Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Prints of darkness

Week 1: 21st March 2012

Welcome back! It feels like only yesterday that Jedi Jim was using his supernatural powers of the mind to control who went into the final boardroom, that Edna wowed us all with her amazing gloves, that Helen went a little bit mad when her perfect winning streak was ruined right near the end, that Melody made up her own market research, that Susan Ma was her and we were us, and that Tom won because he'd invented a thing years ago that Lord Sugar quite wanted the rights to, thus rendering the whole process kind of a moot point. Now we're about to start all over again, and I for one hope that if any of this year's candidates have invented a similarly inspiring and lucrative product, they could do the decent thing and disclose its existence right at the beginning of the series, just so we can factor it in to our decisions about whether they deserve to stay or not.

We open on a rather warm and lovely aerial shot of London during the early dawn, as the voiceover reminds us that in business, times are tough and investors hard to find, unless you have a curved nail file. Of course, there's one very well-publicised way of getting a £250,000 from a crotchety Peer and all you have to do is go through twelve weeks of moderate-to-harsh humiliation on national television. 16 new candidates have decided to do just that, and in the grand tradition of this show, they're now all arriving through a wide variety of transport means. Forgive me if I cheat slightly here, but the programme doesn't identify them all straightaway, and I think it's silly of me, having already watched it once, to pretend I don't already know who they are, so I'm just going to name them all as we go along and hopefully save us all a bit of confusion along the way.

First to get a talking head is Duane Bryan (29, founder of a drinks company), who believes that he's got what it takes to succeed in business, and that to beat the best, you've got to be the best. So, you've got to beat yourself? This sounds complicated (and faintly onanistic) already. Next to appear is Gabrielle Omar (also 29, an architect), who wants us to know that she is like an animal, and will "literally" roar her way to the top. I can only assume this means she's going to shout a lot in the boardroom. (Spoiler: this assumption is correct.) I don't know whether to be impressed or disappointed that we had our first misuse of "literally" of the series before we were even 30 seconds into the first episode. Azhar Siddique (33, founder and MD of a catering and refrigeration company) says that "they" call him "the master puppeteer", because he pulls people's strings to get them to do what he wants. I have my suspicions that "they" do not actually exist, and in fact he made this nickname up for himself while he was writing his application form. Also in the silly pseudonyms game is Katie Wright (26, editorial and research director) who goes by "the blonde assassin", and lets people underestimate her so she can DESTROY THEM. I look forward to her utterly failing to deliver on this promising introduction [I love it when they say crap like that. It's like a gift to us - Helen].

Ricky Martin (40, Puerto Rican pop singer - oh, sorry, 26, recruitment team leader and part-time professional wrestler. To be honest, I think the other Ricky Martin would be less of a joke candidate than this guy) blathers on about being a shark and at the top of the food chain and "the reflection of perfection". I wonder if it's ever occurred to him that people eat sharks? Jane McEvoy (28, co-founder of food manufacturing company) says that she's got a product for Lord Sugar that can be sold internationally, and she means business. She's already my favourite, primarily because I like her hair and her accent. Hey, I've supported people in the past for even more spurious reasons than that, okay? Leave me alone. Tom Gearing (23, director of a fine wine investment company, official recipient of this year's "looks much fitter on the show than he did in the pre-publicity photographs" award) runs a company that turns over £3.5m already, but is not ready to stop there, and firmly believes he will be Lord Sugar's business partner.

At this point we get our first sighting of Lord Sugar himself, who's gone "from market stall to market leader" (LOL BOKAY THEN) [you mean you don't have an em@iler? - Helen] and who is willing to invest when others won't. I'm sorry, has Dragons' Den been cancelled? Have I missed something? He's looking for someone who's going to make him some money, unsurprisingly enough. At this point we get our obligatory semi-spoilery montage of episodes yet to come, and I can inform you that of the people we've seen so far, Jane definitely makes it at least as far as week three (which is a condiment-making task) and The Blonde Assassin lasts long enough to be shouted sat in a taxi while Maria O'Connor (20, restaurateur) shouts into a phone, which could frankly be any week. Sorry. Maybe I'll come back and revisit this segment in two or three weeks when I'm slightly better at recognising people based on half a second's worth of footage. Oh, and lots of people are going to get fired, but you knew that already, right?

We're now into the episode proper, and it's 8am. London porn
[Have you noticed how the Gherkin has been replaced by the Shard as phallus of choice this year? - Rad]. Everyone is assembled nervously outside the boardroom. After a suitably sweat-drenched pause, NotFrances sends them through. After taking their seats, the candidates continue to side-eye each other, figuring out who's a threat and who's comedy fodder. Or at least, that's what I would be doing, were I mad enough to have put myself in this situation in the first place. Maria has the most terrifying eye make-up on - there are just huge swathes of purple running across her face. It's like she smashed two plums into her eye sockets. I wonder if this is her way of standing out, like Lucinda's berets or Lorraine's glasses. Lord Sugar greets them all, and launches straight into a speech about how "a lot of people" (presumably the same "people" who came up with that "Master Puppeteer" nickname for Azhar) ask him where he would have been at the candidates' age (so, between 20 and 33? Because that's quite an age gap) and his answer is of course that he would have been ON THE APPRENTICE BECAUSE IT IS AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY FOR ENTREPRENEURS EVERYWHERE! Thanks, Lord Sugar. Bizarrely, Lord Sugar then invokes that most portentous of reality TV clichés, "I'm not here to make friends." He does know it's supposed to be the contestants who say that, right? He's looking for the Marks to his Spencer, the Lennon to his McCartney, the Ant to his Dec, the Spirit to his Destiny, the Homes to his Gardens, and so on. He tells them that they're lucky he's not on their side of the table, because he would win. I can't really argue with that.

He says that he's looked at all of their pitches to him and that business ideas he's not interested in have long since been thrown out. Somewhere, Helen Milligan is thinking "would've been nice if you'd done that LAST YEAR, wouldn't it?" So ostensibly he's interested in all of them - though it would be quite nice if we actually knew what their plans were from the outset, so we could decide for ourselves exactly how much of this declaration is utter horseshit - and thinks it's time to get down to business and for them to show him what they can do. For the first task, they are to start their own print business. They have to go out and buy blank materials - t-shirts, mugs, mouse mats, whatever - brand up the items, and sell them. Whoever makes the most profit wins, and someone from the losing team will be fired. To the surprise of precisely no one, we will begin with the girls against the boys, and Nick will be trailing the girls, while Karren supervises the boys. Lord Sugar offers them one last piece of advice - don't hide, because they're not playing Where's Wally? here. Sadly, I feel that even if the first challenge actually was Where's Wally?, most of these people would not be up to the task [Also: I would LOVE that to be the challenge - Rad]. Three days later, they'd still be sat there, pointing at stray cats wandering into the garden and going "THERE HE IS!" He wants someone who will put themselves forward and show that they've got the nous and business acumen to be his partner. You know, like Tom Pellereau. Who was project manager once. In week eight. And lost. As a parting shot, Lord Sugar drily notes that Michael Copp (31, kitchen and bathroom furniture retailer) looks like he's sweating, and asks if he's nervous. Michael lies that of course he isn't.

The candidates trail out and are taken into town in the Apprenticars, where they finally get to introduce themselves to each other and reveal what they do for a living, while the others all do a poor job of pretending to be interested/impressed/threatened by said revelations. Bilyana Apostolova (25) reveals that she is a risk manager for a financial firm, at which point Jenna Whittingham (25, beauty salon owner, the most dour-looking contestant since Helene Speight) says that she can be the figures girl then, and Bilyana laughs heartily. Bilyana interviews that she's one of those types who's from humble beginnings, having come from a communist block of flats in Bulgaria (oh, how I hope she means that the block of flats was an actual breakout communist regime surrounded by other, capitalist blocks of flats, but I suspect she doesn't) to the top of a skyscraper in London. She's shrewd and full of business potential, she adds. Nick Holzherr (25, technology entrepreneur, moderately attractive but needs a haircut and a better-fitting suit) has already founded two businesses, while Stephen Brady (33, sales manager) VTs that he's all about enthusiasm and that it's caught, not taught. He believes that business is very simple, and is only made complicated by idiots. As we're no doubt about to see.

Maria tells the others that she's been restaurateuring since she was about 15, and interviews that she is "like Marmite". See, this is the problem with letting younglings on these shows; they haven't had enough time to come up with decent business bluster yet. Ricky tells the others that he's in recruitment for the scientific sector, and also a professional wrestler. They humour him, as you would.

The Apprenticars arrive at this year's mansion: a luxury townhouse in Bayswater, which has one of these in the garden, so I hate these bitches already because I seriously want one of those but do not have (a) a garden to put it in (b) £17,000 to spend on it even if I did. The house is stupidly luxurious and has its own indoor pool, and let's just move right on before I start to cry about my current living situation, yes? The boys and girls arrive and introduce themselves to everyone who wasn't in their car, before taking to separate quarters of the house for that all-important team name choosing discussion.

Over on Team Man, Stephen suggests Phoenix, since if they're going to have some troubles over the next few weeks, they'll need to rise from the ashes. I'm glad to see that they've decided their core value as a team is "getting ourselves out of the mess we create" - it shows genre-savviness, if nothing else. Nick's arm shoots into the air in support of Phoenix, and the motion is carried. Over on Team Woman, Jenna is holding court and announcing that something, "bit random", came to her in a dream last night. Oh dear. Nothing good ever came of trying to capitalise on your weird-ass dreams, Jenna: that's how the Twilight saga got started. She thinks Sterling, because it symbolises strength and the making of money. Either that, or she wants them to be called Stirling, because she really likes Scotland. [Sterling, from Tillicoutry, near Stirling. Jokes that five people will get - Helen] Jane thinks Sterling is a very strong word, and once again a vote is taken and the name is confirmed. These name negotiations were disappointingly drama-free this year. I miss the days where things like "The A-Team" and "Shazam" were on the table. [Winning Women always and forever - Rad]

Of course, there's still one serious decision to be taken: that of who will be the project manager. Over on Team Flame-Out, Duane asks if anyone wants to put themselves forward. Crickets chirp, tumbleweeds roll past, pages are ripped from calendars. Adam Corbally (32, market trader) rather feebly says that he doesn't want to be PM because he'd be best-used selling, as though the two roles are entirely incompatible. Duane thinks it's "shocking" that no one wants to put their name forward (though doesn't offer himself up for sacrifice, you'll notice) and Stephen says that he thinks they can win and wants to know who's willing to lead them. Again, not nominating himself. Karren is distinctly unimpressed. Eventually Nick, with great reluctance, says that he "doesn't particularly want to do it in the first week" (translation: "I don't want to get fired if/when we lose"), but that he'll do it if absolutely no one else will, and the rest of Team Invertebrate congratulate him on becoming PM. God, what a bunch of wusses. Nick, rather adorably, interviews that his mind works a bit like a computer, and he ranks everything "like an Excel spreadsheet" and that business is all about logic. Wrong team, Nick, that was last year.

Over on Team Saltcoats, there's actually a volunteer: Gabrielle. She's just opened up her own print and design store, so she thinks she's well-suited to the task. Laura Hogg (28, bridal shop owner) asks if there's anything else to compete with that, and it seems that there is none, so Gabrielle is declared PM. Gabrielle interviews that she's not like a normal candidate, because she's "quirky" (oh dear) and "creative" (OH DEAR).

The teams look through catalogues of unbranded items, with Team Falkirk rejecting phone covers and fridge magnets before deciding that kids' t-shirts are a good idea. Over on Team Flame-Out, they seem keen on tote bags and teddy bears, though there is some lengthy discussion over whether to go for small bears or big bears. The difference only seems to be a matter of a few inches (FNAR) and doesn't quite merit this level of debate, as far as I can tell. Ultimately Nick, as PM, makes a call for big bears, thereby pleasing all the hairy gays in the audience. Rather sensibly, his next decision is to work out cost price, cost of printing and retail price so they can work out their margins. Stephen is wary that they haven't come up with a design yet, but Nick says that the design is secondary, and the products are paramount right now.

On Strathblane [your knowledge of minor Scottish Towns is impressive - Helen], Gabrielle is looking for a design that's a bit different and "funky", while Jane cautions that they need to work out their margins. Gabrielle insists that they need to stand out and convince people that this is the item for them, while Jane is all "yes, but what is it going to COST?", because they're expected to make money here. At midday, the teams head out on the road, each divided into two. Half go to the print studio, and half to the warehouse to buy unbranded booty.

For Kilsyth, Gabrielle, Jade Nash (29, business development manager, sounds like Jenny Eclair), Bilyana and Laura go to meet with the (cute) designer, where Gabrielle explains that they're thinking of three animals: a monkey, a lion and a penguin. And he has to guess which one it is they're thinking of! Oh, no, they're not playing that game. Sorry. They clarify that they want something simple and a bit cartoony to target families. Bilyana is all "a penguin will be easy to draw! A bit like that, a face over there." I sense Bilyana will be the subject of many future submissions to Clients From Hell. As it happens, Jade (who admits to having "a creative edge") sketches the design for them, which is then scanned into the computer and coloured in. It's actually a very cute design, and totally the sort of thing I can see on a kids' t-shirt. Gabrielle says that it "looks like it's drawn by kids for kids", which is an AWESOME backhander. Well done, Gabrielle.

In North London, half of Flame-Out are at the warehouse, where Nick has instructed Ricky not to spend more than £200 on bags. With Ricky are Duane, Azhar and Tom. The man in the warehouse says that the best deal he can offer is 100 bags for £100, which Azhar accepts. I don't know if there was any negotiation prior to this, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume there was. After that, Maria, Jane, Jenna and The Blonde Assassin arrive to look at the children's merchandise, but have not got their numbers sorted out, so there's a bit of confusion when Jenna originally asks for 90 t-shirts, and is corrected by Maria that they want 80 t-shirts and 30 bibs. Jane suggest they get Gabrielle in on the decision, since she's the team leader and everything. So they call Gabrielle and explain the dilemma to her, but Gabrielle's a bit flustered in the presence of the designer (he is pretty, I can understand her dilemma) and can't make a decision there and then, so promises to find out and ring them back, which doesn't exactly go down well. Jane says that they'll just have to make the decision themselves then, and Gabrielle's response is basically "sure, whatevs". Jane looks faintly disgusted. The women end up buying an unspecified amount of t-shirts, bags and bibs for a total of £280. Back in the Apprenticar, Jane worries that Gabrielle is losing control because she's too "creative". Maria snots "she's an architect, that's it, she can draw. She can draw buildings." Yes, Maria, that's the sum total of what an architect does. They draw buildings.

It's now 4pm, and Nick, Adam, Stephen and Michael are representing Flame-Out at the design studio, and busy working out costings. Ricky calls them to find out what design they're going with, only to be informed that they haven't got one yet. The shopping sub-team is unimpressed. Eventually the design sub-team sit down to get that side of things done, with about half an hour in which to achieve it. They're targeting tourists and therefore want cheap, London-centric tat, opting for a picture of a Routemaster with "THIS IS A" written above it. Karren interviews that the boys have done a very solid job on all the number-crunching, but have ultimately produced a fairly ho-hum design. She's got a point, but considering their strategy is clearly "sell overpriced shit to tourists", I don't think they need to worry about their target demographic being overly discerning. They come up with another design, which is basically just an old red phone box, and Karren once again criticises the lack of imagination. The buying team returns with the goods, as Adam explains that they've gone for a bus on the bags, and a Union Jack on the bears' t-shirts. "So we've really thought out the box, yeah?" snarks Duane. I'm starting to like him.

The teams are doing all the printing themselves, and Flame-Out get to work, making a few sarky comments about how it's "real men's work" as they iron the garments, but I don't think they mean it particularly seriously, so I'll let them off. This time. Meanwhile, Aberfoyle get to work on their kids' clothes, bags and jigsaws, which I don't remember actually being mentioned during the shopping, but sure, why not? They've clearly got the far better design, but I think we all know better than to expect this to be decided on the actual quality of the product. Nick interviews that Gabrielle put herself up for PM because of her experience, and her expertise is starting to show, but he's noticed that The Blonde Assassin is keeping very quiet. This is clearly because he hasn't yet been briefed on her strategy and therefore doesn't realise that she is MAKING THEM ALL UNDERESTIMATE HER. Gabrielle notices that some people are not working, and gets rather schoolteachery with them. Maria and Jenna have also noticed that The Blonde Assassin is not doing anything, and are displeased. They try to get her to assist them, but The Blonde Assassin is busy feeding sheets of paper into a printer, in an appropriately assassiny way. Meanwhile, Jane is frantically doing sums to try to figure out how they're going to make money out of this, since Gabrielle's strategy thus far has been far too Underpants Gnomes for her liking (Stage 1: Print t-shirts. Stage 2: ?????????? Stage 3: PROFIT!), and admits that this is hardly the best time to be doing the figures, and says that if they lose by as little as £10, it'll be Gabrielle's fault. Ah, the blame-directing begins.

Flame-Out, meanwhile, are working on their patriotic bears, which seem to be coming along nicely, and their bags, which are not. Ricky and Tom seem to be buggering them up by not putting enough paint in the presses, or something. Stephen spots that they've actually spilled paint on the handles of one of the bags, but is told to "put it in" by an offscreen voice (Ricky, I think), since they can sell it to "gullible tourists". There's a tautology if ever I heard one. Ricky and Tom continue to fuck up the bags, and Tom notes that "the quality is different for each one", which is quite the understatement. A fair few items seem to be spoiled, though the strategy appears to be "attempt to sell them anyway". The boys dry the prints with hairdryers, and we're done. In the Apprenticars on the way back to Bayswater, Duane and Ricky express their disappointment over the uninspired designs, but Ricky points out that it's all done now and they have to work with what they've got.

The next day, it's time to sell. Flame-Out position themselves on the South Bank, and after assembling a rather ramshackle-looking stall, Nick gives the team a pep talk. He tells them to try to hit £325 each in terms of sales, and tells them that the real profit margins are in the teddies, so that's where they need to focus their energies. Stephen then appropriates Nick's talk for his own ends, and offers the benefit of his sales wisdom, saying that none of his friends would buy a bear for £15, so he thinks that as a group, they need to come up with a lower price now. Duane is unimpressed with this, and thinks that Nick was doing a fine job and Stephen should've kept his trap shut. Stephen tries to get consensus on lowering the price to £12, but Nick asserts his authority as PM and informs him that they'll stick with the original price for now. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is the right decision. Best to start high and see how you go - you can always discount it later if necessary, but if you try to put the price up because it's more successful than anticipated, then you'll look like a shyster.

With the briefing taken care of, the team splits once again, with Azhar, Michael, Stephen and Tom becoming the mobile unit, while Nick, Duane, Adam and Ricky remain on the South Bank. Kircaldy, meanwhile, are setting up their stall in Greenwich Market, which seems to be a pretty good spot in terms of their product and the sort of custom they're likely to get. Their sales strategy is to boost sales by printing kids' names on t-shirts on request, and to take half their stock to London Zoo. Between them, Laura and Jane come up with printing "I loved my day out at the Zoo" on the t-shirts. This causes some friction, however, as Bilyana thinks this is wasting time and that the longer they wait to leave, the more traffic they're likely to hit on the way. Maria, too, is venting her frustration about "the other team" still being there and not being out selling. The Blonde Assassin retorts that this was Gabrielle's decision, and Gabrielle remains conspicuously silent.

Eventually, at 10.50am, Bilyana, Jane, Laura and Jenna head off to the zoo, with Bilyana kvetching on the way that they wasted time on personalising the t-shirts instead of getting out there and starting to sell. Jane insists that they were giving it 20 minutes to give themselves an extra margin. It's an interesting debate, actually: I doubt 20 minutes will have been that make-or-break for them - depending on the exact time of filming, I doubt the zoo would've been THAT busy at that time of the morning (judging by the rest of the episode, the zoo is not busy at all that day), but I don't know if I'm convinced that having "I HEART DAYS OUT AT ZOO" is actually going to be the clincher for any prospective t-shirt buyer.

Flame-Out are selling "Jack, The London Bear" at St. Pancras International to people who've just got off the Eurostar, though one problem with this strategy is that not everyone they try to sell to actually has English currency on them. Stephen tries to convince some tourists to buy the bear: "Would you like to take Jack home? Can you see Jack in Paris, on the Champs-Elysées?" I think we may have exhausted Stephen's knowledge of French culture in that one sentence. Either way, the lady he is trying to sell to is not having any of it. Stephen decides the bears aren't selling, and calls Nick to try to get the price knocked down again. Nick says he's fine with a price drop if Stephen wants to take responsibility for it, and of course, Stephen does NOT want to take responsibility for it, so he weasels around until Nick's like "fine, whatever, just try to get as high a price as you can". Hilariously, Stephen then interviews that "Nick, naturally, is trying to cover himself, but that doesn't interest me, I'm just trying to win this task." Sure, dude. You made your selflessness abundantly clear with your refusal to take responsibility for the price-cut you instigated, along with your insistence earlier on how anyone needed to step up and be PM as long as it wasn't you.

Back in Greenwich, Auchtermuchty's designs are selling well, and Nick interviews about how Jade came up with some "charming" free designs of a lion, a tiger (which I think was originally meant to be a monkey) and "a rather worried-looking penguin" between them. So, it's geographically improbable, but it's cute, right? Nick likes it, and so do the mums who are buying them. Hooray! The personalisation seems to be a good idea too, as that seems pretty popular. Regrettably, the other half of the team is stuck in traffic, somewhere on the lengthy car journey to London Zoo. This is clearly a massive strategic fail on their part: London Zoo is not far at all from their house in Bayswater, so the sensible thing to do would've been to split up at the start of the day, send half the team to Greenwich and the other half to the Zoo. Sending half the team to Greenwich only to turn around an hour later and drive all the way across London is foolhardy. Gabrielle rings up for a progress report, and is told by The Blonde Assassin that they've been stuck in traffic the whole time. Gabrielle thinks this means they're just arriving, and is alarmed when she realises it means they haven't even got there yet. Finally, they make it to the Zoo, and hunt for vulnerable parents to sell to. For some reason, they've decided to hunt as a pack rather than split up and maximise their chances of selling - perhaps this is a TV-mandated logistics issue, if they need to get every sale on film and only have one camera crew, but either way, it makes them a rather oppressive-looking sales force. Bilyana keeps leading the charge, much to the chagrin of the others, except of course The Blonde Assassin, who TOTALLY PLANNED FOR THIS TO HAPPEN, JUST LOOK AT HOW BILYANA IS UNDERESTIMATING HER! Jenna complains that Bilyana is talking to kids who don't have money on them. Jane scolds Bilyana for not giving the others a chance to sell, and maybe this is just me, but seriously? On this show? You are complaining about people not standing back and giving you an opportunity to sell stuff? Because this show is usually filled with Type-A personalities who'd sell their own shoes if they thought it would win them the task, so there's no way that argument is going to hold water in the boardroom. The Blonde Assassin complains to the cameras about Bilyana's behaviour, and cracks a joke about how you don't want to be behaving like animals in the zoo. Jenna starts screeching over the top of Bilyana and then, in one of the show's all time greatest soundbites, is heard saying: "My God, I feel so stressed. Shall we go in t' Penguin Beach?" Heh.

On the South Bank, Flame-Out have dropped their prices a tad, with the bears now selling for £10, and Nick sells one to some gays walking their dog. The tourist trade is brisk, and Nick calls Stephen to tell him they're looking likely to sell out completely in the next hour. Stephen's sub-team then goes out to try and sell in bulk to shops, at which point Azhar strongarms a woman in a sweet-shop into taking a load of bags off their hands. At the zoo, Jane spots "a daddy with a little baby over there, that I want to attack." I'm scared. Sales are flagging, and the group are bickering. Bilyana suggests that they go and make some sales to trade, since she knows the area quite well and has some shops in mind. For some reason, Bilyana then leads them all around the Outer Circle of the zoo, and I can tell you quite easily that there are no shops of note anywhere around there. I ran pretty much the length (or circumference, whatever) of that thing one Sunday morning when I was late for a work thing, and there is bugger-all there apart from the zoo. The Blonde Assassin puts this theory forward, but Bilyana insists that she knows where the shops are. The Blonde Assassin is unconvinced, and this is pretty much the one useful thing she contributes all episode, although not to the extent of actually stopping Bilyana and suggesting an alternative plan. [To be fair, I'm not sure Bilyana is one for being stopped - Rad]

In Greenwich, the rest of Gabrielle's team is also trying to sell to trade, and offloads some of their merchandise to an independent shopkeeper. The South Bank half of Flame-Out are just running around selling their last few items for whatever they can get for them. Eventually, either through luck or judgement (I vote the former), Team Bilyana actually finds a shop, at which point they basically browbeat the poor woman behind the counter, all talking over each other and giving it not so much the hard sell as the steel-reinforced sell. It's not a particularly glorious moment for any of them, as the woman tells them that she won't make a decision today and doesn't like buying under stress, so Jenna announces that they're wasting time and they all troop outside. Brilliantly, outside, they are cornered by an older man, clearly the woman in the shop's dad, who gives them a right telling-off, saying that it's "not a good idea to come in and barricade someone" and that they'd put her under "tremendous pressure" (Christ on a bike, it was bad, yes, but it wasn't THAT bad). Jane, to her credit, offers her "sincere apologies" (as opposed to all those other ones she hasn't really meant?) and admits that they were too pushy. The older chap, clearly on a roll, asks them if they know what the last thing they said was? "Okay, we're wasting time, onto the next one." Jane protests that they didn't say that, while Jenna mumbles "yeah, I did." Incidentally, the poor shopkeeper who was given the vapours by this unprovoked attack is stood in the doorway throughout this entire exchange, silently and meekly drinking a smoothie through a straw. It's brilliant. The only thing missing from this is a lecture from Karren about how they've just LET DOWN BUSINESSWOMEN EVERYWHERE, because she's following the other team. Boo.

5pm. Selling ends! Gabrielle rings the other half of the team to find out if they've sold everything, and of course they haven't. Flame-Out are far happier with their performance, but there's a problem: the shopkeeper that Azhar offloaded the bags to earlier has discovered that ten of the bags have "imperfections" (i.e. faded prints and ugly red splotches) and thinks this is very unprofessional. The boys meekly apologise and say that it wasn't their intention to sell her "seconds or returns" (lies) and meekly refund her money, while Karren comments on how bad this makes them look in a talking-head. Yeah, thanks Karren, we got that.

The next day, everyone takes their wheely-cases to the Apprenticars to attend the boardroom. We get a rare full profile of NotFrances rather than just a bit of one of her limbs like we usually do, and she sends them all through to learn their fate. Lord Sugar arrives and explains again how this was a very simple business idea, all about adding value to tat. He turns to the men first, and asked who came up with Flame-Out as a name. Stephen takes responsibility for it (FOR A CHANGE) and Lord Sugar grudgingly admits that it's "not a bad name", he supposes. Nick explains that he was PM, and relates the embarrassing moment where nobody wanted to run the task, but he stepped forward in the end just to save them for sitting there for two days and not actually doing anything else. Lord Sugar points out that he's read all the CVs (CV? What's a CV? These are REZ-HOO-MAYS, surely?) and Azhar said in his that he was going to be PM every week. Odd that, isn't it? It's almost like the CVs/REZ-HOO-MAYS are entirely full of guff designed purely to get people on the show in the first place. Nick says, slightly unconvincingly, that he was happy to project manage any task, and Karren smirks that "before you'd got the words finished, everyone had jumped up and congratulated you." She's not wrong. Lord Sugar asks how Nick was as a team leader [Why did they cast a contestant called Nick? It confuses me. Can't we call him N1kk or something like they would on The X Factor? - Rad], and everyone's feedback seems pretty positive, particularly Duane's. Lord Sugar asks to look at the products, and gruffly notes that the designs are not particularly inspired. Karren says that they spent a lot of time on the numbers and that the designs were very much secondary to all that. I love that she's implying that's a bad thing. On this show. Nick cops to being "embarrassed" by the design. Lord Sugar wants to know all about those lovely margins they spent so long discussing, and is very surprised that they were charging £15 for the bear, and admits those are impressive margins indeed. Whether the margin was still as impressive when they discounted it to £10 remains unclear, but I imagine it was probably still a pretty decent profit. The issue of the dissatisfied shopkeeper comes up, and Lord Sugar points out that you can have the greatest margins in the world, but it's meaningless if you can't shift the goods. We see a shot of Jack The London Bear from behind, with a little red smudge on his fur, as if to reinforce this.

Over to Prestonpans, where Jenna tells Lord Sugar that she dreamed of her friend telling her about Scotland, and that's how they came up with their team name. "Sounds very professional," notes Lord Sugar, drily. Gabrielle explains that she was PM, and I get a bit confused here, as she and Lord Sugar discuss about she's apparently GOING TO set up a print shop, and she says something that sounds like "it WAS good experience". So has she actually opened this damn print shop, or not? A bit of internal consistency wouldn't go amiss here. [I think she probably means she has a Cafe Press webshop - Rad] Lord Sugar asks if anyone else stepped forward, and Laura puts forth the valid point that if someone has that expertise, why wouldn't you let them take the lead? Lord Sugar agrees with that. He asks if Gabrielle was a good team leader, and Jade claims that Gabrielle was a bit flustered by having "lots of strong women beneath her" (OOH MATRON). Their designs come out, and Lord Sugar is impressed that Jade hand-drew their design for them. They tell him he can keep that bag, "on us". Heh. He asks how they got on with the actual selling part of the challenge, and Gabrielle says that she delegated the selling to everyone, and that Jane had a bigger job on the sub-team, because she was charged with referring all figures back to Gabrielle. Jane takes exception to this, saying that she wasn't officially in charge, but she took over the finances because nobody else was doing it. Lord Sugar asks if she's saying she took charge, then, and she says yes - it just needed to be done.

Right, let's get some numbers up on this bad boy. Nick reveals that Glenrothes had total sales of £690.60, minus a total spend of £475.80, which gave them a profit of £214.80. That's...really not very good, all things considered. Karren discloses that Flame-Out sold £1,015.60 of tat to tourists, spending £399.40 along the way, leaving them with a profit of £616.20. That is a righteous whomping, y'all. Lord Sugar is impressed with this for a first task performance, and has laid on "art-inspired" canapes and cocktails back at the house as a reward. Exeunt Flame-Out, who are all very happy indeed, while Dunfermline need to head to Loser Cafe and think about what they did.

Art-inspired canapes and cocktails. They're a bit rubbish, really. Adam claims that the other team "went in eight different directions", like he'd even know what happened, and Nick agrees that Flame-Out are a well-bonded team. Adam then says there's some "serious bromance going on" and ARGH FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCK OFF. You are dead to me now forever for using that bloody word. There is nothing more tedious in this world than a man who insists that any friendship he has with a man is a "bromance". [Seriously. I used to quite like Paul Rudd until someone invented that word, and now all I can think of is him doing stupid manhugs and gurning - Rad]

Loser Café. Gabrielle thinks they didn't do enough, while Bilyana whines that the problem was decisions not being made quickly enough, and that she done TOLD THEM in Greenwich that it would take an hour to get to London Zoo, and longer if they hit traffic. Hilariously, Jade and Maria are all "oh, NOW you've got something to say?" as though Bilyana hadn't been whining about this throughout half the damn task to begin with. The Blonde Assassin smirks, since THIS WAS ALL PART OF HER PLAN. Bilyana complainterviews that the team lost because Gabrielle dragged her heels in decision-making and didn't capitalise on her "experience in the field". Jane vows to fight strongly in the boardroom if she's brought back in, because she knows she's not to blame for this task's failure. Gabrielle is "gutted", because she believed everyone tried their best, but she supposes that she'll find out who was responsible for it all in the boardroom.

Boardroom. Sullen silence. NotFrances sends them through. Lord Sugar trusts that they all have some sort of idea in their mind as to where they went wrong, and asks where they'd like to start? Jane opens, saying that the men were focused on their margins, which they didn't do. Karren, unnecessarily bitchily: "That's called strategy, Jane." Jane, bristling: "Yes, I know that. We didn't do that." Jade starts shouting (I think that's her default setting) about how the pricing was set-up after they'd done the designing and bought stuff, so there was no set strategy in place. Gabrielle admits that the first few hours "were mental", but suggests that their problems were in sales, and in not having a high enough mark-up. Lord Sugar tells her that they had 93 items out of a total of 250 left over at the end of the day, which is 40% of their stock. He asks Maria and Jane if they usually have 40% of their stock left over at the end of the day, and they reply in the negative.

Lord Sugar says that the Greenwich sub-team (or "mob", as he calls them) sold £440 worth, and the London Zoo team sold £225 worth. Gabrielle admits to a "period of non-selling", which Nick pounces on and ascribes to that long schlep across London, and then brings up how the Zoo sub-team attacked that poor defenceless shopkeeper, who was so "affronted" by their approach that she bought nothing. Oops. The Blonde Assassin strikes up that Bilyana was adamant that it was not a long walk and that she knew the shops, and Gabrielle says that the reason she sent Bilyana's team there was because she knew the area. That sounds like bullshit to me. She sent Bilyana's team there because they thought the Zoo was a good market. Any thoughts about Bilyana knowing the area and being able to offload to trade were secondary motivation at best.

Bilyana chirps that it's "my time to say something now" and explains that she took them to the nearest available shops from the zoo. Lord Sugar is not having this, and says that the closest shops are "just up the road in Camden". Bilyana disagrees, she thinks Camden is further. Lord Sugar: "I drive past it every day! Anyway..." Bilyana: "Yes, exactly, anyway..." HA! That was both nonsensical and brilliant. She feels the problems were in bad management, and that Gabrielle and Jane held them back in Greenwich market because they wanted some items personalised before they went to the zoo. She thinks those 20 minutes they were delayed were critical - at which point Jane counters that just as critical were the 20 minutes they wasted walking across the park. Lord Sugar says that Bilyana's background is in finance, so was she looking at the margins? Bilyana kind of non-answers that. Maria says that if she were experienced in finances, she'd be straight in there to prove that's what she can do. Child, you're a 20-year-old restaurateur - are you trying to tell me that you're NOT experienced in finances? Yasmina was a restaurateur, and she knew all about margins. Jenna goes for the cheap shot, and says that if Bilyana's REALLY all about risk analysis, she would have seen that Primrose Hill was a very RISKY place to go. Thanks for that, Jenna.

Lord Sugar turns to Jade, who says that she did the design, printing and selling, so she pulled her weight. Lord Sugar asks who didn't pull their weight, and Jade replies that she doesn't know, that she wasn't with The Blonde Assassin, so "I don't know what she did". Heh. I think that's more borne of the editing - it sounds more like a response to "what did The Blonde Assassin do?" rather than Jade just randomly shoving her under the bus, but it still made me laugh. The Blonde Assassin says that she was a fantastic team player who got involved at all points, made lots of sales and got her hands dirty. Lord Sugar questions the "I made lots of sales" statement, at which point The Blonde Assassin admits that Bilyana kept stomping all over her attempts, and says that she was putting her professionalism first, because she wasn't going to shout all over people just to get her voice heard. Oh, you and your quaint little real-world concepts. We have no use for those here.

At this point, Gabrielle has to decide who to bring back, and she opts for Bilyana and The Blonde Assassin, unsurprisingly. The other five make a hasty exit. Lord Sugar asks the remaining three to step out while he has a quick chat with Nick and Karren, which they do. In their absence, he declares them a fiery bunch, saying that Bilyana in particular has rubbed the others up the wrong way, but he is impressed with her credentials. "She's not here to win a popularity contest, she's here as a businesswoman," says Karren. Okay, that's the second "not here to make friends" of the episode, and neither one was actually made by a contestant. This is just weird. Gabrielle is considered "nice" and "pleasant", but there are doubts over her abilities as a leader. The Blonde Assassin is largely in trouble because Nick doesn't like her, considering her "slow off the blocks".

NotFrances sends them all back in. Lord Sugar asks Gabrielle to explain her decision, and Gabrielle says that perhaps The Blonde Assassin did pull her weight, but she didn't see that, so she can only go on what the rest of the team says. As for Bilyana, she made the team waste a lot of time. Lord Sugar says that he's "a very fair person" and he's seen people ganging up on someone to get them fired before, and he's not going to fall for that, so he wants to know why everyone's against her. Bilyana says that she feels "sidelined for totally the wrong reasons" because she wasn't as loud as the others, and was consistently making good points but not getting them through. She goes on to say that she's in risk management, and her role in the bank is to identify risks and do something about them, which is how she approached this task. Lord Sugar opines that city strategy might not be entirely appropriate here: "this is not a takeover of Goldman Sachs, this is pretty simple stuff." Bilyana changes tack, saying this should have been a no-brainer, that Gabrielle made poor decisions and lacked time management, and didn't lead the group. At this point Gabrielle starts to lose it and raises her voice, saying that she was VERY MUCH IN CONTROL, never HAD AN ARGUMENT WITH ANYBODY and made sure everyone under her eye WORKED TO THE VERY MAXIMUM. Bilyana, grinning creepily: "And I was part of that team on day one, so you're contradicting yourself!" Gabrielle tells Bilyana that she can't use "I have a small voice, nobody listened to me" as an excuse, saying that "I have a small voice, everyone respected me!" Obviously this precise moment is not a great time to illustrate the smallness of her voice, given that she's increasing in decibels by the second and her eyes are starting to bug out. She says that she's just hearing excuse after excuse from Bilyana, and that she (Gabrielle) made £210 just going around the shops, which Bilyana could also have done if she'd lived up to her claims about knowing the local area. Which...still wouldn't have won them the task, but I get the general point she's making.

Lord Sugar tries to calm them and move them on here, with Bilyana making it very difficult for him to do that. He turns to The Blonde Assassin, saying that he's not heard much from her yet. Duh, Lord Sugar, that just means HER PLAN IS WORKING, okay? He casts doubt on her "I'm too professional to have sold anything because everyone else was too loud" argument, saying it's a broken record in that boardroom. He refers to her REZ-HOO-MAY (hooray!), where she says that the biggest mistake is to hide behind others. He asks why he shouldn't fire her, and she resorts to the "give me another chance, I haven't proven myself yet" argument, adding that she's a great negotiator with experience of creating products and getting them to market. Asked who's responsible for losing the task, she says that Gabrielle did take a long time to make decisions, but that she also found Bilyana very hard to work with. Lord Sugar asks Bilyana why she shouldn't be fired, and Bilyana goes for broke: talking about her humble beginnings, how she came to this country aged 17 on a scholarship that was only meant to be for a year, but got extended (shh, Bilyana, the Daily Mail might be watching), and she was made Head Girl and put in the position of running a very prestigious school. Wow. First of all, the head girl does not "run the school". Also, I feel if you need to resort to "head girl" on your list of achievements during a job interview, you've already lost [not to mention it being an automatic turn-off for Lord Sugar - Rad]. Lord Sugar cuts her off, saying he doesn't want to hear her life story, just why he shouldn't fire her. Bilyana says that Gabrielle was a bad manager who made bad decisions. Gabrielle admits to having made mistakes, but insists that if she's given another chance, she'll be project manager a second or third time by the end of this process, and she'll get better each time. Who knows, by the last time, she might even beat the other team!

Time to sum up. Lord Sugar thinks Gabrielle did work hard and showed passion, but people did comment on her lack of direction, and the task was deliberately designed to be simple. The Blonde Assassin is warned that keeping too quiet can sometimes cost you. Bilyana is told that she hasn't given anybody credit for doing anything, at which point she starts talking again about how he needs to give her the opportunity and she'll prove that she can be a great project manager, etc, but it's all too late. Lord Sugar says that the first firing is always difficult because he doesn't really know people. Bilyana begs for one more chance to be a project manager ("Gabrielle had it, and she failed!") but nothing doing: Bilyana is fired. Bilyana: "That's a shame, but thank you for the opportunity." Heh. The Blonde Assassin is warned that this was a toss-up, but that she's got another chance - though she is being watched.

Outside there is tearful, apparently well-meaning, hugging between the three of them, as Lord Sugar says that it was a close call, but Bilyana's demeanour was her demise. Bilyana Coatwatch: knee-length, double-breasted, plaid. Unexpectedly bright for someone on this show. I approve.

In the Apprentaxi, Bilyana says that it wasn't a fair decision and that she wasn't the reason they failed the task, but her business plan is excellent so she's just going to move on straight away. Fair enough. In the Survivors' Apprentaxi, The Blonde Assassin admits that Bilyana did her a big favour: "She buried herself. I owe her a drink." Hee.

Mogul Manor. Stephen asks the girls who they want back. Gabrielle gets the popular vote. Jane thinks there were mistakes made, but that Gabrielle's a strong candidate. Jade thinks The Blonde Assassin is going home. There's a sharp intake of breath as the door opens, and Gabrielle enters to cheers and applause, yelling "I'm still here!" Stephen asks if anyone else came back, and Gabrielle mugs "am I not enough?" before The Blonde Assassin walks through the door to slightly less vocal appreciation, but still an apparently fond response. Also, Ricky is wearing a "witness the fitness" t-shirt. Hmmm.

Next week: designing a gadget. Team Flame-Out reinvents the bin, while Jane appears to be the one with the numbers problem this time. Join us next week for all the terrible details!


Anonymous said...

So pleased you're back!

PartySpanner said...


Anonymous said...

Team Glenrothes forever wooo! Brilliant...