Week 2 dawns rather too suddenly from my perspective, as the candidates are summoned to the Barbican Conservatory at 5.30am. “ I’ve heard of the Barbican but I don’t know what it is” Jenny gawps. “Maybe we have to direct a play and sell tickets to it! How awesome would that be?” gushes Sam the wordsmith.

Anyhow at the centre of the Barbican, there is apparently a hidden oasis (like everything in this concrete maze it must be pretty fricking well hidden as I’ve never found it) containing 2000 species of exotic plants. Lord Sugar meets our remaining inadequates in the Cactus Room so he can make one of his bat computer style tenuous links to the task. “Cactuses survive in the desert as they hold in moisture and have long been used in beauty… that’s right you’re making and branding a shampoo!”

So the teams have two days to brand and advertise a moisture retaining shampoo made out of cactus seeds then pitch their ideas to top advertising execs. There’s another twist in that it’s back to boys versus girls (much to spivvy Joseph’s delight) so we can spend most of the episode wondering who the fuck is Connexus (it’s the girls). Selina’s just relieved that Brett isn’t on a hair care task with her as he’s “bald” (that’s how Selina pronounces “an arsehat”). Richard worries the girls have an advantage as Charleine runs a hairdressers, but then remembers that he thinks she is a “nightmare to work with”).

Charleine is all “Mememe! Pick me! I have a salon! I talk about hair continuously despite having slightly weird hair myself! This is MY TIME GODDAMIT!”, but Aisha checkmates her by mentioning that she’s actually launched a hair extensions product and done an advert and all so they all vote in Aisha as PM whilst Charleine mutters and rocks in the corner. Aisha promises to bring anybody who doesn’t contribute back to the boardroom. Everyone looks suitably unmotivated.

The teams head to award winning creative wankery “Arc” to borrow their flip charts and pretend they’re on Nathan Barley.

Richard goes for a collaborative leadership style with Versatile by letting everybody pitch ideas no matter how insane as long as they mention cactus and moisture. For Mergim this means “sexiness” (“I see a gentleman with a haircut similar to mine and all these women just looking at his face” – and then presumably their tears moisten his hair?). Scott suggests “Manly Moist”, making Sam the Wordsmith shudder in horror. Hitherto invisible David pipes up, jazz hands flapping in the breeze, with the suggestion of calling the product Western (“I came up with the name – it shows how strong I am!”) with the tagline “Desert defeating hair” and bizarrely (to me, a mere woman) they all go for this strange boys own adventure product branding.

Aisha’s keen on targeting the mass market just to please Lord Sugar, but Vana suggests that older women could be targeted as “the 50 plus generation is the fastest growing” and to keep the peace amidst a rising shrieking match Aisha agrees to “go for the grey pound”. Vana suggests calling the product “Cactess” to keep the product source and target market together, but Aisha’s not convinced (“I like the ‘tess, but I don’t like the cack”).

Claude does his Greek chorus of warning that although it’ a good target market, the team are in their 20s and “mustn’t fall into the trap of creating a product for themselves”.

Gary, Brett and Joseph are sent to create a short billboard advert, with Richard instructing them to follow his concept of a man flicking his hair in slow motion to repel sand. But Richard isn’t the only visionary in this one shampoo town. “What if the bloke had FOAM in his hair?” Joseph blurts, inspired, and buoyed by his blossoming creative genius he goes on to direct (“Don’t look into the camera you helmet!”) a beardy hipster model to kneel half naked in a bin whilst a watering can is emptied over his head and baldy Brett tutors him in the niceries of hair washing and keeping his trousers dry (“Do you mind coming in your pants then changing into your trousers afterwards?” – surely one of the finer chat up lines ever spawned by The Apprentice).

Aisha is all for “Secrets of the Desert” as her product name, despite the rest of the team hating it because it sounds like a Turkish Delight themed skin flick produced by Al Qaida. Elle wants it known that she thinks it sounds crap in a world weary negative way that suggests that Elle’s parents are enjoying a few weeks break without her. Aisha and April look through the model files for the face of Desert Secret, with April justifying going for younger models for a product aimed at middle aged women as “the product will make them feel ten years younger than they are so it will get the message across”. Charleine and Ruth are therefore unimpressed when a gaggle of semi-foetuses arrive for the billboard shoot looking more like they’re auditioning for a Netflix and Chill session. Concerned this totally misses the target market, Ruth gamely volunteers to be the model and Nat breaks out the polyfilla to do her make-up (“Don’t make me look old!” – oh hang on isn’t that the point?). Jenny directs (“I love it! It’s really creative and that’s what I’m really good at!”) and actually it isn’t that bad.

Meanwhile Aisha is making all the decisions about product design whilst Vana makes hacky faces and moans about it feeling dictatorial. Aisha’s convinced that cactuses are unappealing so chooses to depict a purple cactus flower despite it having sod all to do with the product and looking a bit like the nutty caramel from Quality Street. The girls product arrives in a bland green bottle which tells you nothing about the content and as Natalie says “looks like a handwash”. Meanwhile the boys take delivery of the manly black dildo that contains “Western” and there is much rejoicing.

Joseph’s really proud on the phone to Richard in that he’s “changed the game” by making his billboard look like the model’s in the shower (“He was standing in a bucket in his pants! We was proper buzzing!”). Richard’s a little perturbed that there was no sand, but Scott reassures him that “It can’t go that wrong”. Still he’s keen to ensure David stays on brand for the advert shoot.

It’s time for the girls to choose who to pitch. Charleine cries “MeMeMe! I talk about hair products to everyone! They all think I’m mental and cross the road to avoid me! I love shampoo me!” but for some reason Aisha passes her over and chooses Natalie who assures her that she has experience presenting to businesses. Charleine mutters darkly that unless the ad contains the line that cactus is “richer than argan oil and improves elasticity” then surely they are all doomed. “I feel like they’re intimidated by my knowledge” she whinges. Aisha’s chuffed with the final cheesy advert (“Who can argue with the mother daughter relationship? That’s universal” – guess this shampoo won’t appeal to Christina Crawford).

For David’s directorial debut he seems to have morphed into Roger De Bris from The Producers as he asks the models to channel their inner dry hair demons and leaps around happily proclaiming “I’m very flamboyant!”. Richard tries to micromanage him (“I can’t accept the cactus getting lost in this”) but eventually decides to give David space and presumably enough rope to hang him in the boardroom with.

Selina directs the girls ad in their bathroom, whilst Charleine goes full on bitchy hairdresser with the actresses to undermine the product (“Do you think we should have explained it better on the bottle? Yes? Well they knew I knew all about shampoo but did they ask me? You know what they SHOULD say? etc etc”) until Selina begs her to shut the fuck up (“There’s no point now talking about what we haven’t done on the bottle”). Charleine gets her last laugh as the actress sneaks in the catchy line “It’s far richer than argan oil!”, which she loves, until Selina states firmly “I’m not using that shot”.

The team’s billboards air at Waterloo station and Claude is impressed by Ruth’s performance (“It is resonating and grabbing attention”). Mergim gets less positive feedback for the boys watery offering (“Does it display a clear message?” “Not really, no”).

The boys film their advert with poor wordsmith Sam forced to ask feebly for his Voiceover “Does your hair feel like desert?” (Richard “More enthusiasm please Sam!”) whilst David wigs out happily to synth pop.

It’s pitch o clock and Natalie worries about her pitch in front of marketing wonks and Aussie haircare bods as the product is dog-shite, but she soldiers on after a poor start (“Good morning!” SILENCE), nervously spacing out her words like a bad William Shatner tribute act (“We’ve. Got. A. Secret. From. The. Desert.”). Mind you Vana doesn’t add much (“The green bottle was chosen because the cactus is green”) and the advert makes the much vaunted mother daughter relationship look just plain creepy (“Thanks so much for the massage mum, it’s exactly what I needed! Oh my god you have hair!” etc). Traditional Ad Man in wacky spectacles thinks they are “missing fun” from the concept. “Well we did put a contemporary soundtrack in there” Natalie insists. Wow she knows how to have fun! Another ad lady says they failed to mention it’s a new product launch, but Natalie reckons the target market of 45 year old women fear “the unknown”. It’s true, I saw one of those mocha kitkats the other day and nearly shat myself. Nat, Vana and Ruth come away patting themselves on the back until Elle (who’s been watching with the non participating team members on a monitor) tactfully informs them it was “really poor”. Vana takes her down “on behalf of all those girls who had the courage to go in” (and talk about fucking shampoo for christ sake), but Elle goes all council estate noddy head “Don’t disrespect me! I’m not gonna be the bitch who says you were excellent then turns round and says I didn’t like it”. Aisha’s still proud of the product and insists “It’s all my idea”.

Scott, Gary and Richard pitch for the boys, but Bullshit Scott is sure he knows “the ins and outs of everything” and he doesn’t need any steenking prompt cards (“I like to be free when presenting so I can go in and smash it”). He lasts about 30 seconds before his eyes roll back in his head like David Blunkett trying to remember if he left the gas on and he has a proper brain freeze, after which he manages to string some words together, just not necessarily in the right order, even though afterwards he claims he “rallied well” (erm). Richard runs the advert and despite the cactus being in shot the audience are confused. “Simple. Clean. On message” Richard says smugly as his watching team shout “He’s just like David Brent”at their monitor). Ad woman points out that you don’t see the after effects of the shampoo in the advert. “We are filming the act of defeating the desert” Richard explains, whilst Sam groans loudly “NO NO! It’s about cactus in a desert it all links the links are CLEAR! Why did they send a boy to do a lyrical fucking wordsmith’s job!!!” etc).

Back in his lair, Sugar asks the experts to grass up on the teams exploits and whilst they like Vana’s idea of targeting an ageing consumer they clearly think the product sucks balls. Likewise they like the boys simple advert and branding (and the use of the cactus) but are bemused by no end benefit being depicted.

Back in the Boardroom and Sugar reiterates the task is all about the benefits of cactus, in case we hadn’t realised. As though he thought cactus made anything other than calculators.

He’s therefore unimpressed by Aisha’s Cactus Flower design “It looks like someone has sneezed with a raspberry in their mouth”. Charleine points out that if she hadn’t been there then nobody would have said that cactus is “richer than argan oil”. Oh FFS get over it! He does however seem to enjoy Ruth “rotating like a kebab” on the billboard.

Over on Versatile, David is still so proud of coming up with the name “Western” but Sugar still thinks the billboard should have shown the end product of moistened hair. Richard claims that guys don’t enjoy seeing hair blowing in the wind – they’re more about the actual activity of washing hair.. it may sound like made up bullcrap and probably is, but I wonder if he’s accidentally onto something? Nah. Richard reckons he used all the skills in his team, but Karen hints it was only so he could avoid taking responsibility for the campaign.

Still the boys win as they kept a cactus on the bottle or something and they are given a “treat” of anti gravity yoga, which looks a lot like writhing around in an upside down hammock. Fun!

In Sad Café, Aisha thinks she should have stuck to the mass market idea. Charleine insists that the billboard team worked well together, implying none too subtly that the advert team led by the blonde podium dancer didn’t, and Selina tells her to get over herself. This looks like the start of a beautiful blonde bitchfest.

Back in the boardroom and Aisha still misses the point by blaming Vana for the target market idea and insisting “I was the only one who brought concepts to the table, of substance”, which means she also has to take the blame for the regurgitated raspberry cactus flower.

Elle insists she hated the cactus flower and that she didn’t think the word “secret” should have been used and she hates everybody and it’s so unfair, and gets a Claude slam as a result (“She didn’t once verbalise what she DID like, I didn’t once hear a positive comment”).

Karen has a fake pop at Natalie for insulting the over 45s (“I’m 46! You said people over 45 were scared of anything new!”) and Nat gets flack for her boring pitch.

Aisha decides to bring Natalie and Vana back into the boardroom, thus letting the people who didn’t really contribute much (Elle, April) off scot free.

Aisha still blames Vana for the “grey pound” idea, despite Sugar explaining carefully that it isn’t the reason the task failed. She then claims Vana didn’t contribute, prompting an Oh My God Face as Vana fights back (“I don’t think you can say that in good faith without telling a lie…you drowned out my opinion”). Aisha then slags Natalie for being incapable of delivering a five minute pitch, but Natalie moans that the product and advertising was horrible and makes an ill advised attempt to tap Aisha on the arm (“Don’t touch me!!”).

Sugar is appalled that Natalie gave up on the shit product and marks her card as he has a garage full of tut for this year’s winner to flog down Romford Market, but eventually (after rightly letting Vana off the hook) he fires Aisha for running a disaster of a task. In the Taxi of Despair, she’s still marvellously lacking in self awareness (“I was the only one who actually brought any ideas to the table”).

Back in the house, Elle sits around sulking in a panda onesie and goes WAY down in my estimations. The boys all say Charleine should have been PM which she laps up (“I’d actually put your product on my shelf”).

Next week the teams go to France on a mission to negotiate our way out of Europe or something.

Liking:

Mad Ruth
Sam the Poet
Selina

Warming to

Vana

They’re probably OK, but worryingly chirpy

Jenny
David

Not convinced by

Bullshit Scott
Wishy Washy Richard

Irritated By

April
Mergim
Gary
Joseph
Natalie
Elle

Disliking

Brett

Charleine

Bye Bye:

Accidental Partridge Dan, Aisha

Looking Forward To

Claude going ape kill crazy with a chainsaw.

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