Real estate is Trump's turf so it was fitting that during the ninth week of interviews for The Apprentice, the Donald handed out assignments from the 35th-floor apartment of his latest venture -- Trump Park Avenue.
The gutted building -- with digs going for $1.5 million to $30 million -- was a far cry from the two single-family homes in the Long Island 'burbs the Trump wannabes were tasked with renovating. Twenty grand in fix-up money and two extreme home makeovers later, members of the team that increased the home's appraised value the most were declared that week's moguls.
But before we get to the "reveal," let's see how they turned their ducks into swans.
The bathrooms and kitchen were the focus of Mosaic's fix-up. Early on, it looked like the walls would crumble on team leader Sandy's plan. But after delivering the requisite weekly crying moment, she was saved by Tony Soprano's cousin's construction company, which descended on the house like the construction workers' version of ambulance chasers. They finished the job on time, to the dime, and the home was appraised for $430,000, a 10.26% increase from its original $390,000 worth.
Apex team leader Raj started the demolition at his house by flinging himself against the drywall. A protective helmet might have helped since he apparently knocked something in his noggin loose and started referring to himself in the third person: "Destroy and create. This makes Raj happy."
Unfortunately, his team fell a little short on the "create" side of the equation when the contractor didn't deliver the service promised. Raj left Trump with an unfinished fixer-upper, which he tried to pass off as leaving future owners the "opportunity to put the imprint of their own personal style on it." We hope they enjoy tiling, since the shower, floor, and walls of the bathroom were still in boxes. The $385,000 home was appraised for $412,500 -- a 7.14% increase.
With victory flushed down the unfinished toilet, Raj, Ivana, and Kevin found themselves facing Trump in the boardroom. Kevin's backing of the dud contractor was a big boo-boo, but Raj committed an even bigger realty sin by turning the four-bedroom home into a three-bedroom one. So Trump sent him packing.
Dayana: I'll miss Raj. He totally creeped me out, but he played his character to the hilt. I cannot believe that the moment after being fired, he marched out into the waiting room and asked Trump's assistant for her phone number -- while the cameras were still rolling! He fancies himself quite the lothario. Strangely, he sports the young man's comb-over.
Rick: Poor guy, getting shot down by both Robin and Anna Kournikova just weeks apart. What a colorful yet cocky card. Did anyone notice that he was the only one not wearing his hardhat at Trump Park Avenue? Then again, they were on a roof and Trump and his posse weren't wearing them either. Maybe he had it right all along.
Tim: Or maybe not. Colorful though he was, Raj had a funny knack for being spectacularly wrong when it came to his business ideas. Turn a four-bedroom house into a three-bedroom house? Inspire young people to join the police force with a commercial that all but demands jackboots and a salute? Sorry, Raj, I love your style but you can't be that far off and expect to be Donald's apprentice.
Dayana: Renovations tend to bring out the worst in people (studies confirm it!), and Trump made sure of it by bringing the worst people back to the show. The first four fired from the game returned -- Rob and Jennifer joined Mosaic, and Bradford and Stacie (rhymes with "crayzee") teamed up with Apex. Funny how they all came off as much more capable than the remaining contestants.
Rick: They had nothing left to lose but screen time. Rob's expression when Mosaic won was priceless. It was raw happiness and a genuine sense of pride. I hate how they teased us with the four fired contestants coming back, yet not playing up that angle at all beyond Stacie and Ivana's war of words before the challenge even started. Do you mind if I grab the remote during the commercials? I want to see how the Miami Heat is faring in Shaq's home debut.
Tim: Go ahead, we've got TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) . Did you also notice how badly Ivana squirmed when Stacie returned? The kitchen confrontation was yet another classic Survivor- like moment. It appeared to so throw Ivana off her game that when Trump was praising Stacie for her work, Ivana just had to get in a last dig about her being pulled off an odd job during the task. Talk about catty. I'm surprised they didn't serve Ivana a saucer of milk right then and there.
Dayana: Meow! The biggest saboteurs turned out to be the contractors hired to do the work. Perhaps Kevin should have consulted the American Homeowner's Association for tips on interviewing contractors. Still, it looked like a setup to me.
Rick: I hate this type of challenge. When it's all up to a third party -- in this case the contractors -- to seal victory or defeat, I don't think it's a fair reflection on the team. Then again, if Bradford taught us anything, it's that if Trump throws you a softball in the boardroom -- in this case the suggestion that he bring in Chris after his brainless pessimism -- you swing for the fences. I think I'll wear a bow tie tomorrow to mourn Raj's firing.
Tim: Yep, I have no idea what Chris' rant was about, but I also lost some respect for Kevin. It was as if in seeing Raj take responsibility for the failure, he decided he could duck and cover to escape his own goof. Uh, Kevin, it's TV. Everyone knows you hired the contractor, might as well 'fess up to it. I really think this week could come back to haunt him.
Until next week, suite dreams.