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WeCrashed - Episode 1.06 - Fortitude - Review

As Adam wakes up in post-party pandemonium WeWork offices, there's a quiet, yet very real, rumble of fear starting to spread and crack through his idyllic façade. While every funding series has served to camouflage the quite literal burning of cash WeWork goes through every single day, Adam seems to quickly be reaching the last time this'll ever "succeed", if one can even call it that. On a more personal level, in "Fortitude", Rebekah's complete disregard for, well, any ounce of reality, is also starting to drive a wedge between the former "supernova" couple.

What does a billion dollar valued company CEO do, when things get hard? He wants to "manifest the sun", which turns out to be... California. He and Rebekah immediately set off, settling in one of their new mansions with the entire family, and Adam proceeds to conduct business from the beach. "WeWork is everywhere" does indeed take working from home to a whole new level. Mind you, this was pre-pandemic, so working from "home" was still quite novel for most people. Not Adam Neumann though, he calls in to board meetings from a lounge chair, and greets board members in a wet suit, water streaming off him after an excellent surf session. (See, Sandy Cohen did his surfing before going to defend penniless people, not during. But Sandy Cohen, Adam is not). Not only is this not just a vacation, but Rebekah has single-mindedly decided to take their children out of school, without, it seems, even warning said (private, $40K/year), school. This, unfortunately, leads to Rebekah's brilliant first breakthough as Chief Branding Officer: We. Yes, We. We...everything. WeLearn, WeFly, WeEat, WeBank.

"We don't stumble. We fly."
Famous last words, but I digress. I assume this is when Adam, overwhelmed by his wife's...*gestures wildly* business "savvy", trademarks the name "We" (and then promptly sells it to his own company, for millions of -investor money- dollars). It doesn't take long for Rebekah to extrapolate this to their children, who after all can't possibly thrive in NYC's best private schools, compared to what she can build for them. Thus is born (not another Neumann, no) "WeGrow", a school designed to bring out every child's superpowers. Yes, you read that right, and no, I would never be able to keep a straight face if I'd ever witnessed Rebekah pronouncing these words in the flesh, as she also mentions her own teachers being "the dalai lama, and mother nature".

Dr Green (who, in fact, is playing "Bruce from Benchmark", here) is understandably alarmed. First by Adam's wet suit, then by Rebekah's sudden homeschooling, but finally and mainly, by Adam's attitude and WeWork's constant loss of money. He brings the news that the board wants WeWork to go public, and is worried about Adam's many eccentricities (who wouldn't be). Which brings him to plant Cameron, the worrier from earlier episodes, in the very center of WeWork's organization, in order to prepare it, and "tighten things up" before the company's IPO. Adam is not delighted at what he considers interference, and methinks Cameron is going to need some kind of industrial grade glue for that tightening to occur, to the very least, but he does try. However, Adam then learns that Uber's infamous CEO: Travis Kalanick, has been ousted by its board, in an eerily similar situation (wild happenings and decisions, harassment at work, etc.). Quick sidenote: if you want the full picture on these kinds of proceedings, may I suggest you try out The Dropout for an example of an overturned "vote of no confidence" against an increasingly incompetent CEO, (or Succession, for that matter), and SuperPumped for Travis Kalanick's full story. Adam is shaken by the fact that a founder like himself could be unceremoniously ushered out of his own company, and finally (yet reluctantly) consents to Cameron's presence.

Unsurprisingly though, he still tries to make Cameron's job as difficult as possible, and quickly proceeds to try and drown him in box after box of paperwork. This seems to be a popular dumping technique when big companies don't want their illegal proceedings to be found (yes, I have been watching Dopesick, and I see you, Purdue Pharma!). WeWork graciously offers Cameron an intern to "help sort things out", but heavily underestimates Cameron who actually has a whole team come in and comb through the boxes. At first, Cameron discovers that Adam seems to have a wide variety of interests he invests in through WeWork, despite them not necessarily (or at all) being linked to WeWork's business. Waves, coffee creamers, a permanent summer camp, you name it, Adam's invested in it.
"What do you think is gonna happen when every fucking analyst in the world is going to look at WeWork? You told the Wall Street Journal that WeWork was profitable, and that you wouldn't need more investments before the IPO. That is just not true."
Adam's defense is that whatever he did, the board approved it, so how can Cameron fault him for it? Unfortunately for Adam, what worked as long as WeWork was private, won't when it goes public. Adam seems to finally get an inkling that things are maybe not going as swimmingly as he thought. And what really solidifies how much trouble he's in, is when he doesn't immediately say yes to Rebekah's expenses for the "WeGrow" project. Cameron promptly shot it down when it was brought up, offhandedly mentioning that "the market doesn't really like education, there's no money in it", and Adam is finally realizing that not all growth (ha) is good. Rebekah, who has already hired an architect and is rhapsodizing about making fake trees in a meadowy classroom, doesn't take too kindly to not getting the funds she wants. Her usual, completely pointless when it comes to market realities, "don't let negative thoughts rule your life!" mantra works yet again on Adam, and drives Cameron up a wall when he realizes the WeGrow project is moving forward. Investors need to understand WeWork's core market before anything else can happen, and Adam and Rebekah are joyously expanding in every which way, regardless of any business sens. Things get even worse when Adam interrupts an interview Rebekah was giving and hijacks it for himself. Rebekah is MAD, and it seems no amount of being called baba ganoush (I know) will sooth her ire. By this point though, Adam is angry too, realizing what Elishia did earlier: the wife who constantly tries to steal the spotlight others have gained is so good at convincing them that she deserves it, that she's also started to believe her own lies.
"You're going to destroy everything we've built!"
"We??? I BUILT. You take and take and take."
So, what does Adam do when things go south? Call Masa and have him bail WeWork out, as usual. This time, however, things don't go according to plan. Adam believes he still has the leeway to drive a hard bargain and won't accept Softbank's (already generous) terms because while it would make them WeWork's only investor, it would also put Masa in charge. What Adam doesn't realize, is that he's running out of time, and especially out of Masa's favor as Masa realizes how big a pit WeWork truly is in now.

Cameron, having been pushed too far by the WeGrow project, spurs his team to once again go through every single box Adam dumped him. Not, this time, to prepare WeWork for any kind of investor scrutiny, but to launch a coup against Adam as CEO, which is what he's wanted to do all along. Adam invites himself to a board meeting held without him, in which Cameron calmly lists Adam's most controversial decisions as CEO. Buying buildings in his own name and then leasing them back to WeWork. Trademarking the "We" name and selling it to his own company. Suddenly, the partying and harassment seem like distant issues compared to the core trouble the company is facing.

Thanks to his charisma, Adam barely escapes the vote of no confidence, but it's only a matter of time until everything catches up to him.
"I'm a golden fucking goose laying golden fucking eggs."
"You're not a golden goose. You just have fortitude."
Following a disastrous meeting set up by Masa at which Adam arrives desperately late, Masa's answer doesn't take long to make its way to Adam. As the entire company celebrates around him the 8.9 million acquired square feet, the music beating louder and louder, Adam's face falls in sharp contrast to the almost manic joy surrounding him. He has failed, the cliff is nigh, and he finally collapses, sobbing in Rebekah's lap as she reluctantly whisks him off.

With only two episodes left and WeWork's downfall imminent, I can't wait to see how everything is going to happen next. Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway really disappear into these roles, and the gorgeous shots of WeWork's doomed celebration perfectly illustrate what a smoke screen WeWork actually is. What are you looking forward to as we head towards the penultimate episode and the finale? How is it that with the several "startup downfall" shows airing right now, lessons weren't learned about investing in something that seems (and is) too good to be true and actually hides much darker goings on internally? As usual, sound off in the comments!

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