Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Final - The End and the Beginning

After a nine week epic struggle between a bunch of liars, back-stabbers and idiots, we are have reached the final, which, sadly, is often the dullest part of the process. The morons and comedy candidates have been eliminated and only the moderately competent remain, so chances of galaxy spanning idiocy are low. We get a bunch of the former Apprenti back for a last hurrah, but as nothing is at stake for them beyond the way they come across on TV, there's no incentive for back-biting or double-crossing.

We don't even have the spectacle of a woman who wants to make money by slashing up your face, competing with a helium-addled pixie with an uncertain business plan involving baking supplies. This year, the candidate are moderately competent and have decent business plans. Mark wants to set up an online marketing company, which is a highly competitive industry but one he know very well. Meanwhile, Bianca plans to make tights in a wide range of colours, which is, apparently, a genuinely good idea and, although she doesn't know the industry, she has done some pretty extensive research.

So it looks like we're in for a pretty dry experience in which two moderately competent and professional individuals compete to sell their generally sensible ideas.

Lord Siralan drags the candidates to Bloomsbury Ballroom to kick things off, where he brings in the candidates who couldn't find anything better to do since they were kicked off the show. In this case
Katie, Solomon, Felipe, Sanjay, Lauren, James, Daniel and Sarah.

 The Damned

But at this point, events take an unexpected turn. Instead of announcing the forthcoming task, Lord Siralan begins chanting in a strange, eldritch language. His suit splits apart and his body expands and distorts, turning red and growing scales as he is transformed into a fir-breathing dragon over one hundred food tall. The Sugar Dragon tears off the roof of the Ballroom before soaring into the air on its mammoth wings, belching fire and smoke across the London skyline.

The Dragon awakes

The stricken Apprenti have no time to do anything but flee to the cars. Nick Hewer is trampled under foot, while Karen escapes by helicopter. With no time for any discussion, the apprentii scramble for the nearest car with no thought of friendship or previous rivalries. Katie, Felipe, Daniel and Lauren join Bianca, while Sanjay, Solomon and James are with Mark. Sarah is tragically incinerated in the chaos.

The teams quickly assemble impromptu business meetings. Bianca believes she can translate her manufacturing research into a weapon that can bring down the dragon, while Mark intends to parlay his online marketing experience into a multi-media campaign he can use to assemble an army.

Bianca and Felipe go to see the Oracle, an ancient Sorceress with extensive experience of magical beasts. She tells Bianca of a process that can be used to make tights that, although invisible to human eyes, can resist even dragon fire. Bianca decides to recruit an elite force of warrior women to wear these tights and face the dragon. However, in order to afford to manufacture her tights she will have to charge for them and she thinks a price of £35 is reasonable given that they are dragon proof. The Oracle thinks she should lower her prices to appeal to a wider market. Bianca agrees to lower the price to £25.

 The Oracle

Meanwhile, Mark is climbing the Cliffs of Dread in search of recruits for his army. Sanjay is filming his journey to broadcast as a promotional video. But after the Tesco disaster in week eight, Mark has lost his nerve and can't get his words out. His followers are left dangling over a cliff while Mark goes through take after take. Then a shake of the Sugar Dragon's mighty tail creates an earth tremor and one of the climbers plummets to their grisly death on the rocks below. Encouraged by their sacrifice, Mark finishes his video.

 Climbing the Cliffs of Dread
Mark raises his army

Bianca's team have successfully manufactured their dragon-proof tights, but are having trouble getting women to take them at the requested price. The poor quality packaging is letting them down and one potential customer refuses to pay more than £6. Bianca refuses to listen to warnings of her team mates. She will only listen to Katie, the two of them are secluded away researching battle strategies.

Forging a weapon of war

Mark, at least, knows how to manage a team. Solomon and James may be useless, but he has at least kept them busy by having them summon elemental spirits to fight the Dragon. They probably won't be much help, but it keeps them busy. Mark has left Sanjay editing the final video as he rehearses the rousing speech he has to give to his Internet army. The two embrace in the knowledge that one of them (let's face it Sanjay) may be killed the next day.

As the next day dawns the usually busy streets of London lay desolate as the small percentage of the London population with a home take refuge under their beds, while the rest seek refuge in tube stations, museums, phone boxes and those news stands that sell crap postcards and souvenir hats. The Sugar dragon has taken up residence on top of the Gherkin and, as the Sun rises, belows a challenge to the world.

 Lord Sugar will see you now

The challenge is answered by Bianca, striding forth accompanied by an army of dragon-proof-tight-wearing warrior women. They are brave, but few in number. As yet there is no sign of Mark's army. The warrior women scale the gherkin. The Dragon belches out fire and smoke, but to no avail. It seems momentarily confused, but then strikes, outraged at the insolence of these insignificant humans. The battle is fierce.

 The Warrior Women advance

Suddenly the sound of drums is heard. Sanjay leads an army of pale computer geeks, social network warriors and vile Trolls. The Dragon is assailed on two sides, but belches flames down on the army. James and Solomon's elemental spirits offer a momentary distraction but they are soon swept aside. James is bitten clean in two, while Solomon is crushed under the Dragon's mighty talons.

 The Elemental Spirits are doomed

The warrior women are almost all destroyed, Bianca is beginning to regret her choice of a premium product. Sanjay's army is flagging. Sanjay leads a valiant charge, but is swept out into the Thames with a flick of it's tail. But what's this? From the river comes the sound of a horn. Sanjay's army was only part of Mark's force and now he leads his reserves up river on duck buses. Now assailed on the three fronts, the Dragon is staggered. The warrior women press their attack and Mark lands the final blow slicing off the dragon's head.

With the Sugar Dragon defeated, it morphs back into the form of Lord Siralan. He is impressed by both candidates work, but believes Bianca made a mistake in the choice of a premium price for her tights. His instinct is to go with Bianca, as he in a "product man" and Mark faces tough competition. But, in the end, Mark's management ability, knowledge of the sector and his willingness to sacrifice Sanjay, Solomon and James to achieve his ends win him over. Mark is the new Apprentice and will lead his Internet-based army on a march through cyberspace, laying waste to his enemies in the name of Lord Siralan.

 The Victor

So that's the final as I remember it. I may have drifted off once or twice, but I'm pretty sure that's how it went.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Week Eleven - Interview with the Vampires

Ten weeks and fifteen candidates down and we're on to the interview round. I have written before about how much I dislike this round. I enjoy watching a bunch of disagreeable imbeciles spew business bollocks, trip over their own shoelaces, fall out over the most trivial things and sacrifice their dignity on the altar of their own hubris, the Interview round is something else entirely.

 No Laptop for you Solomon

Instead of watching the Apprenti fail dismally because of their own personal flaws, we watch four people even more obnoxious than them abuse them to their face without any recourse or means of escape. CV's that we're written to attract a BBC casting director six months ago are pored over like citizenship documents and lies and distortions that the program makers have known about since day 2 are flourished like major scandals.

Or at least that's usually how it goes. Whether because of a conscious effort to tone down the bullying or because this year's candidates are simply more credible than normal, the episode seems to lack the usual spark. We have a few exaggerated achievements, some small scale lying and a couple of business plans not up to scratch, but no-one proclaims themselves to be the son of a god, or the greatest human being to ever live. No-one introduces a business plan that would require their competitors to actively put themselves out of business or reveals that their business plan actually belongs to someone else. Consequently, the abuse is toned down as well. We only have one moment of real excitement, of which more below, the rest is depressingly pedestrian.

Plus the interviews are a pain in the arse to recap because the program-makers like to jump cut around the candidates and interviews so you lose all sense of time and any attempt at a sequential account collapses into an explanation of which candidate is with which interviewer at any given moment.

The interviewers vary year on year, presumably because there is only so much concentrated hatred the body can take. Only Claude Litner has been around for all ten years, which says a lot about him. This years interviewees include the aforementioned Claude Litner, Lord Siralan's formal global troubleshooter, whatever that means, though I like to think it includes leading bands of mercenaries in South America. Mike Soutar is another old hand whose line is more smug pedantry rather than outright abuse. Claudine Collins is a psychologist of some kind who is supposed to "expose the people behind the plans" or allow them to cry at length about their life story. Margaret Montford has been a fixture of these things since she quit full-time Apprentice watching, but she's absent this year possibly persuing opportunities with BBC4 and, instead, we have erstwhile Apprentice and self-proclaimed God of Thunder, Ricky Martin. Ricky's in recruitment, which justifies his inclusion, but the real question is will he sympathise with the Apprenti or take vicarious revenge for the indignities heaped on him two years earlier?

Mike Soutar's job appears to be trolling the Apprentii with the bits of dirt the production office have dug up. He starts small with the revelation that Daniel didn't win a salesman of the year award, he just had the best sales figures of the year. This is less a lie than an admin error. Slightly more fun is his digging out of Solomon's phone and making him pitch the ideas he claims to have noted down in the middle of the night. These include a weird concept for an internet-based breakfast delivery service and a singled-bed hire service for mid-afternoon naps, which Mike summarises as "online shopping" and "a hotel". Which, while technically true, is a bit like describing the Apprentice as a TV show and declaring the concept redundant as we have plenty of those.

Mike Soutar looking typically suave

Mike's best moment comes with Roisin. Her business plan is to produce a range of healthy ready meals using something called konjac root, which apparently has no taste and few calories but can fill you up. Roisin is treating this ingredient like the discovery of penicillin and is convinced that she will revolutionise the world. Mike pulls out a bag he got from a health food shop and dumps on the desk in front of her. But of course no-one has made a ready meal using it have they? Turns out they have, and Mike has one to show off. Roisin is left saying she "was not aware of that" as her business plan collapses around her.

But you can't get it as a ready meal...
...oh apparently you can

Claude Litner is an old hand at the interview round and his role has generally been to be as actively unpleasant and offensive as possible. I have previously compared him to Baron Greenback and the Goblin King. But Claude seems to be losing his edge somewhat. We have seen on "You're fired" a couple of times where as he comes across as perfectly reasonable, if a bit grumpy and his rudeness increasingly comes across as a comedy persona with no real bite. This year, he actually says to Daniel that if he keeps talking rubbish he "will have you". Is he actually planning to start a fight over the desk? By the time Mark gets into the room, he's given up and actually complements him on giving a good answer.

 Claude in a characteristically cheerful mood

His only moment of real flare comes from Solomon. He lulls him into a false sense of security by telling him his CV was a pleasure to read. Apparently Solomon had declined to go down the usual route of claiming to be the son of a God and King of the Universe in favour of just listing his actual achievements. Okay, this is praiseworthy, but anyone finding pleasure in a half decent CV really needs to get out more. But the tables are turned when Claude looks at Solomon's business plan. It's only eight pages long and one of them is devoted to a page of multi-coloured logos that look like sail boats. Claude is outraged, in fact he bangs on about the sail boats so much it looks like it may be the boats specifically that are the problem. Was his family killed in a tragic boating accident? Claude throws Solomon out of the room, and he's in such a hurry to leave he almost heads out the window until Claude redirects him. It just shows that Claude's gone soft, a few years ago he would have let Solomon jump.

 Solomon is shocked to receive a compliment...
...and now we're back to normal

Claudine Collins was introduced last year and her job is to evaluate the candidate psychologically. This leads to Daniel treating it like a therapy session, complaining about the hot tub incident at length before going on about how much the Apprentice has made him a better person. When Bianca gets into the room she bangs on about her professionalism to the point where Claudine questions if she actually has a personality. She thinks she may be hiding behind a mask. Bianca doesn't respond to this very well, and ends up crying in the lift. One advantage of the ridiculously massive building is it gives the Apprenti plenty of time to reflect between floors.

 Claudine Collins...
 ...makes Bianca cry

Ricky "the Fitness" Martin, former Apprentice winner and self-proclaimed son of Odin, is very much a junior partner in all of this. He tries to score some points of Mark by claiming his CV is deceptive because it implies he was a Sales Manager for the entire time he worked for his last company, when he started as a consultant. He then makes him role-play a sales call, in which he feigns disinterest and then tells Mark that there are things he hasn't thought about. His best moment is really a hold over from Claudine, when Bianca bursts into tears mid-way through the interview. But then if her whole personality is just a mask, maybe she's just crying as a tactic?

Mark and Ricky are basically the same but with different hair

Back in the boardroom, the interviewers and Lord Siralan are all very chummy, they seem to be the only ones who find his dismal puns even slightly amusing. Its fifty-fifty whether their simply a bunch of arse-kissers or if years of the business world have left their senses of humour as stunted and dessicated as Lord Siralan's.

 Boardroom levity

We really don't learn anything hear we didn't already know. Solomon has achieved quite a lot for his age, but is quite immature and his business plan is barely a suggestion. Roisin is a good candidate with a wildly over ambitious idea. Daniel is a bit of a chancer, but his idea to expand his pub quiz business into an events business is quite a good one, even if the plan to get customers to plan their own event via a website is a bit far-fetched. Bianca has hit on a really good idea for skin-toned tights, but there is some question over whether she understands the manufacturing side. Mark is a good candidate with a solid, even slightly boring business plan, but there's some question of whether he will crack under pressure.

The candidates are brought back in and Solomon is the first to be dispatched. He goes out smiling, thanking Karen and Nick, and keeps his dignity, of which he never had an ample supply, intact.

 Solomon goes out smiling

Roisin comes next. She falls into the same trap as James from last year, of refusing to modify her plan and insisting that it's so brilliant that the world will fall at her feet. The last straw seems to be her plan to blow through the initial £250,000 in three months and then go to the bank for half a million more. Lord Siralan seems to think of this as the business equivalent of an open relationship and he isn't into that sort of thing. It doesn't help that her experience of the industry consists of eating food, speaking to six people and her immediate family. Roisin is gone.

 And now Roisin is gone

With the ludicrous characters gone, and who would have thought that Roisin would turn out to be one of them, Lord Siralan sends the others out while he has a chat with Nick and Karen. Karen still doesn't like Mark, she thinks he'll collapse under pressure.

Back in the boardroom Bianca turns out to have done her manufacturing research and it looks like her proposal is solid. Daniel is willing to drop his website plan and argues that he is the only one with experience running a business in the industry he wants to enter. Lord Siralan actually thinks that's a good point. In the end, Daniel's improvement over the past few weeks isn't enough to get him to the final, he gets a fired with regret and Lord Sirlan says he is a better person than he was eleven weeks ago. Daniel is magnanimous in defeat wishing the others good luck.

 Daniel falls at the final hurdle

Back in the cab, Mark says he can't wait to win. The trouble with Mark is it's hard to tell when he's joking.

 The finalists

Next Time: The candidate pick teams from the eight losing Apprenti who have nothing better to do with themselves than come back and suffer further humiliation. Daniel claims he's motivated by his hatred of Mark, so much for magnanimity. And will Mark choke in the final presentation, I think I can hear a cough, though it may be a death rattle.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Week Ten - Dessert Warfare

The setting for this week's task announcement is Tate Britain, justified on the ground that Sir Henry Tate made his money from sugar and the task involves designing a range of desserts. I'm not sure using these grandiose settings is a good idea seen as they tend to make Lord Siralan look even more tiny than he actually is. Lord Siralan has decided that because there was some "argie-bargie" in team Tenacity, he is going to move Daniel to team Summit and Sanjay to Tenacity. If he was so keen to avoid "argie-bargie" he should probably have separated Mark and Daniel a few weeks back. He also decides that Katie will lead team Tenacity, because she wants to open a restaurant, and Roisin will lead Summit because she plans to launch a range of ready meals.

Sanjay takes the opportunity of the move to immediately slag off Bianca for always covering her back. Personally, I would say Bianca's tendency to suddenly say something incredibly stupid like "you're our last hope" or "you can have exclusivity for the whole of Westminster" is her worst quality, but to each their own. Sanjay has an idea for cheesecakes themed around tea. Roisin suggests the name "Tea cakes" which would be great if it didn't already exist. How about theming the around oranges you could call them "Jaffa cakes".

Over at team Tenacity, Katie has decided to take charge of designing the product, while Mark and Sanjay handle the branding. This sounds sensible, more than one Project Manager has come unstuck because they let some idiot ruin the product. Unfortunately, it turns out Katie's business proposal is to set up a restaurant that only serves healthy food, not particularly compatible with designing a product made almost entirely out of sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, Roisin decides she should be in charge of branding and wants to take Bianca with her. Solomon argues that he should be on the branding team because he know nothing about food. Roisin thinks he doesn't know about branding either, but when he says he designed the board game box a few weeks back she caves. In the car, we discover that Solomon can't hear the difference between 'camomile' and 'caramel'. Probably best kept out of the kitchen.

Katie is keen to add unusual flavours to her range of trifles, unfortunately she turns out to be an aspiring restaurateur who has never eaten food before. A Michelin starred chef advises her not to go too weird. Katie takes this on board, before dumping a tablespoon of saffron, the world's most expensive ingredient, into the trifle.

 Not so much a hint as a Chinese burn

Sanjay is keen to use the word "trifle" in the name of the product, and suggests "a trifle nice" and "a trifle good" both of which sound dangerously accurate. They finally settle on "a trifle different" which is better, but combined with packaging the looks like someone has thrown up on a table cloth.

Over at Tenacity, Daniel is out of his comfort zone, having been taken for a tea tasting session and been confronted with oolong tea. Daniel, now treating everything as a conspiracy to make him look unsophisticated and stupid, claims that oolong doesn't taste like tea. He then does himself no favours by struggling to find a way to get egg into a mixer. The branding team are doing a better job, with a relatively subtle label and the name "tea pot". Why is this team so determined to use a name for something that already exists?

 Daniel is confused by tea...
...and struggles with a food mixer

The next day, the project managers decide who will be pitching. Katie decides to let everyone have a turn. Roisin decides to take the first pitch along with Bianca, and says Daniel can have a go at one of the later pitches, but if the first goes well she won't mess with the formula. Daniel says he's fine with that and then criticises Roisin behind her back. He thinks she's in love with Bianca. I'm not sure if it's love, she just likes her more than Daniel, which really isn't saying much.

Before the teams pitch to the retailers, they are sent to do some market research, by offering samples in super markets. As it's too late to do anything about any of this stuff, this is mostly so members of the public can criticise the team's products to their face. In fact, the feedback is mostly quite positive, though a few customers don't like the saffron trifle as it tastes savoury. A side effect of the research session is that Daniel and Solomon get stuck in traffic and won't make the first pitch. Roisin and Bianca are remarkably okay with this for some reason.

Roisin and Bianca some how manage to get through a pitch without Daniel or Solomon's help. But they are told that the tea is masked by the other strong flavours. Katie pitches solo and the representative of Asda have more or less the same reaction to her trifles as the public, two out of three are fine but the saffron is horrible. Karen Brady, somehow interprets this two out of three success as total failure and complains about Katie's weird ingredients.

Daniel and Solomon arrive in time for Summit's second pitch, to Waitrose. Roisin is very keen that they should say absolutely nothing unless it adds value to the presentation. Which is a not very subtle hint for the pair of them to keep their trap's shut. But Daniel hasn't gotten this far by understanding coded language and decides to start banging on about liking the cheesecake even though he isn't a tea drinker. He reckons Roisin's pitch is boring, she thinks he talks for the sake of it. Both statements are more or less true.

 Either a crack sales team or a sales team on crack
Roisin is pleased

Mark, meanwhile, is trying to manoeuvre himself ahead of Sanjay, pointing out to Katie, that Sanjay was brought into the boardroom because of his inability to sell. Katie tells Solomon that he can "lead" the pitch. Which sounds good, but is technically a demotion given he was going to be delivering the entire pitch solo. The reaction to the second pitch is more or less the same as the first. They don't like the branding or the amount of saffron.

Roisin has agreed that Solomon is allowed to talk in the next pitch as long as he keeps it snappy. Solomon agress, but it ends up being less snappy and more dribbly and gummy. Despite this, Tesco seem to like the pitch. Solomon thinks one of the panel winked at him. hard to tell if this is an endorsement of the product or Solomon himself.

Mark is supremely confident going in, but this is television and pride comes before an inevitable massive humiliation. In the Tesco presentation Mark chokes, pretty much literally. He develops a nervous cough that kicks in every half sentence. It's a good thing one of the panel offers him water or we might have our first Apprentice fatality. Ironically, Sanjay ends up covering for him while Mark coughs out an apology.

 Mark feels the hand of death

Back in the boardroom Lord Siralan notes the name and flavours of Team Summit's desserts and comments that they have made a chocolate teapot. This is uncharacteristically original for Lord Siralan, his writers must have been quick of the mark this week.

Lord Siralan is less than impressed by Roisin business speak about grazing consumers and when she tries to claim Solomon and Daniel were more of a hindrance than a help, Nick sticks up for Daniel. Apparently, the panel liked him.

Karen rats out Sanjay for slagging off Bianca behind her back. He also gets in trouble for glossing over (for which read lying about) their negative feedback. Lord Siralan thinks he should have mentioned it so they could pre-empt it in the pitch. Mark also owns up to choking, both figuratively and literally, for which he is entitled to some credit. Okay it is the first thing any other member of the team would have brought up, but that wouldn't have stopped James from trying to lie about it, so we can at least credit him with basic human intelligence which is a compliment in this process.

Summit win with 25,500 orders to Tenacity's 13,500. This is largely thanks to Tesco who thought their desserts were wonderful and ordered 20,000. This is Tesco whose CEO recently quit and whose share price is plummeting. It would be a bit strong to blame entirely on Summit's cheesecakes,  but I think we can see the link there. The team are sent off to a macaroon and martini party on James Bond's yacht. I can understand the martinis, but why macaroons? I'm not a big Bond fan, did he have a macaroon with a concealed laser, or one that unfolded into a portable helicopter or something?

Back with team Summit. Mark blames the product, Katie blames the branding and Sanjay blames the branding but claims it's all Mark's fault, though Karen contradicts that and dumps it back on him. There isn't a great deal to talk about here. The saffron trifle was horrible, but the other two were fine. The branding was a bit crap and they sold less than the other team but not so few that it's actively embarrassing.

Lord Siralan decides this is all about the business plan. Katie's plan to open a restaurant could be in trouble seen as she apparently has no sense of taste. This may not be a problem, however, as she only plans to serve healthy food. Lord Siralan dismisses her experience as a waitress by commenting that he has eaten at McDonalds, which is a bit like me dismissing his property company by saying I live in a house. In the end Lord Siralan decides Katie's business proposal is too small scale and he doesn't want to be a sole trader. Surprisingly, Katie is fired. But she gets a "with regret" and even a "good luck" from Karen, so that's nice.

Sanjay plans to set up a social networking website and to make money from advertising. He comes under heavy fire, not from Lord Siralan, but from Mark who thinks he can't possibly make any money from this. Sanjay claims to have five revenue streams, but he can't get past the first without Mark cutting him off. Mark reckons he can make £1 million in a year and challenges Sanjay to match it. Sanjay says he will make £1.1 million in five years. It doesn't really tax anyone's maths skills to work out that this is much worse. Lord Siralan has no confidence in Sanjay's website and so he's fired as well.

Mark begs for a last chance to speak but doesn't get one. In the end Lord Siralan gives him "one last chance" with the kind of weariness that suggests Mark has only survived because he's tired out his firing finger.

 There's that hand of death again

Back at the house the consensus is that Katie will probably be back and possibly Mark as well. When Mark appears, alone, Roisin is in such a state of denial she actually checks the hall in case she's hiding.

 Yes, Katie really has gone

NEXT TIME: It's the attack of the hideous, bloated, dribbling, egomaniacal bullies. Or the interview round. Claude Litner is back and thinks someone is a bloody disgrace, possibly himself. There's no sign of Margaret Montford, but is that Ricky "the fitness" Martin?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Week Nine - Scavenger Negotiation

For some reason we start this episode listening to the radio. The Apprentii are bleary-eyed and still in their pyjamas (or in Daniel's case pyjamas and a hoody), which make explain why Katie comments that she can't believe there are only eight of them left when they started out with 20. I don't think she's fully understood how this show works.

All this domestic bliss is interrupted by Lord Siralan showing up at the front door. The candidates scramble to decide whether to get dressed or offer him a cup of tea, before stumbling into the living room still in pyjamas, making it look like the world's most organised and depressing sleepover.

Knock, Knock.
Who's there?
The Bloody Apprentice.

Lord Siralan announces the task and it's the scavenger hunt. He tries to claim this is all about negotiation but given that the Apprentii having nothing to bargain or negotiate with, no repeat business, no bulk orders, no reputation, all they can really do is beg for discounts in front of a camera. And with a fine for getting back late to the boardroom or not getting a full set of items, we all know what this task is really about.

In a slight twist, all the items they have to collect come from previous scavenger hunts from the past ten years. So we have another 'best of' compilation task. There is a bit of cheekiness, the full sized human skeleton was from the odd 'inverse' scavenger hunt from a few years ago when the Apprentii were given items and had to sell them for as much money as possible. And in Dubai last years candidates were sent to buy an oud, which is a musical instrument, which they got mixed up with oudh oil which this years candidates are being sent to get.

The BBC Worldwide sleepwear range

As if by magic, Nick and Karen appear. Where they hiding in a cupboard? Daniel thinks he should be project manager of team Tenacity because he knows London so well. But Mark also claims to know London pretty well, while Katie argues that this task is about organisation. So all they can really agree on is that the Project Manager should not be Felipe. Daniel, on solo cam, admits to being desperate to be PM. He pushes his local knowledge for all it's worth and ends up practically begging Mark for support. Mark gives in possibly just to prevent Daniel suffering a total mental breakdown at the table.

Sanjay ends up as Project Manager of team Summit. He justifies it on the basis of his local knowledge, but admits to solo cam that he's trying to prove to Lord Siralan that he isn't complete crap after last week's boardroom demolition.

Daniel has a strategy to deal with the rift in the team. He makes Mark and Katie a sub-team and appoints Katie as sub-team leader, giving them half the money and half the items on the list to buy. He will team up with Felipe. So it's very much a kill or cure approach. Either the two of them come back having settled their difference, or one of them comes back having settled their differences.The strategy doesn't seem to be working brilliantly. As soon as Katie and Mark get in the car, Mark claims he only supported Daniel as PM to stop him destroying the team from within, while Katie says she's fed up of Daniel thinking he's better than her.

It turns out Daniel is Jewish and heads straight for Golders Green to get a kosher chicken. After a lot of shaloms and mosletophs he manages to knock the price down from £6 to £4. A decent discount,  but on low price item. Given that failing to secure an item only costs you the list price of that item, prioritising the cheap items isn't very smart.

Sanjay has taken a very different approach to the task. He wants the team to call around lots of suppliers before leaving the house. His theory is that 30 minutes extra planning will save time in the long run. Fine in theory, but it relies on them actually using the time productively. The team have to get a diamond and Bianca suggests going to Hatton Garden. Roisin ignores this and starts phoning around independent jewellers, who don't tend to leave big piles of diamonds lying around. Has she considered calling the seven dwarves? In the end one of the people on the phone suggests Hatton Gardens and Roisin makes a careful note of this, because now someone on the phone has said it, it's good advice.

Bianca gets on the phone to a guy called Declan in search of a second-hand sink. But Mark and Katie have already arrived at Declan's place to pick one up. Mark manages to get a £5 discount and spends £75. He then tries to get Declan to promise not to give a better discount to the other team. Bianca rolls up minutes later and straight-forwardly asks for a better discount than the other team got. Declan offers her a bashed up sink for £60. This could be a pretty good strategy. Just follow the other team around and ask to pay slightly less than they did for everything.

Sanjay, for all his pre-planning, has been distracted by a skeleton in a shop window. He then breaks the cardinal rule of negotiation by marching in, announcing he's desperate to buy the thing and has no idea what a reasonable price would be. Unsurprisingly, he is asked for a ludicrous price of £5000. Sanjay decides he' not that desperate after all.

Meanwhile, Felipe thinks he's come up with a clever trick to save money on the Skeleton. He's found a shop that has a paper skeleton, that comes unassembled. But the list of items says nothing about the skeleton being assembled. He reminds Daniel he's a lawyer. I'm not sure relying on your law skills is a great way to win Lord Siralan's approval Felipe, given that a few weeks ago he was in favour of torturing you for that very reason.

Daniel and Felipe hurry to the shop to pick up the skeleton and even hold hands to cross the road. How things have changed from last week. Though this is starting to feel like a married couple getting over a fight. They collect the skeleton, in a flat pack, and Felipe begs for reassurance from the person in the shop that this is anatomically correct. So there you have it Lord Siralan, certified anatomically correct by the guy in the shop. Daniel and Felipe speak to Mark and Katie over the phone about their triumph. They sound a bit dubious about the paper skeleton, but Daniel says that if it goes wrong it's on him and Felipe. Remember this, because Daniel may forget it later. Felipe thinks Lord Siralan will be impressed with his creativity and this will win him the task. He then flies fate to Paris for a candlelit dinner including truffles, caviar and champagne.

Solomon, meanwhile, can't even say "anatomical". He and Bianca stop at some kind of medical supplies superstore to find a skeleton. Solomon tries to establish a rapport with the sales person, but this mostly consists of a lot of babble while Solomon plays with the skeleton. Bianca finally gets bored and pushes for a price. They end up paying £230, saving about enough money to buy a paper skeleton as well just to be on the safe side.

 Solomon and his new best friend

Both Daniel and Felipe and Roisin and Sanjay arrive at Hatton Garden at almost exactly the same time. Daniel plans to tell a shaggy dog story about how he's getting married. Given how he and Felipe have been getting on, they may think Felipe is the intended groom. Unfortunately, Daniel ends up meeting with an experienced salesperson who seems insulted that Daniel would even ask for a discount. Daniel finally manages to get him down to £172. Meanwhile, Roisin is talking to a diamond cutter who acts like he has never spoken to a human being before and who asks for £140. Roisin isn't happy with that and eventually beats him down to only £50. Sanjay comments that this is like a heist movie.

Speaking of criminality, Mark and Katie have ended up at a block of flats looking for a perfume dealer to sell them some oudh oil. With Nick Hewer hovering in the background it looks a bit like a drug deal that someone has brought their Dad to. Mark thinks they over paid at £48; meanwhile Sanjay is buying oil in a perfume shop for £100.

With little time left, the teams mop up a few last items. Felipe and Daniel get a bag of scallops, while Mark and Katie debate whether to try and cut down the piece of rope they picked up at a Garden Centre so that it's exactly one metre long before deciding they probably don't have to bother. Sanjay gives up on the Kosher chicken in a mad dash for scallops, but still ends up getting back late.

Everyone's happy for now

In the boardroom tenacity are very complementary about Daniel. Katie thinks he has turned over a new leaf and Felipe says he has become a man, which raises all kinds of questions about what exactly they have been getting up to. The camaraderie is spoiled somewhat when Lord Siralan decides to interpret one metre of rope as being 'exactly', and not 'at least', one metre. But the best is reserved for the paper skeleton. Lord Siralan looks at it like Felipe has taken a shit on his desk and asks if they're taking the piss.


It's at this point I'm disappointed that this isn't a slightly different show. There's a good argument to be made that the instructions were purposefully vague in order to catch the Apprenti out. Not to mention that predicting how Lord Siralan will behave is a difficult business. On another day he might have praised the ingenuity. But none of the team have the nerve to make this point, or if they did it was edited out of the broadcast. The instructions actually call for an anatomically correct human skeleton, it doesn't say anything about it being a model. If they strip all the flesh off Felipe they would probably do. Actually, he might not meet the 1.8 metre height requirement. Daniel maybe?

Summit come in for some criticism because Roisin didn't know where Hatton Gardens was and didn't listen to Bianca, and because Sanjay turned up late and without a Kosher chicken, but in the end it's all about the skeleton. Tenacity win on numbers, until Lord Siralan insists on adding the full cost of the skeleton to their total and so Summit are sent off racing cars at Silverstone on a technicality. Mark and Katie look furious.

In fact, in the cafe, Katie out right admits that she has never been so mad in her life, which at least suggests she has lived a pretty tranquil life up until now. Felipe is still arguing that they followed the rules. It's too late Felipe, you forgot the golden rule that Lord Siralan is always right even when he's wrong.

Back in the board room, the formally united and triumphant team now have the knives out for Felipe, with everyone denying any involvement in the skeleton. Mark and Katie can at least claim they never saw the thing, even if their claim of total ignorance is a touch dubious. But Daniel's denial is staggering in its barefacedness. Remember earlier how he said that if there was a problem with the skeleton it was on him? He certainly doesn't. He all but accuses Felipe of using his terrible mind powers, claiming he was duped and knows nothing about skeletons. Nick actually comments that its painful to watch.

Lord Siralan makes a half-hearted attempt to spread the blame around by commenting on Mark's and Katie's inability to find a pair of scissors to cut the rope in central London. Felipe claims he would have cut it with his teeth. It's a bit late for that Felipe, but maybe you could have found some paper rope that you could just tear? Daniel brings back Katie and Felipe to the boardroom, further enraging Katie who claims he's only doing it because she told him things he didn't want to hear. Daniel points out, not unreasonably, that if this was personal he would have brought back Mark.

 Katie is fine with being brought back to the boardroom

After this it's really just a question of whether Daniel or Felipe will go or both of them. Lord Siralan claims that Katie's common sense wouldn't necessarily make her a good business partner, which may be true but puts her ahead of candidates with no common sense or indeed sense of any kind at all. The case against Daniel is essentially that he's been in the boardroom so many times Lord Siralan is starting to suffer from deja vu. But he's saved because, despite the loss, he does seem to have made some improvement. Felipe is booted, though he gets in one last third person statement. "This is not the end of Felipe."

Back at the house, Mark thinks its unbelievable that Daniel is back. He sounds like he actually means it, as though Daniel gave the taxi-driver the slip and snuck back in the boot of Katie's car. In an attempt to mend some bridges, Daniel suggests Katie has been improved by her experience in the board room. Katie thinks she was fine already.

Next Time: The Apprenti design desserts, Roisin and Bianca try to stop a tragey and Lord Siral thinks someone has given up on the process, probably himself by this stage.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Week Eight - Tantrums and Lawn Mowers

The Apprentii are dragged to Chiswick House this week, which the narrator describes as a "slice of the countryside in the heart of the city". This image is slightly undermined by Lord Siralan tearing up in AMS1. It's not quite belching flames, but it does undermine the rural idyll somewhat.
The teams are being sent to the Royal Bath and Wells show in Somerset, which sounds like a made-up thing, but is actually an agricultural show. Each team will have to try and flog one established product and two new, and undoubtedly ludicrous, new items and the team with the most profit will win. Though Lord Siralan does warn that he will be monitoring the team members individual sales figures.

 This doesn't have anything to do with anything, but doesn't Bianca look massive here?

Given Mark and Daniel would rather boil themselves alive than support each other, the question for team Tenacity is which compromise candidate will be Project Manager. Katie argues she's good at sales, Felipe claims he is a logistic specialist and will manage the rest of the team. Mark and Daniel support Felipe. Given that Felipe lost his one previous task as PM and Katie won hers, this seems dubious, but the Felipe does, apparently, posses a pair of testicles, which may make all the difference.

Speaking of testicles, at Team Tenacity James is keen to be Project Manager and promises to put his balls on the line. Presumably, these are the same balls he worked off a few weeks ago on the coach tour. So having worked them off, he is now putting them on the line, maybe he washed them and now they need to dry off? Roisin wonders whether James would be better off concentrating on sales while someone else managed the team, but James is confident that he can do both. The rest of the team go along with it, possibly just to shut him up.`

The teams are divided with half going to appraise new products to sell at the show. Products in these tasks fall into two categories: semi-practical items that seem enormously expensive, and ludicrous novelty items that are cheaper, but still way over-priced given their obvious lack of use. In the former category are a child-seat trailer that bolts onto a bike for £300, a robot cleaner for £250 and a swinging garden chair for £495. In the latter are a handbag made from a flat cap for £60, a pet tracker for £65 and pair of foldable wellington boots for £55.

Some kind of robot leaf clearer

Felipe and Mark like the hat handbags, for some reason. In fact, they're so enthusiastic that they get caught up in guaranteeing they get the product and forget to ask if they can offer discounts at the show and don't even think about it until Katie points it out over the phone. Mark admits this may have been an oversight. Thanks Mark, good thing you're here to let us know what someone else has already told us.

Meanwhile, Bianca, Solomon and Sanjay have settled on the pet detector and the bike trailer and have managed to negotiate some decent discounts. They get on the phone to James with the good news and he immediately decides on the foldable wellies and the hanging chair for absolutely no reason at all. Honestly, this comes across as him choosing items specifically because the team didn't recommend them. This leaves team Tenacity to scoop up the bike trailer, with £50 discount.

You don't have to sit on everything, Felipe

Meanwhile, the other sub-teams arrive at the show to view established products. Daniel is very keen to sell himself to the vendors and can't stop using the words "passion" and "passionate". He's obsessed with sales figures and promises to "excel" their targets. Which presumably means make a spreadsheet of them? Katie, whose job appears to be pointing out things that people should really have noticed themselves, says he may be coming across as too intense, try insane and disturbing. For the final vendor, hot tubs, Daniel tones it down promising to be fun and send customers away with a smile.

Daniel frightening a vendor with his 'passion'

James and Roisin also meet the vendors. James tries to be enthusiastic, but comes across as bored and impatient. But, like Tenacity, they both want the hot tubs. Or as James puts it "they're nice, they're round, hot tubs, fuck it". Unfortunately for James, the vendor goes with Tenacity because James called him Derek twice, when his name is Anthony. Surprisingly, he takes this as evidence that James may not be attention to detail. James, inattentive, slander surely?

This is Daniel when he's happy

James goes into a strop, and saying "sod him". He then decides not to tell the sub-team that the vendor turned him down, because he thinks it might damage their morale. Roisin says she won't lie and that she thinks he should tell the truth. James says he doesn't want to and "at the end of the day it's about what I want." This makes him sound like a sulky five year old having a miserable time at his birthday party. He tells them team that he made a business decision to choose lawn mowers. The team can tell something is up, but aren't sure what.

James is less happy

Daniel and Katie think they should be the ones selling the hot tubs as they won the pitch. But Mark, in the car with Felipe on the way to the show, is lobbying  hard to be given the job. Felipe agrees, though whether it's because he thinks Mark is the superior salesperson, or just because he's sitting in the same car, is unclear. When Daniel finds out that Felipe wants Mark and Katie to sell hot-tubs he blows his top. Daniel is drifting towards paranoia, practically accusing Mark of having mind powers and hypnotising Felipe. Away from the argument Mark admits to being sneaky, though it's a pretty limited sneakiness. He asked Felipe if he could sell hot tubs and Felipe said yes. It's not exactly Machiavelli.

The following day and there is disquiet in both teams. Bianca, Solomon and Sanjay are still suspicious about James, and he still won't own up. While James and Roisin go to flog lawn mowers, the sub-team are left with the foldable wellies and swinging chairs that James foisted on them. Unfortunately, the wellies turn out to be expensive and flimsy, with thin soles not suited too heavy duty agricultural use. There's no shortage of pets and children around and, when James calls for an update, the sub-team point this out and how it's a shame that they don't have any products specifically geared towards children or pets, for instance. This causes James to blow his top and their negativity.

Quite a lot of things seem to be making James angry today. While Roisin is on top of the lawn mower specs, James keeps forgetting and has to consult his notes. He's pretty sure it has oil in it, but that's about the limit. Unsurprisingly, Roisin makes the first sale. So James accuses her of undermining him and patronising him. Presumably by being better at her job than he is? Nick Hewer is staying well out of this and just enjoying sitting on a mower.

But it's hardly happy families with team Tenacity. Mark and Katie are getting on well enough selling hot tubs, but Daniel just can't let it go. They spend the entire morning sniping at each other and ignoring customers. Daniel starts by accusing Felipe of being too pushy, which is a bit like Lord Siralan telling someone they look like a hedgehog. The argument degenerates from who is the better salesperson, to who is better educated, to who has the bigger company. Fortunately they stop just short of dropping their trousers and comparing testicles. Though if they did, I'm sure James would be along to put his on the line.

After lunch, Daniel makes another pitch to be moved back to hot tubs. Mark and Katie resist because they have customers coming back to see them specifically. Daniel isn't willing to give up, but Katie is and hangs up on him. Daniel is left arguing with a dead phone and is still losing. 

She's gone, Daniel

Team Summit are making a last push. Bianca manages to get an announcement on the tanoy system advertising their wellies and James finally sells a lawn mower having, apparently, met someone who wants to buy a lawn mower and really doesn't want to know anything about it. But it may all be for nothing when a man who owns a holiday park buys seven hot tubs from Mark at the last minute. 

In the board room Felipe and Mark are criticised for failing to ask for discounts from the cap-bag man, and Daniel for almost blowing the pitches by charging in like a bull in a china shop. Daniel claims he addressed this in the third pitch, but Katie points out that she told him to. She also gets credit for reminding Mark and Felipe to ask for discounts. Lord Siralan keeps referring to her as 'Mum' which is a dubious compliment. The team are asked how Felipe did as PM. Surely he can count on Mark's support given he did everything Mark told him? Mark just says that they're reaching the part of the process where the nice guys suffer. Which is a bit like stabbing him in the back with a foam rubber knife.

James is still trying to claim that the lawn mowers were a business decision and not an all mighty cock up. After coming under pressure from Lord Siralan and Roisin he finally confesses and admits he called the hot-tub guy Derek twice. Though he manages to confess in a spectacularly huffy way, like a sulky teenager whose been caught not doing his homework. Lord Siralan says he should be called Trigger rather than Del Boy, but slightly spoils the joke by having to explain that Trigger kept getting Rodney's name wrong in Only Fools and Horses. Never mind Lord Siralan, one day you'll meet someone who appreciates your sense of humour.

Team Summit managed to make £4757.50, but Tenacity, no thanks to the bags and entirely thanks to the sales of ten hot tubs, make £30,115. Daniel is still pissed off about not being able sell hot tubs. I think he would actually rather have lost than won because of Mark. Fortunately, they are sent off to a boxing class with Anthony Ogogo, so Daniel can take out his aggression by actually punching something

Victory at last

In the cafe, James is still trying to justify himself. Apparently, if he had told the truth it would have gotten into the teams heads and effected their performance. Possibly not as much as completely ignoring their choice of products. Nor does it explain why he didn't confess until Roisin ratted him out to Lord Siralan.

Lord Siralan expects to hear something from Roisin, as he thinks she's been too quiet up to now. She takes advantage of the opportunity, claiming that James is patronising, difficult to work with, doesn't listen and leaves a trail of destruction behind him. James retaliates by claiming that Roisin doesn't have an instinct for business decisions, which is a bit like someone standing over a corpse with a bloody knife complaining that the police officer arrests him has terrible shoes. Nick throws James a lifeline by pointing out that Sanjay had the worst sales record and wasn't named in any of his notes. When Sanjay tries to stand up for himself, Nick just repeats "nameless" as though Sanjay's having some kind of weird flash back. James takes the hint and brings Sanjay back into the boardroom as well as Roisin because he hates her.

Roisin doesn't let up her assault on James, saying he's trying to show he's decisive but makes all the wrong decisions. In the face of this James practically breaks down, saying he wants someone, like Lord Siralan, to take them on and smooth out the rough edges. He just about avoids breaking down in tears. James has no shifted from sulky teenager to begging the headmaster's forgiveness. Flattery will get you a long way in the Apprentice, and Sanjay's poor sales and Roisin's failure to catch Lord Siralan's attention until now look like they may have saved them. But James is too much work even for Lord Siralan and gets fired.

James gets serious, not that it does any good

At the house Bianca is expecting James to come back. So that's Bianca's stupid comment of the week taken care of.

Next Time: Lord Sirlan scares the shit out of the Apprenti by turning up at the house to send them on a scavenger hunt and Daniel and Roisin get involved in a diamond heist.