The Apprentice 2009 episode 5 review

Pantsman and Captain Squawk fought to sell us breakfast cereal in this week's Apprentice. And it was a cracker...

The last time I went to an IMAX screen, I went to see The Dark Knight. I thought it was quite a creepy film at times, but surely it couldn’t hold a torch to the sight of Sralan Sugar beamed onto one of the biggest cinema screens in the country. It’s scary enough watching him on my telly, and that’s a fraction of the size.

Anyway, for reasons unexplained, he wasn’t there in person to introduce this week’s cast, and instead – for reasons badly explained – he dragged the team off to the cinema instead. There, a prerecorded clip of Sralan told the teams what they had to do, pausing only briefly for Nick and Margaret – as if they were in a bad musical – to chip in and tell the teams who they’d each be following.

What followed from that point on though was the best episode of the series to date, and one that we wouldn’t be surprised to see being the peak of this year’s Apprentice.

The task in hand was to come up with a brand, box and campaign for a brand new breakfast cereal that Sralan Sugar had come up with. To be fair, one glimpse at said cereal was enough to embed an understanding as to why Sralan hasn’t made his money in food products, but nonetheless, the teams soon got down to work.

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On one hand, there was Kate, and her team Empire – including the likes of James, Howard and last week’s villain Ben – who came up with Treasure Flakes. Then there was Ignite, led by marketing expert Kimberly. She had the pleasure of the ever-happy Lorraine, as well as Bono-wannabe Philip. It was not, to be fair, a match made in heaven. And I’d tell you what their cereal was called, but I’ve forgotten already. Sorry.

Over on Empire, things went swimmingly. A fairly grotty television advert aside, theirs was a calm and assured performance. They came up with a good, rounded idea, they executed it quite well, and the moment where Ben was on the verge of collapse inside the Captain Squawk costume was sheer comedy gold. Even when they presented to a bunch of advertising executives – some of whom looked like they were born with sneers on their faces (although not all, to be fair) – they were calm and generally impressive. It didn’t take much of the episode to work out who was going to win.

The real action, then, took place in the land of Ignite, where the sparks soon started to fly. Firstly, we had the laboured search for an idea. Much was made later in the episode of how Philip railroaded his idea through, but we didn’t see any evidence of any half-decent alternative to his admittedly-terrible Pantsman concept. Lorraine did herself no favours – and the editing team didn’t help her either – by coming across on a constant downer. In her defence, she was right on a lot of the stuff she was chipping in about, but the fact remains that she rarely came across as someone you’d want to be in the same room working with.

Philip, meanwhile, came up with a jingle for his bizarre and nonsensical pants idea, while Kimberly The Marketing Expert gave some vague instructions to a clearly bemused designer as to how to put the cereal box together, and then left him to it. Yikes. It came as little surprise when the thing eventually appeared looking like it had no chance of ever seeing the inside of a supermarket, yet alone the cereal aisle.

So it was over to Mona for the presentation, which she fairly clearly didn’t want to do. Thing was, neither did Kimberly The Marketing Expert, and while Mona’s pitch hardly won her friends in the room, you can’t help but think that at least she stepped up to do it.

All of this was played against a backdrop of Philip and Lorraine simmering at each other, which inevitably carried through until the board room. In fact, as soon as she stepped into the board room, even before it was revealed that her team had lost, Lorraine had pulled out a set of steak knives and set about plunging them in. Sralan did not, it has to be said, look very impressed. A rarity, that. He usually comes across as such a chipper sort.

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Philip and Lorraine then traded blows, until the pair of them seemed to smell the blood of Kimberly The Marketing Expert, and basically seemed to team up to take her down. That said, it didn’t appear, to this viewer at least, that much help was actually required. She might have directed a half decent television commercial, but evidence of the rest of her expertise was hardly forthcoming.

This was though, in all, a very strong Apprentice episode. There was some interesting debate about the products, a good emphasis on the business task itself, and while it eventually descended into a bickering festival at the end, it was a genuinely interesting and entertaining hour, that never got downright nasty. I do echo what one of the commenters said on last week’s review that you yearn for the quality of some of the candidates from the show’s first series, but I still thought this episode came together quite well.

Thus far, the current series of the show has resisted the urge to descend into a Big Brother clone, and hopefully it can hold it off for a few weeks longer. Next week, it’s an auction task, where it looks like Philip is happily voicing his opinion again (although I have to say, more often than not I can’t help siding with him). But it should be quite interesting, and I’m really quite looking forward to it.

I couldn’t tell you who’s going to win yet – although Kate surely did her chances some good this week – but I’m certainly enjoying so far finding out who isn’t.

Read our review of the last episode here.