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]


ros said...

Seriously? I really didn't think the task was that complicated. Sell stuff for more than you paid for it; use the takings to buy even more stuff; sell that; rinse and repeat. And don't worry about the 2 day deadline - stock and cash are all counted, so keep reinvesting. The adding up was: all cash that had been taken less that which had been reinvested, i.e. total cash in hand plus value of stock. It worries me a lot that people who claim to be business types (i.e. apprentices not bloggers!) really found this so complicated.

Kathryn said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is completely confused by some of the tasks this year and the seemingly random rule changes that happen half way through an episode.

PadsterMo said...

I think they worked out total assets at the end of day two as (total sales + wholesale value of any stock left) - (total purchases) = total assets.

However, that may just be a load of baloney!

Mr B said...

I really can't see how it can be that hard to understand what was going on in the task. If you have even a small amount of business knowledge you'll know exactly what was going on!

I can't understand how so many people have struggled with this - it's pretty much straightforward business (a shop would count it's stockholding as part of it's assets - not just what it's sold)

Also, you guys are really losing credibility with the hypocritical analysis of some candidates performance where you're obviously down playing some candidates good ideas because you don't like them and up playing those that you do.


Rad said...

We don't all like (or hate) the same candidates as each other though...

Mr B, if by "some candidates" you mean Susan, I'll concede she sometimes has good ideas, but also sometimes terrible ones - probably works out at a 50/50 success rate, though to me (and perhaps Steve) it seems more through luck than judgement - on the other hand, Joel would probably say it was more through judgement than luck. Joel thought Zoe was a complete cow, I quite liked her.

Jim's pretty skilled at some things and I think we all generally acknowledge that, but he's still a bastard.

Helen - mostly good but rubbish this week, Melody - can be good at some things but very haphazard, Tom - hit and miss but seems nice. Natasha - a constant barrage of yeahs that makes it hard to discern whether she's good or not, yeah? I didn't rate her this week but her team were still far and away the best, even though they had three candidates I don't like.

The task... still confused by the value of assets - does "value of stock" equal:

a) value they paid for it, in which case surely their spend wouldn't be deducted?

b) potential profit margin were they to sell it(which would explain why spend was deducted) or

c) overall value including price paid and profit margin combined, in which case I still don't get why the price paid was deducted?

Just more clarity in the voiceover about which of these three it was would have been nice here. We're not all business-minded.

The fine was still nonsense though.

Alex said...

I've had a read through the 2009 Queen's Speech and Melody's website (which rather resembles a teenager's MySpace account, only with namedropping). According to Melody, she delivered a "keynote speech" at the Commonweath Heads of Government Meeting. The Queen said "Recently I attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago and heard how important the Commonwealth is to young people." Make of that what you will.

Cat said...

Bitches, please don't ever, ever stop criticising/mocking the candidates even if it totally biased and based on the fact you don't like them. That is what makes the blog entertaining. If all that was availble was an objective commentary on the show and the candidates I'd probably have lost interest by series 3.

This is a fantastic blog and your observations are always acute, funny and irreverent. That is what gives you credibility. Keep it up!