The Apprentice: No app-y ending for app-alling Alex

It’s week two on The Apprentice. The teams are asked to develop, promote and launch a product into a very new market but end up making some old and very familiar mistakes. After two tasks spent largely hiding in the ‘back office’ or doing bad Welsh accents, it was as easy as ABC for Baron Sugar to point the Digit of Doom™ at the app-alling Alex Britez Cabral, ensuring that there would be no app-y ending to his attempt to become the seventh app-rentice.

As it was last season, the candidates’ second task is to develop and then pitch a new product. Last year they were asked to design a new beach accessory – giving birth to the legendary Cüüli towel-cum-drinks cooler and the Book Eeze book-stand. This time around, the candidates are dragged into the 21st century. A laptop is delivered at 5am to the Apprenti-Mansion™, bearing a video message where Sugar tells them:

You’re going to be working in a market that has exploded over the last couple of years: mobile phone applications, better known as ‘apps’. I want you to develop a new app. Your one has got to be world-class. You’re going global on this one because tomorrow your apps are going to go live on the internet for 24 hours. The team with the most downloads will win.

Parker, bring the Apprenti-Carriers™ round to the front of the house!

Leontrepreneur versus Evil Edna the Control Freak Über-Bitch from Hell™

Vincent probably doesn't have much of a future in comedy (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

En route to consult with leading app developers Grapple, the boys while away their time making up app-based puns. Leon Doyle serves up ‘app-roximately’ and Irishman Jim Eastwood returns with ‘app-roaching’, to which Leon throws in a backhand cross-court with ‘app-solutely’. Oh, how we laughed! Vince Disney Disneur is feeling a bit left out of this hilarious banter, so he offers up ‘app-le’. Cue tumbleweed.

At Grapple, the teams elect project managers. After his trip to the boardroom last week, Leon wants to step up for Logic. But then software salesman Vince, with the sting of his poorly received pun still causing his cheeks to flush, volunteers too. And so does design engineer Glenn Ward. Jim backs Leon and everyone else falls into line.

Over at Venture, Edna Agbarha volunteers and the others murmur encouragingly that they’re right behind her (where, obviously, it is easier to push). Evil Edna the Control Freak Über-Bitch from Hell™ is not lacking in confidence, and demonstrates what a self-proclaimed people person she is by saying:

I’m at the top of my game. As a manager, for me it’s very much about being tough. I don’t suffer fools gladly.

Which makes you wonder how she manages to look in the mirror, doesn’t it?

Anyhow, the teams get to brainstorming. Logic – yet again failing to live up to their name – think that Glenn’s idea of recording slang phrases and insults in a variety of British regional accents will be a global hit. Venture are derailed by Susan taking 4½ hours to explain her self-proclaimed ‘brilliant’ idea very badly. It goes something like this:

I just thought of this. I think it’s a brilliant idea … [waffle] … [blah] … Look, you’re you and I’m me and then … [incoherent chunter] … Can I just finish my idea, cos I don’t think I’m explaining this very well.

You don’t say. Evil Edna the CFÜBFH™, not unreasonably, shuts her down and then – because she’s a ‘people person’ – offers some constructive feedback:

If you don’t agree with the way that I do things then you need to get out of my team.

It’s called tough love, baby. But without any love whatsoever. At this point Susan goes all green, her shirt rips at the seams and she turns into the Incredible Sulk™, the lesser-known comic book cousin of the Hulk. Seriously.

Next, it’s on to names for the teams’ apps. The boys come up with ‘Slangatang’ as both their assigned Grapple expert and Nick Hewer look on in disgust/amusement. The girls, who are running with Felicity Jackson‘s product idea of an app containing annoying sounds – like Susan and Edna’s voices – decide on recruitment manager Natasha Scribbins‘ suggestion of ‘Ampi Apps’. (No, I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean either.)

Meanwhile the Incredible Sulk™ continues to do what she does best:

[Edna] does patronise me a lot. And I think because of the massive age gap she looks down on me a little bit.

Miaow! That ‘massive’ age gap, by the way, is 15 years. The difference in their mental ages is, of course, much greater.

Watching Logic record their ‘local vocals’, Nick’s expression changes from disgust to confusion:

They’ve done the recording. I didn’t get it. It’s sort of bland and meaningless to me. Unless of course I’m too old and it’s all terribly clever and has gone straight over my head. I’m very perplexed.

So are we, Nick. So are we.

All together now: "Arf! Arf! Arf!" (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Less perplexingly, the girls are recording their combination of annoying, celebratory and animal sounds. Melody miaows. They would have been much better getting Susan to do it. As we have already seen, she has that one down pat. She mutters something to camera about not liking their product and predicting a disaster. I’m not sure exactly what she says, as the high-pitched whine is now beyond the range of my hearing. Clearly, though, her glass is not only half-empty but cracked. And full of lighter fluid. In a room full of gunpowder.

Pitch imperfect

The following day, both teams must pitch to three technology websites – the UK-based Pocket-lint, TechCrunch Europe and global magazine property Wired – in the hope of getting their product featured. I know which one I’d want to win …

Venture’s pitches get off to a bad start as Melody Hossaini congratulates Pocket-lint on their 37,000 monthly unique visitors. The only thing is, they actually have 1.7 million. (D’oh!) And their Wired pitch hits a stumbling block when it is noticed that their animal noises feature a picture of an elephant allied to the sound of a barking dog. O-kaaay.

Logic fare little better. Supposedly suave sales manager Vince pitches at Pocket-lint. He mumbles, stumbles and then dries up completely, while Nick snores quietly in a corner. Jim jumps in to rescue him (or is he just defusing the situation?) At Wired, Jim struggles to deal with accusations of their app being guilty of racial stereotyping and being generally tasteless.

Edna delivered a pitch so flat you could have played cricket on it (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

The teams move on to Earls Court Exhibition Centre to continue selling their wares at the Eurogamer Expo. The boys are dressed as the Slangatang Gang. The girls are dressed as a bunch of Apprenticewannabes. They discover that Slangatang has been featured on Pocket-lint and Techcrunch, while Ampi Apps is on Wired.

Mildly disappointed, execuive PA Helen Milligan tells the camera the girls are just going to have to do what they do best. No, not bitch, silly. Sell!

The teams have one more chance to get their product to appeal to key influencers with a presentation in the conference hall. Edna has carefully drawn up a list of her team’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and decided that she is the ideal person to deliver a flat-as-a-pancake eulogy to a room full of young, hip techies. The boys do a funny pitch, remembering to tell the audience small details such as how to download the app. Afterwards, Melody says she thinks they just got thrashed while a disconsolate Edna fixes the world’s least convincing smile on her face.

We finish the day with Leon stating:

I don’t want to sound too ballsy but I’m very confident of winning this task.

I don’t need to tell you how this is going to end, do I?

Boardroom brouhaha™

Alex made the error of hiding in the shadows too much (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

The following day, the candidates are summoned to the boardroom to find out the results of the task.

We discover that Melody and four of the other girls – including (who’d have guessed it?) Susan – didn’t like their own product. Although they like it just fine minutes later when they discover that they recorded nearly three times as many downloads as the boys – 10,667 to 3,951 – with the global reach of Wired’s website being the critical factor.

As a reward, Venture get to sample the delights on offer at Michel Roux Jr‘s restaurant. For Logic, it is over-stewed tea at the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where Leon seems genuinely at a loss to decide who to blame.

Back in the boardroom, Jim faces up to his responsibilities on the task while putting together a decent case against both Leon and Alex. He says of the latter:

There are participants and there are spectators. I am a participant and I positively get involved in things and put myself forward to do things. In that same respect, Alex, you don’t do that … My contribution is more positive than negative. Your contribution is nada.

Spot on. I’m really warming to Jim. He rolls up his sleeves, takes responsibility and when he points the finger at others he is measured and doesn’t resort to the kind of playground name-calling we are used to seeing in the boardroom.

I also like inventor Tom Pellereau. He is calm, insightful but possibly a bit too frank for his own good. Plus he’s a boffin, and we all know what Sugar thinks of intellectual types.

Glenn, however, goes down in my estimation. After Leon initially selects Alex and Jim to face the firing finger, he is convinced by the Irishman to switch to Glenn, who gets all flustered and insists that Leon should be dragging Tom back in. It’s a petty and childish reaction, along the lines of “Not me, sir! Him! It’s not fair!”

Nick says of Leon:

He fought like a lion to be project manager and ever since then actually he’s been rather sort of weak-kneed.

Karren lays into Alex:

On a task, he disappears. In the boardroom, he comes to life – he has something to say.

After the trio are summoned back in, it becomes obvious that Glenn is being strung along only for cosmetic purposes. Sugar gets in a dig about Alex about slicing bread, but it doesn’t stop the estate agent berating Leon for not having the guts to stand up. Er, pot, kettle?

But the writing is on the wall. Alex has been exposed as a talker rather than a doer, despite his last-minute gambit of offering to be project manager next week. Sugar sums up:

Alex, you have got this reputation already in these first couple of weeks that you don’t do anything. The thing that is worrying me is that if you get lost and think I’m going to sit back and do all the work and all that stuff you can forget it. This ain’t going to happen. Alex, you’re fired.

In the Taxi to Obscurity™, Alex reflects:

I am disappointed. I think you have to say Leon should have gone. A weakness in character there inherently meant he couldn’t even make up his mind who should go back into the boardroom. But you take a situation, you learn from it and you move on in life, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Two gone, 14 candidates remain. Lord Sugar’s search for his business partner continues.

Next week sees the return of the discount buying task. The candidates’ time management, resourcefulness and negotiating skills are tested as they must buy ten items at the lowest possible prices.

The Apprentice continues on BBC1, Wednesday at 9pm. Companion show You’re Fired follows on BBC2 at 10pm.

Link: BBC official website

Episode reviews:

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Season 1: Tim Campbell

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Season 3: Simon Ambrose

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21 thoughts on “The Apprentice: No app-y ending for app-alling Alex

  1. I am sort of getting annoyed that they shoot the show to make it appear that one team is obviously winning and then surprise us at the end – every time. Now it is at the point when I think: oh, they were confident and well organised and seemed to sell their product well…they’ll lose the task. It’s starting to wind me up – already!

    I thought Jim’s bit of escapology was utter class – that is the first time I have seen someone wriggle their way out of the boardroom. I thought the right man was fired from the wrong team.

    The girls app was awful and only got onto Wired because of Wired’s weak limbed political correctness. One of the top apps at the moment is iMobsters – surely offensive to Italians, no? If the guys had their app on Wired then they would have won – simple as that. The girls made a bad app, it was awful pitching, they didn’t have even a vague business model and I didn’t actually see the point in it.

    • You’re right. The editing is quite formulaic, as is the task, really. With these pitch-to-three-potential-buyers tasks, there is always one pitch which you have to win at all costs. Last year, that was Boots in the beach accessory task. (Also, slightly different, but the moment we saw Liz Locke had pitched well to Kiddicare in the selling to trade task, you knew that one was over.)

      From the way the first episode was cut, there was enough foreshadowing to suggest that Edna and Alex were going to be central characters in this second episode too. The Wired pitch was all-important – it was the one website with a truly global audience – so the moment we saw the boys struggling in that we knew they were in trouble. Leon’s “I’m sure we’re going to win” comment sealed it.

      Edna’s presentation was simply embarrassing. (As was Vince’s feeble attempt at a pitch.) I’d say she’s being set up like Melissa Cohen (she of the glasses and Sydney Opera House haircut) was last year – the early season antagonist who comes an absolute cropper round about week four or five.

      Oh, and Jim WAS class. He may well be as arrogant as all the others, but he showed a level of maturity in arguing his corner which was a cut above the usual childish antics.

      Hmm. I really do think about this too much, don’t I? :-o

  2. Great write-up.

    As much as I enjoyed the task, it did become pretty clear that for all the development, pitches and presentations, it essentially boiled down to who ended up on the Wired website. So, everything beyond the Wired presentation had been pretty pointless. The women’s app was awful, and I bet most people got rid of the app soon after installing it. The men’s app had more ‘legs’ and a much better plan for making money out of it. In the long term only one app stood a chance of making money. The men could have argued their corner a lot better, as the six-hour figures backed this up.

    But then, really, what has The Apprentice got to do with real business?

    Other thoughts: Jim is my favourite – gets involved, is sensible, and isn’t a complete fruitcake. Susan is awful, but Edna should have let her talk and talk and talk just to show her complete lack of ideas or coherence. Edna is awful herself, and I can see her on her way when her team’s task goes wrong – too much pouting for my liking too. As Lord Sugar made clear he doesn’t want to see Leon in the last three again, surely the sensible tactic as a failing PM is to nominate Leon?

    • Cheers Steve.

      10,000 downloads, with 9,990 deletion within 5 minutes, one suspects. And it most certainly was all about Wired.

      The boys’ app was far better. And as a real world proposition they had thought the business model through as well. Actually, they shouldn’t have watered it down – if they had gone full-bore solely with the original regional insults idea, it would have really appealed to the 12-25 male audience. Just look how successful iFart is on the Apple App Store!

      But then that’s the way The Apprentice works. Real world considerations like repeat purchase and longer-term revenue streams are an irrelevance on the tasks. It’s all about making a fast buck, eh?

      On initial impressions Leon is a weak candidate who Sugar has clearly marked out for potential because he has already set up a business of his own. He’s clearly not after a good manager, he wants someone who can set up their own business, which is fair enough given the nature of the winner’s prize, I suppose.

      • Although they skirted around it last night, I thought it was pretty obvious neither app would have been featured on any of the three websites in the real world. Of course, in the real world you wouldn’t rush an idea to market that fast either.

        As the TechCrunch post says, there was a certain amount of manipulation that had to be done in order to turn the products around quickly and then fast-track them onto app stores. Apple refused to play ball. And having seen how poor the final products were, it’s easy to understand why!

    • Argh, my voice rec software and I are still learning to play nice. What I meant to say was….I don’t think either of them was ever in any danger of winning, but I think I might have fired Leon for being so weak as to let Jim change his mind in the boardroom. I didn’t like how Jim came across there and imagine the others will be a lot more suspicious of him now. Not that he’ll care, which is fair enough.

      • I loved the way Jim shrugged his shoulders at the end and said “Well, he’s made his decision.” He’s certainly hard-nosed and you wouldn’t want to square off with him, but I thought he fought hard and fair and stayed above the usual playground insults. Glenn throwing a strop when Leon changed his mind and then saying Tom should be in the boardroom apropos nothing was absolutely pathetic.

        Leon is awful. I would quite happily have seen him fired too. I know Sugar likes him because he has set up his own business and so he’ll probably survive longer than he should, but he still seems utterly ineffectual. I wonder if he will survive all the way to interviews, only for us to discover that actually his business was set up with daddy’s money? Just a thought …

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