The Apprentice 2008 episode 7 review

A busy episode of The Apprentice last night, and Mr Sugar was not a happy man at all. Plus: why Margaret won't be going to Scotland anytime soon...

Sir Alan Sugar in front of his car

Last night’s Apprentice was not a good one if your name happened to be Jennifer. Sralan Sugar, who was practically frothing at the mouth by the time we got to the back quarter of the show, used his firing finger twice in the board room, and for once, you’d be hard-pushed to disagree with him.

Because if it wasn’t clear before, last night’s episode demonstrated the increasing savviness, and idiocy, of the modern day Apprentice contestant. It seemed like a roomful of people who knew how to play the game, by aiming attacks on their co-contenders, oblivious to how much they’d screwed up or otherwise. Last week, we felt distinct unease at the bullying that was making its way through. This week, we still can’t think of any situation where we’d want to meet a single one of them.

But on with the episode.

Naturally before you got to the task proper, there was the weekly chest-beating of the person who would eventually end up in the board room. This week, it was Michael revealing how arrogant he was, and wasn’t it great that he was arrogant, and that arrogance rules. He missed a few adjectives out of his little soliloquy, but no matter. People would be queuing up to add them for him later.

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That out of the way, it was off to Morocco for a perennial Apprentice favourite: the buying a list of items for the least amount of money. But if the contenders were all-too-clued up about how to try and play the boardroom, they showed little signs of, well, watching the tasks from the last few years. As any Apprentice viewer could happily tell them, this one’s about reading what you have to get exactly. “It’s not rocket science”, raged Sralan Sugar later on in the programme, and for once, you had to align yourself with the man and his blood pressure.

That said, I can’t honestly say I’d have much clue about shopping around the streets of Marrakech, but then I’d have been in good company. The two project managers, Lee (aka That’sWhatI’mTalkingAbout) for Alpha, and Jennifer for Renaissance had contrasting styles. The former decided to do research and hit the phones beforehand, the latter headed straight for the traders to get a feel for the area. Cue much slapping of heads. After a few weeks of at least some unpredictability, you could paint the winning team’s name in big letters within a very short space of time last night.

What did come as more of a surprise was the mixture of tactics and outright idiocy on show. We had espionage, as Jenny and Michael tried to bribe a sports shop not to string a tennis racket. We had a debate over exactly what was Kosher and wasn’t, that was quite staggering to behold. We had Claire unable to keep her gob shut during Alex’s bartering pitch, instead seeming quite content to keep up a bizarre boyfriend/girlfriend role playing pitch (she revealed, incidentally, that her nickname was The Rottweiler towards the very end of the show. Make of that what you will…). And we had, even more bizarrely, MargaretTheSternOne noting that “Edinburgh isn’t what it used to be”, guaranteeing her a rosy reception next time she heads on a Shearing’s coach north of the border.

However, the task was all but over by the half hour point, which initially led me to wonder if the footage from Morocco had been damaged by the X-ray machine going through the airport. Instead, we had the longest and most brutal boardroom of the series to date.

Before we got to that though, we had the reward. Now I’ve said before that I regard this the worst bit of the show, but what kind of incentive to win was it this week? Being flung up in a hot air balloon with a camera crew along for the ride? Great. A £10 HMV voucher would have been better. And did anyone else think Lucinda seemed to be holding on for dear life?

But back to the wrath of Sralan, and it’s fair to say that the old growler was in a bad mood. Once the inevitable was confirmed that Alpha had won, and Renaissance had both lost and faced penalties, he had the look of a man whose prize-winning dog had been replaced by a mongrel ferret suffering with diarrhoea. In fact, at one point he was getting so angry over the outcome of a one day shopping trip that you wondered about sitting the man down and trying to belt some perspective into him. Although we suspect this would not have been a wise move.

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To be fair, Renaissance’s team members did themselves no favours, firstly by keeping quiet, and then by parroting back whatever the bearded one had to say. The early firing of Jenny, though, was both a surprise and a necessity. It’s incredible, to be fair, that she’d survived this long, and if the show was to have any credibility there was surely no place for her on it.  Apparently, she found herself berated by Vanessa Feltz – Vanessa Feltz! – on the follow-up show afterwards. That shows how low her potential media career has fallen already.

The final battle was fascinating, and you could have seen either Michael or Jennifer getting the bullet with few quarrels. Michael in particular seemed to get a quite generous pass in the end, in spite of his confusion over whether he was Jewish or not (“let’s drop your trousers and find out”, sparked Sralan, delivering the line of the night). Jennifer, who introduced herself if memory serves as the best salesperson in Europe once upon a time, was still the clear choice in the end. And for once, you got to the end of an episode of The Apprentice, and felt that business reasons rather than ratings had been the prime motivator behind the decisions. It was all the better for it, too.

Next week, it’s weddings, and we wonder if this is the part where Claire’s day has come. That said, it’s getting tricky to pick a winner here. Raef is probably a frontrunner, Lee was in the frame too before last week’s outbursts, and perhaps Sara has quietly started to come through on the outside.

Us? We’re still not sure we’d employ any of them….

Read last week’s review here…