Simon couldn’t cover The Apprentice this week – something about some cup derby football match taking place in Birmingham – so I’ve stepped in to cover the series we know so many of you, er, love.
In honour of Simon’s footy match exploits, here is a blow-by-blow account of the episode’s highlights, of which there were many.
21:00 – Bum, Bah, Bum, Bah, Bum, Bah, Bum, Bah, Bum, Bah, Bum, Bah, Bum – Bum. Oh how I love The Apprentice‘s opening credits. That wonderfully overblown and overstated choice of music, the quick cuts of the candidates making their way through Londonium, the particularly stony-faced looks at camera. This, my friends, is television heaven.
21:01 – No “I don’t like bullshitters” this year, which is a shame as Lord Alan of Sugar’s grand entrance has been watered down somewhat.
Still a deeply scary chap, however. I often wonder why anyone would want to work for ‘Britain’s most belligerent boss’, but there you go. “I’m looking for someone who’s exceptional,” he spouts. Good luck with that, Baron von Sugar, although in fairness, this year’s crop are a darn sight better than last year’s. Among those left, I can see a genuine competition hotting up among three or four of them who appear, from careful editing no doubt, to be quite intelligent. And then there’s Stuart Baggs.
21:02 – Recap time covering last week’s episode. Stella’s po-face, and under the radar Christopher’s downfall made all too clear once again. Salt sufficiently rubbed in wounds, time for the wakey-wakey scene.
21:03 – 5.30am! “For God’s Ssake,” cries a moody Stella. The city is declared as the venue and grumpy, and shouty Stella continues the venting. Is this a sign of editing to bring Stella down this week? Jamie declares that he still needs to “show his spark”. Indeed, Jamie, as thus far you’ve showed precious little. Nice enough chap, though.
21:05 – Crazy choral music followed by drums. Very Lord Of The Rings.
21:06 – The great man himself arrives. It’s Gandalf. No, just the Baron to explain the week’s tasks. It’s all about buying and negotiating to buy ten items on a list in ten hours. Yes, this has all been done before and yes, it’s not especially inventive. It’s still a cracking task, though, and note Sugar’s words about getting back on time. Always trips someone up, that.
21:07 – Jamie speaks the blithering obvious: “Don’t accept the first price.” Give that man a medal.
21:08 – Liz is revealed as project manager of the women. She’s been solid thus far, so big things expected. Jamie is leading the boys. Eek. I know which team I’d rather be on. Jamie talks about busting balls and that Sugar has his eye on him. Nice.
21:09 – Jamie: “Live by the sword, and hopefully don’t die by the sword.” Famous last words?
21:10 – The girls ring round businesses beforehand to find out what they’re after. Jamie’s team takes no such approach, instead just heading out on the streets and hunting as they go along. First impression? The boys ‘hit and hope’ technique is incredibly risky.
21:12 – There’s a Bluebook on the list and Joanna finds out, after two hours of calling around, that it’s the knowledge guide that taxi drivers use. Joanna’s excellent negotiating skills nabs it for a nifty £50.
21:13 – The boys are going down a blind alley, looking for a Bluebook that’s an old US publication. The tuba of shame plays in the background, suggesting that they aren’t having much luck.
21:15 – The girls track down a tikka, a piece of Indian jewellery. The boys have no idea what it is. This time, it’s Stella’s top negotiating skills that seal it. The women are on fire. Jamie finally finds out what the tikka is, and his hardball negotiating elicits genuine fear from the woman of the shop. Jamie is desperate, clearly. But, hey, it paid off. Karen Brady seems impressed, but am I the only one who thought it was a bit rude?
21:17 – Stuart Baggs’s words of clarity: “We don’t really know what we’re looking for.”
21:18 – Jamie tracks down an old Singer sewing machine at Cyril’s shop. Cyril, bless his cottons, thinks he is actually called Jamie. Fair play to Jamie, though. His approach may be all over the place, but credit where credit’s due, he’s nabbed that for nearly half the price Liz stumped up.
21:20 – Chris comes up with a genius ruse to get the Bluebooks for cheap. A blatant lie and sob story about his brother taking the taxi test. Works, though, and the boys get it for £61, more than the women payed, but not bad all the same.
21:21 – Stella hits the nail on the head. “It’s a fine line between being rude and negotiating hard.” I imagine Lord Sugar’s approach is to favour rudeness, but then he is the most belligerent boss in Britain, remember.
21:22 – Tea break, supplied by the lovely Mrs Oakley. Comes with a digestive too. Cracking.
21:23 – Kitchen worktops. Helps if you order one in the morning to pick up in the afternoon, as Jamie is now discovering. The fool. Fool!
21:24 – Truffle hunting now. That’s the beauty of this task. It runs at such a pace that there’s barely time to get bored. Stella makes a bit of a fool of herself, calling Gordon Ramsay’s reservations phone line. The frequently annoying Laura pipes up that they’re wasting time. For once, Laura is talking sense.
21:25 – Tempers are fraying between Baggs and Chris. The boys’ complete lack of planning and organisation is now coming home to roost, as, of course, it was always going to. The three seem to be working independently of each other. It’s great TV, though.
21:27 – Liz asks the girls to give them a call once they get a truffle price. It’s edited to suggest that this will be a major talking point in the boardroom. Laura attempts to negotiate the truffle from £270 down to £200. The chef accepts the price and the girls make no attempt to call Liz at all, and then lie about not being able to get through to her phone. Brilliant. It’s this Machiavellian scheming that makes The Apprentice a joy, year-in, year-out. And was that really a big enough cut off the price?
21:30 – Chris’ negotiating skills appear to be based around making up another life for himself. This time, his grandmother wants him to get some tartan for a wedding. Thing is, though, doesn’t the camera crew and Karren Brady’s watchful eye give him away? Surely, he’d be better off just admitting, “I need to get ten things on a list for a TV show I’m taking part in. You might have seen it. The Apprentice? You know, that thing with a bunch of people in suits arguing with each other every week?”
21:34 – Absolutely no decorum from Baggs the brand as they turn up to Sugar’s offices. “Yes!” he screams. Liz turns up late, losing money from the off. That said, the girls have all ten items, the boys just seven. Tense? You betya.
21:36 – Boardroom time. Liz explains the girls’ structured strategy and Stella trips up right away. Sugar gets rude. “You normally need a pig to search them out.” Cheeky. He’s also not happy that they were late. In all honesty, he looks so fed up with everyone in the room, it only furthers my opinion that I can’t imagine why anyone would want to work for him. Imagine how life in the office would be, were Sugar to have had a bad night out?
21:38 – The phrase “headless chicken” is used. Baggs then cracks a funny and Sugar shoots him down in flames. Great TV.
21:39 – The figures are in. Unbelievable! Despite only having nabbed seven of the items, and racked up far more fines than the girls, the boys have won the task. It was all in the editing, of course. The girls thought they’d won it, easily. But no, and it’s poor negotiation that lost them the task, according to The Baron.
21:41 – Café scene. “Devasting,” says Liz. “We didn’t negotiate hard enough,” Stella rounds on her PM. “I’m not here to make friends.” No-one ever is.
21:42 – Reward time! It’s the Eurostar, some ridiculous Morecambe and Wise walking and that’s it. A quickie this week, and further proof that Baggs the brand cannot be stopped. He’s a machine, the Terminator of the series.
21:45 – Back in the boardroom and Stella and Laura give Liz a couple of looks that could kill. Cold, cold air on that room. Sugar uses the phrase, “treasure hunt”, that they were just heading to gain all the items. I’m sure I’ve heard that before, probably in the last series, truth be told.
21:46 – Stella’s Knightsbridge location choice for the truffle comes under fire. Fair play to her, though. She fights back and argues that Laura’s price was too high.
21:47 – Oh brilliant. The phone call to Liz, or lack of it, comes to light. Lies, damn lies. Liz decides to bring back Laura and Stella, of course. Joanna was very good, once again.
21:49 – The Baron brilliantly comes to the decision that the reason Stella is a bit staid is because she works for a Japanese bank and “They’re a bit like that, aren’t they?” Erm, can you really say that? Could it not just be how she is? He doesn’t like those corporate types, though, does he?
21:51 – Stella goes on the defensive. “I will never give up.” Laura goes for her. Bitchy. Liz now states that Stella can be cold. What is this, the Stella-bashing session? Isn’t it Sugar’s job to do that? He doesn’t interrupt, though.
21:53 – Liz and Laura are gunning for Stella, Laura in quite an aggressive manner, to be frank. Young, for sure, but she’s a bit of a cow at times.
21:54 – Sugar’s synopsis. Liz’s failure to keep track of prices is mentioned, as is Laura’s age, and Stella’s corporate nature is raised again. Oh, but it’s Laura who gets fired. On balance, that’s about right. For once, Sugar takes into account past as well as present performance and that’s what saves Liz and Stella. Laura has, to be frank, done next to nothing for weeks.
21:57 – Back in the house and Liz appears rather upset by Stella’s comments and the ugly face of bullying reappears. This has been a problem in past series and it’s unpleasant to see it here. Stella clearly isn’t well liked in the house, perhaps her ‘corporate’ nature’s misconstrued as arrogance. Either way, there is no need at all for Liz’s bitchy comments at the episode’s end. Looking directly at Stella, “It’s a shame Laura’s gone. She’ll be missed.” Ouch.
21:58 – Preview of next week’s episode suggests a genuine face-off , all pushing and everything, between Stuart and Chris, but I’m sure it will be little of the sort, really.
Phew, well that was a pretty good episode. There have been some fairly standard episodes in the series so far, and while it certainly covered familiar ground, the fast-paced nature of things helped elevate it above the norm.
Simon’s footy team won too, so he’ll be pleased. Anyway, normal reviewing service will be resumed next week.
Read our review of the eighth episode, here.
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