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Donald Trump shocks the cast -- and viewers -- fires four 'Apprentice 4' contestants

By Tim Andrews, 10/28/2005 

Following the most lopsided defeat in The Apprentice history, Donald Trump fired not one, not two, but four contestants from the losing team. Josh Shaw, Jennifer Murphy, Mark Lamkin, and James Dillon were all fired after their Excel team lost by over a 100% margin during last night's The Apprentice 4 broadcast, making them the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth contestants to be eliminated from the reality competition.

The Apprentice 4's sixth episode began with Trump following through with last week's promise to shake up the Capital Edge team that had proven itself to be completely dysfunctional over the first five weeks of the season. True to his word, he called the teams into the boardroom the following morning and had them shuffle themselves into new entities.

Alla Wartenberg, a 31-year-old salon & spa chain owner who had been selected as Capital Edge's project manager before the team arrived in the boardroom, opted to send Rebecca Jarvis, Marshawn Evans, and Jennifer Murphy to Excel. Then Josh, a 30-year-old beauty company owner that Excel had preselected as its project manager, decided to send Clay Lee, Markus Garrison, and Adam Israelov over to Capital Edge. Based on past performance, the advantage seemed to decidedly favor Excel, however as the task unfolded that perception ultimately proved completely wrong.

The week's task was to work with Dick's Sporting Goods to create an in-store display designed to increase sales for a specific type of sports product. Markus, who in previous weeks had been nothing but a negative influence on his team, talked his new Capital Edge team into going with a golf theme -- despite the fact no one on the team appeared to have any love for either golf or sports in general. Although Markus went so far as to state that he personally "hated golf," he was still persuasive enough to get the team to select it as their target sport. Meanwhile over on Excel, James, who had experience playing minor league baseball, was able to persuade his team to select baseball as its theme.

With the sports chosen, the task should have become an exercise in sales, but instead the assignment quickly became an exercise about who understood what the actual purpose of the task was supposed to be. At Capital Edge, Alla, who has shown flashes of promise at times, quickly understood that the key to success was to have product accessible to the customers at all times -- even going so far as overruling Clay, who she had put in charge of product placement, several times. Alla's decision to use her executive override won her no points with a resentful Clay, but in the end it clearly contributed to her team's success.

Over at Excel, it was a different story. Although the team initially seemed to grasp that the task was a sales challenge, they eventually became bogged down as James, a 27-year-old sales executive, insisted on including a full-sized batting cage that took up almost all their exhibit space and pushed many of the products away from potential customers. James and Mark, a 35-year-old wealth manager, then proceeded to show further incomprehension about the task's goal by proceeding to focus exclusively on teaching the shoppers' children how to play baseball instead of promoting the store's merchandise and convincing the shoppers to purchase a product. Jennifer, a 26-year-old ad sales manager who was put in charge of sales, appeared incapable of capitalizing on the line of shoppers who were waiting for their turn in the batting cage. At times, she also appeared to be more focused on selling concessions -- something that did not count towards the team's sales -- rather than selling baseball accessories.

As it had become clear that Excel had completely missed the point of the task, there never was a question as to which team had won and which one had lost the task. Capital Edge did better than anyone could have reasonably expected, raising the sales of golf related merchandise by an impressive 74%. Meanwhile, Excel managed to drop sales of baseball merchandise by 34%, creating a 108% difference that easily rivaled any of the long-running reality franchise's worst performances and gave Excel the largest margin of defeat of any team in The Apprentice history. Alla was unanimously granted an exemption for leading her team to victory, and as their reward Capital Edge went deep-sea fishing and enjoyed a lobster bake on the beach.

There was plenty of blame to go around during Excel's boardroom session, with Josh taking heat for the task's overall decisions, Jennifer for her inability to sell anything, James for his focus on the batting cage, and Mark for not even trying to sell anything on what was a pure sales task. Brian Mandelbaum, who had been previously awarded an exception for serving as the winning project manager of last week's task, Rebecca, and Marshawn were mostly sparred criticism, as they were largely responsible for the few sales that Excel was able to make. At the point where the project manager was usually given the opportunity to select who they would bring back for the final boardroom, The Donald took over and instead decided to send Brian, Rebecca, and Marshawn back to the suite and have everyone else come back for the firing session. Bill Rancic, The Apprentice 1 winner who was filling in for George again this week, felt that as project manager, Josh was ultimately responsible for his team's loss while a frustrated Carolyn stated that they had all performed so miserably that she couldn't decide who she'd fire. The Donald apparently agreed with Carolyn's assessment, and once they returned to the boardroom, he fired them all.

On their cab ride out, the four fired contestants crammed into the backseat in stunned silence -- a sentiment no doubt shared by many of the show's viewing audience. Whether the surprise mass firing will prove to be the spark that revives The Apprentice's sagging ratings remains to be seen but one thing is clear -- it certainly reduces the time commitment required to watch the rest of the season.

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