The Apprentice 2009 episode 4 review

Looking for this year's Apprentice tabloid hate figure? We might just have found him in this week's episode...

Sir Alan Sugar in The Apprentice

Hurray! Four weeks into The Apprentice, and the tabloids have finally got their pantomime villain. Step forward Ben, with his Sandhurst scholarship, his pervading negativity and his habit of making you want to chuck a chair through the telly in the rough direction of his face. Granted, as we’ve said before, the editing of The Apprentice could have made Richard Branson look like a business berk and a half. And Ben, of course, isn’t going to win, but keeps being kept around to nudge the ratings along and generate a few news stories.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. I didn’t actually write a review of last week’s show, given that I was on holiday at the time, but the last two episodes have proven the theory that The Apprentice is at its best when it’s mid-season. Last week’s exercise, in creating gym equipment and pitching to three companies, was really quite good. But this week’s –with the teams having to come up with a natural beauty products – was even better.

The teams were mixed up a bit, and this week’s team leaders were Nooral and Paula. Let’s do Nooral’s team first.

It’s fair to say that the fact that his team won (or more to the point, that the other team lost) saved Nooral from the chop. A science teacher by trade, there was little evidence of him seizing the initiative here, and instead was portrayed as doddering and indecisive.

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His team created a bar of soap made from honey, with the key selling point seemingly that it’s gloop all over you the second you took it out of the wrapping. The piece de resistance though was putting on bee keeper outfits to flog the thing. I’ve been on the London underground, and if I walked out into the station to see people in such clobber, my first impression would be that I’d be in the midst of a terror alert, rather than about to be sold a bar of miserable-looking soap.

Phillip, for my money, did his credentials no harm this week. He narked his team by almost hollering at them to get off the fence, but you couldn’t help but feel he was, bluntly, right.

Still, what this week’s Apprentice proved was that it matters not if you product looks like it’s just dripped its way into the packaging and little more than that, as long as the other team mess their costs up. And boy did the other team mess it up.

If we were going to invent an Apprentice drinking game, Sralan Sugar’s uttering of the phrase “fatal error” would surely be the traditional endpoint, where all remaining bottles would need to be emptied. In the case of the Rockpoole soap and shower gel products produced by Paula’s team, the “fatal error” was costs. Thing is, we knew it’d be costs because we got a clip of Sralan telling us that managing costs was crucial. It’s almost like someone telling you the ending of The Sixth Sense just as the opening credits start to roll.

Thus, Paula nominated Yasmina and Ben to manage costs, and the latter couldn’t get away from the Excel spreadsheet fast enough. In the meantime, Sandalwood was chosen by mistake as an ingredient, and it was left to a bemused-looking Nick to point out the mistake – given that Sandalwood costs over £1000 a kilo – to the team. I thought they recovered quite well, but the problem was that the team had given themselves too big a mountain to climb. And so it proved come boardroom time as it was revealed that – shock horror – they’d lost money. Regular Apprentice viewers will know that if the team loses money, it’d take an act from above to stop the team leader getting the push.

Before we got to that bit though, we had the weekly pointless treat segment. This time, they learnt how to prepare raw fish. The nation was gripped by the drama of this, and clearly far preferred it to watching the other team head towards the boardroom. Memo to the producers: why not expand this bit of the show to 15 minutes or something, and give us a bit more time to get a coffee?

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But anyone, the boardroom. Paula, to be fair, had nominated people to manage the costs, but Yasmina seemed to clock fairly early that she was safe, as Ben simply talked and talked and talked. Sralan rolled his eyes a lot. Nick and Margaret frowned. Personally, I was left wondering how Sralan rang his receptionist to tell the candidates to come into the boardroom, only for him not to be in there himself. I’m, er, easily distracted like that.

We suspect that most of the watching nation would have liked Ben to go anyway, yet it was Paula – who seemed to be let down by her team, but still didn’t have a clue about the costings herself – who had to take the taxi ride of shame. But don’t worry: we’re fairly certain Ben will go in due course. It won’t be his fault, we suspect he’ll argue.

Anyway, at the end of what proved to be a strong episode, let’s ask the question: is it too early to declare an early favourite? Phillip seems to be shaping up well, while Kate and Debra might also be worth a small flutter.

We’d happily act as the bookie if someone wants to bet a few hundred quid that Nooral will be the next Apprentice, though…

Next week? It looks to be an exercise in scaring children from what we can tell. And that’s, naturally, always a good thing…

Read the review of episode 2 here

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