Ten Things About... Week 6 - Handy Man
1. Building bridges - This week's summoning call told the contestants that they had to be ready in 20 minutes to meet Lord Sugar in south London, and they had to bring hi-vis jackets and steel toe-capped boots. This seemed like rather a strange request: were they supposed to provide these themselves? Did they all bring them in their wheely-cases at the start of the series? Or is there a dressing up room somewhere in The Apprentice mansion, filled with hi-vis jackets, sturdy boots, Native American headdresses, police shirts and leather chaps just in case Richard wants to lead all the boys in a rousing chorus of 'YMCA' between tasks? (I would actually pay good money to watch this, and not in a porny way.) Upon arrival, Lord Sugar informed them that they were to set up handyman (shouldn't that be "handyperson"?) companies because there are busy people all over London who need help with those little jobs that they don't have time to do. Hang on, wasn't that basically the central premise of Helen's business plan in series seven? (Admittedly hers was more of a personal concierge service than actual DIY, but the basic drive behind it was the same.) Lordalan pointed out that there were three people in the cast with experience in the building trade: Brett's a builder, Joseph runs his own plumbing business, and Elle is a "construction operation executive", whatever one of those might be. Since Elle had a 0-5 win-loss record going into this, Lordalan moved her over to Versatile and made her project manager in a make-or-break bid, while Vana was moved over to Connexus where Brett was to be PM.
2. Flyer by night - The first order of business was to figure out who had some marketable skills beyond those we'd already discussed, though we only got as far as David: can put up flatpack furniture and Mergim: none, but he did a window cleaning round for extra cash when he was a kid, and suggested that they could make some good money this way. In possibly the only actual decision she made all episode, Elle made Mergim sub-team leader and sent his half of the squad out to clean windows. Unfortunately, while they were dithering about what to put on their flyer, Karen informed her that they'd actually missed their print deadline, so they wouldn't be getting any. Mind you, Brett's flyer apparently read "Connexus: connecting us to you", which is both confusing and worrying for a DIY slogan, because it sounds a bit like you're either going to steal my electricity or accidentally nail yourself to my living room wall. Either way: not good. In the end, Versatile got around the flyer issue when Mergim improvised by hand-writing some flyers in his notepad; April was a bit concerned that they didn't look professional, but given that you are being followed by a film crew and you are clearly on The Apprentice, I don't think that's going to put anyone off.
3. Son of a pitch - Naturally, Lordalan had laid on two big-time jobs for the teams to go and pitch for: one at the Theatre Royal in Stratford East where they had to give the costume department a small makeover by repainting it, reinstalling seven wardrobe rails, and adding a shelving unit. Brett went to pitch for this first, putting Sam in charge of measurements and pricing. Oddly for a gay man, Sam seemed to have a bit of trouble with accurate measurements and looked rather lost, but eventually they quoted a figure of £877 - no, wait, sorry, £777. The theatre guy did not seem terribly impressed by this, but Brett promised "I'm really like an expertise, like an expert in my field." Let's hope his field is not grammar. Then Elle's team came to pitch for the same job, with Richard leading the negotiations, Joseph in charge of actually working out the work that needed to be done, and Elle...being present. Richard quoted £560 for the job and Stratford Dude blanched, so I imagine Brett stood little chance of getting this job. Richard asked what might get them this job, and was told "lower". Helpful! The second pitch was at Dulwich Hamlet FC, where the...grounds...manager? wanted them to quote for powerwashing one of the stands and repainting the hazard strips. David lead the negotiations for Versatile because he's pitched for similar jobs before, and his opening gambit was to ask where they finished the previous season, and then commiserate them when the answer was "fourth". Anyone else think that David lost this pitch before he got anywhere near to actually quoting a number? He quoted £500, and the manager did not seem impressed. Brett, Selina and Sam came to quote the same job for Connexus, and once again Sam struggled with the maths - so much so that Selina actually had to do the figures for him. Yes, Selina. Think on that. Brett offered a quote of £480.70 and his own personal guarantee of an immaculate finish. Sam stared at the dried bird shit on the stands and asked in disgust "if we get this job, do we actually have to do it?"
4. Hole in the wall - Mergim's subteam of Charleine and April went door-to-door in...I'm going to assume Dulwich? Looking for window-cleaning business and any odd jobs they might find. April was quoting prices of £10ph, which isn't much when you have to split it between people. Considering that the matter of paying staff costs is so rarely taken into account when calculating profit/loss on this show, it was interesting to see this become such a key part of this task. Unfortunately for this subteam, Mergim kept interfering with their hourly rate due to his inability to get tasks done without trashing his surroundings, so they frequently had their fees docked - when he was fixing shelfs for an optician, he tried to screw in a nail, make the hole twice as big, and then tried to convince the shop owner that the shelf had always tilted like that. After calling back in to Brett, he expressed great concern that they were a) selling themselves dirt cheap, and b) unable to put up shelves despite advertising themselves as a handyman service.
5. Football crazy - Brett's pitch impressed at Dulwich Hamlet FC, so Connexus landed that job. Sam and Selina didn't seem terribly thrilled about having to do the dirty work, but to their credit, they did both seem to muck in - Sam with the powerwashing, and Selina scraping all of the chewing gum up with a chisel, as directed by Brett, while Brett did the painting. All three were sporting smart red polo shirts, and Sam in particular was working his - you could tell he spent the whole day fighting the urge to pop his collar. Brett kept insisting on the importance of customer satisfaction and not leaving a job half-done...until it became clear that they weren't going to finish on time, because Sam had powerwashed where he was supposed to paint and it wasn't going to dry on time. He'd also powerwashed the gum that Selina was supposed to clean up, which she complained made it almost impossible to remove, but Brett told her to just use a bit more elbow-grease. So Brett had to speak to the manager again and renegotiate the terms of their agreement, at which point it became clear that he hadn't actually expected them to remove the chewing gum, so Selina had been on her hands and knees all day scraping it away for nothing. The look that Selina gave Brett at this point could have turned Medusa to stone. The manager was, however, pleased with the quality of the job that they'd done and agreed to pay them £440.
6. Theatrical leanings - Versatile won the theatre job - well, sort of. Stratford Guy called back and told them that their quote was well outside of his budget. Elle panicked because she has no skill at negotation, so she handed it over to Richard, who tried to re-quote at £525, Stratford Guy suggested £300 and eventually they compromised at £375. On the way to this job, Elle told Joseph that as soon as they were in the theatre, he would now be project manager instead of her. I think that comment was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but she did pretty much follow through on the abdication - not only did she not lead the task when she got there, she barely even followed on it. Joseph directed David on how to cut the costume rails (which David then messed up), directed Elle on how to paint a floor that was covered in dust (hint: clean the dust off) and somehow managed to corral the entire team to produce, if not a sterling job, then at least a passable one.
7. Garden variety - Connexus did get one good lead from their professional flyers, in the form of a woman called Rachel who wanted them to clean up her garden, so Gary, Scott and Vana were sent off to deal with this. On their initial visit to give the quotation and set up the job, Capability Scott got a little bit carried away with the possibilities of the project and essentially promised Rachel a full landscaping job with ha-ha, rock garden and water feature. Vana was greatly alarmed by this given that they only had one day to actually do the job, so when they actually turned up with their tools, she was given the unpleasant job of "managing expectations", as Gary put it - and surprisingly, she did it really well, essentially explaining to Rachel in a polite but not overly-apologetic way that they wouldn't be able to complete the job but really wanted to focus on the necessities, ultimately agreeing to just tidying up and sorting things out so the professionals could do the big jobs. She was very charming about it, really made it sound beneficial to Rachel, and Rachel was very pleased with the result. That particular piece of sweet-talking (and the hard graft that followed) definitely turned the task around for Vana, who had started it by saying "I think market research is one of the most important parts of this task." Vana, let me save you some time here: market research is never the most important part of the task.
8. One Elle of a bad day - In the end Connexus turned £1050.08 profit to Versatile's £530.01, leaving Elle with six consecutive losses and putting her up there with all-time Apprentice greats Katie Hopkins and Tom Pellereau. There was no way that this task would end without Elle getting fired, but I couldn't help admiring her for not even attempting to save herself: taking blame for the loss of the flier, saying that the entire task succeeded because of Joseph, admitting that she didn't do more on the task because she thought her own incompetence would only make things worse, saying "I don't stand here proud" (before quietly correcting that to "sit here"). Lordalan fired her before even asking who she would take back to the final boardroom, and Elle admitted in her exit interview that he was right to do so, and would have looked "like a bloody idiot" if he hadn't. I'm really going to miss Elle. She may have been entirely wrong for this process, but she took losing like a champ, didn't she?
9. Parting on good terms - After Elle's departure, sub-team leader Mergim was put in charge of deciding who would be brought back to the final table. Before any further decisions were made, Lord Sugar made a point of telling Joseph that, despite this not generally being a traditional part of the format, he was going to be guaranteed safety because he'd performed so well on this task. Joseph then weighed in for the strengths of his subteam, saying that despite their differences on previous tasks, Richard took instruction well on this task and worked hard, whereas David lacked practical skills and made no real input in what they did achieve. Armed with this information, Mergim decided to bring David and April back to the boardroom with him, with Lordalan noting that Charleine had had a lucky escape because she didn't seem to have done much. Mergim's lack of general competence was deemed to be an issue here, and Lordalan decided that he just didn't see Mergim as a future business partner - though he was cheered by Mergim's story of arriving in this country as a refugee and working his way up from the bottom, telling Mergim that he would stay in touch and was firing him "with sincere regret". Karren, meanwhile, was looking at him with new eyes like "you're a refugee? HELP, HE'S PROBABLY ON BENEFITS!"
10. April showers - There was nowhere to hide for April either, as she was deemed to have lacked common business sense in the pricing problems, and Mergim had said that she worked less hard than Charleine did (at which point April pointed out that she was holding the ladder that supported him while painting with her other hand, making it hard to see what else she could have done). What really did April in, however, was Claude reminding Lordalan that he'd said to her after her mistakes in the first task that, had it been week four, five or six, she would have been fired - and well, here we are at week six. Sometimes I think Claude has spent a little bit too long hanging around Karren and has inherited her slightly peculiar worldview. Still, whatever he said rang true with Lordalan, who felt that April had been hanging back and not really contributing, so she was fired too. He even hinted that he might clean house and get rid of David too - after Karren pointed out that his general uselessness on this task had cast a cloud over his previous good form - but in the end decided to grant David and his strangely attractive man-baby face a stay of execution. Well, someone had to go back to the house and tell them what happened, right?
Next week: the remaining candidates open up a discount store in Manchester. Rad will be here to ask "DO YOU LIKE THIS DRESS?"