Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pet peeves

Week 5: 1st June 2011

Previously: Sralan was not looking for bladdy salespeople, but to inject a shot of £250k into someone's business idea. Sadly for Ed Hunter, Bread-Slicing Alex, Hot Bespectacled Gavin and Felicity The Actress Looking For Work, it won't be them. Last week, the contestants were charged with the task of succeeding where Tim Campbell couldn't and launching Amsbeauty in shopping centres. Specifically, shopping centres in Birmingham, where everyone sounds like a squeaking hinge (per Natasha) and is horrifyingly poor (per Susan). Zoe PMed for Venture and did a good job at stroking people's calves, while Susan's claim that she could totally sell eighty treatments a second turned out to be untrue, and it was TOTALLY UNFAIR of the others to point this disparity between her perceived ability and her actual ability out to her, at which point Susan ran upstairs, slammed the bedroom door, and wrote a lengthy capslocked post in her Livejournal about how no one understands her. Meanwhile, Logic performed all of their beauty treatments on invisible people while project manager Felicity concentrated her efforts on the highly lucrative endeavour of selling shitty strands of clip-in hair that match no one's actual hair colour for 25p a throw. As a result, Melody, Tom and Ellie stood around in the treatment room for three hours discussing which of them was going to have sex with Vinnie Disney first. To the surprise of no one, Zoe's team won the task and was rewarded by meeting a sadless hatless Katya from Strictly Come Dancing (and also Robin Windsor, but: meh) while Felicity took Ellie and Natasha into the boardroom, claiming that Ellie's complaining somehow contributed to their failure, but in the end, the fact that Felicity returned a BLADDY LOSS on Sralan's investment meant that she was, of course, fired.

Now, it's 6am, and the phone is ringing at Entrepreneur Estates. Glenn arrives to answer it with just a towel covering his lower regions, thereby ensuring that he will have a Big Gay Following for the rest of the series [The Big Gays are welcome to him. Blee - Rad]. The Disembodied Voice of NotFrances announces that Sralan wants to meet them at a creative agency in Fitzrovia, and that the cars will be outside in 30 minutes. Again, since the drive to central London from Richmond surely can't take much more than an hour at that time of day, I wonder what the hell kind of creative agency is already up and running at 7.30am. Glenn relays the message to the others, most of whom already seem to be up and about. Leon's early morning hair is adorably floppy, although it kind of makes him look like he's being portrayed by Chris Lilley. Tom does a little towel-dance for us, and reveals that he has very hairy legs. For reasons that I cannot quite fathom, he dries his legs after he has put on his tight neon underwear. Is that not a bit counterproductive? Tom wonders what to wear to a creative agency. I assume this will be an excuse for all the men to show how totally creative they can be by not wearing ties, or alternatively by just wearing a REALLY CRAZY TIE. Ellie will be working very hard to keep out of the boardroom again, she tells Edna.

Driving in darkness. Apprentaxi one carries Glenn, Edna and Susan, as Glenn remarks that creative stuff is right up his street. I love Edna for the fact that she can't quite hide the note of disbelief in her voice when she replies "really?" Of course, Glenn is a designer and creates stuff from a briefing on a day-to-day basis. Apprentaxi two carries Natasha, Vinnie Disney and Ellie, all of whom are thinking that they really, really need to win. Now in daylight, they arrive in central London to ad agency TBWA, which I shall be calling TWAT, because I'm childish and consider that funnier. In the lobby within, the ever-impassive Nick and Karren are waiting, but Sralan is not, for instead he is appearing via video. Sralan tells them they're in one of the country's most-awarded ad agencies, who look after some of the biggest pet food brands. It's a big industry, and a crowded market, where any newcomer needs to be an innovative product. Their task, then, is to make and brand their own unique pet food, and make a TV ad to sell it. Hooray! Advertising task! These are always fun. The team with the best campaign wins, the other team does not.

Nick announces that they have already been briefed by Sralan on the subject of team leaders, and Vinnie Disney will be leading Logic, while Glenn will be leading Venture. They've got three days for the whole task, and KITTEH! Sorry, all these montage shots of adorable pets are going to be a bit distracting for me. To begin with, the teams must pick their market. Vincent, hilariously, begins by asking "who's got a dog?" Ellie has, and Tom's parents have, while Melody totally dog-sat for Barack Obama a few times but doesn't like to talk about it. There is a bowl of what appears to be M&Ms or Skittles on the table, just to really ram home the fact that we are in a CREATIVE AGENCY and not a corporate environment, because these two could never be the same thing. Ellie suggests Gnashers, for something to do with canine hygiene, while Natasha suggests Petites Healthy Treats. I totally miswrote that as Healthy Threats the first time, which I think extraordinarily appropriate when discussing Natasha, so I'm going to leave it here for posterity. Vincent spurns the latter idea, since they need to be creating food, not occasional treats. Vincent bragterviews that his charisma can overpower certain people; they may be good, but he is better, with his current unbroken spell on the losing team and everything. He suggests a horrendous-sounding advert featuring "the old-school labrador that everybody loves" (except, y'know, cynophobes) and "the it-boy, the pug, you get them together, they don't like each other too much but at the end of the day, they become pals" and OH MY GOD STOP THIS AWFUL HIPSTER IDEA RIGHT NOW. The best part of all of this is that Vincent has created this theoretical campaign based around their new product, which will be called Pals. Tom and Ellie point out that this is, in fact, a well-known existing brand that would get them one fucker of a lawsuit from Pedigree Petfoods.

Jim tries a different approach, saying that owners love their pets' healthy coats, and therefore (and this pun really works best when said with Jim's native Norn Iron accent) Fur Play is his suggestion for a name. This will in no way cause problems when a nice, unassuming pet lover attempts to google this exciting new dog food and accidentally ends up here (NSFW). Tom asks who they're intending to appeal to, and Vincent says that their target market is all dog owners. Oh dear.

Over at Venture, Glenn is leading a brainstorming session about cat food. We are thankfully spared the part where Leon insists that he can't get involved with anything cat-related because he has a girlfriend. Their ideas seem uniformly awful, including Purrari (as a pun on Ferrari, but when written down looks more like a play on Polari to me) and Edna asking about cats with really long hair in a sentence that seems to go nowhere. Zoe suggests one about cats taking over the world, and Glenn suggests "spa day for a cat", before bragterviewing that he's better than everyone else on this show, and how he is a catalyst. I'm sure that's from an interview filmed right at the very beginning of this process, but still, props to the editors for the stealth pun. Helen chimes in with a suggestion of slimming cat food. Edna interviews, in yet another completely new accent, that Glenn's approach to leading the brainstorm is rather messy and unhelpful, and she's not really sure what they're achieving. Glenn attempts to rally the troops with the phrase "no guts, no glory", which is rather unfortunate when you consider they're about to make pet food.

At this point, the teams split - half go to Lincolnshire to make the food itself (which turns out to have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the outcome of the task, so I bet they're all feeling pretty thrilled about that), while the other halves remain in London to build the brand. In the Logic Apprentaxi, Vincent tells his subteamm, consisting of Jim and Natasha, that he doesn't want to go into the boardroom with too niche of a product - they're trying to "hit everything". Jim suggests "for every day, there's Every Dog", which Vincent likes.

At 11am, Vincent's team meet with a focus group of dogs, dog walkers, and a vet. One particular canine snarls at Vincent quite aggressively, so I guess his charms only work on the human race. The vet is not sold on the idea of a one-size-fits-all approach, because different sizes and breeds of dog have different nutritional requirements. Vincent explains that this is does not fit in with their plans. Focus group over!

Outside, he phones Melody, who's in a taxi somewhere in Lincolnshire with Tom and Ellie. They have been coming up with their own ideas, but Vincent sells them EveryDog, with possible future brand expansions of EveryCat, EveryFish, EveryPotBelliedPig, EveryTarantula and so on. Tom, again, express concern that they're targeting too broad a market and wonders if they shouldn't be trying to fill a particular niche (which is, indeed, what the brief was, although he doesn't specifically mention that part). Vincent decides to make an executive decision here and go for EveryDog, because "it's brilliant". He also feels very positive about Secret Signals. Tom is still unconvinced.

Leon, Zoe and Helen are sorting out branding for Venture, throwing around ideas like "give your cat a break" (I assume this is for KitKatFood). Leon suggests "Lucky Fish - the CATch of the day", which is utterly stupid, because everybody is going to assume that is fish food. Unfortunately, Leon thinks this is the best idea in the history of forever: "do you know what, guys? Shall I just become the apprentice?" No, really - he actually says that.

They go to Battersea Cats & Dogs Home (or, in BBC-speak, "south of the river, a pet rescue centre"), where a cat digs its claws into Leon. Seriously, these focus groups are making their feelings KNOWN. Helen pitches the Lucky Fish commercial, which focuses on the goldfish in a bowl that is left undisturbed by the cat because the food is so good. And that's actually quite a good idea, so I think the flaw here is that "lucky fish" is a slogan, not a brand name. The focus group humans disagree with me, however, and think it's a good name. Also: KITTEH!

On the way to Lincolnshire to mix snouts and entrails, Glenn (with Susan and Edna for company, lucky him) has a brainwave: there are cats' eyes in the road, and wonders if they can make something of this, "going off on the old 380-front" (I assume he means either 180 or 360 [maybe it's the circumference equivalent of 110%? - Rad], although either way it still sounds like creative corporate tosspot speak). He comes up with Cat-Size, as in the weight of cats, and believe me, this will be explained A LOT throughout the show. He describes an terrifying sounding world of competitive feline weight-loss, a world that I emphatically do not want to live in (seriously, if you want your cat to lose weight because your cat has been identified as overweight, that is one thing. If you want your cat to lose weight, as Glenn suggests, because NEXT DOOR'S CAT IS THINNER, that is so fucking wrong I can't even begin to tell you). And let me transcribe the next bit for you verbatim: "I've gone for the tagline 'see their light', as in 'they are a lighter cat', but 'see the light in their eyes' and whatnot. You know, like the light of a light, the light inside..." At this point, 6.29 million viewers turned to each other collectively and said "what the actual fuck?"

In London, Logic Subteam Vincent are casting for their commercial. The first dog brought in does not meet with their approval, presumably for not being sufficiently EveryDog in its look. Vincent mistakes a golden retriever for a labrador. Jim asks whether a pug can stand on its "back hind legs" (as opposed to its front hind legs?) or jump. Theatrical Dog Lady, witheringly: "No." So it's not for them. They find a terrier called Scramble that has done lots of adverts and also a Midsomer Murders. Natasha explains that they're trying to pitch a "healthy heart and joints" thing in their commercial, and asks if he can do anything amusing. He is good at jumping up and down. They decide to cast Scramble and the golden retriever.

Snouts And Entrails Central. Tom, Ellie and Melody make dog food. This is utterly irrelevant to absolutely everything, so I'm just going to skip right past it.

Over on Venture, Zoe calls Glenn from a supermarket and pitches Lucky Fish to him. Glenn is disgusted, and doesn't think it's right. In turn, he pitches CatSize to them, and asks if they like it. Helen, Zoe and Leon are quick to reply that they do not like it, and Zoe informs Glenn with great annoyance that they've just spent the whole morning building up this brand identity, only to have all their work entirely disregarded by the team who were meant to be cutting up pigs' intestines in Lincolnshire. Leon points out that it also went down well with the focus group. Glenn makes a decision and opts for...CatSize. He too passionately believes in Secret Signals. The branding team, after terminating the call, express their annoyance at having wasted a morning.

Glenn, Edna and Susan surround themselves in snouts and entrails FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, and then move on to design. CatSize: See Their Light/See They Are Light/See The Lightness That Is Theirs/And Whatnot is go. Edna chews a wasp.

Over on Logic, Jim is photographing the pooches for EveryDog. After last week, when he got all weirdly pervy about the massages, is anyone surprised that Jim's also a photographer? No, me neither. He can totally make your modelling career happen! Vincent instructs the handlers to have the dog "on all fours". Once again absolutely astounded by the idiots she's forced to work with, the lady with the dogs clarifies if he actually, in fact, means "standing up". Jim grabs lots of shots of dogs smiling, because they love EveryDog. Outside, Nick notes that Vincent is leaning on Jim quite a lot, "and it's a sort of a Batman/Robin thing: okay with you, Batman?" Nick appears to be under the misapprehension that Robin was Batman's project manager, when everyone knows it was clearly Alfred.

Tom, Ellie and Melody work on the branding for their food. Tom wants them to stress the health properties of the product, while Melody frets that it doesn't look "premium" enough.

Leon, Zoe and Helen cast for a cat for their commercial. Leon rejects a sphinx cat due to hairlessness (BODY FASCIST!) and then proceeds to basically call the cat ugly, awful and an affront to humanity, much to the annoyance of the cat's owner/handler/whatever [Harsh but fair, though - Rad]. Glenn calls in with the still-awful "see their light" tagline, which prompts all three of them, Helen especially, to dissolve into uncontrollable giggles. Leon: "Do they have a torch with them?" Glenn continues to explain the pun, THEY ARE LIGHT BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOST WEIGHT, apparently not getting that if you have to explain the pun in this much detail to people actually involved in the creation of the product, it is obviously a really shitty idea. He asks if they get it. Helen: "Yeah. Well, we don't 'get it', but we have got it written down." I'm really enjoying Helen this week. They end the call, and Leon, Zoe and Helen have another giggle about how they thought it was awful when they first had it explained to them and now they've got all this detail they now realise it is officially the worst thing since Pantsman. Glenn sulkterviews that the other half aren't taking this seriously, and need to be put in their place, because he as PM "deserves respect". Oh, Glenn. You deserve exactly what you are getting: complete and utter derision.

With all the legwork complete, the teams head back to the house. In the car, Glenn logs a complaint call with the others about how he doesn't appreciate them laughing at him, because they should be professional and offering constructive feedback. You know, like when they pitched their idea to him and he said "I don't like it, we're going to use mine instead." Helpful, detailed feedback like that. Zoe, in the first thing she has done all series that I've actually approved of, curtly informs him that he treated them poorly when he dismissed the idea they'd spent the whole morning working on, and that he needs to earn their respect - and then hangs up on him without giving him a chance to respond. I know that last bit is a dick move, but then Zoe is a bit of a dick, and Glenn is a lot of a dick, so it's not like there are any innocent victims here.

8am the next day, the packaged and labelled pet foods arrive at Entrepreneur Estates. I think Melody ends up being a little bit more on-the-nose than she intends when she unveils their efforts by saying "are you ready for our masterpiece that is dog food?" The design of CatSize goes down well, even with the members of the team who laughed at the branding. Vincent instructs his team to focus on the four Ps - product, place, promotion and price. He picks Melody for the pitch, and Jim rather loftily informs her that she mustn't forget that they're selling something, so she'll need to be passionate. Melody's all "yes, thank you, I am in fact a functioning adult who is aware of such a thing as 'commerce'." Glenn tells his team that he wants them to win, and that will only happen if they're all on board and enjoying it (cue well-timed shot of Edna and Leon exchanging an uncertain look). Glenn nominates Leon to do the pitch, and Leon mealymouths that he's happy to do the pitch, but doesn't want to talk for 20 minutes. Glenn, essentially: "Tough shit."

Time to head off and film the TV ads. The set for the CatSize commercial is a kitchen in nearby Kew. We are introduced to Ruby the cat, who speaks for us all when, in the first shot of the commercial, she walks straight past the CatSize pouches with a total lack of interest. Ruby to project-manage next week! They get the shot.

Noon. Leon, Edna and Susan are writing the pitch for CatSize. Glenn calls in for an update, and Leon somewhat bristlingly asks if Glenn's aware that he's basically taken on all of the day's tasks for his team and left them with not a lot to do. Leon points out that this means he's basically got five hours to write a 20 minute pitch, and wonders, post-call, if this is a strategic move from Glenn to sandbag him. Susan points out that Glenn would be sinking the entire team if he did this, so it's also possible that this was a vote of confidence in Leon's abilities.

Logic commercial. They are recording heartbeat sound effects, using Tom's heart. He does some press-ups so they can have a sample of a heart beating faster, which I'm sure is in no way connected to a desire to show off doing press-ups. Vincent records the tagline "EveryDog: playing the part for joints and heart", which sounds like an off-cut from that episode of Friends where Chandler had decided he wanted to be in advertising and was pitching ideas like "bagels and donuts: round food for every mood".

In Ealing (REPRESENT!), they have found an EveryDog house, and Natasha is directing the commercial. They get the golden retriever to run across the garden, and then to devour EveryDog noisily in a kitchen. Natasha's direction, unsurprisingly, involves a lot of punctuating her sentences with "yeah?" at the end, talking about her "vision", and getting annoyed when Ellie points out what seem like entirely valid continuity problems, yeah? Ellie interviews that her voice is not being heard.

Glenn, Zoe and Helen, meanwhile, are recording the sound track for their advert, with the actor they've cast as the voice of Ruby. A male actor. Hmmm. Glenn asks him for a female voice, and the actor's like "...right?" He has a first go and sounds like a fey upper-class male cat, if you can imagine such a thing. Helen asks him to go higher, and they like this take, while someone mocks the apparently oblivious actor (who's in a soundproof booth) about having spent three years at drama school to do this shit. The tagline has now evolved to including the phrase "you watch your weight, watch theirs" (horrible horrible horrible) and Helen still hates "see their light" and asks if it can be whispered instead of spoken. Heh.

Vincent and his half of the team arrive in time to see the final cut of EveryDog: The Commercial, which Jim declares himself "100% happy with". Only 100%? On this show? How half-hearted. They watch the commercial, and Jim says that he thinks everything has come together.

The next day. Glenn, Leon and Susan are in one Apprentaxi on the way to the pitch. Leon is looking nervous and Glenn is offering some apparently unwanted words of support. In a Logic Apprentaxi, Melody tells Vincent that she hopes he gets his first win. I'd say she does so condescendingly, but: it's Melody. Like she has any other way of operating.

TWAT. A group of in-house experts arrive for the presentations, including UK president Robert Harwood-Matthews and creative director Mark Hunter (who has, since this episode was filmed, left the agency and gone to work in LA, just as a matter of interest). Also present are representatives from Mars Petcare, Mark Johnson and Susan Blount. Susan opens for Logic, and her opening speech includes "I give you EveryDog, ladies and gentlemen." Had I been there, I would've been a bit disappointed that she wasn't literally intending to give me every dog. She explains that it's a clear concept that pushes boundaries, and going for everyone was a bold decision that they thought long and hard about. D'okay, Melody, if you say so. Logic play their advert, which is fine apart from the over-amplified heartbeats on the audio track basically giving everyone who watches it severe palpitations. The TWAT creatives laugh at the advert, though at this stage it's hard to tell if that's a positive sign. After the presentation, Mark Hunter points out that most dog owners like to think of their pet as unique, and wonders if a broad approach would put them off, as it suggests a lack of individuality to the dog. Jim says that it's all-encompassing, and they've gone for a one-size fits all approach that makes it easier for the consumer to make a decision in a crowded marketplace, which totally doesn't answer the quesiton, but whatever. Outside, they congratulate themselves and bark. No, really.

Leon pitches for Venture, and begins by telling them that over half of the cat population is overweight. At this point I feel their presentation is sorely affected by the lack of Nargis from series two running through the room screaming "DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE ARE SIX MILLION CAT OWNERS IN THE UK AND A THIRD OF THEM ARE IN LONDON?", throwing calendars everywhere, before being removed by security. He stumbles over his words a bit and seems slightly unprepared, though I don't think anything like as much as the editors probably want us to think. He's not as articulate as Melody was, but in the sphere of great car-crash presentations on this show, it doesn't even rate. Their advert is also fine - amateurish-looking as the ads on this programme inevitably are, but the narration on it is quite sharp, and it doesn't feature Sian Lloyd anywhere, which is usually a sign that they've got things at least half-right. Although frankly I think they missed a trick by not casting George Galloway as Ruby. Robert Harwood-Matthews asks about the name, and whether it's as clear as it ought to be. Glenn: "CAT SIZE! THE SIZE OF THE CAT! LIKE CATS' EYES! SEE THEIR LIGHT! SEE THEY ARE LITE! CLIPS! ECLIPSE! ECLIPSE CLIPS!" Or something like that. Seriously, the only way they are ever going to market this product is if you get a free Glenn with every purchase to explain to you what the fuck it's actually all about. And that, to be honest, is a pretty big disincentive towards buying something in the first place as far as I'm concerned. Outside, Leon describes the pitch as "gruelling", but Glenn reassures him that he did well.

The experts feed back to Sralan, saying that one pitch engaged them while the other was slightly patronising (and they can be as vague as they want here, there is no way in hell he's not talking about Melody right there). On the petcare professional side, Susan Blount thinks one advert didn't make the most of the imagery that it had, while Mark Johnson doesn't think the proposition is all that engaging. Mark Hunter says that both teams made the same mistakes of playing into the usual conventions.

Boardroom. NotFrances sends them all through. There are shots of print campaigns that we've not seen prior to this point - Logic have a Usual Suspects-style line-up of dogs to ram home their brand message, while Venture have a "slimeline your feline" poster on the side of a bus. Both PMs squint appraisingly at the work of their opposing number. Sralan turns to Logic first, and asks about Vincent as a team leader. His subordinates are effusive in their support. Vincent explains that they wanted to create something that wasn't niche, that appealed to everyone, etc. Sralan gets in a good "with your track record, Winalot wasn't an option" crack at Vincent's expense. Vincent explains their plan to expand the brand for other varieties of pet, which is in itself not a bad idea, and Sralan likens it to the easyJet/Hotel/Internet/Trousers brand, only less orange. Although obviously Vincent's in charge, so probably still a bit orange. They screen Logic's commercial in its entirety, and Sralan declares it "quite funny". Vincent points out that the dogs enjoyed the food, even though that part of the task was and still is utterly irrelevant to the end result. Sralan asks who came up with the EveryDog brand, and Jim puts his hand up. Not wanting to give away too much credit, Vincent points out that he led them down this road on the subject of "every", while Jim was the one who came up with the actual name.

Sralan turns to Venture, and asks Glenn how CatSize came about. Glenn says that he was looking for a USP they could run with, and settled on the fat cats. At this point I'm disappointed that the Logic didn't have the same idea for their dog food, because "for fat bitches" would have been an amazing slogan. Sralan asks Glenn to explain the actual name, and DEAR GOD SRALAN DON'T WE'LL BE HERE ALL DAY. Glenn walks us through it another twelve times until the point where everyone is bleeding directly from the cerebral cortex, and then they screen the advert and my boyfriend and I have a heated debate about whether Ruby is gay or not, in which I take the position that he's not gay, just posh. Y'know, like Leon. After viewing it, Sralan claims that he's got the general idea of the brand, but thinks the ad is more like a radio spot than a TV one, because it's all in the script and there's not a lot to actually look at.

To sum up, Sralan thinks Venture's idea has a good, strong USP, even if their advert sucked. Also, their packaging was pretty much ready to go out. Logic, on the other hand, had a funny advert, but their marketing idea was fundamentally flawed, because the idea of a one-size-fits-all dog food is basically a nonsense, and could be seen as insulting by pet food shoppers. The final decision is down to Sralan, of course, and he thinks that because they had a consistent through-message, Venture get the win. Despite having a complete arse of a marketing campaign that makes literally no sense whatsover. I mean, I'm not arguing that Logic deserved to win either because their product was shit, but if ever there were a case for a "no one wins" scenario, like Donald Trump pulled on The Apprentice USA in response to the equally meritless Shower With Your Clothes On/Cucumber Porn And Gay Chefs commercials that his candidates came up with in season three, then this would be it [surely every advertising task ever would be it? - Rad]. Anyway, Venture's treat is tennis with Pat Cash and they'll be knocking a few balls around. Except Leon, who can't, because he's got a girlfriend. As they leave, Vincent and Tom can be seen with their heads in their hands, realising that five consecutive losses really do not look good. Sralan reminds Logic that their brand was very, very wrong, and that they need to go away and identify a scapegoat.

Queen's Club. Apprentices in tennis whites. It looks like the outfits were show-supplied, as Leon and Glenn are wearing the same shorts. Serving. Volleying. Tennis ball hitting Zoe in the vagina. Edna yelping. Susan and Zoe being quite good, it seems. Pat Cash signs all their racquets. Leon swipes away at a ball in a very girly fashion. The end.

Loser Café. General silence. Tom interviews that although he was right about the flaws in their idea, he's not feeling that great about it right now. He points out the others that they committed commercial suicide by basically establishing their rivals as 'everyone'. Vincent Disneur agree with this (have to sneak that pun in while I still have a chance) and seems to think that Sralan's only objection was the actual name of the product. He interviews that he was a good PM, and all the team agreed that. Natasha thinks the finger of blame is pointing at Jim, and wonders whether Vincent will place his personal friendship ahead of the clear business decision.

Back at the boardroom, Logic sit on the Leather Sofas Of Loss tapping their fingers against the sides. NotFrances sends them back in. Sralan opens by saying that he had a dream recently that he walked into the boardroom and "you lot" weren't there. At least, not at first. Because shortly afterwards, Vincent entered wearing just a robe that slowly began to fall from his body, BAMCHICKAWOWOW. Or maybe not. He reminds Vincent and Tom that they have lost every week and are basically fucked at this point. Vincent begins by pointing out that everyone thought he did a good job as PM, and Sralan points out that they didn't know they'd lost at that point, and that people on this show tend to be somewhat fickle. Heh. Vincent explains that they all agreed on the theme of a mass product that could hit all the market. Sralan points out that the focus group told them at the very beginning that this was a bad idea. Tom's all, "well, this is brand new information, thanks guys." Nick chips in that the vet told them it was fundamentally against pretty much everything that animal healthcare experts currently believe in, and that it was the clearest steer they could've got. Tom points out that the rest of the team was not told this, and that as far as they knew, the focus group was wholly in favour of EveryDog. Ellie adds that they were in fact told by Vincent that the vet had been in favour of EveryDog. Now, we only saw brief snippets of this conversation, so I don't know if that's actually true, or whether it was a case of just lying by omission: that Vincent didn't tell them that the focus group hadn't really gone for it, and therefore everyone in the other subteam assumed that meant they'd liked it. Either way, it's pretty poor management on Vincent's part. Vincent brings up that they wanted to expand the brand into EveryCat, EveryFish etc, at which point Karren makes an excellent point: "But that's the point, isn't it? Pets are special to their owners. You might as well have called it Any Old Dog." I think Karren's doing a really good job this series. I almost don't even miss Margaret any more.

Tom says that they made a good ad, billboard and product, but their marketing strategy was bad from the outset. Sralan notes that he was indeed told Tom had objected to this strategy at an early point, and asks if he'd done so in a manner that made his feelings very clear. Tom says that yes, he did, and "put [his] neck on the line". Sralan turns to Natasha to ask about the commercial, and Natasha immediately adopts a CYA strategy by saying that she tried to divert attention away from EveryDog because it was too broad and she had nothing to work with. Oh yeah, that's really smart, Natasha - trying to make an advert that ignores the product. That always goes down so well on this show. She says that she tried to focus on their USP, yeah? That was hearts and joints, you get me? She got no inspiration from EveryDog, check? Jim chimes in that this is horseshit, because Natasha put her hand up for EveryDog when they were deciding on a theme. Sralan, in turn, points out that Jim practically leapt out of his chair to take credit for the EveryDog idea earlier on. Jim retorts that that's an exaggeration. (It isn't.) Jim thinks he came up with the name around the branding that had been decided on, and Sralan points out that the brand and the name are pretty much inextricable at this point. Jim falls back to everyone having agreed on this brand, as if that counts for anything. Karren asks, all circumlocution aside, whether it was him that came up with the name. Jim: "Well, listen to this..." Karren: "Is it your name? Yes or no, Jim." Jim snots that perhaps Karren would like him to sit mute and not "contribute any creativity" in future tasks. I think, Jim, that Karren will be chiefly responsible for you remaining mute for the rest of your life if you sass her like that again. It's hard to talk with your vocal chords tied around your testicles, after all. Sralan says that sitting mute isn't required, but once you've opened your mouth, you need to stick by what you said. He's not happy that people are trying to talk their way out of accountability for the failure. Jim grouses that he's not being held responsible for the overall marketing direction, because that was signed off by the PM and the rest of the team. Ah, the old "if you fire me, you'll have to fire EVERYONE" strategy. Sralan thinks that Jim might have something in common with dog food, in that he can't tell if he's made of brains or bollocks. At this point, Vincent speaks up that they all agreed on EveryDog. Jim, with a look of utter disgust that anyone could have even considered he might not be the best at everything: "Exactly. It's a moot point." Sralan thinks that Vincent seems to agree with Jim an awful lot. Jim huffs and twitches and rolls his eyes that it's not a personality contest, and really, someone is trying very hard to Paloma himself right here. Sralan essentially tells Jim to shush and let Vincent talk his own way into a firing, and Vincent blathers on that he does think Jim's better than a lot of the other contestants, although obviously he's not as good as Vincent because Vincent is the best, but Jim is maybe the second best, definitely better than Edna and Glenn and that sulky girl, what's her name, Chloe?

In one of the most ham-headed moves of the entire episode, Vincent wonders - ALOUD, mind you - whether he should try to do "something tactical" and bring in people he doesn't think deserve to be fired, or should he bring the right people in. Oh, Vincent. It's really not a tactical move if you openly admit that you're doing it, you goon. Sralan says that he wants Vincent to focus on this task and not try to do his job for him. He turns to Jim and says that Jim seems to be placing the blame squarely on the PM's shoulders. Jim says that he didn't "categorically" say that, and once again returns to the well of "we all agreed on this". Tom - and interestingly, Melody - says that they agreed on it once they'd basically been outvoted, because they know how this show works and to not do so is essentially suicide, because if you lose you'll end up in the boardroom for having been an unsupportive influence. Sralan says that he sees a lot of people suck up to the PM to cover themselves, and he's more interested in the task than your arse. Well, I would hope so too. Jim breaks out the obligatory "I'm not here to win friends", which means any chance he had of winning is officially GONE.

Time for Vincent to decide who's coming back, and he picks Ellie and Natasha. Sralan sounds disappointed with his choices, but sends everyone else back to the house. Jim, in a final attempt at Palomafication, asks for one final thing: that Sralan makes him PM on the next task. Sralan tells Jim that he's heard a lot of things about him from Nick and Karren and he's "got your card marked". He tells Jim that he'll be PM when it's time, and not before.

While Vincent, Ellie and Natasha wait outside and simmer (I've got really into Top Chef recently, and I love that they refer to their equivalent of this as "The Stew Room", because that's just absolutely perfect), Sralan, Nick and Karren discuss the strange power that Jim seems to have over everyone. Nick thinks Vincent was scared of him, and that if he brought Jim back, that he would never have survived the carnage. Sralan points out that both Nick and Karren have said they've not seen much of Ellie. Also, Natasha's advert got good feedback from the ad agency, so Karren is questioning Vincent's decision-making here.

NotFrances sends the three of them back in, and I love how they all get up even before she starts speaking to them. They've heard the Amsphone ring, they know how this works. Sralan asks Vincent why Natasha and Ellie are here. Vincent says that as a dog owner, he expected insightful information from Ellie, and didn't get any. Ellie counters that she said a lot of things, but was generally ignored. Ellie adds that she came up with ideas for the advert and had a few good ideas, and that she surprised herself with how much she came up with. Sralan says that they're five weeks in, and he really doesn't have a lot to go on as far as she's concerned. Ellie responds that perhaps her voice isn't being heard as much as some of the others, and she needs to work on that. Natasha is unsure why she's here, because her advert was well-received, and Vincent says that she had no questions to ask and no opinions to offer. Sralan asks if Jim offered a lot of opinions, and points out how eager Jim was to take credit for the idea before they knew the outcome of the task. "And yet he's sitting back at the house now!" Sralan continues to fume. "And he don't give a damn about you, I can promise you, I've seen that type before." Is it just me, or did this conversation just take a slightly unsettling turn? I feel like this isn't so much The Apprentice right now as it is Sally Jessy Raphael or something, and Sralan is pointing out to Vincent that he needs to ditch that no-good man who doesn't mean it when he tells him he loves him. Even Vincent looks slightly distressed at the idea that his beloved Jim might actually not really give a shit about him after all.

Natasha chips in at this point: "Tom's voice wasn't heard, Vincent, because you were so far up Jim's behind, you couldn't see the wood for the trees." And thanks to that mixed metaphor, I'm going to be haunted by the concept of Jim's arse-forest for years to come. Vincent's all "I think the Headmaster is a marvellous Jim, and this is the best Jim I've ever been to." [Best joke of the recap, Steve. Bravo - Rad] He insists that Natasha and Ellie didn't contribute any ideas, they counter that any ideas they had were summarily dismissed because Vincent was too busy listening to Jim.

Sralan points out that of the two adverts, Natasha's was better, so effectively she did her job well. Vincent says that he's not disputing that, but that Natasha only pipes up when it suits her. Sralan wonders why Natasha is in this room. I offer the fact that she is a relentlessly awful human being, and deserves to be fired purely for being Natasha. Having said that, on the basis of this task, she probably doesn't deserve to be here. Still: FIRE NATASHA ANYWAY! IT'LL FEEL SO GOOD! Sralan thinks Ellie pipes up at the wrong time, because she's forceful in the boardroom when the chips are down, but he sees no evidence of this fire in her during the actual tasks. Vincent made a total mess of things, and if he'd listened to other people, he might have avoided that. Sralan says that Ellie and Natasha are blaming him for the failure, and he's finding it hard to disagree.

On thinking of who he has to start a business with, Sralan notes that he hasn't seen much of Ellie, and doesn't think he can go into business with her, so she's fired. Ellie: "Okay. *huge sigh*". Heh. Ellie departs. Sralan tells Vincent that he's too in awe of other people (read: Jim) and is playing a risky game in terms of strategy by bringing the wrong people in, and in order to send a message that he will not put up with such fuckery, he's firing Vincent as well. At this point, the idea that Natasha will be the only person to survive this boardroom starts to bring me out into a cold sweat, and I begin making ill-advised comments on Twitter to this effect. Natasha is clearly looking jittery as well, but she's told that she got on and did her job, albeit on a false errand, so she's safe and can return to the house. DAMMIT. I like double firings in principle, but this one felt a bit lame. I thought Ellie was fired for the sake of making it a double firing, rather than any particular reason why she should've gone. And since Donald Trump once fired four people in one go, I was kind of hoping that if Ellie had to go, Natasha would at least be going too, yeah?

Natasha exits, and she and Vincent politely offer each other the best of luck for the future. Sralan says that he's sick of Vincent, and that he brought the wrong people into the boardroom for the wrong reasons, while Ellie has been here five weeks and shown him nothing. You know what this means: DOUBLE COATWATCH! Ellie's is red, double-breasted and belted, and rather nice, if a little bit Don't Look Now. In her taxinterview, Ellie says that she's not a forceful, in-yer-face person, so if that's what Sralan's looking for, then she's not it. Vincent (sort of a biscuit colour, accessorised with grey scarf, collar popped) is very surprised to have been fired, and thinks we haven't seen what he's been capable of. He thinks perhaps he wouldn't have been fired if he'd brought Jim in. Hate to break this to you, Vinnie, but you were toast no matter who you brought in. The only person whose stint on the show you might have saved by bringing Jim back to the boardroom is Ellie.

Entrepreneur Estates. Jim is still boring on about how difficult it is to assign blame. Natasha returns, and tells them that she's on her own. Glenn finds it almost impossible that this has happened, and is all: "You're on your own? Two have gone? Vince and Ellie have gone? See their light? See that they are light?" Natasha says that Sralan openly said that Vincent sacrificed himself for Jim, and that that was the wrong decision. She tells Jim that she has no idea what sort of hypnotic voodoo Jim did to convince Vincent not to bring him back. Jim thinks that in terms of contribution to the task, "yours and I's" (OUCH MY GRAMMAR HURTS) was equal, so she was no better than him in that task. Literally no one is convinced by this.

Ten candidates remain. Next week: rubbish! Actual rubbish. See you then!


Party said...

Hahaha ah! God I love this blog so much.

Anonymous said...

That Jim-grazing episode has opened everything up nicely...

Jim 6/4 fav
Melody 5/2
Helen 8/1
Zoe 14/1
Orlando Bloom 20/1
Susan 25/1
Glenn 40/1
The Evil Floella Benjamin 100/1
Natasha Brent 100/1
Captain Scarlet 250/1

This week’s special bet:
Any candidate who opts not to use vocal inflection to win the Apprentice (Melody or Zoe): 3/1

Quote of the week:
"Chill out Ted" (The Curious Orange)

Chirpybird said...

Bahaha, it made I snort merrily it did.

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