No sooner have Nick and Jade returned back to the house in Week 11, and started sipping champagne, when the phone rings and Lord Sugar reminds everyone that they have only two days to “familiarise” themselves with their business plans before being thrown to the slavering interview hounds.
We get a quick run down of our remaining contenders from most to least successful in the process, starting with FlopsyNick who was on the winning team 8 times and thinks his “fantastic concept” could make “millions.. millions”. Wow. wow. Next up is Tom, who the voiceover reminds us is the “youngest survivor” at only 23 (Unlike many previous youthful contenders, Tom himself fails to constantly remind everybody how young he is”. He’s followed by Jade, who was only on the winning team five times (but actually lost 6 times). Somehow this puts Ricky Martin last even though he only lost 5 times, he was in the boardroom on four occasions, but he does think his business plan guarantees a Return on Investment.
The BIG Bonging Bram Stoker Dracula music indicates 48 hours have passed and it’s time to face the music at New Broad Street House where they gather, armed with their little cardboard folders and Lord Sugar demands that they each pitch their ideas “in simple terms”.
Nick’s idea is an “online platform for the grocery market enabling people to purchase recipe ingredients”. Simple enough, and Lord Sugar indicates he’s interested in more online enterprise.
Tom pitches a “Hedge fund allowing people to use fine wine as an asset”, which I think I get, erm sort of. (Does it mean that he would encourage people to give him money for him to invest in barrels of wines he thinks will be worth lots more, making them money on their investment and making him some too, providing he doesn’t lose the climate report for the Loire Valley and end up getting bummed by a fake gorilla? My only financial knowledge comes from repeated viewings of “Trading Places” so I can’t be sure).
Jade declares she wants to start up the “largest telemarketing call centre”, where numbers are “sold on as leads”, which she admits has been done before, but “not at this volume”. Maybe she can call this new telemarketing giant “EnormoCunt”?
Ricky waffles on about an “ethical, sustainable professional recruitment agency”, and thankfully Lord Sugar demands that he “cut the crap” and confirm whether it’s “a recruitment agency for technical people” (Ricky: “Yes it is”).
They hand over their business plans to Nick & Karen, and prepare to be grilled, broiled and roasted by Lord Sugar’s assembled interrogators; Claude Littner (The Bulldog), Margaret Mountford (The Divine) and the interchangeable ones who both look a bit like Alan Hansen (Mike Soutar and Matt Riley).
Tom’s first to see Free Magazine guru Mike Soutar, who discovers that our lazy eyed young hunk has never had a job interview before. Tom’s reference is extremely impressive, but maybe less so when it transpires it’s written by his dad. Soutar suggests Tom’s a “daddy’s boy” who got his dad to write his “very sophisticated” business plan, but Tom insists it’s all his own work and points out that “My father only joined my company after it posted a revenue of £1.25 million).
FlopsyNick greets Margaret as though he’s Stuart Baggs (“Margaret! Nice to meet you”), and strangely gets away with it, although she raises an eyebrow at his claims of intelligence (“Modesty becomes some people”). She pulls him up on his claims of a “Non conventional upbringing”, due to him being half Swiss. Nick elaborates that he was “very outdoors” and into “woodwork” and “sewing” and didn’t have a computer till he was 16 as he was too busy skipping up and down the Matterhorn with his goatherd friend Peter. “As soon as you got a computer at age 16 it made you obsessed?” she queries, hinting slyly at frenzied cyber masturbation, and he admits he turned into a ” geek”.
Ricky’s in with Matt Riley, who starts “I opened your application and there were so many things in there…”, whilst Ricky starts to look a little smug, … “that made me want to be sick” continues Riley. Oops. Ricky admits that he uses the forename Ricky, rather than his real name Richard, so he can be “memorable”. “Is that why you use the name Ricky Hype? Or the Fitness?” asks Riley, concluding that our favourite fin-headed part-time wrestler “sounds more show business than real business”.
Poor Jade is first to be savaged by Claude who’s “pretty underwhelmed by” her CV and her “grubby little business” plan. To be honest, I’m with Claude when he points out that most people “don’t want cold calls” and that selling leads on people in debt is “a bit unsavoury”. Even worse, the business plan doesn’t include cash flow and suggests an £80K turnover in the first month (Claude, oozing sarcasm: “That’s lovely”), but hasn’t worked any costs into that. Jade reckons they’re “already paid for” out of Lord Sugar’s investment, and Claude sneers that on paper she’s “blown it all in 6 months”.
Jade staggers back to the waiting room, “absolutely slaughtered”. “I’ve got to have a drink” she gasps.
Margaret gets the pleasure of talking to Ricky next and quizzes him on the he describes himself in his CV as “Thor in the Nordic Pantheon”. “‘Call me Thor'” she quotes, eyebrows dancing with mirth. It transpires that Ricky also promises to “take over Lord Sugar’s empire”. “I wanted to differentiate myself from the others” he explains. “They’re not all gods you mean?” Margaret smiles, before asking if he thinks he is “the reincarnation of Lord Sugar”.
Claude gets Flopsy Nick and congratulates him on his business plan looking like a “Good piece of work for an MBA or academic exercise” before tearing it to shreds (“Its irrelevant.. not worth the effort.. dream on”). He just about makes it out with his fringe intact (“That was like being in a war zone”).
It’s sadly a running theme that nobody thinks Nick’s idea is worth the effort (I quite like it myself). Matt Riley doesn’t think anybody plans recipes in advance, maybe because he doesn’t do any cooking. He asks what the year 5 return would be and Nick claims £145 million (“It’s very difficult to put an actual figure on it”). Hmmm! Mike Soutar’s not convinced by Nick stating his current business (a platform for mobile barcodes) is making millions a year. “Are you smoking something? What are you even doing sat here”, before hitting on the notion that Nick’s flitting from business set-up to new business set-up with no ability to focus. It hits a nerve “I am aware that focus is something I have to erm focus on” Nick retorts flopsily.
Jade sees Matt Riley next and he quizzes her about her business qualifications, whereupon she only recalls some modules in her degree. “Are you sure about that?” he concludes bringing up her “N” for business A’Level. “Oh that?” laughs Jade. “For some reason that was taken out of my mind”. Margaret questions the fact Jade’s had “six jobs in a short space of time”, but accepts that each time she was getting promoted so gaining in terms of experience and money.
Margaret sees that Tom described himself as a BNOC at University, which he apparently thinks meant “Big Name On Campus” (arggh!). “Are you sure N stood for Name” she asks gently. Next he’s with Claude, who points out that he needs to raise £25 million to launch the hedge fund and queries Tom’s ability to do this with some sneaky ageism. Tom sticks up for his CV claim that he’s “entirely well rounded”, but Claude can’t believe that he would raise the money “So your business concept falls apart”. “How’d it go?” asks Ricky when Tom emerges pale and shaking. “Stressful” he admits. He doesn’t fare much better with Mike Soutar who points out that it’s a very risky proposition (“Are you a gambling man?”), but he argues that he’s never let anyone down in his life. He’s almost emotional when he comes out (“I was like ‘please believe me'”).
Mike Soutar calls Jade’s bluff on her list of four different websites supporting her business model. “You say you have chooseenergysupplier.co.uk?”. She nods. “You don’t own that… I’ve checked… I own that one. I’ve bought it” he reveals gleefully. She brushes it off well “I might have to buy it off you” she rasps. “Good news” he smirks naughtily. “I’m an entrepreneur. Give me an offer”.
It’s Ricky’s turn to meet the Claudinator. “I hope he gets as good a grilling as I did” Tom crosses his fingers. It’s almost a shame that Claude isn’t stroking a white cat. “I’ve been looking forward to this encounter” he purrs. “Your personal statement was the most crass, obnoxious, infantile one I’ve.. well not had the pleasure… but had the opportunity of reading”. Ricky’s brash CV claims are dissected starting with him being “the best business partner on the planet” (“You stick by that do you”), via his dismissive attitude towards Lord Sugar (“I will teach an old dog new tricks”). Ricky agrees it was “immature” and that he regrets his tone. “You’re an arrogant fool” continues Claude, adding, amazingly “but I read your business plan and was quite impressed. It was well written and you have done well in life so far”. Wow! Has Claude ever been so generous to a candidate. Perhaps Ricky’s tactics have worked, although he insists that he has learned through the process that he doesn’t need to show off and he’s a “different person now”. It’s all getting a bit “Journey”. The rest of their interview is conducted in a far more equal atmosphere with Claude questioning that it’s a good time to start a recruitment business and Ricky arguing convincingly that the confidence is growing again. I hope George Osborne is watching as Claude concludes “that sounds plausible to me.. you come across as someone who’s thought very hard about their chosen business”.
All interviews finished, Nick thinks he has a good chance, but Ricky’s not sure (“Nobody’s perfect.. as much as I would have said I was 11 weeks ago”). The witchfinders are called first to the boardroom and Sugar cautions them “I’m a pensioner now.. I don’t want too much hard work”.
The concern about Jade is that nobody wants cold calls and that she didn’t do the maths in her business plan. Everyone has a good chuckle at Mike Soutar buying one of her domain names though.
Claude describes his “sleepless night excited about how to rip Ricky apart” before astonishingly admitting that “in real life I’m mesmerised by the guy. Karren Brady states Ricky has changed the most (journey klaxon again), but Margaret’s still convinced he has a silly streak. Nobody plays around with mythological names and gets away with it on Margaret’s watch.
Margaret worries that Nick is obsessed by his “unconventional background without television”. “Where did he live? A nunnery?” growls Sugar before deciding that an online recipe site “doesn’t ring the bells of NASDAQ”.
Mike Soutar thinks that although Tom’s business plan has big risks that there are “potentially huge returns”. He thinks Tom has a “charmed life”, but Sugar disagrees (“He’s a West Ham supporter”). Karren pulls everyone up on their ageism (“At 23 I was running a football club” – into the ground), and Nick Hewer plays devil’s advocate by reminding Lord Sugar of how much he’s always enjoyed risks. Matt Riley thinks Tom’s business plan is “one of the best” he’s ever read, but concludes that our unblinking young Stewart Lee lookielike needs to tone down his ambition.
The candidates are sent in and in response of suggestions that telemarketing annoys people Jade sadly gets shouty and annoying.
Tom thinks that the Asian market for fine wines is “robust” enough to not end up “lumbered”, but Sugar still thinks he’s “trying to run before he can walk”.
Lord Sugar’s most amused by Ricky’s comments that “as Lord Sugar is getting to a later stage in life he will be planning his succession”. “So I better let my kids know about you?” he cracks. Ricky reckons he’s “learned to shut my trap a lot more”. It’s nice that he’s even planned for his office Christmas parties as part of his business plan, I hope there is a milk fund in there too.
Nick reckons he’s got a working prototype of his system and at least it’s innovative unlike the other candidates. Ricky points out that doesn’t matter if it won’t make money, but almost blows it by unwittingly patronising his potential business partner (“I don’t think you need to tell me what to do Lord Sugar”).
So it’s decision time, and whilst Tom’s idea “could be a calamity” and Nick hasn’t convinced him (even though he was first to be picked when the teams got to choose extra members), it’s Jade who is first to be fired “with regret”, as Sugar doesn’t want to be associated with “disturbing people at home” beyond his TV appearances, and she’s off with a cheery “Good luck guys”.
Nick is next to go (without regret) as although he’s “obviously very intelligent”, Lord Sugar doesn’t want to be dragged into such an enormous project when he “can’t see where the money is”.
So Ricky and Tom are sent outside, whilst Nick Hewer tries to tempt Lord Sugar to the dark side (“So it’s pedestrian old recruitment – or ONE LAST HURRAH!”) and lets face it, it’s a choice that’s been playing out globally – and given the damage hedge funds have done, perhaps there’s only one “ethical” choice here. The boys come back in and Lord Sugar says Tom’s proposed turnover is “Blahhdy good” before hinting he might not be comfortable enough in his knowledge of the often reticent wine dealer to be able to go along with the risks involved. Ricky thinks Tom’s a “fantastic person” but also doesn’t know enough about wine to ever think about investing in it.
Down to the crunch and Lord Sugar admits he likes a gamble so views this choice as between “safety” and “devilment”. As it’s not 1984 and Lord Sugar wants to keep things “simple and straightforward”, Ricky is hired and is sent off to a new life in a flash car, while Tom looks so stunned he even opens his eyes.
On the “You’re Hired” show afterwards, everyone, even Ricky, looks far healthier and nicer than they did on the show (I love BBC make-up people), and we even get a glimpse of The Fitness in action, which would be oddly erotic if I had the erotic sensibilities of an ageing gay man. So yes, I had to take a cold shower. Apparently The Fitness is now being retired for good, whilst the business fitness is exercised. Good luck to him – and a kind of heartwarming final decision from Lord Sugar considering the mess the rest of us are in.
So at the conclusion of perhaps the dullest season to date, what have we learned?
1) It’s all in the “journey”. Which is a bit of a pain in the arse, as I’d always enjoyed the fact that The Apprentice on the whole was largely free of this reality contrivance.
2) Although it’s sometimes hard to be a woman in the reality TV business, it’s even harder to be from an ethnic minority. Even gingers and Northerners have a better chance.
3) Scotch Pot was the best food idea there’s been on the show. Closely followed by Drunken Jellies with extra booze.
4) For the final time, being a barrow boy type won’t make Lord Sugar completely love you as though you are a son. (Although it might a little bit). However good looking middle class white boys are still doing ok.
5) For most people “luxury” is still summed up by smellies and chocolate – i.e. the things we get as gifts by people who don’t actually know us very well.
6) If you say “This task is right up my street”, better go and pack your bags.
7) If you have mad staring eyes and hold your nerve enough, people will listen to you when you are talking utter bollocks.
8) Tourists in London will buy any old shit.
9) Scottish football crowds have a low percentage of gourmands.
10) If you really worry about your child splashing in the bath then you are probably mental.