Saturday, 2 July 2011

I've been craving an Apprentice recap all day

Week nine: 29th June 2011

Last time on The Apprentice: almost exactly the same as every other time. The teams have been shuffled so much it's impossible to tell who's Logic and who's Galvanised. Tom was right, but too hum-haw and ineffective to do anything about it. Susan was right, but more by luck than judgement. Melody used her sheer force of personality and belief that she was right to bend everyone to her will, but was utterly wrong about everything. And Helen shone her beatific light on all who gazed upon her and won. Again. Some more. More precisely, they went to Paris, sold stuff, and Leon got fired for drawing a teapot.

Sralan comes to the house on Sunday night. The Apprentices have been having a day of relaxation, of braiding each other's hair and talking about boys, so they're all in various states of dressing gown and pyjama laziness, except Tom, who's wearing a body warmer indoors. Tom lets him in and then everyone panics and runs around before gathering in the kitchen. With no further ado, Sralan tells them to design a new biscuit, its packaging and so on. There's a development kitchen in Wales. For some reason. Just to make things awkward, I expect. Then they pitch to three supermarkets. Most orders wins. Someone gets fired. And so on and so forth.

Sralan decides to mess with the teams some more for no real reason. Helen, Natasha and Jim are Galvanised, though Sralan does just say 'a team' at fist. Even he doesn't know any more.

Voiceover man says that the biscuits have to retail at £1.99. Interesting that they take such an important decision out of their hands.

Being as she works at Greggs, Helen steps up to PM to general consensus. Oh, no! I hate when people should be good because of their real life experience. Though the connection is fairly tenuous here. Susan puts herself forward as PM, saying she puts ingredients together in her current job. Zoe point out that that's ingredients for face cream, not for food, and says that she works in food and pitches to supermarkets. And also Susan's last pitch was shit. And she smells. Susan says Zoe shouldn't bring up old things. Or the fact she smells. Zoe is duly voted in. Nick's not in love with Susan any more, saying Zoe a was better choice and saying Susan was 'a yapping puppy'.

Helen wants to make kids' biscuits for after school. Melody says sharing cookies, heart shaped, even for Valentines. Susan says no, because it's too niche. Zoe agrees. The teams have to split off, some going to the kitchen. Zoe says she'll go to the kitchen; Melody and Susan are like 'NO. Branding matters'. Zoe says OK and that she's happier working with Susan than Melody or Tom. Susan and Zoe's love-hate relationship is so weird, you guys.

Jim is the only one going to the kitchen for Galvanised, and in the car suggest to Helen variations on a theme of 'Munch Men'. Natasha thinks 'Men that munch' sounds a bit rude. Dirty girl. [Also, "munch" is one of my least favourite words in the entire English language. It's so awful. - Steve] Tom's idea is an emergency biscuit, called a 'Mercrunchie'. Which is an advertising idea, not a branding one. In the same way that 'Lucky Fish' on the petfood task, with the goldfish being saved because the cat's tempted away is a very good idea for an advert, but isn't a brand in itself.

At the kitchen, Tom tells the baker man he wants something unique. We see Jim playing around and asks how feasible a biscuit for children is; the man says very. Jim feeds Karrren a popping candy biscuit and she kind of freaks out. Tom and Melody are also faffing about. Tom has an idea for a biscuit within a biscuit – an outer ring and a different middle. Melody, fairly astutely I think, says that she thinks big and works down to details but Tom starts with details and tries to build from there. Melody has an idea for 'the new popcorn', as a snacking while watching thing. Little balls of dough with marshmallows and cornflakes in. Mmmm, yummers.

Susan to-cameras that she thinks she and Zoe will work together well on the biscuits, but 'on a personal level she's one of the bitchiest, back-stabbing people I've ever met'. I don't care, I love Susan's willingness to say how much she hates people.

Susan and Zoe look biscuits, realising £1.99 is high-end. Susan asks what colours would jump out, so Zoe says pink and orange. Classy! Susan says purple which is better. A little bit.

Jim's got a focus group of kids and mums at the bakery. He runs it really well, finding out the flavours they want, and establishing that the kids (and mums) like star flapjacks and associate the stars with gold stars at school, as well as getting some packaging ideas from the kids about having shooting stars on it. He phones Helen and Natasha and says the kids want star flapjacks; Natasha says the flapjacks seem the most unhealthy; Helen confirms that the flapjack was runaway favourite (from what we saw, it was) and decides that they'll run with it. If only the teams could always be this well-mannered and efficient. Properly done market research followed by queries that were dealt with, followed by a firm decision. It's all a bit disconcerting. Then it goes a bit wrong, because they try and say that they're biscuits for after school, but the slogan is 'any time is treat time'. Natasha points out that these are contradictory; Helen kind of snits that she has to go with it unless Natasha's come up with something amazing in the last minute or so. Jim to-cameras that 'someone's got to be bullish'. Oh, I bet you find that such a fucking struggle. He calls himself a 'sharper cookie' and says that he likes Helen because she's passive, 'and who doesn't like that?' God I hate Jim, you guys. Anyway. Special Stars go into production. They're flapjack biscuits with a chocolate star on top.

Tom and Melody go to their focus group of old people. Oh, and some young ones also. Hey young people. Tom tries to pitch his emergency biscuit and, in his own words, 'lead balloon'. The two-in-one biscuit idea is very popular. Melody tries to pitch her disgusting balls of dough and cornflakes and gets very short shrift. Tom says that they might call them 'Popscuits' which unfortunately just sounds like Pop Squits with its attendant diarrhoea issues. Melody's heart-shaped biscuit, which will be half-coated in chocolate so you can snap it, is also very popular. As voiceover man says, 'Result: stalemate'. Melody and Tom phone Zoe and Susan; Melody says they loved the hearts. Zoe says no. Melody says HEARTS!! Zoe says NO, and makes the rather unfortunately worded observation that Melody probably badgered the focus group so much they said they'd go for the 'bloody hearts'. Bloody heart biscuits. Controversial.

Tom jumps in to say they LOVED the two-in-one idea. Melody doesn't like it. He's somehow incorporated the half-coated idea from Melody's. Melody still doesn't like it. She makes sure we know.

Helen and Natasha are off to design packaging. Karrren says again that the slogan and the idea don't really match, and also that 'any time is treat time' is a bad idea and a hard sell what with the whole 'eat what you like, piggy, who cares?' issue. Natasha tries to explain the idea to the packaging man, saying that they're 'opening up time'. I'm sure the biscuits are nice, Nat. They're not magic, though.

Susan and Zoe have a bit of a giggle in the car trying to think of names. They seem to get on really well when they're not tearing each other to shreds. At the factory, Tom to-cameras that they're going for the middle to lower end of the market, and not a luxury item. [That Tom thinks £2 for a packet of biscuits is "not high-end" makes me wonder where he gets his shopping from. I'm guessing "outer space". - Steve] Oooh, plot point! They've decided on the name Bix Mix.

Zoe and Susan are doing packaging for Bix Mix; they want purples and golds, and to look classy. They've got a nice font, with the lines from the Xs looking like ribbons. Nick says that he thinks they've done well and that the biscuits could stand out.

Little scene of Natasha and Helen looking at pictures of the Special Stars, and saying they look a bit sickly.

In the car, Melody has decided that they're going to do a role-play in their pitch, where they're lovers. Tom giggles, and then gets a bit wistful. I'm not sure that Tom has ever felt the touch of a woman.

Next day. The biscuits arrive at the house. I think both look good. The Bix Mix box looks quite classy but I'm concerned that the purple plus the chocolate makes it look like a Cadbury product. Melody asks if they've got a target market, and Zoe basically says their market is everyone. Helen tries the Special Star and likes it.

Zoe and Susan discuss the pitch plan, which is really only notable for Zoe saying 'I don't give a shiny shit about Melody'.

The teams are doing a tasting session at supermarkets; we see the Special Stars box. It does look good actually, and very suitable for the target market of kids. This is … really dull. People try biscuits and say things about them.

Before their pitch, Melody again asks who they're aiming their product at and say you've always got to have a target. Zoe says their market is everyone. Couples, girls' night in, kids, families, sea captains, gondoliers, diamond miners, ninjas, Bonnie Tyler, jockeys, the corpse of Rasputin, computer programmers, coffin-dodgers, ballroom-dancers and Elizabethan brothel-keepers, and she wants to keep it open.

They're at a Sainsbury's pitch. Melody and Tom do their roleplay, with props stolen from the Apprentice house and it is glorious. Tom's seemingly got an erection, judging by the pillow in his lap. They 'squabble' about what 'movie' to 'watch' and 'settle' on a 'chickflick', which Tom agrees to as long as they've got something good to eat. Melody says she's been craving Bix Mix all day, and Tom goes 'Bix Mix!' but manages to make it sound like an 'Oh god, must I?' not 'Yay!'. Seriously, it's the same tone of voice as 'A colonoscopy?' Melody says 'I've been craving Bix Mix all day. You know when you think about something all day and just can't wait to eat it?'. [BAM-CHICKA-WAH-WAH. - Steve] Yes Melody, we're familiar with the concept of cravings. Tom says Melody can have the chocolate half because he loves her, but she just loves the plain half so damn much that she's happy with that. Melody asks if the biscuit was made in Heaven, and Zoe steps in to say 'No, it was made by Logic, here in the UK'. It's just all such a clusterfuck of bad judgement and poor execution. It's wonderful and I would literally watch an hour a week of Tom And Melody's Domestic Bliss.

Nick does not approve of the 'playlet' and calls it a 'very very odd way to carry on'.

Zoe says the concept of the biscuit is sharing. Sharing between everyone. Sharing with lovers. Sharing at school in your lunchbox. Sharing with Ban Ki Moon at UN council meetings. Sharing with aliens on the craters of Mars. Sharing with Elaine Paige backstage at Cats in 1987. SHARING! The Sainsbury's lady says that they're pitching too broadly and need to focus for who they're aiming at.

Helen and Jim pitch. The Sainsbury's lady says 'no, lots of mothers will not like the any time treat'. Natasha fields it, but not brilliantly. Karrren says that it looks like Helen and Jim hate her, which is not lessened by them in the car basically telling her to shut up and look pretty.

In the car on the way to Asda, Melody says again that they need a target market. And again on the Asda shop floor, that she said 'from the beginning' that they need a target market. Zoe goes off on and says that Melody is 'naughty' for saying that because she didn't say it from the beginning because at the beginning Melody wanted heart-shaped biscuits. I really don't understand Zoe. This is exactly the same as on the rubbish task when Susan said she 'secured the meeting', obviously meaning that she closed the deal and Zoe went off on one about how that wasn't what happened because Edna made the phone call and Susan is a lying bitch. She just takes these obsessively literal interpretations of people's words and I don't know if it's because she genuinely doesn't understand what they mean, or if she's just trying to bluster her way through any criticism or questioning without actually dealing with the pertinent issue. If it's the former, it's sad. If it's the latter, it's just really really unpleasant. Melody says that Zoe doesn't need to take a tone; Zoe says she hasn't (which, please, you called her naughty!), she just said nicely; Melody says you haven't said ANYTHING nicely (Ha!), but we're about to pitch so let's not argue; Zoe says then Melody shouldn't wind her up. Which: wind you up by taking the advice from the previous client and making sure you follow it for the next pitch? Yeah, what a bitch. I mean, I have no doubt that Melody is near-impossible to work with, but Zoe's massively defensive attitude and nitpicking to the extent that she ignores what people are actually saying are just hugely counterproductive.

Anyway. They go upstairs in the supermarket to pitch to the Asda ladies, who are sitting on the shop floor on garden furniture. Stay classy, Asda! The pitch is now best female friends, so we get another roleplay! This time it's Melody and Zoe as best friends, which, gosh, that's going to be a push. Cushionwise, it's now Melody who's got an erection. She does almost verbatim her 'I've been craving Bix Mix all day' thing again. They snap and share, and Melody asks why Zoe got the chocolate. Zoe says it's because she's special. It's fun, but it's no Melody and Tom. The Asda ladies have NO patience for this bullshit. Susan steps in to do the actual pitching and is quite fluent and confident, saying that they're aiming for sharing and that girls can share, 'as you see from our little girly tiff'. Zoe stares absolute daggers at any- and everyone. Susan then stumbles a bit. The Asda lady says you're pitching it as indulgent, but it's a bloody Digestive. Susan says that you can snap it, and no other biscuit does that. That's not strictly true is it, Susan?

In the cars, Tom and Melody discuss how much Zoe hates Melody.

Helen and Jim are at Waitrose. Helen says 'Special Stars is what children are all about'; all parents think their kids are stars and a star is a reward. Waitrose lady says health is important, do you really want to be pitching sugary chocolate death at kids? Helen fields it fairly well and says it's a treat and that people know what's healthy. [Also, if you're THAT worried about health, then...don't buy biscuits. It's not that difficult. - Steve]

At Waitrose, there is no roleplay. SWIZZ. Zoe pitches, with Susan on back-up. The Waitrose man seems fairy enamoured of the idea and likes the sharing concept, and says he likes the idea and the packaging and the pitch, but not the actual biscuit.

At Asda, Helen lets Jim pitch. Asda lady asks how they're going to market it. Jim outright lies and says that they're going to be everywhere. TV adverts, magazines, they're going to be in the next Harry Potter movie, Jordan is marrying a tub of Special Stars, Special Stars are going to be projected on to the Houses of Parliament, Special Stars will be the official snack treat of the 2012 Olympics, Lady Gaga has agreed to get the Special Stars logo tattooed on to her face and England will in fact be changing its name to Specialstarsonia. Karrren says that Jim 'needs to be really careful' and is trying to be everything to everyone.

Next day. Zoe to-cameras that Melody sucks. Helen to-cameras that she, Helen, is amazing and wins everything and wants to win again some more. Boardroom time. Susan looks very very nervous when she sees the Special Stars packaging.

Sralan asks who the Logic boss was. Zoe was. Good team leader? Resounding silence. Nick says that [Waitrose] thought the concept of sharing was 'smack on target'. Sralan wasn't convinced by the idea of the roleplay, making the utterly redundant point that he couldn't have done that at Dixons.

Helen admits that she's not directly involved in products, but was still confident of knowing the market. She says that the idea was Jim's, and we rehash the any time is treat time. Karrren mentions that Jim talked utter shit, and Jim says he 'stands by it'. Sralan calls him Biggest Bullshitter in the World. Jim says his lies wouldn't affect the original order. Sralan says of course it bloody would because the shop's going to want the one that has billions of pounds of advertising spent on it.

Sralan looks at the figures and says 'Bloody hell'. None of the shops ordered ANY BixMix. How sad! The Special Stars got an order for 800,000 units if they give exclusivity to Asda. Helen grins and say 'We'll agree to that'. And seriously, any semblance that this show had of being a real thing is out the window. They're not making Special Stars. Asda aren't going to sell them. And they only 'won' on the strength of Jim talking so much bullshit that Sralan called him out on it. I'm sure all the other pitching tasks throughout this show would have gone very differently if people just lied and made stuff up to entice the buyers. How dumb.

Treat is, like, tea and cakes at a hotel. Great.

Sralan says something is fundamentally wrong and that 'at least one' of Logic is going.

At the hotel, Jim fapps himself on his 800,000 units versus none, on his pitch! That was utterly false and undeliverable! Bravo us! He then says 'that takes the biscuit'. God I hate Jim.

At Loser Cafe, Tom makes the valid point that the product and the packaging/branding didn't fit. Zoe says the problem was the biscuit itself. Which, yes, and we saw the Waitrose man saying literally that.

Back at the boardroom, Sralan says he knows what the problem is, do they? Zoe says the product wasn't premium and Susan agrees. Melody says that they also didn't have a clear target market, which is also true. Susan says it's Tom and Melody's fault. Tom says he didn't know he was going high-end and wouldn't have used Digestive if he had. [TWO POUNDS! I know we're in That London and everything, but even we balk at paying two pounds for digestives. - Steve] Sralan says then why didn't Zoe go to the factory; she's got manufacturing experience after all? Zoe says she wished she could split herself in half (Sralan makes a 'you split the biscuit!' joke that gets absolute tumbleweed in response, not even the normal psychophantic apprentice laughs). Then he goes off on one saying that branding and product don't matter, because it's all about the product. Which annoys me because if she HAD gone, he'd have been saying 'the product don't matter! You've got to have an idea and a brand!' [Also, Helen didn't go to the factory, and no one complained about that. - Steve]

There's a big debate about how the biscuit came about. Tom says it's because they merged all the ideas. Melody says that she had ideas. Tom's like, 'ideas that people hated!' and Melody's like 'Oh, they were old and Welsh, who gives a shit what they think?'

Sralan says that the supermarkets didn't think anything gelled about the product. Melody says that she strongly pushed for a proper target market (true fact) and then Zoe got all up in her face. Zoe says 'very dramatic, Melody' and Melody, amazingly, leaps on this and says 'It WAS very dramatic, actually. I'm not used to that sort of behaviour in a public place'. Zoe says that Melody's got a reputation for bailing when things turn bad, Melody says no she don't honest and besides I haven't worked with you for weeks, so you don't know what you're talking about. Zoe then says that Melody shouldn't worry because after the boardroom, Melody said that Sralan loved her and her awards so she's clearly safe anyway. God, what a bitch. That's totally uncalled for. I think that Zoe just gets panicky and cornered and lashes out; I'd rather that than her grinding bullying behaviour being calculated.

Melody and Zoe fight each other for about fifteen hours.
Sralan asks Susan if she's got an agreement with Zoe not to bring her back. Melody says Zoe's built her alliances. Which, yeah. Zoe and Susan are total BFFs. Come now. Susan says no, that's bullshit, but she thinks that while they failed to put across the ideas, the ultimate failure is the product itself. Sralan warns Zoe not to bring people back for personality issues. She says of course, and brings back Melody and Tom. Susan goes off, they go out.

Karrren does a rather uncanny Tom impression, bobbing her head and saying 'I'm learning' and making the point he needs to step it up. Sralan says Zoe should have known better, being in the industry. Karrren thinks that Melody has to be watched because her interaction with others is not good.

They go back in. Sralan wants Tom to defend himself. Tom says he didn't go for a premium product. Sralan calls him Hindsight Man. (Wow, that would be a shit superpower.) Zoe says that Tom shouldn't still be learning to read and know the price of biscuits, and the biscuit was shit and had a 'horrible common wheaty taste'. Eurgh. They rehash all the arguments from before. Zoe should have gone to the factory. Melody had ideas. The focus group hated her ideas. Who cares, there were ten of them and they were Welsh.

Melody and Tom think Zoe should go. Zoe says Melody's a bitch but Tom should go. Sralan says Tom is just too slow to get stuff done and so on and is always after the event; Melody's a bitch and he's supposed to work with them; Zoe's a good contender but she should have been at the factory. (We know what I think about that.) He say it's unfortunate that he hasn't seen enough of Tom, but Zoe should have performed on this and didn't so she's fired. She just goes off without saying anything (though on You're Fired, we did see a quick 'thankyou' so nasty editing!). Melody doesn't shake her hand. Tom tries to kiss her goodbye but she's having none of it. (Should have been a double firing. Tom's sweet and smart but he's also utterly useless. Cut him loose.)

Zoe says in the car that the product was shit and she shouldn't have gone. Melody says that Zoe's a mean old bitch. At the house, Susan's like 'Eh, they're all shit, get rid of any of them'.

Next week: they … are buying things? And then selling those things? And then buying more things with the money they make and selling those things? I think? It looks a bit odd.

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