So we’re into the second half of this series of The Apprentice and so far, at least in my opinion, it’s all to play for as nobody has really emerged as a front-runner in the competition. In fact, as was pointed out by Jenna early in this episode, Lord Sugar is yet to fire any of the losing project managers throughout the series so far, which must be some kind of record. This was also the episode in which the only person not to be PM up to this point, that being Jade, put themselves up for team-leader however in her case things quickly started to go pear-shaped but let’s venture back to the start.
Once again we start at The Apprentice House where the candidates are just lazing about, it’s not like they have the cameras on them or anything, but this being task day you’d think they’d be ready for that call which came in at 5pm. Lord Sugar asks the final ten to meet him outside a dodgy warehouse in Essex as the sun was going down and I have to say with the desolate setting coupled with the big black cars this almost felt like a showdown between two rival East End gangs, while Nick Hewer also looks like a henchman especially when he wears that long trench-coat. But instead of being asked to finish somebody, Lord Sugar gave both Sterling and Phoenix £150 each to buy items from the warehouse then replenish the stock with the profits they’d made up to that point, or as his Lordship so eloquently put it they had to smell what was selling.
Nick’s Team Sterling, which now included Steven who had swapped place with Laura, got to work straight away selecting two locations in Romford however Jade struggled on her decisions with the team taking ages to decide on their two spots. The next task was to sort through the potties, rat-traps and bounce balls for some items that would sell, which in the case of Nick’s team included clip-on nails and fake tan which Lord Sugar later dubbed the Essex kit – on a side note if you wanted proof that Nick Hewer was softening since taking over as Countdown host look no further than the moment where he praised Team Sterling for their efficiency.
It was a good thing he wasn’t following Phoenix as once again Jade struggled, as she seemingly just chose random items and then separated the stock 50/50 between herself and Adam going to the market and the rest of the team who were off to a shopping centre. Jade’s lack of a plan was a running theme throughout the episode, especially in the eyes of Azhar who constantly questioned his team’s strategy, raising the ire of his project manager. It did fact seem that strategy was the word of the day as far as this episode so I re-watched the episode to count the number of times it was used which I believe was 25 and if I were Jade I would also be annoyed hearing that word spoken so often.
The other team had a clear strategy in place, which was namely to get Jenna to sell that fake tan, which was described by Nick Hewer as being ghastly, as she does flog beauty products for a living.
I think this episode did demonstrate Jenna’s abilities as she was able to communicate with the womenfolk of Essex in the language of tan. Despite being a winning project manager last week, I feel this was the task which really bought out the saleswoman in Jenna and if her business plan involves anything to do with beauty treatments then I would consider her a serious finalist. Ricky and Steven opted out of fake tan sales instead going to the market to sell retractable mops by participating in a series of mini-skits which involved Steven complaining of a bad back and Ricky offering the mop as a solution to his problems. This segment was possibly the most entertaining of the episode as it made them look like complete idiots especially when the head microphone that Ricky was wearing starting producing feedback. If the boys wanted to see how a market trader really operates then they should’ve seen Adam’s patter as he tempted the customers with ‘rainy day prices’ as well as flirting with the ladies and to me he really looked like he was in his element. If Jenna was the stand-out of Team Sterling then Adam was the MVP of Phoenix but he definitely had something to prove after last week’s meatball disaster however I personally think this demonstrated that he’s more comfortable on the market stall, so maybe isn’t cut out for big business just yet.
Team Sterling definitely smelt what was selling straight away, mainly because those fake tans do give off a horrible stench, so Nick instructed Ricky and Steven to stop their comedy routine and head back to the warehouse to buy more of their top-seller without first dumping their remaining stock back at the shopping centre. This strategy proved to be the wrong one, as Sterling sold out of everything including men’s beard trimmers which they started offering to ladies to sort out their unruly nether regions. The problems continued when Ricky and Steven were stuck in traffic, as well as the fact that there wasn’t enough fake tan left to spend all their money on however once all five were reunited the sales really started buzzing. Despite Azhar’s constant moaning Jade still didn’t have a strategy when she returned to the warehouse again, buying a cornucopia of random items instead of the mini-bug children’s toys which were the team’s best-selling item. The final push for sales saw both teams being given stalls at Lakeside where Steven and Ricky were given more of a chance to sell after moaning about being errand boys all day. Nick made the decision to keep selling at high prices while Jade went for the opposite strategy to sell low and clear as much of the stock as possible, not listening to Lord Sugar’s opening gambit where he stated that the remaining stock would also be counted as an asset.
It did look like it would be a landslide win for Team Sterling however to add some drama Lord Sugar made a big deal about the moment in which none of the team were selling anything, insinuating that this could’ve cost them the task. In addition he chastised them for giving Essex a bad name by thinking that they were only interested in fake tan, however you would get that impression if your only reference material on the area is the totally factual documentary The Only Way is Essex. He also made it seem like Phoenix had a chance of winning, as the margins on those bug toys were really good, however it was indeed Sterling that triumphed by over £100. While the winning team went to a bar to see two men set lots of drinks on fire the predictable fight between Jade and Azhar started with the dreaded strategy word being bought up a lot. Jade showed her inability to make decisions by fumbling over who to bring in as well as Azhar, eventually choosing Tom despite him being the most sensible one on the team and indeed in the process. Even Lord Sugar gave her the chance to change her mind, basically to choose Laura over Tom, but through some sort of misguided loyalty she stuck to her original choices.
So who’ll get fired? On this task alone it has to be Jade I don’t think she was, as she claimed, a born leader failing to make quick decisions and to me she seemed to lack confidence throughout the task. I wonder why Lord Sugar picked someone who in their CV claimed that their main weakness was to make hasty decisions and not analyse for long enough but then I suppose you could apply that trait to the majority of people who’ve appeared on The Apprentice over the years. Another fatal flaw here was not bringing Laura back in with her as in this task she really did nothing, while Tom did indeed assess the costs throughout, with his only flaw being that he didn’t know how much the fake tan cost – something he was given advice on by Laura herself. With Tom essentially safe the only other option would be Azhar, someone who has been in the boardroom two weeks in a row however this time he’s there for doing what Lord Sugar asked of him namely to speak up. Azhar’s inability to communicate in an effective manner may be the only reason why he is fired while Jade’s saving grace may be the business plan that she wants Sugar to peruse.
I think if I’m assessing the candidates based on this week then I’d have to give Jenna and Adam the stars for selling the most however Tom looked strong once again. There would be an argument to be made for Nick to be seen as a strong candidate, even though he does look like his suit is several sizes too big for him, but I think a lot of the success of this task was down to Jenna’s sales while some of his decisions could’ve lost him the task if it weren’t for the complete failure on the other team. All in all this episode of The Apprentice wasn’t a classic but it always seems that the episodes in the middle of the series are often low in comedy value as we await the final couple of weeks. But then maybe The Apprentice does have a couple of surprises up its sleeve after all it does seem like a programme that wouldn’t progress without a strategy.
Who in your opinion are the strongest candidates? Are you enjoying this series of The Apprentice? Leave Your Comments Below.