Young Apprentice: Child’s play? More like a load of Pollocks

It was a case of Lost In Space meets Art Attack as our Teenage Tycoons of Tomorrow™ wrestled with the task of creating a new kids’ club. Both teams struggled – Platinum with ideas, Odyssey with costings – but ultimately a fourth trip to the boardroom finally spelled the end for tutor David Odhiambo as he became the fifth casualty of Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™.

Odyssey’s Space Odyssey versus Platinum’s load of old Pollocks

There’s no early morning phone call this week, as a tablet computer is delivered to the Apprenti-Mansion™. The Apprenti-Kids™ eagerly gather round hoping it contains the latest version of Angry Birds but, alas, it’s just a pre-recorded task briefing from Sugar. The teams’ challenge this week is to create a new kids’ club to capture the imagination of five to eight-year olds and attract investors willing to pay licence fees to roll out their concept.

In an accompanying envelope – because obviously it was too difficult to communicate as part of the video – Sugar reveals this week’s Apprenti-Shuffle™, which essentially has Andrew Tindall and Steven Cole swapping places. So Platinum is now Andrew, David, Ashleigh Porter-Exley and Lucy Beauvallet, while Odyssey consists of Steven, Maria DoranNavdeep Bual and Patrick McDowell.

Anyone but David – Ashleigh was quick to volunteer as PM (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

As usual, the first order of business is to select project managers. After his success last week, David puts himself forward for Platinum. Cue a shot of Ashleigh looking aghast. She quickly volunteers, and Andrew and Lucy are all too quick to back her, leaving David crestfallen and surprised – although one suspects David is surprised at the fact the sun rises every morning and sets every evening. For Odyssey it’s Navdeep versus Maria, with the former winning thanks to her pitching skills – and not because Maria has an established history of being loud and domineering even when she isn’t the leader. Oh no. Perish the thought.

The next step is to come up with an idea. Navdeep initially comes up with a literature-themed concept where children will act out plays, but Maria railroads perseveres with a science-based idea which wins the team over. Navdeep quickly splits her team up to conduct research, sending Maria and Steven out to investigate existing clubs while she and Patrick sample the delights of children’s yoga, which seems to involve lots of bending and stretching and pretending to be the Road Runner.

Meanwhile, Platinum struggle to decide between Ashleigh’s suggestion of a ‘green’ arts and crafts class using recycled materials and Lucy’s idea of a ‘dances of the world’ workshop. Please God, not the Macarena. Or, you know, this little ditty …

Despite her entire team initially backing the dance idea, Ashleigh presses on with testing out her recycled art concept at an after-school painting club using an interrogation technique which can only really be categorised as ‘leading the witness’. You like art, right? Then you’d really like an art class using recycled materials, wouldn’t you? WOULDN’T YOU?!?

I’m guessing Maria doesn’t have an Astronomy GCSE (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

For Odyssey, Maria and Steven seek out some tips from a science tutor for activities for a space-themed science club. He shows them some cool stuff with slime and how to make their own rocket, before the two Apprenti-Kids™ reveal they don’t know the names of the planets and that Maria didn’t realise Earth was a planet. (Presumably because she thinks the universe revolves around her?)

The candidates’ lack of academic ability seems to be something of a recurring theme this season. At various times they have been unable to deduce what a candelabrum is, how to spell ‘odyssey’, what the Cutty Sark is or whether the Queen was the queen in the 1940s (despite this being the year of her Diamond Jubilee, which is a bit of a clue).

Meanwhile, Platinum still cannot make a decision.

The teams reconvene at a design agency to flesh out their ideas and design mascots. Team 2001: A Space Odyssey are progressing well. They have a name – ‘Blast Off’ – and a mascot named Space Face.

Meanwhile, Platinum continue to flounder. Andrew changes his mind to side with Ashleigh’s art idea, and although Lucy (a lot) and David (a little) argue their corner for their dance idea, Ashleigh is adamant about bulldozing through her own art club (although she agrees to scrap the green aspect), declaring herself delighted at their unique concept. Unique, that is, except for the art class that she visited barely a few hours previously. Anyhow, they christen their club ‘The Big Mess’ along with a paint splodge mascot cunningly named Mister Splodge. Lucy and David have some fun splashing paint all over a floor canvas – it really is a load of Jackson Pollocks.

That’s another fine Big Mess you’ve gotten us into

Another week in which Patrick’s contribution was negligible (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

The following morning, the teams take delivery of their mascot costumes. Space Face and Mister Splodge – as modelled by Steven and David respectively – look a bit like the runners-up to Wenlock and Mandeville to be the Olympic mascots, but they’re pretty good. The candidates busy themselves with photo shoots and website designs, although it becomes obvious that Navdeep and Patrick – this week apparently adopting the role of Non-Contributing Hanger-On – are so caught up with the visuals of their website that they don’t have time to think through their costings, resulting in them plucking numbers from thin air. Which always works out well, doesn’t it?

On to the main event. Both teams must pitch to three leading holiday companies: a UK holiday destination, a European campsite chain and a global tour operator.

Platinum’s Big Mess demo starts badly, with the kids brought in unenthusiastic about face-painting and initially reluctant to paint with their feet. However, Lucy and David’s Mister Splodge gradually turn things around. Andrew’s subsequent pitch is polished, but the team have to fend off some awkward questions about what to do with dirty clothes and the fact that previous research shows that parents tend to react with horror at the state their kids end up in at such classes.

Team 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s launch of Blast Off is loosely based on science experiments and interplanetary travel, although it also seems to involve cheap-looking alien figures and lots of random running around – a bit like a 1970s episode of Doctor Who. Navdeep’s pitch is confident, although she comes badly unstuck on her costings and is pulled up on website typos.

In short, both teams have done well in some respects, but neither is overly convincing.

Boardroom Brouhaha™

It’s back to a more familiar playground the following day: the boardroom. Predictably, Ashleigh’s project management receives no more than lukewarm praise, with David highlighting her persistence in pursuing her own idea. Navdeep admits to struggling with the financials but claims that a science theme was the first thing she thought of. Er, no it wasn’t. Still, it gives Sugar the opportunity to crack one of his ever-so-original funnies:

So you don’t know your Mars from Uranus?

Poor grasp of costings or not, the only figures that matter are the value of the license orders placed by the holiday companies, and here Navdeep comes up trumps. While Platinum garnered orders from just one customer totalling a paltry £470, Odyssey received sizeable orders from all three worth £10,950. Sugar declares, “This is a complete and utter annihilation.” He’s right.

For their treat, Odyssey are sent to a London perfumier to have their own designer perfume made. Ah, the sweet smell of success – and a return for a favourite Apprentice ingredient, sandalwood, which almost proved to be the undoing of eventual winner Yasmina Siadatan in season five. Meanwhile, Platinum head off to the Cafe of Broken Dreams™ for afternoon tea – oh, hang on, that was last week, wasn’t it? – and a post-mortem which rapidly descends into an art versus dance argument.

Upon their return to the boardroom, Sugar tells the team in no uncertain terms that they failed on the three critical elements of the task. Create an idea which was novel and new (but surely if something is novel it must also be new?): fail. Educational content: fail. Makes good business sense: epic fail. The key to success in this task was to come up with an original concept, or at least a twist on an existing one. Where Odyssey succeeded in this respect, Platinum did not.

Fourth time unlucky for David (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

David defends himself – not altogether convincingly – by saying he repeatedly wanted an educational element to their concept. Lucy states she kept pushing her dance idea hard until it was too late in the day to keep arguing, a point which Ashleigh graciously concedes, although she slaps down David’s suggestion that he also pushed the idea hard, accusing him of “just jumping on the bandwagon”. Sugar also turns the spotlight on Andrew, asking him if he has actually done anything yet other than speak well.

When asked who she wants to send back to the house, Ashleigh maturely makes the right decision and selects not her right-hand man Andrew but Lucy. Instead it is the two boys who are in the firing line alongside her. Sugar ponders their fate privately with Karren Brady and Nick Hewer. Ashleigh is criticised for forcing through her own idea and misunderstanding the requirements of the task. David is labelled ‘Mister Hindsight’, although Nick sticks up for his positive contribution as Mister Splodge. Andrew is considered to be a bit of mystery beyond his gift of the gab.

To their faces, Sugar accuses Andrew of being a ducker and a diver and wonders aloud if he might just be one of those people he doesn’t like. He expresses his disappointment in Ashleigh, who he says he had marked down as a contender previously. But it is David – in the boardroom for the fourth time in five weeks – who is fired.

In the Riches-To-Rags Roller™, David is able to see the positive side of his experience:

Some would say that being in the boardroom four times is bad luck, but I see it as having the best business class from one of the top businessmen in the world. I want to take that and apply that to the rest of my life.

I’m not sure I would say it was ‘bad luck’ as just being plain bad. Sadly David lacked the assertiveness and clarity of thought to go with his snappy soundbites and seemed to struggle in making himself heard among more vocal and aggressive teammates, but he seemed affable enough. But was he the right person to be fired this week? I have to say yes.

Good week, bad week

With only two tasks to go before the final, how are our remaining candidates shaping up? Here are my current thoughts on the final seven.

Andrew: After a solid start, he has slipped backwards over the past couple of weeks, overspending badly on last week’s tea task and then offering little this week. His win as PM in the theatre props task was fair but somewhat fortuitous. Sugar has his card marked now, and he needs to show more than his ability to pitch and sell if he wants to be a serious contender. My verdict: 4th.

Ashleigh: Having the courage to stick to her guns left her under fire here, but is a trait praised by Sugar when it leads to a win. Showed maturity in not bringing Lucy back to the boardroom, despite their disagreements. Has a strong eye on cost control, but has yet to show any real business flair other than this simple strategy. Remains a one-trick pony for me until she proves otherwise. My verdict: 3rd.

Lucy – the favourite? (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Lucy: Another good week. Creative with her ideas here in addition to her creative bakery skills last week. Solid business instincts and willing to defend her corner without being overly antagonistic. No obvious weaknesses yet. My verdict: the one to beat.

Maria: Has a lot of ideas and isn’t afraid to vocalise them over and over again. Aggressive, arrogant and always believes she is right (and that everyone else is an idiot). She may have some good business skills, but they have been buried underneath her spiky exterior. Having said that, this was a much better week for her. A possible redemption arc in the offing? My verdict: 5th.

Navdeep: Slipping backwards. A confident and effective presenter and largely calm and level-headed, but shown up this week for her lack of business skills. She will only be able to talk her way out of trouble for so long. My verdict: 6th.

Patrick: Awful in the first couple of weeks, during which he displayed poor business instincts. Has been much quieter of late and has become more of a nodding dog, agreeing with those around him and offering little positive contribution. A dead man walking. My verdict: the next to go.

Steven: The dark horse. Disorganised (as we saw in leading the theatre props task) but gets involved, not confrontational and sells well. Could be a potential winner – but could also be a surprise casualty. My verdict: runner-up.

Next week: The teams must create a TV advert for a hair-styling product. Pants-Man, anyone? Or how about Octi-Kleen?

Young Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Thursday at 8pm. Full recaps will be posted here after every episode.

Link: BBC Young Apprentice website

Young Apprentice season 3:

Preview

Rags to riches

Cookery book

Theatre props

Afternoon tea

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4 thoughts on “Young Apprentice: Child’s play? More like a load of Pollocks

  1. Do the candidates have to come up with a business plan in the final for Sugar to invest in? If so, I think Lucy might not win as ‘aspiring lawyer’ won’t cut it with Alan in the end. Although we still don’t know much about Steven, he’s been solid and he’s my tip at the moment.

    • I don’t believe they do in the case of Young Apprentice, although I think they have to state what they want to use it for. So last year, for instance, Zara was going to spend the cash on equipment to build her film-making business. I forget what season 1 winner Arjun said he was going to do, but I don’t think he had a business plan as such.

      Agree that Steven is looking very solid, notwithstanding his disorganisation in the theatre props task. He’s not the smartest academically (bit then that’s not what this competition is about!) but he’s definitely a doer, a seller and seems to get on with people well.

    • Ashleigh’s a tricky one. I’m not a big fan of hers (for reasons I’ve outlined above and in previous weeks) but being single-minded and believing in your own ideas is fine when you win – indeed Sugar has praised candidates for this in the past. Where I think she went wrong was by allowing the decision over which idea to go for until very late in the first day, which left Lucy feeling she had just been strung along for a ride with Ashleigh having no real intention of listening to her. Far better to have made a firm decision after the research part of the day and just gone with it.

      To be a contender, she needs to show she can do more than just cut costs and just dictate her own ideas. For me, she’s a long way behind Lucy in terms of being a potential winner.

      From what we have seen so far, I would say the standard of candidates this year is lower than in the previous two years. And the decision to constantly focus on their academic shortcomings in the edit is an odd one which makes no one look good.

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