CNBC

Which Prospective The Partner Won't Be Getting A Seat At Marcus Lemonis's Table?

The potential Partners are asked to brand themselves, and one is branded an unimaginative also-ran.

The second episode of The Partner isn't quiiiiite there. Marcus Lemonis has the seed of a good idea when he brings the Fab Five to [big-box retailer that's functionally irrelevant to the challenge] to get inspiration for a self-assessment task, then puts them together with a branding agency to create big posters that should explain and sell their Partner-pertinent brands. Lemonis will assess them, but folks on the plaza where the posters get unveiled will also vote on their favorites. It's a tough challenge, for sure -- if I had to sell who I am and what I do in this manner, I don't know where I'd begin -- and how the prospectives react speaks not just to their creativity and realism about their personal "business brands," but their adaptability, confidence, and performance under pressure.

That said, on balance this particular group isn't necessarily cast to perform well on the task, and the second task of the episode -- Lemonis tells the group he's going to invest in one of two businesses who are set to pitch them; he doesn't tell them both businesses are fake, and he's really looking for someone to tell him they both suck -- comes off like a pointless set-up. Lemonis wants to find a partner, not an assistant, so in theory it's critical that he identify the prospectives whose opinions he understands and whose judgment he can trust. In practice, if I'm told one of these businesses is getting a bid, I'm working off that brief, to wit: pick one; unless both are offensive or idiotic, I'm...picking one. I don't know what Lemonis learns from their failure to die on a hill they don't know isn't really there, if that makes any sense.

With all of that said, it's still miles more indicative of and relevant to IRL performance than anything The Apprentice cooked up, and while it might point up Chuck's weaknesses almost by accident, it does point them up, and Lemonis is correct to send him home.

Who's a Buffett and who's just getting buffeted by the process? I've ranked the players.

  1. Erin
    I don't think I'd enjoy the dude in person -- the grand tone he takes when the group is giving feedback on one another's posters is kind of That Guy In Your MFA

    but the MBA edition -- but he had far and away the best poster. Appending that weakly positive workshoppy "the spacing and stuff is great" to the end of his comments? Masterful shade. Also loved his response to Chuck's ouster.

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    Hard to say whether he's pulling that "yikes" face at Chuck leaving, or at Juli and Buffie crying about it, but either way: snerk.

  2. Buffie
    I wouldn't call her poster a success, but her willingness to scrap everything and take a flyer on a new approach with five minutes left speaks well of her, and I totally agree with her pitch on behalf of Splurge. I think she came into the show with a glibness that has historically worked well for her but isn't carrying her now, and watching her adjust is interesting. She may go the distance.
  3. Splurge
    Would patronize.

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    I know that technically it already exists -- just go to your fast-food/fast casual retailer of choice and order a lot of the greasy shit -- but this take on the branding is hilarious and would probably do well as at least a pop-up.

  4. Lemonis's reaction to Splurge
    "I'm not gonna invest in a concept that makes people eat too much!" Ah, yes. Sweet Pete's, the burger joint -- all about a healthy lifestyle.

    Come on, man. They think you're going to invest in Splurge because you told them as much.

  5. Juli
    Juli wins the vote, but her poster isn't Lemonis's favorite (or mine; it needed to cut a few lines and do better on the parallel structure) and her talking-head about Erin trying to "dim somebody else's light" kind of annoyed me too, for a couple of reasons.

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    One, I don't think that's what Erin is doing; he's speaking dismissively, but I didn't take it as his trying to run Juli down so he'd look better. It's more that, because he already got almost unalloyed praise for his poster, he felt empowered to talk down to Juli about hers.

    Two, in a larger sense it feels like Juli doesn't "get it" as far as the image of herself as strong and powerful that she's trying to put forward for Lemonis, because she's already a creator and entrepreneur. A prosecutor once said of a defendant that, if he could prove the defendant committed the murder, he didn't have to prove the defendant was the kind of guy who could commit the murder; same principle. If Lemonis tells me he doesn't believe I have the confidence to run a business, why do I have to care about that comment when I...demonstrably run a business?

    The crying is not the best look under the circs, but it happens; what she needs to do less of isn't so much that as trying to manage what people think about that.

  6. Peilin
    I'm a little disappointed in Lemonis's response to Peilin's complaints, too. Her poster was okay, but her note that the feedback and voting was "not a full process" comes off whiny, and no, it's not "about" Peilin being "too hard on" herself. As Lemonis did point out, everyone had the same set of constraints; it's "about" her feeling like the challenge didn't play to her strengths. It's also "about" her expecting a more positive response for speaking truthfully about disliking the task, and not getting the traction she'd hoped from doing so.

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    And seriously, stop mentioning Harvard Law. Unless there's a task in court, nobody cares.

  7. Chuck
    I felt for him, but watching him struggle to come up with branding adjectives is painful, and so is the end result. Nice rictus, soldier.

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    It's too bad he didn't get to show more of what he could do, but sending him home is the right call, even if it's only for the tone-deaf sell he tries at the end, misreading what Lemonis wants to hear about independent and flexible thinking and pitching himself as a loyal rule-follower.

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    I suspect that, if left to sink or swim as a partner of Lemonis's, Chuck would probably swim just fine, but even feigning adaptability was beyond him here.

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