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15 October 2015updated 03 Aug 2021 2:22pm

“My idea is sexiness” The Apprentice 2015 blog: series 11, episode 2

The second Apprentice task in a week is predominantly cactus-themed.

By Anoosh Chakelian

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

Read up on episode 1 here.

Did you know the Barbican has a special cactus room? With 2,000 different types of species and everything?! Yeah! It’s not all just sound exhibitions and performance art. Who knew? Let’s definitely wake up at 5.50am to catch a black cab there one day!

…said no one ever. Apart from Alan Sugar, who hoicked his 17 remaining contestants out of bed and to the Barbican’s conservatory in London in order to give them a lecture at dawn about the beauty qualities of cactus oil. He should know. It’s how he keeps his signature fuzz so irresistibly fuzzy.

For the second episode of the week it’s a double whammy – a combination of the Questionable Cosmetic Product Task and the longstanding favourite Attempting To Cobble Together An Advert Task.

Yes, the candidates have to market a cactus-based shampoo. And whichever team markets a cactus-based shampoo the least worst wins.

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“What you’ve got to worry about is wrapping that branding round the cactus,” Sugar explains, as the cacti around him wilt in horror at the exploitation.

The teams are split back along gender lines – the women look thrilled at this because they’ve witnessed what meatheads the men are; the men look thrilled at this because they are meatheads.

Discussing salon owner Charleine with his new team, Richard observes, “she’ll be henpecking at every single girl because their pecking order hasn’t been settled”, picking a peck of pickled peppers.

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But in spite of Charleine’s shampoo experience (and incessant protests), the hair extension specialist Aisha heads up the women’s team, Connectus. And digital marketing agency director Richard picks his way up the pecking order to lead team Versatile.

They brainstorm about cacti for a bit.

“Quite deserty,” muses plumbing business owner Joseph.

“Live life rough. Then make it smooth,” is Brett’s offer.

“Manly moist?” moots Scott.

“My idea is sexiness,” honks Mergim. “A gentleman with a haircut similar to mine, and slow motion women just – looking at his face.” Dream big, Mergim.

Instead, they come up with “Western”.

The women decide to go for the “grey pound” with their product – the both insultingly and sleazily named “Desert Secret” – and duly book a handful of women in their twenties to model the over-45s product.

The men’s team march a nonplussed male model into a bucket, strip him down to his underwear and film him lathering his hair as they empty a watering can over his head. A dignified television debut, all told.

Project manager Richard is doubtful about the advert. “Let me just re-go over my brief,” he says, sayingly. “I can’t accept a cactus getting lost on this.” No cacti were harmed in the making of this advertisement, Richard.

Ruth, of neon tartan skirt suit fame, volunteers to be the subject of the women’s billboard advert; they decide their young models don’t look quite like they’re in on the eponymous desert secret yet.

The shell of Claude’s egg head cracks gently into a smile at the advert: “It’s bright, it’s colourful, and it seems to be resonating with ladies of a certain age,” he exclaims, yolk running down his cheeks in delight.

Then comes pitching to the inevitable “panel of experts”.

Corporate account manager Natalie pitches for team Connectus. “Good morning, everyone, we’re delighted to be here today,” she says, in the tone of a hostage announcing their own execution. “Now, we’ve got a secret to share with you all today.” Small pause. “A secret from the desert.” Dramatic pause. “Desert secret.” Even the sphinxes of Ancient Egypt weren’t this enigmatic.

Scott for the boys’ team is even worse. “More now than ever before is th..the…men spending more time and money on their appearance.” His mind blanks as the ever-ready backing violins quiver into a crescendo. “So we’ve made this sleek design…make be appearing really well on the shelf…”

These pitch is result of being preparation not enough, eh Scott?

But matters it not! For Sugar, who informs everyone that he first did this task when he was 16 at school – “the thought behind it was to exploit the virtue of the cactus,” he recalls, poetically – thinks the men’s campaign was great.

“It’s got to be one of the best,” he says, to the men’s delight. They seem to be forgetting that the bar for such tasks was significantly lowered by the misogynist propaganda Octi-Kleen advert of 2010, so it’s not exactly an achievement.

Sugar, whose love of exploiting the virtue of the cactus was deeply wounded by Aisha’s interpretation of exploiting the virtue of the cactus flower, heaven forbid, fires her: “You came up with the name, you came up with the brand, and you came up with the flower.”

The unholy trinity of business blunders.

Candidates to watch:

Ruth

The first time an Apprentice candidate has ever been endearing two tasks in a row.

Richard

Avoided taking any responsibility for anything. Could be a useful skill.

Elle

Relentlessly negative, but she did teach herself Latin. So she understands the team name Connectus, at least.

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.