'The Apprentice: Los Angeles' leaves four finalists in finale running
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/16/2007
Donald Trump's 14-week job interview will come to an end next week as The Apprentice: Los Angeles will air its live finale next Sunday night from the Hollywood Bowl. However The Donald gave his final four one more task during Sunday night's penultimate episode of The Apprentice: Los Angeles, and the four remaining contestants -- who in a departure from the show's usual "two finalists" format, will all be part of the sixth season's live boardroom finale -- can only hope they came out of it smelling like roses.
Four members of the former Arrow Corporation team remain in the competition -- Frank Lombardi, a 27-year-old contracting company founder from Bronx, NY; James Sun, a 29-year-old Internet entrepreneur from Seattle, WA; Nicole D'Ambrosio, a 25-year-old commercial real estate corporation owner and broker from Chicago, IL; and Stefani Schaeffer, a 32-year-old attorney from Los Angeles, CA.
The Apprentice: Los Angeles' penultimate episode began with Trump unexpectedly visiting at the mansion where the four remaining finalists had just returned from the previous boardroom session. After surprising them, Trump informed the finalists that they'd be attending a cocktail party with the five previous The Apprentice winners before participating in their final challenge.
"It was a great reward to spend some time with the past Apprentices and get an idea of how they felt when they were in our shoes," said Frank.
The Apprentice 2 winner Kelly Perdew then gave the remaining finalists 30 seconds to decide which two ousted The Apprentice: Los Angelescontestants they wanted to bring back for help. Frank and Nicole chose Tim Urban, a 24-year-old tutoring company owner from Los Angeles, CA, and Surya Yalamanchili, a 24-year-old brand manager from Cincinnati, OH; while James and Stefani picked Aaron Altscher, a 25-year-old community sales manager from Fredericksburg, VA, and Angela Ruggiero, a 26-year-old three-time Olympic ice hockey player from Oyster Bay, NY.
The next day, the two teams met Trump on a western back lot at Universal Studios. Once there, he informed them that their final task would require them to write, direct and produce a 60-second commercial for an air-freshener company. The commercial would then premiere in front of a live audience at a local movie theater.
After getting their assignment, James and Stefani quickly got down to business and looked at their sound stage to determine where their commercial would be set. However after being overwhelmed by all the set possibilities, they decided to meet with executives for the product they're trying to sell to have a better understanding of it. Frank and Nicole's team followed a similiar tactic and decided to focus on a mother coming to a hospital to comfort her child, turning it into a "warm, welcoming home." Frank thought a hospital was a "dull scene" with "everybody dying," and was unsure what odor would be eliminated in a hospital. James and Stefani ultimately decided to set their commercial in a courtroom where a dad is "charged with stinking up the family's home."
With no designated project leaders, the two remaining finalists in each team worked together with the ousted contestants they chose. James and Stefani found their production "running smoothly." To make the hospital concept funnier, Frank introduced a "bum" that "smells really bad." Surya was impressed with the quick pace Frank worked at while Nicole tried to impress the executives with product placement. Frank commented he was happy he "carried" the task to impress Trump. Meanwhile James was "trying to be a perfectionist" in Stefani's opinion, which was delaying the shoot. With 45 minutes to spare and "so far from finished," Stefani thought she and James might be "dead in the water" if they couldn't complete it in time.
Frank and Nicole began editing, a process Nicole thought was fun but left Frank frustrated because he couldn't resist offering as much input as possible. The two butted heads, and Frank eventually relinquished (most) control to Nicole. James and Stefani also began editing, and a problem quickly arose because James didn't shoot all the footage that was needed. He was aware it was his fault and worked as his team slept.
The next morning, both groups aired their commercial at the theater. James and Stefani's spot went first, and -- much to James' relief -- brought applause from the crowd. "We came-up with a very good commercial. The audience was receptive to it. I feel really proud," said James.
Frank and Nicole then aired their commercial, and the audience also enthusiastically approved. "If the audience is happy and the executives are happy, Mr. Trump has to be happy," said Frank.
After traveling back at their mansion, the finalists took turns bashing each other's commercials in private. Trump then met with the executives, who thought James and Stefani worked well together to "get the best results" while it seemed Frank "was running the show" instead of working with Nicole as a team and compensating for each other's shortcomings.
Frank, Nicole, James and Stefani then arrived for their boardroom session, with Tim, Surya, Aaron and Angela there to offer their input. James and Stefani were confident and said they would be "surprised" if they lost. Nicole described her squad as a "dream team," and Frank added he thought they "hit the mark." Trump said he thought everyone did an "exceptional" job before dismissing Tim, Surya, Aaron and Angela.
"I'm going to do something a little different. I want you to go back to the mansion... you're then going to go home," Trump told them. "I'm going to meet you all in the boardroom next week in front of a live audience -- millions and millions of people -- we're going to have a little fun. From this group, I will choose the Apprentice."