Friday, 17 May 2013

The Apprentice Series 9 Episode 3 Flat-pack

Another carefree afternoon for the candidates. They frolicked, they gamboled, they giggled. Only the presence of a camera crew hinted that all was not quite as it should be. Oh and all the women being in full make up again. And everybody looking like they'd just had a shower...

Briing Briing! Briing Briing!

This is nowhere near the noise the phone actually makes but you get the idea. Off shot one of the girls at full speed to see if it was a wrong number. Getting to the phone first is about the only victory any of the girls have managed to far in this series so you would have thought they would have savoured it. But  you'd be wrong. Without so much as thank you, Luisa had slammed down the phone and was yelpingthe cars will be with us in thirty minutes.

The cars were right on time somehow managing to draw up in the slightly sinister way that The Apprentice drivers have specialised in developing. Now it might be my general lack of experience with posh clothes (one suit in my whole lifetime, worn on four occasions) but when the contestants emerge from the house I can't help but think they look like they're off to wedding of someone they don't really like but couldn't think of an excuse in time for not going and are now running late.

But of course they weren't off to wedding. They were off to design some flat pack furniture. Coincidentally flatpack furniture is actually the first thing you encounter after your wedding (usually about a fortnight later) which announces in no uncertain terms the honeymoon is over. And that your life in the years  to come will mainly be summed up by wonky bookshelves and wardrobes you always open gingerly. If you ask me bride and groom shouldn't exchange rings, they should swap alum keys.

But I digress. Endeavour immediately set about trying to win their third task on the run. They choose Jordan to be their team captain. Now Jordan can wear a suit and sayone at a time, guysas much as he likes but it isn't going to change the fact he is only a floppy hat away from being an irritating presenter on children's television. One of those ones who used to drive you mad when you were a kid because even then you knew that nobody is ever that bumptiously cheerful all the time.

Over in Evolve, the girls team, confidence levels were falling and the girls had resorted to caking their faces in ever more slap in an attempt to raise their spirits. Presumably because she managed to trowel on marginally more than the rest of them, they choose Nat as team captain. The girls needed an idea. Fortunately they had lots. Unfortunately they had all the same time. Very shrilly.

Back in Endeavour,  team leader, Noddy had backed Alex and his marvellous eyebrows to design their product (the quality of Alex's eyebrows which makes them so amazing is that they are both half-missing but also very pronounced). Alex wasted no time convincing the boys to make a table that could turn into a chair for all those times you had too many visitors. The boys did look a little bemused at this concept which suggested too many visitors wasn't a problem any of them had come across before.  

Over in Evolve, Nat had placed her trust in the design skills of Uzma. Uzma led the girls in the direction of smart storage and proposed a cube on wheels. I was concerned. Having seen what had happened to the girls last week when they tried to get  involved with mathematical calculations I felt anything geometric was not going to end well. Once Evolve got going with ratios their cube could end up a twisted concoction of triangle, rhombus and sphere. Sort of like the end of David Cronenberg's The Fly but with shapes.

Nat sent off her sub-team to do some market research. The market research wanted leg room under the cube. Nat put her foot down (but definitely not under)they were sticking with storage.

Next morning the products arrived. Endeavour had certainly succeeded in maunfacturing a table that turned into a chair. Unfortunately the chair it turned into looked like something you were sent to sit on when you were in the infants and you'd been naughty. This effect was emphasisied by making the chair too high so anybody small who sat in it looked like a dwarf. Those who've seen Alan draw himself to his full lack of height had to hope he didn't have to try it out. Its impossible to make tough business decisions with dangling legs.

Meanwhile my fears for Evolve's geometrical competence proved unfounded. Their cube was indeed cuboid. It was also a dismal grey and on cheap wheels. It looked like what R2-D2 would have resembled if Star Wars had been made by Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Nevertheless Evolve professed to be delighted with it though their smiles were tighter than if they'd all just been given free botox injections. Endeavour weren't quite as effusive about their design. The rest of Alex's team still stood firmly behind him but you could tell they were ready to push.

The pitches gave little us clue about who was going to win. Time is filled up with the teams' attempts to sell to small retailers but everybody knows what counts is the two big retailers that Lord Sugar has laid on for them to present to. It was down to the buyers from John Lewis and Argos.

So back in the boardroom we waited for the numbers. Endeavour had sold well and the boys all moved a little closer to Alex hoping some of his sparkle would rub off on them. Then Karren announced that the retailers loved Evolve and their pitch and the boys all edged away again. But they needn't have bothered. Karren who has obviously got her eye on a future career playing wicked stepmother parts in panto dashed the girls hopes withthey hated your product.No orders. Three defeats on the trot. The girls were evolving all right. Into a  duck.

Nat brought back Uzma who was responsible for the design and Sophie who was responsible for doing the market research and telling her that cubes were a bad idea. Which was true. It was clearly Uzma's fault however much shouting she did. And Lord Sugar has an investment to protect. So he sacked...

Because the investement Sugar has to protect is not the piddling one he makes in the eventual winner. Oh no. The investment Sugar is always at pains to protect is the one that is far more crucial to his business. The television series. And Uzma promises to be much, much better TV. He can always throw her out later but for now the noble Lord is putting his money where her mouth is.