Thursday, 2 December 2010

Fail of the century

Week Nine: 1st December 2010

Previously: Sralan sent the candidates to Germany to sell British crisps. Deutschland war wünderbar für Herr Baggs, aber es war nicht so schön für Christopher, weil er die Deutschen haßt. (There are probably about a billion grammatical flaws in that sentence, so I'm not going to attempt any more German after this.) [I spent the last eight days badly attempting German so I'm not going to insult anyone else's efforts - Rad] Laura gave Stella absolutely no reinforcement of any kind and then somehow managed to make herself incomprehensible without even attempting to speak the local language. Joanna fared much better, and helped to bring Stella's team to a decisive victory. Jamie was told that he was slipping down in Sralan's estimation (hooray!) and Chris was the losiest loser to ever lose, but it was Christopher who got fired for...filling holes, or something. I forget. Also, he was kind of a xenophobe, but that didn't seem to actually factor into his firing.

This week: 5.30am at the Apprenthouse, and the phone is ringing. And ringing. And ringing. Finally Stella appears at the top of the stairs, in her dressing gown and with a towel wrapped around her hair, muttering "for God's sake!" The cameraman appears to be trying to get an upskirt (upgown?), but she's patting down the lower half of her robe with her hand to make sure that doesn't happened. She picks up the phone, and the Disembodied Voice Of NotFrances tells her that Sralan wants to meet them at Tower 42 in The City, and the cars will be outside in - guess how long? That's right, half an hour. Although probably more like 28 minutes after how long it took anyone to answer the phone. Stella, true to previous form, hangs up without saying "thank you" or anything to that effect. I'm going to go out on a limb and opine that Stella is not a morning person.

Stella runs back up the stairs to deliver the good news in a very pissed-off tone of voice, sniping to no one in particular (and therefore to everyone) that she "can't believe how lazy you lot are". Jamie tells Stubags that Stella got out the wrong side of the bed this morning, because she shouted at him. By these standards, I must get out of bed on the wrong side every Wednesday, JAMIE YOU FUCKING SMUG CUNT. Chris shaves while seemingly wearing the same dressing gown that my boyfriend has. What with this and Stubags constantly wearing the same jumper that I've got (and, coincidentally, I am wearing it as I write this), we're beginning to look like some kind of tribute act. It sucks that he gets to be Chris while I'm stuck being Stubags though. On reflection, I'd rather be Laura than Stubags. Joanna has tea (possibly coffee) and toast. Liz blow dries. I'm painting the picture - it's morning. Y'all with me now? Stella irons a shirt while interviewing that she's here to win, and declaring that at this point it's a test of stamina and nerve. Stubags, in turn, interviews that the winner will be the person who gets the most sleep, because it's knackering getting up so early every morning. Well, at least that explains why mid-task-napper Tyra Sanchez won RuPaul's Drag Race. Laura opines that Chris and Jamie had a rough ride in the boardroom last week and that "their cards have been marked". She should know - hers have been marked since week two. Jamie tells us that he needs to show Sralan that he's still got his spunk. Er, spark. Sorry. But it did sound a bit like spunk.

The candidates head out to the Apprentaxis on their way to the financial district. There's some very odd incidental music here, which feels like it should be used to accompany one of those cut-scenes in an RPG that explains the backstory of the Land of Cutsplice, or possibly something that you'd play in an episode of Grey's Anatomy when they're about to kill off a major character . It goes on forever and just feels entirely incongruous. Incidentally, it is pitch dark when the teams enter Tower 42, and yet it is light by the time they arrive in the (entirely empty) room where Nick and Karren are waiting. That's one tall tower, folks. Karren kind of looks like she doesn't want to be up this early. Sralan arrives in his own private lift just as the ridiculous music finally finishes, and explains to the teams that lots of wheeling and dealing is happening beneath them. They're moving on from sales and marketing to purchasing and negotiating, so it's time for the "buy these ten items at the lowest possible price" challenge. The team that spends the least will win, and someone from the losing team will be bladdy fired. Sralan says that they're going to go "back to the very beginning" - they're bringing back Christopher, Sandeesh, Alex, Paloma, Melissa, Shibby, Joy, Raleigh and Dan! No, not really, they're just going back to "boys vs girls" (ugh), so Stubags is co-opted back to Synergy, and Liz back onto Apollo. Karren will follow Synergy and Nick Apollo. They're instructed to be back in the boardroom by 6.30pm.

The teams troop on to more unoccupied rooms in Tower 42 (tough economic times, dontcha know) as we're informed that they have ten hours to go, and ten items to buy. Synergy review their list. "Truffles - that's the food, isn't it?" says Jamie. They're off to a flying start, clearly. Another of the items is "Bluebook", which Stella thinks might be "some kind of directory". Stubags doesn't know what it is. Another item is "plain single tikka", which prompts Stubags to make the obligatory curry joke, while Stella identifies it as "Indian gold". They also have to buy chicken feet, which Liz is sure they can get from butchers. As you'll remember from previous iterations of this task, there's no internet permitted - just an A-Z streetmap of London and a bunch of telephone directories. My boyfriend queried this, saying he couldn't find any legitimate reason for the candidates not to be alowed to use the internet - and in fairness, I can't remember the last time I was charged with finding something out for work and told in no uncertain terms I couldn't google it, but I imagine it's all down to trying to make the task watchable - watching Stubags blunder around on a wild goose chase for half an hour is invariably more entertaining than watching Jamie google "plain single tikka". They've got £1500 to spend, and they're not allowed to accept the first price they're quoted. Sralan interviews that it's a very simple task - he wants to see who can drive the hardest bargain.

Liz is PMing for Apollo, and thinks that they need a strategy, so they need to identify the best places to focus on when looking for specific products. This does seem like a fairly sensible call, so well done Liz. Liz starts dividing the items up between various team members (we see her allocating the sewing machine to Joanna and the tartan to Laura). Liz interviews that the task is all about getting the items to avoid getting penalties, and going straight to the supplier because "we've no time to shop around". Oof, that's where alarm bells rang for me - okay, so you might not have time to do a lot of shopping around, but I think it's a bit foolhardy to assume you can get the best price the first place you go to, even if you've phoned around beforehand. [Especially when half the task is explicitly about getting the cheapest price - Fiona] Also, why is Liz captioned as "Elizabeth Locke" when everywhere else on the show, including in the narration, she's "Liz"?

Over at Synergy, Jamie thinks they can get goods for trade price if they're cunning. He tells Stubags and Chris to start at 70% below the asking price, which he thinks will be "kicking around their cost price". That's not the only thing that'd be getting kicked around if you tried that shit in my shop, let me tell you. He advises them to have a tactic - even better, "a story" to explain why they need these specific items. So, in other words (the ones that will be catching the birms if they're early enough), it's time to crank the bullshitometer up to fourteen. Jamie smugterviews (because he's incapable of doing anything else) that Sralan has a close eye on him, and that he thinks Jamie's flame is going out, so to prove that this is not the case, Jamie while be flying solo while Stubags and Chris get to team up. And I'm no Jamie fan, by any stretch of the imagination, but that seems like a good call to me. If the numbers dictate that someone must go alone, it probably should be the PM. Jamie's mouth runs away with him as he finishes by saying that he plans to live by the sword, and then realises that that particularly analogy doesn't generally end well.

Synergy head straight out, while Apollo remain in the tower to make some calls to locate the various products that they need. Joanna rings up about the sewing machine that's on the list, while Liz and Laura both appear to be tracking down the tartan. Joanna finds someone who seems to have the sewing machine. Stella speaks to someone who directs her to Ealing Road in Southall where she should have no trouble tracking down a plain single tikka. "It's the Indian equivalent of Hatton Garden," the man tells her. Speaking of Hatton Garden, that's where Jamie is, as he attempts to track down a plain single tikka without yet actually knowing what one is. He enters a suitably swank establishment and explains that he's looking for something specific. The merchant doesn't know what a plain single tikka is, but when Jamie explains that it's 22ct gold, he's all "yeah, that's not a problem" and basically the two of them get into an incredibly annoying conversation where they're both so keen to be top dog in the deal that neither one of them is actually giving out enough information to allow the deal to happen. I kind of want to reach into the screen and shake both of them. Eventually the merchant cops to the fact that he's got every variety of gold under the sun: 22ct gold, 5ct gold, white gold, black gold, pink gold, Ari Gold, Whoopi Goldberg and Band of Gold on DVD. The only problem is he doesn't know what a plain single tikka is - and since Jamie doesn't either, they're officially at an impasse, and they call it a day.

10am. Stubags and Chris are in their Apprentaxi, making calls, trying to find a Bluebook. A bookseller they speak to informs them that "apparently" (always an encouraging start) it's an American literary magazine, published between the 1920s and the 1960s. And I know that these tasks generally do ask the teams to track down fairly obscure items, but the boys really should've smelt a rat on this one. Stubags and Chris hit Charing Cross Road to find the specialist booksellers. Stubags interviews that they've struck lucky by finding out what it is so soon. He's pretty pleased that they're going to get it before the other team does. The bookseller they consult doesn't seem terribly convinced he can help them. Back at the tower, Joanna's on the phone to someone else asking about the Bluebook, and discovers that it's something to do with The Knowledge (that's the test you have to take to be a black cab driver in London, just in case you were unaware) and, yes, that sounds a bit more like it. Her contact gives them a tipoff of where to find it. Nick interviews that Joanna's doing rather well.

After two hours of calling, Apollo hit the streets. First of all, Joanna and Liz go to a school for cabbies in east London to obtain the aforementioned Bluebook. The man there quotes them a price of £75 for all four parts of the book, or £20 for an individual book. Joanna turns on the charm, saying that they were thinking more like £50, because the man on the phone said he'd look after them, flirt flirt. It works, and they get the books for £50. The honking soundtrack of failure accompanies Chris and Stubags back on Charing Cross Road as they continue to hunt for their obscure American literary magazine without any great success. Chris now seems to think it's a military magazine - who fucking knows, at this point? Jamie's still in Hatton Garden. Karren checks her watch, as one of the jewellers he consults hears "tikka" as "ticker" and thinks it's a watch. Chris and Stubags phone Jamie to report that their feedback indicates they won't find a Bluebook today, while Jamie confesses his own problems with the plain single tikka.

Over in Southall, Stella and Liz have located a plain single tikka - this one appears to be in the form of a heart-shaped pendant, though whether that's true for all plain single tikkas I couldn't tell you - Google just keeps showing me pictures of curry. Stella asks what price they can offer, and the man in the shop quotes £195. Stella haggles saying that she doesn't want to have to walk up and down to source another (always a brilliant tactic - "I'm too lazy to go elsewhere, lower the price!"), so Laura offers £160 for cash, and they shake on it. Laura tells Stella that was awesome. Jamie finally finds someone on the phone to tell him that a tikka is an "Indian headdress-type thing" and hotfoots it to Wembley. Once there, he enters a fairly upmarket-looking Indian-run jewellery store and tells them that he wants a good price on the item, "otherwise I'll go to Southall". NO! NOT SOUTHALL! ANYTHING BUT THAT! The woman in the shop quotes him £180, because of the price of gold at the moment. Jamie replies, "I'm thinking £130, and we've got a good deal." I'm thinking he's a fucking dick, but that's by the by. The woman is unwilling to go that low; Jamie holds his head in his hands melodramatically. He threatens to go to Southall again, and a man (who I presume to be senior to the woman he's dealing with, possibly the manager) overhears and comes over to tell him that the price of gold is high at the moment, in a "don't mess with me" sort of tone. Jamie's all "listen, that's my price, I go to Southall", and at this point I really want someone to reply, "fine, fuck off to Southall then, you smug shit" [I was shouting that at the TV by that point - Fiona] because...seriously. The man offers him £140. Jamie: "Unless I get my price, I'm going to go to Southall." ARGH. He would be EATING that plain single tikka by now if this were my shop, let me tell you. The man insists on £140, Jamie insists on £130 and it's hard to see here because of the camera placement, but it rather looks like Jamie grabs the guy's hand to shake on £130 before he's even agreed to it, and that shit is seriously not on. Don't manhandle people at the same time you're trying to bankrupt them. Jamie eventually capitulates to meet in the middle at £135, and the man laughs that he's losing money on this deal. This is where I suspect the presence of the cameras has a lot to do with the success of a deal - I don't think anyone would've got away with that had the shopkeeper not been handed a release form to sign informing him he was being filmed for BBC One's The Apprentice with an audience of around eight million people. I don't know the specifics of how this task worked - whether the vendors involved were somehow reimbursed for any losses, or if any sort of coercion went on to allow the candidates to make some of the cheekier deals, but I can't help thinking there's definitely more to all of this than meets the eye. Anyway, Jamie gets his tikka for £135, £25 less than Apollo paid. Karren impressedterviews that Jamie has two qualities that make him good at negotation - he doesn't take no for an answer, and his persistence gets him the price that he wants. [He is still a smug twat though - Fiona] [He might be good at negotiating/bulldozing, but you're not likely to ever do business with him a second time - Rad]

Noon, Charing Cross Road. Chris and Stubags are still looking for the Bluebook. Stubags interviews that different people keep giving them different answers regarding what it actually is, and they're still not sure if they really know what they're looking for.

Joanna and Liz are looking for the sewing machine. It's actually an antique model, which I swear is the exact same kind my former flatmate had. They should've gone to her, I'm sure she would've given them a good deal. The given price for it is £69, and Liz suggests £50. The man in the shop says that's not possible, and £60 would be his bottom price. "I'd love £55", says Joanna, and I absolutely crack up at this even though I have no idea why. I think it's just the way she says it. Liz tries for £57, and the man asks her if that's her lucky number. Liz says that they have limited funds available, and he agrees to sell for £57. At which point they hand over £60 to pay for it, which kind of makes the whole "we have limited funds available" thing look rather transparent. [Actually face palming at this point - Fiona] Joanna interviews that she doesn't think Liz is pushing hard enough, and she thinks that even the retailer was quite surprised that Liz dealt at £57.

Jamie's tracked down the same model in a shop in Camden, and there's a bit of confusion where Jamie introduces himself and the man in the shop repeats "I'm Jamie" for some reason, so Jamie - understandably - thinks that the man's name is Jamie, except it isn't. I can't really make sense of it. The man shows Jamie a certificate of some sort and tells him that he's been there since 1937, and Jamie's polite enough at sounding interested even though he's clearly thinking "can we just get the hell on with it?" The machine's on sale for £59 with a five year guarantee. Jamie tries to get it for £20, and the man's having none of it, telling him that he'd need to tell him where he could buy one for that price for that to happen. Heh. Jamie asks if they can forego the guarantee and settle on £35 - they can.

Over in the Apprentaxi, Chris finally gets someone on the phone who tells him that the Bluebook is to do with The Knowledge, and he and Stubags both cackle with relief. They ask a taxi driver where they might be able to get a copy, and he directs them to a place, looking right into the camera as he does so. Hee. They're just on Tottenham Court Road at the moment, if anyone cares. Over at the place they were directed to, they meet my favourite Supporting Character Of The Week, No-Nonsense Taxi Lady. She tells them that the books are £20 each, or £70 for the lot. Chris says he won't be able to pay that. No-Nonsense Taxi Lady: "That's the price, sorry." I wish No-Nonsense Taxi Lady worked in that jeweller's in Wembley, I really do. She'd have made mincemeat of Jamie. Chris says that he can't pay £70 but he desperately needs these items. No-Nonsense Taxi Lady: "Just buy one, then." Hee hee hee. Chris asks if they've ever given anyone a discount, and No-Nonsense Taxi Lady says no, they have not. Someone seemingly senior, by the name of Derek, arrives and No-Nonsense Taxi Lady basically explains to him that they've got a couple of chancers here (she's a bit more tactful about it, mind) and Chris starts spinning some total bollocks about how his brother's got to take his test on Monday but he lent Chris the books and Chris left them up in Nottingham and then Nottingham exploded and also his dog ate it. Both Derek and No-Nonsense Taxi Lady are openly laughing at this obvious cock-and-bull story, and I kind of want to marry them both in a giant bigamous ceremony, and Derek eventually says that if they put a pound in his charity tin, he'll let them have the books for £61. I wonder if that technically counts as a purchase price of £62, then? Either way, they buy the books.

Elsewhere, Laura and Stella are attempting to buy tartan. He quotes a bottom line price of £70 cash for two metres of tartan. Laura tries to go for £50, and he tells her that's impossible. Stella's willing to settle for £70, but Laura tries £60, then £65, to no avail. I mean, I respect that she tries, but she does so in about the most apologetic way possible, which I don't think is going to convince anyone to give her a discount. Stella knocks him down to £69, and interviews outside that there's a fine line between negotiating and being rude, and I'm beginning to think she's never seen this show before if she thinks they're genuinely not asking her to cross that line. Laura interviews that Stella's holding back in the negotiations, and they have to be a bit rude and cheeky if they want to win. I hate it when Laura's right. I don't quite know what to do with myself.

The teams have four hours left. Laura and Stella look for chicken feet. Jamie tries to buy a 4m-length kitchen worktop, but finds only 3m ones wherever he calls. Stubags and Chris get the laptop memory, priced at £22, for £10, though I'm not sure which poor neglected relative features in their sob story for that one. Laura and Stella buy the chicken feet, and they smell. The chicken feet, not Laura and Stella. Liz and Joanna plot a route that goes Vauxhall, Charing Cross, Camden Town, then Boardroom. "Then treat," laughs Joanna. So I'm guessing the boardroom is nowhere near Brentwood, then? Stubags is shopping for plates, and is given a list price of £3.45 per plate, which he assumes means they can get them for about £2.40 per plate, but the guy's not falling for it. They pay £145.00 in total, though I don't know how many plates they have to buy, so I don't know what they actually end up paying for them.

Mid-afternoon, Liz and Joanna buy the laptop memory, bringing their total items up to seven. Synergy only have five, and Jamie's still striking out on the worktop, being told it's a product that needs to be ordered. As it happens, Apollo ordered theirs earlier, and are picking it up from a warehouse. Jamie is beginning to despair.

Over on Apollo, Stella has actually lost her damn mind and is on the phone to Harrod's to ask about truffles. Yeah, I'm sure Harrod's is the cheapest place to get them, love. The next thing we see is her making another phone call asking if Marco Pierre White is in today. Does she really think it's that easy just to get him on the phone? I really can't imagine it is. Since MPW is unavailable, Stella tries Gordon Ramsay, by phoning one of his restaurants. Laura tells Stella that they're wasting their time. Their Apprentaxi cuts up another car. Laura insists to Stella that they're going about this the wrong way, and that they should be looking in east London. I don't know if she's on the right track there, but I do know that they certainly shouldn't be looking in Knightsbridge. Someone finally answers the phone, but it turns out that Stella has just phoned the reservations number and they have no information about truffles. Shocker, I know. Jamie is stuck listening to hold music.

Stubags and Chris are on Regent Street hunting for tartan, and bickering about what Chris perceives to be a "structureless" search, which Stubags snipes that getting pissed off won't help anyone. Karren looks at her watch again, and interviews that there's no organisation here, as the boys haven't even rung up to find out if the shops have what they're looking for. She points out that it's late in the day and she's starting to get concerned for them. Stubags and Chris return to the Apprentaxi and call Jamie to tell him that they're struggling, and Jamie's all "bitches, I wrote the book on struggling today". He asks if they can "brainstorm" quickly, only to be interrupted by Chris trying to call someone else. God knows if I were on the phone to Jamie, I'd be trying to call someone else as fast as possible too. Stubags thinks Jamie feels like he's been fired already. Chris gets a "number not recognised" tone and grumbles incoherently, although still making more sense than Laura's pitch to the crisp manufacturers last week. [And doing it with more sex appeal (sorry Rad) - Fiona] [You're all under some very weird spell. Does he hypnotise you when his eyes go bluer than blue in the boardroom? - Rad]

Stella and Laura are in Knightsbridge, and finally track down someone with the truffles they're after, being quoted a price of £2000 per kilo. Yikes. They call Joanna and Liz and tell them that they're outside a restaurant willing to sell to them, and they just want to check to make sure they have the authority to buy them. Liz says that as price will be a big issue, she wants them to call her once they've set the price to make sure it's agreeable to her, as they have a "ballpoint figure" (HAHAHAHAHA) of £2000 per kilo. Stella asks what they should do if Liz isn't available, and Liz says that in that case they'll have to make a decision by themselves, but she does want them to at least try to call her.

Stella and Laura go to the restaurant, and Stella tells the manager that she's been booking there for many years. He asks how many kilos they need, and Stella tells him 50g. Now, a bit of rudimentary maths here tells us that, given their guide price, they ought to be looking at paying less than £100 for 50g of truffle. Stella tells them that "more than" 50g is probably okay as long as it's not less. I'd quibble here - if they're paying by the weight, then surely they should be bringing back 50g and no more? One truffle is weighed at 56g, Laura asks if they can cut a little bit off to get their 50g, and the chef says "no, not really". Stella asks what they can purchase it for, and they're quoted £270, which is a ridiculous price if the price per kilo is £2000. That's nearly three times what they should be paying. Laura tries to negotiate down to £200 - still double what they should be paying - and the owner says £210, as Stella's a regular customer. Laura says they'll definitely come back for dinner if they can shake on £200 now, and they do, with the owner telling them they're getting six extra grams, except they're not because they paid well over the odds in the first place. Stella calls Liz and says that they tried to call her but didn't get an answer - now, I don't know if this is true or not. We didn't see it happen, but that doesn't mean it didn't. Anyway, Liz says that she's had the phone with her all the time, Stella confirms that they paid £200 for their truffle, and the conversation ends. Stella tells Laura that £200 is exactly what they were supposed to spend (mathematics fail), while Liz tells Joanna that she thinks £200 is a lot of money to have paid.

5.15pm. Stubags and Chris find their tartan. Time for another ridiculous story: Chris says that he's going to a Scottish wedding this weekend and he's taking it as a birthday present for his nan. THAT DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE. Karren makes an excellent "the fuck?" face behind them. They're quoted £47, and Chris says he doesn't want to spend over £20. The tartan man says that the least he can sell for is £29. Chris says he hasn't got more than £25 in cash, and Stubags, craftily, interjects that really he's only got £23. They eventually convince him to sell it to them for £23. Chris tells him that his "nan" will be very happy. The tartan man says that he's not that happy. Karren interviews that they're telling bizarre stories which are "a bit Laurel and Hardy", and while it's not a technique that she would use, it seems to be working for them. [They are still straight forward lies - Fiona]

With less than 30 minutes to go, Apollo are racing to Camden to get the last item on their list - 48 white dinner plates. (Which means we can now work out that Stubags paid around £3.02 per plate.) Liz says they'll have to get a jiggle on. Over the phone, they discuss the time crunch with Stella and Laura. Liz points out that if they don't buy the plates, they get a penalty of the list price plus £50, which they don't want to do. The boys are four items down, but Stubags and Chris are looking for truffles. Chris thinks that restaurants are a bad idea because they'll charge over the odds (boy howdy) so they scoot off looking for a fine food retailer. Karren warns us that they need to move quickly. Chris and Stubags appear to be in a shop selling chocolate truffles, which is not what Sralan wants, but the man there tells them there's a place up the road which should have what they want. Liz and Joanna burst in to see "Tony" in the kitchenware shop in Camden, and open by saying they're in a rush - like, nice way to set out your bargaining position, ladies. "We have no time to negotiate - here, have the upper hand!" Stubags and Chris are quoted £150 for truffles - over the odds, perhaps, but already less than Apollo paid. Chris asks if they can pay around £100. "Well, we can, but you won't get 50g," says No-Nonsense Truffle Lady. I love her too. Tony quotes Liz £132, and she tries to negotiate down a bit, "we're in a rush, we've not much money!" Seriously: worst bargaining strategy ever. It's even worse than "I'll go to Southall." Liz patronises Tony that he'd be doing her a massive favour. "I'm not used to doing things in this rush," Tony complains, and Liz switches his pen on for him. Heh. Chris begs and pleads to be given the truffles for £100, and despite the lack of a sick nan or something, manages to close the deal. Liz tries to get the plates for £112, and Tony compromises at £120. Tony kisses her hand. "Oh Tony, don't, you're making me weak at the knees!" gushes Liz. Yeah, that's kind of gross. He's sold you some plates, Liz, you don't have to sell him your dignity.

The teams all charge back to the boardroom. We see Jamie arrive in the antechamber, while Chris and Stubags and Liz and Joanna race. Stella and Laura arrive. It's close indeed. Stubags and Chris make it just in time, with much celebratory shouting. Liz and Joanna do not.

We're told that Chris and Stuart got five of the ten items, while Jamie only got two. They'll be fined £50 plus list price for each one they missed. Jamie smugterviews (again, he really has no other mode) that he'll be blamed for those failures, and he holds his hands up, but this is not how he wants to go out. Liz's team will be docked £50 for missing the deadline, but got all 10 items. In some interviews that were presumably conducted between arriving back and entering the boardroom, Liz interviews that Sralan will be impressed with their performance, while Laura interviews that they negotiated well and got every single product on the list. She can't wait to hear the results.

NotFrances sends them in. Sralan reminds us that we're back to boys vs girls, and asks Apollo how they got on. Liz says that they wanted to get some firm leads before they set off, and then they'd focus on looking for the other items in the areas they were already in. Sralan clarifies that they were planning it out before they set off. Stubags thinks "oh noes! Stella has infected Liz with her EVIL PLANNING SICKNESS." Sralan asks Laura and Stella what they did, and they talk about going to get the tartan, before heading to Knightsbridge for the truffles, and Sralan's ears prick up at "Knightsbridge", leading him to deduce that they didn't get a bargain there. Stella says that they were told they were difficult to source. Sralan jokes that they usually sniff out truffles with a pig, and Stella's all "yes, but Stubags was on the other team." Sralan asks what their strategy was, and Liz said that they took it in turns. Sralan enquires about them returning late, and Liz says that they did, and they take that on board - at which point Sralan interrupts that they're taking so much on board, they sound "like a container ship". Oh, all right: heh. It's a £50 fine for their late arrival.

Over to Synergy. Jamie says that as PM, he thought it was only fair for him to go solo, and he wanted to show Sralan that he still had fire in his belly, and bullshit in his brain. I may have added that last bit. Sralan asks what his sales tips were, and Jamie says that they wanted to get onto a level where people knew where they were coming from, trying to buy at cost price. Chris and Stubags giggle about the lines they spun, and Karren says "you were told by Jamie to have a story, and you certainly had some stories." Turning to the Bluebook saga, Sralan wonders if they were not a bit like headless chickens in their approach. Sralan asks what Stubags and Chris bought, and Stubags reels off a list, likening it to The Generation Game, to Sralan's non-amusement. Stubags and Chris got five items, while Jamie only got two, and Jamie says that he hit a brick wall repeatedly with the kitchen worktop. Sralan says that he's not setting a very good example as team leader.

Results, then. Apollo's expenditure including fines was £1094.50. Syngery's expenditure, including £511.50 worth of fines, was lower at £1,020.50. Liz literally cannot believe it. Jamie's smugness hits new record levels. Karren tells them that they bought really well. Liz, clearly PISSED OFF, asks if they're allowed to ask where the major differences were, and Sralan's all "oh, you'll find that out in due course, lady", and tells them they're bad negotiators, simple as that. Synergy are off on the Eurostar to Paris for the weekend. In the antechamber, they hug it out. Sralan tells Apollo they paid double what Synergy paid for some items. He's going home, and suggests that Apollo go off to think about what they did.

Apollo go for the late-night coffee of sadness. Liz interviews that it's "devastating" to have bought all the items and still lost to a team who didn't buy three of them. Laura thinks they didn't negotiate hard enough, and feels embarrassed. She thinks the boardroom will be a bloodbath, and she doesn't think Liz's management was very good. Stella thinks they should've shopped around more, and interviews that if you go up for PM, you have to do a good job, and you have to suffer the consequences if you don't. She insists that she's not here to make friends and she'll tell it as it is. So I guess Stella wants to appear on fourfour, then.

Gallic music. Synergy depart for Paris. All three of them attempt to murder French, having already commited GBH on German last week. SOMEBODY CONFISCATE THEIR PASSPORTS. Also, I so want someone to turn to Jamie, shrug, and say a win's a win, since this is a Melissa Victory at best, but as my boyfriend pointed out, neither Stubags nor Chris were actually around when he committed that little act of pissy bitchitude, so he remains uncalled on his bullshit. C'est la vie. They tit around Paris in berets. Nuff said. [I am convinced they were sent to Paris for as long as it took to shot that little montage of cliches and bundled back on the train home - Fiona]

Boardroom. Sralan tells the ladies they've had "more than overnight" to think about this - so does that mean they had to wait until Synergy got back from France to do their boardroom? Or is this just Sralan attempting to plug the continuity hole that would be caused by the men being there upon Apollo's return when they're supposed to have the whole weekend in Paris? Who can say? [Or maybe their flights got cancelled several times due to fucking snow and they ended up living in Germany for EVER. Oh, sorry, getting them confused with me. Easily done, I have been to the Trafford Centre and eaten Paprika crisps in Deutschland lately - Rad] Sralan enquires about Liz's strategy, and Liz says that it wasn't like they went in looking to get specific discounts - they all knew they were going to pay as little as possible, but she thinks that the time spent locating all the items ate into their shopping around time. Sralan thinks the brainstorm time was usefully spent, but they didn't work out what the prices should be - "you went out blind into the marketplace!" And a bit of credit to the editors here - that line was used in last week's trailer for this episode, and who would've guessed, given the way both teams started, that it was actually eventually used on Apollo? That was a lovely bit of misdirection. Liz says that with things like the sewing machine, they were hard to find in the first place. Sralan then gets needlessly misogynist, saying that the task might've been easier if he'd sent them out looking for Louis Vuitton bags or Chanel shoes. Why stop there, Sralan? Why not add Tampax to the list, or cupcake holders, or any of the other things that Bladdy Wimmin know about? He tells Liz and Joanna that they paid £57 for their sewing machine and the boys got it for £35 - he thinks they lost because they treated it as a treasure hunt.

He turns to Laura and Stella for the tartan, and Laura says she was trying to go a lot lower than £69 for it, but Stella said it would be fine. I think this is the wrong argument here - I think the problem was not that they didn't try to push hard enough for a discount, because that guy wasn't budging - the problem was that they didn't just abandon that shop and try to get it cheaper somewhere else. Laura doesn't feel she and Stella gelled well as negotiators. Stella says that the mistake she made was trying not to be rude. Sralan says that he heard Stella was a bit wooden and "too corporate" - Laura nods and agrees, like, shut up Laura - and suggests that Stella's not adaptable enough, and sometimes the corporate presentation doesn't work with the small shopkeeper. Oh, what the fuck ever - like this task bears any relation to the job they'll actually end up doing. The whole "too corporate" thing they're levelling at Stella tonight is stupid - no matter how much Sralan fancies himself as a cockney sparra wideboy, they're competing for a clearly corporate job. "Too corporate" should be an issue in Britain's Next Top Model, perhaps, but not here.

The truffles come up again - they overpaid by £100 for these. Stella thinks she got overexcited in finding them, and focused too much on obtaining it rather than price. Laura thinks they started off with too high a price point because of where they were. Nick says that if you want a cheap suit, you don't go waltzing down Savile Row. No, you go waltzing down Savile Row to stare at the topless models in Abercrombie and Fitch. DUH. Stella says that in the restaurant, Laura mentioned £200 as a price, which made it impossible for them to negotiate below it. Ooh, well played. Sralan says they should've offered £70, since they'd have just been called idiots but could've negotiated up from there. Sralan brings up the £2000 per kilo guide price, which Nick says came from Stella, and Laura says that Stella suggested after they left that they'd overpaid for the truffle. Which, again, seems at odds with the reaction from Stella that we saw, but just because we didn't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Liz says that she told them to call her before they made that decision, and that she made sure they would be able to contact her. Interestingly, Laura and Stella present a united front here, saying that they couldn't get hold of her and the line was engaged. This makes me suspect that this is genuinely what happened, because as we'll see in a minute, Laura has no trouble bailing on Stella if she thinks it'll save her own arse, so I don't see why she would've defended her here if it hadn't actually happened like that.

Stella continues that they were given the brief to get in there, buy it, and get out - Liz bristles at this, asking when she said that, but Sralan tells her to let Stella finish - and they were too focused on buying there and then, which was a mistake. Liz said she never said that in her brief, and Joanna asks why they didn't raise that with Liz if they considered it an issue. Well, largely because I don't think anyone considered it a problem until they lost, by which point it was too late.

Sralan asks Liz to decide who's coming back. Liz says that the fundamental errors came from Stella and Laura, so they'll be coming back in. Joanna goes back to the house, while Stella, Liz and Laura retire to the antechamber. Joanna whispers something to Liz as she hugs her. In the boardroom, Karren says they mustn't forget that the whole process is about finding someone to work for Sralan. Liz is considered shrewd, bright and high energy. Sralan likes that Laura admits to her mistakes, and Nick thinks she's no walkover. Yeah, I got that impression when she was PMing and left the room in tears too. Sralan thinks that Stella's corporate background explains her behaviour, and Karren would like to see a bit more personality from her. Seriously, with the sob stories and the desire to see more personality, I'm wondering if they think they're making The X Factor all of a sudden.

The Disembodied Voice Of NotFrances sends them back in. Sralan doesn't think Liz picked up the most important thing as PM, identifying the price they should be paying. Liz agrees, and says she holds her hands up to that. She didn't recognise the products, and that threw her in terms of locating them. Laura says they had to keep calling whenever they got a quote because they didn't know what was a good quote and what was a bad one. Sralan brings up the £2000 per kilo price for truffles again, so the item that they really screwed up on turned out to be the one they actually got a price for. He points out that simple maths should've told them they were overpaying. Stella says she'll hold her hands up for the screw-up, and Sralan says that they're always holding their hands up and taking things on board. "That's the first time that I've said that!" Stella protests. She says she won't be in this position again, and she feels that her reserve is counting against her, but her record speaks for itself. She hasn't kept her job for 13 years just for pressing a calculator, she won't give up. She also thinks she's a good salesperson, which is something she's never done before. Laura disagrees - she thinks that in the two tasks she's worked with Stella (maths fail again: this was actually the fourth task that she and Stella had worked together on) she thinks Stella took more of the credit than Liz did for the numbers on the first task, and that was a joint effort, and Liz is all "yes, that is something that I did not raise but yes I am bothered by this too" and JESUS CHRIST. For starters: grow the fuck up, both of you, and also, that has nothing to do with Stella not being good at sales. Laura also thinks that Stella was extremely hard on Stubags in the DVD task - again, nothing to do with sales, and also, if your main plan of attack is "poor, mistreated Stubags", you really should just give up now. Stella says Stubags is Stubags, and anyone who witnessed what was going on in that room would sympathise with her. Heh. Liz says that Stella gives off a "negative, cold persona" which gets people's backs up and doesn't bring the best out of people like -- you guessed it -- Stubags. Stella disagrees, because she's led twice and won twice, "so I don't see your point, to be honest." The fact that the rolling of her eyes is audible here does make me suspect that Liz is not entirely off the mark in her assessment, but Liz can still shut up all the same, because all of this "our glorious leader Stubags" stuff is making me feel slightly nauseous.

Sralan turns to Laura, saying that he hasn't seen her for the past few weeks. Laura says that she's 22 (yeah, and the rest) and her CV speaks for itself. She's never had to be aggressive. She says that if you do something well on a losing team, only the bad things get spoken about (I'm not sure that's entirely true) and if you're on the winning team, the PM takes the credit for everything. She really is obsessed with people apparently stealing the glory of others, isn't she? But wait, it gets better: "When I was project manager, it was a complete shambles, so I've never really had the chance to speak up for myself." Yep, that's her defence. Laura is so weird. Sralan reminds her that she led the first team never to get an order. "It wasn't my proudest moment," Laura agrees. Sralan tells Liz that not setting a price point was disgraceful. "I take that...completely...I agree," says Liz. HA! She cites her record as a good salesperson and pitcher, but she takes full responsibility for the fuckup on pricing. He asks her who takes the blame. Liz says that Stella and Laura were working together so it's hard to apportion blame, but Stella had the numbers for the truffles. Sralan poses the same question to Stella, and Stella blames Liz for not managing them properly, telling them now that they've fucked up when she was telling them on the day that they were doing well. Liz brings up the damned truffles again and Stella's all "THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT TRUFFLES!" Liz argues that when they've already done a deal, as they had with the truffles, there's not a lot of sense in her retroactively nitpicking it - and she does have a point there. Same question to Laura, and she fingers Stella, who she thinks has made more errors than Liz on this task and is -- wait for it -- "extremely corporate. It is something that everybody in this process has said." Now Stella brings up the truffles again and Laura's all "I'm bored of talking about truffles!" and Stella says that everyone likes talking about truffles when they're trying to blame the loss on her. Laura reiterates that Stella is "extremely corporate" and MY GOD NO ONE CARE.

Decision time. Sralan tells Liz that sometimes people who start out well get complacent, and that she failed to recognise the most important part of this task. Laura mustn't forget that she's 22, and perhaps therein lies the issue. "But to me that's what's so fantastic..." Laura begins falteringly before Sralan cuts her off, and in some ways I'm sad that I never got to hear the tale end of that sentence, because I'm sure it would've been bonkers. He's not sure if Stella is made for his organisation, as she is CORPORATE and he doesn't know if he needs corporate-style people to do the VERY CORPORATE JOBS THE PREVIOUS WINNERS HAVE BEEN USHERED INTO. Fuck me. "And for that reason I'm going to...move on to you, Laura, where on balance, I think we're at the end of the road here." Ooh, nice swerve. Laura protests that she wants to be PM, and hasn't had the chance, she's put herself forward for the past three weeks. Oh sweetie - the fact that you were outvoted for PM three weeks in a row is not going to go in your favour. Also, we saw what a mess you made of PMing first time around, I don't think anyone wants to see it again. Sralan tells her that the truffle buying was blown when she said £200, so Laura is fired.

Laura exits. Sralan tells Liz and Stella they're still here because of their past performance. They leave, and both hug Laura apologetically in the antechamber. Liz sounds tearful. Coatwatch: grey with flecks of white, appears to be knitted. Laura says in her taxinterview that she wasn't surprised to be fired, but she thinks that Stella will not be the next apprentice. [Me neither. It'll be Chris Bates, or possibly Liz - Rad]

Back at the house. Chris is pleased that Stella is in the boardroom because she's been walking around "with a smug face" for ages and he wants her taken down a peg or two. He is saying this to Jamie. The irony, it burns. Chris thinks Stella will return, but her card's marked (you can fucking talk, Chris, you might as well give the boardroom as your permanent address) and he hopes this will "knock the wind out of her overinflated sails." Yeah, I'm guessing Stella's not popular.

Liz and Stella return. Stella says she's sorry to disappoint them. Liz is in full passive-aggressive mode, telling the others "Stella thought I was a bad manager, which was quite interesting." Stella says that they've all had a pop at each other in the boardroom, clearly viewing this as just standard boardroom practice (and in fairness to Stella, it is) and Liz chokevoices that Stella said she was a bad manager and didn't lead at all, which she thinks was unfair and an exaggeration.

Seriously. What a fucking crybaby. I can overlook a lot of Liz's shortcomings in this episode because I think she's been a fairly solid performer overall, but bringing up that sort of shit outside the boardroom, in front of everyone, is needlessly unprofessional and just makes you look like you can't accept criticism. Stella says that she's entitled to say her opinion. "I disagree with you," says Liz, and Stella's like, well duh, of course you do, we were both fighting to save our asses. "Anyway," mopes Liz. "It's a shame that Laura's gone. She'll be missed." Yes, by fans of arse-covering, incoherent speech, terrible leadership, tearful meltdowns and arguments in shop doorways, but she's no loss to the competition, so serve yourself up a giant plate of Shut Up, Liz.

Next week: bus tours! Natty uniforms! Stubags and Chris possibly coming to blows! I can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Me and my friend play the 'Guess the film soundtrack' game with the Apprentice, and can let you know that the weird music at the start was oddly enough - the fantastic mr fox soundtrack..

Rad said...

Apparently they play music from The Sims as well sometimes.