Our ten Young Apprentice candidates were given the task of procuring ten props at the lowest possible prices. But while Odyssey got rave reviews to earn an encore next week, Platinum found themselves singing for their supper and Lord Sugar decided that Amy Corrigan‘s showing on the task was more La Travesty than La Traviata as the Demon Barber of the Boardroom directed his Digit of Doom™ and dismissed the first female candidate of the season.
An old favourite returns
It’s 6am at the Apprenti-Mansion™ as Navdeep Bual wins this week’s Race to the Phone™ to be told that the candidates are being summoned to the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera. There Sugar briefs the teams on their task before evening up the numbers with a quick Apprenti-Shuffle™: David Belotelli™ Odhiambo transfers over to Platinum, while Odyssey gain Navdeep and Alice Smith. So Odyssey now consists of Navdeep, Alice, Andrew Tindall, Maria Doran and Patrick McDowell, while Platinum comprises David, Amy, Lucy Beauvallet, Steven Cole and Ashleigh Porter-Exley.
Two-time boardroom survivor David volunteers to lead Odyssey, but a horrified Lucy is quick to ask if anyone else – literally, anyone else – wants to spare them the inevitable car-crash. Thankfully Steven puts his hand up and is quickly voted in, but Lucy’s relief is short-lived as David is assigned to head the sub-team of herself and Amy. The love child of Big Brother winner Brian Belo and Mario Balotelli shares his unique advice for leading a female team, which appears to have been lifted straight from the Misogynist’s Guide to Management (published 1950):
When managing women you have to flirt with them, be kind, smile, show your softer side …
… Remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and call them ‘sweetheart’ when sending them off to fetch the tea, that sort of thing. I can’t see that being an issue with Lucy and the argumentative Amy at all.
Anyhow, in its various guises the discount buying task has always yielded a rich seam of comedy gold. We have had the adult Apprentices scratching their heads over exactly what a ‘cloche’ is (it’s a bell-shaped cover for food dishes but you knew that already, right?), the Apprenti-Kids™ struggling to identify a dashiki (a colourful men’s shirt of African origin) and, of course, one of the all-time Apprentice classics: ‘good Jewish boy’ Michael Sophocles‘ feeble efforts to procure a kosher chicken in Marrakech, resulting in one of Sugar’s most savage (and funny) boardroom take-downs ever:
Regardless of the actual items on Sugar’s shopping list, the formula for success in this task remains the same. Three key business skills are required. Negotiation is key, but so too is effective time management and an ability to apply a modicum of common sense under time pressure. Of course, this being Apprentice, the standard strategy of running around like headless chickens and flapping hopefully tends to be the one most commonly employed.
Common sense is particularly important when it comes to prioritising what the ‘must buy’ items are which are most likely to determine who wins the task. Spending half a day chasing a £20 item is not a good idea. Focussing on securing an item worth several hundred pounds where there is a good chance of a hefty discount? Yes please. With that in mind, here are the ten items on this week’s shopping list:
- 15 metres of red velvet
- Electronic cash register
- Roadworthy second-hand German car
- Ten pairs of size nine army boots
- Two stuffed rats
- 30-metre plastic link chain
- Four-foot olive tree
- 18-inch 100% human hairpiece
- 150 votives
It doesn’t take a business genius to work out that the car is likely to be most expensive purchase, and that this is the sort of item for which a discount is common. However, the most vexing issue facing both teams to begin with is to figure out what votives are (they’re small prayer candles) and what a candelabrum is (it’s a candle holder – as in candelabra). Indeed, throughout the task both the identity and pronunciation of ‘candelabrum’ proves to be even more difficult than haggling for our Teenage Tycoons of Tomorrow™. At various points team members think it is a drum, a part for a washing machine and an African musical instrument, while mangling the word itself as bandella-drum, candle-drum and even candela-brum – which sounds more like a Midlands-based artificial sweetener to me.
Should I stay or should I go?
The two teams take diametrically opposed approaches to managing their time and resources. Steven spends minimal time researching, preferring to get on the road and do his planning in the Apprenti-Carriers™. Andrew, however, keeps Odyssey behind, tasking his team with locating as many products as possible up front before eventually heading off.
As a result, Platinum take an early lead. Looking for an olive tree, David instructs Lucy to flirt with a stroppy salesman at a garden centre before throwing his own weight into the negotiation with that guaranteed winner of a negotiating ploy – “we are desperate”. However, Lucy saves the day by noticing a sign offering 10% off all house plants, agrees to reclassify the olive tree as such and duly gets her discount. (Next week: Lucy convinces a policeman to categorise a Porsche as an ambulance, thereby escaping a speeding fine.)
Meanwhile, Steven and Ashleigh secure two more items – the velvet and the human hair – on the same street. It’s looking good for Platinum, but it quickly becomes clear that – despite Lucy’s best peace-making efforts – David and Amy simply do not get along. He talks over her, not all of it unreasonably. She can’t keep her mouth shut and not butt in to her teammates’ negotiations, and it’s obvious she considers David to be the Worst Sub-Project Manager Evah™.
Things are also pretty fraught at Odyssey, who are still at the Coliseum. Andrew and Maria had their differences last week, although when push came to shove they actually worked well together. But the tension quickly resurfaces as Maria, frustrated by the lack of action and Andrew’s haphazard direction, is soon back on the war-path, telling him:
You’re so immature sometimes.
Which, of course, is such a mature way of working through a problem.
Her impatience is understandable to an extent. It is over three hours before Andrew and Alice finally head off in search of items, leaving Maria, Navdeep and Patrick with instructions to secure more leads before heading out themselves.
However, Andrew makes up for lost time by showing excellent negotiating skills in playing off one West London shopkeeper against his neighbour to drive a big reduction on their velvet – at £70, he pays £20 less than Steven. They too quickly follow up by securing the hairpiece a few doors down as Alice also demonstrates good tenacity to secure a small reduction.
But is the second-hand German car where this task is won and lost. Steven and Ashleigh flounder, thinking that Suzuki “sounds quite German” and setting off across London before finally stumbling upon an old BMW – but too late in the day to get it taxed. Andrew and Alice, on the other hand, successfully target a 20-year old Mercedes and the project manager’s firm negotiating drives the price down from £850, eventually saving an impressive £200. Make a note of that number, folks.
It’s not all plain sailing for Odyssey, however. Andrew decides not to take a long trip to pursue a firm appointment for the cash register, instead diving into a random office supplier and failing to secure the item. And Maria, Navdeep and Patrick are none too impressed with any of his decisions. They do not set off from the Coliseum until close to 3pm and spend the entire time slagging him off incessantly, with Maria making her opinion all too clear:
Great project manager, my bum.
Jim Royle she ain’t.
They do at least succeed in procuring two items, though. Having by now correctly identified the candelabrum, they are able to purchase both it and the votive candles in the same place, with Navdeep calmly talking the seller down from £55 to £42 and finally £40.
The final hour is the usual mad dash as the teams strive to secure more items to avoid fines for unbought products and return to the Coliseum before the 5.30pm deadline to avoid a further time penalty (or, alternatively, being fed to the lions). David, Amy and Lucy do manage to get hold of the army boots, but not before the girls have to effectively usurp David’s lugubrious attempts at negotiation. Trying to rectify their earlier miss, Andrew and Alice pursue one final lead on an unwanted till in a small boutique, but the shopkeeper is so busy (and slow) wrapped up in serving a customer that they are forced to leave to make their way back. Both Odyssey sub-teams make the deadline, but David’s group is late.
At the end of a long day, both teams have secured five items. Not great. Like most football games between England and Germany, it will all come down to penalties – and the not insignificant impact of a rusty German car.
In the boardroom, Andrew complains that he didn’t get good support from his sub-team, while Steven gets much stronger backing from his team – although Lucy astutely observes that his one mistake was putting David in charge of the sub-team. Sugar gives Platinum a grilling over the fact they still haven’t worked out what a candelabrum is – “it’s a bit pathetic, really” – and their failure to buy the car, resulting in quite possibly the worst Sugar pun and Tumbleweed Moment™ ever, where he asks them if they were “trying to get a car for a tenor”. It is a joke met with one suppressed snigger and which goes straight over the head of the bemused Steven. Oh dear.
Foregoing his attempts to become the new John Bishop – he’s more Harold Bishop, really – Sugar calls for the results. Platinum, led by Steven, bought five items for £734 and accrued fines worth £1,470 for the products they didn’t buy and for being late, giving them a total expenditure of £2,204. Andrew’s discordant Odyssey paid £797 for their five items and accumulated fines of £1,236 for a total of £2,033. Odyssey win by £171 – less than the discount negotiated by Andrew on their Mercedes.
As a treat, the team are sent to Hamley’s to play with toys and buy themselves some gadgets, while for Platinum it’s anything but fun and games as they are sent to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™ with Sugar’s pointed words ringing in their ears: “One of you – at least one of you – will be fired today.” (Which confirms it will be the standard single firing, but it’s fun watching the candidates squirm with fear anyway.) There Amy puts the blame squarely on David’s lack of leadership, while David himself seems resigned to the fact everyone is going to take aim at him because he’s already been in the boardroom twice. And maybe, just maybe, because he’s not actually any good.
Back in the boardroom it becomes clear that the team weren’t really that well organised and that Steven was largely unaware of problems in the sub-team thanks to poor communication. He opts to bring David and Amy back in with him – the former for unprofessional squabbling, the latter for not communicating problems when asked for updates.
Having been highlighted as someone who is aggressive and likes a row, Amy serves to underline that assessment by going after David aggressively – “you were useless, David” – and having a row with Steven by claiming that the reason he didn’t get accurate feedback from the sub-team was because he didn’t ask the right questions. Eh? Presumably he should also have directed a bright spotlight in their faces and threatened to remove their teeth one at a time with a pair of pliers?
Sugar is unimpressed. He points to Steven losing control of the task and the sub-team, notes that David’s tendency to be always standing next to failure – he is the only candidate to have been on the losing team in all three tasks to date – has an element of no smoke without fire about it and that he doesn’t like Amy’s bluntness. Which is a bit rich, coming from the self-styled ‘Britain’s most belligerent boss’.
As people have pointed out repeatedly during the episode, candidates don’t survive three trips to the boardroom – although, actually, there are several precedents of candidates who have – which, applying standard TV narrative logic, means that David is, of course, safe. Instead it is Amy who is sent packing in the Riches-To-Rags Roller™, where she says:
This isn’t the end of my business dreams. Today was a massive knock, but if anything it’s going to help to make me stronger.
Amy was unlucky to be fired after David had been so ineffectual and low-key as a sub-team leader, but one has to hope she learns the lesson, curbs her temper and adopts a more positive and diplomatic outlook. Others, such as Andrew, Lucy and Navdeep, have shown they can get the job done without resorting to such a ceaselessly negative attitude. Unfortunately for Amy, we saw little of what she is capable of in a business sense, with her narrative thread showing only the side of her that is argumentative to the point of being aggressive. A shame.
How did the candidates perform this week?
Overall, it wasn’t a great week for either project manager, although in both cases they had to contend with some seriously dysfunctional teams in a task which is always difficult to manage effectively. Overall, I’d still rate both Steven and Andrew highly.
It was a good week for Alice, who recovered somewhat from the negative light in which she was portrayed last week as the ringleader of the anti-Lucy Three A’s, although in truth we have seen little of her business abilities to date. Lucy also came out of this task well, negotiating cleverly and being a calming influence in the constant sparring between David and Amy.
Navdeep got drawn into the bitching about Andrew as the poisonous Maria continued to bad-mouth everyone she disagreed with (this week: Andrew). Patrick was all too keen to join in, undermining some positive contributions in thinking about the task’s logistics. He still has a lot of ground to recover after a disastrous first two weeks. He and David – who yet again showed nothing of any consequence this week as he seems more intent on trying to be whatever Sugar, Nick Hewer and Karren Brady tell him to be, rather than being himself – are most at risk in my eyes.
We didn’t see much of Ashleigh, but I’m still not seeing her as a contender in spite of her success as project manager in the opening task. For me, the four to watch are – in no particular order – Navdeep, Lucy, Andrew and Steven.
Next week: The teams must create a themed afternoon tea service at a stately home. Fifty Shades of Earl Grey, perhaps?
Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Thursday at 8pm. Full recaps will be posted here after every episode.
Young Apprentice season 3: