The opening scenes should have been a warning. Andrew enthusiastically discharges hairspray into his eyes, presumably to keep his boggle-eyed enthusiasm firmly in place. The novelty socks we glimpsed last week – never an encouraging sign on an entrepreneur from experience – belong to Steven. Young Apprentice film editors work in mysterious ways, but these were definitely hints in hindsight.
And so to the task (once one of the girls has managed to figure out how to actually answer the swanky phone), and to the Coliseum Opera House. Somehow the obvious ‘Overture For Beginners’ joke didn’t make into the script. (Later on I failed to spot any reference to fat ladies singing either, but ennui might have been setting in.) We’re here for the shopping – er, sorry negotiation skills – task. The future of entrepreneurial Britain will have ten hours to secure eight props. (As the Opera House’s show actually must go on, I’m hoping an adult has taken the liberty of making sure the real props are already in hand?)
Mixing it up a little more, Navdeep and Alice join the boys (and no-one has the nerve to say ‘demotion’) while David joins the girls. It’s a shame for them that ‘brass neck’ isn’t one of the mystery items on the card, as David could source that for them very quickly. Having previously tried to turn losing into ‘gaining boardroom experience’, he’s managed to convince himself that he’s now been in the boardroom twice simply because he wasn’t leading the team. Surprisingly, when he throws his hat into the Project Manager ring, everybody votes for Steven. David is (perhaps over-)rewarded with leading the sub-team, although his pledge to turn up the volume after being told he was too quiet last week doesn’t bode well. He proceeds to explain, straight-faced to camera, that you have to manage men like dogs while with women you have to flirt and show your softer side. Sexism aside, surely anyone exposing their softer side to Amy or Maria would be asking to have a chunk bitten out of it …
For Team Odyssey, Andrew – who has presumably managed to rinse the hairspray from his eyes – steps up. Both teams divvy out the items between them, but we soon hit the first snag. No-one knows what votives are. And it gets worse. In the guessing game as to what a ‘candelabrum’ might be, people are suggesting types of drum or washing machine parts. The staff of Curry’s and various music shops are in for a grim day, methinks.
The familiar Apprentice tropes ensue. Various retailers alternate between having TV cameras or howling contestants shoved in their faces. For a few moments, I suspect most of the viewing audience cheered a man in a Garden Centre who, speaking for many of us, simply said ‘Why should I give you a discount?’ (He loses my sympathy when he finally gives them 10% off.)
Amy, who you suspect thinks garden centres are for sissies, vox pops about how she’s a tiger or a lion, how she’s aggressive and doesn’t like to be messed with. She’s right about the aggressive bit (and, while it’s cruel to mock a girl in braces, her teeth are scary), and she certainly likes a good row. Despite Lucy’s attempts to pacify, she’s at David’s throat like a tracheotomy for most of the episode. David thinks Amy is short-tempered, which is quite diplomatic of him to be honest. Amy thinks David’s a dick, although the editors spare us that actual vocabulary.
Meanwhile, back at Team Odyssey, someone is asking “Islington, is that London?” (I continue to struggle with The Apprentice’s restrictions on online access, as it simply negates the realities of business life. If you send someone to a new city for a job, how often do you bar them from using Google, sat-navs and the rest? Behave.) Maria, showing Siralun’s sense of equilibrium in having a Shouty Girl on each team, is meanwhile off again. 3 hours have ticked by and she’s still in The Coliseum with a copy of Yellow Pages and two people she plainly finds inferior. Ah, Maria, but if you knew what a candelabrum was, you could running down Neasden High Road like a headless chicken in a moment of personal glory. Bless.
Nick Hewer stops sucking lemons to point out that Patrick (the one with the rhinestone lapels) is the only one who’s worked out where they actually are. And as he points out, “Everything else comes from that.” Maybe someone’s had a word about the taxi bill for this series?
Before the afternoon is out, the sniping about Andrew’s organisation skills will be conducted in the kind of tones usually used by teenage girls talking about their absent friend in the loos at a school disco. His negotiation skills, meanwhile, are more impressive, as we see when he leaves the discount fabric store with enough red velvet to make Russell Grant a spare cape for £20 less than Steven managed. As the afternoon wears on, he talks £200 off the price of an £850 car and his team draw level with Team Platinum on the number of items bagged. Maria having unearthed what votives and a candelabrum actually are, they also bag both for £40.
Steve and Ashleigh are meanwhile heading towards Croydon (‘Is that London?’, I wanted to ask) to look at old cars. Geography is a failing point in more ways than one. Tasked to find a running but old German car, Steven decides Volvo is Swiss and that ‘Suzuki sounds quite German’. For one bizarre moment, I wonder if he’s referencing Damon Suzuki, fabled eccentric vocalist from archetypal German avant-garde music collective, Can. No, it turns out he’s thick. Oh well. Failing to get a knackered BMW taxed before the Post Office shuts, Steven and Ashleigh do however show some initiative. They phone an electrician to ask him what a candelabrum is. Oh please, everyone knows you need to phone a stockbroker to ask questions like that.
The geography thing isn’t working any better for the subteam either. David is looking at Gloucestershire on the map and may be on the point of phoning shops there before Lucy and Amy intervene. Meanwhile, there is constant threat of a mangled metaphor. Every time David opens his mouth, Amy rushes to volunteer to put her foot in it for him. It doesn’t help when they fail to make it back to The Coliseum for the witching hour. No-one quite turns into a pumpkin, but Platinum clock up an additional fine before the whistle’s even blown.
Not that things are running smoothly for Odyssey either. Desperate for an electronic cash register (when frankly a dictionary might be more generally useful), Andrew and Navdeep give up waiting for the world’s slowest shop assistant to wrap something indeterminate and they scuttle away empty handed. Having already failed to follow up one pre-booked lead earlier in the day, the behind-their-back-stabbing switches up a gear.
And so to Squeaky Bum Time. The camera catches Andrew fretting a hole in the arm of a leather sofa as they wait to be called in. Andrew promptly disses his own sub-team and they return the backhander with aplomb. Communication was ropey, people were poorly deployed, although the subteam didn’t actually ask if they go shopping once they’d sourced more items. Despite pointing both barrels at their own feet, they are spared further humiliation when it emerges that Odyssey have scraped a victory. And the winning margin was pretty much the mark-down Andrew negotiated on the car. People who ten minutes earlier wanted to stick scissors in his back now wrap their arms round him in glee. It’s an odd world …
Steven gets better support before the result from his team, although finding his own ignorance at whatever a candelabrum might be funny doesn’t crack a smile across the table. Siralun had one of them in his van when he was your age, sonny, don’t mock … Lucy praises Steven but draws the line at David, who is told that his people management skills once again look a little wobbly. Siralun has plainly never spent an afternoon in the back of a car with Amy.
Amy, who has already kicked off in The Delicatessen Of Despair, is at it again as she and David are wheeled into the Rotisserie of Wrath. The morning had gone well, but once Karren identifies a lack of planning, Amy scores a triumphant own goal when it emerges which two items she was supposed to be sourcing. Maybe she was going for a plate and David’s head? The subteam failed to keep Steven fully in the picture, and he was therefore unable to manage them effectively. Although he came across as too nice to try. He is, however, sensible enough to bring back David and Amy. Thirty seconds in each other’s company having to justify their right to breathe and Siralun may well decide to kill both of them. Just for the peace and quiet.
And lo! Steven gets his lack of control firmly pointed out. David gets remarks about no smoke without fire and how bad a 100% Boardroom Appearance record looks if you’re not actually, you know, on the panel and stuff. But, having SHOUTED HER SHAKY SELF-DEFENCE LIKE A FISHWIFE FOR TOO LONG, it is Amy who winds up getting the finger.
To be frank, this task is always a mess in every series. The ‘adults’ did little better when they popped down the shops for The Savoy. And so it was again. They might have draped themselves in red velvet but they didn’t cover themselves in glory. Both PMs were underwhelming – a shame, as Andrew and Steven had been among the strongest until now – and the lack of realisation that you have to help your team win to save your own skin didn’t bode well for several participants. That no-one apart from Lucy seemed to realise that the cost vs fines calculation for winning meant you had to prioritise buying the car boded even less well. Even if you’re not old enough to drive, you should know that a car costs more than a wig. And you make a much hastier exit in the former when it all goes pear-shaped too.
Next week, they will be serving afternoon tea for posh people. Should be educational. Mary Berry is undoubtedly lovely, but she’s never going to show us how to make a pig’s ear using only a victoria sponge and tea bags. Can’t wait.