Marisa DeMato, <EM>The Apprentice</EM> Marisa DeMato, The Apprentice

How El Pollo Loco can you go? Ousted from NBC's The Apprentice last week for failing to drum up sales of a less-than-super "bowl" product for the regional fast foodery, Marisa DeMato argues that she was, in fact, targeted for elimination by "Her Highness," Heidi. The day after the 28-year-old attorney's exit, TVGuide.com invited Marisa to talk, um, chicken.

TVGuide.com: I feel like one drawback of this season's "penthouse versus the outhouse" setup is that we didn't really get to know you folks over on Kinetic. Did you feel that way, seeing the coverage?
Marisa DeMato:
I totally agree. I felt like you really didn't get to see a lot of the team, because they focus so much more this season on the losing team. And in the third week, with the exemption [from the task], our team was basically nonexistent.

TVGuide.com: So when you then show up in Week 4, all we're left with is this painting of you as a person crazy for people in chicken suits, and who perhaps talks too much in the boardroom.
Marisa:
Starting back in Week 2, I was getting a little more face time than most, because I was vocal about not really being that thrilled with the [twist where] one person could essentially continue to be project manager [for weeks on end].

TVGuide.com: Was that you? I quoted you when I raised my own objection to that rule change with Donald Trump. I told him it keeps the other team members from having a proper chance to shine.
Marisa:
It does, and I still feel that way. As you said before, no one's really gotten to know what a great team Kinetic was, and Kinetic was a great team. Some people right now may be thinking, "Oh, she didn't get along with her group," but nothing could be further from the truth. There really wasn't any dissention in our group whatsoever, aside from Heidi and I occasionally having professional differences over designs or concepts. I was very close with Muna and Aimee and Derek.... You wouldn't necessarily know it by watching, but my boardroom [outcome] was more about taking out the strong player — at least as far as Heidi was concerned. Regarding the chicken suit, I can sit back and say, "Wow, people are going to think I'm really adamant about that" and not know where it's coming from, but had they seen what led up to that point — which was our team learning that Arrow did in fact use a chicken suit as part of their marketing — America would have understood why I felt so passionate about the issue. At that point in the boardroom, I felt they were doing a good job trying to spread the blame around, and that was my chance to say, "I'm not to blame for this loss."

TVGuide.com: Yeah, I thought you might squeak out of this one, but then I saw there was only, like, a minute left in the hour....
Marisa:
There are examples where you just drop the ball and make mistakes, and you're the reason the team fails, and you can kind of accept that. If that had been the case for me, I would definitely own up to it. But it was just the opposite. I put myself out there and pushed to do my best job.

TVGuide.com: Is there anything you would do differently back in the boardroom?
Marisa:
I would not have been as worried to say I would fire Heidi as project manager. I felt like, because she and I hadn't seen eye-to-eye, it would have looked like it was some sort of personal animus, but it wasn't. For some reason Trump has really taken a liking to her, so he's not getting the full picture, and I felt like it would have been an uphill battle.

TVGuide.com: What is Kinetic's greatest liability moving forward?
Marisa: The groupthink. The fact that no one, expect for me, has stood up and taken risks and made decisions for the team. Heidi is not making decisions; there is no way to spin it any other way. She's good at shooting ideas down, but she doesn't contribute.

TVGuide.com: Do you think Heidi has too much momentum going for her to get fired any time soon?
Marisa:
I don't know. To be honest, even though it was portrayed as "Everybody agreed with Heidi," if you really look at last night's episode, you will notice that Derek refers to her as "Her Highness." That wasn't exactly an indication that he was so thrilled with always having to run things by her. The other thing is that every time you saw her rolling her eyes and making faces when I would try to suggest something new, the rest of the team was quiet. They didn't say, "Oh, we hate Marisa.... She talks too much." They were very silent.

TVGuide.com: Now just how dirty did Arrow leave the camp?
Marisa:
It was pretty filthy, I have to say. I had never seen anything like that before. It looked like things had been sitting in pots and pans for days.... It was pretty gruesome.

TVGuide.com: You must have been like, "At least I only had to spend a day there."
Marisa:
Oh, I know! One day and one night, that was all I needed in Tent City. I got off easy!

TVGuide.com: And what about this whole on-set romance thing? They promo'd the hell out of it the week before....
Marisa:
And then it wasn't even on the episode!

TVGuide.com: It's Tim and Nicole, right?
Marisa:
Um, I'm not sure that I can confirm anything, but... it's interesting, regardless, based on the things they were showing last night. It was surprising to us. I mean, I'm just surprised that anybody could spark any sort of interest, the way that they were living outside there!

Hey, reality-TV fans! The Feb. 5 issue of TV Guide has scoop on American Idol and more! Also, get the latest updates on your favorite shows from TV Guide Channel's Reality Chat. Click here for listings.

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