That dastardly Lord Sugar was at it again this week. Just when the poor candidates thought that they were getting a little respite from his fiendish tasks - enjoying an easy afternoon of video gaming and lolling about on sofas in comfortable clothes, what should happen but his Rolls Royce should roll up? How could they have anticipated it with only a large camera crew as a clue?
What would really have been a surprise would have been if Lord Sugar had brought in a CD player with him, blasted out the theme from The Full Monty and begun to loosen his tie. Then you would have seen some real rather than some fake shock for once. But instead he sent them to Edinburgh to make and market some street food. Which was probably for the best.
Team Phoenix was led by Adam who, if he could act, would walk into the RSC's next production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Bottom. He enthusiastically told his team how brilliantly he would do in this task with all the merry conviction that a certain weaver brimmed with when he claimed he could play Thisbe.
Sterling were led by Jenna. It is difficult to talk about Jenna without mentioning her hint of a regional accent. I should declare an interest here as I too come from the North of England and am the proud possessor of a voice that will grate cheese. I have many fond memories of the North – cross country running in biting cold winds, playing in graveyards, sleet – the kind of stuff you just can't buy. But even I have to admit that you can take coming from the North of England that little bit too far. Jenna's voice and the city centre of Newcastle on a Friday night both do that.
First they had to pick their product. Jenna and Sterling came up with a traditional casserole. Casserole is, of course, a classic street food if your street happens to have a table, a chair and a knife and fork. Otherwise, not so much. But as a saving grace they decided to give it a Scottish twist. Their product was entirely inappropriate but at least they knew where they were.
Nevertheless it was an open goal for Adam and Phoenix. They brainstormed and from the blizzard of ideas emerged...wait for it....pasta and meatballs. An absolute classic non-street food. And with no connection to Scotland whatsoever. Those who remember Diana Ross at the opening of the 1994 World Cup are the only people who have seen an open goal missed more spectacularly.
Adam saw keeping costs down as the key to success, just as Second Lieutenant Tom had done when marshalling Phoenix to victory in the junk yard task. But, liberated from the project manager role, Tom's stiff upper lip became more flexible and he was suddenly advocating spending big on quality ingredients. As world war one generals taught us, it's always easier to be brave when someone else's life is on the line. But Adam was wall-like in his refusal to budge. Making cheap crap is never a bad idea on The Apprentice. As Lord Sugar would no doubt testify.
Tom's advice would have been more welcome on Sterling who took the perilous root of buying quality ingredients and making a good product. “Very risky” as Lord Sugar later observed disapprovingly in the boardroom.
On to selling. Phoenix cleverly rejected the generous offer of a Michelin-starred Italian chef's name on their dish in favour of the words “utterly” and “delicious” and “meatballs”. Of the three words only “utterly” should not be consulting its lawyers and considering an action for libel. It looked like sick. And they were selling it to football fans! For £5.99! As far as I'm concerned both Hearts and Rangers supporters did themselves no end of credit for not attacking them. Some of them even ate it. But then they do watch Scottish football so they are used to suffering.
Sterling meanwhile had taken their filling casserole to Parliament Square and were trying to stuff it into people who had just finished breakfast. Even the Scots, who, if the World Health Organisation are to be believed, are hearty eaters, like a breath or two between meals and they were getting no takers.
The football over, Phoenix headed for pastures new. Stephen, The Evil Slither, who until now had acted as a hidden eminence grise now picked his moment to stick his trident in. He struck a deal allowing Phoenix to sell to tourists on a bus. They were a captive market. But not a hungry one. Which was not that surprising when the image of a pizza on Katie's costume looked more appetizing than the actual food.
Sterling too were having to relocate to where there was footfall but also competition. Having higher costs, their need to sell was greater. Jenna feared the worst. She did it well. Fearing the worst in a Northern accent is always more convincing. It should be. It's where the worst happens. I said I've lived there – I didn't say I'd stayed.
But back in the boardroom in an alarming turn up for everybody, quality triumphed over rubbish. Lord Sugar seemed surprised. So did Sterling when it turned out that their treat was to ride round the grounds of a stately home on a Segway. I think it's safe to assume The Apprentice “treats” have been victims of cuts at the BBC.
Back in the boardroom Adam was about to discover the true nature of Stephen. Tongue flicking slightly from his lips, The Evil Slither poured forth a venomous stream of sticky bile on Adam's Project Manager skills. Mouth agape in disbelief, Adam realised he had been taken for an ass.
But without a solid silver stake to hand, he was not the man to fight The Evil Slither. Instead he brought back Katie who was accused of “going missing” but really because she's had the stench of apprentice death on her since nearly getting fired in Episode 1 and, surprisingly, Azhar the Orca who'd “done nothing.” But, as PM, Adam was clearly in desperate trouble. Especially when it emerged that Lord Sugar had seen pictures of the Bolonasty (they only just scraped an 18 certificate from the BBFC). However, he obviously saw something in Adam. Or perhaps he just wanted another opportunity to fire a woman for no reason. Who can say?
Adam's return to the house was a shock to Stephen. When The Evil Slither turns on someone he doesn't expect to see them again. But he recovered almost instantly and his mouth smoothly promised gullible Adam a new start. His eyes promised something entirely different.