I took a week off from reviewing The Apprentice last week, handing the reigns over to the far nicer and happier Mark Oakley. Having caught up on last week’s instalment, I went to the shop beforehand this time around, and found a really quite shitty looking bottle of white for £4.49. “Every little helps”, as the shop concerned sagely pointed out.
So then. As I settled down, I thought that this week, surely, was the episode where Stuart would go? That moment has to be coming?
Things got going with a trip to Wandsworth Bus Garage, nice and early in the morning. There, Baron von Sugar presented the week’s task, which was a little bit different for the UK show. Namely: run an open-top London tour. This has been done in the US version of the show before, but I don’t remember it happening in the UK before. The wine dulls my memory though, as regular readers know only too well.
The teams were duly mixed, and I had a little bet with myself that the first “why do you review this” comment would appear seven minutes after this article went live. And we were away.
Stella, then, suggesting a Cockney tour, that Stuart didn’t like. But they went with it anyway, with Stuart making it very clear that his hand would be on the knife to stab into Stella’s back. On the other team? A ghost tour, which if they’re doing in daytime, might not work all too well. Just saying.
The Cockney tour involved bad food, and insulting the locals, which didn’t go down well. The ghost tour, meanwhile, was lacking ghosts, and Joanna noted that the tour was leaving big gaps. Jamie was doing the tour, and the editing was suggesting that this was a disaster waiting to happen.
The other team wasn’t going well, either. The Cockney tour seemed to specialise in building sites and shitholes. Already, I was finding this the most interesting episode in weeks. Jamie and Joanna were causing Nick to pull faces with their continual arguments, and tensions were all over the place. And then we find out that the cockney tour was set to cost around £35-40. “That’s an ambitious price”, said the tour company. “That’s a bloody rip off”, I figured, working out just how many £4.49s could fit into that.
The ghost tour was selling at a cheaper £25, with both bus and walking elements involved. But then Chris managed to potentially screw that enormously by promising 20% of all ticket sales to a tour company. If his team loses, he needn’t bother taking his coat off. If they win? He’ll be hailed a genius.
“Have a taste of my eels”, urged Stuart to passers-by, meanwhile, as he pretty much decided to knock over half off the asking price.
We then cut to Jamie and Stella rehearsing their tours, and it was a real battle to work out which was worse. To be fair, it’s a hard task, this, but the editing didn’t seem keen to put that across. Anyroad, it was on with the crap uniforms, and down to work. Not before Joanna tried to wriggle out of the deal, which she kept to. That may yet cost her.
Jamie’s ghost tour first, then. In broad daylight, as feared, he put on an unscary voice, gave out false facts about the River Thames, and seemed to forget to talk about ghosts. A minor flaw. The Cockney tour was a bit more conventional, but no shot of any passengers seemed to indicate any particular interest in what Stella was banging on about.
More interesting was watching Stuart’s quite terrible sales tactics, which had evolved to basically doorstep the tour company that turned his deal down before. That didn’t go well.
The walking ghost tour through London was apparently increasingly irrelevant, but at least people were moving. We then cut to a shot of the Cockney tour snared up in traffic. Get back to Stuart, I hoped. I got my wish. I swigged more wine. This was going to be good.
Stuart vs Trafalgar Square, then, which involved him targeting the other team’s customers directly. Joanna was getting wound up. Lots of people said “fuck” on BBC One. Stuart invited someone to hit him. I suspected several volunteers weren’t a million miles away. Stella, meanwhile, was getting lost, and in any other week, that’d be good telly. But we knew the action was elsewhere. And Stuart wasn’t, when it came to the crunch, selling any tickets. And he was project manager, too. It had a feeling for a lot of it of a long goodbye.
My thought, though, was that he may yet survive another week, courtesy of Chris’ 20% deal. He’s had a get out of jail escape before, and his only hope here was another exit emerging. His team, to be fair, was something of a shambles, with the Cockney tour looking really quite terrible. Jamie’s ghost tour seemed to be improving, meanwhile, while Stella started pointing out crap graffiti, and asking her punters if it was done by Banksy. Crikey.
Jamie, meanwhile, was happily grossing his tour out, and he got them singing too. Stella entertained precisely one man from what I could tell. He got his money’s worth at least.
This, friends, was one of the best Apprentice episodes ever.
It was getting better, too. The final ghost tour was empty, having being scheduled too early. The last Cockney tour, meanwhile, was set to start an hour later, and tickets were being sold. And then, with 25 minutes to go, we cut to the results. Gah. It’s a task I could have watched for a lot longer, all said.
But it was back to Baron von Sugar. He, predictably, wasn’t impressed with Chris’ deal, nor with Joanna going back to try and change the deal. He then turned his attention to Stella, and for a while, he actually looked in a decent mood.
So who won? Joanna’s team. Even with the 20%. Stuart and Stella were in the spotlight, then, and it was hard to call which was in the most shit.
Predictably, just as the tension was mounting, they flew the winners off to Jersey for some crap or other. It’s the closest the BBC gets to a commercial break as far as I’m concerned.
The boardroom battle is, I’m finding, of decreasing interest, dragging on far too long. But I did get more interested when Nick suggested sacking two people. That might be fun.
Stuart, then, managed to start patronising the Baron, and offering to run a new company for him. “I’ve got a field of ponies waiting to literally run towards this”, Stuart said, as I think I quite literally shat myself laughing. The Baron was in a kind mood, however, pointing out Stuart’s age, allowing everyone else to lose their fits of giggles. That looked like the hardest part of the task right there.
Sadly, the others were allowed a chance to talk, while the rest of us were planning watching You’re Fired for the Stuart interview. How could it end any other way? Fortunately, we got some more Stuart jibber-jabber before the decision came down. “Betting on me will be a punt”, said Stuart. I took an extra gulp.
“You give me a dilemma”, said The Baron, trying to string this out. The only way Stuart could be saved by this stage, surely, was for the ratings. But television is a brutal business, and Liz got the bullet, instead of Stuart. Ratings beat common sense.
Liz. Instead of Stuart. Just thought I’d write that down in case you missed it. Suddenly, my wine bottle looked far too empty. And as one Tweeter rightly pointed out, “It’s decisions like this that put Lord Sugar where he is today. Head of Amstrad”. Agreed, @MrJayLucas.
Never let it be said that the Baron is actually looking for someone to work for his company. He’s got an entertainment programme to sell, and he’s damn sure he’s going to sell it.
Still, at least we’ve got the interviews next week, with the return of Margaret. That should get over the feeling that this episode of The Apprentice went from being one of the best, to the biggest cheat, in just under a minute.