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The Rebel Billionaire
Branson's Quest for the Best
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His name is Sir Richard Branson, and he's taking 16 would-be adventurers on a round-the-world quest for success. The prize: presidency of his entire Virgin empire.

Recaps by Chico Alexander, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host:
Sir Richard Branson
Flight Attendants: Georgia Rossini, Frankie Harris
Creator: Jonathan Murray
EP: Jonathan Murray, Sir Richard Branson, Kevin Lee, Lori Levin-Hyams, Laura Fuest, Tod Dahlke
Packager: Virgin, Bunim-Murray Productions
Airs: Tuesdays at 8:00pm ET on Fox


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"Virgin Adventurers" - November 9

"The name is Branson. Sir Richard Branson." And so begins Fox's answer to the love child of "The Apprentice" and "Fear Factor". But instead of a job with Virgin Worldwide, these players will all compete for... Virgin Worldwide. The winner will be named PRESIDENT of Richard's entire media empire, worth tens of billions (that's with a B, mind you) and will receive a $1 million salary. Those players...

Sam: financial analyst
Erica: model
Steve: pro tennis player/business executive who plans to make the other 15 his bitches.
Jermaine: motivational speaker
Candida: CEO, raw foods company
Shawn: CEO, Lovesac furniture company
Heather: CEO, Little Laureate Videos
Jennifer: radio advertising executive
Michael: Wall Street strategist
Spencer: young, hungry, greedy, very motivated car salesman who says he's a winner
Gabriel: entrepreneur and pizza parlor owner
Jessica: entrepreneur, former owner of mail-order catalog business
Sara: CEO/owner, Spanx footless pantyhose
Tim: recently separated trial attorney
Aisha: a "serious businesswoman" who sacrificed her son, husband, and job to take part
Nicole: employment attorney who doesn't know what to expect
Morning Glory: the plane that will jet the players and Branson on a whirlwind adventure

From all across America, they will be taxi-cabbed to Richard's estate in Oxford, England. It is here where Branson's quest for the best begins. "To win this, a person will have to have an adventurous spirit, a sterling character, and a brilliant entrepreneurial mind." All 16 are nestled and getting ready for a meeting with Richard... not knowing that they may have already met him... Remember the old-decrepit cabbie that took them to the estate? Under that makeup, it's all Branson. Which means that every lie they told about themselves, their motives, and America in general... He's heard. And based on that, he will eliminate two spot on.

At the party, we see a limo and the cab used to get to the estate. Out of the limo pops... Donald Trump? I don't think so... Out of the cab pops... Richard. He informs them that of 50,000 who applied to be on the show, they were the last 16. THAT's the good news. Now the bad news. "Some of you may not have realized it, but you've already faced your first test. I was actually your cab driver this morning." With that, he outs three people -- Aisha (who compared herself to Jennifer Lopez and had a thing for celebrity, not challenge), Shawn (who didn't help his lady friends OR the driver with heavy bags, and was just cocky overall - "The guy owes me money."), and Spencer (who wasn't warm at all) -- as candidates for elimination. For Spencer and Aisha, their ineptitude and lacking for details will cost them dearly. They are the first back on the plane to America. "As much as Aisha and Spencer make good employees, they could NEVER run my company. You've got to be top-notch in every way, and most importantly, have the ability to aspire others." For the rest of the group, it's a 4am wake-up call for... something that Richard has never done.

I guess in the UK, 4am is 3:32am, as the team gets set for their next adventure in a hot-air balloon. Or should we say... in TWO hot-air balloons.  Problem for Jennifer, as she's afraid of heights. The challenge: crossing between two balloons on a balance beam at 10,000 feat. Seven players will accompany Richard on this trip, while the other seven are guaranteed places in the next round. Shawn, Sara, Michael, Erica, Nicole, Jessica, and Tim will join the balloon enthusiast, as Richard wants to see how Shawn will fare as a team leader.

The challenge: Shawn will choose one person at a time to cross the balloons within 15 minutes. There will be two guide wires, and if anyone touches them once, they'll be given a warning not to touch them again. If they touch twice, they will face "dire consequences" in the first balloon. Branson's tip: it is best not to be chosen last. You do not want to be in that first balloon.

Among the strategy discussed, Sara's fear of heights. How will that factor? Richard cites that this sort of challenge has shaped his own business vision. Shawn decides that if he isn't scared, he will stand by the weakest link of the team and put Sara on the beam first. If not, he will choose Michael. Shawn makes it across first... and calls Michael, who rushes across. Then there's Erica (across), Jessica (across), and Tim... who doesn't make it. Sara is a bit betrayed about how her team treated her. She goes last with less than a minute of fuel remaining. And after all that buildup... She touches the wire twice. Tim and Sara are left at the start with Richard, who gives them the next challenge, again something that Richard has never done.

The challenge: climbing to Richard's little office setup for a chat and some tea. The only thing is: it's at the at the top of the balloon, 150 feet up. Whoever fails is eliminated. If they both reach the top, then Richard gets to choose who stays and who goes. But for now, both Tim and Sara are in control of their own fate. And, because he can, Richard will attempt this and all future stunts with the players.

"I feel like I'm climbing Mt. Everest." And he's in, thinking that peer pressure will get at least one person up.

Tim is first, terrified. Sara is next... petrified. Shawn is on the ground, wondering if he will be called on for his leadership, putting Sara in jeopardy, double jeopardy, AND final jeopardy. At this point, Sara is in danger of not making it, as the air is thin, and the oxygen levels are low. Tim makes it to the top first. Sara's arms are hurting. She is so fatigued that she says she may faint. After 38 minutes... Sara makes it! She's so excited that she gets her foot caught in the balloon. The lesson here, just because you climbed your way to the top of a balloon doesn't change the fact that you are still indeed on top of a balloon. But nevertheless, they're on a cloud, and "if one of you goes home, I hope you go home on cloud 9."

And if you thought that climbing up was hard, trying getting back into the basket. And if that was hard, then for Richard to choose between the two... excruciatingly difficult. Dealing with forcing his hand... for Shawn, impossible.

To the airport, where the time has come, the Morning Glory is fueled, and a decision has to be made. Richard believes that leaving behind Tim and Sara was a bit of a Machiavellian move, thinking that they could go all the way. Tim's an articulate person. Sara proved to be a budding entrepreneur. That said, both are given an envelope. In one envelope, a ticket on board. In the other, a ticket back to America. That person will be left on the tarmac to watch the others head for their next adventure. Today... that person is Tim. "Tim is incredibly smart and incredibly articulate, but I'm not sure he has the entrepreneurial instincts to lead my company." Sara returns to the game, as she is toasted.

All I can say about the show right now is that it's all polish, but recycled content. And could you at least please not hide the fact that confessionals are being taped in front of a blue screen? That just takes away from it. But I do like the execution.  In any event, the adventure continues.... to Hong Kong!

Now boarding, GSNNAir Flight 5050 to Hong Kong...

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