Melissa, a 30-year-old real estate investor from Tampa, Florida who was outspoken and critical of her team throughout the first assignment, became the first contestant fired from NBC's fourth edition of its Donald Trump-helmed The Apprentice series.
With a cast that was hand picked (minus one) by The Donald himself, the fourth season of The Apprentice went back to its roots by initially dividing the teams by gender. The eighteen new contestants began their "thirteen week job interview" by meeting The Donald at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. Once there, the candidates were divided and told of their first assignment: creating a physical fitness class for Bally Total Fitness.
After telling them about the assignment Trump revealed a small twist intended to jumpstart the competition: a scavanger hunt of sorts. "Hidden" somewhere on the golf course's 525 acres was Trump's personal helicopter, and the first team to find it would win the right to fly two of their team members into the city and secure the better of the two Bally gym locations in which the classes were to be held.
Initially, the edge in finding the helicopter appeared to be with the women's team, who unlike the men, used a couple of nearby golf carts to assist them in the search. However although the men's team was scrambling around only on foot, Mark Lamkin ended up being able to outsprint the resourceful women's team members, securing the helicopter's use for the his team. With the helicopter secured the men were able to send two of their teammates to nab what appeared to be the better of the two locations, a gym in a more affluent part of the city that appeared to offer the better revenue opportunity.
On the way into the city, the men's team, which later named itself Excel, selected Markus Garrison as their initial project manager. Markus, who was hesitant to accept the leadership role, appeared to be chosen primarily because he was constantly talking and throwing out ideas for the project. However, unbeknownst to his then new teammates, his behavior would later prove to be less a reflection on his actual leadership skills than an indication of his apparent inability to keep his mouth shut for any significant length of time.
In contrast, the women’s team (later dubbed Capital Edge) selected Kristi Caudell as its project manager. Unlike Markus, Kristi showed herself to be confident in her abilities and volunteered to lead the first task.
Once both teams arrived at their destinations, Markus's inability to make a decision and Melissa's inability to work with her team (and specifically her inability to work with her project manager) proved to be the biggest stumbling blocks for the teams to overcome. Opting for a rather conservative but sound strategy, the men decided to focus their efforts primarily on the gym's existing customers. Meanwhile the women's team appeared to be the far more aggressive team, focusing their efforts on pulling in new customers for their class by canvassing the area surrounding the gym with promotional flyers (a tactic that may not have won them the task, but was sure to have been more helpful to their sponsor.)
Once back at the suite, Randal Pinkett, learned that his aging grandmother had died. The clearly distraught Randal pressed on as best he could, but as he freely acknowledged, was distracted by the loss. In a compassionate gesture, The Donald offered Randal a chance to retire from the game -- an offer he respectfully declined -- and then arranged to have him flown to his grandmother's funeral after the completion of the day's task.
During the actual task both teams were able to get a number of participants involved and the competition appeared to be close. In the boardroom, the teams learned just how close, with Excel winning the task by a mere $11. With The Apprentice's new season no longer offering automatic next-task immunity to the winning project manager, Trump polled Markus' teammates to determine whether he would be granted an exemption. Unfortunately for Markus, his failure to distinguish himself in a positive fashion made his teammates' decision easy, with only two of the eight voting in his favor.
The victory sent the men to the Friar’s Club for dinner with The Donald, and the women to this season's first boardroom. At the Friar’s Club, Markus continued to show his inability to vocally moderate himself -- even after The Donald teased him concerning his constant jabbering.
In the boardroom, Melissa tried to paint Christie as the primary reason for the team's loss, but she soon found out the other members of her team did not agree with that assessment. Displaying a united front, each of the women told Trump that if it was up to them, Melissa -- not Christie -- would be fired.
In a first for The Apprentice, Christie opted to only take one person back into the final boardroom with her, and in a surprise to no one, it was Melissa. In the final boardroom setting Christie found herself in a bit of trouble with The Donald over the flyer used to promote the class, but before the tables turned completely against her, Melissa pushed herself back to the top of the firing list, with the final nail being her frank admission that she "had trouble working with women."
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