the apprentice

Too many chiefs?

Love is in the air, particularly online. If you don’t want to have the hassle of going down the local, hanging around the bar and trying to catch the eye of the guy or girl you’re interested in, why not try online dating? So says Lord Sugar (whose online handle would surely be SugarDaddy, were he to have one) and sends the guys off to set up their own dating agency. Well, no, not quite: they have to setup a website, film a TV advert and come up with a new, fresh concept for the fast-changing and highly competitive world of online dating. With a need for balance between the two teams, Jordan is moved over to Endeavour, so now we have four candidates on each team.

So who do you think is going to be PM for Evolve? Luisa, probably: she surely knows all about dating, though maybe not online. Francesca? Oh surely not Neil! No, it’s Jason. No, you didn’t uncover a typo there. It really is him. The mild-mannered (mildest and most mannerly candidate ever) young academic reveals rather self-consciously that he once ran a dating website, in Oxford of course, and was known as … Mister Cupid! So he take on the role of PM, and everyone seems happy enough to support him. Or, perhaps, watch him come crashing down in flames.

Alex is again hungry for the job on Endeavour, and he too has run a dating website, so it’s a no-brainer and he becomes — oh no wait, he doesn’t. Despite the expertise he has, and the lack of it Jordan has, the latter gets the job seemingly because, well, he wants it. Why don’t people trust Alex? Do they all have to lock their windows and hang up garlic at night? That can be so damaging to a guy’s ego! But seriously, you have to wonder at the sense behind this decision, and no matter what you think of him you must feel sorry for Alex. He surely feels like Percy when Blackadder wanted to give anyone the job of his Best Man: even Nursey with a beard was preferable! What do they have against the guy?

Evolve, under Jason, are convinced to go for the over-fifties market, although three-quarters of them worry that, well, they don’t have any experience of dating people of that age, or know anyone who does, but Jason maintains it’s a bold move, and so the scene is set. Endeavour go for the safer “young professionals” route, which seems to go down well with everyone. Well, it would, wouldn’t it? What risk are they taking? But then we all know that sometimes it’s those that push the envelope and take a chance that Lord Sugar respects more than those who just stick to the tried and tested.

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Francesca and Neil head off to the focus group, where they’re told — by a bunch of people who look a hell of a lot older than fifty! — that  the over-50s don’t want cheeky and risque: focus on flowers and friendship, they tell the pair, who are so convinced that they think that would make a good name for the website: Flowers and Friendship. Hmm. Do I hear the sound of screaming engines falling from the sky? Jason is less than happy: he wanted to go with a “hip, cool, funky” idea for the not-quite-pensioners, but market research is king and so he has to change his vision. Leah and Myles meanwhile head out onto the streets to take pictures for their website, giving one lucky member of the public a chance to be paired with the lovely Leah. He doesn’t look too upset about it.

However as they wrestle with concepts at the design studio it’s clear Jason is dithering. He can’t even decide on the colour of the fonts! He spends 45 minutes thinking about it, changing the colours, changing them back, thinking some more, conceptualising, and even the designer is looking frustrated. Nothing compared to Luisa though, who is close to losing it. Pulled away almost physically by her, without really still being happy with his decision on the colours, Jason has now delayed them to the point that they are two hours late meeting with their website designer and it’s unlikely they can get the site finished. She’s so annoyed about it that she keeps nagging him as they leave the design studio, and everyone turns to watch with little grins. When they get back to the house Luisa, impatience boiling over, asks Jason if he wants to step down in favour of her.

Jason, of course … agrees?

No, again not a typo. Jason backs down and hands the Project Managership to Luisa, and thinks it’s a courageous, gutsy move. He did it for the harmony of the team and to win the task. He admitted he was no good as a PM and handed control over to someone else. Lord Sugar’s going to love that. Jason fears for his own survival, claiming he’s in “a nest of vipers; everyone has blood on their lips.” It’s clear Luisa was gunning for him, but he really only has himself to blame. I’ve never seen a less decisive PM in this series.

Endeavour are not getting the wow factor out of their website when they take it out to demonstrate to the public. “Corporate”, says one, shaking his head. “Boring” says another. “Cufflinks?” asks another with a note of incredulity in his voice, wondering at the name Endeavour have chosen for their website. Is this a site to sell suits or a dating site? Disappointed with the public reaction — and realising they’re right — Leah and Jordan pin their hopes on the TV advert, to be conducted by Alex and Leah. As usual, everybody thinks they’re the best director in the business and try to tell the crew how to do their job. Always goes down well. They have an idea of putting something of a comedic slant on it, presenting a heavily-caricatured Alex (well, not that heavily!) as “the epitome of the bad date”, and positioning their website as the place to go to avoid such people. It’s odd, it’s funny and in some ways it works: made me laugh anyway.

There doesn’t however appear to be any possibility of Leah and Alex working together, as every decision or comment he makes she disagrees with or supercedes. Not sure what’s going on there: maybe she just doesn’t like him? Still, it’s better than the boring video Evolve are making, which is about as generic and stale as you can get. Make you fall asl ..zzzzzzz WHA? Sorry, sorry! Where was I? Oh yes. Um. Nick is horrified, telling us “This is my age group! I’d run a mile!”

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On Evolve, Neil tries to convince his new PM to let him lead the pitch, but Luisa is having none of it, declaring “For once, Neil Clough is not going to get his own way.” She’s determined to be the one to pitch. She does, but to be fair she doesn’t do the best job. Considering how weak their product is the pitch should be razor sharp but it’s not. I mean, who begins “Hello everybody!” with a silly wave? The website is nowhere near finished and looks, well, completely amateurish and pathetic.

Neither of the efforts seem to impress the panel of experts, who have harsh things to say about both teams: Endeavour have chosen a staid, corporate website but a funny hip video, while the less said about Evolve’s work the better really. Comments such as “patronising”, “boring”, “safe” and “boring”. No, I know I said that already but it really is, and I think it deserves mentioning twice. Maybe three times. Boring. There you go.

Back at the Boardroom, Lord Sugar is somewhat perplexed. For the first time ever in the series, he says, there’s been an abdication, and he doesn’t really know who to treat as the PM, Luisa or Jason. The other team look rightly shocked that such an event occurred, though Nick does place most of the blame at Luisa’s feet, accusing her of “browbeating” Jason and of “nipping at his heels like a little terrier.” He calls it the most disgraceful display of bad manners he has ever seen. Good old Nick! He seems to be taking a perverse delight this series in landing people in trouble by his observations. He is of course right; there’s no question that Luisa pushed Jason, but we can all see that he was just as relieved to give up the post of responsibility. He knew he couldn’t cut it, yet he tries to couch the occurrence in a way that makes it look as if he graciously offered to stand aside. In his mind, perhaps, but his team-mates know the truth. Francesca says he buckled under pressure, and to be fair it’s hard not to agree with her.

Lord Sugar looks over both campaigns and is not impressed with either. He takes Jordan to task over the fact that he seems to be hanging back in the shadows, even as PM. He neither led the pitch nor was involved in the video shoot. Why, Lord Sugar asks? Karren calls him a good delegator, but Jordan’s overconfidence may have undone him when he alludes to “when” he wins the competition, which doesn’t impress the Boss. Confidence is all very well and good, but arrogance, not so much.

Having spoken to the experts he is still the one to make the decision, and though both were pretty terrible and very much flawed, the winner, or at least not loser, is Endeavour. They head off to scoff caviar in Mayfair while Lord Sugar wonders who he’s going to talk to about team performance. Usually the question is “Good team leader?” This week it’s “Which team leader?” There’s little in the way of humour this week, with just the one joke from The Big S, when he looks at Evolve’s video and retorts to Francesca’s claim that it was “fast moving” with a snorts that “it makes Last Of The Summer Wine look like an action movie!”

Lord Sugar is amazed that Francesca and Neil just accepted their market research and then went with it. Here I have a problem: he has made the point before that you don’t ignore your market research, yet here he’s saying they should have done exactly that. Seems like he chooses his argument based on the circumstances. Hmm. He’s not impressed that the main problem here appears to be a clash of personalities, and indeed as both are seen as PM one wants to bring Neil back while the other goes for Francesca. In the end it’s the two women who come back in with Jason, which can’t be good news for the ex-PM.

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Karren says that she sees Jason as a ditherer rather than a thinker, and Nick agrees that Francesca should not, in his opinion, have been brought back, as she did a good job with the video, even if it did not turn out as expected. She did work harder than Neil. The two girls of course band together; it’s obvious both want Jason gone. Lord Sugar is not that happy with Luisa, to the point that he declares to both her and Francesca, “You shut up and you shut up”, and turning to Jason, “You talk.” Francesca can’t abide by the rules and keep her mouth shut, but Lord Sugar is still troubled by Jason’s abdication. Nobody ever expected he wouldn’t be. You don’t pass over power in his world, no matter the reason.

Even at this point it’s possible Luisa could be going, but in the end it is an exit for Jason, to I think everyone’s sorrow, but you can’t argue with the decision. He wasn’t a leader, he didn’t take control and he ended up passing over the position of PM. Jason looks more relieved than anything: this cut-throat process just didn’t suit him. To be honest, he is too much a nice guy to make it with these sharks of the business world.

Luisa is on notice though, and Karren asks that she be allowed follow her next week to ascertain just exactly what they’re dealing with. In the taxi on the way home Jason admits he has not the killer instinct, and thought his time had come. Nice guys seldom prosper on this show.

So get out the black armbands, bear up as best you can and steel yourself to watch next week knowing that our gentleman friend will no longer be gracing our screens. In many ways he left with his head held high, and proved he was a better person for not coming down to the level of some of his team-mates. My hopes for his winning the contest are gone, but he made history before he left and it’s unlikely we’ll soon forget the name Jason Lynch.

The King is dead. Long live the King!

 

 

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This article was first posted on June 21, 2013