Young Apprentice: Carmen? It’s all about the car, man!

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.

Ashleigh and Steven are left feeling a little ‘tyred’ after a hectic day (image courtesy of bbc.,co.uk)

An old favourite returns

David changed teams, but still lost (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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
  • Candelabrum

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.

An early success for Lucy at a garden centre (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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.

Another quiet week for Maria. Not (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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.

Andrew secured a crucial discount on a rusty Merc (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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.

Boardroom Brouhaha™

Steven missed Sugar’s joke – and missed out on victory (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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.

Amy failed to survive her first time in the final three (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

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.

Link: BBC Young Apprentice website

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14 thoughts on “Young Apprentice: Carmen? It’s all about the car, man!

  1. Good review, Tim. I think I would put Alice in the mix of possible winners, but I agree she hasn’t shown much yet. I’m not sure about Steven, though. I look forward to seeing more of Navdeep. She doesn’t contribute a lot, but often she has something useful to say. She did, however, get wrapped up in the bitching this week..

    I also think that this task came down to avoiding penalties, but I saw little process applied effectively by either PM and in the end, the least ineffective team won.

    You can read my thoughts at; http://markdecosemo.com/2012/11/16/young-apprentice-week-3-stage-fright/

    • Thanks Mark. I’ll pop on over shortly.

      I seem to remember Steven sold quite well in the opening task and he showed some creativity last week, but he was certainly found wanting in terms of organisation this week. I’m unconvinced – but much more convinced by him and Andrew than I am by Patrick and David!

      Navdeep? We know she can pitch. She seems fairly level-headed. But she’s also trying to fly underneath the radar.

      Actually, the truth is that after three weeks we still don’t have a clear idea about the business acumen of many of the candidates. Certainly I wouldn’t say any one candidate has emerged as obviously stronger than the others. I’m hoping we’ll learn much more over the next week or two.

      Totally agree with your last comment. It wasn’t so much a case of which team won, but which team avoided being worse than the other. Goes to show it’s a pretty tricky task.

  2. Do we know what the time penalty is? Because if it is more than £170 the Platinum would have won if they hadn’t been late so maybe that was key as well?

    • No, we weren’t told, sadly, although we do know that Steven’s team was penalised £1,470. I’m assuming £850 was for the car alone (i.e. the full price paid by Andrew for his car), leaving £620 to cover the costs of the other four unbought items plus the time penalty. Unfortunately we don’t know the value of those four items, so it is indeed possible that the time penalty was more than £170. However, the reason David’s team was late was because they were buying the boots – where they secured a discount of £100, so if you take off the time penalty you have to add the discount they would have missed back on. So the time penalty would only have mattered if it was over £270, if you see what I mean.

      Having said all that, it’s still all about the car. If Andrew hadn’t bought his, Odyssey would have lost regardless, even with David’s time penalty.

      To be fair, I think this was not so much about both teams being poor – although they weren’t great – but more that this task is much more difficult than it looks. Judging time is very difficult, especially if you don’t know London. And how many people would know what a votive and a candelabrum are without resorting to Google (which the candidates are not allowed to use)?

  3. As usual a good review but I think that the reason Amy left is on the cutting room floor as the programme is shown before 9pm. Lord S does refer to her swearing and we weren’t privy to that so I wonder how much of her aggression was edited out. It also made for some kind of drama as I am sure that we all expected David to be axed.

    David and Patrick are both on borrowed time and some of the girls are poisonous. Though even more than with the adult version these kids are impressionable and will develop as the programme moves on.

    I think that this is the most argumentative and dysfunctional group I can remember in any series; which all makes for more fun.

    • Quite. The first two seasons of YA were more ‘innocent’ – there was much less of the posturing and positioning and shifting of blame than we have seen this year, and the girls seem to be particularly bad this year, not least the foghorn of blame that is Maria. They’ve obviously been watching the adult version of the show too much! It’s a sad reflection if the tycoon of tomorrow are characterised by this bunch – they think it’s fine to shout and slag off people to camera while being utterly incapable of spelling. And, seriously, I get that ‘votive’ was a tricky one, but an entire team of five unable to work out what a candelabrum is – really?

      • Candelabrum was quite pathetic. These are supposedly intelligent young people as well and not knowing what a tenor is was even worse. I wonder who they were phoning to discover what these things were! They obviously needed Max with his 20 A* GCSEs to help them with some basic English (though Latin and RE might also have helped).

        I sort of agree about the votives, though it did tell me that I need to donate more next time I light one in church.

        I had forgotten the spelling issues from the previous task but then in an age with spell checkers people become lazy and nyathing goes.

          • Kosher chicken was pure gold…candelabrum was cringeworthy.

            Do you think that they should ever try for Kosher something again??? I would suggest sausages…

            (Pork, obviously)

            • Heh. Although we’ve done making sausages before (season 6, episode 1 – the Stella/Stuart year, with Dan the salesman demanding to know who as doing the mincing) and, of course, Herr Baggs himself did once tell someone “Excuse me, sir, you look like a sausage connoisseur.”

              Those were the days … :-)

  4. Great blog, thoroughly entertaining read! 100% agree with your four “ones to watch”. Andrew is my favourite, but had a mixed week this week. Whilst he was a brilliant negotiator (one of the best seen on the show) he was a bad manager, but this wasn’t helped by the sub-team and particularly Maria. It was almost disappointing to see the great deals on the car and the velvet because it gave us a glimpse of what he could have achieved if he had planned better.

    Steven was also a bad PM and seemed perfectly happy to lump everything on the sub-team. I agree that he and Andrew are by far the best of the boys, though. Steven needs to recover and show more of what he did in Weeks 1 and 2.

    Alice was greatly improved. She learned her lessons from last week about undermining the PM as she gave Andrew great support and also did a very good deal on the hair. I’ll wait to see how she does with PMing next week.
    Navdeep had a bad week. I get the impression she’ll just go along with the mood of the sub-team regardless of what she thinks. Last week her sub-team was very supportive of Lucy, so she was. This week, her sub-team didn’t like Andrew, so she spent the day slagging him off. She didn’t do a deal either, so not a very positive week for her.
    Maria is on borrowed time atm. She completely failed to learn from last week and was looking for every excuse to undermine Andrew. The trouble is that its a great shame as she does do things well (Good sales in Week 1, Great pitches in Week 2, Good deal on Votives and candelabrum in Week 3), but this fails to get noticed because of her appalling attitudes on the tasks. The was she and Navdeep confronted Andrew at the end of the day was horrible.
    Patrick started off well with the logistics, but then decided to just contribute in all the bitching behind Andrew’s back. Still think he’s gone next time he hits the boardroom.

    Ashleigh didn’t do much and I agree with LS that she needs to speak up or risk falling by the wayside. Not a great candidate by any means, her deal with the hair was poor and she hasn’t done anything really positive since Week 1 and the control of the costs.
    Lucy was the stand-out candidate for me this week. Did several good deals, tried to mediate between Amy and David, pointed out succinctly where Steven had gone wrong and made up for David’s slow work with the army boots deal. Genuinely think that Platinum would have only got about 3 items without her.
    David is on his last chance. He’s PM next week and if he loses, he’s out. He’s just all talk for me and his management skills were terrible this week. In my opinion, he was very, very lucky to survive and would have done if Amy hadn’t been so aggressive in the boardroom.

    Amy deserved to go, in my opinion, but it was a close-run thing. You can’t treat people the way she does and expect to get away with it. If she had shown a more human side in the boardroom, I think she could well have stayed, but she was really aggressive and deserved to go for me.

    Agree that the four main contenders for now are Lucy, Andrew, Navdeep and Steven. In that order!

    • Jack, thanks for your detailed comments. I’m in agreement with you on the vast majority of points. For me David has shown little substance behind his quippy soundbites (which aren’t THAT great). There’s a reason he’s been in the boardroom every week (although last week he really shouldn’t have been).

      Although I’ve named my four contenders, I still think it’s early days yet. In truth we have seen only snippets of each candidate, and with the focus being on arguments and mistakes we have been shown little of each person’s actual positive contributions and business skills. With the numbers dwindling, we should start to form a much clearer picture over the next couple of weeks. But for now I’m sticking with my nominated four … :-)

  5. I found the firing of Amy for her attitude a bit rich given that Maria is ten times worse and has barely any more to show for it in terms of her results or business savvy. It just felt like he wanted to give David yet another chance, which I don’t think is warranted after the last two weeks.

    Lucy stood out for me as the best by far this episode. From what we’ve seen so far I’d say she’s the best candidate, which of course means she’ll crash and burn next week. Navdeep feels like the sort of person who has stood out more so far for not messing up than for actually doing much right (other than her pitches last week). I do think Steven is capable of learning from his mistakes this week, whereas I’m not so sure with Andrew. He seems a bit too bull-headed for that. Still those are the obvious standouts, possibly along with Ashleigh, of what’s left.

    • David wasn’t awful last week, though – merely invisible.

      Totally agree with you that Maria is far worse than Amy (I’d up your 10x to at least 100x, though). Lucy seems (a) pretty level-headed and (b) not a rampaging egomaniacal sociopath, so she should do well. Which, as you say, means she’s probably for the jump next week for being too ‘safe’ and not edgy enough to merit a second/third/fourth chance.

      I’d like to see how Andrew does without having Maria braying in his ear every five minutes telling him how crap he is for not listening to every word she says. It’s a miracle he hasn’t taken a roll of duct tape to her mouth yet. Many would have,

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