May 06, 2005 08:00 AM

The third season of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice is living up to its name. Billed as a battle between “book smarts” and “street smarts,” the competition was narrowed down to one player from each camp Thursday night, and for the first time they were both women.

Thursday’s episode began with three contestants: Tana, Craig and Kendra, and it got off to a quick start as all three interviewed with CEOs from Domino’s Pizza, QVC, Burger King and real estate biggie Prudential Douglas Elliman.

The consensus from the CEOs was nearly unanimous: “Craig lacked substance.” Less than a half-hour into the show, the three were called into the boardroom, where Trump quickly briefed them on what he’d learned from the interviews and, with no discussion, unceremoniously fired the remaining man.

Tana, an original Net Worth member (“street smarts”), and Kendra, from Magna Corporation (“book smarts”), were then given one night to relax before they returned to the boardroom to be presented with their final and most difficult task. Kendra was charged with running the Best Buy Video Game Championships, while Tana was to head the NYC 2012 Athlete Challenge, an event designed to bolster New York City’s bid for the 2012 Olympics.

Both women quickly learned they wouldn’t be working alone. Tana was given original Net Worth members Brian, Chris and Kristen, while Kendra was to be assisted by Danny, Erin and Michael. After learning of the assistance they were to receive, Tana’s first question was whether they could swap players. When she saw her team, Tana remarked they were “the three stooges.” She later asked, “Is this a sick joke?”

Kendra’s assessment of her helpers wasn’t any better: “They’re going to have some sort of responsibility in whether I ultimately win or lose. And that scares me.”

Indeed, as the two women began organizing their events and trying to manage their teams, it was obvious why these players had been so readily dumped earlier in the season. The level of incompetence was astounding, as Chris and Kristen argued and swore at each other while spending hours looking for a parking spot, and Danny almost completely botched Kendra’s relationship with event sponsor Best Buy.

As with previous seasons, the episode ended mid-note, with both contestants facing what seem to be insurmountable odds in organizing their events.

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