Week 11
8am in the penultimate week and Sugar warns the candidates that they have one day to prepare to face his slavering attack hounds (or business peers) in the dreaded Interview Stage. Huzzah!

Business analyst Jordan says he’s looking forward to letting Lord Sugar know about his shady third man. Is it the bloke who makes the sandwiches or maybe his dad?

“I’m very passionate about my business plan” drones Leah dully.

The following day they head off to the Institute of Directors clutching brown paper envelopes full of their dreams (and their business plans) and Lord Sugar greets them accompanied by the staccato parping of satanic horns. Sugar claims he needs to know he’s getting the right caliber of person, before sending the candidates in for a savaging from the ever mean Claude Littner, the ever irritating Mike Soutar, the ever fragrant Margaret Mountford and the brand new interviewer Claudine Collins who appears to be a female clone of Claude but in a bad wig from the Coronation Street make-up department.

Dr Leah’s business plan is for a chain of none surgical “facial aesthetics” clinic, which would profit massively from hordes of insecure, vulnerable types longing for a loving injection of poison to make their lives “happier”. Yes I think Dr Leah is evil. Craggy Mike Soutar asks about treatment and she offers to fill his wrinkles in using an icing bag full of piglet spleens and a hammer or something. Claude claims to be unimpressed by her business plan and admonishes her for speeding through her facts and figures about rental and hiring doctors and nurses to staff her own private Face Hut and fuck off the NHS. Leah insists she has a “combination of business flair and medical excellence” (and no soul). Margaret asks Leah why she’s leaving a full-time A&E job to work for Lord Sugar and Leah says plainly “I need the money” (to be fair if she really does work FT A&E she probably needs the sleep as well). Claudine points out that Leah comments on her looks constantly (apparently she even said she was prettier and had more “voluminous” locks than her fellow contestants) and Leah responds that this is normal for a 24 year old evil Irish face tampering fembot and that she is actually very “ethical” (she probably thinks this equates to buying conditioner at The Body Shop).

Claude is immediately suspicious of Neil’s online based one-stop estate agency which allows vendors to sell their homes directly on the grounds that he also wants estate agents to buy into the site for the privilege of losing their business. Neil insists “I have a chance” . “No you don’t!” snaps Claude, brusquely dismissing the business plan as “Ludicrous” and “Crap”. Neil seems indefatigable as he returns to the waiting area (“I would love to go in there again” ) but his neck beard appears to have wilted already under the bruising. Margaret thinks it’s a bad idea too and Mike Soutar tries desperately to get Neil to drop it, but he won’t listen and it’s concluded that he’s too headstrong to see sense. Claudine decides to ignore his business plan and instead quiz him about his biggest regret in not succeeding at football and it all gets a bit teary as Neil explains he thinks he let his DEAD DAD down. “I’m sure he’d be very proud” Claudine gulps emotionally.

Margaret discusses Jordan’s role in the Oxford University (that explains that vase!) “Entepreneurs Society” and Jordan’s not backwards about bigging up his involvement, explaining that it was “like running your own business” (funny he should say that…) and that he helped a number of global companies got started and even personally built the building that the society met in. And so on. He charms Claudine by ranting on passionately about how he always felt he was “more intelligent than anyone else” and how he just wants to show what he can do by talking incessantly at people about how grate he is. She gives him a cool stare and after a pause announces “I’m gonna move on”. Haha. She’s got something of Gillian Anderson in the Fall about her as she further interrogates him about his online platform for hobbyists and brands to create mobile games “ (for which he claims he is the “creative visionary” with a merely technical partner; Claudine:”So you already have a partner?”) and it transpires that the co-founder of a company that Jordan claimed he started up reported that “Jordan just helped us with office space and running events”. “It comes across that you jump onto other people’s ideas” she accuses him, not unreasonably as he’s forced to admit that the only business he has ever run for himself was trading on ebay as a teenager. FAIL! Mike pulls Jordan up on his somewhat wanky claim that he can solve a rubiks cube in under 3 mins, and of course one is produced for Jordan to fumble haplessly with, before claiming that he made a mistake under pressure (yes he forgot to put someone elses’ pre-completed cube up his sleeve). Things go from bad to worse when Mike reveals that the company Jordan claims to be a co-founder of currently has not got his name listed anywhere at companies house and has two founders unrelated to Jordan or his imaginary partner. Jordan digests this bombshell before heading off to meet Claude. “Hello I’m Jordan”. “I know you are” Claude growls, adding “It transpires this isn’t your business”. “There’s three parts to answer” Jordan tries to argue a la Tony Bloody Blair, but Claude is having none of it (“You have no right to share part of a business you do not own”). Brilliantly the cheeky Tyrannosaurus limbed sod also states in his business plan that he’s “only prepared to yield 15.9% equity”. That’s if he wins a 50:50 partnership with Lord Sugar in a business that isn’t his. If you’re going to bullshit, bullshit big I guess. However Claude’s had enough “You have no right to be here.. you’re a parasite.. This interview is terminated” and Jordan scuttles off to cry in the waiting room, his hair gel still sizzling from the Claude treatment.

Francesca has started up a dance class and wants to turn it into a chain. Claude points out that after 10 years having self started in business she’s still very much in the same boat, and she doesn’t help herself by lacking the actual yearly numbers showing her business growing. She claims to “turn around” fifty or sixty thousand profit. “Hang on you can’t turn around profit” Claude slaps her down , adding that her puny figures don’t tally with the “5 million” she claimed to turn over on her application. Francesca does a “you got me” face and admits that the number five just came into her head. She emerges looking slightly sheepish, which cheers up Luisa no end “Was it bad? It was! It was worse wasn’t it?” “It wasn’t the high point of my career” Francesca admits to the smirking cupcake girl. Margaret quotes Francesca’s application answer to the question “what’s the most interesting thing about you?” (apparently it’s her “shoe collection”. I despair).

Disappointingly Luisa gets an easy ride from Claude who merely asks, seeing as she’s allegedly making mega bucks via her various baking related businesses “Why change your life? You’ve got it made”. Luisa does her best “hungry” face and retorts “Cos I always want more”. Margaret’s less impressed by the self-styled “Lady with a brain like Einstein” who actually got “C, D and E in her AS levels” and pulls Luisa up for harping on about everyone thinking she’s just all hair extensions and boob jobs just because she goes on about her hair and her boobs. Luisa claims that comment was just a joke. Margaret isn’t laughing; “Do you think its sensible to put tongue in cheek comments?” “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a bit of personality in business” Luisa comes back smartly. Mike thinks Luisa’s business plan about an online bakery sort of portal thing is “half baked” (oh I see what he did there. Sigh) and she admits that writing business plans isn’t her best skill, however she comes up with some great examples about small family businesses needing to modernise online, none of which sadly as Mike points out are mentioned in the business plan. Oops. Claudine manages to shit stir by hinting to Luisa that Francesca thinks she is a “game player” sending the flaky cake baker off to passive aggressively bitch in the waiting room and ding ding, annoyingly it’s time to go back to the boardroom once Leah has volumised her hair to the max in preparation.

Lord Sugar consults his minions for the low down and dirty on our hopefuls.

Luisa is seen as streetwise and bright, but also a bit of a spoilt child. However they all agree her business plan is actually viable. Margaret suggests Luisa wants Sugar’s “Black book of contacts”, which Sugar doesn’t particularly mind. “It’s the chequebook she wants!” quips Claude, not entirely joking.
Margaret and Claudine really like Francesca, and Margaret thinks she could have “identified a real craze” with the idea of dance studios in town centres (Margaret might have missed out on Zumba whilst she was studying Papyrus). “I’d be the Lord of the Dance” Sugar cracks grimly and fires his writers. Both the women respect Francesca as a “self starter” but Claude bursts the bubble by saying although she has experience she might not be able to do the sums or scale up.

Next Sugar asks about his beloved Cloughy and is horrified to hear that everyone thinks Neil’s business plan is a load of donkey poo. Claudine loves Neil’s passion and drive (and can’t bring herself to diss a man trying to please his dead dad), but Mike Soutar pisses on her parade by pointing out that this passion means Neil is incapable of admitting when he’s wrong. Lord Sugar declares this fatal flaw to be disappointing and looks a little bit mopey.

They give the low down on Leah, and Claudine, hardly the life and soul of the warmth party states that she found Leah “most cold”, although Mike and Claude found her credible and smart with “good margins”. So the men liked the blonde woman offering expensive de-uglification for the deluded. Funny that. But shock horror, Lord Sugar finally has a “concern about the moral side” and everyone shuts up and pretends to look thoughtful.

Finally Sugar asks wryly “What d you think of Jordan”. The responses are remarkably restrained (“I had to throw him out” – Claude, “He takes credit for other peoples successes” – Mike), but it’s clear the Oxbridge shortarse is toast.

Sure enough the candidates are called back into the boardroom and Lord Sugar starts on him with regards his phony business claims. Jordan of course has thought of an answer (“That’s not the case – it’s MY vision – I’ve had a gentleman’s agreement since the day I met this person”). Unfortunately it’s a shit answer (“Cut the crap already!”) and Sugar does the decent thing and fires him in disgrace to pout his way out of the building. Even the taxi of despair shuns him.

Luisa is asked about her three other businesses holding her back in their shared one but she’s not phased (“it’s only of benefit to you”). Francesca is accused of having “no sparks of brilliance” and I doubt her defence about not shouting and screaming is good enough. Sugar confides to Leah that “normally boffins are the worse people in the world for business” and somewhere poor lovely Tom Pellereau throws a nail file in disgust at the telly.

Annoyingly Karren takes the opportunity to start a “journey” narrative about Leah, claiming she’s learned a lot as she was such a mardy robotic cow at the start (and now she’s a face butchering mardy robotic cow) and Leah grasps gratefully at it. However Sugar asks her about the moral issue and she claims to be “confused” by the question (oh oh), adding “I’m legit. I genuinely care. I would turn people away if necessary”.

Sugar turns sadly to Neil; “I’m gonna be very honest. I’m bitterly disappointed with your business proposal. It don’t work. I am shocked. If I didn’t care about you (cough)..if I didn’t think you was any good I couldn’t care less”. Yes it’s true. He lurves the Clough. Neil is too busy blindly defending his proposal (“It’s not just off the back of a fag packet”) to see the bigger picture that if five respected business people have recently told you something won’t work, it’s best to drop it and suggest something else rather than continually harping on about how much you believe in it.

“I may as well put 250K into a slot machine” Sugar hints, adding “I would not have a bat in hells chance starting from scratch in this business. You’re the right man with the wrong plan. You’re one move away from it Neil”. Neil fails to make that move and Sugar has to go all “you are no longer my son” and despite admitting if this was for a job he would hire Neil tomorrow he fires the beardy over-assertive chipmunk “with regret” – and sheds a little tear from one of his Nookie Bear eyes.

In the taxi of despair poor Neil now has a tear in his eye and feels he’s left his family and wife down. I know the missus might have enjoyed another week without a dogmatic Northerner refusing to listen to her, but give yourself a break Neil.

Sugar discusses the last three with his henchies. Karren thinks Fran is stable and focused. So that’s her doomed for being boring. Nick thinks Leah is like a fast finishing race horse, but Sugar says he needs convincing that she understands “the severity of something going wrong”. It doesn’t seem to take much convincing (Leah “I won’t risk my registration on making a quick buck” – BUT THAT’S WHAT SHE’S DOING?) and he decides to take a chance on someone ending up like Cher’s son out of “Mask” and says she’s in the final at which she does a little whimper and her hair expands with sheer joy.

He asks Francesca how she would scale her business up and she unfortunately starts going on about “Village halls with 75 to 100 people in” causing him to raise her eyebrows and miss her blather about becoming a chain.

Sugar says it seems Luisa “wants her own way and is a game player” but to Luisa this is merely because she’s a “strong woman” (Don’t you love it when some women excuse bad behaviour with those words? Because I really don’t imagine genuinely strong women using the term). Luisa takes a gamble and claims that both the other candidates would describe her as a team player. Leah says “yes 100%”, Francesca hesitates gratifyingly before suggesting she thought Luisa was a game player early on, but now she’s a team player. Luisa nearly breaks her retina restraining herself from giving Francesca the evils.
Anyhow Francesca ends up getting fired as although “the dance studio has legs” (geddit) and she has “enthusiasm and drive to run ONE of these places” Sugar isn’t convinced it would scale up . Thus healthy dancing is rejected in favour of cake and Botox.

In the taxi Francesca is gutted, but feels proud that the final three was “all girls” as though it represented a blow for feminism rather than a blow dry to the death next week.

Next week’s Final task will be for them to launch their businesses. If Jason doesn’t reappear I’m sulking.

Liking: Nobody
Disliking: Leah, Luisa
Who will win: Luisa has to doesn’t she? I’m sure Leah will get offered a job by Jeremy Hunt or something.
Bye bye: Jaz, Tim, Sophie, Uzma, Zee, Rebecca, Kurt, Natalie, LovelyJason, Alex, Myles, Jordan, Neil, Francesca

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