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The sun is shining. The palms trees rustle gently in the ocean breeze. The Lexus logo abounds. There’s a long, pristine stretch of road – then a rumble sounds in the distance. The limo slowly makes its way over the horizon. Los Angeles, I hear, is full of wealthy individuals in limousines…but we’re tuned in to NBC, it’s Sunday evening, so this car can only be full of one thing, and that’s a whole lotta hair atop the head of The Donald, King of all things Trump. It’s the sixth season of The Apprentice, and I’ll be your recapper for it all, taking you through the twists of the knives in the back, the turns of the screws to the knuckles, and still somehow make room for the Donald’s ego. So if you know anything at all about the business world – forget it. We’re subject to the boardroom whims of Trump, and this season, there’s no Carolyn or George to rein him in. We’re in Donald’s own little world of make-believe now – but listen, it’s not necessarily a bad world. It can even be kind of fun – even the Wizard of Oz had those cute little monkeys in his world, remember? Just don’t expect there will be a brave Dorothy-like soul to uncover the Wizard and show him for what he really is.

The Donald as The Family Man

So where were we? Right, Trump in the limo. He’s talking to his latest trophy wife, Melania on the phone. Trump is talking, and Melania is agreeing with him about…something. Yikes. Musn’t tune out so early into the show. *gives head a shake* Trump makes a pretense of “talking” to baby Baron, and after one of the sloppiest voice-overs – or in this case, I guess you would call it a baby coo-over – I’ve ever heard, he thankfully ends the phone call and goes on to extol the virtues of fantastic LA, and that he’s building a super Trump mansion in La-La Land. We’re transported to Donald driving a convertible, and his hair, gleaming in the California sun, is a truly alarming shade of blonde. Well, doubtless he & Melania are already booking Botox appointments together, so should we be surprised that they’re sharing a colorist as well?

The candidates pitch a tent for The Donald

Looks like Lexus is the car of choice for this season, as a convoy of SUVs pull up to the house on the hill, and the candidates pile out. At first glance, there’s no real stand-outs in this bunch – it’s the usual crew of conservatively handsome young men with too much hair styling gel and women with lots of shiny Pantene locks and cheekbones that could cut glass. The candidates all briefly introduce themselves, and it’s uneventful until Trump singles out Olympic gold medalist and Harvard brainiac Angela, and actually asks her for a hug. Trump is obviously enamoured of Angela’s athletic accomplishments – heck, after reading her bio, she’s my new hero too. Also standing out from the pack – in a not-quite-as-good way – is the fashion-challenged lawyer/professor Martin, who offers Trump a hug if he can use the bathroom. An interesting way to introduce yourself to your (hopefully) future boss, no? The only reason I can figure for such an odd request is that Martin has a premonition that the only way he’s going to get a look inside the guest mansion is if he can sneak in to use the facilities.

An LA Trump is an outdoorsy kind of guy, apparently, because the first order of business for his hopeful Apprentices is for all 18 to work together and build – a tent. Hey, if you can’t put together a lousy 8-man tent from the Sears sporting goods section, you could hardly be expected to build a Trump-style hotel or business high-rise, right? The candidates are instructed to put the tent together and then meet Trump in the boardroom. They all hustle off, and there’s some small amusement to be had from a bunch of people in business suits and women in high heels playing Boy Scouts and Girl Guides for Trump. Heidi is the first to take charge – she’s a camper and this tent is a snap for her. Loudmouth Frank soon butts in – he’s either dissatisfied with Heidi’s leadership or doesn’t like girls telling him what to do, it’s hard to tell – but he tries to take over by sheer volume, and begins barking orders. Frank’s yapping apparently disturbs Donald’s pleasure in watching his puppets dance, because at one point Trump leans out a window and tells Frank to keep his voice down. Martin, again in that not-so-good way, distinguishes himself by standing on a rock and supervising the tent-building operation. There’s some voiced-over muttering about this, but the candidates manage to successfully erect the tent with minimal drama.

Ain’t no telling who you might meet at the car wash

I guess Trump left Rona in New York, because it’s a butler-type guy with an unidentifiable foreign accent who ushers the candidates into the boardroom. The trumpets herald the arrival of Donald – or were those trumpets just inside my head? – and daughter Ivanka. Trump introduces Ivanka to the candidates, and notes that the empty chair to his right is reserved for a “special guest”, to be introduced later. He jovially asks the group about their tent-building, and Frank – whose voice has already got me reaching for the mute button – assures Donald that the tent looks great and that he would be happy to sleep in it that very night. Trump, to his credit, doesn’t even smirk, but asks everyone who stepped up to lead in the task. The general consensus is that Heidi and Frank were the, um, “most vocal”, and the bossiest. To no one’s surprise, Trump nominates the duo to be the first project managers, and instructs them to pick their teams. Heidi chooses Derek, Aimee, Marisa, Angela, Kristine, Muna, Jenn, and Surya, while Frank goes with Carey, Tim, Aaron, Nicole, James, Stefani, Michelle, and by default, Martin. It’s never fun to be picked last for a team, and Martin, in a voiceover confessional, expresses surprise that he was the booby prize. Or maybe he was just in the bathroom when Heidi & Frank started their picks?

The first task this season is a car wash, and the team that makes the most money will win. Not terribly imaginative, and if anyone was hoping for a couple of babelicious female Apprenti in bikinis giving hot waxes – I can only guess your disappointment (and Trump’s). These girls aren’t going the skank route, at least not this early on. The first new Apprentice twist is revealed – the PM remains as long as they continue to win. The losing PM is on the chopping block with his/her chosen two to take to the boardroom, and if he/she survives, it’s to be replaced as PM. Ivanka will be the sole eyes and ears for Trump this season. No word on what happened to Donald Jr., unless he’s now Ivanka’s driver.

One thing to be grateful for – there’s no lame team names this season. Instead, there is simply Frank’s Team, and Heidi’s Team. A hyper Frank beaks excitedly at his team – the guy is so wound up, he’s practically levitating off the ground. Everyone is chattering at once and Martin complains in a confessional voiceover that it’s simply bedlam. Suddenly, Frank sprints off down the street with Aaron in tow, and I’m confused as to what happened until Tim steps in to organize the troops and to tell us that Frank & Aaron have headed off to photocopy flyers for their car wash. There’s some frenetic cell phone calls from Frank – he wants the girls on the street (no, not like that) and the guys washing cars. Again, not terribly imaginative, but if Frank could stop talking for a couple of minutes he might have come up with some brighter ideas.

Heidi’s team has decided on a unique marketing scheme – they’re making huge cardboard signs offering a free lunch with the car wash, and because, according to Heidi, they’re in a “homosexual neighborhood” (what, was there a huge pink X on the map?), she’s hired some shirtless young men to wear the signs on the street. Men as sex objects! This must be Ivanka’s influence! The Heiress (or is that Hair-ess, yuck yuck) arrives on the scene – wearing, by the way, an extremely unflattering cream dress with brown piping that makes her rear look like the backside of a barn, as one of my friend’s dads was wont to say – and she heads over to chat with the free lunch boys, who ask her to doff her shirt and help them out with their advertising campaign (and, presumably, increase their target market). Ivanka giggles nervously but let’s face it, she’s no Girls Gone Wild wannabe, and what’s the point of having a designer wardrobe if you’re just going to take it off for the cameras?

Frank’s female team members are screaming themselves hoarse in traffic, attempting to draw people in to their car wash. The guys bring them flyers, but unless cars are going to stop and let some nutty shrieking woman hand them a piece of paper through their passenger-side window, the flyers aren’t going to be effective advertising. Carey, the marketing guy, catches Frank stopping to take a breath between sentences and urges him to get some signs made up. Ivanka swoops in and interrogates Aaron about the team’s non-existent marketing campaign – Aaron mumbles vaguely and tries to side-step the questions but there’s no escaping the fact that Frank hasn’t even gotten around to printing up a couple of signs. Martin, who is blissfully unaware that he’s giving Mark Burnett the most material for a bad edit since the season with Omarosa, kvetches to Ivanka that he’s tired. Ivanka gives him a frosty glare and reminds him that the competition is just starting. And, you can hear her thinking, Daddy doesn’t like whiners. Strike three, Martin.

Heidi’s half-naked boys have brought in the business for her – there’s a lineup of cars at her car wash (though the promised free lunch is nowhere in sight), and the wait is so long some people are leaving. Heidi starts assigning her team members to stations and soon everyone is washing, waxing, and buffing. On Frank’s side, the signs have finally arrived, and James, Tim and Martin set to work trying to upsell their customers from a plain old wash to the full-meal deal, including a wax, buff, etc. A painful montage of Martin’s attempt at upselling shows that as a salesman, he makes a helluva lawyer. His customers easily fob off his efforts, and at the end, James points out that Martin is nervously flipping through his notebook counting his sales, an apparent show of insecurity.

The Donald’s summer camp

In spite of the task’s challenges, PMs Heidi & Frank are confident that they have prevailed. Trump calls them together for the results, and Ivanka announces that Frank’s team pulled in $2,345.54, and Heidi’s team earned $2,463.00, thereby squeaking out a win. Trump is taking the winning team to a dinner at LA hotspot Spago, and Heidi will not only be PM for the next task, but in Season 6 Twist No. 2, will also occupy the Trump’s right-hand seat at the boardroom and help him decide who to fire. As for the losers – they get to pitch a second tent and live and sleep outside until they win a challenge (Twist No. 3).
Heidi’s team piles into the guest mansion and oohs and aahs abound – it’s much finer digs than the New York Apprentices got, although they all have to share one bedroom. Well, there hasn’t been nearly enough hanky-panky among the Apprenti of the past, after all. You can’t expect Mark Burnett to just keep waiting patiently until hormones get the better of a couple of these career-mad, super-ambitious over-achievers, can you? And at least, as Heidi points out, they’re not outside. While Frank’s team, on the other hand, are despondently listening to the celebratory sounds coming from the guest mansion while they put up their tent and outdoor shower. Heidi’s team is shown sipping champagne at poolside, while Frank and his teammates whine about the lack of electricity and discuss their loss. Frank and Tim go head to head, and in spite of Frank’s bluster, Tim holds his ground and maintains that the loss was due to the lousy marketing.

The Spago reward is uneventful – after a rough day of lounging by the pool, Heidi’s team dons their finery and leaves to meet Donald and Melania at the restaurant. The women are dressed like a bevy of bridesmaids – every single one of them are in black or dark blue dresses, including Melania. Trump chats up Angela, asking her about her Olympic medals, and he’s so obviously impressed, I have to think that the other candidates might be getting a little worried about such an early Donald favorite. Back at the campsite, Frank’s team is picking at their barbequed burgers and bitching some more about the loss, when another verbal scrap, this time between Frank and Martin, breaks out. Martin blames Frank’s lack of planning, and Frank sputters and yells some more. He’s quickly becoming the most annoying as well as the loudest Apprentice candidate yet.

A boardroom of sound and fury signifying nothing

Before hitting the boardroom, Heidi discusses some strategy with her team – she’s going to try to keep the weakest link, for the benefit of her own team. Because there’s no way Trump would see through something like that.

Butler Dude reappears to usher in Frank and his team to the boardroom. The Donald arrives in a bubblegum-pink tie with Ivanka trailing behind, and the bitching and backstabbing commences. Frank, as PM, is in the hot seat, and Martin’s not far behind. Now, after five seasons, you’d think that these people should know that when your ass in on the line, your best bet is to keep under the radar and your mouth shut as long as possible, and if you’re still unlucky enough to be one of the two chosen to remain in the boardroom with the PM, then you start cutting your opponents to ribbons. Martin blows it on all levels – first of all, he’s dressed in a blinding array of patterns – red checked shirt, yellow tie with dark spots, and a pinstriped suit so loud, Al Capone wouldn’t have been caught dead in it. He then starts in on Frank’s trifecta of errors – scattered planning, no marketing, and lousy pricing. Frank is a lot louder than Martin, and although Ivanka challenges both of them, it’s Frank’s noisy protestations that get the most attention. He blames Martin for the loss, and Trump points out to Martin that he was the last chosen for a team (like Martin will ever forget that) and also reminds him of his ill-timed request for a potty break when introducing himself.

However, when Trump polls the team to see who they would fire, everyone but Nicole and Aaron choose Frank (Carey and Stefani opine that both Frank and Martin should be fired). Trump comments that Martin is a pompous ass – no, tell us how you REALLY feel, Donald – and Ivanka adds another nail to Martin’s coffin by pointing out that Frank was at a disadvantage as the first PM, as he wasn’t aware of his teammates’ skills and strengths.

It’s time for Frank to choose the two to accompany him back to the boardroom – surprise, it’s Martin, along with Tim. Frank continues to yatter at Trump as he’s walking out of the boardroom, and I’m guessing Donald is wishing for a mute button at this point as well. There’s a very brief consultation with Heidi and Ivanka, who both vote for Martin to depart. Trump calls the boys back, and as Frank clearly wants Martin gone, Donald sends Tim back to safety and lets the other two duke it out. There’s some back-and-forth, and Trump doesn’t say much until Frank says Martin is a “brilliant” guy. Donald seizes Frank’s offhand remark and in true Trump fashion, hammers the hell out of the meaningless, innocent comment. Frank may not be able to win an argument with the Donald, but he doesn’t lose any of his trademark volume as he continues to push for Martin’s firing. Ivanka finally tells Martin that she doesn’t see him fitting in the Trump organization, and Donald mercifully ends the marathon boardroom session and fires Martin. Trump claims it’s a tough decision, and I believe him, because I’m sure he was itching to fire them both.

Are there no cabs in LA? Martin leaves in a chauffeur-driven Lexus. Inexplicably, he’s glad he’s leaving first, and not third or fourth – and he’s doesn’t regret his request to visit the loo during his introduction to the Donald, because, “I had to go”. Indeed you did, Martin – indeed you did. And after two cups of late-night coffee, I have to go too – but I’ll be back next week. One down, sixteen to go!

Any guesses who’s going to pitch a tent next week? ajane@fansofrealitytv.com