Virginia Sherwood/NBC
September 17, 2010 12:00 PM

The Apprentice season 10 began Thursday with a battle of the sexes in the two-hour NBC premiere. Dropping the celebrity angle, the show took on 16 new hopefuls vying at a chance to work for Donald Trump after becoming unemployed due to the recession.

Dividing the contestants into teams of men and women, Trump assigned each a design project to build an ultra-modern workspace. They would be judged on execution, functionality and originality. Gene was elected to take charge for the men. His group was up against the women, led by Nicole, who volunteered to be project manager for her squad.

Both leaders took flack from their teammates. “Our lack of focus has to be Gene’s fault,” teammate James said during the project design. “We have eight people who are motivated and ready to work. He needs to take that energy and direct it.”

As for Nicole, she faced heat from teammates Mahsa and Tyana, who argued that she, too, showed poor leadership skills.

But when it came down to meeting Trump and his daughter Ivanka in the boardroom after the projects were complete, neither team came across as a winner. “I have found this very difficult,” Trump said. “I didn’t like either space very much.”

On the men’s team, Gene defended his leadership skills while Trump told Clint he was dressed too unprofessionally at the meeting. As for the women, Nicole’s entire team threw her under the bus, though Ivanka called out Tyana and Mahsa “for being so unprofessional” by yelling out of turn. In the end, because she didn’t defend herself, Trump told Nicole, “you’re fired,” but added that he liked her and is “going to get her an interview with the Miss Universe Pageant.”

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