After nearly twelve weeks, Lord Sugar‘s search for his Apprentice is almost over. But before Chris Bates and Stella English get down to battle in tomorrow night’s final, here are my 20 favourite moments from the past 11 episodes.
This season has provided us with so many classic – and often cringeworthy – moments that whittling my final selection down to 20 was no small task in itself. No doubt you will have your own personal favourites – hopefully I’ve captured many of them here and reminded you of others you may have forgotten:
So, in no particular order, let’s get started.
1. The Brand launches himself on an unsuspecting world (Episode 1: Sausages)
Stuart Baggs, at 21 a telecoms entrepreneur and the youngest candidate in this year’s show, first catches the eye because of his striking resemblance to the super-villain Syndrome from the film The Incredibles. And he sets himself up as the pantomime villain for the remainder of the series with his stock of self-aggrandising soundbites, most notoriously:
I’m Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ … Everything I touch turns to sold.
2. Christopher goes back to the 1970s (Episode 6: Advertising)
Christopher Farrell mistakes the advertising task – in which the teams had to promote a new brand of household cleaner – as an opportunity to star in his own 1970s soft porn film, hiring the most attractive actress available to play his wife, and then smarming his way through the advert before declaring with a wink and more than a hint of innuendo:
Eight hands really are better than two.
It’s like watching a really bad nudge-nudge-wink-wink-how’s-your-father sitcom from the 1970s – I kept expecting Sid James to turn up. It isn’t quite on the same level as Pants Man – but it’s close.
3. Jamie on the buses (Episode 10: London tours)
Becoming a sightseeing bus tour guide with just a single day’s preparation is a scary prospect, and finalist Stella duly struggles. But Jamie Lester acquits himself pretty well – if you’re willing to let trivialities like facts slide a bit. Here are four classics which you will never hear on a London tour bus:
The river Thames is literally drenched in history. It’s the second largest river in London.
Straight ahead of you we’ve got Big Ben. The face of the clock is 20 diameters in width.
I think it’s only fair we start talking about Westminster Abbey because once again this is an incredibly important part of England’s history. So you can go there and, well, it’s a church.
You see the building which looks like a gherkin? It’s called the ‘Gherkin’ because it looks like a gherkin.
4. £1.82 for a bread roll? (Episode 3: Bakery)
Supposed super-saleswoman and food industry expert Melissa Cohen walks into a pitch unprepared for even the most basic of questions. When asked for the unit cost for a plain bread roll, she stabs furiously at a calculator for about 15 seconds before declaring “£1.82”. With a straight face. (These are, of course, the gold-plated ones.)
5. Hasta la vista, gravy (Episode 6: Advertising)
This season’s “I really wasn’t expecting that” moment comes on the advertising task when Stuart not only comes up with the not unfunny tagline “Hasta la vista, gravy” but also shows a surprising talent as a voiceover artist, giving the characters of E-coli and influenza a child-like and a Cockney voice respectively.
6. Shibby the stand-up comedian (Episode 3: Bakery)
Project manager Shibby Robati delivers just 16 out of an order of 1,000 bakery items to a disgruntled commercial customer. When asked what he is supposed to tell his customers, Shibby shrugs sheepishly and replies:
Go on the Atkins diet?
Coming to a comedy club near you soon – not.
7. Margaret returns (Episode 11: Interviews)
The owner of the most sardonic eyebrow since Roger Moore returns briefly from her papyrology studies to deliver some of the old Margaret Mountford soundbites and facial expressions which we came to love over the previous five seasons. My personal favourite is her boardroom comment about Chris’s fixation with his academic record:
I wouldn’t be surprised if he put his certificates in frames and his idea of a fun night is to sit and admire them.
8. Alex thinks outside the box (Episode 6: Advertising)
Alex Epstein may have been an Unemployed Head of Communications and self-styled marketing and retail guru, but he certainly had a memorable and unusual way with words. Describing himself as an out-of-the-box thinker, he declares:
If I was an apple pie, the apples inside would be orange.
Not so much outside the box, as inside the pie?
9. Stuart fixes the shower (Episode 4: Selling to trade)
Having failed to ensure their prototype eco shower head unit is working properly, Stuart attempts to help Melissa’s floundering pitch by getting his teeth into hose flex. Literally.
10. Nick Hewer’s fantasy? (Episode 6: Advertising)
You can always rely on Nick Hewer for a variety of amusing facial expressions and at least one killer soundbite per episode. His best of this season comes on the advertising task, where his summary of Christopher’s commercial is:
So much for the liberated woman. This commercial is a stereotypical mumsy housewife. Cleaning up, sending her daughter off to bed so that she can – as an octopus, perhaps – grope her husband.
Although it does also provide an unsettling insight into Nick’s imagination.
11. Who is doing the mincing? (Episode 1: Sausages)
Dan Harris volunteers to project manage the boys’ team, Synergy, in the opening task, and impresses no one with his dictatorial, sergeant-major style of leadership. He might have got away with attempting to re-enact scenes from Saving Private Ryan (in which he appeared as an extra) if he had actually been any good. Instead he attempts to sell sausages to florists, and barks out commands on the factory floor such as:
Who is doing the mincing?
It is enough to move the youthful Raleigh Addington to admonish him in the boardroom with a withering “It was shameful!”
12. They won?!? (Episode 9: Discount buying)
Despite being totally disorganised and failing to buy three out of ten items on their shopping list, the boys somehow win the discount buying task, much to the evident shock of both the girls, led by Liz Locke, and winning project manager Jamie, who had clearly been bracing himself for humiliation. But the girls had treated the task like a treasure hunt and forgotten to negotiate hard, whereas the boys had earned some great discounts – even though Jamie seemed to spend most of the day fruitlessly hunting for a four-metre kitchen worktop.
It is the one truly jaw-dropping task result of the entire season.
13. Melissa’s graceless exit (Episode 4: Selling to trade)
After four weeks of bluff, bluster and total and utter incompetence, Melissa is fired after the last in a series of disastrous sales pitches. True to form, she leaves with good grace and pro-fesh-uh-na-le-sum, muttering dark words about conspiracies:
Well done for ganging up on me, horrible people.
She refuses to shake Jamie’s hand outside the boardroom like a petulant teenager, and then pronounces during her interview to camera in the Taxi to Obscurity™:
Some people have set out to get me and they’ve succeeded. Karmically, they will be retributed. The universe speaks louder than I do.
Apparently, the universe is the only thing which speaks louder than Melissa.
14. Paloma slaps Shibby down (Episode 3: Bakery)
In the boardroom after their abject failure in the bakery task, Paloma Vivanco agrees that she and Shibby were on different wavelengths:
Clearly we were, I’m a businesswoman and you’re a joke.
15. Alex the sat-nav (Episode 5: Fashion)
Alex makes the mistake of picking a promotional pitch at the Trafford Centre which is approximately 796 miles away from their store, and attempts to direct some prospective customers there:
It’s upstairs – on the upper mall, all the way to the other side towards Debenhams, opposite French Connection. Just on the right hand side towards Accessorize. Then take a left at the M62 and keep going until you see the sea.
Okay, I may have made that last bit up.
16. Laura’s hyperspeed sales pitch (Episode 8: Crisps)
En route to a pitch to a German food distributor, Stuart pointedly advises Laura not to speak too fast; she assures him she won’t. But, having built some genuine rapport by starting the conversation in German, poor Stuart is forced to watch in horror as Laura races through her presentation as if she is worried that the parking meter is just about to run out and she really needs to run downstairs and put another euro in the slot.
Even Stuart struggles to understand what Laura is saying. God only knows what the poor German chap thinks when confronted with this real-life version of Alvin and the Chipmunks.
17. You’re not even a fish (Episode 11: Interviews)
Claude Littner is not one to mince his words, as Stuart discovers in interview week:
“I’m Stuart Baggs the Brand?” What on earth are you talking about? You’re a 21-year-old kid. You’re not a brand … You’re not a big fish. You’re not even a fish.
18. Cartoon couture (Episode 5: Fashion)
Seeking fashion brands to represent in their retail outlet, Apollo visit Cassette Player, where a slightly mad-looking designer – looking very much like Su Pollard in her time as Peggy the chalet maid in Hi-de-Hi! – describes her vision for her brand of £1,000-a-throw slightly mad-looking dresses as:
Future primitive, cartoon couture, luxury streetwear.
19. The bitch-fight in the boardroom (Episode 2: Beach accessory)
Having lost as project manager, Laura ignites an all-out bitch-fight as she makes her boardroom selections. She, Paloma, Joanna Riley and Sandeesh Samra erupt into a furore of shouting and finger-pointing, prompting a stunned Karren Brady to tell them what a bad example they are setting for women in business.
20. A field full of ponies (Episode 10: London tours)
You didn’t really think I was going to forget this, did you? Under fire having lost as project manager, Stuart pleads his case to Lord Sugar eloquently:
I’m not a one-trick pony. I’m not a 10-trick pony. I’m a whole field of ponies – and they’re literally all running towards this job.
No, I still don’t know what it means.
Link: BBC Apprentice home page
Previous episode reviews
Episode 6.04: Selling to trade
Would you employ any of the final 8?
What can we learn from the fired candidates?
Whatever happened to the previous Apprentice winners?