7. 11 Fast Food Chain
Last week, I got a most pleasant surprise when The Apprentice departed from usual convention, and scrapped the treat segment. Those of you who have followed my assorted rantings on The Apprentice over the past few years probably heard the squeal of glee that emanated from deepest Dudley, amplified by the usual bottle of cheap plonk.
This week, I loaded up with extra drink, because it’s the penultimate episode. Ah, I figured, it’ll be the interviews. The ones that always promise so much, yet are so patchily edited that they actually deliver so little. They always make that Claude bloke look like someone you’d never want to work for, and Baron Alan generally drags in someone who looks like they sell used cars for a living, too.
At least, I figured, we’d get the return of Margaret Mountford. That’s worth an hour of anyone’s time, surely.
Well, friends, I nearly choked my Stowell’s Chardonnary back up when convention was ripped up for the second week running. For, after shooting a dramatic entrance for Baron Alan, as if him walking out of a lift was his Best Actor Oscar clip moment, the rug was pulled again. No interviews! And everyone had put their posh clothes on, too!
What’s more, not only was it no interviews, but it was an interesting, and slightly different task, too. Invent a fast food restaurant! Design the brand! Lay out the premises! Come up with the menu! Take over the world! All in two days. How could it fail to disappoint?
It didn’t. This was one of the best episodes of the series, and a welcome reward to all concerned for going off-piste a little. It’s hard to breathe much fresh life into a show seven series in, but this series has at least had a bit of a go.
It was a brutally hard task that the final five were set, too. Granted, as the episode transpired, it became clear that there were cooks on hand to come up with the dishes, an interior designer, a hired help and a few helping hands we no doubt didn’t see. But this was still a tricky one. Although I’m sure Baron Alan managed to do it when he was sixteen.
Mind you, the trickiest job this week must have been that of the show’s editor. Here, the challenge was to make it all look like an even fight, when it became clear within ten minutes that Jim’s team was going to get trounced. Even with his finest Jedi work, Jim couldn’t control Natasha and Susie. His team’s ideas were worse. And they were up against a well oiled machine.
Natasha, in particular, didn’t come across well this week at all. It may well be that Susie is one of the most irritating people on the planet, but Natasha keeps being shown coming up with bad ideas, and objecting when Susie points this out. It didn’t help that a lot of the episode was concentrated on her BA (Hons) degree, which got more of a namecheck than the Baron himself. The crosshairs? Even through my blurred, drunken eyes, they were arranging themselves around Natasha’s mush.
On the other team, things were clearly, and instantly, much tighter. Running favourite Helen was leading the team, and Tom was with her. It turned out to be one of the most natural partnerships we’ve seen on the show to date, with Helen dominating the business side of the task, and Tom handling the creative element. I honestly didn’t have a moment’s doubt this week as to who was going to win.
After all, let’s face it: Helen and Tom’s idea looked like it could work. In fact, so successful was the idea of mini-pies, with a MyPy branding, that all the editor had to work with was a Christopher Columbus faux pas that was never mentioned again after Nick had pulled a face, and a small problem with packaging. Contextualised against some of the standing rows we’ve witnessed, that was nothing.
There was clearly, however, a lot more to work with on the other team. The kitchen was in chaos. The order process system didn’t work. The food looked like roadkill. There were big queues, that could be shot in a leery way that would make Michael Bay proud.
The only question, half an hour into the episode, was how many people would be joining Tom and Helen in the final. Baron Alan needn’t had bothered reading the results, really, as it was a fairly straight and easy win for Tom and Helen.
I’m sure Baron Alan looked at me personally when he sent them back to the house, though, rather than off on a treat. I’m growing stubble by way of thanks.
Following a few clips of people saying how great they were, it was down the board room, and both Susie and Natasha decided they were going to turn on Jim. Jim, clearly, didn’t have a good week here (I bet you £420 he won’t win the series), but he did come across as the one dragging the team to whatever sort-of success it managed. Which wasn’t much. Cue, then, the usual chuntering about which candidate should be kept in, and which shouldn’t.
Given that two of the three were going through to the final (which is a two hour special, this coming Sunday), it did seem quite early on in the arguments that the Baron would side with Jim. And that made it a battle between Natasha and Susie. Given the number of times her bloody degree had been given an airing, Natasha was the running favourite to go. Susie could go on to be cannon fodder in the final.
So it proved. And while the board room sequence felt a little too long (especially given how strong the task itself was), the episode overall was really quite strong. Jim even blinked at one point.
To the final, then, and Helen is surely the running favourite. What could possibly happen to stop that? We’ll find out this coming Sunday. That gives you a few days to get to Spar and stock up in preparation. Margaret will be waiting for you…
Read our review of episode 10, Flip It, here.