As soon as we got the preview of this week’s episode of The Apprentice at the end of the last episode, the instant feeling of déjà vu kicked in. Sending the candidates off to France? Isn’t this the one where the posh bloke goes off to sell cheap English cheese?
Turns out, it isn’t. Instead, what the task turned out to be, as introduced at Waterloo Station no less, was a bit of a hybrid. Thus, we got the conveyor belt of products to choose from, only this time, off the candidates had to go to France to sell them. The best of British was the informal theme. As long as the best of British involved cress in a box, and a teapot on string.
It struck me last time The Apprentice went to France, and it struck me again here, that this is a brutally unfair task (and one that, despite the slightly new spin, I felt I’d seen time after time). It instantly favours, to a disproportionate degree, anyone who can speak French. So, Melody then.
And it would be fair to say that this was Melody’s episode. Here, we got the Melody who had won awards. The one who could make appointments. The one who had no shrift for the idea of a team. And the one who continues to prove that it matters not how you come across on this show, as long as you can sell things.
As it was presented to us, and the editing seemed particularly unkind this week, Melody pretty much undermined her team. Her attempts at researching the market were skewed, it seemed, by her own preferences and preconceptions, and his spinning of the results in her favour would put political parties to shame.
It’s easy, though, to discount her as the pantomime villain of the series. But she is, and you can’t get around it, getting results. It’s just, on the evidence we’ve been shown, I can think of few human beings who would want to work side by side with her.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The two teams, led by Tom and Susie respectively, were subdivided further into two. Half went to Paris, half of them had to manipulate their eyebrows, a trick they’ve learned from Nick, at an assortment of potential products.
This gave us a chance to see Susie doing her bit for international understanding, with a collection of incisive questions about France that should, on the spot, had extinguished any remaining thoughts that she had a chance of winning this. Her team won, but if she makes it as far as the interview stage, I don’t expect her to get much further than that. That grumpy man from Viglen will take just one of his sneers to knock her out.
Sadly, I came to the conclusion that Tom’s days were numbered quite early, too. A pity: I liked to think of him as the geek candidate of choice, and if his abilities truly lay in inventing shitty electrical products and selling them cheap, then I can’t think of a better fit for Baron Alan’s future business. Yet his instincts were right on the product choice here, but his assertiveness wasn’t. And, admittedly based on dodgy information from his crack market research outfit, he folded at the point he needed to stick to his guns. Granted, it’s done Susie little harm in this process, but by the time he’d played scissors-paper-stone to determine who should do the biggest pitch of the episode, our front runner had gone to also-ran.
In fact, this was arguably the first episode where the real leaders of the pack came to the fore. It wasn’t Leon, as from what I could tell, he couldn’t even draw a half-decent picture. But this increasingly looks like a two-way battle between Melody and the mighty Helen for the top prize. That said, there’s still Jim with his Jedi mind tricks and hypnotic eyes. But he’s losing ground, surely. That said, his bilingualism is a massive asset.
Two things really turned the task. Firstly, the choice of product. And secondly, the differing approaches to selling to Le Redoute.
I had a lot of sympathy for Tom on this, sold very short on the information he requested from Melody specifically (even Nick backed him up). But the pitch, aided by the surely-soon-to-be-fired Natasha, did nobody any favours. They may as well have scribbled some info on the back of a fag packet, and performed a melody of songs from High School Musical. The result would have been no different.
This was comfortably the episode this series with the most cringe-y moments. It was also the one with the biggest victory margin. Helen’s La Redoute deal led to a six figure victory, and the ultimate battle boiled down to Tom, Melody and Leon The Artist.
Not before, though, we got to really enjoy the spectacle of the winning team taking flying lessons. I might have not mentioned this before, but I really enjoy these segments of the show, and love the fact that we get to see people enjoying a genuine reward for their efforts. I think it sends out an important message, and I find myself sitting, rapt, as this sequence plays out. Perhaps they could expand it to half an hour on its own?
Yep, I’m being sarcastic. The treat was the usual morose shit to watch. It did, as always, drive me to drink. It was good of Baron Alan to remind us he started his business at the age of 18, too. I wish he’d mentioned that before.
It became very clear, very quickly, then, that Melody was going to be immune to the final firing (and she can expect a good few weeks in the tabloids off the back off her ‘creative’ relaying of information). Tom’s empty order book and Leon’s shitty pictures saw to that. Neither of those two were going to ultimately win, and it was inevitably one of those that took the taxi ride home.
In the end, Baron von Sugar selected Leon for disposal, with Tom needing some major work to save his position in the weeks ahead. As for Melody? Well, would he really choose her for a 50/50 partner? We’ll find out, but Helen is going to take some beating. Mind you, Melody did take time out to tell her fellow candidates about her awards. That was good of her.
Next week? It’s making biscuits. Yum. See you then…
Read our review of episode 7, Freemium Magazine Launch, here.