Trump Lands on Mars

Need some chocolate for that Pepsi chaser? The Apprentice candidates got it. After Andy lost out during last week's PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) cola war, the five remaining candidates in The Apprentice were challenged to manufacture and sell privately held M&M/Mars' new Amazing chocolate bar. Mission to Mars? You bet.

Chocolate is big business. M&M/Mars churns out $5 billion in annual sales, but there are a number of publicly traded cocoa masters, including Hershey (NYSE: HSY  ) , Cadbury Schweppes (NYSE: CSG  ) , and Tootsie Roll (NYSE: TR  ) .

Nailing the assembly line process was critical because the winner would be decided on how many bars they ultimately sold. Sandy and Jen managed to produce only 290 bars, while Apex came through with 323 bars that passed inspection.

With a limited supply, selling price was critical. Both teams set up camp near Wall Street, gunning for chocoholics. Mosaic went with an aggressive $5 price, with Jen and Sandy decked out as the M&M sisters and rolling around in a colorful van. Apex went with a pricing strategy of one bar for $2 or two for $3. Kevin wasn't finding any buyers, so he started selling some for a buck.

Neither team knew the other's pricing strategy until someone who had just come from Mosaic's turf told Ivana that the other team was selling the bars for $5 apiece. Apex got desperate, and Ivana began offering to drop her skirt for anyone who would pay $20 for a bar. She finally found a taker, but the team rang up just $560 in sales. Sandy and Jen, despite being one person short, nearly doubled that sum.

With Kelly having an exemption from his win as project manager in the previous task, the Apex boardroom firing was between Ivana or Kevin. When Trump and Carolyn came down hard on Ivana for flashing to land the $20 sale, it was pretty clear which way they would be going. After pointing out that Ivana had never won as project manager -- while Kevin and Kelly are undefeated at the helm -- Trump noted that he wasn't going to hire a stripper to run one of his companies. Ivana was fired.

Rick: How much did Trump relish firing someone named Ivana? That was rich. But, seriously, she was out to lunch this time. She was blasting Jen and Sandy for dressing like strippers -- then she went on to strip. When it came time to defend herself she suggested that Trump should fire Kelly or Jen instead, two people who had immunity from getting canned. After making it this far she wound up as nutty as a peanut M&M.

Dayana: This show was all about desperation -- and in business, that's just chum in the water. I thought the "M&M Sisters" was cheesy. But when Ivana dropped trou for $20, Trump's pen was already hovering over the pink slip. When she said -- straight-faced -- that she had to do it only two or three more times to come out ahead, her name was being engraved. Sure, it was an entrepreneurial move -- if she had moved it a few blocks over and waited for nightfall. But I do have to hand it to her for the best line of the episode when she described Sandy and Jen as strippers "from south Texas working a joint with peanuts on the floor and all."

Tim: OK, I admit it, I blew it by picking Ivana for the final four last week. But as bad as Ivana's behavior was on this task, I'm even more stumped by George. He actually thought that her Wall Street striptease qualified as "doing something" once Apex learned it might be far behind. C'mon, George, this is the 21st century.

Rick: Lucy and Ethel had nothing on Sandy and Jen at the chocolate factory! What an assembly line disaster they were! Yet they hit it out of the park with the flashy $5 sales pitch. It was great to see two people that were going for the jugular a task earlier come together when they realized that there was no other alternative to land a spot for both in the final four. Well done.

Tim: But what a waste of all that chocolate! Just how many trays did they let slip into the garbage bin? It was almost too painful for my wife to watch. Incidentally, anyone want to venture a guess on how much strugglingDelta (NYSE: DAL  ) spent to get that juicy spot in the middle of the episode?

Dayana: Probably enough for a few condos in Trump International Chicago. That trip to visit Bill Rancic at his new digs was a brilliant strategic plug. Notice that the rewards for winning are now more serious. But what Sandy and Jen got from Bill may turn out to be much more valuable than the reward a few weeks ago -- a Graff Jewelers bauble. His advice about shifting the game now that they're in the final four was smart. It's time to turn off the flame thrower and start plugging and playing up their own attributes. Two will be gone in the interview process next week. Who do you think will remain?

Rick: I think Kelly's in for sure. I would say Sandy for the second spot, but she spoke so poorly in the PepsiCo presentation that I think she may buckle under pressure. Jen's got the charisma and legal eagle skills to ace the interview process. While Kevin has a ton of integrity, he has yet to assert his leadership skills. That's why I think Jen will join Kelly as the two finalists.

Tim: I agree, though it's by no means a slam-dunk. Remember: Kelly was on the losing end of the Donald's business lesson this week, and George rightfully called him out for admitting that he underestimated the competition. Still, Jen should be a shoo-in for the final two because of how she's mastered pressure before in the boardroom. Kevin has Trump's educational pedigree, and Sandy's doggedness has been impressive. I don't think Sandy has the stuff to knock out Jen, but I wonder whether Kevin could edge Kelly.

Dayana: It was interesting how Bill likened Sandy and Jen to him and Kwame in the finals. And Sandy was quick to point out that she and Bill had similar small business owner backgrounds. But I can't see Sandy elbowing Kelly out of the picture. So I'll agree with Rick and say Kelly and Jen in the finals. Now pass the Twizzlers.

Until next week, suite dreams.


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