Denim and the Donald

The pool shrank more than usual in the 11th installment of this season's The Apprentice. It was fitting, then, when the players met at the Levi Strauss showroom for some dirty denim business.

After Kelly moved over to Apex to even out the teams at four apiece, they were instructed to create an in-store marketing campaign to help promote Levi's offerings beyond its signature 501 jeans.

It could use a makeover. Privately held Levi's revenues peaked in 1996 at $7.1 billion. Six years later it was down to $4.1 billion. Earlier this year the company closed the last of its America sewing plants -- putting an end to its 150-year "Made in the USA" history.

Apex, with Kevin as project manager, decided they would serve as the models for their catalog's photo shoot using Ivana's idea of a jean selection wheel that emphasized the various fits, sizes, and styles available.

Mosaic went with professional models, and although Wes was officially the team's project manager, Maria grabbed the wheel. And the accelerator. And the power window controls. She trampled over Wes with a snappy "back off" during the photo shoot, and, surprisingly, Wes complied. Sandy later confronted her when Maria didn't want the rest of the team to work with the catalog designer as their deadline closed in.

Levi Strauss then went over both catalogs and sided with Apex, saying that Mosaic missed the mark by overemphasizing young, rail-thin models. So while Apex hooked up with Billy Joel to see Movin' Out on Broadway, Mosaic had its own version of Movin' Out in Trump's boardroom.

Wes invited Maria, Sandy, and Andy back into the boardroom, though the decision seemed as though it would hinge on whether Maria's poor decisions sank the team or whether Wes's faulty leadership let Maria take over the challenge. Who would Trump send home? Wes? Maria? In a fresh twist, he fired them both.

Rick: Well done, Donald. Both Wes and Maria botched this one, and, frankly, I'm surprised that either one made it this far. Trump has really made this season interesting by mixing up the boardroom formula each week. When Billy Joel was telling Apex to "take risks" I think that's advice that Trump himself took to heart as well.

Tim: And it's also advice that Mosaic totally ignored. Maria was so picky about the photos that she didn't pick any that revealed the fit of the jeans.

Dayana: That cab-sharing scene with Wes and Maria is destined to become an Apprentice classic: his clenched jaw; her stressed overblinking. A match made in heaven! We're really starting to see some cutthroat competition now.

Rick: What is it with Ivana's grudge against Jen? Probably one of the least tactful moments ever was when Ivana was complaining to Carolyn that, "with every project she gets more and more blonde." Hello? Ivana? You do realize that Carolyn is a blonde too, right?

Tim: Yep, right up there with Pamela's "dumb and dumber" comment. But how about Maria's "give me bitchy or give me death" to inspire the models during the photo shoot? Ugh. Patrick Henry meets Calvin Klein? I don't think so. Maybe Mosaic would have done better getting that goofy character hawking BostonBeer's (NYSE: SAM  ) Samuel Adams to sport some 501s.

Dayana: Guys, I can't blame Ivana for skewering Jen. Yes it was dumb to light her up in front of Carolyn with the blonde comment. But her wrath was validated during the catalog presentation when Jen smiled and effortlessly took credit for Ivana's work. Yes, it was just a misunderstanding by the Levi's team. But if Kevin had truly been a leader, he would have set the record straight then and there.

Tim: OK, we're down to just six remaining job applicants. Who impressed you this week?

Dayana: Well, each week the show is edited to show us the high and low points the producers want us to see. So I'll go out on a limb and say that Ivana's comeback may hint that we'll see her in the finals.

Rick: I think that Andy finally started to use his debating champion skills. When asked why his talented mouth was quiet during Mosaic's demise, he argued that part of the art of debating is knowing when to talk and when to listen. Nice. Instead of being set up to take the fall for being silent, he got Trump back in his pocket.

Tim: But Trump also said, "Andy had better step up to the plate." The kid is under serious pressure, again. While I'm sticking with my original final four -- Andy, Jen, Kelly, Kevin -- I thought Ivana was the best of the bunch on this task. If she delivers again next week, it's going to be awfully hard to get rid of her.

Until next week, suite dreams.


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