Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Apprentice Week 10 - If It Ain't Bespoke, Don't Nix It

Hang in there, people. There’s just a fortnight to go now, before we discover who’s going to be condemned to spending the next year driving back and forth to a trading estate in Edmonton. Meanwhile, we can content ourselves in those inspiring shots of Lord Sugar striding purposefully towards Canary Wharf. The inference, of course, is that he’s heading into a high powered meeting, when in fact he’s off to Square Pie to buy a meat and potato with the works, that he can eat in the van on his way back to North London.

Last week we were treated to Alex’s Poppidy Ping (“He’s on a gondola; Italian innit”) and Ming the Merciless designing a ready meal that looked as though it could rid your basement of rodents. Meanwhile, the voice over man runs through every possible cooking pun imaginable, so I’m exhausted before tonight’s adventures have even started.

The dildophone rings and it’s Francesca’s turn to answer.  There’s no frantic commute to a random London landmark this week, instead they’re going to be watching a prerecorded video in the sitting room. As simple as that sounds, there’s an awful lot of confusion about the venue: “The sitting room? The SITTING room?” Perhaps they think it’s a new members only club.  

The bewilderment continues as Jordan races in, wearing giant tie & dye sarong. “It’s not a sarong,” he argues pointlessly, “it’s a kikoy.” “You’ve got a lot on in the next few days,” comments Lord Sugar, subliminally advising Jordan to try a pair of trousers.  

They’re watching a video, because as Sugar explains, “I can’t be with you because I’ve just had to go off on a foreign business trip…” Which probably means he’s just remembered the 24 boxset he got for Christmas. How do I know he’s lying? Because real professionals don’t need to name drop the fact they’re on a business trip, unless they’re Romy and Michelle looking for the special menu in the Café of Broken Dreams.

This week our final five will be tackling the Alan Sugar Biography Task, as they attempt to turn £150 into a thriving retail empire, via a market stall in London’s East End. Ming Merciless is talking about “smashing it,” whereas Luisa is busy complaining about “those stupid boys” as she daubs Neil’s name on her pencil case in eyeliner.

Lord Sugar’s reverted back to a boys versus girls structure, and both teams are seeing plenty of competition for the role of project manager. Luisa comments “It’s perfect for me, given my professional background. I own shops.” I’m amazed she’s managed to keep that a secret for so long. The girls quickly decide that fashion is where they can make the most money, with Luisa commenting knowledgeably, “Fashion is really on trend.”

The boys are equally well informed, deciding that they need to buy stuff that’s going to sell. “Teapots are cool” offers Ming Merciless to no-one in particular. Jordan also likes the idea of greetings cards, presumably buoyed by Clinton’s inspiring success story. 

Luisa sends Francesca off to Spitalfields to size up the vibe of East London, adding that they need to “Stack it high, sell it cheap,” which is like pillow talk for Lord Sugar. Leah may be a doctor, but it turns out she also has her finger on the pulse of fashion, confidently asserting that “beanie hats are very 1998.” In contrast, the boys are still struggling to make a decision. Karren interjects to see if they’re any closer to a decision, only to get shushed by Ming.

Neil and Ming have decided to explore ceramics, and are cooing over a £25 butter dish. Because they’re going to be selling their stock to 1940s housewives who’d actually find use for such a thing. It’s just a shame they couldn’t lay their hands on a lorry-load of mangles. They’ve also fallen for a soapdish that looks like a marigold glove. In the end, they walk out with just 16 items to sell, which means they’re going to have a pretty minimalist market stall. The girls, on the other hand, are lugging great bin-bags full of cheap hats.

Karren is concerned about the boys’ high-end purchases, cautioning them against bespoke ceramics. Personally, I’d caution her against using the word ‘bespoke’ incorrectly, but each to their own. She’s clearly in a critical mood, teasing “they haven’t got anything that would entice me over to have a look.” I’m guessing Neil’s going to take that one personally. With a job-lot of cards to shift, Jordan makes the audacious decision to try and sell them to other card stalls. Later, he’ll try flogging fridge freezers to some vacationing Inuits.

Nick’s bored shitless because the girls haven’t made any ridiculous mistakes, although I may have spoken too soon, as they’re now trying unsuccessfully to shift their funky leggings. They might not be moving but the hats are still shifting like hotcakes, as Leah lies “Oh my god Francesca, isn’t that gorgeous?” as some unsuspecting punter tries on a fake-fur headband. Over on the boys stand, Neil is waving his cock about because he managed to sell a couple of butter dishes.

Day two, and the teams relocate to a pop-up shopping mall near Brick Lane, made out of old shipping containers. They’re all doing their best with merchandising and layout, but at least the girls have enough stock to work with. The boys, on the other hand, are even struggling to fill their own doorway. Karren’s concerned that their stock in failing to entice people in, when it’s far more likely that passersby are put off by Neil pacing back and forth with his fists clenched.

Francesca comes back from the wholesalers dressed like a spare Puppini Sister, and a bag full of identical retro dresses. Speaking of outfits, Karren observes that the usually calm and collected Ming Merciless is “fraying around the edges,” but she could just be dissing his pullover.

Having been dispatched to source more products to fill their woefully understocked store, Jordan somehow manages to spend four hours pricing candles, despite the fact that half of them wouldn’t even burn that long. He does also select some enormous cathedral candles which, in certain shots, appear to be taller than he is. Ming frowns at Jordan’s product selection, to which Jordan responds by saying “I would jokingly say they’re immortal candles.” You should hear his stand-up routine, people have literally died laughing.

Luisa’s panicking about the remaining stock, and races into the street shouting “Lovely vintage style dresses, only £40” but the only person in earshot is Francesca. Since the hats and scarves seem to be the only things that are shifting, Fran is sent back to the wholesalers. She’s still wearing her fake-fur headband; I do hope she whip that off the moment she’s out of sight. It’s very hard to engage in serious negotiations with someone who looks like she’s on her way to a Hen Night.  

The last few minutes of the task are dedicated to the story of Jordan’s zsa-zsa. That’s not a euphemism; it’s a ridiculously overpriced objet d’art that’s been hand spun by a woman who must have seen Jordan coming. She explains that it’s a specially designed vase, but no-one seems entirely sure where the flowers would go, unless you were to remove the entire stem and just plonk the heads on top. In the end, a £200 dish isn’t what the passersby of Shoreditch need, so Jordan’s reduced to wandering from shop to shop, trying to offload his impulse purchase like he’s got Vincent Van Gogh’s ear wrapped in brown paper. Finally, he finds a hipster shopkeeper with a thing for pint-sized pottery pushers. Will he sell it in time? We’ll just have to wait and see. Spoiler warning – No.

Lord Sugar’s back from his overseas business trip (watching the Homeland boxset and eating Supernoodles from the packet) and he’s eager to see how the teams got on. The girls are happy with Luisa’s performance as PM, and they allow themselves to laugh a little when Lord Sugar lamely jokes that they weren’t supposed to sell a bowler hat to Nick. “We tried,” they all bleat, as Nick looks at the floor in embarrassment. Maybe he’d have preferred the fuzzy hat with cat ears instead. Karren reveals her own interests as she leaps in to celebrate Neil’s stellar sales effort before we’ve even got to the boys’ efforts. Once again, she’s erroneously describing their ceramics as bespoke, whereas Lord Sugar opines that the boys’ shop must have looked like the bailiffs had been in.  

In the end, the boys are left with combined assets of over £500, but the girls are way ahead with £800. There are congratulations all round on a job well done, so let’s not quibble about how effective these businesses would be if they’d had to pay for the market stall and retail unit rentals.

Over at the Bridge Café, Jordan is picking fights before they’ve even made it into the boardroom. No such worry for the girls, who’ve teased out their hair and are toasting their success in the world’s most desolate pop-up restaurant. They’re bigging up the fact that three of them in the final five, so much so that even Jessie J would tell them to give their ‘girl power’ shit a rest.
Back in the boardroom and Lord Sugar hauls Jordan over the coals for his ridiculous pottery. “It’s a vase, and it’s unique,” he argues, neglecting to follow up with the fact that its uniqueness comes from the fact that it’s totally unfit for purpose. Sugar’s not convinced: “What makes you look bad here Jordan, is you’re sitting here saying you like that vase.” And just like that, homophobes up and down the land find themselves with an all-new euphemism.

The talk swiftly moves onto the candidates’ business plans, all of which sound like variations on “I want to build a website.” Jordan gets himself into trouble by bringing up a previously unmentioned third partner. He tries to convince the grouchy guru that he’s a safe bet, but Sugar refers back to “That bloody vase there…” whilst pointing at Karren who’s actually doing her best teapot impression. Fair play to Lord Sugar; his fake-out pre-firing is more convincing this week, and I’m prepared to bet my zsa zsa that someone’s going to be loading a suitcase full of tie-dye man skirts into a black cab. In fact, it’s Ming who gets the chop, since Lord Sugar is unsure what his expertise is. Clearly, anyone who’s been watching this show know that it’s ab-crunches.

Final word for this week goes to Luisa, who’s busy assessing the competition. “I think Jordan may struggle,” she wonders out loud, but only if the prize is on a high shelf. 

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