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Eighteen men and women have been chosen by the most powerful man in real estate for a 15-week job interview, in which only one can be named president of one of his companies.

Who will Donald Trump choose as his next Apprentice?

Who's fired this week? Check the Apprentice 2 Portfolio!

Recaps by Gordon Pepper, GSNN

Donald Trump
Assistants: George Ross and Carolyn Kepcher
Creator: Mark Burnett
EP: Mark Burnett, Donald Trump
Packager: Mark Burnett Productions, Trump Productions.
Airs: Thursdays at 9:00pm ET on NBC

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"Toying with Disaster" - September 9

The Donald is back - and this time, it's 18 people who want the opportunity to work under him. We are promised bigger challenges, more cut-throatness, more competition, and more... "You're Fired!"

We start this season with another skyline, and the Donald saying that the sky is the limit. Last season, he started in a helicopter - this season, we see him in a plane, talking about his accomplishments, as well as his 'new' TV show. When the first season ended, the Donald went back to real estate and made more money. I'm noticing that he isn't mentioning his deficit problems in Atlantic City here - that's probably what he really needs an apprentice for.

He just came back from Chicago after looking after Bill, who is in charge of his building project there. Donald likes what Bill is doing, and now he wants someone else to head off another of one of his companies. He wants a leader, someone who is a leader. "I'm looking for... the Apprentice."

Stressing that this is a job interview, not a game, the Donald has invited 18 people from all facets and business experiences of life. Last year, Trump had them start by selling lemonade. This year, thanks to the ratings (and good old fashioned well placed sponsorship), the candidates will be working with Mattel, Toys R' Us, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and many more. The prize? $250,000 - and a chance to work with the Donald - "The dream job of a lifetime. Who will succeed? Who will become...The Apprentice?"

Roll Credits. Is it just me or does Kelly look a lot like Nick? I wonder if appearances in Trump's mind play any sort of factor in this?

We get the usual spiel from The Donald on how they will all live together - but will be conspiring to eliminate each other. "It's brutal. It's tough, It's business." The action shifts to the same waiting office used in the first Apprentice, as we await the 18 new candidates. And they are...

Jennifer M. - A long blonde attorney who reminded me of Darryl Hannah. She finds the place a little intimidating. You haven't seen anything yet...

Raj - He comes in wearing wing tip shoes, a bow tie, red pants, and an outfit that looked like the 1920's and the 1940's were combined and on acid. Ok, we have found this year's Sam.

Andy - Short guy with short brown curly hair, who immediately goes after Raj and thinks that he looks like Rodney Dangerfield. He adds that he hopes Raj can help him tie a bowtie.

Maria - A cropped black haired woman who is in marketing. She likes to size up her competition, and she thinks that the guy with the shaved head is the guy to beat.

Bradford - He of the shaved head. The attorney surveys people and is looking for someone to pick off. She sees a blonde woman who facial features look like Cruella DeVille, and he decides that she's the person to go after first.

Pamela - Miss Deville. She is strikingly blonde and looks like she has a very hard edge to her.

Ivana - This season's Asian woman. She is medium height with medium sized hair.

Stacie J. - This season's African American woman. She seems nothing like Omarosa, which is a good thing - but can she hold her own?

John - Take Sean from Next Action Star, have him lose 100 pounds, and you have John, who is really excited about meeting The Donald.

Wes - a tall short blond haired kid, who makes his impressions felt as he feels that the guys will pummel the girls. They haven't in the early rounds, Wes...

Rob - an average looking black haired guy that looks like he's getting a little pudgy.

Kevin - An African American law student. Think Denzel Washington with a shorter face.

Elizabeth - A marketing firm woman who looks like a cross between Katrina from season 1 and Liz from Survivor season 2.

Chris - Looks like a less pudgy Kevin James with more of a hairline and a New York accent.

Sandy - a blond (what is it with all of the blondes?) a salon owner who I will confuse with Jennifer half of the time.

Jennifer C. - A real estate agent with a small pompadour. She looks like a high crust woman - will she get her hands dirty?

Kelly - Here's the Nick Warnock lookalike - same facial features and same voice tones.

(C-Note: Hmmm....

See it a little.)

Stacy R. - She looks like the Resident Evil character - cute brownish hair, but with a smile that can rip your head off.

As everyone is sizing each other up, The Donald has Robin the receptionist invite them all inside. As they get settled, we see that Carolyn Kepcher (Nasty, yet nice) and George Ross (nasty and not very nice) are back, and Donald warns them all that New York is the meanest, most vicious city in the world.

Donald notes that the women started out strong - but a man got the job. He made it men vs. women the first time around - and he is going to do it again. He goes over the rules, with a few modifications. The first one is that the winning project leader is exempt from getting fired the next week. Andy hates that word, and he doesn't want to see Mr. Trump in the Board Room.

The candidates leave the Board Room of Doom - and go into their pad, which has a nice Greek setting this time around - columns and busts included. The pants are actually working for Raj, as he gets chummy with everyone. The people find the bubbly and start celebrating, and Wes gets chummy - with the guys, as he toasts to them dominating the women. That, of course, pisses them off and Wes is in the hot seat already. Ivana: "He's sarcastic, but maybe too much. Who wants to work with a guy like that?"

The girls find an envelope after drinking the guy's champagne (heh) and they get a letter from the Donald congratulating them. The letter says that life is full of curve balls - and here's another one - they have to send someone from each team permanently to the other team - and they are the project managers for the first task. The guys want to either draw from a hat or to vote, but Bradford volunteers. The guys are surprised, but it's a great move for the bald guy, as he can now scope out everyone. "When it comes to taking charge at the plate, I'm the guy who takes home base, points (the bat) to the center field, and knocks it out of the park."

That was a good move - walking into the girls meeting while they are deciding who to send over to the men probably wasn't. Maria is happy that every team needs a Y-chromosome, and Pamela, the hard edged woman, decides that she wants a lot of them, adding that she wanted to be the project manager the first time out. She elects to go over to the guys, and the women don't seem to be protesting. Bradford may, though, because that's the person that he wanted to get rid of first, and it will be tough to do that if she is on the other side. Jennifer: "Pamela either made a bold good move, or she made a bold stupid move." As for Pamela going to the guys side? "My penis is getting larger every minute."

Now back to creating a team name. Raj likes the battle ship idea - Intrepid, Dreadnaught, etc. while Pam is looking for something strong, like Empire (which is actually a pretty cool name). Kevin brings out 'Mosaic', which everyone votes on over Empire. Raj hates the name, "I think it's a fruity-toot name. I think it says nothing, other than the fact that we're politically correct", and tries to convince people to change the name if they start losing challenges. Based on what I've seen so far, they may be changing the name.

The women think about 'Empire', as well as a lot of better names than Mosaic. Bradford tries to lead the group - but he's not getting anywhere and Maria has to reign him in - especially when Bradford thought that they created a name and he's about to leave. They do finally vote on Apex - and that's their name. Bradford isn't too thrilled, though, as he notices that the women were talking over themselves and he thinks that they may be in trouble. "What have I gotten myself into?"

Raj pleads his case to the women, who also laugh at the name. They notice that the women come out with the more masculine name than the guys. The women tell him to spend more energy on arguing on the name and less time worrying about his clothes. Ouch. Raj ends his night thinking that his ego has been pummeled - which, to a degree, it has.

At 8am the next morning, everyone gets to meet The Donald in front of Toys R' Us. Raj still wants his ego to take a beating as he comes out with a cane. His name beating, however, will be justified, as The Donald likes Apex - but thinks that Mosaic is awful. Raj wants a name revote - and the Donald goes after Raj for the cane. "You have two good feet, it seems like you can use them." Donald is impressed with Pamela and Bradford for volunteering - and he wants to impress everyone else with the toy industry. The first task - each team has to develop a brand new toy from Mattel - and they will have as many resources from Mattel as they need. The target audience for this toy is for a little boy. At the end of the day, the teams will be presenting their idea to Mattel representatives Richie Weintraub, Mark Sullivan and Evelyn Paiol. The team with the best marketable toy will win the challenge - the losing team gets someone canned.

Once Mosaic gets into the room, Pamela has everyone take off their ties, which is a good idea because it sets everyone in a more casual mood. "I wanted them not only looking like, but thinking like a Mattel executive." The ideas go from a water spouting backpack to a magnetic fish tank as Andy suggests that they create a lobster with movable appendages called 'Crustacean Nation'. Kevin adds that there could be teams of good guys and bad guys, and they all have interchanging parts. The look on Raj's face says it all, as he wants someone to desperately move him to the women's team.

Wes says that Rob says that he thought that he wasn't part of the creative process. However part of the process includes opening your mouth, and he doesn't really do that. The only time that he does open his mouth, he talks about a superficial character called 'Ecstatica', which is an eel-thing, and the team hates the idea and kills it almost immediately. Rob says that his strategy is to not get into people's hair - and if that means to chill out, that means to chill out. Dude, this isn't Survivor - you need to be able to stand out, and if you are not doing that you are just waiting to get canned by The Donald.

On the Apex side, the women came out with ideas. They talk about a drag queen collection and an easy bake oven, and that gives Bradford the willies. He tells the women that if you break down kid, a kid loves sports and cars. He had a football game idea, but Jennifer thinks that the idea is too old-fashioned and 'ho-hum'. Jennifer goes for a car with changeable parts, and all of the women seem to enjoy it. Bradford decides to pull rank and makes an executive decision to go with the football game, which almost triggers a women's mutiny and has Maria wanting to strangle Bradford's lights out. "If I could get a hold of his jugular, I would."

Trump's Rule for the first week - "Be Quick, But Be Careful." You can't make a decision so quick that it's going to be wrong.

The women think that Bradford's idea is wrong - though I think that any idea will be better than the appendable super lobster. The team goes into the Mattel Corporation's toy design department as they will be creating the prototype. Bradford does a smart thing and asks about the validity of the idea, asking if his idea has been done before. It's been said that is has been done and they don't know how successful it is. He then brings out the women's idea, and the designers like that better. Bradford acquiesces to the women and this time it looks like it will pay off as he realizes that a democracy will be better than a dictatorship.

Mosaic looks to the toys, and they get to see the lobster pieces, while the car pieces are also looking sweet. Bradford was very impressed that they could get the prototype done in 13 hours. How will the prototype work in the focus group - which in this case, are a bunch of young kids? George is actually smiling (sadistically?) as the kids come in while everyone else is looking at them through a 2-way mirror. They introduce the 'Metamorphor', and the kids are having a field day with it, watching it crash into walls and having the pieces fall off.

Now it's time for the underwater shellfish. The kids walk over there - except for one of them, who, in the words of Pamela, "wasn't having any part of our product... he wasn't believing in Santa Claus anymore." The kids were playing with the item - but not as intently as they were playing with the car. Pamela goes after the surly, kid, wondering who cut his hair and saying "He looks like a mini-dumb and dumber." Well, Carolyn hears that, and the look on her face shows that she isn't thrilled at what just came out of Pamela's mouth. Everyone turns around, shocked at what Pamela said, and even the professionals were taking notes. Oops.

While the women are waiting for the results, Stacie J. asks the Magic 8 Ball if the team has won - and the 8-Ball says that things are looking good. That gets the women happy. Then Stacie starts to ramble about her history with the 8 Ball - and she wonders why no one is listening to her. That gets the women scared. She is accused of people being paranoid while she was accusing people of being people of calm and uncaring. Stacie is going off on a tangent. Bradford and everyone else ells Stacie to chill out, while Sandy is convinced that if they look into the 8 Ball and asked if Stacie J will be the first person to be fired, the 8 Ball will say "Definitely."

The Donald cancels a meeting to get to Mattel (which would be weird, because you would expect him to be at Mattel when the results would be announced). The crustacean line was not as fresh as they liked, while the Metamorphor lets them build on an existing line that they already have. The winning team is... Apex, who celebrates by having dinner at twilight with The Donald and his fiance, Melania.

That's good news for Stacie, who won't get fired. It's better news for Bradford, who won't get fired on this show or on the next show. It's really bad news for Mosaic, who is going to be losing one of the patches on their quilts.

Melania hosts Apex to their pad as The Donald invites them in. They are spending time with him - something that John is seething about, as he would give up every reward for that opportunity. While Raj is cooking up frozen dinners, the women are enjoying shrimp cocktails, and Jennifer C. watched how The Donald ate his food - and imitated his eating pattern. Uhhh... I don't think that's what John was inferring. I think he was talking more about getting into his mind and seeing how he ticks - like him asking what was up with the guy with the cane, which got laughter from everyone.

There is also laughter at Mosaic - albeit unintentional when John puts a basketball through a wall. Pamela realizes that she really needs to bond with the guys, but it's the girls who she is talking to in terms of eliminating the guys and Andy wants to smack Pamela in the back of the head with a shovel. "No man at any time knew what they were supposed to do." Andy and Rob are convinced that they are going to the Board Room. Rob says that Pamela is going to ask Rob what she did, and Rob says that he is going to ask what did Pamela ask him to do. That's a really bad choice of strategy, as the Donald is looking for a leader, not a follower, and Rob will be acting like just that. Andy is a nationally ranked debater, and he promises that if he is called upon, he will take Pamela out.

He may not need to worry about it, as Pamela is doing a very good job taking herself out. She first criticizes Mattel for not following what was on the dossier, then blaming the kids. Carolyn comes right back at her, saying that the comments that she made about the kids were offensive. Donald adds that he has a bad haircut, which gets chuckles from everyone. She admits that she doesn't have kids and wouldn't relate. The Donald wonders why the kids didn't have imagination in terms of creating toys for boys, and Raj says that he never had toys when he was a kid. Donald was shocked that the guys didn't win this, and Kevin said that there wasn't a plan. Wes says that Rob should be the person to be blamed, because he didn't utilize himself in any contributing fashion. Rob counters that he wasn't used because he wasn't asked. Carolyn asks him if it was his fault, and Rob snaps back, saying "Excuse Me?" to Carolyn. That was a disastrous move, and if Pamela elects to take him to the Boardroom with her, you may as well send the taxi for Rob right now.

Donald asks Rob if he should have stepped up - and he said that he wasn't asked. He asks who the blame should fall on - and he says Pamela. Andy also says Pamela - because a team should never be surprised, which they were, because they didn't know what roles they should be doing. Kelly (where did he come from?) said that Rob should be blamed, while John goes after Rob and wonders how people who are supposed to be leaders are going to mope around in the corner and do nothing. "The people who didn't stand up and get involved in the mix... you have to stand up at the table and do something." Pamela, to Rob, "You were heard - just because you weren't selected for things doesn't mean that I wasn't considering you."

Pamela can either select 2 or 3 people who may or may not get fired. Pamela wants to know what the benefit of taking an extra person with her. She wonders what the advantage is, and while the Donald is wondering why she is asking that, I am not - it's a smart move, as she wants to see what the rationale is. According to Donald, the only advantage is that it gives him more of an option on who to fire, and she wisely only selects two, since there is no reason to alienate any more people, and the people she wants to bring - Rob and Andy - were earmarked from the start.

Though she made a lot of bonehead errors, I can't see Pamela getting fired as the first manager. Carolyn liked Pamela, while George says that Rob should forced himself to do more things. This one seems pretty cut and dry. When the three of them come in, the Donald was wondering why no neither of them extended to help a lady into her seat, which he considers not very nice, while Pamela said that there was no need for it. She says that she has a deeper experience portfolio than both Andy and Rob. Rob says that he is valued in the right tasks, and that he was underutilized. Donald: "A lot of people are underutilized because they choose to be underutilized." Andy is asked who was worse, and Andy said that he came here not to say who was worse, but to get a job for Mr. Trump. He says that he is in the Boardroom because of his youth - and Rob basked Andy for the first time, saying that he didn't do anything either and only came up with the name. Rob has finally figured out what he needed to do - but it's a little too late in the game.

Trump's analysis - Pamela has a hard edge which isn't going to disappear - but it needs to for her to win. Rob - He doesn't have to be asked in order to not do a job. Andy - Not sure if he has enough experience and is a project - but he will give Andy another chance as he tells Rob, "You're fired." Rob thanks the Donald and he is gone. Donald says that it was a little tough (though I didn't think so) while George and Carolyn told him that it's only going to get tougher. Rob leaves and Pamela and Andy return upstairs. End of episode.

My take? Excellent start to this series. They have taken the concept and have moved it up to the next level, showing us that it's not going to just be who can sell the most of something. Granted, there should be some of those exercises, but not the majority. Here is my early chart in terms of who, in my opinion, is where -

Good First Impression - Jennifer M., John, Bradford, Maria, Wes, Kevin
Need more info - Sandy, Elizabeth, Chris, Ivana, Raj
Bad First Impression - Jennifer C., Pamela
In Trouble - Stacie J., Andy
WHO? - Stacy R., Kelly
You're Fired - Rob

This should be one heck of a fun ride. The next trip starts next week.

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