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18 November 2015

“Does Jammie Dodgers go with washing powder?” The Apprentice 2015 blog: series 11, episode 7

The candidates have to smell what sells. And it’s mainly cheap tat.

By Anoosh Chakelian

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

Read up on episode 6 here.

It’s a day off for the candidates. The men are playing poker while the women are scattered about the place doing unspecified household tasks. Whiskers Valente wears sunglasses indoors and a blazer over his zip-up cream fleece. Sam, lying back on the sofa, ostentatiously reads Tolstoy for the camera. These are the business brains of tomorrow. Bask forevermore in their manufactured domesticity.

But then an angry little lord turns up at the front door to ruin all the fun.

“Discount stores and pound shops have taken over the high street,” he informs the contestants. Bad news for local businesses and community cohesion. Good news, however, for clunky selling challenges on reality television. All hail the death of the high street! Alan Sugar 1, Mary Portas and society as we know it 0.

The candidates have to open their own discount stores. And they must travel to Manchester to do this, of course. Apprentice geography logic has been so compelling this series. Kent for manure. Inland London for fish. Calais for dinghies. The North for dirt cheap tat.

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Gary, who works in retail, heads up team Versatile. Scott, who is a senior account manager in sales (who isn’t?) takes on team Connexus. His team members, having discussed how useful discount stores are for toiletries and cleaning products, decide promptly to sell electronic items instead.

Selina worries that this will only appeal to men. As opposed to no one at all. “I don’t necessarily say, ‘ooh, look at all these black wires’.” Nor do I, Selina. Especially not when they are peeled off the floor of a warehouse and sold at a preposterous markup in a deserted pop-up shop by desperate televised business clowns.

The teams pile their trolleys high with warehouse goods. “We’re gonna be able to sell bubblegums [to toddlers],” boasts Jo. The far less impressive version of selling ice to an Eskimo.

When each of their discount stores opens in Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre, the male contestants seem to have a competition for who can display the creepiest sales technique.

“Hey ladies, how are you doing?” asks Richard, moonwalking alongside some women. “I’m an ice skater.” Peering into another woman’s wallet, he sniggers, “you don’t want me to see it.”

“Can I show you something?” breathes Jo to some passersby.

“Thank you for acknowledging me,” cries Scott, as punters ignore his selfie stick.

“You’re making the manager very happy,” growls Gary, when a woman falls for the oxymoronic ‘mouthwash and lemonade’ deal. “Does Jammie Dodgers go with washing powder?” he later muses.

“Imagine if we were all shit,” reflects Selina, witnessing this carnage.

In fact, this seems to be the episode when the female candidates (there are only three left) rise up against their incompetent male oppressors. Charleine hammers price signs to the wall of the shop with one of her heels. “You look stupid,” she quips at Jo, who has put braces on over his discount store t-shirt. “It’s fucking bullshit,” remarks Vana breezily when she’s sent away from selling in the store. She later does a swift deal in fluent Chinese.

When they get back, Lord Sugar mutters, “this task was trying to replicate a discount store,” in the vague manner of someone who caught half of this week’s Apprentice on iPlayer but was ironing and checking the news on their phone at the same time.

Team Versatile wins, and both Vana and Brett lay into Scott’s leadership of Connexus. “Everyone’s got to self-preservate,” is Brett’s sayism.

Back in the boardroom, Scott decides his life was in grave danger, which is why he didn’t sell enough cheap portable speakers. “You said you’d smash my face in,” he says to Brett, cowering in his presence. “He said he’d smash my face in!”

“No, he didn’t say that,” says witness Karren Brady, drowning out the collective of sigh of disappointment emanating from the show’s producers.

Anyway, it is both “regretful” and “with regret” that Sam is fired, and he leaves with the haughty expression of a wounded cockatoo.

Candidates to watch:

Selina

Takes responsibility for nothing, blames everyone, wins The Apprentice?

Vana

I hope she swears more often, perhaps in the other four languages she’s fluent in.

David

He seems to be the only left who doesn’t make people want to smash his face in.

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.

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