As The Apprentice reaches its halfway point, Lord Sugar sets the candidates a rubbish task – literally – as the teams are challenged to set up their own junk collection businesses. After two days of searching for scraps – and as much bitching and sniping as we have seen in the five previous tasks put together – Logic finally won their first task, beating Venture by just £6. With project manager Zoe Beresford accepting the blame for pretty much everything, Edna Agbarha somehow trash-talked her way into trouble and found herself on the receiving end of the Digit of Doom™.
Day 1: Bitching, bitching and a bit more bitching
Edna makes an invaluable contribution to the task by winning this week’s Race to the Phone™. The candidates are gathered at Smugglers’ Way waste transfer station in high-visibility jackets and steel toe-capped boots which, as Melody says with some justification, “is definitely not a good look”.
The task is, basically, The Apprentice does Steptoe & Son meets Scrapheap Challenge. The teams must collect and dispose of rubbish, with the aim of charging more for whatever valuables they can salvage than they pay for disposing of it. Simple enough in principle, although as the teams are soon told they will be dealing with a load of Arthur Daley types who know every trick in the book, while the candidates know, er, how to come up with really bad pet food brands.
After last week’s double firing, Sugar rebalances the team by tossing Lisa Stansfield lookalike Helen Milligan (who has been on the winning side in all five previous tasks) into the Apprentice Black Hole™ that is Logic (who have lost all five tasks). She is quickly nominated as their project manager, while Venture argue the toss over who is least-worst qualified to lead – “I once emptied a bin. Does that count?” – before Zoe unilaterally declares herself as leader in a bloodless palace coup, uttering the immortal guarantee of failure:
Why let others take control when I know I can do the best job?
So, Helen is leading Tom Pellereau, Jim Eastwood, Melody Hossaini and Natasha Scribbins for Logic, while Zoe die Führerin’s motley crew is Glenn Ward, Leon Doyle, Susan Ma and Edna. And with that the teams split up, with half taking the Apprenti-Carriers™ to pitch for commercial contracts, while the others set off in their newly assigned Apprenti-Trucks™ to go hunting for – all together now – any old iron. In the case of Tom and Jim, this appears to involve the latter screaming into a loudhailer in electioneering fashion. O-kaaay.
Meanwhile, Helen is discovering exactly why Logic have failed to win this far as Natasha and Melody snipe at each other en route to pitching for two potential contracts which Sugar has set up for them. Determined to secure the valuable scrap – leftover materials from a bar refit and some office furniture – at all costs, they adopt the risky strategy of offering to take away both clients’ waste for free, but not before Natasha reassures some builders:
We’re looking to work in partnership with you.
Yes, Natasha. In the same way that our bin men are looking to work in partnership with all the residents on our street. Mind you, this is the same Natasha who asked the Ritz to provide the Savoy with a commercially sensitive supplier list, describing it as “a win-win situation”. Her mouth opens. Words come out. They rarely make any kind of business sense.
She does, however, come up with the soundbite of the day. After Melody (correctly) snipes at her (again) for back-pedalling rapidly after she had put herself forward as an ‘expert’ on working with the construction industry, she tells the camera:
Melody just turned to me and just basically got a big plate of blame and went “There you go. Fancy a bite?”
It’s better than being offered a plate of humble pie, I suppose.
Things aren’t going much better over at Venture, where Zoe and Susan are engaging in a bitch-fight of their own for no apparent reason. Clearly there is still no love lost after the way Zoe publicly tore strips off Susan during her previous stint as project manager in the beauty task two weeks previously.
In the end, Zoe wants to charge both clients to remove their scrap. Not surprisingly, Helen’s team wins both contracts as a result.
Back at the Apprenti-Mansion™, Zoe is tear-streaked and disconsolate. Glenn, trying to lift her spirits, tells her they will just have to go out and “absolutely smash it” tomorrow. Who does he think he is, Andy Gray or Richard Keys?
Day 2: Bitching, bitching and a bit more bitching
A new day dawns. Glenn, Susan and Edna are phoning round trying to drum up a spot of rag-and-bone on the old dog-and-bone for Venture, while Helen and Melody are trying to find more jobs to add to Logic’s two contracts.
Melody sets up a pre-paid job with some dodgy builders, who agree a price for disposing of their waste and then furtively add more to the pile while Jim and Tom are off disposing of their first load. The cads! This costs Venture both time and money. It’s a poor deal of the exact type that the teams were cautioned against entering into, and squeezes the time they have to collect and then dispose of their bounty of office furniture. However, they do manage to offload everything in time, so there’s no harm done in the end. It’s a narrow escape, though.
Helen and Melody also manage to negotiate an extra £10 out of a scrap dealer who is taking away their metal. Hmm, didn’t Jim do exactly that in the Savoy discount buying task? And didn’t his team win that task by less than that amount? As Yogi Berra once said, it’s déjà vu all over again …
Edna fixes up a couple of appointments to collect some plumbers’ waste – although the way she talks about it you would think she had just brokered world peace, or at the very least talked a prospective jumper down from a roof. She also says, as we see her picking up a feather or two while generally directing Glenn and Susan to do all the heavy lifting:
To some extent I’ve been in both camps. I’ve been the brains and I’ve been the brawn as well.
I think she meant to say that she had been a pain and she’d been a prawn as well. But I could be wrong. Her negotiating prowess also appears to consist of asking for more, being firmly rebuffed, and then shaking hands on the deal with the air of someone who has just brokered world peace, or at the very least … well, you get the idea.
Of course, the day wouldn’t be complete without a spot of bitching. So here is Susan the Incredible Sulk™ not pulling any punches in terms of what she thinks of Zoe:
Zoe made so many bad decisions on this task. She was just sad and pessimistic, with a horrible attitude throughout the task. I never ever want to work with her again.
Miaow! The thing is, though, she’s right. I can sum up Zoe’s performance on this task in two words: Mood Hoover™. So, obviously, she’s up for the chop, right?
Boardroom brouhaha™: Bitching, bitching and … guess what?
In the boardroom, Sugar cannot resist getting in the first joke:
My disposals get taken away in the back of a taxi.
Helen accepts that her strategy of offering to do both contracts for free was high-risk. Meanwhile Zoe is up front in taking the blame for losing the contracts. Glenn is the only person to back her up (something he does repeatedly), lending credence to rumours of a ‘show-mance’ between the pair.
Sugar calls for the results. Nick Hewer tells us that Zoe’s Venture sold £1,045 and spent £339 finishing with a profit of £706. Meanwhile Logic sold a bit more (£1,090) but also spent a bit more (£378). After a long pause in which it becomes transparent that none of the candidates can do the maths in their head, Karren Brady says this equates to a profit of £712. Logic have not only won their first task, but by the meagre amount of £6. So that’s twice that a sneakily negotiated tenner has proven to be the difference between victory and defeat.
Logic are sent to Britain’s only natural thermal spa (which the BBC aren’t allowed to name but is actually Thermae in Bath) for a spot of pampering. For Venture, it is a cuppa at the Cafe of Broken Dreams™. And some more bitching, naturally. Susan says she was the brains behind the whole operation. Glenn says he gave 110% – maths really isn’t his strong suit – and queries the contribution of both Leon and Edna.
Back in the boardroom Zoe tries to explain her strategy, which comes as news to Susan and Edna, who had heard no such thing during the task. Edna tries to take credit for the sun rising in the morning, while avoiding the blame for it setting in the evening. In Edna-speak when someone else does something good it was done “collectively”, and when something was done collectively she claims sole responsibility. There is no ‘I’ in team, eh?
Zoe calls her out though:
She’s just jumped on the back of every single thing that’s gone along on this task.
The whole affair descends into a cat-fight between Zoe, Susan and Edna, so it is no surprise who the defeated project manager decides to bring back in with her.
While they stew outside (and presumably bitch some more), Nick echoes that Edna takes credit when it’s simply not due. And this line of questioning continues when the trio return. All of a sudden, Zoe’s departure is no longer a foregone conclusion. Sugar quizzes Edna as to why she keeps claiming credit for things that everyone else says she didn’t do, goading her into the cardinal sin of talking up her qualifications:
I have an MBA in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. That makes me very versatile.
Actually, Edna, all it means is that you have a qualification. It isn’t a guarantee that you’re actually any good at putting theory into practice. (And before anyone accuses me of reverse intellectual snobbery, I say this as someone who has an MBA but will happily admit that qualifications aren’t everything in business. After all, Sugar doesn’t have an MBA. Neither does Richard Branson.)
It is a grave tactical error – a statement guaranteed to get Sugar’s back up – and she then follows it up with throwaway statements about how she makes HR people more profitable and how she trains CEOs to be better leaders. She couldn’t have done any worse if she had started waving a red flag in his face. If he hadn’t made up his mind already, he certainly has now. Sugar gives Susan another chance, commenting that he has seen some positives and some negatives in her. Zoe is excused for not having an MBA in Talking Crap but is put firmly in the last chance saloon. And to Edna, he says:
I just don’t think that you and me are going to gel in business. And I wish you well but Edna, you’re fired.
It is left to Nick to deliver the final indictment:
There’s never any meat in it. That’s the problem – it’s just waffle.
Although, to be fair, has anyone ever eaten a waffle with any meat in it?
As she departs in the Taxi to Obscurity™, Edna declares:
I have three degrees [insert your own music-based joke here] – one BSc and two Masters degrees. I’ve also had successful businesses as well so I’m sure I’ll be successful in whatever I do.
The bitching isn’t over yet though, as Susan and the reprieved Zoe continue to snipe at each other on the way back to the Apprenti-Mansion™. I’m fairly certain they’ll be crossing each other off their Christmas card lists.
In the fight for Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, nine candidates remain. Still, things have got to get better soon, haven’t they? Surely?
Next week: The teams are asked to come up with a new free premium magazine. But aren’t ‘free’ and ‘premium’ a contradiction in terms?
The Apprentice continues on BBC1, Wednesday at 9pm. Companion show You’re Fired follows on BBC2 at 10pm.
Link: BBC official website
Whatever happened to the previous Apprentice winners?