The Apprentice: Gallop for scallops as fish deals prove to be a red herring

"Let me just show you one more thing." Ricky gets the restaurant run-around (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk) "Let me just show you one more thing." Ricky gets the restaurant run-around (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

WARNING! Contains spoilers

Mathematically, a double firing had to occur at some point in this season of The Apprentice to ensure a four-way final, and this turned out to be the week. First architect Gabrielle Omar found herself on the receiving end of Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™ and then, in one of the biggest non-surprises in the series’ history, sales manager Stephen Brady became the first losing project manager to be dismissed this year, a week after promising Sugar that he would win if he was allowed to stay. What’s that old adage about never making a promise you can’t keep, eh?

“Let me just show you one more thing.” Ricky gets the restaurant run-around (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Deal or No Deal

It’s 6am at the Apprenti-Mansion™, and this week it’s Ricky who ‘wins’ the Race Casual Stroll to the Phone™. He learns that Sugar is summoning them to the City. En route in the Apprenti-Carriers™, a pumped-up Stephen Brady promises:

I’m going to give 110%.

Ever the Master of the Bad Idea™, it’s evident that maths isn’t really Stephen’s strong suit. On the other hand, clichés are just his cup of tea.

Jade stepped up to become Phoenix’s PM (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

On a random rooftop overlooking the Square Mile, Sugar informs the candidates that their task is to spend the day negotiating discounted deals on behalf of high-end daily deals website Keynoir. Offers which meet with the website’s approval will be put on the site for 24 hours, and the team with the most sales wins.

There’s no Apprenti-Team Shuffle™ this week, so Stephen, as promised, is put in charge of Ricky ‘Even More Camp Than The Other Ricky Martin’ Martin and Gabrielle Omar for Sterling. Phoenix – consisting of Nick HolzherrJade Nash, Adam ‘I’m Brilliant, Me’ Corbally and Tom Gearing – are left to select their own leader. Jade, who claims expertise in email marketing and dealing with exactly this type of company, steps forward.

It becomes immediately apparent that the two project managers have opposite strategies. Stephen wants to do everything at 100mph and is insistent that his team focuses on getting as many deals as possible – although perhaps he should focus more on getting Gabrielle’s – not ‘Gabriella’ – name right. Jade’s mantra is ‘quality, not quantity’, adopting a more selective and patient approach.

Sterling go fishing as Ricky has a thing about Tring

Sterling are the first to hit the road on the hunt for deals. With Ricky left to fend for himself, Stephen and Gabrielle’s first port of call is a dentist, where they clinch a couple of power whitening treatment deals after a protracted negotiation which really did feel like having my proverbial teeth pulled.

For Ricky’s sake, I hope he likes scallops. (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Meanwhile Ricky is being given the grand tour of Galvin at Windows, a high-class restaurant with towering views over London, being shown everything from the dining area to the balcony to the kitchens to the tiny little cupboard at the back where they store the dead bodies of customers who gave them a bad review on Toptable. After half an hour and a plate of sauteed scallops, Ricky tries to broker a deal – only to be soundly rebuffed as the manager refuses to give even £1 of discount. Oops.

Empty-handed, Ricky is reluctant to travel all the way out to Champneys in Tring and phones his project manager to voice his concerns. Stephen says he’s going to put his neck on the line and tell him to go anyway, then changes his mind and calls back to tell him to book other appointments instead. Decisive. With the tiny cogs in his head almost visibly working overtime, a confused and wide-eyed Stephen then asks Gabrielle what she would do. Rabbit, headlights.

There was something distinctly fishy about Gabrielle’s idea (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Undeterred, at Gabrielle’s behest the Dynamic Duo alight next at a fish spa, where Stephen gets his feet nibbled by a bunch of tiddlers – sadly, not piranhas – or what the owner refers to as ‘nature’s pedicure’. Gabrielle pushes hard to secure a range of three deals – but is this really the kind of luxury experience Keynoir are looking for?

Determined to register something in the win column, Ricky continues in his pursuit of high-class eateries. At Michelin-starred Rhodes in Marble Arch he offers 200 discounted lunches and 100 dinners, which is eagerly snapped up. The deal is sealed with another plate of scallops. On a roll, he then goes on to seal one last restaurant deal – and you’ll never guess what he is served …

As the 7pm deadline draws ever closer, Stephen and Gabrielle run around like headless chickens in search of one last deal, which they secure at Urban Golf. However, by now they are looking less like the real Batman and Robin and more like, well, remember this? …

Phoenix push all the wrong buttons

Phoenix get going later than Sterling, having spent more time planning. After a tough negotiation at the women-only Sanctuary spa in Covent Garden in which the vendor repeatedly refuses to agree to a deep discount, Jade’s persistence pays off as she seals a £99 package worth £200.

Tom and Adam had a tough time negotiating deals (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Meanwhile Adam and Tom work to get the best possible terms on dinner for two at a luxury boutique hotel. Tom pushes for a 50% discount but stalls at 35%, then Adam chips in to secure complimentary teas and coffees. It’s a nice try, but it’s not a great result.

With one good deal under her belt, Jade starts cold-calling other businesses from the Apprenti-Carrier™, including one highly dubious Thai massage parlour where she doesn’t even succeed in booking an appointment to talk to someone. As the old football chant goes: you couldn’t score in a brothel …

More promising is their next appointment at The Gilbert Scott, Marcus Wareing’s elegant brasserie in St Pancras. However, the pair come unstuck when Wareing, throwing a mini-Ramsay diva strop, berates them for not having worked out their costings beforehand as they struggle with a calculator, and flounces off for five minutes to leave the embarrassed pair to sort themselves out.

Now where’s the plus button again? (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

It’s not quite the disaster of season six’s Melissa Cohen – she of the Sydney Opera House hairdo – who calculated the cost of making a single bread roll at £1.82, but it’s not far off. Seriously, Don’t Try This In Real Business, Kids!™ Eventually, after having to resort to an abacus and asking a passing six-year old girl to do the maths for them, they finally strike a deal for a 30% discount. (Okay, I was joking about the six-year old. She was five.)

Just under the deadline, Adam and Tom clinch one final deal at luxury perfumier Miller Harris, where they secure the full 50% off scented candle sets. Charitably, it’s a bit left-field – uncharitably, it’s a bit desperate.

Task over, both teams submit their deals – six from Phoenix, nine from Sterling – to the Keynoir team for consideration. A drained Stephen says:

I genuinely can say I’ve given 100%.

Which is 10% less than he promised at the start of the day. Slacker.

Boardroom brouhaha™

A couple of days later, the teams reassemble in the boardroom. (What, we demand to know, were they doing on the day in between while Keynoir were running their 24-hour deals?)

Sugar interrogates Sterling first. Ricky gets a grilling for wasting time at the first restaurant, and then congratulations for securing his big deals at Rhodes. The effectiveness of Stephen’s tactic of pursuing multiple deals with each vendor is also noted: five vendors, nine deals.

Phoenix get a rather more lukewarm reception when Sugar discovers they did not pursue multiple deals, although Jade’s defence of pursuing exclusive quality deals does hold up well. She also points out that her team negotiated well, securing a deal everywhere they visited. However, Tom and Adam are pulled up on whether their deals were actually any good – Sugar is less than impressed by their 35% restaurant discount and the candle offer.

Defeat effectively sealed Stephen’s fate (image courtesy of bbc.co.uk)

Anyhow, we move on to the results. Of Sterling’s nine deals, Keynoir only accepted three. Del Boy and Rodney’s only successful deal was Urban Golf, selling seven units for a miserly £350, Ricky’s two Rhodes deals, however, shifted like hot cakes, selling out all 100 dinners and 90 of the lunches, netting £6,090. Total sales: £6,440. Phoenix had only two of their six deals put on sale, both from Jade and Nick’s sub-team. Their Gilbert Scott lunches generated £5,950, while the Sanctuary spa deal moved 87 units for £8,613. Total sales: £14,563 – more than double Sterling’s total.

It’s a landslide victory. As a treat, Jade and her team are sent for ‘the world’s most expensive afternoon tea’ at the Cliveden House hotel in Berkshire – a snip at £500 per couple (at the time of filming, it’s now £550) – where Nick and Tom compare notes over the smokiness of the white truffles, while Jade simply declares that she loves eating.

For Sterling, however, it’s the world’s most depressing afternoon tea at the Cafe of Broken Dreams™, where you can purchase the contents of the entire tea urn for less than a cup of the Da Hong Pao tea on offer at Cliveden House. (Unfortunately for Ricky, they don’t offer scallops.) Ricky and Gabrielle agree that Stephen buckled under pressure and was indecisive, while Stephen blames Gabrielle for her lack of contribution.

Back in the boardroom, the arguments kick off along similar lines, but not before Sugar has a huge go at Ricky for limiting his offer to Rhodes to 100 dinners, rather than negotiating for more. (You just know Jane McEvoy would have pitched for one million, don’t you?) Gabrielle’s choice of fish pedicures is criticised for being too common. And both Ricky and Stephen come under fire for the decision not to send the former to Tring.

Karren Brady notes of Stephen and Gabrielle:

They were equally as bad as each other throughout the task. It was unstructured, it was chaotic and it lacked any sort of direction.

Sugar adds that this is Ricky’s fourth time in the final three before bringing the team back in. Ricky, unsurprisingly, blames the other two. Stephen invites him to get off the fence and give an honest answer as to which one person he thinks is really to blame and then refuses to stop to let Ricky speak until they both end up trying to talk over one another in a manner not seen since the heyday of Moonlighting. He then claims that he has always been able to influence other people’s decisions in tasks. This is true, but it’s not necessarily a good thing: it is how we came to have the incorrectly spelt ‘Belissimo’ and the supposedly English ‘Grandeur’. Like I keep saying, Stephen has always been the Master of the Bad Idea™. He adds:

From me you are going to get somebody who will make mistakes but will come up the next day with a fresh mind, a fighting spirit and do the same thing again.

I’m not sure this was quite what he meant to say, because it sounds to me like: “I’ll make mistakes. And then tomorrow I’ll come back and make the same mistakes again.” He then digs the hope just a little bit deeper for himself by condescendingly suggesting that Gabrielle focuses on defending herself, for which Ricky gleefully nails him.

Sugar has heard enough. He fires Gabrielle for her lack of contribution on this task. And then, just as I am on the point of hurling something at my TV in disgust, he does the decent thing and finally puts Stephen out of his (and our) misery. And not before time. Articulate and manipulative (in a rather obvious way) in the boardroom, Stephen brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to tasks, but too often also brought bad ideas and poor judgement, and ultimately made a lot of noise without ever really delivering much of value. His most significant achievement was to become the first losing project manager to be fired this season, in the tenth week.

Gabrielle, on the other hand, had some obvious weaknesses in terms of commercial nous, but also brought the rare gift of creativity and original ideas to the table. There are plenty of good managers in business, but the most successful entrepreneurs are those who can innovate through original ideas. Gabrielle was potentially just such a candidate, and while Stephen had clearly outstayed his welcome, I feel Gabrielle would have been a worthy finalist. Oh well.

We’re left with one final moment where Sugar winds Ricky up to try to convince us that he’s up for a triple firing, but we’ve done the maths already and we know he’s really safe. Seven become five, and we’re one week from the final!

In the Taxi to Obscurity™, a disappointed Gabrielle says:

The plans for me now are really just to get to grips with the businesses I already have and just make them a success and again show everyone that behind the smile is a brain and I’m going to go far in life.

Stephen instead reflected on the path not taken:

I only wish I could turn back time and if I could I would have stuck to my gut feeling, My gut feeling was to send Ricky to the hotel retreat. It’s a bit frustrating. I’m a bit gutted about that.

Next week: The teams must create an affordable luxury range. This cannot possibly end well.

The Apprentice continues on Wednesdays at 9pm on BBC1. Companion programme The Apprentice: You’re Fired! airs immediately afterwards at 10pm on BBC2.

Link: BBC official website

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