The Apprentice 2008 episode 10 review

Someone had it coming on this week's Apprentice - even if we did end up watching it a day late...

Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice

So, with beer in hand and brain set to neutral, I assumed my usual position last night to enjoy the weekly battling of business wannabes to work for Sralan Sugar. Beforehand, I remarked to my better half that one or two websites had been remarkably keen to tell you who was sacked before this week’s episode had even aired. What cads, I noted, taking them off my bookmarks list.

Yet I flicked over to BBC One, and there was a problem. The England football team seem to be playing some meaningless, and thuddingly dull friendly, and there was no sign of some vacuous wannabe begging for a job that they’d be chucked out of several months after getting it (unless it was the England football manager, ho ho). This review, therefore, is brought to you in association with my Sky box, which may seem to be full of junk half of the time, but it’s the solitary reason I got to watch this week’s Apprentice, albeit a day late. I’ve also, er, reinstated the aforementioned bookmarks.

But what an episode! Because even going into it pretty much knowing who was going to get the order of the boot, I dare say that  the viewing public who did manage to sort out their TV viewing could see which way it was going very soon. We’ll come to that bit in due course, though.

This week’s task involved renting out luxury cars, and saw Lee, Lucinda and Alex as Alpha pitted against Claire, Helene and Michael as Renaissance. Lee and Michael were appointed team leaders, and it swiftly became clear that the latter wasn’t happy at all: the man clearly hated the product, and for long periods showed all the enthusiasm of, well, a fruit and veg market customer towards renting a luxury car.

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Alpha therefore played it safe and bagged the two mid-range cars, with Claire and Helene sent off with one of them, and Michael taking the Ferrari. It’s fair to say that the man’s strategy then became somewhat bizarre. Firstly, he parked up in what looked like a cul-de-sac around the back of Harrods, with his sign attracting the attention of the local teenagers who’d taken a temporary break from their Xbox. When that didn’t work, and to a chorus of millions of viewers shouting something that equated to “what the flip do you think you’re doing?”, he then took the vehicle to the Portobello Road market. Parked next to a pile of old boxes, he then proceeded to try and sell time in the car to, er, people buying the odd apple. And a warm cardy, given how chilly it looked.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it got worse. For the one man who did show an interest in the car was all set to sign up, when the issue of the deposit scuppered the deal. But Michael didn’t take this lying down, and resorted to the tactic that had saved him in the boardroom on more than one occasion: begging. Not only did he offer discounts, he then pursued his one potential customer down the round, asked to follow him to his meeting, and just stopped short of dropping to his knees and blowing him right there.

Elsewhere in his team, Claire was doing all of the selling, while Helene, well, wasn’t. This turned out to be an important plot development.

In the land of Renaissance, Lee gambled on the most expensive car of the lot, one that eventually Lucinda managed to remember the name of. With his trademark “that’s what I’m talking about”, Lee tore into the task, and both he and Alex managed to bring in thousands of pounds each.

Which brings us to Lucinda, who brought in £65. I’ve had some sympathy in past weeks for Lucinda, and often find it hard to counter some of the reasonable arguments and points that she puts forward. But you can’t help thinking that, with a couple of weeks left, the time for whining is over, and it’s the point where you roll your sleeves up. Lucinda hasn’t done that, and if I was Lee, I’d have sent her off by herself too. Her time is clearly coming.

By the time it got to the boardroom, the result really wasn’t in any doubt at all. Renaissance slaughtered Alpha, and that left Michael, Helene and Claire in the firing line. Given that Claire had done the vast bulk of the business, she was safe, but the showdown between Helene and Michael seemed a lot tighter than I was expecting. For Michael had surely been teetering on the brink for weeks, saved only by the fact that he was young (and didn’t he latch onto that in his latest round of begging) and that Sralan seems to like him. Helene, meanwhile, seemed borderline destroyed by the rantings of the Sugar at one point, and after weeks wondering what she actually did, the answer appeared to be not very much at all. If I was Raef watching these two, I think I’d have asked for a recount.

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Still, Michael did have to go. His continued inclusion in the programme, while decent telly, has hurt its credibility a little, and for all the waffling Sralan did about people who would fit into his organisation, you simply couldn’t see anyway with eyes and ears employing him off the back of the last few weeks.

Sadly, we’re at the interview stage next week, which is the round of the process put into place so that they can sack the people who simply shouldn’t have made it thus far. In the last few years, this has been the stage that all-but-compensates for the team format of the show, in that it brings people into the firing line who otherwise would never face the boardroom wrath. Surely an individual task would be the better way of rooting them out, especially as you never actually get to see much of the interviews anyway? It’s usually the worst episode of the series, and while Lee doing some strange dance seemed quite entertaining, it’s surely just an elongated trailer for the final a week later.

Plus there’s not going to be much suspense to it. There’s no way in hell that Helene and Lucinda are making the final two, so that’s part of the mystery out of the way, and Claire has gone from the brink of the bullet to a shoo-in for the final. Which leaves Lee and Alex, and up until this week, you’d have given the nod to the former. Given Alex’s numbers this week though, you have to suspect that he’s got a shot, even if you still can’t see him winning.

The question, though: does Sralan ultimately want to employ a salesperson, in a show whose format does seem to favour them? Because you can’t help but have a sneaking suspicion that that’s the way it’s going…