Imagine you’re spending a relaxing Sunday evening at home (or working the treadmill if you’re constructed of muscle and raw ambition like Helen), when a big black car looms out of the darkness to deposit a walking bearded walnut at your threshold. Tom answers in his protective bodywarmer and immediately has an attack of edgy campness as he corrals the candidates to the kitchen to greet Lord Sugar. Melody’s been caught napping, but somehow manages to switch from comfy dressing gown to power hoody in 60 seconds. Lord Sugar sets the task of developing a unique new brand of biscuit, including packaging, then pitching it to Asda, Sainsburys and Waitrose, with the most orders winning.
The teams are again randomised, so Venture is Jim, Helen and Natasha, whereas Tom, Zoe, Susan and Melody form Logic.
Helen’s prior biscuit knowledge running food outlets gets her elected as Venture’s Project Manager.
Susan is keen to lead Logic, what with all her ingredient of mixing ingredients together for er soaps and body scrubs (not even biscuitty body scrubs), but Zoe’s having none of it and gazzumps Susan brutally (“I work with food and with respect your last pitch was pretty dodgy”), and Melody backs Zoe as Project Manager (Tom sneakily abstains on the vote: surprise surprise). Nick sees Zoe’s managership of Susan as “like slapping down a yapping puppy”.
Venture have an initial brainstorm, with Melody instantly keen on the idea of a heart shaped biscuit that can be shared with loved ones, but Susan thinks biscuit-based relationships are too “niche” and Zoe agrees as she hates Melody with a vengeance. Given her background in drinks manufacturing, Zoe’s keen to go to the development lab in Swansea, but is talked out of it by Susan who thinks branding and packaging is more important (“The best biscuit in the world won’t be bought if the packaging’s no good”), so despite thinking “a good product should sell itself” Zoe sends inventor Tom and human self advertising klaxon Melody to Welsh Wales, the land of the biscuit boffins. Partially Zoe’s “happier working with Susan” (because she can easily talk down to her, and oh yeah, because she fucking hates Melody).
Logic find being a candidate down makes them more decisive, so after some initial talk about a kids product (Jim: “Munch Men?”, Helen “Mini Munch Men?”, Natasha “That sounds rude!”), Jedi Jim’s sent off to the factory in Swansea, where a kindly old biscuit Yoda teaches him in the ways of crunchiness (“Never say never in the biscuit world”) and he learns how to shape biscuits like stars and put space dust on them.
Tom sketches out Heath Robinson-esque plans for crazy biscuits that are actually inside other biscuits, like a tardis that goes nice with a cup of tea. (I love this idea as it would enable me to eat twice as many biscuits in a sitting). Melody’s unimpressed (“I think big, but Tom just works out little details then tries to fit them into plans”), especially as she’s come up with the future of popcorn in messy biscuit form so you can pour more concentrated levels of fat and sugar down your gullet whilst watching TV.
Back in London, Susan’s hoping that she and Zoe will be able to work “on the same level” despite on a personal level, Zoe being “one of the most bitchy and backstabbing people” she’s ever met. Yes that attitude should help you work on an equitable footing. Susan’s so determined to be taken seriously by Zoe that she seems to speak over contradict and interrupt her throughout their market research (Susan “£1.99’s quite expensive, it’s a high end biscuit – what colours do you think?”, Zoe (slowly) “Errr creams and orange”, Susan “PURPLE is good!”), but bizarrely Zoe just seems to accept it all, even adapting Susan’s interjected blurtings as her own idea.
Jim actually does well at his focus group of kids, listening to their ideas (they like flapjacks, but not with raisins, they all think stars are good, especially shooting stars (Jim “I’ll take credit for that one!”)) and correctly relaying that information back to Helen, who decides to go for star shaped flapjacks based on the positive feedback, despite mutterings and dire warnings from Natasha. Helen asks her team for a tag-line and Jim plucks the sinister “Any time is treat time” out of the air. Natasha again is unconvinced, rightly pointing out that if it’s meant to be an after school snack then any time is NOT treat time, but Helen basically tells her to stick it if she can’t think of anything better.
Melody and Tom meanwhile meet with the oldest people in Swansea, in order to bamboozle them with their many concepts and beg for advice on everything. Firstly Tom shares his emergency biscuit idea (“Emer-crunchy”) and one lady seems to like it, but she’s clearly diabetic (“Like when you put the phone down and need sugar?”). Everyone loves the idea of the biscuit within a biscuit which gets unanimous hands up (and immediate emergency biscuit consumption due to the exercise).
Next Melody presents her blobby biscuit “popcorn”, which everyone stares at aghast, confused and strangely insulted. Tom’s name suggestion of “PopSquit” probably doesn’t help matters. They quite like her bland idea of the split love hearts (“Could be good to make up with the wife”) and Melody looks triumphant, commandeering the phone to tell Zoe “They all thought hearts were better than any other shape and said it was the best product” (Ooh you little liar!). I rather like Zoe feistily automatically eliminating the hearts, despite Melody’s protestations and demanding to speak to Tom. Tom reports that the double biscuit got a great response and Zoe decides to go for it, despite Melody continually whining “I don’t like that idea” repeatedly over their conversation.
Whilst Helen and Natasha try to convince the branding professionals in Windsor that “Any time” is actually “After School Treat Time” (Natasha gets particularly philosophical “Once the school bell’s gone it becomes any time”), Jim and Biscuit Yoda actually make some reasonable looking biscuits (although Natasha’s not enamoured of the pictures and thinks they’ll be “sickly”).
Meanwhile, something magical happens whilst Tom attempts to recreate his double biscuits with Melody’s “assistance” and after she seems to help him produce some tattered lumps of dough, suddenly they’re doing Melody’s idea of sharing half chocolate biscuits (although round, rather than heart shaped). Now how did that happen? Melody may as well have decorated these “bixmix” as she calls them with Tom’s balls (“bolloxbixmix”). Quickly the tagline becomes “Snap and share”, just to confuse matters.
On the way back from Wales, Melody’s already planning a “role play” as part of the pitch (“We’d be silly not to”) and Tom plays along. “Oooh do you want a bixmix?”. “You’ve got to be more natural”, chides Melody, “oooooh do you want a bixmix?”, adding “You and I Tom, are going to be lovers tomorrow, so get your act together”. Hmm, maybe that’s how she managed to utterly steamroll Tom’s idea, as he looks mightily happy with that idea. I don’t think it’s down to Melody’s charm, just the idea of doing nude prod games with ANY woman.
BixMix arrive at 9am, in Quality Street-esque boxes, with Zoe tasting them and happily declaring them “proper old school biscuits” (have they got weevils in?). She now has to deal with the return of Melody however, and the latter immediately starts honkingly patronising Zoe for having too wide a target market (Melody “Go clearly into what the product is and then do the details”). As Zoe writes her pitch, Susan asks if she’ll take Melody’s advice on board. “I don’t give a shiny shit about Melody!” snaps Zoe, “She’s doing my head in!”. Well said.
Natasha gets to stand alone in a supermarket attempting to entice people with “Special Stars” (the packaging makes them look like peanuts or mini cheddars), but ends up having to resort to enticing children over like a skanky drug dealer, much to Karren’s disdain.
Tom excels at chosing the largest most unwashed woman with large unwashed children in the supermarket for his taste test and charming the stained velour jogging bottoms off her (“Maybe you could share it with your…. husband”.). She likes the biscuits, although I think she accidentally eats the packaging too. An old boy is more discerning (“Mmm…it’s a bit dry”).
With Zoe insisting on leaving the target audience open, the pitch to Sainsburys starts excruciatingly with Melody and Tom’s role play one of the worst things ever on television. I’m not sure which is worse, Tom cringingly playing along (“because I love you, you can have the chocolate bit”) or Melody’s “acting”, but the “bemused look on the buyers faces” is probably worn by anyone watching this catastrophic charade. Arguably the pitch is already fucked, although Melody’s bound to be smug that Sainsburys slap Zoe on the wrist for not being clear at who they’re aiming at despite the packaging being “very feminine”.
Next Helen pitches “Special Stars”, “the oatmeal based flapjack aimed at children for after school”, which of course prompts another debate around the meaning of the words Time and Any. Natasha tries to help with her notion of the effect of school bells on the time space continuum, but everyone gives her the evils, and afterwards in the car Helen demands that Natasha only speak when spoken to if absolutely necessary, and Jim agrees. “So I should just shut up?” suggests Natasha. “Yeah” smiles Jim.
Waiting for the Asda pitch, Melody now tries to get Zoe to pitch bixmix as a “Girl’s Get Together Treat”, stating that this was her idea from the beginning. Eh? Again Zoe calls her out on her frankly insane levels of fibbery (“That’s really naughty”). “I don’t want to have a full blown argument” parps Melody. “Well don’t wind me up then!” snaps Zoe. Doubly embarrassingly, the meeting “room” is an Asda café table with a clear view of the area where Venture were bitch fighting AND Melody gets to do roleplaying again, this time with poor Zoe. There’s concerns about the product being a bit crap from the stern Asda procurement team (“If I was having digestives on a girl’s night in, I’d feel a bit cheated”), with Susan pointing out eagerly “You can snap it!” to the sound of tumbleweed.
Melody whinges to Tom “Zoe lashed out at me in public” and garners some possibly (hopefully) fake sympathy, “She’s had a problem with you the whole time”, before the penny drops out loud to Tom “maybe she doesn’t want to work with you”.
Helen delivers the Special Stars pitch to Waitrose, who get high and mighty with their “health & welfare” message (“It’s too sugar based”). “We want a treat to be a treat” Helen reaches desperately. No dice sister.
Thankfully Logic appear to have dropped the roleplay for Waitrose, who like the idea, packaging and pitch. “The only thing we’re disappointed in is the biscuit”. D’oh!
Helen decides to give Jim a chance to pitch to Asda (maybe it’s a subliminal insult – I hope so), and he promises them everything but the Moon on a Stick, including TV ads (“strategic marketing, above and below the line” – eh?), endorsements and a Harry Potter tie in, whilst Karren has to pinch herself to remember that it’s only fictional money he’s throwing away.
Back in the boardroom and Tom doesn’t back Zoe as Project Manager as he wasn’t clear on the product’s USP, whereas Melody damns her with faint praise (“Zoe has strengths”) and less faint slating, “but I think her weaknesses let her down.”
The roleplay gets a mention with Melody claiming it’s a “respected technique to get impact” and Lord Sugar suggesting it would get him banned from Dixons. Jim’s equally modest about his pitching technique (“It was clean and crisp and received pretty well”) but Lord Sugar gives him the “Biggest bullshitter in the world” award, before reading the results himself off a piece of paper, which makes me hope that nobody’s sold anything, but sadly no, Asda fell for Jim’s unlimited budget blarney and ordered 800,000 units with an exclusivity deal. So Venture get to ponce around in a Luxury Country Hotel (given the success of their bullshit I’m saddened it doesn’t turn out to be a Premier Inn).
There’s no biscuits in the Bridge Café. “It’s erm really disappointing” sighs Melody. Zoe’s convinced that the actual product was the problem, but Melody covers by saying there was no clear target audience. Back in the boardroom and Zoe gets stick for not knowing her place as a manufacturer and going to the development lab. “I wish I could have split myself in half” she complains, helpfully giving Sugar his obligatory “You split the biscuit in half” line. The main issue must be that Melody imposed her idea over Tom’s and he happily acquiesced, but sadly Zoe’s missed this. Lord Sugar suggests that splitting the biscuit in two with only one half having chocolate on could lead to wars and things. Tom’s quick to then repeat what Sugar said as though it’s what he was thinking all along (“Had we created a complete chocolate biscuit” – what happened to the double biscuit you spineless boff?).
Zoe’s criticised again for the roleplay, which she cattily blames on the “the communications expert Melody”, prompting a compulsory catfight from two grand mistresses. “Misdirection and lack of clarity are not down to me” smarms Melody. “You disturbed the team a lot… you’ve got a reputation for it” bitches Zoe, who brings up Melody’s grandiose claims after the last boardroom “You said Lord Sugar had nothing but praise for you”. Disappointingly LordSugar doesn’t pick up on this, because he loves Melody, and he instead hints darkly that Zoe could be in allegiance with Susan against his beloved chosen fibbing foghorn. “I can assure you, I have no personal problems with Melody” glowers Zoe. “She was shouting her head off!” cries Melody. Poor Zoe is damned if she does (Sugar “you’d better have very good reasons, not to do with personality”) and damned if she doesn’t bring Melody back in, and to her credit brings her back along with Tom.
“Melody talks a lot of sense” broods Lord Sugar, causing Nick and Karren to shudder (Karren “You have to watch her, her interaction with others is not good”).
Back in the boardroom and Tom states his claim (“I came out with a HUGE number of POWERFUL ideas”), but Sugar has him marked as a “hindsight man”. “Indeed Lord Sugar I’ve learned a great deal” Tom channels Smithers from the Simpsons. “This isn’t a learning process!” “Absolutely not Lord Sugar” grovels Tom.
Tom insists he had no idea that he was meant to be making a premium product. “.£1.99 is premium! At this stage you should know that” retorts Zoe (who to be fair got that one from Susan), who decries the hitherto “Old School” biscuit as having “a common, horrible taste”. “Which you signed off” accuses Sugar. “She said it was great!” Melody scents blood. “I couldn’t control the product” Zoe digs her hole. “You could have if you went to the lab” snaps Sugar. Poor Zoe is fucked here.
Tom’s still adamant that he didn’t realise £1.99 meant “luxury” (Zoe “That’s not my problem if you don’t know the price of biscuits!”), and Melody raises the fact that she came up with “DARING concepts”. “Like what?” Zoe fights back. “Like making biscuits the new popcorn” Melody states, too proudly, and it’s pointed out that this was rejected by the focus group. “Yeah” sneers Melody charmingly, “by ten people in Swansea!”
Melody and Tom both say Zoe should be fired, and Zoe thinks she’s being scapegoated, but isn’t sure who should go (“Melody was disruptive, but if Tom decided on digestive he should go”). Sugar sums up by saying he’s totally over Tom’s charm now as he needs to be more assertive, and he’s not happy about all the arguments Melody seems to be causing. He turns to Tom, with an “it’s regretful, but” and whilst the world and his deaf dog could spot that this is a classic Apprentice tension ruse, Tom nearly scuppers himself by arguing, cut short by Sugar who continues “that …. I er … haven’t seen much from you and this task has fallen down on the product, but”, and he fires Zoe for not going to the factory despite being Project Manager like erm Project Manager Helen didn’t. Zoe’s quietly rueful about not trusting her gut instinct in the Taxi of Fail. Tom has a less gentle car journey home with a shouty smug Melody (“THAT SORT of behaviour is SO childish! I wouldn’t want that as a reflection on my business”) and does quiet Gromit eyes. Back at the house it’s Tom who’s overwhelmed by genuinely pleased hugs.
So next week it looks like Helen does a first and stages a Project Manager coup. Brilliant!
Liking: Helen, Susan, Tom (but he really needs to man up, or at least inventor up soon)
Disliking: Natasha, Jim
Fucking Detesting: Melody
Byebye: Zoe, Leon, Glenn, Edna, Vincent, Ellie, Felicity, Gavin, Alex, Edward