Michael Laungani, <EM>The Apprentice</EM> Michael Laungani, The Apprentice
Donald Trump gave Michael Laungani not so much a Bronx cheer but a Rutgers one, when the 29-year-old Chicagoan nearly cost the ill-fated Gold Rush guys their most valuable asset: a bevy of collegiate pom-pom girls. Was Michael simply too nice a guy to play with the reality-TV sharks? (And why does he want to tangle with

real sharks?) Here's what he told TVGuide.com the day after his firing.

TVGuide.com: Dude, where did you come from? So many people I've talked to agree that you kinda just appeared out of thin air on Week 7.
Michael Laungani:
[Chuckles] A lot of people said I was "flying under the radar." I looked at it this way: If flying under the radar means not getting involved in meaningless gossip, self-promotion or petty squabbles, well, you're not going to see me doing any of that. One of the things I do do is hard work, and I support a team. If I was really flying under the radar not doing something meaningful for a project, I would have been called into the boardroom a lot sooner. I had lost, like, five tasks, yet I was only called into one boardroom, and that was the time I was fired.

TVGuide.com: I have to say, I've been watching this show since Season 1, and the Rutgers-Outback tailgate party was one of the most genuinely exciting tasks ever.
Michael:
It was a lot of fun.

TVGuide.com: I half expected Carolyn to belly up and start doing beer funnels.
Michael:
[Laughs] It would have been fun to see George do beer funnels, actually. That would have been something else!

TVGuide.com: When you watched the playback on TV, were you like, "Are you sure we didn't win this task?!"
Michael:
Yeah, it did appear like we were going all out and had the entire school on our side, but one small thing can turn the tide, and that was Synergy's ability to scramble at the last minute, out of sheer desperation, and come up with the idea to bulk-sale and deliver food. That made the difference  a huge difference when you look at it.

TVGuide.com: Exactly. People weren't coming to their food, so they brought their food to the people.
Michael:
Yep. I admire them for coming up with that idea, because when you look back at it and see that big of a margin in terms of the loss, it still baffles me how they were able to come up with that much money in sales.

TVGuide.com: Allie, Tammy and Roxanne are some scrappy gals.
Michael:
That's Synergy for you. I was on that team, so I know what they're capable of.

TVGuide.com: Is the other moral of this story: "Don't share exclusive cheerleaders"?
Michael:
That's a touchy subject. When the cheerleading coach came over to me and said, "I'm not sure about giving exclusive rights to you guys," you have to understand that this was a deal I negotiated over the phone. There was no contract binding her to work with us. At any time she could have pulled out of the deal completely, and that's the thing I wanted to avoid most. I was trying to ensure that we at least had a majority of the assets.

TVGuide.com: Think maybe you're too nice a guy to win this show?
Michael:
[Pauses to think] You know, it's possible.

TVGuide.com: The vibe I got was, "Michael is a nice, quiet guy."
Michael:
I don't know how quiet I was per se, but I didn't get involved in the squabbles and gossip and pettiness. I'm a pretty serious guy when it comes to business, and that doesn't come across as well [on TV]. I like to deal with people in a nice way  when you give something to someone, they give something back to you  and I think Trump would agree with that. You can't steamroll over people you're trying to get service from. You have to foster relationships.

TVGuide.com: Are you, like me, having trouble shaking the image of Lee shooting hoops in gym shorts and black dress socks?
Michael:
[Laughs] Actually, I think that's the fashion these days for shooting hoops  dress socks and gym shorts. Lee's actually a good ballplayer.

TVGuide.com: What was your favorite reward?
Michael:
I liked the shark diving, but I really didn't want that cage to be there. I asked, "Hey, can I get in here without the cage?" It was a controlled environment and I didn't really feel like a shark was going to come and eat me. With the cage, there was no real danger.

TVGuide.com: I don't know about that. In Deep Blue Sea, the genetically mutated sharks bit right through the cages.
Michael:
OK, if the sign happened to say "genetically engineered, man-eating killer sharks," then I would have been like, "Hmm, I don't know."

TVGuide.com: Which reward were you bummed to miss out on?
Michael:
I'm very happy with the rewards we got. A lot of people look at the diamond and golf rewards as the best because we actually got to take back something from the reward  a diamond, a set of golf clubs. Here's one thing I'll tell you: One of the best things was seeing Mr. Trump golf with Vijay Singh, because you got to see him in an environment you never really see him in. He was literally like a kid in a candy store, asking Vijay for golf tips, ideas on the course.... It was the first time I ever saw Mr. Trump modest, in a way. He's not the all-seeing, all-knowing person when it comes to golf. It was most interesting to watch.

TVGuide.com: Your bio, like Charmaine's and Tarek's, lists The Shawshank Redemption as a favorite movie. Did y'all copy each other's answers, or what?
Michael:
You know who else has that on their bio? Allie. It's one of the oddest things. No, we didn't copy each other's answers. I think a lot of people identify with that movie because it was about someone who was trying to do the right thing and kind of got screwed over, but then came back to stick it to everyone in the end.

TVGuide.com: Did you have any idea that Sean was calling you a "wanker" to the cameras as often as he was?
Michael:
Absolutely not. I had no idea. The thing is that in the process he was very much a friend, very much on my side, very much my confidant. So to see that after the fact, I sit back and say, "Gee, that's kind of two-faced." Others were straight up with me, and I may not agree with them, but I respect a person for telling it to me to my face. When someone says something about you behind your back but are friendly in front of you... I don't have respect for that.

TVGuide.com: How do you rate your Apprentice experience on a scale of 1 to 10?
Michael:
10, for sure. When is it that anyone gets the chance to do something like this, to be involved in all these different businesses? Each task is like setting up a mini-business with a mini-goal, and then you move on to the next one. I don't know anyone who gets to do something like that, let alone meet the people we met  some good, some bad. It's probably one of the best learning experiences you can come away with.

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