Friday, 17 December 2010

Third nipples and key cogs

Previously on The Apprentice, the teams (by now who can possibly tell who’s a Synergist and who’s an Appolonian?) had to run tours in London and make loads of lovely wonga. Like so many tasks, success or failure rested entirely on getting one person on side, in this case the awesome smug bitch from the tourist centre, which Chris Bates succeeded in doing by making the daring innovative masterstroke (massive glaring miscalculation that fluked into success) of giving the tourist centre 20% of all his team’s takings. Chris, Jamie and Joanna won, despite the fact that their tour was a ghouls and ghosts tour, in the day time, on a bus, and consisted solely of Jamie talking about Sweeney Todd as if he actually existed for about fifteen hours and revealing that the Thames is the second biggest river in London, the clock on the Tower of Westminster has a width of 20 diameters, and that that building that looks like a gherkin is called the Gherkin because it looks like a gherkin. Stella took her tourists round the East End and showed them, like, piss-stained mattresses and used needles and bankrupt nail salons, but also sang Knees Up Mother Brown, thereby deftly disproving the idea that she is too cold and corporate, the only criticism levelled at her the whole series. And isn’t that what really matters? The failure rested entirely on Liz and Stubagg’s utter inability to sell tickets, so Stella was never going anywhere. Despite Liz being smart, competent and selling £100,000 worth of baby death thermometer suits, Sralan got utterly snowballed by Stubaggs’ display of ‘I’m just like you Sralan, I’m an entrepreneur’ and ‘I’m a field of ponies’ and Liz was fired for not being dynamic (for not being nearly as exciting a prospect for evisceration at interviews as Stubaggs).

For yes, indeed, it is time for interviews, and as has become traditional at Apprentbitch Towers, I’m here to guide you through.

Jamie answers the phone, Stella wakes Stubags in a rather maternal fashion. Stella says she’s never failed an interview, Jamie thinks it will be long, hard and drilling (that’s what SHE said!), Chris thinks that Sralan would have fired him by now, and is proud of his CV. With seven victories, Joanna has the best record, but she’s nervous because she’s not done many high level interviews, and says she’s been seen as ‘just the cleaner from Leicester’. Joanna criticises Jamie’s suit and says Chris looks better, and Jamie likens Chris to John Major (‘John Major was called John Major because he was a major; he was also the first Prime Minister of London’).

Jamie sells property in Cyprus. He thinks his abilities are a little bit ahead of everyone else. No, that doesn’t quite make sense. Stella left school with no qualifications, grew up on the biggest council estate in Europe, but now heads up a division at a major Japanese bank. Stubaggs has a telecoms business on the Isle of Man, and believes that when Sralan said he saw a bit of himself in Stubaggs, that ‘that was the biggest compliment you can pay somebody’. Hmm. I think ‘nice shoes’ probably beats being likened to Sralan.  [Getting ID for me everytime - Fiona]

They arrive at Viglen. The candidates wait half way up a staircase, Sralan yells at them a bit, three are getting fired, they go back down the staircase. Stella says ‘We’re gonna be here allllllll day’, with much relish. The interviewers this year: Claude Littner (global troubleshooter), who offers Chris a chance for a tough interview or an easy one without bullshit (Chris opts for no bullshit); Alan Watts, litigation lawyer, is told by Stella that she’s not here to make friends (HOORAY!); Viglen boss Bordun Tchatchuk pulls Jamie to shreds over his use of the phrase ‘solely responsible’ and Jamie bitches about the ‘smallest hole’ being picked up on (you say smallest hole, I say outright lie); and, finally, last but most, MARGARET MOUNTFORD, bitches! Stubaggs goes in and says ‘Margaret!’ and ‘pleased to meet you’, (which, I have told you cretins before, it’s ‘How do you do?’ because pleased to meet you is too informal) and she takes him to task. He says he feels like he knows her, she’s all ‘you don’t’ and he calls her Miss Mountford.

Margaret reads out Jamie’s CV (by CV I mean application form at all points), that the most interesting thing about him is his third nipple, and then that the biggest lie he’s told is that he has a third nipple. Margaret asks ‘is that supposed to make me laugh?’ and then calls Jamie puerile. He clearly doesn’t know what that word means. It’s awesome.

Alan tells Stubaggs that he will do anything and has no ethics, and that the worst lie Stubaggs told was that a competitor was going bust. Alan says not only is it dishonest, it’s defamatory. Stubaggs says he has integrity, but that in an interview he’d be like ‘Hire me, not those twats’ and Alan says ‘You should be saying hire me because of X, Y, Z’ and not worrying about the other people. Stubaggs thinks it’s over, but Alan comes back to the defamation, and Stubaggs tries to brush it off with ‘We’re all young once, we all do silly things’. That gets about as short shrift as you’d imagine. In the waiting room, Stubaggs makes a lol about ‘I’ve got the job!’ and explains how what you say has to tally with your form. Stella says that it depends on how you filled out your form (ie, don’t bullshit and tell lies) and Stubaggs says he promises that Stella won’t sail through without criticism. Stella’s face is all ‘We’ll see about that’.

Stella meets Claude. He asks what she’s accomplished in. She says she’s got ten years of banking experience, and Claude tries to be all ‘what you switching for then?’ and Stella’s like ‘I came in with no GCSEs and no experience and worked my way up and am awesome’. Claude says that she’ll be switching from a corporate atmosphere to an entrepreneurial one (and for goodness sake, it’s still a CEO type position for a company that’s part of a multi multi million portfolio of businesses; she’s not going to be opening a whelk stall or selling dusters door to door); and she says that she can create income and run something and not just assist in the process. Claude actually says ‘okay’ and drops the matter, which should kind of indicate how well she dealt with it all. They all ask how it went. Stella says ‘good’. Jamie asks her to elaborate and Stella just says ‘good’ again. All the other candidates look kind of freaked out by Stella’s implacable calm. [She just psyched all of them out, interviewers included - Fiona]

Bordun meets Joanna. He asks her about what she knows about Sralan’s companies. She says ‘Viglen’ wrongly, and then she reveals that she knows nothing about what Viglen or any other of Sralan’s companies do. She doesn’t realise that Sralan has not got Amstrad any longer. She apologises, and is horribly flustered, and says that it’s unprofessional; Bordun says it’s not unprofessional, it’s unprepared. The whole thing is rather uncomfortable.  [She suddenly seemed a lot younger than she has previously - Fiona]

Margaret and Chris next. He’s rather bigged himself up on his CV, saying he’s ‘revered’ as a theology scholar. Margaret pulls him on the word revered, saying it’s ‘awed respect’ and Chris, to his credit, owns it and says that yes, in his school he did have awed respect and he was top five in the country, so he’d have respect from anyone who did the same course. Margaret tries to criticise him for being ‘fixated’ with his academic record, but Chris says he’s not and he’s not that into bragging about his achievements. Margaret says he’s good at bragging, though. [Look I lead the Chris Lovely Lips Bates love round here and even I found that one hard to swallow... - Fiona]

We cut to Claude and Chris, and Claude takes an utterly ridiculous tack of criticising Chris for stopping studying law and changing subjects. He tries to say Chris flunked, which Chris dismisses by saying that he didn’t flunk, he chose to change his course. Chris says that he didn’t want to continue studying law when he didn’t want to be a lawyer; Claude says that law degrees can be useful in business; Chris says perhaps but lots would be irrelevant; Claude says how would you know, you didn’t study it; Chris says that he studied it for half a year; Claude says ‘That makes you an expert does it?’, which Chris just bats away with ‘No’. Claude says that Chris did something and quit it and therefore fell at the first hurdle, and that because Chris didn’t pursue his Politics and American Studies degree (after getting a first by the by) that his interest can’t have been that great. Claude then goes on to the fact that Chris got his good job in a bank, but quit after nine months, so Chris is a quitting quitter who quits. He quit his law degree and he quit his job (umm… so that he could be on The Apprentice) so he’s a dirty quitting quitter who quits and the only thing he won’t quit is quitting because he loves quitting so much, the quitter. Chris is like ‘that’s bullshit and I wouldn’t quit the job with Sralan because it would be amazing and the only way you would get me out of the building is through force’. Claude looks utterly ridiculous through the whole exchange. Partly because Chris just deflects all the criticism but mostly because a 24-year-old who changed his degree for one he liked (and excelled in) and then left his job so that he could be on The Apprentice cannot in any way be characterised as a serial quitter. I get that the interviewers have to be all grr scary attack dogs, but find something better to attack than that. [It was utterly ludicrous and well done Chris for not rising to it - Fiona]  Back outside, Chris tells the guys that he thinks he held his own and answered the questions well. (He did.)

Jamie now. He talks about how he wasn’t academic, and Margaret pulls him up, saying that he seems to blame his parents for it because they didn’t push him. Jamie admits his results weren’t good and Margaret’s like ‘Not good? They were SHIT.’ (Cs to Fs, by the way.) Then a lengthy, massively boring exchange with Bordun and Jamie about Jamie’s dodgy timeshare business or whatever it is. His partner in Cyprus doesn’t have any shares, and Jamie says the other guy does no work but takes half the money, and that they’re going to part ways. Bordun asks if Jamie is not, in fact, a bit shit, as he’s supposed to generate sales, and if Bordun can create 35% growth in a market that is shrinking by 8%, then Jamie’s breaking even is hardly being an ‘excellent salesman’. Bordun says Jamie is looking for an ‘escape chute’ and then Jamie comes out and tells the other candidates that it was a really good interview but you can tell he’s totally dissembling.

Margaret and Stubaggs. Stubaggs says he has hundreds of ideas and wants to invent with Sralan a tiny microchip that you can track anywhere so that you can find your lost pets. Margaret’s like ‘my cat’s already chipped’ and Stubaggs says yes, but you still have to find the cat. This chip you can track remotely. ‘And that’s just one of my ideas’. I desperately wish we’d heard more. A toy car that makes you feel like a grown up because it has a really vrooomy engine noise! Ear warmers for your field of ponies! A machine that gives scores to decide who’s won when you get into street fights about ticket sales for bus tours of London! The mind boggles. Margaret ask if he wants to be an apprentice or a business partner, and Stubaggs says ‘absolutely both’. Margaret says ‘Both?’ in full ‘A HANDBAG?’ mode. Stubaggs says that he’s going to work 24/7 for Sralan and Margaret, witheringly, says ‘And give it 110% no doubt?’ and Stubaggs, utterly failing to hear the contempt dripping from the words, agrees eagerly. Oh Stubaggs. [Ms Mountford reads The Apprentbitch doesn't she? - Fiona]

Stubaggs meets Claude now. Claude, dickishly, refuses to shake his hand. Claude is utterly furious about ‘Stuart Baggs the brand’, going on about ‘You’re not a brand’ and ‘Don’t try to tell me what a brand is, you are NOT a brand’, and Stubaggs says ‘I think I might be.’ Claude asks why Stubaggs wants the job, and Stubaggs says he’s a big fish in a small pond, and Claude says ‘You’re not a fish’. [Claude has anger issues - Fiona]

Claude meets Joanna. She says her company isn’t huge but it gets her by and is doing all right. Claude says that that isn’t very ambitious. She doesn’t want to be a cleaner, she wants to be a successful businesswoman. Claude says it’s a two-way street and she wants direction, but what can she bring? She says that she hasn’t got the qualifications, but she’s got the business instinct (or ‘inkstink’ as she puts it). Claude says she hasn’t, because she’s giving up on her business too quickly. He praises her, seemingly genuinely and enthusiastically for having the ‘gumption’ and ‘strength of character’ for starting a business, but it’s ‘ridiculous’ and ‘a great shame’ that she doesn’t want to expand it. Outside, she says it’s ‘like mental torture’.

Alan says that Stella is clearly skilled at management, but she’s just a ‘very very very good PA’. She says that that’s insulting, that she’s a senior manager on the trading floor and the only woman (at that level presumably, not at all) in a Japanese bank. Alan says that she started as a PA and she says yes, but she always set her sights much higher.

Bordun reads from Chris’s CV that he’s ‘the strongest ever’ candidate and Chris says that he’s done well on tasks, broken a sales record, but you’d expect that for a candidate and he’s also got the intelligence and business nous.

Alan wants to know what he should tell Sralan about Joanna. She says she’s ‘a decent person who wants to do well’ and has outlasted people, who, on paper are much better than her.

Now, in a section that made Jamie’s Business Facts earlier look positively thrilling, we get Part One (Of Eighty) of Bordun And Stubaggs’ Insight Into Telecommunications Law On The Isle Of Man. It goes on and on and on. Suffice to say, Stubaggs claimed to have a fully licensed telecoms company but in fact only has a licence to be a broadband ISP, which costs £350 and anyone can get. Bordun claims that ISP stands for ‘internet service protocol’. You know, to be fair, on the Isle of Man I figured it would be a licence for two cups and a piece of string. Stubaggs reveals that he doesn’t even know Bordun’s name. Upshot: Stubaggs is a lying shit who doesn’t have the licence he claimed to on his CV.

Interviews! Are! Ovah!

Joanne to-cameras that she’s desperate to go through. Stubaggs says he’s the only one to take Sralan out of the recession. Stella says she needs to get to the final, ‘and then the real work starts’.

Sralan chats to his attack dogs in the Boardroom. He calls Margaret one of the best advisers he could have. Damn right!

Margaret likes Joanna; she started a successful business and deserves a lot of credit. Claude says much the same, and we cut to Joanna saying ‘I don’t no longer want to be known as Joanna the cleaner’ and Claude says she doesn’t have to be, she can Joanna the MD of a cleaning company; Bordun calls her a self-starter. Sralan says she was a bit of a bull in a china shop and a bit defensive, and Margaret says that if she started mouthy, she’s learnt because she interviewed very well.

Alan says that Chris has straight As at A-level and a First in his degree (which, if that’s all it takes, I’m available Sralan), but left his bank job to be on The Apprentice, and because he felt the bank wasn’t recognising his talents. Alan and Bordun share a lol about how you shouldn’t wait for praise for Sralan because it won’t be forthcoming.  [in that joking way that means they really ARE desperate for any crumb of praise - Fiona] Bordun says that Chris was ‘monotonous’ and that he was trying to get him to crack, but he hasn’t got that tenacity. Karrren disagrees, and says he’s awesome, and they chat for about twenty minutes about how he has a buzzsaw drone but the actual words are smart. Margaret says that Chris is obsessed with his academic achievement (which really isn’t that valid because what else can he point to?) and that he probably likes to spend evenings admiring his certificates.  [I know what I'd spend evenings doing.  Sorry Rad. Again - Fiona]

Jamie next. Margaret, she hate Jamie big time and ‘found it hard to sit through 15 minutes with him’. There’s a lovely cut back to interviews where Jamie claims to be a ‘key cog in a wheel’ and Margaret says ‘in any wheel?’ and Jamie says ‘I’m a key cog’ about fifty times. Margaret says ‘It doesn’t mean anything, does it, “I’m a key a cog”?’ and Jamie says sorry, to which Margaret says ‘Don’t apologise, it’s a fact’. God I’ve missed Margaret. Margaret tells Sralan that for an apparent selling genius wideboy he seemed a bit nervous. Karren, quite astutely, says that Jamie relies on his confidence and he’s lost it so he’s got not much left. Bordun says he hates Jamie and his blame culture, his parents, his business partner, etc. Claude says that Jamie’s ‘business’ is just a get rich quick scheme. Bordun says that Jamie does at least have property experience, which might be useful.

Claude says Stella is smart and great, and would be amazing for a major corporate, but what would she do here? Bordun says that Stella is the admin queen but doesn’t see much beyond it (Stella has a vagina and therefore should be fired). Karrren says ‘she’s more than that’ and Alan says that she hasn’t had the chance; she started as a PA, is clearly intelligent, and has had roles created for her because she’s indispensable. Nick says she’s ‘entirely decent’ and you ‘could trust her to the end of the Earth’. Bordun’s like ‘but admin! (vagina!)’ and Margaret’s like ‘good for her, for doing what she excels at’. Karrren says that Stella’s always given a good account of herself and remained professional, and when she got called corporate she immediately went out and did Knees Up Mother Brown, which doesn’t entirely disprove it but show she’s willing to listen and adapt. Alan says it’s a gamble, but one that could work. This whole section was delightful. Bordun yelping ‘admin vagina!’ and being utterly shouted down by everybody else in the room. So good.

Stubaggs now. Margaret’s criticism is basically ‘He called me Margaret’ and she doesn’t see the need to say anything else. Claude says he’s a dreamer ‘though he claims never to sleep’, and has technical knowhow, and could be considered. Bordun’s Isle Of Man Telecoms recap, now, saying that ‘anyone’ could have the licence for broadband, ‘even you Karrren’. Karrren takes that in better grace than I would.  [I was actually baffled that sentence left his lips and that she didn't twat him for it - Fiona]  Alan raises the whole ‘lying about a competitor going bust’ thing.

Sralan thanks his attack dogs and they depart. The candidates go through.

Sralan tells Chris the feedback was mixed and wonders if he was a bit daunted. Chris says they were a bit of a grilling and maybe he didn’t get his passion across, but he was always told you should be composed and concise in interviews and that’s what he tried to do. He really is very, very good at the boardroomy interviewy bits. Sralan goes on about Chris’s obsession with his academic record and Chris makes explicit ‘other than my ten months’ work, that’s what I’ve got’. Sralan asks about the law degree and Chris says he was always encouraged ‘be a banker, be a lawyer’ but now he wants to build his own career.

Sralan tells Stella that they think she’s corporate too. Sralan persists with the lie, again, some more, that NotAmstrad is in some way not a corporation, that they need to start stuff. Stella says she’s proven that she will go in at the deep end and that maybe she’s misunderstanding, but they seem to be saying she just takes instruction, and that’s not true. Nick says she’s maybe struggling to break out of a straitjacket career. She says maybe, but her companies created roles for her (the implication I think being that they did it to fit her abilities), but she’s not going to apologise for doing her job well, because that’s what she’s paid to do. Sralan says ‘absolutely’, when she says this.

Sralan tells Joann that they were surprised she didn’t know much about business. She says she’s 25 (!!!) and doesn’t have experience, and wants direction. She could go and get a big contract, but she doesn’t want to do that, she ‘deserves to be a businesswoman’. It’s again rather sad, as though she doesn’t think she’s good enough, or that the company she started isn’t an achievement. She says that she’s got the business inkstink again.

Sralan tells Jamie that he’s got a blame culture, that he blamed his parents for not pushing him in education, and his partner for the business. Jamie’s like ‘I don’t blame him!’ and then goes on to blame him. Sralan’s like ‘I get it, you twat’ and says ‘everybody jumped into Cyprus when the market was good, were you one of those?’ and Jamie is like ‘I also went to Bulgaria’ and Sralan is like LOL YOU FAIL. Jamie says the recession hit hard; Sralan says ‘Blame game LOL!’ Jamie says it was his fault, it’s about making mistakes, learning and moving on. Sralan totally ignores it and moves on to Stubaggs.

Stubaggs said it was probing and hostile. Yet more about Isle of Man telecoms. Stubaggs is still trying to weasel out of the fact that he lied about his licence. He also says ‘I’m a wireless network’. A wireless network AND a field of ponies!  [There is no start to his talent! - Fiona]

Sralan says that his advisers sat around the table and said that Stubaggs is ‘full of shit, basically’ and Sralan is then very angry that Stubaggs’s claims have made Liz be fired, and it makes him sick. ‘I’m annoyed with myself that you have been allowed to come this far through the process’, says, Sralan. ‘I’m annoyed with myself. Stuart, you ARE fired.’ Stubaggs at least gives a ‘thank you for the opportunity’. In the cab, he’s got a horrible indigo scarf. He cabterviews that he was misunderstood etc. No you weren’t, Stubaggs. You’re a total chancer and they finally spotted it. At least maybe this will finally render true Sralan’s insistence that people saying ‘I’m just like you Sralan’ isn’t a total free pass.

They give their little ‘hire me’ speeches. Stella starts to say that she’s been pigeonholed as corporate and amazingly, Sralan says ‘forgive me for bringing that up so many times’, and to forget it and just says what she’ll do. She has a wealth of experience, and has shown in her life, that she’s not just intelligent, she makes things happen. ‘I’ve made my whole life happen’ and in any one of your companies I’ll do the same thing.

Jamie just spouts about a hundred thousand nonsensical clichés about wanting to get involved and even when Sralan says ‘you’re talking in clichés’ Jamie just goes on to say some more, with a side helping of his whole ‘I was there at every single win and big decision on every task on both teams and am a key cog’ bullshit that he likes to spout.

Joanna says she is raw and has business inkstink, and while she’s ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ that she doesn’t know that much about business, but she’s outlasted people with better CVs ‘and that speaks volumes’.

Chris says he’s not the finished article, but he will think of new ways of doing things and will approach things differently. (I think his business genius/utter fluke on the tour task last week is his trump card there.)

Sralan starts with Joanna. He says they all admire here, and while she doesn’t like what she’s doing, she should get to like it, because he regrets it but doesn’t see where she’ll fit. He says she leaves with her head held high and ‘I’m sorry to say, you’re fired.’ She’s crying, and Chris gives her a comforting pat, but it’s the patented Nice Firing, and I think she deserves it. Some weeks I hated her, some weeks I thought she was great, but I hope she’s not so ‘I am a worthless cleaner’ any more.  [110% agree, I didn't like her to start with but she did try and use the feedback (last weeks incident with Jamie aside).  She lost all her confident facade in the interviews and I was sad for her - Fiona]

Sralan goes to Stella. She gets a total ‘Oh, god, get it over with and fire me then’ face, but with no flim flam at all, he puts her through to the final. Obviously.

Jamie gets ‘I think you’ve come to the end of the road. Jamie, you’re fired.’ Ha! Not an abusive Stubaggs firing, or a comforting Joanna firing, just an ‘Are you still here?’ dismissive flick off. About all he’s earned. To his credit, he at least congratulations Stella and Chris.

Stella and Chris hug and giggle.

Jamie cabterviews that he thought he was through because he’s so amazing. Blech. Joanna cabterviews that she knows that she’s not the cleaner, she’s ‘definitely Joanna the businesswoman’. Hooray!

Next week: lots of the fired ones return. They have to create an alcoholic drink. PALOMA IS BACK. Yay, yay, yay. Stella and Chris have been my total favourites, and this is the final two I’ve wanted since Paloma went, but they’re both resolutely uncreative so this’ll be interesting to say the least.

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