Week 11 and Natasha puts together a 6.30am breakfast of chumps for her fellow candidates (but forgets to spread the toast with special Senna-pod jam). Jim takes the phone call summoning everyone to a rendezvous in a central London shopping mall. “Do we have to wear anything in particular?” he asks, but the line goes dead.

Everyone’s wearing their shiniest whistles and staring ahead with a po-faced expression in the cars (Helen completely ice-queening Tom when he struggles to make idle chitchat) as they all think it’s the interviews round, so amusingly Lord Sugar informs them that this week’s task is to create and run a fast food franchise in units he’s found for them. Their “fast food experience” will be judged by industry experts.

Lucky Tom gets to join Helen on Logic, and immediately accepts her greater knowledge of catering (“I’m happy to be project managed by you”). Sadly this means that she gets to dismiss any of his suggestions (“West Indian and Tex Mex are hot”), pushing her own dream of a chain of pie and mash takeouts, which she thinks have never been done, proving Helen has never been to a festival. Tom thinks pies might be a bit “heavy”, so Helen dreams up “Mini pies. They’re more suitable for ladies”. I think Lady Pies could be a popular choice. Tom’s adamant that he’s better at concept and branding than cooking (I bet for Tom that’s what mums do), so reluctantly Helen heads off to the catering plant in North West London to develop dishes, whilst direly warning Tom that she wants to “be kept in contact all the time. I’m trusting you here Tom”.

Susan points out that Venture are blessed with three minds against two, conveniently overlooking the owners of those “minds”. Natasha’s keen to lead because of her “BA in hospitality management”, and Jim seems momentarily impressed, until he remembers that Natasha is a woman and he takes command (“I’m keen to lead, I’ve got two people behind me, keen to support me”). “I’ll support you with the knowledge from my degree” barks Natasha, but her hint flies through Jim’s ears. “The girls need leading” suggests Jim to camera. He know who wears the trousers in Jim’s household. And the “I’m a stupid sexist cockend” hat. Jim’s eager to do Mexican food, despite the fact that Susan seems to be the only one on the team who’s actually eaten this cuisine (and thus is appointed Mexican food expert). Jim wants Natasha to use her degree to run the kitchen, but she refuses point blank so Jim dons his well stained apron whilst leaving Natasha and Susan together to do branding and marketing. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Natasha and Susan waltz around, apparently looking for branding concepts, but mainly shouting “Arriba!” and boiling the essence of Mexico down to “A happy looking man with a big moustache” (Susan there, clearly due a disappointing Little Chef experience one day). Meanwhile Jim goes to one Mexican fast food place to check out their dishes and get his head around the all important “system” of making food to order en masse. Or not, as he only seems interested in asking what the place “don’t do”. There’s probably a reason they don’t do chilli con carne despite being a Mexican food outlet. Maybe it burns people’s hands? Additionally the fast food bloke reveals they’ve just trialled a Mexican tortilla soup. That’s Jim’s frighteningly erm moist menu sorted.

Helen develops and tastes some very handsome looking mini-pies (Steak, bacon and red wine, Chicken and mushroom, Spinach, broccoli and cheddar) whilst pulling a face suggesting she’s just found a pube in the pastry. She angsts a little about the costings on the magnificently steak packed steak pie, but decides she’d rather keep product quality and take a hit on the margins so signs it off. Meanwhile we get to see a little more of Tom’s creative process. It’s fucking terrifying, but brilliant, like he’s a walking alien bat-computer making bizarre connections between everyday things (things which Tom views with the fresh eyes of a particularly strange child). Thus he wanders into a baby boutique, and gurgles delightedly at signs on shop windows, with Nick, eyes akimbo, trailing behind him. “Qy py!” chortles Tom, looking at a “Qype” sticker outside a newsagents. “That’s a very good name!” He calls Helen excitedly insisting they call their outlet “My Py” (I would have expected him to go for “Pi” but this is mental, it sounds like an unfathomable toy).

Venture’s branding team have come to an impasse. “Som Bravo?” ponders Natasha, hopelessly. “They always have “El” something,” Susan pipes up. “What does “El” mean?” “I have no idea” admits Natasha, giving degrees a bad name. They phone up Jim who offers them “Caracas”, which he has confused with Maracas and “chicken things” (knackers?), although he confesses he has no idea what it means. They all agree it sounds suitably Mexican though, so name their Fast Food restaurant after the capital of Venezuela.

Next the girls have to ring Jim back as they disagree about using peppers on the logo (Natasha “I’m trying to make the pepper iconic to our brand”). Susan thinks peppers aren’t Mexican like Caracas is and starts telling Jim it’s a “dangerous” move (For Fuck Sake), until Natasha snatches the phone away from her and starts telling Jim that Susan is a mental. I almost pity Jim, who pretends to bow to Susan’s greater experience of Mexican food and makes the executive decision to drop the peppers. “Girls, please work together to get a successful outcome” sighs Jim, proving he’d make a great pimp.

Helen calls Tom requesting a list of British names. Oh dear, he’s off in a cloud of nutty whimsy. “Was Byron writing at the same time as Shakespeare? Or William Drake?* Was Byron a vegetarian? Didn’t Columbus discover the potato in America?” A truly bamboozled Helen quickly agrees and hangs up for the sake of her own sanity. Tom is completely on one, doing Dr Who style quirky conceptualising like a bastard in his empty unit (“I see Big Ben over here, the bus here, this bit almost as a big blue wall….”). “Welcome to MY PY” he chuckles diabolically. It sounds very wrong.

(*William Drake? You know? The bloke with the beard who had a vision of a game of bowls on Peckham Rye).

My Py ends up looking like a Conservative Party Conference. It would be BNP, but it’s too stylish, and Columbus is included as a great British name on one of the patriotic floor mats alongside Drake, Churchill and Hugh Grant. “Is Columbus British?” grimaces Nick. “You are kidding me?” gasps Tom, slowly and unconvincingly adding “Columbus Was .. British”. Logic cleverly decide to to do a “dry run” with their two hired kitchen hands. “Hello! Welcome to My Py! Have you ever eaten 100% British?” gasps Helen as part of the greeting spiel. It sounds like dialogue from a bad 70s sex film.

Caracas win the most racist restaurant award with their plethora of sombreros and cacti, plus their rather less friendly attitude towards the sole hired kitchen hand, a woman who reminds me of Jack Dee’s au pair in “Lead Balloon” in the way she effortlessly points out how useless Jim is being. “Jim please organise your kitchen… I need elp.. You must think about things it takes time to do”. Jim’s response is to take control of nachos whilst ignoring her main misgivings (“I’m nacho man”). This woman needs to get one of the places in the final, she’s better than the candidates.

My Py surprisingly does a good first service, despite serving pies, mash and gravy in dodgy looking (presumably wax sealed) cardboard boxes. The customers all seem satisfied by the food, especially the blokes (the ladies pies USP doesn’t really come across as they’re serving three pies per portion.

Caracas in comparison are a kitchen nightmare , with customers greeted by a discarded hammer and nails as they walk in (plus Natasha shouting for Susan). Most of their customers decide to eat in (strangely not wishing to walk around with chilli con carne or soup) so they quickly run out of chairs. The orders pile up, so it’s a 10 minute wait for chicken in pitta bread, cold tortillas and freezing nachos followed by a manic Susan apology. Karren reflects that the team spent so much time talking about décor that they didn’t organise a system of serving food that worked.

“You can’t serve cold nachos” moans Susan. “Give me solutions” snaps Jim. “Erm keep them in the oven” retorts Susan. Jim goes through Venture’s enormous stack of negative customer feedback “Slow. Not fast food. Crazy waitress.”

Logic’s only negative comment is that the box “is difficult to eat out of” (snigger), so Helen decides to switch to a smaller plastic container.

The next morning Jim warns Susan not to “come across as frantic and frazzled as it will create a bad atmosphere”. Rather than warning Jim not to come across as a twat, Susan comes up with an improved workable solution to the teams problems with service. Even Jim thinks it just might work.

When it transpires that the industry experts judging are from McDonalds and Dominos, I almost stop caring who wins as long as the loser starts an e-coli outbreak. I suppose I should be relieved that neither team involved “poetry” in their fast food concept.

The judging is based on 4 categories: customer service, food, branding and ability to demonstrate the “concept” of how the restaurant will run in future.

Lord Sugar arrives at Caracas with Satan’s acolytes and orders chicken fajitas (it’s so odd seeing him doing something vaguely normal). “Can I recommend the nachos” presses Susan. “Sure, if you want to.” he bristles gently. One awkward industry expert asks for a fajita with no peppers (I bet Susan feels vindicated). This woman had better not be McDonalds, the amount of grief it used to take to order a burger without gherkin. Natasha aggressively boasts that they are running at 5 minutes “from top to end” and the fast food experts give each other knowing looks. The evil fast food representatives seem to think the branding’s OK (“You know what you’re gonna get”) but are unimpressed by the profit margin. Things get worse when Jim pitches and is thrown the “curveball” question “What’s your projected turnover within one hour”. Not only does Jim answer based on two hours, he also works out that 60 people in two hours on average spending will bring in £4,800. Er no. He tries again. “£4,200” and is forced to admit a major maths fail (It’s £420, not exactly a thriving business). Natasha fields the question about the stereotypical Old World images, stating that Caracas offers “Chill time in a strong Mexican environment” (Perhaps they sell fake moustaches so you can have a nap under one of the fake cacti?). Jim tries to charm everyone with a gag: “Our first customer hasn’t paid, so Lord Sugar could you settle up?” Tumbleweed flutters through the cacti.

Next Lord Sugar and the filthy food peddlers visit My Py. “Have you ever eaten 100% British before?” Helen quizzes them, stiltedly. Everyone awkwardly says “Yes”. Sugar plumps for steak and red wine py, with the industry experts selecting “Drake and Nightingale” (duck and cough medicine flavour). Service is going well until Tom realises that the new trays are way too small and he’s in fact pouring scalding gravy over his hands. Tom kicks the pitch off enthusiastically, visualising 500 outlets of My Py nationwide, all of them “100% brilliantly British” (nobody mentions Columbus). Then Helen takes over and fluffs her business model bit, preciously blaming Tom for putting her off because he’s hovering and “Yes”ing on her every word like an over-excited nodding bulldog. “Sorry to have interrupted you” demurs Tom. The experts like the pies and the price, so talk “gross margins” and Helen does well, explaining that the steak pie has a greater margin, but she wanted to balance quality with the menu. “What would you do in Summer?” asks one woman (must be McDonalds, just because they do nice fattening Summer salads). Tom thinks for a millisecond and decides on cold pork pies. Oh come on, people eat hot food in the summer. Fast food places don’t sell cold chips on purpose.

Back in the boardroom, and Sugar thinks Venture chose well with Mexican food as it’s currently fashionable, but “Caracas” is mocked as a brand-name (Karren: “Be honest you all thought it was a made-up word!”). Karren also bigs up Susan for attempting to sort out the failed ordering system.

Tom admits that Logic’s My Py came from him misreading a sign, but he went for it as he wanted to mix the traditional and the new. “We did a practice run with the chef” starts Tom, but Lord Sugar’s decided that he’s fed up with Tom suddenly piping up for himself and wants to hear Helen’s side of things. “I didn’t want to go to the kitchen,, but Tom insisted he was used to concept and branding” Helen leads with her “get out” clause.

Nick and Karren deliver the average scores across all categories from the fast food experts. Caracas score 4/10, My Py score 7/10. So it’s a win for the pies and Tom and Helen are finalists. They rush off happily, Tom giggling and shushing himself sweetly to avoid looking too pleased.

In Fail Café, where pies sit amusingly on the hot plate, Natasha thinks Sugar should fire Susan. Susan thinks Natasha should go. And Jim believes that it is his godly right to get into the final. They head back to the boardroom, greeted by the angry walnut face of Lord Sugar, who presents them with a proper business model containing costings drawn up by Tom and Helen and demands to know where Venture’s equivalent of this model is.

“None of us considered how long things would take and how many people we would serve” Susan admits. Sugar’s unimpressed “This is BUSINESS! One of you wants to go into business with me”.

Jim’s crap maths is bought into account, although Sugar points out that the final figure of £420 over 2 hours would see them going bust.

The slow delivery of the food follows on like this (Karren reckons this is because they didn’t know if they were a fast food or a waitress restaurant). “I was endeavouring to buy more time” Natasha states. As though hungry people would want to spend more time with Natasha bullshitting them whilst waiting for their food.

Natasha’s next in the firing line as Lord Sugar brings up her “Degree in food and hospitality” (this degree is all things to all people) and asks if it included understanding food. “Yeah!” affirms Natasha. “But it was a long time ago”. How old is she for christ’s sake?

Susan turns on Jim’s poor market research (he should have found the best sellers and how long they took), prompting Jim to play his “bitchscrap” card and accuse his team-mates of fighting so much that it distracted him from his manly leadership. “Why did you put us together” asks Natasha ridiculously (because there’s only three of you and you didn’t want to cook you dumb bint). “I had feedback from you that you found Susan like a child to work with” shares Jim uselessly, adding that both women were equally shit (“I had excitability and manic enthusiasm from Susan and at the other end of scale I had manic despair”. Natasha’s face hardens to the texture of corrugated steel.

Lord Sugar sends them out so Karren can tell him how rubbish Susan (“You need a sieve with her to work out what is meaningful”) is and how Natasha has a spark, but she must be tired with the process as it appears to have gone.

Anyhow, yet again they’re all dragged back in (I’m sure Sugar never used to do so much consulting with his henchies in previous series). Susan thinks Jim could go, as he’s a charming talker but has no original idea. It’s almost as though the girls have had a chat too, as like on the Weakest Link they both blame Jim (Natasha says he can’t make decision). Jim’s on the ropes (“I’m caught in a pincer movement”), but plays his hand, stating that Natasha should go (“100%”).

Jim really seems screwed here until he remembers to blame his team’s “experts” (Susan’s tenuous fondness for Mexican food and Natasha’s degree). Natasha claims her degree content is no longer of interest to her. “You spent four years of your adult life doing it” Jim points out. Natasha says it’s only Jim “highlighting and contextualising” her degree, not her (she’s forgotten that she bought it up first). “My task responsibility was over on the creative side” Natasha states, but that doesn’t cut any ice with Lord Sugar (“You should be all in the same boat”). “I honed in on what I liked doing” she flounders in response, but she’s in trouble now. “If I did a first aid course and didn’t enjoy doing mouth to mouth, I’d still have to do it if it was needed” growls the Nookie Bear-esque peer.

Jim has Natasha’s number: “You are fight or flight in any situation”, but he’s gulping and twitching like a fish that’s been caught committing adultery.

Lord Sugar worries that Susan doesn’t get on with people, but he admires her achievements (enrolling herself in school, running her own business) and she makes the final. Likewise Jim, as Lord Sugar likes his “spirit”. So it’s bye bye to Natasha, who takes Losers Taxi to a Yates’s Wine Lodge, holding her gnarled little face held high and claiming that her “dignity” is intact.

Jim looks utterly drained of blood, and only comes to life in the car back to the house, when Susan tries to throw oil on troubled waters (“Whatever happens in the boardroom stays in the boardroom”). Jim pops back with fighting talk (“You smelt blood, it was ‘Let’s scalp Jim’. Your business acumen’s been really poor”). Susan gives him a “Whatever dickhead” look.

Back at the house, Helen and Tom think that only Susan has returned and it’s hugs and smiles all round (nobody perceives Susan as a threat) until Jim strolls in. “Anybody order a final four” he smarms. Nope.

Next week the final four are grilled over their business plans by Lord Sugar’s baying pack of interviewers, including Claude and Margaret. I can’t wait.

So the final four are (thanks for the massive spoiler Radio Times) in order of favouritism – with probable placings next to them:

 

Tom (3 – unless he’s invented an alarm clock that gives hand jobs)

Susan (2)

Helen (1)

Jim (4)

Adios Amigos: Natasha, Melody, Zoe, Leon, Glenn, Edna, Vincent, Ellie, Felicity, Gavin, Alex, Edward

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