Posted by: Paul | November 4, 2010

The Apprentice – Week 5

“At the moment, Stella is wearing a short sparkly green dress, sitting in a shop window and waving at people. Is that what you expect to see in the Trafford Centre? Amsterdam, maybe…” – Nick Hewer

With eleven candidates remaining and more screen time available, we’re beginning to see more of the personalities of the hopefuls – or lack of, as the case may be. It’s still devilishly hard to pick a winner this year, as almost all of those remaining have been exposed as utterly useless in at least one respect. Christopher the great organiser can’t sell. Alex the great (unemployed) communicator can’t think strategically. And Paloma the great leader doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut.

This week the teams had a pure retail task – pick two fashion brands to take up to Manchester and sell in stores provided at the Trafford Centre. So far so good for Alex – having worked there before, Apollo project manager Paloma was almost jumping for joy at having him on her team. Trusting that he knew what he was doing, she left the selection of the promotional pitch to him – and in the process making it abundantly clear that, should things go horribly wrong, he was the fall guy.

On the Synergy side of the fence, last week’s big winner Liz was appointed PM, and immediately proceeded to make another big score in winning the pitch for the clothing label both teams wanted – the sparkly party dresses and assorted affordable trinkets offered by Liquorice. The differing approach of the teams was palpable – Liz was all puppy dog enthusiasm, practically licking the faces of the designers, and Paloma was all cool detachment and don’t-call-us distance. Fortunately for Liz the designer is obviously a dog person.

Paloma proved herself to be well organised and thorough – Apollo’s shop established an attractive brand and did brisk business, while Liz’s more laissez-faire attitude led to her shop opening 45 minutes late and a ticking off from the centre manager himself. But once they did open the sparkly dresses began to fly – this was going to be a close run thing.

However, most of the attention of tonight’s show focused on Alex – first for the wrong reasons in picking a promotional pitch which, while in one of the busiest areas of the centre, was miles away from the shop itself. But he later redeemed himself with the stroke of genius in getting a short commercial filmed and aired every 15 minutes on the giant TV screen in the centre for the entire afternoon.

This last burst of inspiration was, sadly, not enough to save his team. Though it was close in the end, Liz wins again, and former bookies favourite Paloma found herself unexpectedly in the firing line. But perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise, on the strength of this task, as where I believe it was truly won and lost was right at the beginning in the pitch to the Liquorice designer. In taking the approach she did, Paloma took a wrong turn from which she never recovered. And in second-guessing Lord Shooga by bringing Sandeesh and Alex into the boardroom and attacking their credentials, she shot herself in the foot. If there’s something he doesn’t like, old Alan, it’s a mouthy sort who thinks she knows better than he does.

Arguably the strongest, most realistic candidate to be fired so far, in Paloma’s absence I can’t help but think things will be a bit more chilled from now on. Paloma was the sort of person who puts people on a knife edge, always watching their back – perhaps now the others can have a bit more fun without the headmistress around.

A brief word on Jamie – he’s starting to annoy the hell out of me. I’m trying not to use this column to be outwardly mean to the candidates about any particular aspect of themselves, but my goodness if I met him in a pub I would quickly find someone else to talk to lest he drove me to pouring my pint over his head. What a smug, smarmy, self satisfied, arrogant, ignorant, self righteous whinger. I think we may finally have a front runner.



  1. Hi Paul. I agree Paloma had the best skills of any of the fired candidates so far, but she also had glaring weaknesses which were ruthlessly exposed on this task. We have seen her tendency to offer empty promises before (huge bakery orders, exclusive deals on the Rip-T) and, as you point out, her tendency to push accountability for any potential errors onto other people. She also had this particularly annoying habit of putting words into people’s mouths, either to tell people how brilliant she was, or to put down her own teammates – her final, pathetic attempt to belittle the business achievements of two people she barely knows was quickly and rightly debunked.

    I’ve worked with people like Paloma before. They are always keen to stand next to greatness, and quick to distance themselves from anything that has a whiff of failure about it. They are horrible people to work with/for. Sugar was spot on in identifying her as someone he didn’t want in his organisation, regardless of her actual business skills.

    I also agree 100% that, like last week, this task was won and lost at product selection. Paloma showed none of the fire at the Liqourice pitch that she did in the boardroom, and it cost her big time.

    My thoughts on last night are now up at:

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