In the fourth installment of The Apprentice, Donald Trump's two teams of interviewees were given an appetizing task. After being prepped by star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Apex and Mosaic were instructed to open their own restaurants overnight.
Each team was given an empty eatery and a versatile chef in a viable location and sent off to create a menu, furnish the barren units, and serve dinner to patrons who would ultimately fill out a Zagat Survey to decide the victor. It's fitting that Zagat was the gauge of success because New Yorkers Tim and Nina Zagat started the popular review service by rating local restaurants 25 years ago.
With George Ross away on business the show's first apprentice, Bill Rancic, joined Donald and Carolyn in the boardroom.
Jennifer C. was assigned to be Apex's project manager while Raj was randomly drawn to lead Mosaic. Apex began discussing the cuisine alternatives. While Stacy wanted to go Italian, Jennifer C. pulled rank and made an executive decision to go with Asian fusion. It wasn't a bad call when you consider that P.F. Chang's (Nasdaq: PFCB ) is doing just that and it is one of the country's fastest-growing restaurant chains. The team went for stylish decor and dressed in chic outfits to complement its trendy menu. That would ultimately be a problem as the team overshot the neighborhood's more casual clientele.
Raj led Mosaic with a continental cuisine menu. Chris had worked previously as a waiter so he trained the staff on the basics of making small talk with the customer. If profits and sales had been the ultimate gauges of success, he would have no doubt covered the art of upselling, but this was all about satisfaction surveys so Chris and his coy "I hate the public but I know how to turn it on and off," served Mosaic well.
From John's blowtorch artwork to the team's ability to turn unhappy customers around by resorting to beefcake, it was pretty clear that Mosaic had this one in the doggie bag. Apex proved to be a confrontational bunch, with a casual crowd complaining about the slow and uneasy service and taking the eatery to task for serving bread in an Asian concept.
Both teams met back at the boardroom where the Zagat ratings were revealed. They both scored evenly for food, but Apex fell short in the survey marks for decor and service. Sorry. The ladies lost for the third week in a row. Jennifer C. could have brought in her friend Sandy to share the blame -- she was the one in charge of decor -- but she went after Stacy and an emotionally unhinged Elizabeth who looked like a goner last week.
Unlike the zinger boardrooms of the previous two episodes, this one was a no-brainer and Jennifer C. was fired.
Finally, simplicity. We're left with just one Stacy and one Jennifer.
Rick: George was away on business? I missed him. But, hey, when Six Flags (NYSE: PKS ) calls and needs to shoot a new Mr. Six spot you just drop what you're doing and....
Dayana: Now that's just mean, Rick. Funny. But mean.
Rick: I'm sorry. I love George. He's got the business smarts and thick skin that really makes the show tick. But talk about bad karma: The week after Apex boots off a New York City restaurant owner, they fail in a task in which Stacie J. would have probably been invaluable. Granted, her place is a Subway in Harlem, but those franchise systems really train you well.
Tim: You'd think so, but Chris was a restaurant guy, and yet the whole beefcake thing was way over the top. But the guys deserve some credit for that move. Even Trump said there's sex in business, and last season the women used their sensuality at least three times to earn early victories. The, uh, tables were turned.
Dayana: Ba dum dum. I felt like I was watching a bad after-school special. In a seven-minute stretch they covered Gay Stereotypes 101 and New York Jew Bashing 104. What's the business lesson in this? Fine, use sex to sell, but if you have to whisper your slurs, don't be surprised when HR knocks on your corner office door and hands you an empty box. Don't change the channel yet, Rick. Let's wait for The Donald's public service announcement: "Children learn racism from Reality TV. Watch what your children are watching. And don't forget to tune in next Thursday when we're back at our regular time!" The whole thing made me lose my appetite.
Rick: Can I have the rest of your Milk Duds, then? It's an overused credo, but the three most important things in the restaurant business are location, location, location. Apex had plenty of time to learn this since they were brainlessly wiping down the restaurant until 4 a.m. They have the only remaining New Yorker in Stacy and it was deliciously ironic that Jennifer C. was taking Stacy to task for not dressing up when her casual garb would have probably been the better fit.
Tim: I really loved the Jennifer C. spin machine. That opening boardroom line -- "We've never been closer as a team" -- was classic. I mean, really, how ironic is it that a week after Stacie J. gets fired for so-called clinical behavior that Jen C. dishes the closest thing I've ever seen to clinical denial? It's hard to believe that Apex still hasn't found a leader everyone respects. They needed that visit with Rudy Giuliani more than Mosaic did. Bring back Amy!
Dayana: And put the petty personal stuff aside and start acting like a team. Fake it, even. This is not Survivor with pinstriped suits. It's an interview, and the boss is watching your every move. Apex has to start exploiting each team member's pre-Apprentice skills like Mosaic did by having Chris teach others how to wait tables. Great leaders aren't discovered via random drawing. Neither are Apprentice winners. So who do you think will be the final survivors?
Rick: Did you catch the cover of the new Gemstar-TV Guide (Nasdaq: GMST ) ? It's Donald on the cover with Raj and Maria. I don't think creator Mark Burnett would be silly enough to tip off the eventual winner so I believe those two will get far but ultimately fall short. I think Andy's debating skills will serve him well when it matters the most -- in the heat of the boardroom. Over at Apex, I think Ivana has really started to turn it around, resisting the confrontational bait and holding up well under pressure. So I'll say it comes down to Andy and Ivana this year.
Tim: I'm more impressed with Jennifer M. and Kevin at this point. I only mention Jen M. because she seems lucid and direct -- qualities Trump likes. But we have yet to see what she can do. I like Kevin because he called out the women for ganging up on Stacie J. when it was convenient. Plus, he did a solid job managing through adversity as last week's project leader. He's also a Wharton MBA like Trump. I think Jen M. makes a run, but Kevin pulls it out in the end.
Dayana: I'm with Rick. I think Ivana is getting her groove back. On the Mosaic side it's a toss-up. In coming episodes I think we'll start to see the men's quirks that have thus far been left on the editing room floor. If Apex is smart, they'll start acting a bit more like the men and start focusing on the job and stop gossiping. I'm sure they're hungry for next week's assignment.
Until then, suite dreams.