We found out in the opening of the Apprentice tonight that the shopping channel task is a favourite of Sir Alan â€“ certainly I have to agree. The annual trips to Peterborough really do produce some amusing episodes, and often really shake things up. They also produce some surprises, this time being no exception.
The established Apprentice wisdom on this one seems to be that you need a mix of items in your choice of four â€“ a couple of low price impulse purchases that you hope to shift in bulk, alongside a couple of higher price items of which you hope to shift a few but make a lot of money. The belief also is that the amateur apprentice candidates are never going to shift anything like the volume of a professional presenter. This time around, Howard, Kate and Lorraine ended up with precisely that traditional mix of products, whilst Yasmina took a bit more of a gamble and told Debra and James to go for four low price items â€“ all coming in under Â£25.
Whilst itâ€™s the sales figures that decide the task, the main entertainment in the programme is always the sometimes hide behind the sofa bad performances. There was nothing to quite match up to the infamous trampoline, but certainly this crop of candidates produced their fair share of laughs from the crewâ€¦
In the end though, the task came down to chips, and this presentation:
Alongside the sales, the shopping channel involved gives Sir Alan an estimate of the expected sales of the selected items with experienced presenters. The deep fat fryer pitched here was, on paper, the biggest money-spinner. The benefits of the low amount of fat used to conventional frying is the big selling point, but here Howard and Lorraine get stuck talking about chips, and giving a woeful pitch. Indeed at one point Lorraine can even be heard saying that she wouldnâ€™t give chips to her children. The result was woeful sales, much as to be expected. But then one of the surprises of the night – Debra managed to ditch her usual abrasive personality and as a result was within 5% of the expected sales of the professionals for her items,
The boardroom is surprisingly refreshing. After a dissection of the task failure, which Howard blamed on Lorraine over the chips demo, and Lorraine blamed on Howard for rejecting the Pleo Robotic Dinosaur, the three were called back in and gave their own pitch about why they thought they should stay. Unlike previous weeks at this stage there wasnâ€™t a whole load of negative campaigning, just the three of them saying why they should stay.
The final decision though will Iâ€™m sure have surprised and upset quite a few people. All the way through Howard has been the quiet, steady pair of hands, indeed in previous series this has proved to be a good tactic, but not this time around. Sir Alan said that he was looking for a bit of a risk taker in these challenging times (although some would argue that it is risk takers who have got the country into the current mess) and sends Howard on his way.
The favourite to go must have been Lorraine â€“ but she seems to have a strong advocate in Nick which is maybe what swung it for her again this time around, plus the fact that she generally seems to be right â€“ as Margaret has pointed out previously. Kate, despite a poor sales performance in comparison with Debra on the task this week has been far too good in most previous weeks to have made her a strong possibility to go.
So that leaves us with our final five â€“ and from the preview of the show it looks like we are going to have them whittled down to two next week. They are a bit of an interesting bunch. Firstly we have James who has been described variously as a joker, and the village idiot, then we have Lorraine who has narrowly escaped being fired on a number of occasions â€“ they are probably the surprise two for the final five. Then we have Kate who has been tipped as a potential winner from early on, but has failed to shine on a couple of key sales tasks. Alongside her we have Debra, who is the youngest of the final five and has shown herself to be decidedly vocal and a pain to work with on a number of occasions, but may have redeemed herself at the last minute with this weeks task. Finally we have Yasmina who does seem to have some qualities in common with Debra, but is a lot more personable. She has also very rarely been called into the boardroom â€“ although that can sometimes be a disadvantage.
In terms of the final two, on the basis of previous episodes Iâ€™m going for Kate and Yasmina to make it through â€“ my thought being that the improvement in Debra this week is not enough to counter the negatives from previous weeks. Having said that, the interviews can always be a bit of an eye opener â€“ although last year proves it isnâ€™t necessarily a show stopper for Sir Alan, the CVâ€™s can always throw up a few nasty surprises, especially if the candidates have been bending the truth a littleâ€¦