Last week! In a SHOCK! TWIST! (TM Big Brother) men vs women was restaged in the smelling woss selling task, and despite the mens' team mainly consisting of the Plastics (with Jordan usurping Kurt to be the one that wasn't Regina George or Amanda Seyfried's character, look if this were Steve's recap he would probably know, but I've only seen it once) the women won. NEIL CLOUGH, naturally, did enough selling (although notsomuch on the smelling) and enough 'I AM NEIL CLOUGH'ing to absolve himself of all responsibility of the task failure. It came down to a straight fight between Myles and Jordan, but as the former had been responsible for two fails on the trot and the latter's shonky 'THERE ARE THREE OF US IN THIS MARRIAGE' business plan made him the best candidate for interview evisceration (and then some... whoops, spoilers) Myles was booted out.
This week, back to interviews being the semi-final instead of the final, which feels like the natural order of things, for The Prentice, like Game of Thrones, should always keep its best episode for the penultimate episode, reigning carnage down, culling half the cast and then offering us a finale of 'not as good as the last episode but was alright, I suppose.’ Tis the way.
Credits! I can enjoy you now you no longer contain spoilers, but offer a vehicle for nostalgia. Jason being a silly shit! PM coup! DUBAIIIII! Such happy times.
8am and Apprentice Mansions and everyone is awake, having been conditioned to 6am starts for the past ten ‘weeks’. Neckbeard Neil reminds us he’s worked very hard to be here and Francesca says you have to be strong to get to the final five and she even looks unconvinced by it as she’s saying it. They all gather in the hall for a phone call, from the Sugarman himself this time, who is giving them a day’s notice to remind themselves of their business plans / make some hasty revisions take the hint gentlemen (spoiler: they don’t) before he unleashes the rottweilers.
They talk about being nervous and Jordan says they’ve been under scrutiny, now their business plans have to stand up. Spoiler: LOL OOPS.
Helpful voiceover man tells us Jordan has ‘the best record in the process’ which is kind of scary. He and his tiny arms type away frantically on a laptop although I can only conclude at this stage it was desperate emails to his friends asking pretty please could they give him their business? Or at least let him join in? He’d been hoping the cool boys’ club of Neil and Myles might let him share their plans but no dice so far. He’ll bring zippy green trousers to the mix! Jordan is “excited” to be able to ‘clarify’ the issues on his business plan – i.e. to point out that it’s much worse than it appeared last week – he is already about a minute away from tears looking at his face. Music of doom basically undercuts his whole interview.
Second in our line of obvious boots, it’s Francesca. She’s run three suucessful businesses, but she doesn’t shout about it like MULTIPLE BUSINESS OWNER Luisa who will eat everyone else for breakfast and says she has ‘two successful businesses’ in the area she is going into. So what of her mysterious third business? Is it a failure? Or in a different industry? Such is the mystery of Luisa. Next up, Neckbeard Neil, the only candidate to lead a team three times. Although not always to victory. And not if you count Apprenti-coup, which Luisa definitely does. And then there’s boardroom goddess Dr Leah whose business plan appears to be written entirely in third person and contains a lot of numbers. She reminds us of her JOURNEY to become a business woman in the process.
8AM the next day and the cabs send them to their fate. The women hug their folders tight whilst the men read theirs, trying to make some sort of sense of things. (SPOILER: good luck with that, chaps).
Sralan lies that he’s read their business plans as he told them at the start by saying thay all seem like very good ideas. Clearly not, going on what’s about to happen – indeed, going on last week’s boardroom. Anyway, he still can’t be arsed so he’s contracting that job out to the rottweilers. Jordan and Francesca look terrified, Luisa looks sort of halfway between scared and excited, Leah looks cool as a cucumber and Neckbeard looks into the middle distance and just thinks NEIL CLOUGH NEIL CLOUGH NEIL CLOUGH.
Luisa gets her trolling in early by asking them how they’re all feeling. Neckbeard Neil and Francesca look sick, Leah lies that she’s nervous and Jordan, sensing he’s going down in flames and therefore aiming for good TV (surely? I mean, he can’t be serious, can he?) says ‘a true warrior wants a good fight’. LOL forever, especially given his section in The Final Five show when he lies that he could have been in the Marines. I wonder what life is like in Jordan world. Luisa says if they have confidence in their business plans and hold their heads high they’ll have a lovely day. Luisa is such an excellent troll. The Luisa vs Francesca saga rumbles on as she tells ‘Fran’ she’s gone quiet and Francesca huffs and shoots an almighty death stare at her.
Your rottweilers this year have had the workload divided up into particular areas which makes things a bit weird. As the longest-standing member of the pack, Claude gets the best bit, to shred their terrible business plans to ribbons. First up is Luisa, whose REZ-HOO-MAY says she’s a ruthless hirer and firer. She says she’s just like Lord Sugar and Claude gets all apoplectic and shouts ‘DON’T YOU EVER COMPARE YOURSELF TO HIM!’ Actually, this series has been somewhat light on the ‘I’m just like you Lord Sugar’ front, hasn’t it? Even though a lot of the characters could have made that claim. Do you think he’s banned them from comparing themselves to him? Luisa’s face is all ‘calm down dear.’
Margaret’s task this year is to weed through the bullshit they’ve written about themselves. Jordan’s application mentions him ‘walking in the footsteps of kings’ and going on jet planes. He clarifies that this was something he did at school. Bloody poshos. We went on a school trip once to the back of the field where we had to clean out the ditch that ran alongside it. (This is true, by the way, we were about ten at the time and were lucky we didn’t catch hepatitis. That was education under a Tory system folks! None of that namby-pamby elf and safety bollox! And we also played rounders all afternoon every afternoon in the summer term! Education schmeducation!) He’s studied the greats of history and as a result his role model is David Beckham… because making such claims will get him on the telly and maybe then mummy and daddy will be proud of me, just because I’m too short (/too Jordan) to be in the armed forces doesn’t mean I have to be a failure, honest! I can serve my country in the field of BIZNESS! (/making a fool of myself for the GOOD OF THE NATION)
Our new attack dog (or… not, as it turns out) is Claudine Collins who runs a media agency. She’s wearing blue pearls to go with the blue lighting of the show. Fashion conscious! She’s got the job of finding the ‘real people’. She calls Francesca boring. Francesca says she’s travelled the world and she’s not boring. Insightful!
And finally we have Smash Hits’ very own Mike Soutar whose job is to ask the contestants to rate the new single from Johnny Hates Jazz and think of an inventive use for a Black Type tea towel. He asks Leah how he should address her. Not everyone’s as precious about titles as Lord Sralan Alan Michael Sugar Sugarman, you know. Anyway, Leah’s all, err, call me Leah, I’m not the queen or anything. Her clan is to offer ‘medical cosmetic clinics’ – i.e. Botox and facial peels and suchlike. He asks what she would do with his face, and very deadpan, she reels off a list: three areas of Botox, some fillers to soften his folds, and he’s probably need more than one syringe so that’ll cost £600. She is so cool. Even though I kind of hate the idea of the clinic, she’s brilliant.
Neil Neckbeard is sitting in the waiting area looking like he’s about to be a bit sick in his mouth. Maybe it’s norovirus or something and he’s caught it off Jordan. He lies that he’s ‘ready for it’. Leah thinks Neil will be able to sell himself and they all talk about how he has a lot of self-belief. Oh, the foreshadowing.
His business plan is to have a website allowing people to do their own viewings because there’s nobody better to sell your house than you – even though he took two years to sell his. Now, everyone rips this business plan apart because ‘no-one wants to do their own viewings’ but I’m buying a house at the moment and though all of the houses I looked at were being sold through estate agents, in all but one case (where the owners no longer lived there), the owners showed me round. I can understand that the vendors might not want to set up their appointments but the estate agents effectively only acted as a middle-person in between me and them anyway liasing over appointment times (and incessantly ringing me afterwards to go DID YOU LIKE IT?) and the marketing was all done through Rightmove and Zoopla, so although the estate agents organised that, I can see how you might be able to do it yourself – although I think the agents are probably useful in the middle of the negotiations over price and so on. However, you’re effectively going to be paying NEIL CLOUGH to do half the job of the estate agent anyway if you use his site and the idea that he will also have estate agents using it when he’s trying to do them out of a job is risible and presumably people selling houses sans agent can still use RightMove and Zoopla anyway, so I’m not saying his idea is good (it isn’t) but I am saying that, I dunno, estate agents have got a bit lazy or something.
Anyway, Claude says his idea is rubbish and Neil is a good salesperson but most people aren’t. Neil says he has to challenge Claude. CRASH CUT to the other candidates saying Neil only has one mode: NEIL CLOUGH and it could be offputting although Luisa says it might get him to the final.
He says his plan is to get the estate agents to join in and basically to be RightMove/Zoopla. Claude says he has no chance of competing. Neil says he does and it gets all ‘you don’t/I do/you don’t/I do’ from there. And basically, Neil’s argument seems to be I WILL DO IT BECAUSE NEIL CLOUGH and it’s worked this far for him in the PROCESS so why shouldn’t it work in real life?
He returns and lies that he thrives on challenge and would love to go back in there.
Margaret is back with Jordan and asks him about his time at Oxford and in the Oxford Entrepreneurs. This segment is crying out for an Oxford’s not what it used to be as he talks about how he got a full time job being president of the Oxford Entrepreneurs helping other people with ‘vision’ and ‘strategy’.
Francesca desperately tries to grab herself some of the Michelle Dewberry pulling herself up by the bootstraps edit as she mentions starting her first business after selling her car, but Claude doesn’t think she can run a ‘big’ business. Big like nail clippers? Or whatever Ricky Martin is doing these days? She then commits the cardinal sins of not knowing her numbers and confusing turnover and profit. He points out she claimed she’d make £5 million in her new business and he can’t see the numbers stacking up. ‘Number five just came into my head’. Oh, FRANCESCA.
Luisa continues her epic trolling, asking ‘was it bad?’, licking her lips like someone devouring prey as Francesca says it wasn’t the highlight of her career and then going ‘was it worse? It was worse, wasn’t it?’ and beaming a huge grin.
She then goes into see Claude and she knows her margins. She has a mysterious “online business” plus a cupcake shop and an online bakery which are all doing well. He asks her why she needs to be in the PROCESS. ‘Because I always want more’. Heh. Girl got game.
Francesca is in with Claudine and has something of the PTSD sufferer about her as she talks about the hardest part of the process being the other candidates’ game-playing. She’s dreaming every night about being locked in that kitchen as if she were JASON or something and having to make Thai/Carribean fusion food and then she wakes up screaming. Every night.
Luisa asks Jordan if he’s ready to prove something. Leah and Francesca, bizarrely, think he will thrive off the interview experience.
His quaff is even madder than ever as he tells Claudine how he ‘got things’ faster than anyone else ever (except the premise of this show’s business plan, the whole business partners with Sugs, 50/50 thing, that bit) and he doesn’t even know what to do with his brain but – and he does air quotes during this bit, although it’s not clear which bit he specifically is air-quoting – business is the way you get success in the modern world. She says he credits himself with the success of one of the Oxford Entrepreneurs’ businesses, which was snapped up by Google, but one of the founders of that firm says Jordan helped them ‘get office space’. Damning with faint praise indeed. Claudine accuses him of not being an entrepreneur, and trying to take the credit for other people’s success. I have to say, with Jason’s dating website and Jordan’s entrepreneur club, I’m kind of wishing they’d make an Apprentice University prequel to this series. He says the only “business” (again, his air quotes) he’s started for himself was trading on eBay as a teenager. This is already becoming one of the biggest interview car crashes of all nine series and there are two encounters yet to come. Also: Apprenti websites are always a bit LOLerific, but Jordan’s is a great example. Check out the bucket list, especially number 6 and number 93. Also: I saw 71 myself and it totally does count (and what the hell was Jordan doing in Grimsby?). Also: several of them are as tragi-hilariously-hipster as you’d expect. Oh, and he publishes those spam comments you always get that say ‘Thanks for this website. Very helpful is’ etc. Oh, JORDAN.
Margaret points out Luisa says she has a brain like Einstein but got a CDE in AS-Levels. Does this mean she didn’t do A2s? Luisa shrugs and says she flunked her AS Levels. Margaret asks about her comments about being mistaken for a bimbo: ‘Do you think it’s wise to put tongue-in-cheek comments on your application form?’ For this show? The show whose past winners include professional wrestler Ricky Martin and some bloke doing a reverse pterodactyl? The show that casts the likes of StuBaggs, Zeeshan SHAH and Tre Azam? Yeah, I’d say it was a good way to go.
Neil marches to see her with death music playing. She claims it’s a bit perfunctory for something he spent two years doing. He is passionate and believes it will be effective. OK then, Neil.
Francesca’s shoe collection is the most interesting thing about her. Margaret DISAGREES.
Leah is asked why she wants to do a business instead of being a doctor. She needs the money, apparently.
Jordan’s unraveling further continues as he goes to see Claudine. A quick flick through of the business plan reveals he sees them making over 1 billion (BILLION) by 2016. OK then Jordan. Claudine brings up his techy partner and pretends it might be LordSugar. Jordan says the other person is technology, he is the creative visionist. If ever there was a time for air quotes, Jordan, that would have been it.
Luisa tells Mike her business is basically a shop but she’s calling herself a wholesaler, retailer and manufacturer all at once. You can tell she wants to say ‘bitch I so am’ but humbles herself to say her business plan isn’t that well written. She mentions something about family firms and he tells her off for writing a bad business plan. Speaking of bad business plans, Dr Leah admits hers isn’t so good to Claude and then tries to derail him with her amazing grasp of the holy margins and offering to do the cleaning herself. Somewhere, Joanna is crying.
Jordan, meanwhile, has put that he can do a Rubik’s cube in 3 minutes and Mike Soutar challenges him to do so. We intercut Leah firing off her plan at super-speed with Jordan utterly failing to complete the challenge. Wonder who’s getting fired and who’s going to the final?
Jordan’s accused again of his business partner doing all the work and Jordan says he’s the Steve Jobs to his partner’s Steve Wozniak. Jordan admits his friend owns the company but he promised to cut Jordan in on it, honest. We then discover the company has TWO founders, neither of whom is Jordan. Cue the kind of music they play in horror films before a slaughtering.
Claudine is with Neil and raking over the whole MY DAD WHO IS DEAD thing again, but this is the wrong show for that kind of nonsense, and Neil says he didn’t take a day off work for his father’s funeral which is all kinds of sad and then it gets even more uncomfortable from there, and it’s really nothing to do with BIZNESS PLANS and it’s somewhat gross – not on Neil’s behalf this time, but on Claudine’s for dragging it all out.
Luisa gets in some last minute trolling of the others: ‘when in doubt, smile and pout’.
Claudine pulls up Luisa on saying her old boss was an idiot and her husband calling her stubborn, but she says being stubborn isn’t a bad thing and her boss was an idiot and she lies that the other candidates thinks she gets on well with people. She doesn’t think that’s nice and she has CHANGED IN THE PROCESS. She comes straight out and says ‘someone’ has been slagging her off and has a go directly at Francesca for saying those things.
Claudine has a go at Leah for saying her hair is voluminous on her candidate statement. But Claudine, it is! Have you not seen it unleashed in the boardroom? She snarks at Leah being interestd in her looks and Leah’s all BUT I’M 24! Which, as we all know, is the magic age for youth and beauty to combine, eh, Alex Wotherspoon? She stares Claudine down and says she isn’t obsessed about her image. Claudine then plays the ‘vulnerable young girls’ card and whilst I’m not especially keen on the whole facial ‘surgery’ thing, mainly because it makes everyone look terrible and fake afterwards. Leah denies this, which is probably true, as I would have thought rich and middle-aged was more the target market anyway. She says she is moral and ethical.
Neil, with Mike, is still saying he will make his business successful because HE WILL. Neil is the worst at reading a room. Did he not see series seven? Pull out a Helen or Tom, Neil! Say you’ll invent a neck trimmer or something!
Claude is then thrown the bloody half-dead corpse of Jordan to finish off. He snarls that the business isn’t Jordan’s anyway, which Jordan acknowledges, and therefore he has no right to sell it. Furthermore, he’s only offering (‘on page 45 of your 52 page diatribe’) a very specific 15.39% to Sralan. Someone on Monkseal's comments section noted he probably applied to Dragon’s Den and then didn’t change the percentages when he applied here, which… wouldn’t surprise me. Claude says he has no right to be here for feeding on someone else’s business and calls him a parasite. Jordan asks if he can ‘defend himself’ but THIS INTERVIEW IS TERMINATED. Luisa asks if it was one of the toughest interviews he’s had. Jordan, through the spew in his mouth, squeaks ‘one of them’.
Mike begs Neil to change his plan. Neil says I’M PASSIONATE. I WANT HIM TO INVEST IN ME. I think the NeilBot is broken. He tells the others he thinks he answered everything in the same way and he could do another one. The women all bemoan it. Jordan swallows back more vomit.
Boardroom time! Firstly, we see Sralan getting feedback from the interviewers. Luisa has been a ‘handful’ but pulled in results: she is streetwise and will get results but a bit of a spoiled child. Sralan seems to worry she might get litigious. Claude thinks establishing a brand is a good thing, Mike says she has found a gap in the market. Margaret says she will want his contacts, Claude says it’s his chequebook.
Francesca wants to open dance studios and Margaret and Claudine agree that it’s a good idea but she’ll need more help than the others. She has made up her figures but is experienced in the area and Claude worries about her scaling it up.
‘Cloughie’ as no-one has ever called him, is up next (I assume he’s not related to the actual football Cloughs) and everyone shreds his business plan. Sralan whines that he was great in the PROCESS and was THE BEST because even he has bought into the NEIL CLOUGH propaganda. Mike points out that he just can’t change his mind on anything. Sralan and Karren’s hearts break into tiny pieces.
Leah’s Botox clinic idea is presented, to some dreadful jokes and Sralan lies that it’s likely to appeal to ‘young’ people. Claudine snarks that she is ‘cold’ and ‘professional’ as if being professional is a bad thing. Mike thinks she is credible and Claude says she pays deference to the Holy Margins so is OK in his book.
Claude ‘sadly’ (i.e. with relish) informs LudSuga that Jordan had to be thrown out because he has nothing to do with the business. Karren reminds us of last week as if we’d forgotten. Mike says he isn’t an entrepreneur but takes credit for other people’s ideas. Sralan lies that he saved himself in the boardroom last week when he was entirely eviscerated and only saved for the mauling. He asks Nick and Karren what they think about him and Karren says he doesn’t do anything on his own nor have a product. Now, was Jordan put through to the ‘process’ because a) nobody bothered reading the business plans, or b) they did read them and saved him precisely for this moment?
Anyway, Jordan is told off for it not being his business. He says it’s ‘my vision’ and he had a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ – the vision then amounts to him ‘being involved’ in the company. He is quickly fired. Coatwatch: none, because he disappeared AND WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN, not even for a cabterview, such is the ignominy.
Luisa is warned that her having three other businesses might be a problem. She says it isn’t as she has the knowledge to support other businesses. Francesca is accused of having no sparks of brilliance and playing it safe. She says it’s just that she’s not of a shouty disposition. Karren says she’s struggled with the ruthlessness of THE PROCESS. Francesca says she’s a fair person and doesn’t think that’s something to be ashamed of. Sralan says Doctors and Scientists and Boffins (but not Lawyers this week for whatever reason) are the worst people in business ever and no doctors or scientists have ever made money. Are you going to tell him, or shall I? Anyway, Leah will be the first ever successful doctor in business because she has voluminous hair (in full glory tonight) and has trained privately in ‘aesthetic medicine’ whatever that is. Karren asks if she has grown and tells her she has, which Leah agrees to. Sralan asks her about the morality of the cosmetic market and the people who take it too far. Leah says she’s legit and totally would turn people away, pinkie swear, honest.
Sugs asks Neil why he hasn’t changed his business plan because he loves him and cares about him and sees him as a longlost son and yet his idea don’t make sense. Neil screams that IT DOES, and yet still fails to give a single reason why. Sralan points out that it can’t be marketed both as an alternative to estate agents and TO estate agents. Neil says he ‘takes it on board’ but not really as he still believes in it and wants to make it work. Never has someone been less adept at taking a hint. Sralan says it would be like putting money in a slot machine or chucking it off London Bridge. Neil Clough still BELIEVES IN NEIL CLOUGH and can make it a success. LordSugar says he is the person he wants and still asks him for a new idea and Neil still refuses to give him one. OH NEIL. He is told he’d win in the old system, like Helen was but with regret, he’s fired.
OVARY FEST TOP THREE! I suspected a woman would win this series, mainly because the last two winners have been men and in these tribunaled times, the message that LordAlan is not a sexist is probably important, but I still wouldn’t have seen all of the final three being women after those early weeks.
LordSugar and Karren have a little cry about Neil leaving and in his cabterview (Coatwatch: long and black) he says it’s the first time he’s ever cried and he feels he’s let his wife down.
Nick says that what unites the final three is that they have good business plans. Karren says Luisa has a good record and Francesca is likeable. Nick lies that someone comes ‘streaking up on the rails’ at the end every year. Oh, stop retconning your whole series. Leah has been one of the strongest all series bar a mid-series wobble in the form of Dubai and Away Day. Francesca and Luisa had way more of a journey from non-contenders to contenders. Even Jason had more of a journey.
They’re called back in and congratulated on getting so far. Leah is reminded that if something goes wrong it could be severe. She says she won’t Botox ‘any Tom, Dick or Harry’ and has trained for too long to risk her professional reputation. Sralan says she could do far more damage than one of Luisa’s cupcakes but Leah says she’ll make more money. Francesca is asked how she’ll scale up her business: it starts as one and becomes a chain, apparently. It gets a hmm. Luisa says she can work in a team and the others will say so. Luisa says she can. Francesca takes a deep breath and says Luisa was playing games at the start, but (through choked tears, maybe at Luisa’s heel digging into her foot) Luisa is here now under her own merit. Note no endorsement of her being a team player. Note also no boardroom takedown of Luisa. I think Francesca just can’t be bothered now and is ready for a cup of tea and some therapy.
LordSugar is still worried about the ethics of Leah’s plan, he thinks Francesca has the drive to run one centre but isn’t sure about how she will scale it up and there is a good baking market but thinks Luisa will give him a lot of aggro. But he is a bit of a gambler and finds Leah’s idea exciting so she’s in the final. Francesca’s idea has legs and Luisa’s is a consumer product and he knows about that area but Francesca is fired and he wishes her the best of luck. Leah and Luisa squeal about being in the final and Karren does her ‘WIMMIN YAY’ thing.
Francesca’s coatwatch: black with a leopard (obviously) scarf. She’s glad a woman will win and is proud of herself.
Next week: Some of the candidates are back! Luisa vs Jason and Luisa vs designers redux! Luisa cries – a sign of her redemption coming full circle! Join Steve for all the fun then!