The early knives this week? They had Howard’s name on it. He was the one who the producers roped in for the early interview-cum-suicide note, and he was the one happily bleating on about how “I think Sralan sees me in the final”. Howard: no one watching the show has ever conceived a scenario that would see you in the final. Sorry about that.
They’ve got a bit savvy to our guesswork these days though, have the Apprentice producers, and so a few twists and turns were put in place. But this week Howard had his name on the end of Sralan’s finger from just a few minutes in.
Anyroad, the episode this week kicked off with the usual tenuous link, as Sralan sent the teams to Alexandra Palace. This was where the first television broadcast came from, and as a result, the teams had to go and sell some tat on a home shopping channel. We’ve seen this task before in The Apprentice, and it’s usually a corker. Both teams have to pick their products, and then each candidate has to take some time before the cameras. You expect a good two minutes of cringing, and it didn’t disappoint.
The bizarre moment, though, came early on. Sralan Sugar gave us an early insight into what he was hunting for from his two teams, and he told us, explicity, “I’m not looking for television presenters”. Eh? Was it just me, then? If you’re not looking for television presenters, then why send two teams of people on the telly to present? Why criticise them for not selling products on the telly well enough because they happen not to be television presenters for a living? Appreciating that tasks in The Apprentice have to be unreasonably difficult, this did just seem like a requirement too far.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Firstly, we had to contend with the battle to be project manager. Howard stepped up to lead an Ignite team consisting of Lorraine and Kate, while Empire – with James and Debra – eventually allowed Yasmina to take charge. Before, however, she had to make sure that Debra was happy with this. Why? Who knows. But so be it.
Off they went, then, to pick their products, and Yasmina quickly determined that she was going for volume. She wanted low priced, low risk products that she was fairly sure would shift, no matter how well or otherwise they managed to flog them. Thus, there was a bizarre head/neck poncho thing, and a smart looking remote control car amongst their items. It would prove to be a smart strategy.
Over at Ignite, Kate seemed to have her head screwed on. She managed to secure what turned out to be two of the channel’s best sellers in their price bracket, and deliberately picked up a pair of big ticket items. Granted, the leather jacket she picked out looked the wrong side of vile, but at £150, they didn’t need to sell too many to make their money. The low fat chip fryer seemed a safer bet, but it was sold so badly on air – with Sralan particularly bothered that Howard and Lorraine weren’t promoting the phone number enough – that Ignite’s chances were rapidly diminishing.
Meanwhile, the items that Kate was given to sell by Howard and Lorraine weren’t quite as strong. The air guitar as a novelty item wasn’t bad (and Kate selling it was fine TV), but the craft animal she had to demonstrate – Sooty the Cat – looked quite terrible. It’s the kind of thing that if you won it in a competition, you’d look to send it back by return post. Meanwhile, Lorraine passed up the chance to push for a far more expensive dinosaur toy, and again, it was a decision that would come back to haunt Ignite.
Over at Empire, they employed their special weapon in the shape of Debra. She’s got a strong chance at the final, you’d think, and her selling of the aforementioned poncho was really quite impressive. She was the best presenter, and looked most at ease on air from what we could tell.
When it came down to the boardroom, though, the numbers didn’t lie, as Empire snuck home by a couple of hundred quid. As it turned out, had Ignite managed to flog a couple more of its expensive items, the result would have gone the other way.
And so it was put the kettle on time, as we then had to endure the weekly treat. Hurray! Easily one of the most tedious moments of television every week, this time round we got to see the teams enjoying pissing around in some planes. It must have been lovely for them. It was devastatingly dull for us. Can we end this charade for next year, please?
Given that we’re down to the last six, though, the formality of picking a pair of people to bring into the boardroom was over, as this time there were only three people left in each team. You got the impression that Kate would be safe, and she’s also a decent shot for the final, which meant the battle was down to Lorraine and Howard.
For the first time, we got the impression that Sralan was moving away from Lorraine, who has emerged with more credit than the editing of the shows may suggest thus far. She was chastised for not selling well enough, and for not pushing for the aforementioned dinosaur. Meanwhile, the perception of Howard as a non-risk taker, in the current climate, is apparently something that put him in conflict with Sralan’s wishes. “It’s not a game show”, barked Sralan, conveniently forgetting how he’d left Ben in the show for weeks just to keep the ratings up. And forgetting the fact that there’s a big prize at the end. And forgetting the fact that half of the contestants are destined for a spread or two in the News Of The World. Apart from that, no game show here. Phew. The clarification was very welcome.
Howard, however, was soon back in the firing line, as Sralan seemed to pull back from firing Lorraine, and deciding instead that non-risk takers weren’t what was needed now that the world economy has collapsed. You want people who can piss your money up the wall, instead. Ho hum.
Anyway, a fine episode this week, and a routine favourite that once again managed to deliver. Sadly, next week – the penultimate episode – is the crappy interview one, where they edit it to death so you can’t get a fair flavour of what’s going on. As we learned last year, it doesn’t matter if you lie and bullshit at this stage, either, and it’s just an exercise in whittling five down to the final two. You suspect Sralan had already decided on his final two long before the interviews started.
We’ll find out more in seven days time…
Check out our review of the last episode here.