Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Apprentice: series 9 episode 6 review

The episode begins with various contestants talking the talk about how much they want/need to win this week’s challenge, with the cream of the crop being the ever-bitchy Luisa commenting “I think Rebecca’s desperate to be PM, but I don’t think she’s got a clue.”

The contestants meet Sir Alan in London’s majestic Guildhall, which is famous for holding the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. It is also famous for hosting Corporate Events, which relates to their task this week – to put on an “away day”, which, despite the frivolities, is not just a jolly or an excuse to get pissed. Whilst fun may be had on an away day, the main idea is to teach managers important skills such as communication and listening.
Company away days are a lucrative business, fetching in £1billion a year in the UK, and each team is given a budget and a set of clients, whom they must provide entertainment for. Instead of leaving it to them to pick the Project Managers, Alan Sugar allocates them this week: he picks Leah as the PM of Endeavour, and Francesca as the PM of Evolve. Ominously for Francesca, she already looks excited about commandeering this one, and such pre-emptive enthusiasm never bodes well for the project managers.

Francesca calls herself Mrs Corporate and immediately Luisa pipes up “I hate corporate”, which is pretty stupid, in my opinion. I’m not a particularly corporate-minded person myself (I will be working for a smallish firm after graduation), but for crying out loud Luisa, you’ve gone on The Apprentice, it doesn’t really get more corporate than that. She goes on to dismiss all corporate firms as “boring” and saying “the people are dull”, which is sure to go down a treat with Sir Alan.

Meanwhile at Endeavour, Neil remarks that Leah “had a point to prove” on the previous task (Dubaigate), and that if she micro-manages effectively, Endeavour will win. But if she doesn’t, they won’t. In the brainstorm, they disagree already: Neil wants a school day theme, but Leah wants a more medieval history theme. The horrific idea of St Trinians is put up, which Leah is most unimpressed with.
School is also a theme that is discussed in Evolve, but with more enthusiasm, and they fix it as their chosen motif. In an interview, Francesca declares that “of all the tasks so far, this is the most perfect one for me.” We’ll see.

With their theme chosen, Evolve next move on to activities, with Rebecca suggesting wine-tasting. Jordan, however, is hesitant, questioning how it goes with a Back to School theme. Another asinine suggestion is chocolate making (how does that relate to school or team-building?), but Luisa wants to do cake-making instead of chocolate making, as that is her field.

Luisa’s dismissive attitude toward her PM is evident immediately, as in the car she does a pissy impression of Francesca, both her indecisiveness and how she shies away from responsibility. True as that may be, I don’t see how childish impressions will get anyone anywhere.

The majority of Endeavour want a School theme, with 4 voting in favour of it and just 2 picking History, but Leah overrules them and goes with her gut. The rest of the group aren’t happy, dubbing it a selfish decision.
Next up, the teams meet their clients. Evolve’s clients this week are, who work on the mentality of 5 star services for 3 star prices. The CEO of the company expresses that it’s important for his employees to collaborate and cooperate efficiently. Jordan re-iterates these ideas, and seems to be charming Cathy, the other person from, who smiles warmly at him as they leave.

Leah’s group’s client is Barclay’s Retail UK, who are kept waiting by Endeavour, as they are stuck in traffic. Even after they arrive, the three members at the meeting (Leah, Myles and Natalie) stand in the building bickering, and it takes Karen scolding them to remind them that their clients are waiting. Not a good start at all.
Immediately you can tell that the big boss of Barclay’s isn’t happy about being kept waiting, remarking: “you obviously have had a busy morning.” When prompted on what he hopes to get from the event, he states the importance of his branch managers improving their communication and listening skills, especially in the face of ever-evolving technology.  As an added incentive, he tells Endeavour that if they impress, the exercise could be expanded to up to 35,000 people.

Leah tries to pitch the idea of a history theme to the bosses, saying “classic”, “medieval” and “majestic” twice, which induces an awkward silence from the two bosses, who don’t care about the theme, and rightly, don’t feel they should be bothered on such matters. “I’m not here to solve this assignment for you”, the boss says. After the meeting, Leah worriedly comments on how unfun her original idea was.

The boys of Endeavour are trying to obtain activities for their medieval- themed day, and procure archery sets for £320. Neil calls Leah to tell her the good news, only to hear that the goalposts have moved, and the theme has changed from history to army – something with archery doesn’t altogether fit into.

Meanwhile at Evolve, Luisa and Jason examine a chocolatier, but are scared off by the high prices - £795 for just 12 people, and so Luisa decides to save money and do cake-making instead, and run it herself, thus saving substantial costs on hiring unnecessary manpower. Whilst I agree with the decision from an economic point of view, Luisa’s keenness to mention how she makes cakes repeatedly is more than a little bit jarring. The awkward meeting is made all the more awkward when Luisa explains at length, why she feels the chocolatier to be overpriced, and then ends by asking to buy some piping bags from her. LOL.

Francesca and Rebecca are shopping for ingredients for their “school dinners” at Morrison’s, but they’re loading their trollies so eagerly that they haven’t thought about costs, with only Jordan considering the budgeting. For their ingredients, Endeavour take a more frugal route, buying food directly from a Cash and Carry, and Leah driving a hard bargain on every item of food.

For Endeavour’s activities, Neil is worried that they don’t have enough to do for the day, and for some godforsaken reason, suggests sumo wrestling, which Leah says she “[doesn’t] love at all.” Getting exasperated, Alex whines in that classic way of his, and Leah barks at him to show her some respect. Finally, as a compromise, she says she’ll allow sumo wrestling, but only as a last resort.

Back in their group, Evolve are at loggerheads over whether they should hire a motivational speaker, or give the speech themselves. Luisa and Jordan feel they can save money and give it themselves, but Rebecca is intent that they should hire someone. Personally, I would have forked out the money (even though at £600, he isn’t cheap) for a motivational speaker, just because these speakers really know what they’re doing, and I wouldn’t be able to deliver anything anywhere near as good, but that’s just me. In the end, they decide to hire someone, because, as Francesca says, “you need to pay for quality.”

At Endeavour, however, they choose to give the motivational speech themselves, with Neil, who has vast experience as a football coach, chosen to deliver it. Speaking in an interview, Neil comments that he knows
the quality of the activities for the day aren’t great, and thus how it carries off will depend massively on the execution. Neil and Myles take ten minutes to try and link each of their activities with the way they’re going to build teambuilding, listening and communication skills, whilst Natalie and Kurt get cooking.

It turns out that Evolve had spent £300 of their budget on props, some o
f which are ugly as sin (check out the fugly-ass flamingo), which Nick Hewer regards quizzically. Jason is put on carrot peeling, broccoli scrubbing duty, which, given his part exploits in the kitchen, in the farm shop  task, I’m not sure is the brightest idea, but we’ll see.

And so the actual days begin. 16 managers from arrive, and their “Meet and Greet” is already faltering, as Francesca fails to communicate the objectives in the half hour slot she’s allocated, and instead wasting time faffing about with tea and biscuits, and giving the cringiest opening speech imaginable, saying it’s to get “success in work, success in life, or just success in yourselves.” So success, basically. As if her speech couldn’t get any worse, when talking about motivation, she says she wanted to be a policewoman when she wasn’t a child, but isn’t one. Smooth.

At Endeavour, however, Neil, playing “Sergeant Neil”, makes the objectives of the day explicit to the managers from Barclay’s. “Colonel Alex” is also clearly having fun, ordering the managers into a Left, Right, Left style march into the garden. Once in the garden, the managers are playing lawn games, but blindfolded, so that the members really have to listen to each other. They all seem to be enjoying it, and Neil is definitely leading them well. However, once rain hits, the managers are unable to play outside and Leah, having not thought of a contingency plan, has to think fast.

Only as Endeavour’s clients head inside do the activities finally start for Evolve’s ones, where, again, the managers look like they’re having a whale of a time. Nick Hewer remarks that there haven’t been any broken bones, and he sounds almost disappointed over the fact.

Due to the rain, Leah has to improvise a conflict resolution “session”, and her detested sumo-wrestling costumes have to be employed. It’s not a successful operation and the managers look either bored or embarrassed at watching Neil and Myles wrestle in sumo-wrestling outfits.

From one fail of an event to another, comes Evolve’s wine-tasting class, which is most ineffective as Rebecca and Jason, who lead it, both don’t know anything about wines. Most hilarious are Rebecca’s tenuous efforts to link the wine-tasting to business nous. The other half of the group are making cupcakes with Luisa, which is also questioned on how it links to business, with Francesca giving the most glorious bull, “it’s to do with experiences.”

As the day draws to a close, both teams finish on their grand finale: the motivational speech. Francesca’s team have hired one of the leading speakers in the country, which goes down a treat, with the managers of saying he’s been the highlight of the (admittedly otherwise shambolic day). But Leah’s group do it freestyle, with Neil giving the speech, and it’s also a good one, drawing in on his personal experience and emotions.
In the boardroom, both teams can’t wait to criticise their PMs, with Neil already putting Leah in it, saying he passionately wanted a school theme, and Jordan commenting on Francesca’s weak management and non-existent strategy. On the basis of the footage of Francesca’s continual jargon and talking crap through the day, it’s difficult to argue with that. Meanwhile, Karen Brady really lays into Leah, berating her for being late with her meeting with Barclay’s as well as her “half-arsed” pitch.

Alan Sugar, always good for an opinion, remarks that Alex’s pantomime Colonel was bullying the delegates, but Alex contests this, saying instead that he was “getting the best from my troops”. Furthermore, Lord Sugar looks truly horrified on hearing that sumo wrestlers was presented to workers from the biggest bank in the country, and even less impressed that Francesca’s team had tried to get managers drunk.

Both Barclay’s and weren’t totally happy with the away days and had asked for refunds, but in the end, Leah’s group wins by a good £500. Karen Brady singles Neil out for applause, and Sir Alan remarks that Leah has her team to thank, obviously going from the feeling in the boardroom that she wasn’t an effective PM. As a treat, Endeavour are sent off for a day of pampering.

In the café, Endeavour discuss how they’d been docked points for “a complete lack of business message”, which Jordan feels is all down to PM Francesca. Furious, Francesca calls Jordan a turncoat. However, he has a point; woman spouts absolute rubbish – even in a dumb interview, she says “if I go down, I go down in flames, but at least decisively in flames.”

In the boardroom, Sir Alan holds nothing back, telling Endeavour that many of the workers from feels the day was a blag. I agree with them. Even I would have felt a day like that as patronising and jargon-filled, and experienced professionals would have only realised that even more. And the jargon from Francesca doesn’t stop – she tries to bull her way through explaining how cupcakes can make something amazing, and Karen abruptly asks her “do you even hear what you’re saying?”

Sir Alan disregards both the wine-tasting and cake-making as completely inappropriate for the day, and further questions why, if they talk so much, none of them gave the motivational speech rather than hiring someone to do so.

The claws really come out, however, when Francesca has a go at Luisa for bitching about the corporate world throughout the day, who retorts “I think a lot of empty words are spoken in the corporate world.” Luisa complains about how people in the corporate world “talk crap”, to which Karen quietly remarks “you might find that a rough attitude when you’re asking a bank for investment,” to which Luisa, like the child she is, rolls her eyes.

And were it up to me, Luisa should have been fired. However, Francesca craftily chose Rebecca and Luisa to come back into the boardroom with her, as Rebecca put most of the ideas forward. And thus, it is Rebecca who is fired, which I feel a little unfair. Admittedly, her ideas weren’t great, but at least she had some, rather than bickering all day like Luisa, who aside from leading the cake-making activity, was a counterproductive force in the group. She also likes to bring up her looks a LOT. Luisa, you ain't that hot, girl js.

Furthermore, at the end of the day, they were mere suggestions, and the whole away day was a mega-cringe, and that was down to PM Francesca and all her hollow words. So Francesca and Luisa should both have been fired ahead of Rebecca, and Jordan hardly covered himself in glory with his lack of budgeting as well. So I feel quite bad for Rebecca.

With the episode over, we're at the halfway point of The Apprentice. Six episodes gone, and 10 of the 16 contestants still remaining. I smell double firings next week!

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