Junk Shops

Something odd is going on with The Apprentice. Have you noticed? They're not fighting. Oh sure, they still go at each other in the boardroom, but fights on tasks have been conspicuously absent. This seems to have led to 30 minute tasks followed by 30 minute boardrooms in an attempt to create some drama, as there's only so much mileage to be gotten out of mocking the candidates' mistakes.

The teams are off to a cinema, so they immediately think they'll be making some sort of advert or trailer. Because they haven't realised by now that the places they go to meet with Sir Alan are generally only tangentially related to the task. Duane wants to see some people "get exposed" and I'm fairly sure he means some of the girls. Amazingly, Laura then tells us that "being an attractive businesswoman can have its ups and downs" and I'm forced to wonder if they edited that bit in after the whole Samantha Brick debacle.

imageAt this point, the task has been explained but I'm still not sure what it is. They have to buy things, and then 'upcycle' them if they like and sell them on the following day. It's set up to appear like they can get their goods from anywhere, but it also appears that a bunch of auctions and shops have been picked-out for them. It's clear the goal is to make money, but whether they're meant to just buy then sell on, or refurbish all the goods is left up in the air. Sugar acknowledges as much in the boardroom later on, and it makes for an interesting task but a somewhat confused episode.

Duane wants to be project manager again, because he seems to think they're playing 'winner stays on' (stupid as that sounds, the US version of the show did just that for a season).

There's a wonderful sequence where the teams find a load of old junk in the back of a junk shop, they talk about how awesome they are for finding it, before it cuts to the shop owner explaining they got a load of tat and left the good stuff behind. That's the baffling ego that characterises every Apprentice candidate: despite having no experience in the field, they think they know better than the guy that runs a junk shop for a living.

As the teams continue to 'upcycle' and set up their shops, we cut away, because for once the teams are being allowed to work late into the night, without the supervision of camera operators on limited working hours. What's wonderful is that usually when this happens, we leave the place in a complete tip the night before, and return to a wonderfully lovely and clean space the following morning. This time, an hour before they're due to open, the one team's shop still looks like a bomb site.

The teams try their best to sell, and it's typical Apprentice dichotomy time. One team has bought a small number of goods, spending little of the seed money, and so is running out of stock. The other team has bought loads of stock but are struggling to shift it. At this point you know where it's going: if the first team lose, it's because they were too conservative and didn't spend the seed money, and Sir Alan likes people to take risks. If the second team lose, they over-spent, were reckless, and Lord Sugar doesn't like people who waste his money. The message behind the task will depend who wins.

imageOne team, rather than put opening hours on their chalk-board, have it saying "8 hours left" which they diligently change throughout the day, until we reach "1 hours left" and they fail to realise they can just rub out the 's' for a grammatical win. For this reason alone, I now hope they lose.

And they do. In the boardroom it turns out the team that bought the most stock lost, and they weren't helped by their obsession with painting Union Jacks on everything.

The winners head off to learn how to swing dance, and we see the demonstrator throw a his partner over his shoulder in a move I'm sure I learned once in judo. Katie can be heard to say "oh my god" at this, presumably as she realises that with the strapless dress she is wearing, should she try that her boobs will fall out.

Laura 'beautiful businesswoman' Hogg takes her team to losers' cafe. She straight out makes it clear she's hanging the loss on the fact that they spend too much on materials to 'upcycle' their goods. It's a good point, but given they lost by £279.91 and only spent £232 on materials it can't be the only reason. I do also wonder about being that honest in the losers' cafe and can't help but think, were it me, I'd mention something totally different there and keep the real reason I thought we lost for the boardroom, so whoever I'm blaming didn't have chance to prepare their counter-arguments beforehand.

Anyway, it's basically the only point bought up in the entire boardroom sequence: Laura blames Gabrielle for that, and brings back her and Jane. No-one mentions that, even had they spent nothing on materials, they still would have lost. Jane is back as she sold the least, mostly as she was stood outside trying to get people into the shop, rather than selling directly. She did a bad job at it, but she never really had chance to sell. And then Jane gets fired, and has on her face a look of utter shock, the sort of look that says "I know I'm better than most of these jokers, you know I'm better than most of these jokers, what the hell?" A bizarre choice, and one where I think Sugar just decided he didn't like her for whatever reason and jumped on the chance to get rid of her. The official reasoning was that she hadn't 'shown him anything' but given I didn't even know who Laura was until this week when she failed at managing a task, that seems a little unfair

Still, four weeks in and Katie finally wins a task, I'm still pushing for a Katie win, mostly as Sugar decided to fire her in Week 1 and only changed his mind when Bilyana wouldn't shut up, so her victory would make a wonderful mockery of the whole process. I'm also not sure I've ever seen the show go four weeks without a single project manager being fired before. It's a weird year.

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