The Apprentice: Taking the biscuit

It’s week nine for our entrepreneurial elite, and a relaxing Sunday in Apprentice Towers is disturbed by a late night knock on the door. It’s his Lordship himself. They must have edited out the swearing that this surprise visit would have generated amongst the inmates.

What possible task couldn’t have waited until Monday morning? Were our heroes required to parachute into Palestine and secure a lasting peace with Israel? Or fly to Africa and design a lifesaving mobile water purification unit? No. Their task was create and sell a new brand of biscuit. There was some travel involved though – Lord Sugar had laid on a trip to a development kitchen in Wales, or ‘Wows’, as he calls it. It’s not all bad then.

Venture, this week, comprises Natasha, Helen, and Darth Jim. Jim must have been delighted as Helen has proved unstoppable so far. Also, he likes Helen, as she’s ‘passive’. Goes with his ‘passive aggressive’ then, as diagnosed by Karen last week. In any event, passive or not, Helen puts herself forward and no one feels like arguing. This is a guaranteed cert with her form.  

Meanwhile, Logic takes shape in the form of Tom, Zoe, Susie and Melody. Susie stakes her claim to be project manager – “this is what I do”. Zoe, with all the vocal range of Marvin the Paranoid Android, points out that it isn’t really what Susie does at all – what she does is get excited and say daft things (“do the French love their children”) – and with her drinks company experience, gets the PM role herself.

Tom and Melody are given the product design role, and inventor Tom immediately comes up with the idea of an ‘emergency biscuit’ ‘Emer-Crunch’, or something. What possible emergency would be remedied by the addition of a biscuit, I wonder. Unless they contained adrenalin and could be administered to someone having an anaphylactic shock, I’m not sure this idea has legs. But I digress….

Melody, meanwhile likes a Valentine day theme with heart shaped biscuits (no one pointed out that Valentine’s day is only once a year, which might affect sales somewhat). She then came up with the alternative idea of ‘biscuits – the new popcorn’. What happened to the old popcorn? Even the deadpan expressions of the old dears at the focus group didn’t deter her from pursuing this notion, though Zoe was having none of it, and decided to go with Tom’s ‘biscuit within a biscuit’ idea. The focus group seemed to approve of this, but I suspect they were just laughing at Tom’s red catering hat which made him look like a young Tommy Cooper. To be fair they quite liked heart shaped biccies too, but Zoe was never going to go with a suggestion from Melody. Even mild mannered Tom pointed out that he felt that Zoe had sent him and Melody to Wales, as she didn’t want to work with Melody herself.

While Tom and Melody were bonding in Swansea, Zoe and Susie seemed to be getting on quite well, though on her own, Susie did say that Zoe was “one of the bitchiest and most backstabbing people I’ve met”. Which was nice.

The dual biscuit idea is branded as ‘Bix Mix’ with the strap line, “Snap and Share”. That cuts out the male market then. No bloke wants to share a biscuit. Trust me.

As Melody is a ‘communication expert’, she comes up with the idea of her and Tom doing a role play at their pitch to three supermarkets, to showcase the Bix Mix brand. “You and I are going to be lovers tomorrow”, she says to him in the car, back to London. He looks scared and aroused in equal measures. Their role play at the Sainsbury’s pitch was too excruciating to watch. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

Helen, meanwhile is running a tight ship at Team Venture, coming up with a biscuit aimed at children as an after school ‘anytime treat’. The inherent contradiction here of an anytime treat aimed at a specific time of day was lost on them, but never mind. This is Helen’s team – what’s to worry about? In their pitches, Helen and Jim quickly realise that when Natasha opens her mouth, rubbish comes out, and, basically, tell her to shut up unless it’s an absolute emergency (the same sort of emergency, presumably, when a biscuit might be required).

Melody and Zoe put aside their differences to do their own ‘girly night in’ role play at their next pitch. Do they never learn? Look at the faces of the buyers – what more clues do you need that this ship is sinking?

Waitrose really like the Bix Mix packaging, to be fair, but pointed out that the biscuit itself didn’t really match up to the quality of the box. It was, essentially, a digestive, with a cheap biscuit in the middle, and half coated in cheap chocolate. This revelation seemed to come as a surprise to the team, but gave a clue as to the way things were going to go in the boardroom.

So, our hapless entrepreneurs are sat next day in front of His Lordship. “Good team leader?” He asks Logic. Stony silence.

His Lordship points out that, in his pitch, Jim committed his team to a massive TV campaign which will cost £20-30 million, ‘I stand by that’ says Jim, now branded BBIW by Shugs – ‘The biggest bullshitter in the world’.

Anyway, the results are in, and His Lordship has a quick look, exclaiming ‘bloody hell’. Venture’s efforts have resulted in not a single order, whereas Asda order 800,000 units of Logic’s brand – another record order for Helen. Surely there can be no doubt now that Helen is on course to win this?

In the Sad Café, Tom says he came up with a huge number of very powerful ideas. That would be the idea of a biscuit in a biscuit. Not as powerful as he thought, obviously. Melody says that she came up with ‘daring concepts’. Making biscuits the new popcorn. Is that really daring? Really?

Back in the boardroom and Zoe and Melody set to like two teenaged girls. His Lordship looks like a bored Dad. Ultimately and predictably, Zoe brings back Tom and Melody, Despite His Lordship’s warning that ‘at least one of you will go’, sadly, only Zoe gets the boot, coming across much nicer with Dara O’Briain afterwards on BBC 2 than she did during the task itself.

Helen to win. There’s no competition, really

Posted by: Our Man In The South

14 Comments

Filed under The Apprentice

14 responses to “The Apprentice: Taking the biscuit

  1. Tim

    Nice summary, OMITS.

    I am suspicious. Given Tom and Melody’s wooden acting, was it a role play or did they just re-enact the dialogue bits from a really bad porn film?

    Not sure about Sugar’s decision. On a task where it was really quite important to get both the product and the branding right, Zoe was fired for not being able to clone herself. Not that she was ever going to win, but I think she can feel a bit hard done by, especially given Me-Me-Melody’s attitude. Last week, she believed four people who told her no one drives in Paris, and this week she dismisses a focus group who dislkied one of her ideas because they are just 10 out of 60 million people. O-kaaay.

    Let’s face it, Sugar basically wanted to fire Zoe. So he concocted a half-baked (ho ho) idea to fire Zoe. End of. No great loss, but it means we have to suffer Melody for at least one more week.

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2011/06/30/the-apprentice-helen-still-the-special-star-as-bix-mix-gets-nixed/

  2. ourmaninthesouth

    Thanks Tim,

    I really enjoyed your summary as well. Excellent stuff. I’m sure Melody is getting left in just because she’s so irritating. She’s like Stuart Baggs last year. You could just stick her and Susie in a room and see what they say about their achievements in life so far. The interview stage will be very interesting if they manage to limp that far.

    They never seem to use technology in The Apprentice, do they? Why not take a pic and email it to the rest of the team to see what they think of the packaging/product? I think the tasks are designed to force people to make decisions quickly which they will then come to regret.

    On balance, Zoe had to go, but it could have been any of them, to be honest. I wonder what effect it has on their subsequent careers?

    • Tim

      I suspect you’re right about Melody. I always thought Stuart had a degree of self-awareness about his own portrayal, whereas Melody does seem to be just a human bulldozer – a bit of Stuart mixed with Saira Khan, perhaps?

      I may be wrong, but I have always assumed the candidates are restricted in terms of when they can use technology. As you say, so often problems could be avoided with an email. Or even Google. But then we wouldn’t get the comedy pratfalls, I guess. Products and packaging would be viewed in advance, And we wouldn’t have had the glorious confusion over what a cloche was.

      I know of at least one previous candidate who went back to her old company after The Apprentice, as she works with a colleague’s sister. It seems that many of those who survive at least a few weeks use their moment of fame to set up for themselves or become minor local celebrities. Even Anita Shah, who was first out two years ago, writes a weekly Apprentice column for the Telegraph.

      Agree that Zoe had to go on balance, but wouldn’t it have been lovely if Melody had been the second half of a double firing? Even though he’s had two bad weeks, I still fancy Tom to at least make the final. We’re definitely at the stage where Sugar is seriously thinking about who he will be able to invest in – Tom, Susan and (sadly) Melody all at least have set up their own businesses.

  3. pauseliveaction

    Sugar did say “Wows,” didn’t he? It took me a few seconds to work out where he was sending them, even with the benefit of having a proper Cockney grandma.

    I don’t think they had to edit out the swearing when he arrived at the house, though. I imagine the presence of cameramen had given them the clue that something was afoot.

    Natasha’s comb-over upsets me.

  4. inkface

    I tweeted very rudely about Zoe’s weird outfit/hairdo on You’re Fired. Then stupidly felt guilty when I heard she’d had cancer (not recently, it wasn’t a chemo wig. I hope not anyway). If it was Leia she’d not bothered doing one half. It was actually quite insane, like a bridesmaid from the 70s. Natasha’s hair needs an intervention and soon. I can’t see her on screen without wanting to snip her fringe.

    • pauseliveaction

      Am I the only person who watches The Apprentice but doesn’t watch You’re Fired? I know Dara’s officially meant to be hilarious etc, but by the time Baron Sugar points his pointy finger and the unhired person has gone off in a black cab muttering bitterly, I feel I’ve had enough Apprentice for one evening.

      Meant to say earlier, as well as Natasha’s comb-over bothering me (please snip her fringe, Inkface), I’m also very irritated by Melody’s voice. It’s. The. Way. She. Puts. A. Full. Stop. Between. Each. Word.

      • Tim

        If you listen very carefully, they’re not full stops – they’re where she quietly interjects “Me! Me! Me!”, “global business” and “Dalai Lama” under her breath 😉

      • Velocity Girl

        It’s not just you, PLA – I can’t be doing with You’re Fired either. I think the medical term for this is Twonk Fatigue.

  5. ourmaninthesouth

    I was going to mention Natasha’s smarmed fringe. It looked Hitler-esque at one point. Very odd. And I agree, also, with the 70s theme to Zoe’s ‘Youre fired’ hair-do. It looked like she should have been pushing out a hostess trolley and offering everyone a prawn cocktail.

  6. Qwerty

    Just caught up. Thanks iPlayer! Really relieved that OMITS has mentioned Natasha’s staggering physical resemblance to Hitler. Cut her hair Inky, and stick a little moustache on, and before you can say Nuremberg she’d be annexing Poland.

    Am on opposite side to VG and PLA re YF – I do love initial letters BTW. I am heartily sick of twonks and Shugs by the time he points the pointy finger, but then I switch to BBC2 safe in the knowledge that Dara will breathe the perfect air of humour and gentle disdain over the entire proceedings, making me feel slightly less bad about watching in the first place.

    • inkface

      I’m in team Qwerty. I’m happy to skip some of the Apprentice, but You’re Fired, for me, is like the Brodie’s Notes of it. You get the edited highlights & the (usually) witty commentary from the guest panel.

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