The Apprentice - 10 weeks too late, but better late than never.

Tonight was the much anticipated interview episode. Not just for the opportunity to see the candidates squirm as their houses’ of cards toppled before their eyes. Not just for the potential to see another Pterodactyl impersonation a la Lee Mcqueen (“Thaas wot I’m talkin’ abaht”), reminder below. No, but because marvellous Margaret Mountford was going to take on Stuart Baggs 'The Brand'. She did not disappoint...

We kicked off with the candidates waiting to be picked up and transported to the scene of what was to be a damned good mauling for them. Joanna, as appalled by Forrest’s suit/tie combo as I was, felt compelled to point out just how sh*te it was. (In her defence it was a very bad suit).  A pointless exchange followed about the relative merits of Forrest's vs Chris the boring Investment banker's suits, during which we learned that: John Major dresses like an Investment Banker; and that New Labour, (all of them), dress like a Butlins redcoats  - except in ill fitting baby blue suits with clashing red ties. (Such an educational and informative series this has been, I don’t feel as if I have wasted many hours of my life on it at all…)

The candidates were given the opportunity to say something stupid one last time before they stepped into the breach. Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ offered us up his insight as to the point of the interview process. LudAllen, apparently, doesn’t just give away £100 grand jobs willy nilly: “You’ve got to show you’ve got the balls and you’ve got the minerals to do it.”  So basically, as long as he remembered to bring his “extreme masculinity” with him, he should walk it. Not to be outdone, Forrest indicated that he had qualities that are "in, my opinion, just a little bit ahead of everyone else.” He then went on to talk about how he expected  “long, hard, drilling questions”. I shuddered to think how he had prepared himself for those…

The Interviews conducted by:

·      Bad cop, Bordon - head of LudAllen’s telecoms company;
·      Extremely bad cop Claude - who heads up the rude b’stard division of LudAllen’s empire;
·      Alan, one of LudAllen’s corporate lawyers and;
·      Marvellous Margaret Mountford (Imagine that sound that gets used in films when something wonderful is about to happen. That’s what I heard every time she appeared)

Chris the boring Investment banker vs

Extremely Bad cop Claude asked whether he’d like to have a ‘no bullshit’ interview or one where he’d like to be ripped to shreds. Chris the boring Investment Banker inexplicably, went for the no bullshit option. Extremely bad cop Claude went for the ripping to shred option anyway. “You say you’re special candidate and an all around gifted guy...yet you quit your law degree to do Politics and Investment Studies. You got a job in an Investment bank and you quit after 9 months. To me you seem like a quitter.” (I would never have guessed that Extremely Bad cop Claude felt that way if he hadn’t added the third 'quit' to that statement). Chris of course disagreed and held his own well. He was young then, and influenced by others but know what he wants now (blah, blah).  If it wasn’t for the whole ‘quitting’ thing, I would have said he'd won that round.

Marvellous Margaret Mountford. “It says here,” she said thumbing down his CV, “That despite not being remotely religious, I am revered as being one of the most outstanding scholars [of Theology] in the UK’.  Which was code for, “he got an A’ level in it.  He’s even more boring than I had originally thought….

Forrest (aka Jamie) vs
Alan the corporate lawyer immediately honed in on a slight ‘anomaly’ in Forrest’s CV. “In your CV, you said you were solely responsible for marketing strategies on an international scale….What’s your definition of solely?… So you weren’t solely responsible then.” Not the best of starts for Forrest.

Marvellous Margaret Mountford; “So, under ‘most interesting things about you’, you’ve put down that you have a third nipple…. under ‘the worst lie you have ever told’ you’ve said, "that I have a third nipple." Jamie, clearly unable to read other people’s body language, chose that point to laugh at his comedy genius. Sadly, Margaret didn’t share his view… "Is that meant to make me laugh?” She asked, whilst emitting a death stare than any self respecting Sith Lord would be proud of. “Think of a word that applies to that". "Stupid?" Jamie offered. "Puerile", hissed Margaret. Oh how I have missed her!

To ensure Margaret was left in no doubt as to just how stupid he is, Forrest informed her that he was “a key cog in a wheel.” “In any wheel?” She smirked with an accompanying eyebrow raise. “I’m a key cog,” he offered. ‘That doesn’t make any sense does it?” she asked. Margaret, you’ve not had as much time to get to know him as we have, but take it from me, nothing he says makes sense...

Bad Cop Bordon focused on Forrest’s business and we learned that it isn’t doing so well. Though it’s not clear to me, or Forrest it would seem, just how badly or not it is doing. To be fair, nothing much seemed to be clear to Forrest in this episode. Long story short, Forrest blames his business partner entirely for the decline (or not) of the company, even though it’s his part of the business that isn’t working well.  It would have been far easier to concoct an excuse about the general decline in the global property market and the demand for holiday homes, but of course, that wasn’t clear to Forrest.

Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ vs

Marvellous Margaret Mountford. Dreadful start for Baggs when he wandered into the interview room and called her ‘Margaret'. Margaret with, one of several, magnificent eyebrow raise in evidence during the episode: "Would you normally address an interviewer in this position who you hadn't met, by their first name?" That’s Miss Mountford to you boy, said in the style of the actress who plays Miss Marple (Joan Greenwood?) Has he never watched the show before??? Does his not know that informality and Miss Mountford are not comfortable bedfellows?? Schoolboy error. Though to be fair, until quite recently, the show was probably on way past his bedtime, what with him being ‘only 21.’

In for a penny, in for a pound, Stuart decided to plummet further in her estimation by mentioning all the marvellous ideas he has to make LudAllen a vast amount of money. “In my head, even as we speak right now, I have hundreds of ideas in my head.’ So the ideas are definitely in his head and there they should definitely stay. Especially if they are anything like the odd one that involved sticking microchips in cats and sending them to Bermuda.  Margaret was unamused.

Alan the corporate lawyer, challenged Stuart on his lack of principles, for amoungst other things, telling the media a competitor had gone bust when they hadn’t. Stuart’s response? “We’re all young once, we all do silly things’. Alan was unamused.

Stuart looking visibly shaken, told the other candidates that the questions were probing to say the least and that “what you say has to tally with your application form”.  (A revelation! I told you this series was educational and informative). Mini Pot, “it depends upon your approach to filling your application form.” A Miss Mountford in the making possibly?

Best exchange of the episode came during Stuart’s interview with
Extremely Bad cop Claude:

Extremely bad cop Claude reading Stuart's CV: "I'm Stuart Baggs The Brand: what on earth are you talking about? You're a 21-year-old kid. You're not a brand."

Stuart: "Well if you look at what a brand means."

Extremely bad cop Claude snarls at Stuart: "Don't tell me what a brand means, OK. You're not a brand."

Stuart: "I think I might be."

Extremely bad cop Claude, soldiered on, asking Stuart if he'd already done so well and is as wonderful as he claims to be, why would he want this job?

Stuart: “I’m a big fish in a small pond”.

Extremely bad cop Claude "You're not a big fish. You're not a big fish. You're not even a fish"

Hands up everyone who prayed for him to say: I've got a whole TANK of fish literally ready to swim towards this?!!

Bad Cop Bordon came next and in case it isn’t obvious, so far, this hadn’t been a good day for Stu. Bad cop Bordon managed to make it much worse. After much wrangling, he managed to get Stuart to admit that his ‘licensed telecommunications company’, isn’t actually a licensed telecommunications company after all. “It’s a telecoms company in my mind,” said Stuart. That may be the Trigger," said Bad cop Bordon "in your head...”

Mini Pot (aka Stella) vs

The interview with Extremely Bad cop Claude was a beautiful thing to behold. She held her own, didn’t rise to the bullyboy tactics and I thought acquitted herself extremely well.

Alan the corporate lawyer told her she was nothing but a jumped up P.A. I was expecting Mini Pot to drop kick him, a la Eric Cantona (Man U ’95), but…She held her own, didn’t rise to the bullyboy tactics and I thought acquitted herself extremely well. (She also, managed to call him a sexist tw@t, without actually using the phrase sexist tw@t, which in my book earned her huge brownie points)

Joanna vs 

Bad Cop Bordon, that interview demonstrated why it’s important to make use of that handy little tool the ‘world-wide web’ BEFORE you go to an interview… Joanna is 25 and she would have been allowed to stay up for previous series and thus would have seen previous candidates fall foul of this question. She knew the drill, there was no excuse… To be fair, all I know about LudAllen is that he used to run Amstrad before it went bust, now he has lots of property and does other stuff.  Joanna’s knowledge of LudAllen’s empire was even more rudimentary than that….In response to the question of what his company Viglen (which she couldn't pronounce) does, she offered up "IT communications?". "What does that mean?" Bad cop Bordon asked. "He sells computers?" she replied. Which to be fair wasn't a completely unreasonable answer…..

Extremely Bad cop Claude told Joanna off for not making more of her business and suggested that she has nothing to offer LudAllen. Joanna, cannily, brought out the big guns, tears. Even Extremely Bad cop Claude has a soft side and he took the snarl down a notch to stern and told her she has a nice little business and if she looks after it and takes it for regular walks, it will grow up into a big shiny business.

Panel Feedback

They all liked Joanna and admired her for having no qualifications, but doing so well. Clearly a self-starter who responded well to criticism and has potential. Her main stumbling block being her lack of basic business fundamentals – which according to LudAllen is "spreadsheets and balance sheets and stuff".

Chris the boring Investment Banker has an impressive academic record and an entrepreneurial spirit. His downside is monotonous presentation and a real need for recognition. Marvellous Margaret had issues with his fixation with qualifications: "I wouldn’t be surprised if he has all his certificates framed and his idea of a fun night is to sit and stare at them!” Did I mention, I miss Margaret?

All of them thought Forrest was useless and didn’t like the fact that nothing was ever his fault. His positive was that his property experience might be complimentary to LudAllen’s concerns.

Mini Pot was championed by everyone except the sexist tw@ts, Bad and Extremely bad cops. They thought she was too corporate and an "admin Queen". Everyone else felt she was, professional, ambitious and willing to learn.

Finally Stuart Baggs the Brand. “He's a maverick, a dreamer, though of course he says never sleeps.” On the upside his technical knowledge was good, so on that basis he was a credible candidate.  I assumed when I heard that, that we were actually in one of Stuart’s dreams, but Bad cop brought us back to reality with the liar, liar pants on fire card i.e. Stuart's not actually licensed telecoms company ("even you could own one Karen” he said. You could tell she thought he was a sexist tw@t too).

The Boardroom

The candidates come back in for their grilling and obligatory pleading sessions. Can’t be bothered to go through the whole things (tonight's blog is already more of a transcript than a blog), so in summary:

Stuart went first, with one of the most scathing firing speeches LudAllen has ever given, ringing in his ears: “The thing is, my four advisers said to me that you're full of s*** basically…What annoys me more is that if I’ve misunderstood you with your claims and everything else you said you’ve done, and someone like Liz left the process last week….I don’t believe a word you say … I’m annoyed with myself that I have allowed you to come this far in the process. Stuart, you’re fired.'  The nation rejoiced, but like I said, 10 weeks too late…!

He then fired Joanna, giving her one of the best ‘with regret’ speeches ever. Basically, she was fab and should leave with her head held high. Oh and she should "get to like" cleaning.

Jamie who since he “came here I wanted to break barriers, work at my full capacity and throw myself at every available opportunity” was next to go. LudAllen said it was because everything was always someone else’s fault. I think it was because LudAllen finally realised what an idiot he is. 

So, who’d have thought it? LudAllen made the right decision tonight. Mini Pot and Chris the boring Investment Banker are in the final on Sunday.  Mini Pot to win the Apprentice!!!

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