Three episodes in and the barmitzvah-year series of The Apprentice has more than delivered.
In case Succot interfered with your viewing of the first two episodes (as it did our weekly recaps), we’ve had the entirely foreseeable disasters (a burger stall set up too late, in the wrong place, making pitifully few sales and leading to defeat for the Vitality boys), jaw-dropping shows of arrogance (from Jeff “throw them under the bus” Wan, summarily sacked after refusing to do the numbers in week two’s hotel decoration task) and repeated cringe-inducing moments.
The series’ two Jewish contestants, Mancunian management consultant Charles Burns (who in the first outing came across as the definition of the word chutzpah, but has since flown under the radar) and legal firm owner Elliot Van Emden (dubbed Tory Boy for having previously worked for David Cameron) avoided the chop in week one despite a dressing down from Lord Sugar. Overall it’s been two-nil to the girls’ team Graphene.
Which brings us to the third episode, and the rise of the robots. No, not the suit-wearing, cliché-spouting automatons vying for £250,000 investment, but actual robots, with the teams tasked with programming and branding a prototype, then selling both this and a toy robot. I’m almost certain the task was chosen so Lord Sugar could make a groan-inducing Terminator joke in the boardroom. “I can promise you one of you won’t be coming back.”
Unsurprisingly, there was system failure all round, with sneers from Karren Brady and Claude Littner and the girls bickering more than the chanichim on Israel tour.
Led by PR manager Jade, Graphene went for the kids market with an educational robot so dull I imagine most children would prefer to do actual homework.
Dithering over its name, they mulled over calling it Flern, which sounded like a forgotten 1970s party dish served up as the Bake Off technical challenge.
Forced to go for their second choice of kids’ robot, wedding planner Siobhan did her best to scupper things by whining first about not getting to do the pitch and then about having to do it. Somehow, though, they managed a few choice sales (were those mind-controlling robots?), giving them a hat-trick of successful tasks.
A female project manager — Michaela, qualified by virtue of having several brothers — did little to dampen Vitality’s general uselessness. Despite securing their pick of a toy robot — it balanced, which is presumably more than you can say about any of the contestants’ states of mind — they crashed with a combination of grammatical errors, fluffed presentations and a prototype that misunderstood the nature of the so-called grey market.
Elliot and Charles, banded together with Michaela and Sajan to oversee branding, instead managed to oversee the team’s most grievous mistake. With the prototype programmed as Jeffrii (because apparently “i” is an auspicious letter in the tech market – who knew?), at the eleventh hour they agreed the name SiiMon was more marketable (yes, me too).
After a calamitous loss, Michaela hauled subteam leader Harrison and Elliot into the boardroom and the latter’s strategy of avoiding any major decision-making came apart, with fingers pointed at him for variously not doing anything and for being responsible for the overall failure.
Like his old boss Cameron before him, he had to slink off with his suitcase despite his belief that those casting the vote had done so lacking the necessary information, influenced by others with more charm.
It was a sad but not undignified exit (compare Elliot’s mild-mannered closing remarks with Jeff’s Dr Evil-esque diatribe). For the Tories in 2017, that almost counts as a win.
Chutzpah of the week: Siobhan, for claiming to be the victim of sabotage, instead of just a pain in everyone’s neck.