Summer Zervos becomes the first 'Apprentice 5' contestant fired
By Tim Andrews, 02/28/2006
After struggling early last season, the ratings of Donald Trump's The Apprentice series rebounded towards the end of its run, giving NBC hope that the franchise which was once the network's crown jewel of reality TV might recover from both The Apprentice 3's disastrous casting and last fall's failed Martha Stewart spinoff. However, if The Apprentice's revival is to succeed, it will have to do so in its new time night -- Monday nights.
Viewers got their first look at The Apprentice's new fifth season with last night's premiere, where Summer Zervos, a 30-year-old restaurant owner from Huntington Beach, CA, became the first person fired after making the mistake of interrupting The Donald during the show's boardroom session.
The Apprentice's fifth season started with The Donald flying in on his private plane to meet the new contestants. Once there, he had them briefly tell him about themselves and based on that, he selected two of them to pick the competition's teams and serve as their group's initial task project manager. Tarek Saab, whose self-description included his membership in MENSA, was picked because The Donald stated he was the second smartest person there (after Trump himself of course.) Allie Jablon was selected to pick the other team, with Trump noting that her introduction had mentioned that she was a graduate of Harvard Business School, which the ego-filled billionaire deemed "second only to Wharton, where I went." Once the schoolyard-style pick 'em was finished (didn't we just see The Apprentice producer Mark Burnett do this on his Survivor: Panama show three weeks ago -- so much for fresh innovation), the two teams were given their first project task.
This week's assignment was to promote and sell enhanced Sam's Club memberships using Goodyear Blimps as their primary form of advertisements. Allie's team, who named themselves Synergy Corporation, immediately found themselves at odds with outspoken teammate Brent Buckman, who had initially proposed naming the team Killer Instinct Corporation.
However, although the contribution wasn't really recognized by his teammates, it was Brent who, during the team's subsequent brainstorming session, threw out the promotional idea that helped guide the team to the creative concept that would become the basis of their promotion. Modifying Brent's suggestion of offering "free makeovers," Tammy Trenta suggested luring customers into listening to their pitches for new and upgraded memberships by baiting them with free manicures and chair massages. Allie embraced the idea, however Brent's contribution proceeded to go unrecognized, with his obnoxious mannerisms instead getting him banished to the blimp on the day of the event.
Over on Tarek's team (which following his own suggestion, decided to name themselves Gold Rush), things appeared to go more smoothly as the team appeared to be mostly focus on the task at hand. However, the team seemed to lack a focus on how to promote the event and chose to go with simplicity in the Blimp advertisement.
As a restaurant owner, Summer was given the task of calling up surrounding restaurants and inviting them to the next day's promotional event. However she called only one restaurant before giving up, citing the team's failure to have agreed on a promotion that would help her convince the business owners to show up for the event. Summer's lack of effort did not go unrecognized by Tarek. Like Brent, she found herself banished to the blimp during the next day's event, tasked with helping Lenny Veltman -- who happened to live in the same town as the team's Sam's Club -- position the blimp.
With the "troublemakers" safely out of the way, things went rather smoothly for both teams. The salesmanship of Gold Rush made up for many of the shortcomings of their less-than-exciting promotion (a free Sam's Club-emblazened tote bag for the first 485 people to enter the store.) Meanwhile things also seemed to go well at Synergy, with the manicure and massages appearing to lure many people into listening to the team's sales pitch.
At the end of the day, the teams learned that the numbers had indeed been very close, with Synergy signing up 43 new accounts to Gold Rush's 40. As a reward for their victory, Synergy was treated to lunch with The Donald. Eating at The Wharton Club, Synergy's members were given an informal setting in which to get to know Trump -- but more importantly, to allow him to get to know them.
Meanwhile, back in the suite, Tarek was spending his pre-boardroom time trying to prevent his own firing by attempting to convince his mostly willing Gold Rush teammates to agree that it was Summer's failure to call more restaurants that was solely responsible for the team's loss. Except for fellow outcast Lenny, the one holdout of Tarek's "throw all the blame on Summer" plan appeared to be Lee Bienstock, who like Summer, had previously voiced his concern about Tarek's failure to come up with a strong promotion. Lee's "disloyalty" upset Tarek, who warned Lee not to criticize Tarek's management of the task during their boardroom session with Trump. Should he cross him, Lee would also become another target of Tarek's wrath.
In the boardroom, the table was set early, with Tarek using his opening comments to immediately label Summer and Lenny as the team's weak links and Summer as the specific reason for the team failure. The rest of the team also appeared to support Tarek's sentiment -- at least until Trump asked Lee for his opinion and, unable to bite his tongue and tow the company line that Tarek had formulated, he proceeded to place the blame for the team's loss on Tarek's lap. Staying true to his word, Tarek struck back when Trump told Tarek to pick his final boardroom companions, selecting Lee to join Summer, Lenny, and himself in the boardroom's final judging.
Things heated up further during the final boardroom session, with Tarek's hostile teammates ripping him apart. Somewhat surprisingly, Tarek appeared incapable of defending himself at times, offering few specifics about how his three teammates had failed to "step up" and becoming the target of open ridicule about his "giftless gift bag" promotion. However Carolyn Kepcher also wouldn't allow Summer to skate, repeatedly turning the tables on her and asking her what did she contribute to the project and getting little response in return.
Still, despite Summer's poor defense, the tide was coming in on Tarek and The Donald appeared to be determined to fire the MENSA genius -- at least until Summer repeatedly interrupted The Donald during a rant that was leading up to Tarek's firing. Summer's strangely timed interruptions infuriated Trump, causing him to instead fire her.
"You didn't make it by much," Trump told Tarek as the group departed the boardroom. "She saved your ass with her own stupidity." "Not for long," a visibly upset Lenny shouted as he left the boardroom.
"Tarek is totally overrated," Trump remarked to Carolyn and George Ross after the group left the boardroom.