Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Logic-al conclusion

The Final
Transmitted July 17 2011

Previously on The Apprentice – the resurrection of The Restaurant! Hooray! Except sans Raymond, Maman and ze challonge. Boo! Helen and Tom invented MyPy and apart from a lack of basic understanding of history or geography, did very well. Jim, Susan and Natasha abused grammar and geography and made Mexican food so hideous that Thomasina Miers started to weep. Probably. Natasha was fired for not doing something on her degree ten years ago that would have held her in good stead for some random task in the future – and because Sralan’s been dying to do that for weeks now.

As an aside, I just noticed that Sralan says in the credits ‘if you think there’s anyone better than you… you might as well go home’. Just thought I’d throw that in there to start Steve SEETHING early…

At Apprentice mansions, the phone rings in the middle of Helen bitching Jim out and saying he probably should have gone home. Ha. This really is a bitchy series, isn’t it? The only one who isn’t a total bitch has been Tom. Tom goes to answer the phone. NotFrances tells them to meet Sralan in 48 hours and to bring their business plans. Jim says it’s now down to them individually and looks cocky and weird, whilst Helen has the panicked look of the kid whose parents will disown them if they don’t get 10 A*s, the best marks in the school and end up in the top 1% of the country.
Also – this ‘meet you in 48 hours with a business plan’ thing is weird, isn’t it? We never see them get 48 hours’ notice, which would imply they have time to work on their business plans. However, surely they prepared those as part of their applications anyway, so they should be automatically ready. Certainly (whoops, spoiler) tonight’s shambles doesn’t suggest they’ve put that 48 hours to any kind of good use.

Apprentice finals are a weird beast, aren’t they? Normally they’re a bit anti-climactic after the interviews round, the final result has little bearing on the task (which always, somewhere, involved “corporate entertainment” – enough to make anyone’s soul weep) and in many cases, the winner isn’t the person who performs best anyway. This year, though, the series has been pretty topsy-turvy, so the ‘interviews’ round has been saved till last.

We’re reminded who they are as they ‘get their business plans into shape’. Helen lies that she’s taken risks throughout the series, and we’re told she’s the most successful candidate in the tasks. Susan has the second-best record, and she is TWENTY ONE. But is she the shortest of those remaining?

Jim thinks he’s amazing, of course, and thinks his plan is amazing. Tom is an inventor, who has only been on three task-winning teams, and, according to my good friend Monkseal, he's been on Logic every single week. His business plan has a picture of a chair on it. He would like to win, if that’s OK please Sralan?

On the day, “plans printed” – lie, we saw they had them printed off already, and they’ve clearly had copies sent to the rottweilers ages ago – they pretend to read their plans in the cabs. I would be travel sick if I did that. They’re going to New Broad Street House, where city ‘big guns’ hang out, apparently.

Sralan says he’s not going to make his decision lightly and the interviews really will be important, honestly, really, genuinely.

In the waiting room, Susan says, ‘this is it… four interviews – boom’. Because yes, that’s exactly what’s important. Helen says if you don’t know your own life and your plan you’re in trouble. What, like when you lie on your CV?

Claude is the only old-school rottie remaining. He calls Tom a bit of a failure. Ouch.

Margaret’s back. Yay! She’s a key member of the ‘Bright Ideas Trust’ which sounds a bit like something Melody would make up. Sorry Margaret. [The idea of Melody and Margaret working for the same organisation fills me with glee. - Steve] Let’s face it – all anyone wants from this episode is an hour of Margaret ripping Jim to shreds, isn’t it? The other three interviewers/apprenti may as well not be here.

As an aside, it feels weird to be recapping this week’s Apprentice after today’s “hackgate” committee hearings. I can’t help but think that Margaret and Claude would have gotten more answers.

Mike Soutar, TRAITOR, clearly wants to be a new Dragon or something (and on the subject of Dragons’ Den – which it’s hard not to be given the way this series is going to turn out - how terrifying are those adverts with Hilary Devey in? Also – Hilary Devey, Margaret and Debra Meaden would be amazing in the interviews stage of this show, no?) with all this telly work he’s doing. He tells Jim his application is full of clichés, and asks if he has trouble articulating himself. Heh. In a rare moment of self-awareness, Jim says ‘I’m trying to get better at that’. This also makes me believe these interviews are not filmed in the order they’re shown, and he may have come to Mike after his encounter with Margaret.

Susan is meeting Matthew Riley, ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2007’ (another Melody-style reference. I wish Melody had been in interviews), and a complete cock who wouldn’t look out of place in an Apprentice line-up. I seriously have no idea what he’s doing here. He makes Susan stand behind a chair and pretend she’s in an elevator. It’s a LIFT, cock. She has to pretend she’s in the LIFT, riding to the penthouse and has to pitch quickly. For why? It’s a rare person who makes me root for Susan in any given scenario, but he does. [I really wanted Susan to say that she always takes the stairs for the health benefits, and to mime her way up several flights while giving her pitch. - Steve] She says she wants to develop her skin care business and take over the world.

Mike Soutar tells Tom his business plan is obtuse. Tom says he wants to reduce the cost of back pain by developing a service to measure the likelihood of people developing back pain, and sell some chairs to fix people’s money. Mike Soutar points out Tom’s business plan doesn’t use the word ‘chair’ anywhere. Tom says ‘it talks about devices’ because he’s a geek like that, and calling a chair a chair would probably get him thrown out of inventors’ club or something.

Margaret says Jim’s application form is the longest she’s ever seen – and it’s very enlightening to discover that he wanted to be this year’s StuBaggs: ‘I’m not a show pony or a one-trick pony, or a wild stallion that needs to be tamed, or even a stubborn mule. I believe I can become the champion thoroughbred that this process requires’ – I am kind of having a gross insight into Jim’s fetishes that I didn’t want. She asks if that gives the impression he’s an ass and accuses him of not taking the form seriously. Jim claims it’s to set him apart. Margaret: ‘by swallowing the Oxford book of clichés?’. Jim cliché spouts that he’s not a one trick pony and he’s excelled in everything in the process. Lie. She reads some nonsense he’s written about tanlines and the bottom line. She asks him to tell him something about himself she couldn’t glean from the form or the process, and to try and say it quickly, without clichés. He says ‘I’m exactly what it says on the tin’. Margaret (literally) facepalms.

He lies to the others that he’s fine. Helen wonders why Tom’s still in there and if he’s getting his arse kicked.

Cut to Claude telling Tom his figures make no sense, and the business plan hasn’t listed anything about the margins he’ll make. Tom says, no but he has a ‘pretty good idea’ because he’s made some prototypes. Claude says he hasn’t mentioned the prototype in here, whether the chair works or if it can get a patent. Oh, Tom. I think we were all expecting Claude to say ‘I’m out’ there.

The smarmy cock gets Helen to do his “elevator pitch”. STAB STAB STAB. Her business is apparently about helping the nation get back on its feet. Oh, Helen. It seems to be about PAs ‘for the mass market’. Can I get them in Poundland, Helen? She claims it’s about getting people to do mundane jobs and help your work-life balance – sending birthday cards, doing the shopping, making appointments etc – essentially a PA for the non-work side of life. I get the feeling this is what Helen would wish for if she closed her eyes, as that ‘real life’ stuff just gets in the way. (It might also be the kind of thing I would wish for if I closed my eyes too, but sssh). [I have literally no idea how this is supposed to "help the nation back on its feet". I have many problems, but none of them involve the lack of someone to phone my dentist on my behalf. - Steve] Cockface asks her why on earth he’d want someone to ring his dentist for him. Er, I kind of would, as I have a phobia of the phone. But I don’t think I generally represent your average person in these matters. Helen says it’s a reminder service. Cockface says dentists give you reminders. Helen says hers doesn’t, and his must be a very expensive dentist.

The others bitch a bit in the waiting area. Tom says he’ll be impressed if her plan is any good seeing as it’s her first one, and Jim hopes she’ll be tongue-tied and unable to answer any questions.

Cockface asks her if she has any contacts and if she can get him a table at The Ivy tonight. She says business acumen is more important than contacts. He says she can’t get him a table tonight, and she says, no of course not, I’m not a business yet. He says she can’t do anything without contacts, she says ‘but it’s for the mass market’ not people who want to eat at the Ivy.

Susan’s with Margaret, who congratulates her on her degree and Susan tells her how she started her own business after earning £1500 in one weekend selling products for someone else and realising she could make a lot more herself. She talks about selling stuff at Greenwich market and shows. Her CV says she employed “over fifteen people” (so: sixteen?) at one show. Margaret asks how she paid them. Susan said it was cash. Margaret says ‘so no tax? No National Insurance’. Susan says no. Margaret says ‘your degree was in philosophy and economics? Hmm’. Hee.

Claude picks up her CV says she wants to ‘turnover one million pound profit in the first year’. Even I know that turnover and profit are not the same after several years of watching this and Dragon’s Den, and Susan says ‘that’s really stupid’. Claude agrees. She then says she will make one million pounds profit. [Oh, SUSAN. - Steve] He’s like ‘in year one?’ She says yes because she sells loads at Greenwich. He says testing things in a niche area doesn’t necessarily mean it can expand to compete with heavyweights and the millions of pounds they put into marketing. She looks flummoxed. She tells the others it went great and everything he said to her, she shot back.

Mike Soutar asks Jim about his business. Jim says it’s called Amsmart to purposely tie in with Sralan’s other businesses. A nation shakes their heads. He wants to ‘provide employability skills’ to schools via ‘e-learning’. It’s apparently quite ‘amazing’, according to Jim, but I have no idea what it is. Mike Soutar asks why he’s using Sralan’s branding. Jim says it’s all about him and asks ‘what does Lord Sugar mean to you’ and then waxes lyrical about him. This is all a bit odd. He then essentially bursts into ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and repeats that his business is amazing.

Susan and Helen talk about how business plans need to be good, and we cut back to Jim’s interview. Mike Soutar asks him how many schools he’s spoken to about willingness to pay for e-learning. Jim says it’s ‘very high’ in Northern Ireland, and eventually reveals he hasn’t spoken to anyone about it but it’s ‘obvious’ that e-learning is a key selling point. Susan lies that she is ‘so pumped’ about the next interview.

Helen tells Margaret ‘we are working harder and harder all the time’ and she would definitely use this service. Margaret basically says ‘yes, you would, because you’re a workaholic with no life’. At this point I might have minimised the window that I was typing my thesis in at the time I was watching and whistled a little bit out of shame. Helen’s CV apparently says ‘my personal and social life have absolutely no bearing on my life, my work comes first and always has done’. Oh, Helen. Even I’m not (quite) that bad. Margaret ‘I quit this show to work on my studies rather than killing myself doing both and yet I am still a force of awesome’ Mountford is kind of making us both look bad here. Maybe we should sign up for workaholics anonymous. Helen admits ‘work… sort of is my life’.

Mike Soutar asks her to tell him a joke and make him life. She grimaces and asks if she can come back to it later. Reverse Pterodactyl Helen! Reverse Pterodactyl! That’s how you win!

Jim blabs some more. Tom tells Margaret about the success of his nail file. Helen remembers her joke, which she delivers in an automaton fashion. ‘A fish is swimming along. He swims into something and goes ‘Oh dam!’’ But then she laughs and so does he.

Cockface tells Tom he is nice and says he likes nice people. His wife is nice ‘but would I go into business with her? Not on your nelly’. Er, why? Tom talks some more about his nail file and getting it to Boots. Cockface asks why he didn’t keep going with that business. Tom says ‘I don’t wanna be Joanna Tom the cleaner nail file guy no more’.

Susan and Helen talk about Tom’s million and one ideas but how there might be the odd good one there.

Cockface said an employer said Tom didn’t finish things he started. Tom’s all ‘riiiight… but that’s what inventors are like, and I’m passionate about back problems, honest’. He knocks something over and leaves. I would also knock something over. I think there are clear reasons why Helen and Tom are my favourites. At one point Helen and Tom have a conversation about how much Susan is doing their heads in because of her persistent forced smileyness. See - we have a kinship. [Helen was doing my head in by being so needlessly stank. - Steve]

Claude reads Jim’s cliché pamphlet, which also includes the gem ‘had a meteoric rise from zero to hero’ but points out that Jim’s job and salary are a bit rubbish. Jim says his salary is above average, but Claude says ‘it’s not super though’. He says Jim isn’t setting the world alight. Jim says he will set it alight one bit at a time. He says he is what he says on that paper, he really believes it, and Claude points out that it’d be handy if he could find someone else who believed it. He tells the others ‘it was a walk in the park… with people shooting you and throwing hand grenades at you’.

Cockface asks Susan if anyone can start their own skincare business, she says yes but you need to test products. He asks who they’re tested by ‘the government?’ Ugh, he is such an obnoxious wanker. Susan says she doesn’t have any arsenic in her products. He says he has a ‘pretty good radar for bullshit’ and this sounds like bullshit. He asks her how much it costs to test them and says it’s not in her business plan. She says it’s there under ‘legalities’. He says legalities just covers things like going to Companies House to register her business. Isn’t her business already registered? I don’t get how her pitch is for a new thing. Is it meant to be for a new thing anyway, or can they just bid to expand their existing thing? I don’t understand the specifics of the ‘business plan’ they have to do. He asks what it would cost, and she says £100-2000 per product, which seems a bit of a big difference, but what do I know? Anyway, in the scheme of things £8000 isn’t that much extra to pay, I suppose, although Cockface thinks it’s a huge issue. To be honest, he could be making perfect sense and I would still side with Susan, that’s how much I hate him. She admits she only put in £6000 for legalities. So she’s in the wrong, but he’s more in the wrong because he’s a wanker.

She comes out and the others note it’s the first time they’ve seen Susan without a smile.

Claude says he was ‘amazed’ at how many companies out there are doing what Helen is doing. She says yes, but she wants to make proper money, not 50-100K. I’d say that was proper money, but I’m not an entrepreneur. He asks if she has any other business ideas if this doesn’t work out. She says yes and clicheterviews that she will succeed in anything she puts her mind to.

Interviews over! I still don’t understand what Jim’s business plan is about, and I only have a loose grasp on the other three’s. The overriding sense is that they all… pretty much suck. This series has been so weird – the business plan aspect and the tasks don’t bear much relationship to each other – I know it’d be difficult to integrate the two, but… well, it would make more sense than what’s about to happen (spoilers).

The candidates all tell the camera how they’re the best one etc.

Sralan welcomes the rotties back and says it’s nice to have two young men on the panel. Soutar’s in his mid-40s, and Cockface his late-30s, so young in comparison to Sralan maybe, but you know, not young young. Also – wherefore art the ‘young’ women? Le sigh. Claude’s all ‘three young men, bitch’.

Margaret says Helen’s amazing at the tasks, but she’s a workaholic and her business plan is rubbish. Sralan wonders whether she might be better as an employee. The others agree – you’d employ her, but her business plan isn’t very good. Mike Soutar says her plan reads more localised than able to franchise. Karren says she’s very organised so it seems like she’s trying to make a business out of her skills. Which is what Sralan usually wants them to do anyway isn’t it? I don’t know any more.
Mike Soutar says Jim is slippery, and he’s like trying to nail custard to the ceiling. To go along with the jelly Nick already nailed to the wall. [Now we just need Karren to nail some sponge fingers to the floor and we've got one heck of a trifle room. - Steve] Nick asks if he ever managed to corner Jim on anything and Mike Soutar says only that he’d done no market research. Margaret tells him about the clichés and asks ‘what was all that about?’ Claude says, yes but his idea is about YOUNG PEOPLE, the YOUNG. Sralan points out that schools don’t have any bladdy money. Nick thinks Jim just composed his business plan as a ‘seduction letter’ to Sralan. Margaret points out it’s not Jim’s business, he wants it to all be about Sralan. He asks what Jim will do on day one. Cockface says ‘talk’. OK, that one made me laugh.

They talk about Tom being difficult to pin down, but they discuss how successful the nail file has been and they don’t understand why he hasn’t continued with that. Mike Soutar says he seems flighty. Claude says his figures are rubbish. Karren says he would benefit from Sralan as he’s an inventor but can’t really do business.

Claude says Susan’s very naïve and Mike Soutar says her business plan is very flawed. Margaret says she is an entrepreneur and has worked very hard.

Final boardroom time! Sralan reminds them it’s not about a job but about coming into business with him and so he’s going to make up his mind on the business plans ‘and what I’ve experienced in the last eleven weeks’. He tells Susan her figures are silly. She says they are all ‘very very realistic’. He’s like, nah, they’re really not. Susan whines that they never pinpointed which part of her business was excessive. He points out that you don’t easily get from £1000 a weekend to turning over £4 million, and that L’Oreal, Revlon and Lancome spend a lot more than £250,000 on their marketing. Susan says ‘those were the figures I came up with’. Sralan asks if she’s listening to him. She says yeah but no but yeah. He says it doesn’t mean her business can’t work. She says ‘brilliant’. Not so good with the money, Susan.
Sralan says Helen’s amazing but her business is bladdy rubbish and has nothing to do with the business she’s been in. Helen says there’s nothing wrong in spotting a gap in the market and being the market leader nationwide would be great. Sralan says she can’t just do that when she hasn’t even started the business yet. Karren says she was good at pies and biscuits because she works for Greggs the bakers (and neglects to mention Helen was also good at the whole car seat thing as that would ruin the narrative) so why didn’t she go into that area? Helen says it was her second choice but she didn’t think it was unique enough. [I have to admit this whole "you should be in the kitchen, young lady" aspect made me a tad uncomfortable. - Steve]

Sralan asks if Tom’s plan is all about getting a chair that prevents back pain. Tom says yes, part of it. He says some of it is also going into employers to diagnose stuff. Tom says yes, kind of. Sralan says he has been in business for a long time and lists all the health and safety stuff he has to do as an employer but he would ‘give up and emigrate’ if all his employees had to have a desk chair check. I’m no expert on health and safety but don’t employers have some sort of legal duty to check people’s workstations are up to scratch, and provide suitable chairs for people with back problems? So Tom’s business strategy might be flawed, but he has latched on to a “thing” that happens, right? Tom says it will eliminate sick days and therefore will stop businesses losing money, it’s similar to losing money through electricity wastage. Sralan would prefer him to help them save on electricity. He doesn’t think absenteeism is all to do with back pain. That’s not really what Tom was saying, though? He also says he could provide people with alcohol rub and ‘bouncing keyboards’ to prevent flu and arthritis (I assume he means RSI?) but he’s not going to because…. Well, he doesn’t say.

He asks Jim when he wrote his plan ‘when I knew it would get me on the telly’ isn’t what he says, but we all know it’s the correct answer. Sralan says he wouldn’t have put this together if it wasn’t going to involve Sralan and Jim says he does this stuff anyway, goes into schools and teaches employability skills. Sralan says he thought Jim sold print. Jim says he does – essentially he goes into schools on his annual leave. Sralan says it worries him that Jim is jumping on his brand. Jim says yes, he needs the clout, but he doesn’t need Sralan to do anything, he’ll do it all himself. He said he initially thought of it as a non-profit organisation but didn’t think Sralan would like that. Sralan’s all ‘damn right, I do my “bit” thank you very much, where’s the bladdy money?’ another case of the Big Society in action, folks. Jim says they won’t make millions, which kind of undermines the stuff he had in his plan, but he believes the children are our future. Sralan says he doesn’t care, this is all about making bladdy money, he has the Junior Apprentice for that other stuff.
He ponders that maybe ‘there is some legs’ (sigh) in a chair, but he thinks if he and Tom went into a business ‘wasting time’ talking to employees that won’t work, but the chair might. Jim is a great salesperson but has no real business acumen and he wrote a plan he thought Sralan would like because of the other work he does outside of business. There was an opportunity but it’s no longer open to Jim, who is fired, as was always going to happen.

He reminds Helen how disappointed he is in her business plan. She knows what she’s doing, she’s relentless, but he doesn’t like it. She says he won’t need to babysit her. The camera cuts to Susan. Heh.

He points out Susan can do business but doesn’t understand the cost of professionalising her business and she claims she ‘absolutely understands’. He says she doesn’t understand. She says ‘I absolutely understand that I didn’t understand’. Sralan sighs that whilst he’s always wanted to be in the cosmetics industry, it’s not going to happen this time and Susan is fired. I was surprised at this, as he’s always going on about beauty, and Susan, whilst a complete nightmare of a person and often wrong about things, does have that entrepreneurial thing going for her and at least has some sort of a business to develop, whilst Helen’s plan sucks and Tom… just sucks in general at business.

Sralan says he thinks we will ‘hear of Susan’ in the future, at which point my Twitter feed erupted with jokes about us hearing about her being done for tax evasion.

He sends them out. He says to Karren and Nick that he would have given Helen a job in the old style format, but Tom’s a nice bloke. Nick says everyone likes him. Karren says Helen and Tom worked best together where she could organise him. At this point, I like a lot of people, thought Sralan genuinely might offer to go into business with both of them together. Doing the pie thing. I suppose were this not the first year of the ‘new format’ he may well have done, but it’d make a bit of a mockery to alter the rules of the whole thing the first time out, I guess.

Sralan reminds us this is the first time, and Helen says she doesn’t think he likes her initial idea, but she has a second song – a chain of bakeries. She says she had the plan all along. He asks if she’s just being really shrewd. Tom says he doesn’t understand why she didn’t start her own business before. Helen says she could also ask why someone who’d had their own business for five or six years hasn’t made a success of it and feels the need to come on The Apprentice. She delivers this almighty burn very coolly and matter-of-fact. Ouch. Tom then pulls out his major trump card – he wangled his way into an appointment with Wal-Mart to sell billions of nail files. Sralan’s face lights up at this. Game, set and match? I'd toyed with Tom as a winner several times over this series but this was the moment where I knew it was a fait accompli.

He says Helen’s brilliant at the tasks but he wasn’t keen on her plan. Interestingly, he doesn't explode at her cheeky 'second plan' idea, as he might with some other candidates. Tom might have been rubbish at the tasks but he has an idea of some sort. It needs tweaking ‘and that’s what business is about’ and anyway Sralan likes products and he's hoping Tom might invent the latest videoemailerphone-cum-beuaty-something-or-other so Tom wins, and by default, so does Team Logic. I will leave some space for Steve to explode right here… [Eh. My righteous fury has kind of burnt out by this point, but I did think it made a complete sham of the entire process to have a winner who had so plainly sucked at most of the tasks that filled up the rest of the series, and also his business idea sounded really ethically dubious, but apparently this was all decided by the nail file from the word go, so why even bother, eh? - Steve]

At least he’s more likeable than Simon Ambrose though, hey Steve? [Agreed. - Steve]
Coatwatch: no coat, but he punches the air and shouts ‘Yes’. He even removes his glasses and breaks all the laws of television that tell us people look better when the glasses come off.

And that’s that for this year. Thank you all for reading. Do join Steve, Chris and Helen over on Bitching's Next Top Model, and join us here next year to see whether or not this format will have started to make sense.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Please pack your knives and go

Week 11: 13th July 2011

Previously: the remaining candidates sat on cardboard boxes (presumably to give them a taste of life as a business start-up, though obviously Susan will tell you at great length that she has got her own business and knows all this already) while Sralan gave them instructions for a task, instructions that may as well have been in Esperanto for all the sense any of us could make out of them. It involved smelling what was selling, that's all I know. The recap dings Helen for her shitty sales plan, and Natasha for not listening to Jim when he told her to restock. In the boardroom, Natasha's team was given a £100 Natasha Penalty but still eked out a win, though there was NO BLADDY TREAT FOR YOU, BLADDY NO BALLS, because Sralan had completely lost his fucking mind by that point. Helen faced a firing for the first time all series, Tom fetched himself a big plate of Bitch and Chips and proceeded to take Melody and Helen to town to cover his own disastrous and embarrassing record, and ultimately Melody was firing for perhaps the worst PMing this show's seen since Gavin in week three. And yes, I'm including Zoe on the rubbish task. I love Melody, but she didn't have a clue.

This week: interviews, yay! Natasha arrives in the bedroom, still in her dressing gown and with a towel wrapped around her head, with an offering of breakfast for Helen and Susan. I can't see any complimentary copies of Covered magazine on the tray, but perhaps she's got them tucked under the plates. Susan and Helen discuss whether they will be having interviews today: Susan thinks they will, and Helen thinks it seems likely, but you can never quite tell with Sralan, because he's a tricky sort like that. The phone rings, and Jim trots obediently downstairs to answer it. The Disembodied Voice of NotFrances tells him that Sralan wants to meet them in the City, and the cars will be there in 30 minutes. Jim asks if they need to wear anything in particular (having possibly mistaken this for ApprentChat - Apprentices You'd Like To Talk To! Call 0898 98 98 98, calls cost £5 a minute at all times), but gets just a dead line in response. So either NotFrances is a stone cold bitch, or as we suspected, she records all these in advance and some poor runner on the production team is lumbered with getting up at arse o'clock every other morning and holding a tape player up to the telephone. Natasha asks Jim if he was told about interviews, and he mopes that they were unwilling to answer questions. Helen asks him if he's wearing his "interview suit" (I cannot even begin to describe how disappointed I am that we never got to see Vinnie Disney's interview suit), and Jim zings that he'll wear what he always wears, because he looks like a million dollars in every eventuality. Oh Jim, you sleaze.

Cars leave Entrepreneur Estates. Some of the most ridiculously over-dramatic music accompanies shots of the contestants walking down a street and Sralan getting into a lift. Seriously, it's like the conductor at the symphony orchestra suddenly had a wasp land on his nose. Eventually it subsides, and Sralan arrives to meet the contestants, telling them that they're at the One New Change, which sounds like it ought to be a philanthropic initiative founded by Bono, but is in fact a shopping mall in the City. I never, ever go into the City, so I'm just going to take his word for it. Sralan segues that the mall is filled with fast-food franchises, and that's their task this week. So not interviews after all. Boo! And everyone wore their best interview clothes for nothing, except Jim, who turned up in a dirty pair of tracky bottoms and an "I shot JR" t-shirt and relied on his magnetic personality to do the work for him. Sralan tells them that he's located two empty shops for them (I bet that was an arduous task, finding empty shops in the middle of a recession) in the centre of London, and they'll kit them out as restaurants. Staff will be provided, and the task will be judged by industry experts. And if you're sat there thinking "hang on a minute, isn't this just The Restaurant operating under a massively condensed time frame?" then yes, you'd be right. Clearly, series three was such a disaster that this was the only way they could afford to bring it back, as a one-off task in a far more successful show. Still, if Sralan tells the losing team that they are "in ze challonge", it'll all be worth it.

The teams depart. In the Logicar, Helen posits the idea that the winners of this task might be the finalists. She and Tom rub their hands together with glee, and it seems Helen's officially over her wrecked-perfect-record breakdown from last week, because otherwise she'd clearly be having conniptions about being the only other person on a team with someone who currently holds a 2-8 win-loss ratio. Over in the Venturichle, Susan thinks it's good that they've got three minds on their team whereas the other team have only two. She does not consider the specific three minds that constitute her team too deeply, otherwise I'd imagine she'd not be quite so chirpy.

Fast food montage (Square Pie! Leon! McDonald's! Etc!) [Well, I know what McDonald's is, but we don't have that other nonsense up north... Rad, channelling Ellie] as the voiceover explains that Sralan is looking for a new and original fast food brand. Natasha tells Jim and Susan that she has a BA (Hons) in Hospitality Management, and for one of the modules involved setting up their own restaurant, complete with branding. Jim and Susan are heartened by this.

Venture find their site, and Natasha's excited/horrified that they really do have to start from scratch, as they basically have the bare bones of a shop unit to work with and nothing else. We are informed that they have 48 hours to put the shop together. Tom and Helen look round theirs, and Helen identifies a bain-marie, a hot cupboard and a hot plate. I have to admit, I do admire a woman who can identify an industrial bain-marie on sight. I wonder how many of those they had in Greggs? Natasha burbles about "inception", yeah, and "creating a vision", because that's exactly what Natasha does. I'm slightly disappointed that the editors don't add a massive "BURRRRRRRRRRRR" on the soundtrack after she says "inception", though. (Incidentally, if you haven't watched this yet, you really must.) Similarly, Helen thinks they need to be lead by their concept, and determine what their USP is.

Over on Venture, Jim asserts himself as project manager. Neither of the other two looks especially thrilled with this, but they go along with it anyway, and Natasha offers to support him with her degree. Jim patroniserviews that he's got "two girls on board who probably appreciate a bit of direction." Over on Logic, Helen wants to be PM (surprise surprise), as she has run food outlets before, and Tom likes being project-managed by her, so the deal is done. And if I were running this show, this is the point where I would run into the room and fire Tom on the spot for being such a fucking shirker, because he has only PMed once, and lost, and this would've been his last opportunity to redress that, but he didn't even bother to fight for it. Helen's already got two wins under her belt as PM, and therefore doesn't need this; also, she's the type to PM from behind so he could probably get himself a PM victory with minimal effort by deploying Helen effectively, and I'm sorry, but it just really, really annoys me that he doesn't even try to put himself forward.

Next, it's time to pick a style of food. Tom considers Mexican or West India, but not Spanish as he thinks the market is flooded. Helen wonders if there's a fast food chain that just does pie and mash. Yes, there is - it was even on the montage earlier. They brainstorm around pie and mash, and Tom opines that it "tends to be heavy, which tends to be male rather than female." BULL. SHIT. I work in an office where women massively outnumber men, and the women in my office are big fans of Square Pie (although the one near our office closed down recently, so not so much any more). Helen suggests mini pies: "they're more suitable for ladies." GIVE ME STRENGTH.

Over on Venture, Susan wants to do Mexican food because it's "really fun", and they can have cactuses and people wearing sombreros. No, really, those are her reasons. Jim points out that Mexican offers lots of healthy options, like "fisheaters", chimichangas (which are DEEP FRIED, for fuck's sake), burritos, nachos...seriously, these are his healthy options. I don't even want to picture what the rest of his menu is going to look like. Possibly just a big slab of lard with a jalapeño pepper on top. Natasha is "not sure about Mexican, but I'll go with it." Susan asks if either of them eat in Mexican restaurants much. Natasha has, and Susan has, so they consider this to be appropriate experience. Karren pulls a face of disbelief in the background.

Next in the seemingly endless bits of admin is the need to decide who'll create the dishes, and who will work on branding. Jim wants Natasha to be their chef, but she points out that she can't cook, adding "have you ever seen me cook in the house?" Suddenly that breakfast she prepared for Helen and Susan appears a lot more sinister. Jim reminds Natasha that she has a hospitality degree, and Natasha sniffs that she has the degree, but not a lot of work experience. Karren interviews that Jim's misusing his team's skills by allowing Natasha to be on the branding team and not the cooking team, where her experience lies. Yes, but Karren, what if she was telling the truth and genuinely cannot cook? I mean, this team's already in enough trouble as it is.

Over on Logic, Tom knows little about the making of pies and wants to be on branding duty. Helen visibly flinches and says that as project manager, she's wary of not having "ultimate autonomy over the concept and the branding". God, Helen is fucking terrifying. [Yes, but this is what's so amazing about her - Rad] Tom simpers that this is what he does with all this inventions, and has been doing for the last eight years. Helen, realising to her great distress that she can't be in charge of everything, so she allows Tom to do the branding, as long as he keeps her fully informed at all times. You'd think, given that it's a food-based task, and Zoe got dinged on the biscuit task for being PM and not being present during the manufacturing of the food, that Helen would consider having charge of the food to be a good use of her time. Then again, Helen was PM on that task as well and didn't go to the factory and was never criticised for it, because the capriciousness of the judging on this show did not begin with the £100 Being Natasha Penalty last week, so who fucking knows? Basically, Helen secretly wants to fire Tom and do the whole task by herself, but given that she's not technically allowed to do that, she's just trying to give him as little real work to do as possible so she can bathe herself in shiny shiny praise when she wins, because that's what always happens, except for last week which was all totally that bitch Melody's fault and nothing remotely to do with Helen's utterly nonsensical strategy. Anyway, Helen's all "I'm trusting you here, Tom, big time", and being so in a completely gross way, because everyone's really, really awful this week, and she is their queen.

10.45am. Natasha and Susan are in Soho (now there's a spin-off with real potential), and Susan is reeling off a list of Mexicana: banjos, sombreros, moustaches, cactuses, and so on. I thank all the deities I can think of that we were spared the obligatory "do the Mexicans use soap? Do they have dentists? Do the Mexicans love their children? Will you buy me a Mexican for Christmas?" conversation that obviously happened at some point. They walk past Clone Zone, but do not, sadly, go in. Natasha and Susan establish between them that neither of them has ever been to Mexico, nor do they speak "any Mexican". Then they both say "arriba" repeatedly. Ay, dios mio. Susan says that she's thinking of "a happy Mexican-looking man with a big moustache" - and they happen to be walking through porno central while she says this, which is quite funny, because I'm sure one of those establishments has got just what she's looking for. Behind them, Karren listens in horror, quietly contemplating a change of career, or possibly a change of gender.

Nearby in a Mexican restaurant, Jim is shown the ropes by a curiously co-operative member of staff. I'm guessing he realises these people are not serious competition in any way. Jim asks how long a take-away client spends there, on average, and is told that in peak times they operate 85-90 transactions every 15 minutes, which isn't quite the response to the question that was asked, but does at least give you the gist. "The line's moving at lightning speed," the man explains. Jim asks what's most popular, and is told that burritos do good business. He also, amusingly, says that he's looking to do something out of the ordinary, so he wants to know what they don't do. The man suggests chilli con carne as an option, and says that they're currently doing a trial on tortilla soup [blee - Rad].

North-west London, now, and Helen is at the catering plant used by Bigham's Pies. Helen tells the Heston Blumenthal impersonator in the kitchen that they're looking to do three mini-pies (FOR THE LADIES, LEST WE FORGET), and two main ones. Helen barks that they're looking at steak and red wine, chicken and mushroom, and spinach, broccoli and cheddar. She tastes the cheese and onion pie, and finds it too cheesy, looking almost on the verge of tears because it is not PERFECT. I wish we could go back to the days when Helen was the boringly competent candidate, before she became this terrifying, highly-strung, obsessive horror that now sits before us. I mean, I wasn't overly fond of the other Helen either, but this one is far, far worse. Eventually, however, she finds a recipe that she approves of, and the pies are mass-produced, ready to be delivered to her restaurant and reheated by some goon on minimum wage. Helen yammers that she's happy now, although not entirely satisfied with her costings on the steak pie because there's a lot of good-quality steak in there. Ultimately, however, she decides that since she's being judged by industry experts with finely-honed palates, she'd rather take a hit on her margins and serve top-notch products. She says all of this while clawing a groove six inches deep into the table with her nails. Helen is INTENSE, people.

Tom, meanwhile, is off being all the things I hate most about "creatives" - wandering around a baby boutique and muttering things like "the fun-ness of that, could we turn that into a mini pie?" No, Tom. You cannot. Do you know why? Because it is a child's hat. God only knows how much Helen would freak if she saw this. She'd probably have him sectioned. Tom madterviews that he's trying to create a very modern image around the mini-pie, while maintaining a "very British" theme to it. The latter part of the deal seems to involve taking a lot of pictures of cards with Union Jacks on them. Tom throws out some names like Micro Pie, Pie In The Sky, Brit Pie, and then spots a sign in a shop window discussing Qype [What is Qype? Is it like Skype? - Rad]. He reads this as "Qypye" and then starts mentally tossing around the ball of "Qye Pye". Tom calls Helen to announce that he's "just dyslexically misread something" (heh) and come up with some genius ideas involving "pie" being spelt "py". Few things irritate me more than words being deliberately misspelt for the purposes of wacky branding hijinks, so please accept my apologies if I have some sort of breakdown during this next segment. Tom suggests "MyPy", and Helen offers a very clenched "okay" while flicking through pages of her own name suggestions in her own notepad, which include things like "Pie Cottage", "Piesight" (see their light!), and my personal favourite "Piehi". Between them, they decide upon "MyPy - say hi to British pies." I really hate MyPy, not least because it looks like it should be pronounced "mipey", which sounds like a word your nan might use to describe the weather.

(Just out of interest, does anyone else get a kick of watching this show on iPlayer
and getting the "click to resume" message? Click to REZ-HOO-MAY.)

Jim heads off to his chef and works on recipes for chilli beef, a fajita kit, and a Mexican soup. The stoves are fired up and the taste test seems we cut to Natasha and Susan, the branding team, sitting in an office looking really bored. "Sombravo?" Susan suggests. What does that even mean? Susan notes that Mexican restaurants are always "El" something, and then asks "what does 'el' mean?" Oh, Jesus Christ. [Well, if she had to ask if the French loved their children.... - Rad] Although I suppose I sympathise on some level, because I frequently find myself saying something very similar during Britain's Next Top Model. And this is where it really goes irrecoverably wrong: Natasha rings Jim to say that they're struggling, and he suggests "Caracas, as in the little Mexican shaking things?" Natasha and Susan like this idea, then Jim realises that what he's actually thinking of is "maracas". "What does 'Caracas' mean?" asks Natasha. It's the capital of Venezuela, dear. It's not very Mexican. None of them realise this, however, so they agree on "Caraca's". Yep, with an apostrophe. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and hope that they were planning to build it as a chain run by a mascot called Caraca, if only to preserve my sanity.

With that out of the way, they move onto the logo. Natasha suggests getting creative, by using different coloured peppers in there somehow. Susan objects strongly to this, because she thinks all their potential customers are drooling idiots, and since peppers aren't exclusively Mexican, that'll confuse people and they should stick with something clear like a sombrero. You know what else isn't exclusively Mexican? VENEZUELA. She is really picking the wrong aspect to nitpick here. The two of them can't agree, so they phone Jim again. Susan details her pepper-related worries, and Natasha snots that if Susan has a better idea she should put it forward. Then, while Susan tries to say that she wants sombreros, Natasha takes the phone out of her hand, leaving Susan to do her best open-mouthed "THAT'S SO UNFAIR ZOE NATASHA!" face, because where Susan excels above all else is in the field of acting like a wounded child. They bicker some more, and Susan stresses that she "cannot stop thinking how much of a failure this is going to be." (Spoilers!) Jim makes the call not to use peppers. Natasha shrugterviews that Susan's just being contrary for the sake of it, and she doesn't mind people disagreeing with her ideas if they have a better one, but that's not what Susan's doing. That...doesn't really tally with what we've seen, but I hate Susan, so what the hell: Team Natasha! TEAM SUSAN! Melody will always be the queen of saying she hates other people's stuff without giving alternatives. Miss you, Melody. -Joel Susan whineterviews that she and Natasha don't get along, and Jim knows that, so he made a mistake leaving them to work together. For a young entrepreneur with a skincare business, Susan kind of has the face of an old lady. I'm just saying. Their final logo, then, is CARACA'S, with a sombrero atop the C. Classy. In the kitchen, Karren pointedly asks Jim who came up with the name and the menu, and he takes credit for both, noting that "there's a theme developing."

7pm. Tom and Helen have another branding phonecall about potential names for their pies, and Helen wants them all to be named after people who are influential figures in British history. Presumably this means they will have a Cheryl Cole pie. That'll be the one that looks nice, but is kind of flaky, short on filling and leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Tom likes this idea, and asks "was Byron the guy who was writing at the same time as Shakespeare?" No, Tom, he was not. Perhaps you're thinking of Christopher Marlowe? Mmm, Marlowe Pie. "Was Byron a vegetarian, do we know?" is Tom's next question. Maybe if you want a name for your vegetarian pie, think of famous vegetarians? That has to be more sensible than thinking of famous people and then trying to work out if they're vegetarians or not. They're not really sure about this, so Tom moves on to explorers: "We have William Drake." Er, who? I think you mean Sir Francis Drake there, Tom. Dunno where William came from; perhaps he confused him with the poet William Blake. Next on the list is Christopher Columbus. That'd be the Genoese Christopher Columbus. "Didn't Columbus discover the potato in America?" asks Tom. "Yes, he did," replies Helen. No, he didn't: that'd be Sir Francis Drake again, or possibly Sir Walter Raleigh (depending on whose version of events you believe, if either), and it wasn't discovered in America. I know I have the benefit of google when I'm doing these recaps, but I was terrible at history when I was at school and even my grasp of it is far less muddled than Tom's and Helen's. Nick sucks a really big lemon. Tom suggests "Columbus mash".

Over at Caraca's (*shudder*), Natasha and Susan are briefing the designer, with conflicting ideas of what they want. Tom's doing the same at Mipey, via the method of talking to himself while the designer stands next to him smiling politely. Tom's branding ideas involve Big Ben and red buses. You can just smell those creative fires burning, can't you? Meanwhile, Helen micromanageterviews that it's scary to put her trust in Tom when this is such a massive thing to her. I'm not sure Helen has the capacity to trust other human beings, to be honest. [This is kind of why I love Helen. I just know I'd be the same if I were on this show. Other human beings always screw things up. Team Helen! - Rad] Her biggest worry is Tom not being able to replicate what's in her head, because heaven forfend Tom actually injecting any of his own thoughts or opinions into this task. That is not the Helen way.

8am the next morning, and both restaurants are starting to take shape. Jim and Susan speak in vaguely offensive cod-Mexican accents upon seeing Caraca's (GAHHH), although I'm more willing to forgive Jim because he's wearing an adorable red-and-white stripey top. I now want him to add a bobble hat and a pair of glasses so I can spend the rest of the episode playing Where's Jim? Meanwhile, Tom and Helen arrive at Mipey, which is still a work in progress but basically looks like the EDL threw up in it. Thankfully, this concept meets with the approval of Helen's brain, so Tom is off the hook.

Nick looks over their "say hi to British pies" menu, and checks off the Nightingale, the Drake...and the Columbus. "He's British?" Nick questions. Suddenly Helen is not so sure, and throws the question over to Tom. Tom's response: "Oh, you are kidding me." Heh. "Still, there we are," says Nick, vaguely apologetically. It's no "anyway, I'll leave it with you", but I guess it'll have to do. Helen briefs the Sralan-supplied staff about the pricing structure, and is scarily clear about everything in that very Helenesque way (though credit to her for coaching them in upselling and meal deals and whatnot), while Nick appears to be trying to commit suicide by shoving a pen up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain. I can imagine Helen might have that effect on some people, yes. We had a ghost in a painting at my university that was rumoured to do something very similar, but that's another story.

Now, remember when Tom and Melody did roleplay in the biscuits task and it was amazing? Now think about how much less fun it would've been with Helen in a pivotal role. Except you don't have to imagine, because here it is: Helen plays a customer, while Reasonably Fit Temporary Employee plays himself. I kind of want Susan to run in at this point yelling "remember, you're you and I'm me". Anyway, they run through the sales script, where the staff are instructed to ask "have you eaten 100% British before?", which you just know is either going to result in "yes, I had a roast dinner on Sunday" or some kind of disgusting oral sex-related comment. Helen, being a giant nerd, of course answers, "I haven't, no, what would you recommend?", because that is exactly the way a fast-food customer in central London behaves. Their signature dish is a variety of three pies. So presumably their mini pies for ladies thing sort of went nowhere, because they're not really that much lighter if you're eating three of them. Unless they're just following the Marjorie Dawes school of dieting. They go through a dry run, which seems to go pretty well, apart from somebody forgetting to remove the pies from their foil trays before putting them in the box for the make-believe customer. Oops.

Over at Caraca's (*sob*), the hired kitchen hand, whom we shall call Conchita in the absence of knowing her real name, is working in the back by herself while Jim touches up the décor. While Jim and Natasha consider the prime location for a poster, Conchita emerges and pleads with Jim to organise the kitchen, because they are not even remotely ready. Jim promises to go into the kitchen with her in a minute to go through everything. In the kitchen, moments later, Conchita tells Jim that she is just the hands, while he is the brains, and he must tell her how he wants it all managed. I bet Conchita would've given her eyeteeth to have been assigned to Helen's team at this point. Jim tells her that he wants hot fajitas, hot chilli and hot soup, and Conchita asks if this means he is planning on making the hot fajitas during service, because that will be time-consuming. Jim declares himself the "Nacho Man". With half an hour to go, Natasha and Susan go through the last stages of cleaning and preparing the front of house area, while Jim puts a sombrero on a cactus. Sigh. Over at Mipey, Tom and Helen and their associates are looking a lot more organised, and are ready for service. "Ooh, I'm excited!" Helen exclaims. Reasonably Fit Temporary Employee laughs nervously, as well he might.

It's 2pm, and they're open for business, with two hours to serve customers. Two people enter Caraca's, pretty much looking as though the production staff have had to forcibly shove them in there. There is a hammer and a box of pins on the floor. Professional! Natasha and Susan busy themselves with customers and showing people to their tables, while Jim prepares some truly rank-looking nachos in the kitchen. Susan appears in the kitchen too, panicked, saying that they have more people than chairs, because they weren't banking on having so many eating in.

People troop into Mipey, and are greeted by Helen in full cheerleader mode screaming "BRITISH BRITISH BRITISH!" at them. Despite this, their service seems much slicker, their food looks far more appetising, and everything just seems...well, better at Mipey. Over at Caraca's (*shoves knife into own hand*), the queue is enormous and Susan is not doing a great job of keeping everyone calm, while in the kitchen, Jim is overwhelmed with orders. A customer complainterviews that the fast food is not very fast, as he's been waiting ten minutes for his fajita. Oh, boo fucking hoo. Shots of people yawning and looking variously antsy, pissed off, or both. Those who have food aren't impressed either: one remarks that the cheese on his nachos hasn't been melted, while a mild-mannered gentleman informs Susan politely that his fajita was pretty much stone cold, while Susan apologises helplessly. I do feel slightly bad for Susan here, as I imagine she got rather a lot of this. Then again, it was only for two hours, so maybe Susan can just suck it up. Karren restaurateurviews that Venture spent too long worrying about the décor, to the extent that they never bothered to establish a workable system. Over at Mipey, however, a tattooed builder-type is impressed with the quality of the steak in Helen's pie (fnar). Tom grinterviews that things are going well, and with a turnaround time of under three minutes, he thinks they're officially fast food.

With that, the test run is over. Susan sighterviews that the experience was mad, and they were completely disorganised, and lots of customers left because they didn't get the food they wanted. Susan reports back to Jim that a recurring problem was that the nachos and fajitas were cold. "Give me solutions," Jim retorts, and I would've loved it if Susan had just gone "...we serve them hot?" She tells Jim that he needs to make sure everything they serve is perfect. Jim appears to not really be listening. Later, he looks over their feedback, and one example reads: "Table was dirty for a long time, very long wait for food & service, not enough seating, food tasted cheap." Ooh, OUCH. As he reads out another comment - "friendly, but slow" - the camera cuts to Natasha. HA! Nice one, editors. Mipey, however, have better feedback, with people responding to the UKIP theme and the general presence of pies. The only real concern is people finding it difficult to eat out of a cardboard box. Wusses. I'm slightly surprised there wasn't more feedback along the lines of "truly terrifying woman greeted me at the door, who almost made me turn around and walk back out again". One of Jim's feedback forms reads "crazy waitress" - that has to have been referring to Natasha, surely? Poor Susan, meanwhile (this is how bad things are getting, I'm actually saying things like "poor Susan" and meaning it) is stuck wiping tables while Jim reads out this list of their failures. They look on the bright side: at least Sralan wasn't there to witness any of this.

The next day, 7am. The teams leave Entrepreneur Estates, ready to demonstrate their wares to Sralan and his gaggle of industry experts. Jim tells his teammates that the key to success will be staying calm. And possibly heating up the fajitas. In the Logicar, Helen tells Tom that she's happy with the service, so they just need to make sure the quality is there for every meal. In the Venturichle, Susan tells Jim that yesterday's set-up was basically a shambles, and outlines her idea for a new arrangment that's more of a self-seating nature while she and Natasha stay at the counter. This seems like a more sensible idea (although now perhaps they'll have people standing up for 10 minutes waiting for cold fajitas, rather than being able to sit down), and Jim agrees. So at the restaurant, Susan makes up "ORDER HERE! COLLECT HERE!" signs, while Jim explains to Conchita that they need to go slower and make sure they get things right. Because yesterday's problem was clearly that they were going too fast. Oh, Jim. Jim gets Susan to eat his hot nachos. She seems mollified.

It's lunchtime, and Sralan is on his way to Caraca's (*bangs head against wall*), complete with an entourage that includes representatives from Domino's and McDonald's. Oh, NOW I get why they put an apostrophe in it. Susan greets them effusively as we're informed that the experts will grade the restaurants in four categories: the first of which is customer service. Natasha upsells Sralan to some nachos to go with his fajita, and then he stands around impatiently while Jim and Conchita take a long time to cook it. Meanwhile, one lady orders a fajita without peppers; I think Susan planted her. Sralan wonders where his nachos have got to. A customer asks Natasha how long the wait is, and Natasha says "five to ten minutes, top-end", which she thinks means they're doing well. That just about sums it up, really. The second category is the quality of meal and menu: Sralan likes the taste of the food, but he thinks it's all a bit messy. Someone else opines that they can't be making much of a margin on the fajitas. Category three: brand identity. Despite the clichés, people seem to enjoy the clarity and coherence of the message. Category four will involve a pitch on how the franchise will work long-term, so Jim, Susan and Natasha come out to speak to the experts.

Susan opens by discussing the name, claiming that it's catchy, memorable, fun to say, and "very Mexican-sounding". Oh DEAR. She adds that they included the sombrero to inject a bit of personality, because when you think of sombreros, you think of sun, fun and Mexico, which doesn't rhyme with sun or fun, but never mind. A figures-minded type asks them how many customers they intend to serve in an average hour, and how much that would earn them in profit. Jim, clearly not having thought this through in any great detail, hypothesises that they're looking at 60 people over a two-hour lunch period (one person every two minutes, are they out of their fucking minds?), with an average spend of £7, which is "£4,800 in terms of their spend". Oh Jim. 60x7 is not 4,800 no matter how much you fiddle the numbers. Where exactly do you think all those zeros are coming from? Are you just borrowing them from your team's collective IQ? Karren shakes her head at him, and he revises his figures to £4,200. Eventually, someone throws him a bone and informs him that it's actually £420. Someone else asks about the brand identity, and how the sombreros and cacti fit into the contemporary world, and Natasha delivers a lengthy non-answer about chill time and hanging up your sombrero. Jim cracks a parting gag about Sralan not having settled his bill [are you sure he didn't mean it? You can't tell with Jim. I keep expecting him to go full blown psycho at some point - Rad], and then everyone leaves.

Now it's Mipey's turn to be evaluated in the same way. Helen asks the delegates if they've ever eaten 100% British before, and the answer is a unanimous "yes". HA! She recovers well, though, and says that this means they'll clearly enjoy the quality of the Mipey ingredients. Sralan orders a steak and red wine pie, and Helen talks him into having mash and mushy peas. His meal is served almost immediately, and he remarks that that was quick. "We're fast food!" smugs Helen. More orders pile in (pie-l in?). The delegates like the clarity of Mipey's message and the fact that the provenance of the food is displayed. Tom burns himself on some gravy.

Tom and Helen emerge to do their pitch, which has clearly had a bit more thought-put into it than Venture's. Tom cannily introduces it as the "first" branch of Mipey, and outlines his ambitions for a franchise of 500 stores. He describes it as "unashamebly (sic), 100%, completely, brilliantly, British" and then hands over to Helen for details. Helen launches into her spiel about the glowing results of yesterday's survey, but suffers something of a brain fart halfway through, resulting in her just saying "menu" over and over again, until Tom prompts her, and then she admonishes him for putting her off. Professional! At the end, Tom thanks Helen and meekly apologises for interrupting her. I think the line between cordiality and open contempt is wafer-thin with these two, even if they have managed to stay on the right side of it so far. A lot of people online seem to have remarked positively on the "chemistry" between Tom and Helen in this task, which I have to say I was rather surprised by: she seems to treat him like the over-eager child getting in the way of Mummy's Very Important Work. I almost expect him to start suckling at her teat [I love team Tom and Helen - but I think this is a throwback to them being all moral and prudish on the lads' mag task - Rad]. They get good feedback about the food quality and the competitive pricing from the delegates, and as soon as someone mentions Helen's favourite word ("margins"), she breaks into a detailed speech on how much they're making. It sounds good, anyway. The only real stumbling block is when someone asks whether they'd change the menu in summer, and Tom offers a rather weak answer involving "cold pies", but it's clear the editors are struggling to find a loss-leading edit here.

The scores are collected for Caraca's (*removes own testicle with rusty scissors*) and Mipey. Helen obsessterviews that they've worked really hard, and feel like the brand belongs to her. Er, them.

The next day (presumably), and the contestants are on the way to the boardroom. Natasha thinks that they pulled it out of the bag in the end, and that they have a strong chance of winning. Helen is determined to make the final. Susan "relishes every opportunity to have a dialogue" with Sralan. Tom thinks he's a perfect business partner. Jim thinks he's got exactly what it takes. Well, that was useful.

NotFrances sends them through to the boardroom. Sralan starts with Venture, where Jim explains the plan to go with Mexican food, as it is something a lot of people seem to enjoy. Sralan cracks a joke that Mexican food is "hot" right now, ho ho ho. He asks where the name Caraca's (*performs frontal lobotomy on self with chainsaw*) came from, and Jim cops to it, saying that it was catchy. Sralan points out the whole "capital of Venezuela" thing, which it turns out Venture had worked out at some point between the branding and the boardroom (or, more likely, had pointed out to them), and Natasha explains the Caracas/maracas confusion. Sralan tells them that maracas are Spanish (o rly?), and Karren gets pleasingly schoolmarmish about it: "Be honest - you thought it was a made-up word, all of you." Hee. Sralan asks about the dummy run, and Jim admits to the style-over-substance problem that they had, at which point Karren points out their abysmal lack of a coherent order system, and praises Susan for spotting the flaws therein and implementing a new procedure. Blimey, Karren liked something Susan did - there's a turn-up for the books. "Good team leader?" Sralan asks, and Natasha says that he wasn't massively decisive, and Susan says that he was "okay".

Over to Logic, where Helen was PM, obviously. Sralan asks where the Mipey brand came from, and Tom says that it was all down to him misreading a sign. I bet he says that to all the girls. He says that he was keen to mix an old tradition with a new angle, and that's how Mipey was born. Sralan asks them how their dummy run went, and Tom explains that they actually did two, as we saw. Sralan then suggests that Tom could let Helen talk for a bit, and Helen snarks "that would be nice" as politely as she can. Seriously: LIGHTEN UP, HELEN. The last time we had someone so humourless on the show, she was Helene Speight, and looked what happened there [I liked her too. And Zoe. Miserable bitches are obviously my candidates of choice - Rad]. Helen proceeds to explain through gritted teeth that she went to make the products while Tom did the branding, and was terrified throughout that she didn't have complete control of everything. Or something. I may have editorialised that slightly.

Time for some results, as if we even need to be told. Despite the four criteria, we're simply going to be given an average scores. Venture had an average score of 4/10, while Logic netted a much more impressive 7/10. Helen's face at this point reads WHAT? SEVEN? SEVEN IS A SCORE FOR FAILURES! WE PRODUCED PIE PERFECTION! I WILL ACCEPT NOTHING LESS THAN TEN!

Despite that, Logic win, and are both in the final. That's their only reward, but it's reward enough for them both, I imagine. As she gets up to leave, Helen whispers "thanks Jim!", which is presumably in response to him congratulating her, but let's face it - it's much funnier to pretend it's her thanking him for fucking up the last task and giving her an easy ride into the final. Outside, Tom and Helen hug, and are adorable.

Sralan tells Venture that two of them will be in the final, but one will be fired today. And it will be Natasha, because he's made no secret of his desire to fire her for weeks now. In Loser Café (which has a Pukka Pies sign displayed outside, just to add insult to injury), Venture drink their teas in miserable silence. Outside, Jim blameterviews that Susan and Natasha's inability to play nicely together was the reason that the task failed. Natasha claims that because of the job she was doing, she couldn't see the "trail of destruction" (you were behind the counter, Natasha, you weren't IN SPACE) that Susan was at the centre of. Susan arroganterviews that she's stronger than Natasha and Jim put together, and really wants to make the final. Natasha yeahterviews that Susan should be fired for being uncooperative. Jim vows to fight for his rightful place in the final.

Boardroom Day. NotFrances sends Jim, Natasha and Susan in to see Sralan. He begins by saying that as this is week 11 of "this process", he's assuming they have some sort of superior knowledge that's allowed them to make it that far. Susan: "Yep." Hee. (Other people who made it to week 11 or further, just as a point of interest: Paul Tulip. Michelle Dewberry. Simon Ambrose. Lucinda Ledgerwood. Lee McQueen. Kate Walsh. Stuart Baggs. Just saying.) Sralan is holding a piece of paper, which turns out to be Logic's detailed business plan, and he would like to know what Venture's business plan was. Susan admits that none of them actually considered it, and Natasha puts it down to a "lack of communication" because they never discussed it as a group. Sralan tells Jim that it was embarrassing when he couldn't correctly multiply 60x7, and Jim insists that he's dead good at mental arithmetic, and that was an "uncharacteristic error". Sralan points out that even without the mathematical fuck-up, a gross income of £420 over two hours will not sustain a fast-food enterprise like this.

He goes on to say that fast food restaurants are where you go to the counter, order, pay, take your food, find a seat, and sit down, ideally in under a minute. He asks what their system was, and ultimately answers his own question, identifying it as "oi! Who ordered the nachos?" Heh. Sralan asks why it was so slow, and Jim blames the equipment. Karren disagrees, and says that it was slow because they couldn't determine whether they were a fast-food restaurant "or a waitress restaurant". Is that what we call the other ones, then? Jim blames Natasha and Susan for not sorting things out, as they were front of house, and says that he was "in naive bliss" in the kitchen. I believe this is now officially known as The Rebekah Brooks Defence. Natasha goes for the equally brilliant strategy of basically admitting to lollygagging while taking the orders because she knew she couldn't keep up with the ones that they already had. Sralan brings up Natasha's Hospitality Management degree, which has now become an International Hospitality Management degree somewhere along the line (presumably Melody was involved somewhere) and Natasha says that it was a long time ago, and her career has proceeded in a different direction.

Time to talk about the food. Sralan thinks it looked like dog puke, and asks why their priority was not to get the food right. Susan plays Monday morning quarterback, saying that Jim should have used his visit to the Mexican restaurant to find out what their top sellers were, how quickly they could be prepared, and what ingredients they used. Jim says that there was a deeper issue beneath all this, that he was a babysitter rather than a project manager because Natasha and Susan didn't get along. Natasha asks why, then, did he insist on making them work together if he knew that? Jim rather fumbles the point and says that he'd had feedback from Natasha that Susan was "like a child" to work with, at which point Natasha hurriedly says that she doesn't want this to get personal, and that she'd rather keep it professional. Sralan asks Jim if he felt he was doing this task by himself, and Jim counters that it was not even that, it was more that he had "manic enthusiasm" from Susan, while Natasha provided "apathy and despair".

Sralan sends them all out so he can bitch behind their backs with Nick and Karren. He thinks that Susan is good in the boardroom, but wants to know what she's like the rest of the time. Karren says that you need a sieve with Susan to help you sort out the useful stuff from the utter guff she spouts the other 75% of the time. Sralan is unimpressed with Jim's lack of a business plan, while Karren's disappointed in Natasha for not using her (International) Hospitality Management skills - she thinks Natasha might have lost the initial spark that she had. I think Natasha's just sad that she never got to edit issue two of Covered.

NotFrances sends them back in. Sralan asks Susan who should go out of Nataha and Jim, and Susan picks Jim, because while he's charming and good at selling, he doesn't have the entrepreneurial skill and originality that she does. Natasha gets the same question, and picks Jim too, because he can't manage a process. Jim picks Natasha to go, and she says that she'll "take that as a compliment" (why? Even in Natasha's brain, how or why does that make any sense?) and that Jim has got a "dark side". Susan agrees with this. Funny how this is the one thing Susan and Natasha have agreed on all week, isn't it? Natasha thinks that Jim is underhand, and has charmed his way out of trouble with his project managers, but that it didn't work with her. Susan goes in for the kill: "Jim, at the end of the day, there is a reason why you have project managed twice, and you have lost both tasks SO BADLY." And, well, she's got him there.

Sralan wants to know who's culpable for the ultimate failure of the task. Jim pulls the "anyone but me" card, saying that because Susan self-identified as a Mexican food expert and Natasha self-identified as a hospitality expert, it's all their fault. Susan points out that saying she ate Mexican food doesn't mean she thought she was Thomasina Miers. Jim says that if he had a hospitality degree, he'd grab at a task like this because it would suit his real-life skills, since that's always a tactic that's worked flawlessly on this show. Natasha counters that she doesn't work in hospitality and it's not an area of interest to her; she works in construction and property recruitment. She also adds that Jim's the one who's bigging up her degree here, not her. Which is sort of a good point, although she was quick enough to bring it up herself at the beginning. Jim whines that he's being caught in a deliberate pincer movement by two people trying to save their own skin.

Sralan tells Natasha that her degree obviously gave her skills that she should have used on this task, although he phrases it via a tortuous first-aid-related simile. Natasha says that she wasn't interested in the food and restaurant side of her degree, at which point Jim snots that she wasn't interested in the task. Sralan breaks out the first aid analogy again, and this is really getting boring now. We all know you're going to fire Natasha, Sralan, so why are you dragging this out? Natasha says that what she took from her degree in this task was the customer service side of things, which she used in the front of house (possibly not the best defence, considering what a shitshow that was), and Jim starts burbling some bollocks about Natasha's fight or flight instincts kicking in, except when he says "fight" he points to the door, and when he says "flight" he points to Natasha. I think he got those the wrong way around.

Susan, perhaps wisely, interrupts here to say why she should stay in the process, rather than attacking anyone else. She tells Sralan that she's only interested in his opinions, not anyone else's, and that she has an exemplary record both as a saleswoman and as a project manager, where Jim has lost twice as PM. Jim says that Nick and Karren will tell Sralan that he's passionate and honest (Nick and Karren look appropriately sceptical of this claim), and Sralan basically calls him a blabbermouth.

Time for the final decision, then: will it be Natasha, Natasha, or Natasha who goes? Sralan chews Susan out a bit for her poor relations with some of her contemporaries, and she gets the false-steer summary, but ultimately gets told she's in the final, as does Jim, so obviously it's Natasha who gets the boot, for her lacklustre performance in the last few weeks. We all knew this was coming, and so did she. Jim and Susan are dismissed, and head into the lobby to give Natasha a perfunctory kiss and handshake each.

Coatwatch: long and dark, yeah? Accessorised with a charcoal-hued scarf. Natasha taxinterviews that she's not willing to compromise her dignity, and can leave the process with her head held high. Oh, Natasha. I think it was your complete lack of self-awareness that made me love you so in the end.

In the car back to Entrepreneur Estates, Susan tries a "no hard feelings, eh?" speech with Jim, clearly a bit drunk on glee from being in the final, but Jim's having none of it, and has a go at her for smelling blood back there and trying to take him down. He accuses her of being dishonest, and she disagrees, unsurprisingly. He claims that she has less business acumen than Natasha, and Susan counters that she must have more than both of them, because she (say it with me now) started her own business.

Tom and Helen are wondering who, if anyone, will be joining them. Susan comes in first, and tries to fake them out that they're just the final three, but then Jim appears saying "anybody order a final four?" and there is much hugging and giggling.

On Sunday: interviews, hooray! They'll be handing over their own business plans, and being grilled over them. Someone will be have a plan riddled with errors, someone else will be full of shit, and someone will be deemed "a bit of an ass" by Margaret. And someone's getting hired at the end of it, regrettably. Although to be honest, I'm almost (almost!) Team Susan after reviewing this episode. She's the best of a bad bunch. She and Helen are the only viable options, and Helen pretty much wore out her welcome with me this week. [I can't see Sralan's "partnership" with any of them working out, to be honest. All four of them have huge fatal flaws and would be awful as business partners, so there we are, but yeah. It'll probably be Susan. I don't know if I could bear to watch You're Hired if she does win though - Rad] Anyway: one way or another, we'll know who wins come Sunday night. Join us soon for the final result!

Friday, 8 July 2011

More complicated than quantum physics

Week ten: 6 July 2011

Previously on The Apprentice… Tom invented the concept of emergency biscuits, Melody invented PopSquits, which appeared to be a lump of dough rolling around in cornflakes and marshmallows but which, we were assured, were the new popcorn, whatever that means. ASDA gave Jamie Oliver a heart attack by ordering a ridiculous amount of Helen and Jim’s chocolate star slab on flapjack Special Stars which Sralan immediately branded a ‘Lord Sugar special product’. Nobody really fancied the half’n’half digestive biscuit and chocolate things masquerading as Bix Mix, despite the presence of amazing role play in their pitches, and Zoe was fired for not going to the factory to taste the product. *Shrug*.

This week…. Susan tells Helen she might make it through the process without losing, and Helen says ‘that’s the plan’. It was at this point where I became convinced she’d get the boot this week, not least because this would be the traditional shopping channel task slot (a nation mourns) and she would DEFINITELY have gotten the boot on that task a la Naomi and Miriam.

In the cabs on the way to meet Sralan, Susan talks about how she’s all super shiny and special and happy to be one of the super special last six standing. Melody and Tom don faces of thunder. Hee. I thought this year’s final six might be the worst ever, but then I had a look at the very serviceable Wikipedia pages for the previous years (ssssh, don’t tell my students) and series four had Lee, Lucinda, Helene, Alex, Claire and MICHAEL SOPHOCLES, so it probably wins, or, er, loses. How on earth that series got the four-way final I’ll never know.

They meet Sralan at a grotty old warehouse in North London full to the brim with the kind of tat you rarely see outside the confines of 99p stores and seaside ‘gift’ shops. Oh and chandeliers. WHERE WERE YOU IN WEEK THREE?

There’s a lame sponge/squeezing joke before Sralan’s shadow looms through the shelving. Only one shadow, thankfully, so it’s unlikely the Vashta Nerada got in, although I can just see Helen or Melody’s face on a node. Natasha’s notsomuch: “Natasha yeah Scribbins yeah has left the warehouse yeah, Natasha yeah Scribbins has been yeah saved yeah” doesn’t quite have the right dramatic tone.

Sralan waxes lyrical about how, when ‘e were a barrah boy guvnor, he used to spend his days here and come back two or three times a day to replenish stock. Pay attention, this is the important bit.

He’s spent £250 for them on £1100 worth of old tat and he wants them to “smell” what will sell best. SPOILER: Those hoping for this week’s task to be a scientific experiment on the scented merits of Jo Malone vs Diptyque vs Glade Air Wick will be disappointed.

Anyway, he wants them to buy stuff, sell stuff and buy more stuff and it’s OK if they have some stock left but the team with the “greatest amount of assets” will win. Notice he doesn’t say profit. He lies that this task must sound simple. A nation tries to figure out what needs to happen – and if the audience are struggling, Lord (Sugar) knows the candidates won’t have a clue. Memo to Sralan: never break with format. Can we have our shopping channel task back now?

Sralan moves Susan to Venture and Helen to Logic. He doesn’t want to hear any excuses from anybody and tells Tom specifically to stop being an innovator and designer and get in the thick of it. Tom nods. ‘And if you nod your head any more I’m going to put you on the back seat of my car’. I think, given a) tonight’s killer product (whoops, spoilers) b) Tom’s status as the nation’s favourite, nodding Toms would sell better than a babyglo carseatbackpack full of Special Stars. Quick, Helen, sell this idea for all your worth!

They open the cases to find what the voiceover tells us is £250-woth of goods (so not £1100 worth?) including, in Melody’s (verbatim) words, “12 different sunglasses. Not different, but 12 sunglasses that are different”. It’s gems like that which have made her an international ambassador you guys.

We’re told, far too quickly, a whole heap of information about the task: they must reinvest their takings in the most profitable products and continue to sell them. Cash, and the wholesale prices of any remaining stock will be added together and the highest total will win. So presumably having stock left over is fine because it’s still worth money. That’s what the voiceover says. I’ve had to watch this four times now to clarify.

Melody wants to PM for Logic because she hasn’t done it since week one. Helen says she’ll be completely behind her. Melody says she wants to do it because it’s close to Sralan’s heart and it’s about good management, which she can deliver. Susan wants to PM because it’s what her parents do and she wants to play at being a grown-up too. Natasha says she’s got more experience “operationally”, whatever that means. Susan says she’s very good at predicting what will sell. To which, I refer you back to week four. I really don’t get why she’s one of the favourites to win. Every time I see Susan I think of this and this. Maybe it’s more a case of people hating other candidates even more than it is of anyone actually liking her? Anyway, every time I see Susan my brain goes shutupshutupshutupshutup – which is pretty much its response to Natasha as well. Therefore, Jim, who is clearly an evil aggressive bastard, is now my favourite on team Venture. Go figure. [Natasha is my favourite member of this team. I don't even know how that happened. - Steve]

Anyway, even Nick thinks Natasha’s a better choice and Jim chooses Natasha. Susan whines “I would ask you respect my judgment”.

London porn. In the taxi, Helen starts well by saying the key is to find one or two items that will sell well. The voiceover tells us their market is “the whole of London”. Somewhere, a mightily pissed off Zoe is all ‘so NOW they can target everyone, can they?’

Jim and Natasha are selling brollies on Hackney. The weather looks pretty grim so this seems like a decent product. A kid apparently fleeces him by giving him a tenner. Natasha sells some nodding dogs. Nick says the people who bought then have appalling taste. Jim continues to work his charm on “the ladies”. So far they’ve sold £72.50. Susan, meanwhile, is stuck in a car behind mounted police. She then tries to doorknock posh houses with cheap duvets on behalf of “Venture Household Goods” and gets the comedy music. She whines in the cab about the products being rubbish. [Sending Susan off by herself for several hours is probably the best PMing decision Natasha ever made. - Steve]

Helen and Melody are in the car, and Helen suggests hitting up retailers and offering discounts. Wrong task, Helen. Melody points out they would have wholesalers already but then decides they could undercut that price – it’s not clear how unless they’re planning to make a loss. They go to a pound shop and offer him some ladies watches for £25. The man’s all ‘this is a pound shop’. Melody says ‘yeah, I understand’ and outside claims she thought he would go for it. So does not understand. They then try and sell towels and duvets to a hardware shop. Helen asks if they’d buy from them instead of a wholesaler to save delivery costs. The man’s all ‘no, you weirdos, wholesalers deliver to us for free’. Where has the glory of Helen gone, guys?

You know the week of KITTEH when Steve died of cute? Well this is my turn….
Tom selling nodding dogs to tiny children! Tiny children offering £5 for the £7.50 item and being kickass negotiators. Tiny children! Tom being adorable! *RAD EXPIRES*.

Over with Jim and Natasha and Nick reminds us again that they need to buy more stock and says they’ve been paying no attention. Jim points this out to Natasha. Natasha says ‘you do know why, yeah?’ Jim’s all ‘no, not really’. Jim sounds flustered and Natasha’s like ‘yeah, will be fine and stuff, yeah’. She phones Susan, who’s sold one duvet set. Jim is flustered. Natasha accuses him of being flustered and then almost screams “I’m happy for you to take on some responsibility as well”. Jim backs away from her really quickly, terrified. Hee.

Helen and Melody are still on their fools’ errand and sell some duvets to a cheap trader for £10 each who says he’d buy more if they had them. He says he’d buy 30 tomorrow. Helen seems excited by this.

6pm and neither team has bought more stock. Oops.

They all, painfully, try to attempt mental arithmetic. Tom has sold out of nodding bulldogs (who'da thunk it?). Jim and Natasha reckon the dogs and umbrellas sold. Susan is sent to get umbrellas but then gets distracted by shiny tacky bracelets and buys those instead.

Melody and Helen are on the way to the wholesaler, but they don’t do duvets (why does YouTube have no clips of that sketch?), so they have to buy those tomorrow. Melody decides to buy horrible travel kettles and digital photo alarm clocks. Were these things even in their original set of products? Helen then says a ‘mobile phone emergency charger’ is a good idea. A what now? Tom is pretty shocked by the products and the lack of nodding dogs. It’s not clear why he wasn’t at the wholesalers as well, other than to cause team conflict.

Susan explains her bracelet choice by saying she’s sold them before and knows that they sell. What, like the beauty tat you wanted to waste money on in Birmingham?
Over at team Logic, and Helen’s gone a bit mental with the fear of defeat and offers to take PM responsibility off Melody because she thinks she’d be better. Melody says, no, she put herself forward to take responsibility. Helen sulks. Tom’s all ‘where did the old Helen go’?

Melody and Tom sell the weird-ass digital photo frame alarm clocks (which Melody calls the best thing ever) and phone chargers in shopping centres, while they send Helen to the City. She tries to sell bike lights to pedestrians and sells one phone charger, which makes her deliriously happy, and she does a little dance. No, really, that's what happens.

Jim’s team are reselling ‘top products from yesterday’ – nodding dogs and umbrellas, which, if you recall, IS WHAT THEY WERE TOLD TO DO. I mean, this is a team comprised of Natasha, Jim and Susan I’m defending here, people. Nick tells us that Jim’s now worked his Jedi mind tricks on him and he likes him after all. I picked Jim in a sweepstake so if he wins, I’ll be rather smug. Last year’s choice: Jamie. Oh. Jim sells stuff to ladies and hugs them. My mum loves both Jim and Tom. The battle for the nation's ovaries is well under way.

Susan and Natasha try to flog the ugly bracelets. Somehow, people seem to buy them. There is no accounting for taste. It annoys me that Susan got to be flukily right again. Natasha starts to go into full-on meltdown and argues with Susan about nothing in particular. Natasha lies to camera that she’s being a hard and directive project manager. She has another row with Susan.

Tom tries to tell Melody that they need to smell out the best-selling item, which is the charger on this day. Helen rings a wholesaler for the duvets, but they’re closed, at 2pm. She wants to go back to the one they started at. Tom says it’s miles away. Helen asks if she should go or stay where she is and sell stock. Melody says she would prefer her to go to the wholesaler. Karren doesn’t understand the logic. Neither does anyone else. Tom and Melody go to restock, whilst Jim and Susan keep selling. Jim panic-calls Natasha and says they need to reinvest. Natasha says they reinvested yesterday and they’ll have too much stock. But this doesn’t matter right? They get the stock added to the sales? I had to watch the opening four times to learn this.

Nick says Natasha hasn’t realised this is a restocking challenge and thinks it’s about sales. It is a bloody weird task, isn’t it? I mean, they have to sell, but they have to buy more than they sell, to sell stuff, but it doesn’t matter if they don’t sell? [Seriously. This had the potential to be a really good task, but they ruined it by not making the rules clear to the contestants or the viewers, so it's just a bit of a muddle. - Steve] Jim tries to call Natasha in a panic and she ‘yeahs’ him down. Jim says she has no idea how the task works. To be fair, judging by the collective ‘whuh?’ on the internet during this episode, neither does anyone else.
Helen rings the shop to flog duvets… and they’ve closed. She says ‘that’s a shame’. Oh, Helen.

6pm, time for a stocktake. Everybody knocks their prices down to sell at the last minute. Does last minute selling count, when they were told the leftover stock would be added to the total? I AM SO CONFUSED.

Jim declares the day a disaster, Melody says she did her best as PM, the nation weeps for the loss of the shopping channel task.

Boardoom time. Sralan reminds them it’s about ‘smelling what’s selling’ and hopes they signed on to the plot. Really not. It’s about as complicated as a mid-season episode of Damages. Helen goes into full-on meltdown and slags off Melody. Sralan lies that he told them the strategy clearly. I mean, the idea of reinvesting as a task was good, but the parameters of the task needed to be way, way clearer.

Helen makes it clear that they didn’t understand by saying that they wanted to question whether to go to retailers or the public. Melody agrees with him although she went for the whole stupid retailer idea in the first place, then she tries to claim it worked with the going into the retailer thing. Melody clarifies that they went into a pound shop, but clearly doesn’t understand what a pound shop is. Tom points out that he was a Cassandra as well, albeit not as mental as Lorraine. Sralan asks if they replenished the nodding dogs. Helen barks ‘No!’ and that’s that.

Sralan says he hears Susan thought his merchandise was a load of toot. It was, though, to be fair. He balls her out for selling duvets to Knightsbridge. They point out that they bought more nodding dogs. Nick has transferred his candidate love from Susan to Jim, who’s apparently swallowed a whole blarney stone. They confirm that they reinvested…. But the second time they did this, they spent £20. Sralan balks. Natasha said they replenished a lot on the first day so needed to sell more. He says there’s no shame in having stock left over because you’re replicating a business. Natasha says she understands it but, yeah (i.e. no). Sralan says they had no courage and no balls. And a lack of clear task instructions.

And here is where it goes very, very weird.

He demands Natasha’s team have a £100 fine, even though they were doing what he asked them to (just not very well) and doesn’t seem to fine Melody’s team, even though they didn’t do what he asked. I’m not sure Sralan even understands this task, you guys. Or, as some people have suggested, maybe he just really, really hates Natasha enough to fine her for just existing. [THIS TASK MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE *cries* - Steve]

Logic’s sales and stock are: £1204 and their purchases were £476. Total assets £728.

OK you guys, I do not understand these figures ONE BIT. If the assets are the stock and the sales, then isn’t the figure £1204?

Venture’s sales and stock: £1154, purchases £303, pointless fine £100, total assets £751.

This is just all ridiculous. Bring back Simon Ambrose wanking a trampoline.

Venture win. Sralan says it’s not a great win and then tells us he has to stick by his rules because he’s an honest trader, which is why Venture were fined randomly, Logic weren’t, and Venture aren’t getting a treat even though they didn’t make him a bladdy loss, and why you shouldn’t come moaning to him when your amsmailer electronic beauty video phone games console goes on the blink.

However, given the treat was only to drive around in vintage cars, I’d say they lucked out there.

Natasha continues her meltdown and calls Susan a child. Whilst I don’t doubt this was partly the case, we didn’t see Susan being her usual whiny self this week which suggests a) Natasha is trying to cover her own back and b) Susan might be getting a winner’s edit. If Sralan goes into business with Susan then he deserves all he gets, frankly.

Loser café, Helen says it was hard to respect a leader who didn’t know what they were talking about, disregarding her own lack of understanding of the task. Melody sobterviews that her team didn’t support her.

Sralan asks why Helen threatened to overrule Melody and she says she’d have had a better strategy. Nick asks what her strategy would have been and Helen convinces me she’s a goner by confirming she completely misunderstood the task once more, saying she wanted massive orders from retailers. Sralan tells her she missed the point. He asked Melody why she ignored Tom. She said she wanted electronic goods, not nodding dogs. Sralan says the point was to ‘smell what was selling’. Melody says ‘yes’ like she understands, but she clearly doesn’t. Tom says the other two completely ignored him and retells the shaggy duvet story.

Sralan points out petrol costs a lot of money and Karren points out that the shop was closed. Sralan says Tom will plead the fifth. Tom says yes he will, but he admits he should have yelled it down more strongly. Helen says she asked Melody if she should travel or not and Melody says yes. Tom claims he wasn’t involved, Melody says he was standing there. Melody says Helen didn’t check the time the wholesalers closed. Melody reminds us that Helen ‘tried to take my job from me’ and says she should be fired for the first day but it’s unfair for the others to say she was a rubbish PM when they didn’t have a plan. Helen says she had a plan but Tom conviced Melody otherwise. Oh, Helen. Although I don’t think Tom convinced Melody of anything, really, so in thrall was Melody to the (former) glory of Helen.

Karren points out that Helen is usually good but didn’t understand this. Sralan calls Tom the nodding hindsight man. Karren says he tries to get out of his comfort zone – like Stella did when she sang ‘Knees Up Muvva Brown’ remember?
Back in the boardroom, Melody says she believes ‘the best things in life are not free, the best things in life are earned’ and her PMing was what won the first week’s task. Helen says she won the task because she decided to do fruit salad and ran the factory. [I find this assertion deeply suspect. If Helen was so key in the winning of that task, you'd think the editors of that episode might have noticed. - Steve] Melody pointed out that she made the appointments in Paris. Karren reminds us that Melody took the sales for herself. Melody says she’s been in the business she’s in since she was 13. Isn’t the business she’s in just, er, talking about young people? So when she was 13, she was a young person so… oh, I dunno. It’s no eggs and sweets anyway. She then says, and I quote, that she ‘set up one of the most successful democratic bodies in the world’.

She also tells us that her project was in the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day. Fortunately you can read said speeches online. Here’s 2010. Was Melody: a) King James 6th of Scotland, b) A member of the Paralympic or Commonwealth games committees or c) A member of the armed forces? Now, to be fair, maybe this was filmed in 2010, so we should refer back to the 2009 speech instead. So she is either again, a) A member of the armed forces or b) One of the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Whichever, it’s more impressive than a field of ponies.

The most impressive thing about all of this is that she says it all with a straight face. The second most impressive thing is that, despite this wealth of expertise, she doesn’t want to solve the banking crisis, or cure AIDS, or put an end to world hunger. No, she wants to set up some random business selling shonky old toot with Sralan. Oh, the Big Society.

Helen claims she’s won every task. Sralan points out she was on teams that won every task, like Paul Tulip, and he was rubbish. Sralan then tries to make out she’s just an assistant because she's a bladdy woman or something, and she’s never started her own business. He wants to know what her experience is. She says she’s worked for very successful businesses. Sralan says Tom’s right up his alley because he’s a product man, but he’s too quiet when he sees problems and Tom admits he’s seen solutions to problems too late. Tom says Helen and Melody are naïve - Helen is support for a CEO but has never run her own business, and Melody’s business is all about talking. Melody says it isn’t. Tom says no-one understands what melody does. But she’s a, a, transpondster!

Tom says it’s an amazing opportunity. Sralan’s all yeah, I know it is, it’s my opportunity. He says he doesn’t understand what Melody does or what they’d do if they had a business together. Helen’s strategy was totally wrong. Tom isn’t speaking up and Sralan keeps giving him last chances - but he did sell and that’s to his credit. He says the person going isn’t a failure, he just can’t work with them, and it’s Melody, though she gets a 'with regret'.

He tells Tom and Helen that Melody is a woman of exceptional ability (although he can't quite define what kind of ability) and sends them back. There are hugs as she goes. Coatwatch, creamy-beuge, Another scarf (gold, purple and white). She cabterviews that one day she will tell Sralan what she does, when she herself has figured it out, and it’s definitely more than just talking. There's probably a bit of arm-waving as well.

Back at the house, Susan says Tom is invincible. Helen pouts that he was naughty and she still needs to forgive him. [Oh fuck off, Helen. I am so over you. - Steve] Have we stumbled across some weird sexplay here? Next time! Not interviews. Oh. They apparently seem to have wandered into an episode of The Restaurant. Let's hope it's an episode from when it was good and not from that series where they completely ruined the format then, because what kind of a reality show would do that? (Sob) [I hope the losers end up in Ze Challonge. - Steve]