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
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.