Week two dawns with a 5.30am phone call summoning our candidates to the decadent splendour of the V&A museum which as the Voiceover reminds us features the finest in British Design as the camera pans over green glass chandeliers, designer chairs and an Amstrad car stereo*. Lord Alan appears like a cuddly ageing super-villain atop the balcony, flanked by his constipated face henchpersons Karren Brady and Nick Hewer , and challenges the teams to design a household gadget concept and pitch the prototype to retailers within 2 days; the team with the most orders winning.
So it’s time to choose team managers. And the girls in Sterling are spoilt for choice what with evil Nolan sister Jane (“I have experience of bringing products to market”) volunteering. And er Katie. Everybody tries to ignore Katie’s spiel about her R&D managerial skills and vote for Jane. Just as well, as although Jane sees herself as a good “team player” she seems to have completely misunderstood the concept (“I’d rather be a team leader than a follower”).
Pheonix don’t mess about. Azhad says he can do it – everyone else says “Yeah OK” and within minutes they’ve decided to go for a kitchen product.
Several hours later and Jane’s face betrays the crumbling patience of a child hating teacher as she stands beside a blank flip chart having only just decided that they are going to brainstorm for bathroom products. “OK we’re trying to solve a problem” she prompts to silence. “Whatever you choose we’ll go for” pipes up Jenna loyally.
Pheonix meanwhile have drawn up the design for Duane’s idea, a recycling system which compresses veggie waste in order to create compost or (erm) flatter veggie waste. There must be a catchier name. Duane looks very proud. “I want to reduce my waste at home in a modern fashionable way” he gushes.
Sadly Pheonix’s sub-team of Adam, Tom and Ricky aren’t too smitten with the chosen product, and they’re on route to the focus group. Adam’s dreamed up a pair of marigold with sponge scours on the palm (to make it easier for him to rub all over his stupid red blotchy face, and to do the dishes) so of course they big up this product to the boffins at the East London catering college. There’s still little between the composter bin and the spongy fingers as one catering bloke thinks the composter would be good if he had a garden and another thinks he’d prefer just buying sponges, but that doesn’t stop Adam twisting the truth slightly (“It was unanimous in favour of my idea”) over the phone to Azhar. Shame Adam’s great idea has already been done.
At the V&A the girls are still looking at bathroom problems. I’ve been writing this sentence for 30 seconds and I’ve thought of about 20 problems, mostly involving toilet paper. Scottish Laura unveils her horrifying OCD by declaring the splashing that her baby makes in the bath a “problem”. Babies are wasted on women like Laura – can’t we give them nice clean dolls made out of dettol instead? Her idea is a wipeable “splash screen” to cut down on messy interaction with children. Katie comes up with an idea for those of us who don’t treat any discussion as an excuse to boast about how productive our wombs are in the “tap cosy”. Bath cushions have already been done, but sadly generally seem to be shaped like a pair of breasts. Ho ho! However in these times of hardship, surely anything enabling someone else to comfortably take the tap end has to be a good idea?
Jenna really has it in for Katie and immediately starts griping about how difficult it will be to attach to taps.
At the focus group, Laura talks down to a bunch of children and their mums – all of whom think she’s dead weird for not enjoying splashy bathtime fun. However Katie’s tap cosy goes down well and when they call Jane it appears that her sub-team was getting the same sort of feedback. So Laura, Katie and Gabby start brainstorming design ideas with a professional designer.
But Jenna’s still chip chip chipping away at Jane’s ear about the issue with the product becoming complicated with regards the way it attaches to the bath (um like shower attachments do?). The silly cow genuinely seems to think it matters that this product works, as though Amazon are going to unveil a hot bath mid pitch and scream “PROVE IT YOU BITCHES!”. The constant nagging gets Jane worried. “We have a bit of a dilemma here” she dithers. Maria decides, wisely it seems, to take a nap through all the constant angsting. So Jane’s sub team go to their design studio with their “Splish Splosh” idea, whilst conveniently failing to inform the other sub team what’s going on . Genius! Katie phones to ask how the design on the Tap Cosy is going and Jane waffles on about “too many design constraints” (two taps). Katie does a laid back Cassandra (“What’s the point in doing market research if you ignore it?”), but Jane refuses to negotiate so they’re stuck with the wet baby screen. Which technically isn’t a household product.
It’s a day of errant subteams, as Adam’s mob are getting over-excited about their “magic hands” friction wank concept. “Our biggest problem is selling the idea to the other boys” muses Ricky. No you fin headed tosspot, your biggest problem is that your team leader has decided on the other product. Deal with it. They phone Azhar and start nagging him again. “We er checked and think the product is in the market already” he bluffs neatly. “Who did you check?” Adam insists and Azhar has to admit they actually didn’t bother. “Thought you wouldn’t” gloats Adam, but it’s tough titty and Azhar admirably sticks to his guns. Poor Duane attempts to inject his passion into the recalcitrant subgroup – drawing pictures to explain how it works, but they’re so set against it they just stare at him blankly (“Do you not even get that concept?”).
Ricky’s still furious that his sub team was sidelined by the evil megalomaniac project manager, but Azhar’s having none of it (“You could sit here and talk about what happened till next week, but let’s just focus on the product”). Ricky goes seriously camp and pathetic (“I think as Project Manager that’s quite insensitive”). I mean this man claims to be an Alpha Male pro wrestler. What’s he like in the ring (missus)? “I’m sorry but you can’t touch me there. That’s insulting”….
The products arrive. The eco bin looks like a sexy dalek cafetiere. Duane stands by his product (but not directly behind it, as from a certain angle it would look rude). “If it doesn’t work out – it was still my idea” he says honourably. Bless him. Adam still says he wouldn’t buy it – and Nick just looks frightened and confused by all the simmering tension.
Splish Splash however just looks like the plastic panel from the front packaging of a cheap child’s toy or Easter Egg.
The teams travel to pitch to Amazon. In the Sterling car, Jenna and Gabrielle are doing sums. That’s Gabrielle the one who claimed that she was a creative type and Jenna the one who now keeps on moaning that she’s never done sums before. She takes to them like a duck to electricity. “So if they buy one million that will be a profit margin of 240%”. Eh?
Maria still looks like she’s asleep during Jane’s pitch, and I can’t blame her. Things liven up when she suggests that if Amazon were to “order a million units then you will sell them”. Amazon stifle laughter and ask if they could make a smaller commitment. Jane suggests either 500,000 or 100,000 and reels off frankly mental gross profit margin numbers. When Amazon question her figures she looks like a cornered fox before referring them to her “financial team”. Cue Gabby chewing a pencil and Jenna launching into an indecipherable Mancunian** tirade about how hard it is to do sums.
Post pitch Sterling are a little deflated. “That was a mess” pipes up Maria. “No it wasn’t!” fumes Jenna spikily. “That was a nine million pound order” drawls Katie, having just worked it out. “I don’t want to be laughed at”. At least if they laugh, they’ve noticed you love.
Steve gets ready to pitch for the boys and imposes some bizarre willy waving rule that only he and the project manager are allowed to answer questions. Duane looks crestfallen, “So the inventor can’t answer questions?”, but they insist. Which is odd as Steve seems to need all the help he can get during his cheesy presentation to Amazon, and Duane’s clearly straining at the leash to butt in. “Nobody wants to make an unwelcome smell in the home, especially when they’re watching TV or something like that” smarms Steve madly making Amazon desperately change the subject and ask about the USP. I’m worried Steve is going to say “no it doesn’t plug into a computer”, but whilst he ums and erms, Duane can hold back no longer and answers the question confidently, claiming that people who wanted to recycle but never got round it will keep these handy compost bins on their desks (in order to ward off their bosses perhaps). Amazon look impressed by Duane’s “passion”. It’s not bloody Masterchef.
On the way to Lakeland, Jenna’s worked out the math: “Forget all the figures, this is what we’ve worked out… er.. there’s 9 pound in a penny”. Everybody sighs loudly till Jenna stomps her foot and declares that everyone else can all do the figures themselves.
Laura pitches this time, and all is going blandly well until they ask what the cost to them will be, given Sterling’s RRP is £17.99 (!) and all eyes turn to Jenna. “Erm anywhere between 0 and 200000 units it’s gonna double on cost” she says confidently, and the Lakeland procurement guys make special faces at each other. “What will stop my child using the crayons to draw on the bath and making even more mess?” tubby Lakeland man asks Laura, and she neglects to mention that she has had her baby’s arms lopped off precisely to avoid this sort of unacceptable nastiness.
Steve makes a point of introducing Duane the inventor to Lakeland and as a result the pitch seems a lot smoother (and happier).
Back in the boardroom and Lord Sugar’s not impressed by Splish Splosh, but when Katie tries to suggest the main consensus of the focus group was towards the tap cosy, Laura snaps that it was only “marginal”. Lord Sugar’s not happy that Jane ignored market research for what seemed an easier option, but he’s even more bemused by Jane’s Amazon pitch (“there’s not a product in history which got a million units ordered straight off”). “I believe in the product because I’m a mother” smarms Jane. Oh fuck right off.
Poor Azhar gets less backing, and the “Eco” compost bin is dismissed as looking like “something you’d put nuclear waste into”. Adam pipes up with his alternative idea, but it’s not as relevant as the fact that Azhar wasn’t able to encourage his team to all pull together.
It’s results time and Amazon somehow ordered 7,500 units from Sterling despite Karren “cringing” throughout the shambles of a pitch. They only ordered 3,000 units from Pheonix.
However Lakeland gave Sterling no orders whatsoever, but ordered 10,000 units from Pheonix.
So the boys win and it’s now all whooping and high fives asides from Azhar who looks thoughtful and wounded, like a vengeful Manga hero. They win a “private room” at The Ivy (the one they hide embarrassing people in) where Azhar hints that he just might like a little acknowledgement for having lead them to victory, but they all snicker and look away. “He’s got all the gear but no idea” mocks Ricky later. Azhar will have his revenge, I’m convinced.
Meanwhile Maria’s clearly building up her energy for a scrap as she allows a little coffee to adulterate her sugar at the Bridge café. Jane’s got it in for Katie (“she just stood around bitching and giving it out about others” (?)), and Jenna’s still working out what 245% of a million is.
Back in the Boardroom Jane still stupidly defends Splish Splosh (“It’s not necessarily just a toy; it’s an entertainment centre and storage”). Karren points out that the overall lack of ideas probably didn’t help.
Jenna still insists that she took one for the team when she stepped in with her Ken Dodd accountancy skillz to take the financial lead. And she did design and other things as well and that cow Katie didn’t do anything blah blah blah. Sorry I stopped tuning in to her spiteful drone after a while. She sounds like a stupid bee.
It all descends into a bitch fight with Maria loudly pitching in (“Don’t judge me cos I said nuthink!”), and when it descends Lord Alan again suggests that asking for a million orders is truly the act of only a fool (or Dr Evil). “They must have felt sorry for you” he concludes of Amazon’s order. (I can’t find the product on Amazon so presumably they’re all on a tip somewhere now or more likely those orders didn’t really happen).
It’s crunch time and Jane chooses Maria for falling asleep in the car (Maria pulls a “You wha?” face), before starting “Katie tried… but…” Pleasingly Katie doesn’t let her finish. “Hang on. I did the market research”, but Maria’s still chipping in (“Oh my gawwd! You are ridiculous!”).
Lord Sugar insists that it has to be a rational decision and not an emotional one, so now Jane chooses Maria and Jenna, probably because she realises Katie did enough to stay this week in a team of fail.
“What I’ve listened to is diabolical” growls Lord Sugar, putting down a One Direction CD and looking sternly at the remaining threesome. ” It doesn’t just have to be one person what goes!” You’re telling me Lord Alan. This year’s team of women is probably the worst yet and it’s sadly telling that they created an unpleasant self-centred baby product whilst Duane was out there trying to save the planet.
He consults with Karren who thinks Jenna only harmed the team by putting herself forward to do something she couldn’t do. Nick meanwhile suggests Maria is a “very noisy young woman” (That’s why I want her to stay).
Jenna insists that Katie didn’t get involved in anything and Jane agrees. “I put myself forward as Project Manager” adds Jane. I guess nobody did hear when Katie did that. Car Nap Gate rages on with Maria insisting it was only for two seconds and she was still listening as though she’s a bloke being pulled up on snoring all the way through”500 days of Summer”…
Jane goes on about her brilliant business she started from scratch, whilst Maria yells “Big deal I’ve done that!”, but it don’t cut no ice with our bearded Nookie Bear who points out you can’t big up your business credentials and then screw up a small task. But Jane’s determined and she’s been hurting about this failure. In fact the only time she hurt more was when she heard her babby son crying over the phone the other day. Oh good grief woman, you’ll be getting your stretch marks out next.
About now I’m hoping Sugar fires all three of them, but I rather like Maria’s spunky argument for keeping her (“I had my own business at 19 and if you put me in charge of one project, I guarantee I will impress you. If not, I will gladly walk”.
Jane’s still on her knees begging to stay. “Give me one credible reason why?” snarls Sugar. Jane opts for the taking responsibility line. “I shouldn’t have delegated finance. It was my fault and I won’t do it again” – and it works. Maria gets a stealth sacking and she’s off in the cab of despair, refreshingly looking forward to bigger and better things (“I will make me own money and do it meself”). I think she just might be ok.
Back at the house Katie thinks Jane will go, so she recovers well to hug Jane first when she strolls in. “That’s just taken two years off my life” sighs Jane. And she’s given birth.
Liking: Katie, Jade, Azhar, Duane
Meh: Steve, Tom, Nick, Gabrielle
Disliking Mildly: Adam, Laura
Disliking Intensely: Ricky, Jane, Jenna
Bye Bye: Maria, Bilyana
*OK maybe not.
** Jenna’s accent has been a source of confusion here at the Funny Farm. At first my untrained ear went for brain damaged North Western (Scouse or Mancunian) although according to the Lancashire Evening Post blog our scrunchy faced and even scrunchier voiced Northern Lass is from Penwortham (?) – which is next to Preston, so she’s probably hard as nails. I still reckon she’s actually speaking in Orcish though.