Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Souking up to the boss - The Apprentice Week 5

And so we come to week five of The Apprentice - TV’s second most aspirational careers show, after that one about the women who fill the Steak Bakes at Greggs. Once again, the editing team’s having a laugh, picking snippets of choice dialogue, and presenting it out of context as a commentary on the candidates themselves. Tonight’s choice example: “Is this the best I can see?” A question that, depressingly, answers itself.

Tellingly, the show opens on a pile of horseshit. Besides setting the tone for the remainder of tonight’s installment, this also introduces a handy recap of last week’s action. Which can basically be summed up as Luisa offering “Potatoes, fresh from the ground,” and Kurt responding with smoothies, fresh from Cost Cutter.

This week it’s awkward academic Jason who goes shambling for the dildophone, as Jason gives us a flash of his nipple ring, and the girls dance through the house with excitement at the prospect of 24 hours in Dubai. Zeeshan is thrilled, because it’s his second home, and Luisa is busy packing her bikinis, proving that she is to the boardroom what Katie Price is to the Man Booker Prize.

The voiceover declares Dubai to be one of the world’s top shopping destinations, before introducing the venue for today’s task – a new multi-million pound hotel. In fact, that’s hardly a differentiator, since you’d probably be looking at seven figures for a decent sized B&B in Stockport. But let’s not start quibbling yet, I’m sure there’ll be far more egregious over and understatements for us to disagree with in tonight’s show.

The hotel is still under construction, but this is only evident because they’re in Dubai, where everything ordinarily comes with a gold-leaf finish. Even the gold. If this was anywhere else in the world, the unfinished concrete floor and wads of gaffer tape would be considered a ‘bold design statement’. Anyway, this is another one of those frantic shopping trips, where the two teams have to source a series of inexplicable items on behalf of the hotel manager. Lord Sugar pops up on the video screen to point out that his reputation is on the line, a dramatic over-reach that’s undermined by the fact that he couldn’t be arsed to get on a plane in the first place. Given the horror stories I’ve heard about the construction industry in Dubai, it’s heartening to find that the Apprentii are about to be sucked into it. Next week’s task will presumably see the remaining members of Evolve and Endeavour attempting to talk their way out of 21st century slavery – now there’s a negotiation task I’d happily watch.

Professional David Brent Impersonator Zeeshan is clearly the star of tonight’s show, which is presumably why we crash cut to him boldly declaring “No human in this world intimidates me.” That’s fine – let’s throw him into the big cats enclosure at Chester Zoo instead. He’s getting increasingly ballsy since, as he repeatedly points out, he’s lived in Dubai and knows how to barter with the Emirati. Explicitly signing his own death warrant, he tells his team “Put the map away – I know this place like the back of my hand.” Throw in an elderly man dressed as a busty washerwoman and this would be a full-on pantomime. Altogether now – Oh no he doesn’t.
He may be confident in his local cultural knowledge, but there’s already tension in the team. Doctor Leah is decidedly unimpressed with Zee’s hubris, and makes her counter-pitch: “I’m a good leader, great with finance. I don’t have a lot of local knowledge but I can convert the currency really easily.” After all, isn’t that what they really need: a pouty-lipped Foreign Exchange?

The other team is being led by silver fox Myles Morduant, who sounds like one
of Harry Potter’s unforgivable curses. He’s had a glamorous life, and boasts that he lived in Monaco for ten years. I’m not entirely sure of his point – doesn’t Monaco have shop assistants and traffic wardens? Myles confides in his team that this is likely to be a logistics task. Poor thing, he’s probably still on Monaco time, or he’d have realised that you’re supposed to speculate about the nature of the task before you’ve been briefed on it. There’s just time for posh Jordan to suggest “Let’s take this back up to 50,000 feet,” which I think is his way of saying he wants to get the first plane home, before the teams take to their people-carriers.

The items are supposedly to help finish the hotel, but it’s not entirely clear why the manager needs a leather hood for a falcon. Not to worry, there’ll be plenty more shopping list fuck-ups before the day is up; it’s as much of a certainty as Nick getting sand in his eye. Or at least looking like he has.

On the hunt for kanduras, the sourcing strategy doesn’t get off to the best start. The flinty sales rep only gets as far as “Hello, my name’s Rebecca. I’m English” before the other end hangs up on her. Can’t say I blame them. Meanwhile, Leah has decided to ignore Zee’s explicit instructions to head for the souk, and directs the cab to the Dubai Mall instead.  The PM obviously gets wind of the dissention in his ranks and calls to check in on his sub-team. “Stop talking, we don’t have time…” barks Leah, before reiterating for good measure: “I would’ve been a better PM.”

Myles is looking for a sago palm tree and settles for the first discount the sales woman offers him. Karren’s shaking her head in photogenic dismay, telling the camera crew that he should have negotiated with the boss instead. In the back of another MPV, Zee and Kurt are trying to order a UAE flag over the phone. Unfortunately, Kurt’s not quite got the hang of decimalisation, and mixes up his centimetres and inches. Unbeknownst to him, they’ve just ordered a flag that might suit a particularly patriotic mouse. It’s Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge all over again. Myles and his sub-team are also on the lookout for a flag, but they’re dealing with the shop manager face-to-face. Advised that the process will only take 45 minutes, the team decides to wait it out. We know how this one’s going to end, don’t we?

Neil, Alex and Leah appear to have located the only part of Dubai that’s older than Miley Cyrus, where Leah is trying to order a 32 ounce coffee pot, but the Emirates are trying to understand her French and Saunders comedy accent.
As they walk past another shop, someone offers Alex Viagra. “I don’t need that,” he shouts back, “I’m from Wales.” What he meant to say was, “I’m already a massive cock.”
Elsewhere, Jason is trying to describe the ancient practice of falconry to uncomprehending passersby, and seems to have decided that impersonating Apu from the Simpsons is the best way to facilitate their understanding. As for Neil, he’s developed an approach to negotiation that’s so aggressive, I half expect him to punch vendors in the neck, rather than shaking on an agreed price. 

Over in the flag shop it’s all kicking off as Zee’s team realise their miscalculation. Nick’s outside auditioning for the Del Monte campaign, and charitably suggests that the flag error was caused by the boys’ lack of concentration. And not because they’d struggle with the word jumble on a Little Chef placemat. Myles is also stressing about the flag, because he seems to have been stuck in this shop since halfway through the last series.

Zee’s sub-team are still distrustful of Zee’s bolshy leadership style, and are questioning whether he’s got it right about the Oud. The PM maintains that it’s a woody fragrance (and to be fair, he’s actually correct), but since the brief clearly asks for a mahogany oud, it’s doubtful they’re looking for perfume oil. In fact, it’s also a musical instrument, which the team eventually realises. Jordan goes in for the close, wearing his finest pistachio pedal pushers. “Make me happy, nine nine zero,” he grins at the shop keeper, in a scene with so much gay code I’m going to need an Enigma machine to crack it.

As the hotel manager the table of items, which looks an awful lot like evidence collected from a crime scene, the teams fly back to London for a showdown with the hairy teabag.

In the boardroom, Lord Sugar asks after Zee’s performance as leader of Team Endeavour, but Leah’s sticking the knife in before Alan’s even finished his question. At one point, Nick makes a reference to Alex’s weird eyebrows, which is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle funny-looking. Then, Ol’ Squinty has another pop at the flag mix-up - “Alan, this hotel is three times the size of the Kremlin,” assuming that Lord Sugar has a working knowledge of 15th century Russian architecture, as well as shit phones.

Things aren’t much better for Team Evolve, who get a slap on the wrist for spending the day window shopping. Myles gets more stick for not negotiating better on the flag price. Karren suggests that maybe they shouldn’t have paid up-front. Magnanimous Myles agrees with a “Fair comment.” A quick tot-up of the numbers, and it’s immediately apparent that Zee has been sunk by his own bravado. As a reward, Lord Sugar sends Evolve to the world’s… best… new…cocktail bar, which just looks like a snug in the Rovers. Still, the mixologist has a jaunty cravat, so it can’t be all bad.

Perhaps picking up on the fact that the internet has dubbed it ‘the café of broken dreams’, the hastily rebadged La Cabana Café plays host to yet another task autopsy. Zee pre-empts things by telling his loyal subjects that he doesn’t want to hear their apologies for the team’s failure, as a lonely tumbleweed rolls past the sausage baps. Leah adds that she’s sorry to say that she was right all along, but the grin on her face betrays her delight. Disturbingly, there’s an overhead shot from the rafters, but the camera cuts away before we can see if someone has crudely scratched Baggs Was Here into them.

Once again, the losing team face up to Lord Sugar, who reminds them that they were only £90 out, and demonstrates a misunderstanding of irony that’d have Alanis Morisette shaking her head with disdain. Zee effectively signs his own death warrant the moment he chooses Natalie to accompany he and Leah back into the boardroom. From the moment he lets the door hit Natalie on the way in, it’s clear that the knives are out. In a classic pincer manoeuvre, the women accuse Zee of being a chauvinist and it’s not too long before he’s shifting uncomfortably in his seat and wrestling with his tie like it’s an Indian Python. With anyone else, this would be an open and shut case. But let’s remember that the final decision will be made by a man whose Christmas tweet read: “Ladies, get your boss to buy you a new nailfile.”  

Thankfully, common sense prevails, and after some needless back-and-forth Zee is sent packing. Respect to Leah and Natalie who don’t even acknowledge their nemesis as they stride confidently out of the boardroom. For tonight, let’s give the final word to the vanquished property manager: “The name Zeeshan will go down in history. I’m not sure exactly why yet.” Indeed.  


  1. Love... silver fox Myles Morduant, who sounds like one
    of Harry Potter’s unforgivable curses.

  2. Cheers Gruesome Twosome, I was pretty pleased with that one too!

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