The Apprentice Episode 4 Review – From Stock Market To Farmer’s Market

Stand by for agricultural metaphors and many references to the country, as our fearless would-be Apprentices take on the task...

Deryck O'Byrne

Contributor

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Stand by for agricultural metaphors and many references to the country, as our fearless would-be Apprentices take on the task of setting up their own farmer’s shop! Yes, it’s time for these young business executives, whose only experience with cowpats is probably in their grandiose claims and speeches, to go all rural and prove they’ve got what it takes to run a produce store.

But first, a question: why does Lord Sugar’s secretary always announce “Hello, this is Lord Sugar’s office!” I mean, who else is going to be calling that expensive house at 7 AM or earlier? “Hi! Just wanted to know if you’re happy with your long-distance telephone provider?” As if! Also, why is there only one phone in that huge house, and why is it downstairs? You’d think there’d be extensions…

Anyway, it’s also time for me to start referring to the teams by their proper names, as there is no longer a “girls’ team” or “boys’ team”: Lord Sugar decides it’s time to shake things up and mix the teams, with Uzma and Natalie, still stinging from last week’s third defeat in a row, to move to Endeavour, while Myles, Jason and Jordan switch over to Evolve. Now, says Lord Sugar with a grin, one way or the other, there’s going to be a  woman on the winning team! Seems like the only way to get such an outcome, at this point.

Luisa takes charge of Evolve, while — shock! Horror! — Neil steps up for Endeavour, despite his claim that he knows sod-all about farmers’ markets. Hell, he thinks he’s such a natural leader he can just breeze through any task. Yeah, well, we’ll see. Before she gets her way though Luisa has to fight off a bid from Rebecca for the post of Project Manager. Rather condescedingly I feel she says “it’s not quite rocket science, is it?” and in one sentence alienates both farmers and shopkeepers across the nation, leading me to wonder if Rebecca could have gone to the same school as Neil?

Anyway, her attempt to stake her claim is turned down, and Luisa is triumphant. She has her own shop and is used to sourcing local produce, even if it is a cake shop. Jordan hits on the idea of sellig buffalo meat, saying it’s different and will be something of a USP for them, something to attract people to their shop. They also decide to sell soup and jacket potatoes. Endeavour are pushed into concentrating on milkshakes, over Alex’s protestations that, um,  cheese on toast might be a better idea. Kurt runs a health drinks business, and is anxious to show Lord Sugar how great his business is. Neil, surprisingly, caves fairly quickly, perhaps seeing pound signs and a win in front of him.

Weirdly, Alex the vampire (yeah, I know it’s getting old!) declares he doesn’t mind dressing up as a scarecrow! The mind boggles! Biggest surprise this week though is the fact that Zee doesn’t have a fight with anyone. Well, he has a sort of half-hearted one, but it’s not the stand-up-knock-down ones we’ve been witnessing for the last three weeks. Natalie, who by her own admission is not an animal person, worries that the cows might charge if she runs from them. Hmm. Ever seen a cow charge? Or even run?

Jason, who probably has never been on a farm in his life, makes a decent enough job of buying vegetables on Evolve’s subteam, though Luisa is against spending too much money. She’s holding the purse strings tightly shut. She prefers to see aesthetic items rather than sellable ones; things that make the shop look good. Dressing, in other words. On Endeavour, Kurt is set against anything that doesn’t involve shakes, so limits what else they buy, despite Neil’s reservations. Oddly, Luisa’s subteam under Myles make an executive decision and buy more stuff than she really wants them to. Not quite putting her foot down here!

Jason is very impressed with the apple juice they’re buying: he mentions four times that it’s “gorgeous”, emphasis on the “gor”. Again, on Endeavour, it’s almost like Kurt is the PM; Neil actually calls him to ask for advice. Well, okay, he is the professional when it comes to shakes, but they’re not just supposed to be making shakes, and Kurt is not in charge. When Neil learns how little the subteam have bought — at Kurt’s direction — he has to bullk buy from a farm shop, and he’s not happy about it.

The next day it’s trading time, and Natalie is quick to stick the knife in to her ex-team member, saying that she has never seen Uzma sell. Uzma, on the other hand, declares that today everyone will see her in action. Luisa’s shop, Buffalocal, starts slowly but soon the unusal meat, though expensive, starts to sell, while in the other shop, Fruity Cow, Kurt’s shakes are indeed shifting. Uzma has a strange philosophy about display: “the way you do it is that you make it look like there’s a lot there, but there really isn’t”. Um, yeah.

The buffalo burgers and steaks may be selling well, but Evolve have discovered that their potato and leek soup is, well, not very tasty. How they didn’t taste it before offering it to the public is beyond me. How can you try to sell something that tastes, to quote Myles, rank? Not surprisingly, they don’t sell much. Their baked potatoes are equally underwhelming the passers-by.  Down at Fruity Cow Kurt decides they’ll get better markup on the shakes if they add juices to their stock, and off they go to …. a local market, to BUY the juice. Er, what happened to home-made, fresh from the farm?

Out in front, Uzma is failing to sell anything, not putting much into her technique, and at one point says she’s “embarrassed”. So are we, love! What happened to “you’ll see me in action today”? Soup begins to sell back at Buffalocal, and Myles deplores Jason’s skillset, calling him a “trickless pony”. Luisa comments that she doesn’t know how he gets about in everyday life. He does seem like someone more used to having the butler do things like he’s currently attempting, and I find myself wondering why he’s here.

As time begins to run out, prices are, as ever, slashed, to get rid of all the stock; nobody wants to be left with produce when closing time comes. Luisa cries “fresh from the ground: organic potatoes!” Er, where else are the potatoes supposed to have come from? The sky? These kids, I ask ya…

In the Boardroom, Lord Sugar is not impressed with Neil’s allowing Kurt to drive the task, and less impressed with the smoothies guru’s idea of “topping up” their shakes with store-bought juices. Jordan makes something of a faux pas by telling Lord Sugar that he should try buffalo meat: His Dark Overlordship does not look amused. Prior to hearing the actual figures, unit sales from Evolve make him cringe too, but at least he allows that Luisa changed her strategy when it looked obvious that baked potatoes and soups were not selling. Her team does not support her, saying she was a poor Project Manager.

Lord Sugar is short on joke material this week, probably his best being when Kurt says they wanted to make apple and blackberry shakes. “Apple and blackberry?” he quips. “Sounds like a mobile phone store!” He also asks Neil if he’s any relation to the famous Brian, likening his managerial style to that of the late football legend. However, when the all-important numbers are added up, Evolve are winners. Jordan puts his foot in it again when he lets out a very un-Boardroom-like “Get in!” and earns a withering look from Lord Sugar. He then says it again, and the Boss has to remind him he’s not at a football match.

Before they leave though, he has a word of faint praise for Luisa, basically telling her that it looks like her team won despite, not becaues of, her. She takes this to heart, as she walks away from them once they’re outside, and later moans that they’re all against her. Again, the budget has been blowm, as the treat is a big swanky meal, but Jason at least reveals a sense of humour, agreeing that the things he was good at were “grating cheese, cleaning dishes”… Good on ya Jase! Luisa clings on to her victory with clenched teeth, declaring “the first win for Evolve, led by me!”

Endeavour return to the Boardroom, where Neil blames Kurt for overpromising on the milkshakes. He says that Kurt told him he would sell 200, which would equate to £600, but in fact he only sold half of that. Kurt, again, has a bored, sullen look on his face, and I really think it shows a great lack of respect to Lord Sugar to sit there like he really doesn’t want to be there. Karren points out that Kurt “diversified” by adding juices to the shakes, but her attempt, if indeed it is such, to help or point out the good in his plan backfires badly when Lord Sugar asks, where did you get the juice?

Attention shifts to Uzma, who Neil calls the weakest link on the team. No surprise then that it’s her and Kurt that return to the Boardroom with Neil. The argument goes on, with Kurt defending his sales of shakes, Neil blaming Kurt while also accusing Uzma of being the weakest player. He does however make the mistake of calling her the weakest candidate, which annoys Lord Sugar, who asks him not to be trying to do his job. Uzma does seem to be in the gunsight, but to be honest, at the end , from his summing up it could have been any of the three who went.

But it is Uzma, who’s dismissed for contributing, well, nothing really to the task, not just this one but the last three also. Nevertheless, Lord Sugar is worried that Neil is coming across as too arrogant, both in his general attitude and in his dictatorial style of management, and when he declares himself the strongest candidate Lord Sugar again rebukes him, saying that’s not his place to decide. Odd really, because others have made this comment down the series and it’s never bothered him. Maybe Neil’s overbearing attitude is just getting on his pecs. Lord Sugar also declares that he is sick of talking about milkshakes, which I think is a sentiment we can all agree with.

I must say that I hope Kurt goes soon. I hate the disrespect he shows, not only to his fellow candidates, sellers and even Lord Sugar, but for the whole process. He gives the impression of someone who’s just humouring Lord Sugar, Karren and Nick by going along with the charade of a competition, and that in reality  he’s just here waiting to be chosen. Anyone looking at him would think he didn’t want to be here. His expressions border on contempt, and he’s definitely my least favourite candidate in this series.

So that’s it for another week. Certainly lifted the candidates out of their comfort zone this week, but then, comfort is not really supposed to figure in these tasks, is it? More jolly japes next week, so until then let’s hope Jordan remembers to leave his rattle and toilet roll (ask yer da!) behind: if this were a match, the score would always be predetermined: Sugar 1 Candidates nil! You’re not singin’, you’re not singin’, you’re not singin’ anymore!

Toodles!