The contestants on Alan Sugars search for a sycophant tell us, and themselves, that theyre on board in the hope of being mentored by the man who, with Amstrad, reinvented the wheel as a square, and beat the naysayers to prove there was a market for sub-standard personal computers. In fact the only real reason to endure the humiliation of The Apprentice, not that ones being sought this year; the show that lays waste to professional reputations; are the treats. Thats right, the hope of winning the task and having gallons of 1997 Krug fired at your mouth with a hose, or a visit to the aquatic city below London in the Sugar submarine, or a chance to fly in a helicopter and film the experience, adding to the stock of cutaway shots the editors so badly need; this is why we fight. Yet last night, in an Apprentice first, both teams effectively lost and the Pyrrhic victors sauntered back to the Sugar shack, cowed and joyless. At last they were close to their audience. This weeks challenge was deceptively easy; deceptive because it involved common sense and graft; rare commodities in the business world. Sugar looked a little dead behind the eyes, perhaps already fearing the worst, perhaps still aggrieved at his portrayal in The Crimson Petal and the White, as he explained that all the teams had to do was pick a selection of wholesale tat, sell it to the punters, note what they were buying, come back to the warehouse, get more and continue to sell it. This, he took great pains to spell out, conscious of the elephant trap that lay in wait for his protégés, was not your run of the mill "sell it and make a profit" task. The aim was not just to empty your sack of object darse, but to work out what inanimate, useless garbage the suggestible man and woman on the street would exchange for cash, then offload it by the metric ton. It doesnt matter if you have product left at the end of the day said the pensive peer, they just needed to read the market and make lots of filthy lucre. This year Sugars looking for a business partner, someone he can speak to with absolute confidence, safe in the knowledge that any advice will be taken on board. A shared understanding, after all, is an essential pre-requisite for a successful partnership. So it will have given Alan great comfort that both teams ignored his instructions and defaulted to the offload and go home mentality that hed stressed was inappropriate. Of the remaining candidates, everyone, bar Helen, was marked for death and consequently both teams were eager to please. The undisputed star of the show, albeit with a useless skill set, Helen found herself flanked by last weeks escapees, Tom and Melody. Both needed to prove their net worth but it was Melody that tied herself to the railway tracks, putting herself forward for the thankless position of project manager. Sugar may have been a sucker for Melodys board room theatrics but the rest of us have known, for the longest time, that shes as useless as a barrel of tits. Her strategy was to take wholesale goods and sell them to disbelieving retailers, becoming an unnecessary tier in a transaction they were already making on a regular basis. This, as Sugar wearily explained later, while the despondent contestants awaited their fate, was senseless, because the idea was to flog room clutter to clods at vastly inflated prices, not pass it on to retailers for the same price you paid that morning. This wasnt a game of pass the parcel. Tom, for once, had the right idea, taking a group of nodding dogs to the green by the London Eye and selling them for sixpence. To both his and our amazement, they sold well. This, he realised, was what the world had been waited for, a useless, vulgar, back of a lorry thing that the public couldnt get enough of. But Tom didnt consider going back to the warehouse to get more and consequently, despite selling what he had, it made little difference to the teams fortunes. Helen, sensing she was handcuffed to a couple of corpses, tried to take over, in another Apprentice first, urging Melody to stand down. Ill say no to that said the shocked Social Entrepreneur. Needless to say the correct answer was yes. On Team B, or is that A, who knows, Natasha had stepped up, conscious that looking bad tempered and interrupting people in mid-sentence wasnt going to carry her through, as shed first hoped. She initially showed great promise, dispatching Susan to sell bargain basement towels to the millionaires of Knightsbridge as a means of keeping her out of the way. This decision, though cunning, couldnt detract from her inability to understand Sugars instructions and the fact she was being outflanked by a resurgent Jim, who turned the bullshit up to eleven in a bid to peddle umbrellas and other miscellaneous junk. Jims a snake oil salesman. Any right minded person should have told him to fuck off but look around your home and youll realise youve been hoarding snake oil for years; a feature of modern life all too apparent to the man as he offloaded his tat with ease. Despite a show of strength from Jim and Tom, both teams had missed the point and in the boardroom, Sugar, sweet enough if you dont mind, looked glum, even going so far as docking Natashas band £100 from their total sales. Despite this, they won out, though the treat a chance to be miniaturised and injected into the bottom of Robbie Williams, was held back. The look on Susans face said it all. On the losing side, Helens attempted mutiny looked to have cost her the confidence of the boss. There was never any question of her going of course but Sugar made a good show of pretending it was a possibility, first looking at her like a disappointed father whod have to pay for an abortion, then eying Tom, as though he was the Father. In the end though, it was Melody that got the bullet. No one here is a failure said the Lord, softening the blow ahead of the reveal. What then, you wondered, was the point of it all? A sneak peak at next week's episode - "Fast Food"