The Apprentice Episode Three : Alex Mills wins praise with his invention while Natalie Panayi’s team continue to bicker in a repetitive instalment of the business show

by Matt D

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So far I have sung the praises of this year’s series of The Apprentice, partly because of the colourful band of characters taking part. However, by the end of this third episode, I felt that there was very little progression in terms of characters or attitudes. This is especially true of the girls’ team in which, as Karren Brady noted, there are plenty of talkers but no listeners. While the men have cut down on their macho posturing a bit, the girls are still trying to shout all over each other and that can only result in major catastrophe.

This week the teams had to design a piece of flatpack furniture which they would then manufacture and attempt to sell to big retailers and smaller stores. Lord Sugar also had some words of warning for the all-female Evolve team as he felt that he had yet to see anything spectacular from any of them. Taking the lead for the girls was Natalie, who claimed to be quite good at designing things while her business idea is also to do with the manufacturing of garments. Evolve’s initial idea was something to do with space-saving, a concept that Francesca suggested for people like herself who live in small apartments. Francesca’s idea eventually morphed into a multi-functional cube that could be both somewhere you could perch you laptop on while at the same time use it as a chair if needs be. I have to say I liked Francesca’s initial concept, however Natalie couldn’t stop taking suggestions from all of the girls which included adding a chilled cabinet for drinks and a soft cushion on one of the sides. It was also clear that Natalie had her favourites, namely the awful Luisa, which meant that Rebecca’s sensible suggestions fell by the way side. Natalie’s selective hearing continued when she sent Rebecca and Francesca out to do market research, alongside Sophie who was heading up this team. Sophie actually carried out her task well and fed back to her leader the importance of leg space and the fact that the cube was a fairly boring shape. Once again it was Luisa shooting down all of Sophie’s findings and ultimately sabotaging any ideas that could’ve helped them.

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Meanwhile, self-proclaimed creative whiz Uzma was busy trying to make this multi-fuctional cube seem exciting. Her one good idea was to try and promote their creation, now dubbed ‘the tidy sidey’, as something that could be assembled without using any tools. However, the girls constant talking over one-another appeared to frustrate the designer to the extent that he wanted to shut down his computer and go home. The design team then decided that they wanted a cushion upholstered onto their cube, however there wasn’t time so Francesca’s subteam simply bought a cushion that could be attached to their creation at a later date. Uzma appeared to contradict herself a little when claiming she wanted the cube to standout, as she then decided it should be grey – surely one of the least memorable colours. The next day the prototype ‘tidy sidey’ arrived at the house and there were several members of Team Evolve who weren’t happy. Rebecca vocalised her displeasure, while Sophie slipped away to tell us that she wouldn’t buy it especially not for the £75 that it was being marketed at. The cushion was another source of confusion, as the designer told the girls it was too big to attach to the top of the cube. Instead of going on without the cushion, Luisa and Natalie decided to rip the stuffing out of it and then glue it back on again. But eventually they cut their losses and decided to market their invention – a box on wheels without any sort of comfort to it at all.

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Over on Team Endeavour, project manager Jordan meant business as he’d already taken his jacket off to reveal his fetching red braces. Jordan was keen to hear everyone’s suggestions even if they were as barmy as Kurt’s chair which could also be used as a recycling bin. However it was Alex who came up with a simple yet brilliant idea of a chair that could transform into a small table. While Alex was passionate that his design team get everything right, the market research team were told that upholstery was the way forward. Jordan went with the market research and their invention, later named Foldo, looked really good. The next day Jordan separated his teams, sending off Alex and Myles to pitch to the big retailers along with designer Alex. Meanwhile he led the other team who were meeting various shop-owners and told the boys that they could all do their own bit of pitching. This angered expert salesman Zee who fought to deliver the first pitch only for him to fail spectacularly after using far too male sales jargon. I mean even Jason, who seems to be turning into a bit of an idiot savant, was able to sell at least two or three Foldos while Zee didn’t even sell one. Neil’s pitch to Argos went well, however the idea to have Alex assemble the Foldo was less successful as he essentially stuck his bum in their faces. Myles also struggled at the John Lewis meeting after he was challenged over the amount of sixteen year olds who could afford their expensive product. Luisa’s strengths were also shown during the Argos pitch in which she essentially told the buyers that she knew the product was rubbish but that they should buy it anyway. Meanwhile Rebecca delivered another good pitch to the John Lewis team however it was clear that she didn’t believe in her product.

In the boardroom, it was clear that the boys had won hands down and indeed they completely demolished the girls with sales totally 3,216 to their 174. Lord Sugar then singled out Alex for praise claiming that the ‘Foldo’ was one of the best products he’d ever seen in the history of The Apprentice. While the boys climbed up the side of the O2 building, the girls once again had to endure another cup of tea at the Bridge Cafe. It was clear that once again Luisa had the project manager’s ear and had marked Sophie as the weak link in the team. Indeed Natalie picked Sophie as one of the final three along with Uzma who had apparently failed on the design side of things. Uzma and Natalie clashed spectacularly in the boardroom as the former criticised the latter for not listening to any of her ideas which apparently were brilliant. Meanwhile Sophie questioned why she was in the boardroom in the first place as she’d done her job of market research, which is a fair point. However, Lord Sugar felt that market research was a bit of a cop-out and was a way for certain candidates to hide in the background. And I think it was for this reason that Sophie, a girl who couldn’t sell or pitch, was fired after three fairly inconsequential weeks in the competition.

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Overall I found this episode of The Apprentice to be more of the same. Evolve’s project manager didn’t really have a game plan and instead listened to all of Luisa’s hair-brained ideas. Meanwhile Endeavour grew stronger and seemed to have ironed out their earlier differences to become a well-oiled unit. Though together the girls are a bit much, I feel that both Leah and Francesca know what they’re doing and I wouldn’t be surprised if they became serious candidates in the near future. Also Alex went from comedy villain to serious contender after putting some real thought into creating what was a brilliant invention. Hopefully the next episode will shake things up a bit as the teams begin to intermingle because I’m personally tired of the girls’ team currently. I feel that mixing them up will change the dynamic of the show and ultimately see some of the female characters evolve.

What did you think to tonight’s episode of The Apprentice? Do you feel we’re getting more of the same? Leave Your Comments Below.