as Claudia said, Melissa was somewhat obnoxious in the way she was dealing with people. Melissa was essentially trying to be project manager and completely stepped out of bounds. If she wanted to project manage, she should have stepped up to the plate. But letting Claudia take it and then totally stepping on Claudia's toes was really not okay and it was obnoxious. However, once Claudia snapped at her about it, Melissa stormed off for a cigarette and when she came back she completely transformed...to her credit. She apologized to Claudia and basically just said I will do whatever you tell me to do. That was the right move by Melissa. She made it clear she would completely defer to her PM. But by that time Claudia had made this whole thing personal and did not see what Melissa was trying to offer at this point.

This whole thing reminded me of what happened with Scott and Tom on the Zappos.com task. Yes, Tom was annoying. That was clear. But Tom had the best ideas and Scott allowed his personal feelings for Tom to get in the way of seeing that Tom's ideas were actually the best ideas on the task. That is why Scott got fired. You sometimes have to work with people you don't like (as Khloe said in the boardroom). But just because you don't like them does not mean you should close your mind to what they have to offer. To do that is a fatal error. Don jr. said so. Trump said so. Ivanka said so. They are spot on there. Claudia was the Scott Hamilton of this task for sure. Melissa was the Tom Green.

So, Claudia ran the creative on this and decided to do these three little scenes or vignettes live on stage. Natalie and I were sent out to get props for the stage show. This was the second task in a row that we spent together and we had a great time, as usual. At this point, while we were out, we were still under the impression that Melissa was really causing all the problems. If you had asked us at that point in the day who should be fired if we lose I know I would have said Melissa, hands down, and I think that Natalie would have as well.

When we returned, I was tasked with writing a marketing brochure for the phone to hand out to the sales reps. But I couldn't even think or concentrate because the room was complete chaos. There was a screaming baby, people just yelling over each other. I mean, as I said on the show, it was like the 7th rung of hell. At this point, Natalie and I both heard what the structure of the show was and I felt like it was too much like a high school talent show with all the skits. So I asked if I could talk to Claudia in private. We went to a room alone (I thought it would be disrespectful to the project manager to discuss it in public) and I told her that I thought the skits were too much, they were cheesy and that she should edit the show down. Let Joan do her thing and maybe do one great skit. 2 max. Claudia just kind of smiled and dismissed my input. Fine by me. I said my peace and just hoped I was wrong.

Finally, everyone left and Khloe stayed behind with me while I wrote the marketing brochure in a quiet room. It was so great to have some peace again. Khloe was a great sounding board for the writing as well. At that point, Claudia and Brande and Tionne went off to edit the videos and Melissa and Natalie came back to the war room and we all started timing the show out. Now I heard what was happening during the rehearsals and all the reports were that Claudia was refusing to listen to Melissa, that Melissa was being completely shut out. I mean Melissa actually knew how to stage the show. Cutting her out of the process was not smart and it was clear that everyone who came back to the war room felt like Claudia was not managing the task well because she was letting personal feelings cloud her judgment. The person whose input I trusted the most on this was Natalie. Natalie was 100% that Claudia was at fault. She was clear on that. Natalie is a very fair person and I really trusted her judgment on this so at that point I was very sure where to place the blame but I did want to see for myself. I had that opportunity the next day.

When we went in to rehearse the next morning it was a total disaster. The show was horrid. Joan Rivers was very funny but the timing was off, the skits were horrid and cheesy and Claudia was, frankly, dismissive and rude to Melissa. Claudia just could not see how bad this show was despite tons of input the day before and the morning of to that effect. I was doubtful the show would even get mounted at all that morning. When I was asked to rate how bad I thought it was on a scale of 1 to 10 my answer was "A Billion!"

In the meantime, Claudia had snuck a peak at the boys' rehearsal and was very sniping about it. One thing I did not like from watching the show was that Claudia's comments always seemed so personal about everyone...personally insulting. I think comments on this show should be kept to business and to make fun of someone's face (as she did in commenting about Melissa), whether you like them or not, is below the belt...in my opinion. Claudia should not have been so sniping about the boys' show. She should have been quivering because their show rocked. Sometimes, overconfidence can really hurt. And she was overconfident. And dismissive of anyone trying to give her any warnings that the show might be failing.

Okay...so we get to the boardroom. I am not really confident. There was a moment where I thought Joan really pulled it out...they caught that on tape. I think it was just the exhilaration that we had a show at all. But by the time we got to the boardroom I was feeling like we had lost. In fact, Trump asked me how I thought we did and my answer was something like: If we won it is only because of Joan Rivers. The rest of the show was just so bad. So, immediately the fighting starts between Melissa and Claudia. But what is also clear is that the whole team is backing up Melissa on this one. Regardless of whether Melissa was obnoxious or rude or whatever, she was the one who pulled the show together so we could stage anything at all. Everyone on the team knew Melissa had come through. And no one was going to throw her under the bus.

After we found out we lost, Trump asked me a lot of questions about it. I think I was really fair. I didn't want to get personal. I wanted to keep it to business. And I believe I did that. My point was that both Melissa and Claudia had been obnoxious to each other to begin with but Melissa had put her head down and decided to just work hard and not make waves that first morning but Claudia had refused to accept that, continuing to be rude and completely closed off to Melissa's input (or mine or Natalie's for that matter). Claudia, as everyone pointed out, had allowed her personal dislike of Melissa to completely get in the way of making good business decisions. I also said of Khloe, when asked, that she was at loose ends, waiting for a job to do. But I said it was Trump's decision whether that was Claudia's fault for not managing Khloe well or Khloe's fault for not stepping up and volunteering. I personally think both are at fault but the bigger fault there lies with Claudia.

Interstingly enough, Claudia really allowed her personal feelings to get in the way of making a good decision about who to bring in the board room. There was no question that Melissa was not getting fired. Claudia should have heard that loud and clear and not brought Melissa into the boardroom. Trump basically told her to bring Khloe in. Claudia heard that. But Trump also told her loud and clear to bring in Tionne. Trump felt Tionne should have performed. I think he might very well have fired her for not stepping up to the plate and doing so. We will never know because Claudia's friendship with Tionne stopped her from hearing the advice from Trump. Claudia's hatred of Melissa drove her to bring Melissa in with her instead. Big mistake because now Claudia had to hope Trump would fire Khloe. She only had one out instead of two.

In the end, Trump fired Claudia and I believe it was the right decision. As I said in the boardroom, Claudia made a lot of noise, and I think was kind of mean about her team members, but she didn't really produce. If you are going to be that loud, you need to produce. Period. She didn't. So she was the first to go.

Now onto KOTU.

The men did an amazing job this week. There is actually not that much to say. Jesse James, as usual, hit one out of the park with his video. He always just produces in such a big way. Brian was great and put on a great show. There were only two interesting things about the boys this week. First, the dynamic between Clint and Brian was quite amusing with Clint clearly getting pissed that his expertise as a performer was not being utilized. That being said, Clint really acted like a team player and subordinated himself to Brian well. Kudos to him for that because I imagine that for someone with his performance experience that must have been really hard to sit back like he did.

Now on to Rodman. Obviously, the blow up was very out of the blue and crazy. But what I found more interesting were his comments when he came back to the war room to try to work and Brian wouldn't let him be involved. First, I don't really blame Brian for that. Rodman has been nothing but a disruptive force on his team and I don't blame Brian for wanting him out of the way (I would have taken the free monitors, though). Second, I find it interesting that Rodman just complains and complains about how unfairly he is treated, how everyone is persecuting him for no reason. He was disruptive on the first two tasks, spent the whole third task either drinking, drunk or too hungover to even show up, then blows up the morning of the 4th task delivery and quits the show briefly. Is he not able to take any personal repsonsiblity for his behavior, take any responsibility for why people treat him the way they do? I mean say what you want about me, but I take full responsibility for why some people really don't like me. I totally understand the things I do that get under people's skin, that rub people the wrong way. Dennis' behavior is so outrageous and yet if you listen to him he is as meek and quiet as a lamb and never does anything that might piss people off (or scare them for that matter). A little more self awareness would go a long way with that guy.

On a closing note, I was asked a very interesting question tonight. Someone asked me why I defended Melissa so vehemently in the boardroom tonight and gave Joan big props when they had been mean to me on the previous tasks. First, I want to say that Melissa and I had no problems up until this point. We were actually getting along. Joan, obviously, is another story. But even so, even if  Melissa had been asshole to me, it shouldn'y matter and I found the question a but confusing. The answer is that they did the best job on this task. Period. How they feel about me as a person, whether they like me or are nice to me, has nothing to do with my judgment of who performed on a task. They did the best job. If I don't say so then that is dishonest. I think the person who gets fired should be based on merit and not personal like or dislike. Claudia would have done well to take that to heart herself.

Join Annie Duke online at www.ultimatebet.com

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