“Two words: dog sofa” The Apprentice 2015 blog: series 11, episode 4

Pun and games at a pet show.

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

Read up on episode 3 here.

“Samuel Johnson,” muses Alan Sugar, flicking through an 18th-century manuscript of the most influential dictionary in the English language, planning his next Apprentice task. “He had a cat didn’t he?”

“Yes, Alan!” nod Karren and Claude simultaneously, both too afraid to anger their Lord by pointing out any other reason the great man of letters has a place in British history.

“A beloved cat called Hodge,” Sugar continues, his eyes lighting up in feline inspiration.

And an episode is born.

Any remaining smidgen of a link between the locations Apprentice candidates are dragged to at dawn and the task they’ll be doing for the rest of the day has been destroyed, at last, by the fourth episode of the 11th series.

For the candidates turn up at Dr Samuel Johnson’s house – “Samuel L Jackson?” pants Mergim – to find Lord Sugar standing proudly behind a bronze statue of a cat. “This is his beloved cat, Hodge,” he reports. As if they needed to be told. “So I’m sending you to the London pet show.”

But of course.

The teams are shuffled around and split off into separate rooms in Dr Johnson’s house to negotiate their best pet-based buying and selling strategies, as the history of scholarship dictates. Scott, a sales manager with expressive cheekbones, takes the lead for team Connexus. Because his dog is his “pride and joy” and he’s “heavily in sales” (Scott, that is). Wide-eyed marketing child David heads up team Versatile.

Brett, probably still fuming about his substandard fishcakes, breathes: “We need to be upbeat on what the rabbit sector has to offer.”

The teams have to vie for pet products they’d most like to sell at the show. A chicken called Henrietta wearing a hi-vis jacket faces a world of rejection. But a man selling t-shirts with enormous, dead-eyed guinea pig faces on them gets more attention.

Other animal products our human contestants find attractive are sofas for dogs, customisable cat towers (“with a modular system”), walking balloons in the shape of pugs, penguins and giraffes, and an LED tube cat toy.

“I am very much a high-ticket item salesperson,” says Richard – in the most Apprentice sentence since “that was myself, Lord Sugar” – adding, “two words: ‘dog sofa’. I’ll be able to sell it.”

“I don’t know anything about cats, but I do know about selling,” asserts Ruth.

“We decided as a team we would go for the cats and feline market,” Scott explains, in an explanation.

David’s team manages to bag the disturbing vermin t-shirts and walking balloons – which somehow merits an “OI OI” from the ladz.

His rivals are stuck with some tat that doesn’t have a use for humans. And most pets don’t wander around the Excel Centre in Greenwich, ready to splurge. Nevertheless, Scott makes the best of the situation, giving his team some encouragement. “Ruth, your energy is amazing,” he cries. “And Gary. You’ve got cats.”

Sam sells some throws for dogs. “They’re faux fur,” he yells – an off-putting pitch for anyone who wanted to lay their pooch down on a bed of pure labrador skin.

When they return to the boardroom, Sugar works out what he’s made them all do for the past couple of days. “Selecting products and selling them at the pet show,” he concludes.

“These guys interacted with the balloons whereas we talked more about business,” Scott says desperately defending his team. “We conducted ourselves in a professional manner...the cat toys done well,” adds Brett.

Obviously, David’s team wins because of its t-shirt and balloon sales. As all business tycoons know, you can only succeed in sales by selling items intended for your key target market – humans.

Sugar tells Ruth she was too chatty to sell. “Your sales technique was talk talk talk talk,” he says, apparently also admonishing her for leaking customers’ data.

“I came in to help assist,” Scott adds, additionally.

Claude, dressed this week as a concerned Lib Dem egg, tells the team it wasn’t “exhibiting enthusiasm” enough to win the task.

In the end, they fire Ruth, just for the pun. “Ruthless – maybe less Ruth would’ve been the best thing.”

But Selina, who wasn’t keen enough, is on her final warning. “[Claude’s] not very happy with you,” warns Sugar. “Karren – she was wondering why you have this demeanour also.”

Candidates to watch:

David

How many of those t-shirts did he buy for himself?

Richard

He’s awful.

Selina

She’s in trouble also.

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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