The Apprentice 2011, Week Eight: A Truly English Farce

Seeing as they have the inability to sell things in England, going to France was always going to be a bad idea. But not as bad as a teapot light...
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Seeing as they have the inability to sell things in England, going to France was always going to be a bad idea. But not as bad as a teapot light...

Well, we've already had the shopping list and the advertising tasks. So it must be time for the two-day trip to the continent, as we head across the channel for another episode that celebrates national stereotypes and makes us all slightly embarrassed to be British. Aside from a strangely arty opening shot of a spider hiding inside a lampshade (metaphor alert), it's pretend business as usual. Our would-be entrepreneurs are off to St Pancras International with their matching overnight bags. Hopefully these have actually got something in them, unlike the empty props that get carried into Lord Sugar's offices at the end of every episode.

As Tom, played this week by Michael Sheen, grudgingly accepts the Team Leader role, Melody regales the rest of the team with stories of her negotiations "at U.N. level". You see, Melody speaks six languages and sounds like she's been autotuned in all of them. Looking more and more like a used teabag with five o'clock shadow, Lord Sugar tells the teams "Your train leaves in twenty minutes so you'd better hurry up". They wouldn't need to if he didn't insist on these ridiculous Mexican stand-off briefings.

Over on Team Venture, Susan eagerly volunteers for the PM role, excitedly announcing "I know absolutely nothing about France, I've never been there, I don't even know any French people, I can't speak a word of French, apart from 'Bonjour', don't know French food. I know nothing." I've been shouting that at the TV for weeks.

As half the teams head off to Paris, the rest stay behind to hear the product pitches. Electric bikes, beanbag beds and a weird ball-on-a-string. Hard to tell whether that last one is a children's toy or a sex aid. Zoe says she's impressed by the beanbag bed, but her flat intonation makes it hard to tell. Tom expresses his enthusiasm for a light that looks like a teapot, saying it's very "Briddish". Not when you pronounce it like that.

There's something strangely despairing about Jim - he may have a killer instinct, but he has the doleful expression of a caged beagle in an animal research centre.

Susan's ridiculously juvenile exclamations border on the surreal as she asks questions like "Do the French like their children? Do people drive in France." If we hadn't cut to one of Karren's disapproving looks, we'd probably have heard her telling everyone "I want to do a poo in Paul's bathroom."

One of the star products is clearly a booster seat that doubles as a backpack. Melody's unconvinced, asking, quite reasonably, "Why would someone carry a car-seat with them. Wouldn't you just leave it in the car?" Unfortunately, she uses 'market research' to fuel her preconceptions, rather than determining whether or not people like the idea. And since no-one else speaks French, she's able to reframe the feedback to suit her own agenda. Clearly smelling an immaculately dressed rat, Tom advises her to conduct the research "independent of her own thoughts". Perhaps "enculer vous" might have been clearer.

Leon, on the other hand, is in awe of his team-mate, as he marvels at the way she can say stuff to French people and understand what they say back. It's called communication, although that's obviously an unfamiliar concept to the majority of this year's bunch, since they spend most of their time saying "I hear what you're saying" despite all evidence to the contrary. Let's not forget that Jim also speaks French, although he takes every opportunity to avoid it, by asking "Parlez vous Anglais?" then proceeding to speak like he's auditioning for a reboot of Allo Allo. There's something strangely despairing about Jim - he may have a killer instinct, but he has the doleful expression of a caged beagle in an animal research centre. And is it just me, or are his eyes gradually getting further and further apart? In a couple of weeks he'll be able to see his own arse, just as Lord Sugar boots it out the door.

As the teams reunite in France, Melody expresses disappointment at the teapot lamp, complaining that it's a little tacky. I'm not sure what she had in mind, but it's a fuck of a sight better than the ridiculous sketch that Leon was using to canvass opinion. Despite her misgivings, she's decided to keep all the appointments she made to herself, leaving Tom and Natasha (yeah) to fend for themselves on the mean cobbled streets of Paris.

Sales are sluggish to begin with. Melody scores fifty units early on, followed by Natasha (yeah) who explains that bone china is traditionally used for tea and scones. I find Be-Ro works better, but who am I to judge? Tom had little to add to the pitch, instead claiming that "Natasha's done a brilliant job of presenting." Jury's out on that one. Yeah.

As Team Venture make their presentation to the French retail giant, Helen reminds us that she's just toying with the rest of them. She nails her pitch like a pro, whereas Susan simply demonstrates that she can fit in a child's booster seat. Shortly afterwards, she redeems herself by flogging 1,000 flexible phone stands - the perfect accessory if, like the contestants, you're incapable of holding a phone properly. Our final glimpse of the gang's French foray sees Melody happily proclaiming "I should move to Paris and do business here." I'll start the whip-round for the ferry ticket myself.

He departs with a genuine "thanks for the opportunity" and gets an over-the-shoulder duckface from Melody

Back in the boardroom, and Lord Sugar's dropped the weak puns in favour of a comical mispronunciation to win this week's sycophantic laughter (drink). "Trompserleesers" seems to do the job. Muted lolz all round. He also points out "I set up a meeting with one of France's biggest retailers, where I used to do a lot of business." Somewhere in the South of France, there's a landfill site full of email phones.

The results are in and Helen's amazing pitch has scored a record-breaking 214,000 Euro order. That's four weak teas in the Cafe of Crushed Dreams for Team Logic then. The winners are off for flying lessons, and we get to see Susan come down to Earth with a bang. But not quite the one I had in mind.

In the first round of 'It wasn't me's (drink), Tom blames Melody for not getting behind the rucksack booster seat, but she responds by handing him his balls on une assiette. Even though it's clear that Melody didn't do the research as instructed, overruled the team leader and seized control of the entire fail, she's not going anywhere. Nick complains that Tom and Leon need to be a bit more manly. Thankfully Leon's out of the room at this point - the last thing we need is an outbreak of gay panic in the boardroom.

Tom brings Leon and Melody back in, and Lord Sugar opens with a review of Melody's rezzyoomay. I guess C.V.s are so last century. After a tedious recap of Melody's accomplishments, it's Lord Sugar's turn as we get this week's "when I was 18 years-old" anecdote (drink). Since it's Tom's first time in the boardroom, he doesn't notice the trap set for him when conversation turns to the way he and Natasha decided who would lead the big retail pitch. Apparently, rock, paper, scissors plays less of a role in big business than you might imagine. As Tom confesses, Alan and Karren do their best incredulous face (drink).

After his customary pre-firing bluff (drink), Lord Sugar lets Melody off the hook, possibly because he saw the shiv she'd stuck up her sleeve. She's taking no prisoners this week. Instead, he's listening to his gut and getting rid of Leon. He departs with a genuine "thanks for the opportunity" (drink), and gets an over-the-shoulder duckface from Melody. Final words from Lord Sugar, "I like Melody because she eats them up and spits them out." Somewhere in Heaven, Sid James is smiling.

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