Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pasta imperfect

Week Six: 25th April 2012

Previously: LordSirAlan instructed the contestants to come up with a new fitness programme. As the director of Sterling's promotional video, Duane went into a full-on death spiral and had a big fight with Laura in the back of the Apprentaxi while Nick (I don't know if we have an official system for this, but for ease of comprehension: "Nick" is the contestant, and "Nick Hewer" is LordSirAlan's left-hand man) [I just think Nick and Nick2 is easier? - Rad] tried in vain to stuff his shaggy, shaggy hair into his ears to drown them out, and when that failed, he resorted to openly laughing at them. Attaboy. Meanwhile, Phoenix came up with possibly the worst idea for an exercise class since this and promoted it with a video featuring token totty Azhar in an impossibly tiny pair of shorts and kept promising to throw free shit at gyms, despite not having a budget to do so and the gyms in question having nowhere to store it. In spite of (or because of?) such lunacy, Phoenix won, and Ricky Martin (PMing for Sterling) brought Laura and Duane back to the boardroom where, despite his generally promising record up to this task, Duane proved beyond all doubt that his ill-thought-out video pretty much single-handedly tanked the task for them, and he was FIRED.

It's a bright sunny day in London, and the candidates appear to have had a day off, since they're all in casualware and playing what I believe is Kinect Sports (I don't have an Xbox; if you know better on this matter, by all means correct me in the comments). Adam and Ricky Martin are running, while Katie lounges on the sofa wondering when they're going to finish so she can play Blonde Assassin's Creed. But wait, what's this? The Sugarmobile is pulling up outside! Maybe he's brought his PS3 and a couple of SingStar mics to really get the party started? He knocks at the door just as Laura is rather unfortunately waving her hands in front of the TV honking "HOW THIS WORK?" like she's just teleported in from Amish Country, so Azhar (fully-clothed, regrettably) goes to answer the door. The appearance of LordSirAlan takes several of the contestants by surprise and everyone hurries to sit up straight and tuck their shirts in.

LordSirAlan tells them all to organise themselves around the QUIRKILY-SHAPED kitchen table and says that he's sorry to disturb them on their day of rest, but he's going to be sending them on "a bit of a journey" - and not just the one they're currently in the middle of as reality TV participants. [I would like, if I may, to take you on a STRANGE JOURNEY - Helen] He informs them that there's been a revolution in high-quality street food, so they'll be setting up "mobile restaurants". In Edinburgh, for some reason that's never particularly identified, but presumably relates somehow to culture-clash comedy and the possibility that someone might include "do the Scots like food?" in their list of market research questions.[He said something vague about the fad "not having reached there" yet. It's true. We don't like stuff that's not local - Helen] He stresses that he wants quality food, no junk, and that the team that makes the most amount of money is going to win. But what if they make the most amount of money by directly flouting his orders and selling Cheesy Poofs covered in lard gravy? LordSirAlan tells Adam that he will be project manager for Phoenix, and Jenna will be leading Sterling. Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, right kids?

We get a short public information film next, in which Charley the Cat informs us that street food stalls are easy to start up and have low running costs, so you should ask Mummy about setting one up. Nick Hewer and Karren arrive at the house to make sure no one accidentally sets fire to themselves, and Adam sits team Phoenix (which, just in case you're as confused as I normally am by this point, consists of Adam, Tom, Jade, Katie, Stephen and Azhar) down for a briefing and tells them that, as a market trader, this task is perfect for him. And we all know what happens when people PM a task that closely relates to their day jobs, right? Adam suggests, apparently without a shred of irony (because irony is for girls and homosexuals), that the Scottish diet consists pretty much entirely of deep-fried Mars bars and haggis. Kudos to Jade for taking the Nancy Dell'Olio approach to this and just laughing as thought it had obviously been intended as a joke all along. Tom (who has surreptitiously rolled the sleeves of his t-shirt up just a smidge to make people look at his guns, not that I fell for it or anything) suggests not ruling out Japanese, because sushi and Bento boxes are very popular [And probably a bit too expensive/fiddly for Apprenti to make?  Though it would probably make good car-crash TV - Rad]. "Who eats sushi?" Adam wonders, and Tom pulls an "I do, you bonehead" squint in response. Adam interviews that his perfect street food is something quick and easy like hookers a burger. Katie pitches "meatballs and pasta" on the grounds that it's straightforward to mass-produce. Jade and Stephen remind them that it has to be gourmet, so Adam suggests they "dress it up with a bit of spinach". I'm just going out on a limb and suggesting this is his garnish of choice once he's finished boiling his omelette. Katie suggest they could make it organic. Jade asks if they have any other ideas. "Chicken wrap," suggests Azhar, making what might actually be his only speaking appearance in the episode. I wouldn't object to his general silence if he at least took his shirt off, but he will insist on covering up. Adam thinks pasta is their best idea, so that's what they're going with.

Over on Sterling (Jenna, Gabrielle, Nick, Ricky Martin, Laura), Jenna offers us the following encouraging opener: "I can't cook, but I've worked in the restaurant trade, so I've got an idea." I'm not sure that summer spent behind the tills at Wimpy counts as "working in the restaurant trade", dear. Gabrielle suggests something traditionally Scottish to appeal to tourists. Jenna wonders if there's "traditional Scottish pies" you could sell, but Laura - using all of her local knowledge - reminds them that LordSirAlan wanted gourmet grub [Haggis deep-fried in Irn-Bru batter - non-Scotland-affiliated member of the bitching team], whereas pie and beans is the sort of thing that gets served at football games. She thinks a lovely casserole with a Scottish twist, like using Aberdeen Angus beef, might be an idea. Ricky Martin cautions that they need to keep their costs low to maximise their profits, but Nick thinks they shouldn't be scared of something high-cost.[See, this is where I realised that this ep makes no sense. Either pitch traditional Scots stuff to the tourists or something exotic to the locals. Simple. But oh no, we've ended up on both points with stuff that's not really either so everything is a little bit rubish. Rant over - Helen]

Back over on Phoenix, Adam appoints Tom as King Of Taste because he's a foodie, Katie as Head Assassinator Of Brand jointly with Jade, and Stephen will be looking after the Research side of things, working alongside Jade and Katie. Azhar's job is not mentioned, but I assume it is "just sit there and look pretty". He's basically their trophy employee.

9am the next day, and the candidates leave Apprentice Manor destined for Scotland, via a gourmet food fayre in London where they'll do a spot of research. Once there, they are wowed by diver-caught scallops with celeriac puree and things like that. Stephen corners the winners of "Best Main Dish" at the british Street Food Awards 2011 and asks them how they did that. The lady in the van says that they used high quality ingredients, organic where possible. Katie clarifies that this does not just mean going for MARGINS MARGINS MARGINS and churning out any old slurry. They report back their findings to Adam. That done, everyone hops about a train to Edinburgh. In first class, Adam, Azhar and Tom review their options, with Adam still set on pasta because it's cheap and you can "slop it out [...] like school dinners." At this point I don't know if he's stubborn, ignorant, stupid or all three, but Tom does seem to be developing a migraine just listening to all of this. Adam suggests corned beef "to bulk it up". CORNED BEEF. I'm surprised Foodie Tom didn't just phone the British Transport Police to have him arrested for crimes against nutrition there and then. (Though I suppose if it were possible to arrest someone on a train for food-related crimes, Adam's name would be just one on a very long list of offenders.) Ever the charmer, Adam notes that talking about food has made him hungry, so he hopes the "trolley dolly" will be around soon, so he can pinch her arse and she can titter coquettishly and slip him an extra bag of peanuts. God, I hate Adam so much. [Me too.  He doesn't really work as this year's comedy troll contestant as he hasn't got any redeeming humorous qualities.  Well, except looking a bit like Bad Luck Brian - Rad]

In another part of the train that seems significantly less first-class, Nick and Gabrielle are also hard at work: Nick's making a phone call to determine where the best location for their stall would be. He calls a city centre hotel, where someone tells him that Princes Street and Parliament Square are both lively areas, while Tynecastle Stadium is likely to also be very busy, but the chap's tone of voice suggests that this is not necessarily an endorsement. In an even less swish-looking set of seats, Katie tries to convince Stephen and Jade that whoever gets a pitch near the football stadium will win, because of the guaranteed footfall that comes with the match that will be happening that day. Stephen isn't convinced because he thinks that football fans will be more likely to want a burger and a beer, but Katie assures him you can sell anything when that many people are passing by. Tell that to Jane. Crucially, Katie says that she's "happy for that to fall on my head" if football doesn't work out. This will, inevitably, be important later.

At 2:30pm, they arrive in Edinburgh. Half the teams are off to get their branding hats on, while the project managers are heading to the development kitchens. In the Sterling apprentaxi, Jenna asks Laura if people speak Scottish up here, and will she be able to translate for them if they do. I'm going to give Jenna the benefit of the doubt here and assume this is light-hearted merriment, but it's a shit joke nonetheless. Each team has a high-profile chef to help them out, and handily Adam has award-winning Italian chef Mateo. They agree that meatballs are an excellent idea, and Mateo gives them some tips, like using fresh rosemary. Adam, of course, wants to use dried rosemary because it's cheaper, but Mateo protests that you won't get the same flavour, and Nick Hewer is already wrinkling up his nose in distaste. Still, I'm just glad they've not tried to put any sandalwood in the recipe. So far. Adam continues to witter on that "it's just about profit, not taste", and in terms of the parameters of the task he is technically right, but I'm not sure the Yasmina Siadatan Memorial Pile It High And Sell It Expensively tactic is the right way to go here. Neither is Tom, who starts fiddling with his collar and urging Adam to find a balance between taste and profit. Nick Hewer interviews that Adam's trying to make it too cheap. Yes, thanks for that, Nick Hewer. I'm not sure we'd have worked that out for ourselves, considering the subtle nature of Adam's behaviour. Adam starts spitballing (ew, hygiene) brand names and the possibility of using Mateo's excellent reputation for their product. I'm sure Mateo will be thrilled to have his name attached to Phoenix's Offalballs: Now With Extra Entrails. Names he rejects as being less good include "Mamma Mia's Meatballs" and "Uncle Mamma". Seriously. UNCLE MAMMA.

Meanwhile, Sterling meet Chef Jeff at the Balmoral Hotel, who tells them that he prefers his meat well-hung. *slide trombone* Jenna asks him how much a portion would cost, and he estimates between £2 and £2.50. Jenna calls Nick and Gabrielle to apprise them of this, and they're a little taken aback. Gabrielle tells Nick that you normally wouldn't spend that much per portion in an actual restaurant, and I don't know how true that is, but if we use Yasmina's revelation that you look to make around 70% gross profit on what you sell in the restaurant trade (see, I remember stuff) and take an average sale price of, say, £9 for a main course, it would indeed seem that this is quite a high cost per portion, especially since they wouldn't be selling it for anything like that much. Nick runs his fingers through his Bieber 'do with anxiety.

Katie, Stephen and Jade are brainstorming meatball branding ideas. Jade thinks they want something slick and simple, and they come up with...Utterly Delicious. Snore. They call up Adam, who suggests the whole "Mateo's Meatballs" thing, which they mull over before pretty much dismissing out of hand, and countering with the epitome of creativity that is "Utterly Delicious". This goes down like a plate of tepid sick with the other half of the team, and Adam thinks they should at the very least have "Italian" or "meatballs" in there somewhere, so they settle on "Utterly Delicious Meatballs". Give me strength. What I wouldn't give for a Natasha Scribbins on this time right now, I tell you.

So while half the teams get on with such unimportant tasks as making sure the food is actually edible, the other halves get on to the truly crucial stuff: van makeovers, yaaaay! Nick and Gabrielle have come up with "Gourmet Scot Pot" for Sterling, which is a little cutesy, but definitely a better effort than the other team's name, whatever it might be at present. Nick points out to Gabrielle that they don't have any tartan on the branding, though whether this is because he thinks they should have tartan on it is undetermined. Either way, Gabrielle thinks it is fine without any tartan, and I think this is the right decision. Meanwhile, Stephen, Jade and Katie congratulate themselves on their super-classy, super-boring branding. Kate interviews that they're making it very clear with the branding that this is a high-quality product, and I was fully expecting the editors here to cut to Adam pulling up a bit of grass from between two paving slabs and going "that'll do for rosemary" and dropping a few of his own fingernail clippings into the mixing bowl.

It's now 10pm, and Jenna and her team are mass-producing Scot Pot with quality ingredients and a professional recipe. Jenna interviews that she's very pleased and has nothing to worry about, and she and Ricky Martin start doing their sums, working out that they've spent £268.82 on ingredients. Jenna wonders if perhaps they've bought too much meat, but "the meatier the better". They're planning to make 175 portions, which Ricky Martin estimates at around £1.54 per portion. He's pretty much bang-on, and that's quite scary. We'll have to add "mathematician" to his list of skills alongside professional wrestling and biochemistry. Meanwhile, Phoenix are at a cookery school, where Adam explains that they've spent 47p per portion on their meatballs. Sorry, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit, there. Katie asks how Adam got it down so cheap. [SPECIAL STUFF - Helen] He doesn't answer the question, but the editors help us out by showing giant value bags of Morrisons pasta twists, chopped tomatoes in cans, bodybags from the morgue, etc. As they prepare the food, Stephen notes that Adam's balls are getting smaller and smaller (FNAR) and Azhar points out that they shrink as they're cooking. I'm surprised they haven't tried to make this into a selling point, actually - Macro Meals or something. Adam's hoping to sell them at £5.99 and make a profit of £5.50 per portion. Dude, I wouldn't pay that for street meatballs, and I live in LONDON. Everyone puts the finishing touches to their meals as midnight approaches, and then they all bugger off to get some sleep.

9am the next day, everyone departs to start selling. First we're in Gorgie, west Edinburgh, home to Hearts FC. This is where Team Phoenix have set up their stall, which has been decorated with words like "authentic", "fresh", "delicious" and "scrummy". I know the word "scrummy" always screams "classy food joint" to me. Adam's happy with the branding, Nick Hewer sneers because that's what Nick Hewer does. Some fancy-dress costumes have been procured to help promote the stall, including a pizza (?) and Julius Caesar (???). The branding team are sent out to wear the ridiculous outfits: Stephen puts an Italian flag around his shoulders, Katie is the ASSASSINPIZZA, and Azhar puts the Julius Caesar costume on over his shirt. Oh, Azhar.

Meanwhile, Sterling have set up Gourmet Scot Pot in Parliament Square, which is attracting a lot of attention. The free samples go down well, but no one actually wants to buy any because they've all just had breakfast. Laura and Ricky Martin are dressed up in tartan (well, it had to show up somewhere, didn't it?) and bribe a bagpipe player with free food if he comes to play nearer their stall in order to drum up a bit of atmosphere. Some of the team do a bit of highland dancing to get in the mood, and a few sales are made, though it looks like the food is not exactly flying out of the catering vats just yet.

Back in Gorgie, Hearts fans are arriving for the game, but not for the meatballs. Tom interviews that he's worried about their current price point of £5.99, which he thinks is too high - but they can always bring it down, he reasons. This throws him unknowingly into direct conflict with Katie, some distance away in an Apprentaxi, who is keen to maximise profit and wants to sell for £7.99, having clarified that she would never "overprice and underdeliver" in business (what about on a reality show, eh, BLONDE ASSASSIN?) but this isn't strictly business, because they're there for a day and then they're scarpering before anyone gets a chance to give them any feedback [Someone's seen this show before, so kudos to her for that standard SirLordAlanSugarSir pleasing tactic - Rad]. They're basically the circus, or one of those really dodgy-looking travelling fairgrounds. Stephen puts this idea to Adam, who shoots them down right away because there are cafés in the are doing full breakfasts for £2.99. Adam hangs up, and declares that they'd get their heads kicked in if they tried selling their food for £7.99. Frankly, I'm seeing a plan with no possible downside right now.

In an "inspired" moment of "marketing" "brilliance", Stephen negotiates a deal with an open-top bus tour company that they'll hop on board to drum up some business and get people to disembark and buy some meatballs before putting them on the next one. I'm not entirely sure what's in it for the bus people, but they agree nonetheless. They call Adam with the good news, and he and Stephen scream "Grassmarket!" at each other for about five minutes. Stephen declares this move "a task-winner". I'm thinking no.

Over on Sterling, business is still slow. Jenna frets that this should be their busiest time: "I feel physically sick," she whines to Nick. Karren interviews that they've got a good, expensive product, but they need to sell it all to bring in a profit. Jenna has decided that the marketing team are doing too much talking, so she calls Laura over and tells her to can it with the schmoozing and just bring people over. Laura points ot that she knows what she's doing as a salesperson, and that she can't physically force people over to the stand. Unless of course they draw on Ricky Martin's wrestling skills, but that's probably still a bit of a grey area, ethically speaking.

Things aren't looking much better for Phoenix as they battle chronic lack of interest from the football fans. Still, they've got Stephen's task-winning bus strategy in their back pocket, right? Stephen rings up to go through this with Adam, who is so very much not caring right now because his pre-game selling time is running out and he's only sold 12 portions. Azhar thinks Adam needs to calm down because he's panicking. Azhar, meanwhile, is so mellow he's practically catatonic. I guess when you've got a six-pack like that, you know you'll never go hungry. Back in Gorgie, Adam drops the price to £3.99, or three portions for £10. This seems to bring the customers in a bit more, though it's still a rip-off, especially when we get shown the portion size. With kick-off nearing, they drop the price to £2 a throw. I mean that literally, as in you give them £2, you eat it, you throw up. They sell their last few portions before upping sticks and moving to Grassmarket to pick up all those hungry bus-riding tourists. Tom thinks it wasn't a total washout; they even sold "the burnt ones". And think, he's the resident foodie. Egad.

In Parliament Square, things are picking up for Sterling and Scot Pot - and I'm pleased to see the bagpipe player getting his complimentary scran as promised. Jenna interviews that now they actually have people passing, she can use her charm on them. How terrifying. In Grassmarket, both halves of Phoenix meet up and the Three Marketeers explain the bus strategy to them. Katie promises they'll do such a good job of pitching. Jade interviews that business is slow, as she readjusts the signs to read "£5.99" again, and says that she hopes the whole bus thing will work out.

The Whole Bus Thing. Katie (dressed as a pizza, lest we forget) asks the passengers what sort of food they think she might be selling. Unsurprisingly, they think it's pizza. No, she tells them, they need to think "outside the pizza box". OH MY LORD. This is the worst pitch since that time Kate Walsh mentioned that she'd heard of bellinis. Anyway, she tells them all about their meatballs, and the bus comes to a halt at Grassmarket...where no one wants to get off and buy meatballs. Personally if I'd just got on a tourist bus, I wouldn't get off two stops later for food either, so perhaps that's the flaw in their plan - most of these people were probably planning on being on there for some time, and had probably eaten beforehand. Well, that and the part where their plan was kind of stupid in the first place. Now they have to run back in order to get on the next bus and repeat the whole process, and they get back just in time to see it driving off. I really feel this moment would've benefited a sad trombone. It's a 15-minute wait for the next bus, and when they call Adam, he tells them that business is slow, so they should just forget about the buses and come back to help drum up some customers. Adam whines to Tom about how the others have "literally missed the bus" on this.

Things are slowing down for Sterling too, now that lunchtime is over, so Ricky Martin and Laura go to see if they can find a better location. They find somewhere with a lot of footfall, but perhaps unsurprisingly, also a nice line in culinary competition, with an Aberdeen Angus food stand already selling burgers at £3 a pop. Jenna decides it's worth the risk, so she and Nick up sticks with the van. They also decide on a price-slashing strategy, offering two portions of Scot Pot for £10. Business picks up a bit. Hooray! Ricky Martin's sales strategy revolves around "hello ladies, fancy some dinner tonight?" which amuses me. On Phoenix, Adam is now offering meatballs at £5.99 a portion of 3 for £10, which is a structure that makes no sense to me whatsoever, but hey. He interviews that they made it for peanuts, so whatever they sell it for, it's all profit. Azhar tells people that it's "locally-sourced produce", and presumably they have the receipts from the Morrisons just down the road to prove it. He also tries to sell some meatballs to a squirrel. I'd say the heat's getting to him, but: Scotland.

Back at Sterling, Laura asks a passer-by if he's "had his tea", although not in a Hamish & Dougal way. Nick tells Jenna to go with a £4 each, 2-for-£6 offer, which makes Jenna fret about the margins, but Nick points out that at this point they just need to sell it. Karren interviews that every time they drop the price, the margins get smaller. Thanks Karren! Nick says that they've got 100 dishes left (so they've sold less than half at this point? Yikes) and they just need it gone, so Jenna agrees to the price drop. Business seems to pick up again, and both teams scramble to offload their last amounts of food. Laura tries "we need to get rid" as a sales strategy, which I'm sure goes down wonderfully. At 5pm, they all shut up shop, and Jenna continue to fret that they haven't won.

Next day, it's the boardroom, and NotFrances sends them all through. To begin with, LordSirAlan asks Adam how things went on Phoenix. Adam says that they decided on homemade pork meatballs and pasta, because it's fatty so it's cheap. "Cheap?" retorts LordSirAlan with distaste, and Adam stumbles his way through an excuse that they bought cheap, fatty meat for reasons of taste, and not because someone was selling a load of dead pigs out the back of a van. LordSirAlan asks how much they spent, and Adam says they spent around £90. LordSirAlan asks where the gourmet side comes into things, and Adam says that you'd get that from the taste, sending Tom in to support him, and Tom says rather unconvincingly that their product was "fantastic" and used "an authentic northern-Italian recipe". LordSirAlan asks where they sold and how much for, and Adam says they started at the Rangers-Hearts match at £5.99, and LordSirAlan openly scoffs at such a ludicrous idea. He says that they don't pay that for a striker there, and Karren cackles because football humour is her comfort zone. Adam admits it was slow going at the match. LordSirAlan asks him if the business had a name, and Adam says that at first it was "Utterly Delicious" and then he came along and put "meatballs" in there, at which point Jade snorts that OBVIOUSLY they were going to mention the meatballs. LordSirAlan points out that this doesn't sound very Italian, whether you mention the meatballs or not, and asks if they had any other ideas; Adam brings up his plan to use Mateo's name, and LordSirAlan chews them all out for not capitalising on this ready-made brand they had from the famous chef. He asks the rest of the team if Adam was a good PM, and they seem reasonably happy with him, and Adam in turn says that the team co-operated well with him.

Over to Sterling, where Jenna's PMing skills also get a fairly good write-up, and she explains that she wanted something traditional and Scottish, so they came up with a gourmet casserole with best quality ingredients. She tells LordSirAlan that they chose Parliament Square because it had five church services, and then they moved to Princes St at about two o'clock after Laura and Ricky Martin did a spot of scouting. She says that once they did move, they did very well. LordSirAlan asks them what they spent, and Ricky Martin replies "I think we spent around about £268.82", and Karren confirms that that is indeed exactly what they spent. I love that he had the exact number right there in his head. I'm a little bit concerned that wrestling biochemist Ricky Martin might actually be the most competent candidate on the show this series. My world, she is rocked. Anyway, LordSirAlan takes this as a sign that this team were a bit more serious about the gourmet side of things, and on hearing how much Sterling spent, Tom smirks. Jenna admits that she worried all day that they'd spent too much, but she felt they had a quality Scottish gourmet dish.

Time for the numbers, then:
Phoenix spent £90.25 and had revenue of £388.29, for a total profit of £298.04
Sterling spent £268.82 and had revenue of £588.60, for a total profit of £319.78.

LordSirAlan notes that there was just £22 in it, and while I'm a bit disappointed that the margin of victory was so small, I'm at least hugely relieved that the team who spent 68p on the offal scrapings from the butcher's storeroom floor didn't actually win. He tells Jenna it was a risky strategy considering her outlay, so they must have done well at selling. Sterling's reward is to go out to a five-star country club and ride Segways. LordSirAlan tells Phoenix that there's one thing they can't cook, and that's the books. (Also: pasta, if the footage we saw was anything to go by. Eurgh.)

Reward time! Sterling race around a lovely country estate on Segways, looking kind of dumb but obviously enjoying it. This whole experience is mostly noteworthy for the point where Nick completely wipes out and almost takes Laura down with him. Who knew Segway racing was such a dangerous game? They toast their success with champagne (except Gabrielle, who's on orange juice).

Loser Café. Adam interviews that he will not be taking any of the blame for the loss; he's blaming Jade and Katie for not being the marketing experts they sold themselves as. What about Stephen? He's every bit as much to blame. Oh, silly me, Stephen has a penis, and is therefore far less liable than dozy women. God, Adam is foul. Katie interviews that Adam should be fired for not having a clear strategy other than "sell cheap shit for lots of money", and Stephen diverts all suspicion away from his doomed bus plan by saying that they only needed to sell another five portions to win, and that's all Katie and Azhar's faults for not contributing enough.

Back at the boardroom again, and NotFrances sends Phoenix back in to face LordSirAlan, who cites the problems with their performance as twofold: one, they failed at selling, and two, they misread the brief and made cheap food instead of gourmet like they were told. Except if they'd spent more on the product and then sold the same amount, they'd have lost by even more [and if they'd made more profit he wouldn't have cared a jot about the gourmet thing - Rad], but whatever. Adam says that he believes they met the criteria for being gourmet, and LordSirAlan says that he's seen pictures of what they made and he's seen better-looking food on the floor at the zoo. Katie says that a lot of their market research wasn't taken on board, quickly adding "I don't know if Steve and Jade would agree with me" in typical NINJASSASSIN fashion. Adam counters that it WAS SO taken on board, and that she was the one who told them to go to the football. Katie admits to having championed that because of the footfall - she goes to watch the football herself and pays £6 for a burget. This, of course, sets her right up for LordSirAlan's rejoinder: "Where do you go, Chelsea?" Oof. LordSirAlan says that if they'd sold for £2.50 a portion, they might have sold hundreds of portions and made a lot more money. Jade begins to say that they did drop the price, before Adam jumps in and says that he was going with what his research team tells him, at which point Stephen interrupts to tell Adam that he shouldn't need a research team to tell him that what the research team is telling him is a load of old shit. Or something. It's a very strange defence, whatever it is. Adam points out that this is the first time Stephen has voiced the "we were overpriced" theory - indeed, as we saw, Stephen was more than happy to put forward Katie's suggestion of raising the price.

Adam moves on to his next issue, which is that since the football match kicked off at 12:30pm, they lost valuabe lunchtime trade because that's when they were moving between locations. Jade suggests that, as PM, he might have looked at the overall picture and decided that it wasn't worth losing the lunchtime trade for whatever benefits they might have got from the football sales, and she's got a fair point there. LordSirAlan points out that the second location was Grassmarket, at which point Katie mentions the deal with the bus company, and Stephen charges in (seriously, Boardroom Stephen is weird. Even weirder than normal Stephen. Well, "normal") to talk about the "lovely guy" called Kenny who brokered this deal with him. "Did it work?" asks LordSirAlan, and of course the answer is "no", but instead Stephen casts himself as the problem-solving hero who realised this was a fool's errand and went back to help Adam out, even though the version of that conversation we saw doesn't really back up his interpretation of events. LordSirAlan notes that Azhar is being very quiet and hasn't even taken his bladdy shirt off, so what was he doing? Azhar says that he had concerns about the quality of the product, at which point Boardroom Stephen roars into action again, saying that Adam's focusing all of his blame on the people who worked really hard (at stupid strategies that cost them time and money, just saying) while coasters like Azhar are getting off scot-free. Adam, who's clearly in thrall to Stephen at this point just as Leon was to Jim last year, says that Azhar is indeed being very quiet. Azhar claims he advised them to put some decent product in there and set the right price. Whether this actually happened remains up for debate.

Tom chips in at this point and puts forth the motion that the poor choice of second location is not really being considered as much as it should be, because it was chosen on the assumption of traffic from the bus company that never materialised. Stephen says that he'd like to "bring a little bit of sanity to the situation" (no, seriously, he actually says that, while practically foaming at the mouth and twitching in his efforts to divert blame away from himself at any cost) and says that they're suddenly hearing a lot of objections here for the first time. "Why do you lie so much at this table?" asks Tom, sounding genuinely annoyed. Heh. LordSirAlan asks Jade where the failure of this task "lay", and Jade says that the problem was going to the football match, missing the lunchtime trade and then arriving at the second location when everyone there had been fed and watered. So whose fault is that, LordSirAlan wants to know. It's either Katie, Stephen or Azhar, says Jade, presumably since they were the three involved in the bus fuck-up. Boardroom Stephen blames the quality of the food for not being good enough (ironically an objection we never heard from him during the task) and the location, which makes it Katie's fault for talking, and Azhar's fault for not talking. Azhar grumpily points out that Stephen is being very clever at diverting blame away from himself, and Stephen is the very acme of disingenuousness as he's all "I'm just replying to the question I was asked by LordSirAlan, Azhar!" Azhar asks Stephen if the bus and second-location fuck-up was not somehow his fault too, and Stephen just talks right over Azhar all LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU before eventually claiming that the reason he's going after Azhar is to defend the honour of Adam. I love that - the fact that it gets him off the hook is just serendipity.

LordSirAlan asks Adam who's coming back in to the final boardroom, and he decides to bring Katie and either Jade or Azhar, ultimately picking Azhar for not really doing anything. Stephen smirks, having successfully executed his plan [I don't really like Stephen but that was some awesome assassination attempt, and he isn't even blonde - Rad]. Tom, Jade and Stephen head back to the house, while Adam, Katie and Azhar are sent back into the anteroom while LordSirAlan chats to Nick Hewer and Karren. LordSirAlan opines that Adam lost control of the task and didn't know what he was doing, while Katie has made some bad calls and heavily influenced the failure of this task. Nick Hewer agrees that the football thing was very much her idea, and a very bad one at that. Azhar, meanwhile, is very quiet, and LordSirAlan doesn't know if still waters run deep or if he's just a shirker.

NotFrances sends the trio back in, and LordSirAlan tells Adam that he's looked carefully at his application (not REZ-HOO-MAY?)[I'm sosad that that is over- Helen] and it's clear he's a hard worker on his market stall. Adam says that it's been established for 13 years, and he has more experience than any of the others. LordSirAlan asks him if he's ever heard the expression "leopard changing its spots"? No, LordSirAlan, no one has, because that's not the expression. He feels that Adam's market trader mentality kicked in to make something cheap and simple and flog it. Adam counters that he doesn't sell cheap on his market stall, but he just wants everyone in the chain to get a good price. He believes he's the best saleswoman in Europeman in the whole process and the best negotiator, and is therefore totally ready to go into business with LordSirAlan. Azhar points out that for all Adam's brilliant business skills, he fucked up this entire task, and Adam responds by saying that Azhar did nothing. LordSirAlan asks Adam if he's out of his depth, and Adam says that no he's not, he's the No.1 candidate (more like the NO1 CURR candidate, amirite?) because he knows what he's doing and doesn't need babysitting, at which point LordSirAlan mentions that Adam clearly didn't know what he was doing on this task.

Azhar says "in Adam's defence" that he relies heavily upon Stephen and wouldn't have made half as many bird-brained decisions if Stephen hadn't led him directly to them. Ooh, nice. LordSirAlan asks who's responsible out of these three, and Adam says it's Katie because of the football pitch thing. Katie splutters that he made that decision without her being there, and Adam changes tack, saying that Katie disappeared on day two when they needed people bringing in to be sold to, and Katie protests that that's where she was: bringing people to their location. Adam claims that Azhar and Stephen both brought plenty of people down, but Katie did nothing. Hang on, so now Azhar worked hard and Katie did nothing? Is there no internal consistency to Adam's argument here? Katie calls Adam's integrity into question, and says that Adam only listens to what he wants to listen to so she had trouble communicating with him. LordSirAlan asks what precisely she was trying to communicate, since the football pitch, the Grassmarket location and the brand name were all things that she was in some way involved in. LordSirAlan thinks she's not getting it, and asks Azhar why he should stay. Azhar says that he's a self-starter who began a business with his £2.5k redundancy package and grew it successfully and he works 365 days a year. LordSirAlan poses the same question to Adam, who says that he would be "perfect" as a business partner, leading LordSirAlan to snort that these are "simple words" and he wants more than that. Adam says he's done as well as he can, and he's here to do even better, and he wants the opportunity to show it. Katie feels she's been scapegoated, because she was in the boardroom in the first week (and again in the third when she lost as PM), but she's been working hard ever since then to be a crucial contributor to every task. She says she's got a lot to offer and more to give.

Time for LordSirAlan to make his final decision. Azhar doesn't speak up enough, but came out of his shell in the boardroom and what he said makes a fair bit of sense. Adam is an enthusiastic person, but he made several big errors on this task, not the least of which was allowing other people to drag him down. Katie gave Adam some poor information, and while you could argue that's his fault for listening to her, ultimately it was still a big flaw that led to the team's ultimate failure. Katie tries to protest, but LordSirAlan is having none of it, and while it looks like he's considering firing Adam for a moment or two, he wants to give him one more chance. DEAR GOD WHY? So, of course, it's third time unlucky for Katie, and she is fired, making this six weeks in a row that the losing project manager hasn't been fired. This is some through the looking glass shit right here.

LordSirAlan tells Adam he only just got away with that one, and sends Adam and Azhar back to the house. Katie wishes them both luck, and departs. Coatwatch: dark, calf-length, belted accessorised with nifty pink scarf. In her taxinterview, Katie says she feels absolutely robbed and that Adam should've been fired, but the decision's been made, so she'll just have to go off and make a lot of money for herself instead of for LordSirAlan. I had no idea the assassination industry was so lucrative; I'm clearly in the wrong job.

Back at the house, Tom is telling the others how he was fighting the gourmet corner, as Nick and Adam return to whoops and applause. Azhar tells them all that Adam was close to being booted, and Adam claims that Azhar got a warning as well, even though, as Azhar points out, his warning amounted to "you speak up well, continue doing that."

Next week: it's the replenish-stock-according-to-demand task again [cos that worked soooo well last year - Rad], this time in Essex. Helen will be recapping that one for you, so don't forget to join her!

3 comments:

ros said...

This task made me SO CROSS. Because clearly, selling quality food is very important in establishing a real business, but for a one-day task it's going to be much better to sell cheap rubbish. I was very relieved that Jenna's lot won.

The only good decision Adam made was to take Katie into the boardroom. Not because of her performance in this task, but because SrAlan had been wanting to get rid of her for weeks.

Scott Willison said...

Adam and Stephen are such loathsome cunts it actually makes me angry. In previous years the twatty contestants were at least a bit funny - Sophocles, StuBaggs, Ben and his Sandringham scholarship. Adam's just a sexist prick and Stephen's a vile bully.

Adam's team deserved to lose for giving Azhar the gladiator outfit then letting him wear a shirt under it. If he'd been topless they'd have attracted about twice as many customers.

Geoff said...

The Apprentice is clearly getting to the bottom of the barrel. Even Sugar looks bored to tears with it. What a bunch of dullards. The only satisfying part of this show is knowing this egotistical fools are flagging themselves up to all who watch as people to avoid if met by chance. Vanity Fair

Very entertaining blog, much better than the show.