Posted by: Paul | December 2, 2010

The Apprentice – Week 9

"We are SO going to win..."

I like to imagine Alan Sugar practicing his opening spiel in front of the mirror, Travis Bickle style: “We are in TOUGH economic times… WE are in tough economic times… We are in tough, economic TIMES…”

We’re getting close to the end now. Just seven saps…sorry, I mean candidates, remaining. This week it’s the very popular buying and negotiation round. You know, the one where the teams are given a bunch of obscure items to find at the lowest possible price. This always throws up a classic or two – remember the kosher chicken in Morocco last year?

It was back to Boys vs Girls, just like in the playground. And in the boardroom at the end there was plenty of childish behaviour on display…but more on that later. Liz and Jamie put themselves forward as project managers, so it was beauty versus vanity, brains versus massive self-delusion. Take your pick which is which…or perhaps they apply to both!

The girls’ team started with a measured approach – fact finding and sourcing the ten items in question, some of which were on the mysterious side. A ‘Bluebook’? ‘Plain single tikka’? Would you like poppadoms with that, sir? Meanwhile the boys adopted a different approach…let’s call it ‘flailing’. They flailed on the pavement up and down Picadilly, they flailed in cars across London, but mostly they flailed about on wild goose chases on the phone, trying to figure out what the hell it was they were supposed to be buying.

So, 10 items in 10 hours. How hard can it be? With their preparation ahead of actually going out and doing the negotiating, the girls managed to round up all 10 of the items concerned, though incurring a penalty for arriving back at the boardroom late. The boys, however, missed out on 3 of the ten – at least, Jamie did. Once again, despite being tough in the negotiations for the two products he did get hold of, he let the team down by incurring fines at market value plus £50 for the things he managed not to find.

The candidates’ negotiating styles differed greatly. At one end were your Jamies and your Jos, playing hardball and refusing to take no for an answer, more often than not coming up trumps. And at the other extreme were Laura and, oddly, Stella, who today was almost timidness personified – not what I would have expected from past weeks, I though she would be hard and cold, perfectly suited to this task. But no, meek and mild it was. In the middle were the cheeky chappies, Stuart and Chris, who spun ridiculous stories about tartan-wearing grannies and cab-driving brothers. Or was that tartan-wearing brothers and cab-driving grannies? Karen Brady was both unimpressed and impressed at the same time, if that’s possible!

With such a lot of items missing, surely Jamie was going to be the fall guy for this one? Well, if you’ve been watching from the beginning, you’ll know by now that a negative focus during the show is Apprentice shorthand for ‘that’s a sure-fire winner’, and so it proved – Jamie and the boys squeaked through by a margin of just £70 (out of a little over £1000), and were duly rewarded with a romantic weekend in Paris. Ahh, bless them. That’s what you call a ménage a trois. C’est l’amour!

The resulting boardroom spat between Liz, Laura and Stella meanwhile, was far from a pretty sight. There was ganging up, there was mudslinging, there was blame-dodging. You can tell we’re close to the end now, they want to win so badly you can smell it. Laura and Stella in particular engaged in a very unbecoming almost-catfight as both tried to pour blame for the mispricing of the truffles onto the other. In the end, Liz was never going to go having put in such stellar performances in previous rounds, but it was the end of the road for Laura the whinger. On ‘You’re Fired’ afterwards there was a wonderful – and really quite long – montage of the various on-camera occasions in which she had spat the dummy, thrown her toys out of the pram, and picked up her ball and gone home. Told you it was childish!

But there was worse to come. If the boardroom was tense, you would have needed a sabatier knife to cut the atmosphere between Liz and Stella back at the house. Stella had made an offhand comment in the boardroom about Liz not leading the team well, and Liz had taken serious umbrage. I would not have believed her capable of descending to the level of giving other people the evil eye, but evils it was to be, along with a snide comment about Laura being ‘greatly missed’. Woooo! (raises handbag). To add to Stuart, Stella has made herself another enemy this week. Watch your back!



  1. It was an extremely childish reaction from Liz, possibly because just for one moment she thought Sugar was about to fire one of her biggest rivals. But just as Liz was unlikely to be fired on the strength of her past performances (although I still believe she is given too much credit for achieving record orders of the babygro which was always going to be a winner anyway), neither was Stella. Winner of 7 out of 8 before last night’s task (and the only two-time winner as PM), she has always had a get out of jail free card up her sleeve. But her performance last night was indeed shockingly timid and at times downright mad (buy truffles from a Knightsbridge restaurant? really?) – not what we have come to expect from her at all.

    But the knives are definitely out now. They can all smell the prize.

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