The Apprentice 2010: Week 4

Stuart muses on the exact temperature a baby will die while Melissa demands everyone "just come out my face!" and generally wibbles like a linguistic Charlie Parker.
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Week 4 and, for once, the contestants have been given an actual proper business thing to do. Is it just me, or do the vast majority of Apprentice tasks seem to revolve around making various items of rank homemade food and hawking them at disinterested tourists in Covent Garden?

Admittedly, I’m far from being an expert in this area, but I would have thought that the ‘six figure salary’ job Lord Sugar has lined up for the eventual winner will mainly involve working on Microsoft Excel, doing boring but useful things like growth forecasts and cost price analysis? Bellowing at startled shoppers in the Bluewater Centre to come and try your shitty-looking sausage rolls doesn’t really come into it. The most these people are qualified for is a job at Greggs.

This week, however, the Apprentices are ‘selling to trade’ which means there’s no cack-handed bakery in sight and so they’re all free to wibble out some of their best grade-A business bullshit: “Our company has ambitions, and our ambitions is to, er, be your supplier,” swaggers Jamie in a pitch to Debenhams. While Investment Banker Chris is seen practising a line about how ‘we’re living in the GQ Generation.’

The products they’re selling are mostly ropey Dragon’s Den cast-offs. The best one is probably the BabyGlow, a baby suit that changes colour if your child is overheating. Stuart – my favourite contestant by far – manages to single-handedly talk his team out of that contract by musing creepily on the exact temperature in degrees centigrade that a baby will die! He then wraps up triumphantly with the phrase, ‘and that concludes my questioning,’ clearly thinking he’s some kind of business savvy Perry Mason. I think I love him.

Melissa is beyond merely torturing the English Language, she is essentially holding a gun to its daughter’s head and forcing it to hack off its own testicles.

The other team, Apollo, win the Babyglow pitch and, weirdly, do incredibly well with it. Thanks mainly to the inevitable series winner Liz, they end up clearing 122 thousand pounds worth of orders – the most money anyone’s ever made on the show. Although, to be fair, a like-for-like comparison isn’t really that accurate here; you’d have to be doing pretty fucking well to shift 100 grand’s worth of homemade Battenberg cake on a rainy afternoon in Putney.

This episode was threatening at one point to be a fairly boring and uneventful one. But then Melissa stepped up to the plate with her patented brand of linguistic mentalism. “I’m a mixed bag of nuts, and this task really speaks to that bag” she told us last week. She follows that up this time with talk of “room for manoeuvrement”, “comfortability” and a threat that fellow contestants will be ‘karmically retributed”.

This is beyond merely torturing the English Language, she is essentially holding a gun to its daughter’s head and forcing it to hack off its own testicles. By the end, as she refuses to shake hands with Jamie, telling him to ‘save your own skin and just come out my face!” I’ve kind of become in awe of her. It’s like the linguistic equivalent of jazz! A free association of buzz words, mixed metaphors and half-remembered slogans that calls to mind the experimental late period of Charlie Parker. One day, entire PHD theses will be written solely about her use of the phrase “that really speaks to my skill set”.

Obviously, she gets hauled into the boardroom for a kicking: “the feedback I had was that you’re annoying” says new mentor Karen Brady, cleverly dressing up a catty playground insult as a legitimate piece of constructive criticism. Definitely going to try that next time I’m in a meeting.. “The main take-out I’d like you to draw from this report is that your mum’s a slag”

It’s not been a good day for Melissa metaphor-wise. She’s already been likened to a machine gun and a firework, then Sugar piles in comparing her to a dodgy rip-off DVD. I’d also like to add to that list the 80’s pop singer Yazz – famous for the 1988 hit The Only Way is Up.

She then gets fired, inevitably, and lets rip accusing Jamie and Stuart of ganging up on her. You just know she’s got some gruesome revenge in store for them at some point in the near future. Or at least some very poorly punctuated hate mail.

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