“Mon père est mort” The Apprentice 2015 blog: series 11, episode 3

From Kent to Calais, the candidates have to buy some stuff.

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WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!

Read up on episode 2 here.

It’s the candidates’ day off. You can tell from their passive-aggressive loungewear. In the Bloomsbury mansion inescapably “laid on” by Lord Sugar, the men are playing videogames and the women are making detox juices. Equality is dying of a broken heart somewhere out of shot.

But it’s soon time to whip off their boxfresh trackies and get ready – Sugar and his cronies, Lady Brady and The Egg, want to meet the candidates in Dover Castle’s wartime tunnels.

It turns out this is purely for a tortured extended military metaphor about this week’s task: buying the requisite tat from shops in Calais and Kent. “I’m sending you on your own mission...you have to choose a commander-in-chief,” Sugar informs them. A little insulting to the memory of the heroes of Dunkirk, but, y’know, for what did our ancestors perish other than hollow reality television formats?

“Social media entrepreneur” Vana decides she wants to lead team Connexus into battle (etc etc), but so does the perpetually sour construction executive Elle. “Anyone who wants Elle to be project manager, raise your hands,” sighs Vana. No one raises their hand. Not even Elle.

The men choose Joseph, whose villainous pencil moustache gives him the air of a comedy Disney mafioso rat. “They’re all pretty ladies and that might sway the old French men,” is Whiskers Valente’s main fear once he’s been made project manager. Hopefully those old French men will beat him with baguettes.

Each team splits into a Kent and Calais contingent, who set out to buy – as cheaply as possible – all the items on Alan Sugar’s list of random junk. The Megalomaniac’s Miscellany, if you will. When compiling this catalogue, Sugar and his backroom listmakers seem to have missed the clunking poor taste of demanding the purchase of a rubber dinghy when half the task is set in Calais, but, y’know, for what are desperate migrants struggling to Britain other than hollow reality television formats?

Jenny – whose dad is “actually an antiques collector”, by the way – attempts to find Leavers Lace (a northern French thing) from the back of a cab in Kent by inexplicably calling up a Japanese college. “Can I speak to one of the lecturers?” “No.”

Brett helpfully explains to a farmer that he needs manure “for fertilisation purposes”, and the men’s team scrambles around a farm collecting it in bags free of charge. It’s not long until the women cotton on and do the same, but this is inevitably shot with incredulous close-ups of their dirty shoes. As if the bozos on the men’s team aren’t bothered about mucking up their violently burnished brogues.

Richard wants to be “the charming, bumbling English guy” when attempting to purchase the mandatory cheese. “Le whole?” he slurps, gesturing vaguely at the cheese counter. “Best prix?” God knows how he left the fromagerie with the fromage correct.

“You led the negotiation,” Joseph says approvingly. (Translation: “You bought some cheese.”)

“Lunchtime, France,” the voiceover almost sniggers as the men stand outside a closed antique shop scratching their heads, in their search for a Louis-Philippe mirror. “Lewis Fileep-ay Mirrah?” Joseph says at a few elderly French people once they’ve finished their déjeun-ay. Somehow they bag this one too.

The women have a far more difficult time of it. Elle and her subteam go back and forth to a small boat shop on the Kent coast, deliberating over its pricey dinghy. “I don’t know what to do,” she murmurs on the third visit, melancholy descending on the Medway. The music turns ominous. The shopkeeper looks appalled. The dinghy looks increasingly seductive. “This woman is going to think we’re mental,” sighs Elle, as they head in for the fourth time and buy the dinghy.

This turns out to be their downfall. In his customary pointless summary, Sugar informs the boardroom this task was about “strategically planning certain items where they should be found”, which the women did worse than their rivals by spending most money.

Jenny is fired. “She was just – not very good,” muses Claude, who really hasn’t mastered the aggressive Apprentice rhetoric yet.

Candidates to watch:

Joseph

Whiskers Valente might put someone’s head through a Lewis Fileep-ay mirror before this series is through.

David

Sweet and upbeat, mainly. Where’s his fatal flaw?

Selina

“Mon père est mort,” she cried as she bought some snails. A uniquely dark negotiating technique.

I'll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here for the previous episode blog. The Apprentice airs weekly at 9pm, Wednesday night on BBC One.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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