Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Candidates are Getting In Tents

“There are people in this room that are hungry for this deal” growls Lord Sugar, fingering the lid of his Bargain Bucket. That’s right, it’s time for us to revisit the blue boardroom of doom, as our luckless egotists face yet another contrived and largely unrealistic sales task.  

At least this time around they’re going to have actual products to flog. Last week’s reprise reminds us of what happened when these loathsome twunts had nothing to sell except their own deluded sense of self-worth. But it’s week seven, and there’s no rest for the wickedly hopeless.

After the cursory London glamour shots, it’s a race to the candidates’ house where Neil is running around in his pyjama bottoms and answering the phone. Then it’s a quick bellow through the house, before dragging a bladeless razor over his neck. Told to pack an overnight bag, Jason attempts to stuff an enormous teddy bear into his carry-on luggage. Possibly for comic effect, but where Jason’s concerned, it’s hard to tell.

Today’s briefing venue is the Tower of London, and given that Lord Sugar has been plugging tonight’s camping theme all day on Twitter, it’ll be interesting to see how he segues from one topic to the next. Ah, OK. Tower of London goes to tourist attraction, tourist attraction goes to UK holiday-makers, and UK holiday-makers goes to camping. Still, at least we got through that without anyone using the word ‘staycation.’

The voiceover tells us that the caravan industry is worth £6bn in the UK alone. That’s five million for the caravans, and the rest on the bright blue toilet chemicals. Our teams are going to be selling items at the Motorhome and Caravan Show in Birmingham, which must be the second least appealing sentence in the world, after ‘Now, turn to the side and cough’. 

‘Silver Fox’ Malleus Maleficarum tells us that caravans are banned in Monaco, so he’s unlikely to be much use in tonight’s task. So it falls to ‘health drink entrepreneur’ Kurt to step up to the plate. In the other team, Jason is agitating for a go in the hot-seat. He’s never been in a caravan, and he’s never been to Birmingham, so maybe tonight’s not his night. Throughout the show, caravanning comes in for quite a bit of stick. Obviously, none of this lot have ever experienced the bracing wonders of a week in Filey, or the joys of doing the washing up whilst speeding down a B-road.

The first challenge is selecting the products to showcase. Neil’s team are getting up close and personal with foldable chairs, electric bikes and a roofbox that doubles as a boat. Not that the design team have gone overboard with the concept – it just looks like a regular roofbox with an oar stuck in the side.
Malleus is still talking about his glamorous life, and the fact that his time in Monaco allowed him to hone his ability to smile at A-listers. He’s pulling out all the stops to impress the product developers, telling a man that he loves his chair and wants to know the philosophy behind it. Well, one day, I found myself wanting to sit down somewhere… The other team is admiring a box with a lot of oomph inside. It also appears to contain a bunch of camouflaged crap for kids.

Project Manager Neil and Jason are wandering around the NEC, sitting in things. Neil thinks Jason’s a big girl’s blouse, but Jason’s too oblivious to care. Instead, he asks rhetorically, “Who gets on a bike and doesn’t want to pedal?” as we crash cut to Luisa doing just that, and piling straight into a desk. Her eyes widen in shock, which makes her look like a hentai character designed to give ophthalmologists the horn. Either way, bike lady isn’t too impressed with their cavorting and shuts down any attempt to secure a discounted pricing model. Team Evolve are doing much better, as Luisa, Francesca and Jordan manage to win both their supplier pitches.

As Myles takes the call that his sub-team have failed to secure any of their preferred products, Nick lurks threatening in the background, jotting notes in his Moleskine. Given that he was with the purchasing team just a couple of short scenes ago, this lapse in continuity indicates that the producers have finally dropped any pretence at caring. Which means we’re all on the same side now.

While Neil and Jason investigate a trendy VW camper van, Kurt and Alex are looking at a fold out trailer tent. Neil tells his team he wants to go for the foldaway, and they agree it’s a no-brainer, which wins them a “well done team.” Staying on his good side must be a piece of piss. Kurt has gone for the pricey VW as his big-ticket item, and wants Myles to do the selling because of his high-roller background. He also thinks Alex is too young and lacks the gravitas to sell a van with a draining board, when in actual fact it’s clearly those fucking eyebrows that are holding him back. After a quick grumble Alex resigns himself to the task in hand; demonstrating chairs to people who’d struggle to stand unaided. He also focuses on the USP of the roofbox boat –it’s a box, and then it’s a boat – and even manages to sell one.

Jason is trying to sell a foldaway trailer tent, but is so strange and curiously inappropriate, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Help The Aged officers were monitoring him from the awning. Neil, on the other hand, would rather just whip people’s wallets out their back pockets. Luisa manages to sell one of the thousand-pound electric bikes, prompting Jordan ask her what she’s doing that he’s not. She sagely resists the urge to respond “Steering clear of parachute pants.”

Natalie has clearly done her research and knows all about the cubic capacity of the rooftop boat, but lets herself down by thinking that the bench is a table. Elsewhere, Jason is about to make his first sale, which is making Neil’s genitals audibly shrivel up inside his body. Nick leans into the camera and warns us all that there’s no tomorrow, like a grey-faced harbinger of the apocalypse.

This week’s big ‘that’ll come back to haunt them in the boardroom’ moment comes when Kurt decides that the women might be more use if deployed as eye-candy; suggesting that his extensive camping experience amounts to little more than watching Barbara Windsor’s bra flying off during some outdoor calisthenics. Alex is sounding similarly pervy as he asks some poor, unsuspecting woman, “Hello Madam, want to have a look at my boatbox?” Then, with a final flurry of paperwork, it’s time to pack up and return to the mothership with their empty carry-on luggage.

On Team Endeavour, Myles blames Leah’s lack of passion for their failure to bag the best products, and she’s barely sentient enough to even mount a defence. Lord Sugar settles into a particularly aggressive groove, and there’s an extended montage of dancing eyebrows to characterise the candidates’ response.

Leading Team Evolve, Alpha-Neil throws some shade on Jason, who attempts to rationalise his slightly creepy sales patter. In the silence that follows, you can almost hear Nick’s pinstripe unravelling itself. In the end, Jason dodges a bullet, since Neil’s team scores a whopping £33,000 in sales, compared to Kurt’s meagre £1,500. They’re off to Manchester to stare at Chris Hoy’s bum, while Kurt’s despondent lot decamp to the Cabana Café somewhere on the set of World War Z. Hang on a minute, there’s just time for one last shock as Lord Sugar asks Jason to be sent back in. “I just wanted to say, well done, one of those sales was down to you,” growls Alan, to which Jason responds by saying “I hope to keep impressing you Lord Sugar.” Let’s not get too carried away.

Endeavour shuffle back into the boardroom, and Frank Sidebottom is the first one in Lord Sugar’s sights. After a light mauling, he turns to Kurt, whose standard defence-mechanism is to adopt the Droopy Dog eyes. Myles, on the other hand, is too busy regretting describing himself as “the Jedi Knight of sales” on his CV. After reminding Leah that she was just there as eye-candy, it’s time to pick on Natalie. She makes a good stab at defending herself, but astutely observes that there’s no point arguing with Lord Sugar – you can’t apply logic to the man who invented the email phone.

Kurt picks Natalie and Alex to come back in the boardroom and lets Myles off the hook – presumably they don’t have showdowns in Monaco either. Sugar mocks Alex for his tombstone business, but this is a man who took one of Britain’s “most promising young business people” and gave her a job selling digital signage to hospitals. Natalie gives a rousing defence of her contribution to the task, but loses it when she turns on the waterworks. It’s a double-header tonight (steady on) and both Natalie and Kurt feel the business end of Lord Sugar’s finger. I’m really sorry, I don’t know what’s got into me.

Back at the house, Alex walks in and dramatically slams to door as someone asks “Who’s behind you?” Glasses are chinked, and then one of the boys notes “It’s only the high calibre left now.” Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

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