So... Yet ANOTHER rousing chorus of 'At Last'

Ludallen might be getting his mojo back, one of the (admittedly) many people we wanted stopped, finally left this week. (Don't worry, I won't give the game away straight away in case you missed tonight's episode). Yes, yes, we all knew that yesterday's "I don't know if I'm going to bother to watch..." comment was nonsense. Quelle surprise? I watched... For the first time in the series, it didn't disappoint. Not, I hasten to add, because the candidates bothered to display any common sense/business acumen. No, but because one of the most annoying candidates (not easy to earn that accolade in this series), finally bit the dust!

So there was a twist on the usual "selling tat task" week. This week, the candidates had to get the best price for 10 random items, within a specified time period, the team that paid the least would win. Ludallen's view was that "Its not a complex task...in fact, it's very simple." I found myself wondering if this was in fact Ludallen's slightly less evil twin brother posing as him, whilst the real Ludallen was off having a root canal (or perhaps interviewing for a serious candidate for the post he has to fill when the series is over?) The real Ludallen has actually met the numpties, he'd know that nothing is simple for these people. Ludallen decided to go back to basics and pitch the girls, led by Liz, against the boys, led by Forrest. Forrest, keenly aware that Ludallen had his eye on him, post last weeks debacle, sent Chris the exceptionally boring Investment Banker & Stuart "Herr Baggs" the Brand off with instructions to "negotiate our little bottoms off" and come up with a story in order to get the lowest price. To be honest at that point, I was convinced the girls, who let's face it are 'technically' the stronger team, couldn't lose. Famous last words?

To make it a tad more challenging than the description of the task would imply, some of the items were a bit esoteric. The "Blue book" and the "Plain, single Tikka" for example. Naturally the buys struggled with that and completely forgot about the existence of that vaguely useful tool, the World Wide web. Google anyone? I'll be charitable (another "Quelle supris" moment methinks) and assume they are not allowed to personally use the web. Joanna, who looks more sensible by the episode (the winner perhaps? I don't think so, but more of that later..) asked someone very early on what it was and the girls sourced it quickly on that basis.

The girls, in general, were very prepared - working out what everything was; ordering the tat in advance; sourcing all 10 of the items. In fact, they did absolutely everything right except, working out what they should have paid for it all... An excellent example of this being the Truffles, which Mini Pot and Verruca went to a posh restaurant in Knightsbridge to source, deep sigh... But only after abortive attempts to contact Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey...Strangely, they ended up paying wildly over the odds for everything they got their hands on. The Truffles, which they paid twice the market price for despite being aware of the bulk price, being their undoing. Side note, I believe the voice over indicated that "Stella, sniffed out the Truffles" was somebody implying that she's a [Truffle] Dog or worse still Pig? Quelle Horreur! Additional side note: Verruca did query the decision to look for Truffles in Knightsbridge - quite right as you will pay over the odds for everything in that neck of the woods. Her solution? They should go to East London??? Because, of course, that area is over run with cheap Truffles??? Deep sigh...

One of the items particularly deserve a mention, "48 white dinner plates". The girls paid Tony, a creepy old man with a magnifying glass (why?), £150 for the privilege of taking them off of him. But only after he slobbered all over Liz's hand. The boys didn't even manage to source the plates, which was probably a good thing. Failure to source an item resulted in a fine of the list price plus £50. Bearing in mind Ikea stock a 0.30p dinner plate, it was in everybody's interests NOT to bother looking for any plates and to wear the fine. You've guessed it, the "technically" better girls lost that point too.

Revelation of the episode was Forrest, who actually negotiated well. As Karen Brady put it he: "never took no for an answer... Persistence and determination alone.. got the price that he wanted". Who'd have thought it?!! Chris the exceptionally boring Investment Banker & Stuart "Herr Baggs" the Brand basically lied their way through 5 purchases, with some of the most implausible stories you'd ever heard in your life. (Cut to the woman selling the 'Blue Books', which incidentally relate to 'The Knowledge,' one of the many useless facts that I am sad to say I was in possession of in advance of this show...) cracking up at the utter ridiculousness of the story they told her. Inexplicably, it seemed to work and they manged to negotiate significantly lower prices for everything than the girls did.

In the VT in advance of the boardroom, the girls were busy rhapsodising about how they couldn't lose as they had sourced all 10 items. I knew at that point their goose was cooked (I'm totally on to the editors now, I recognise their cues...), I was to be proven right.. Mild Ludallenism in the boardroom - When asked what his team had bought, Stuart "Herr Baggs" the Brand compared it to the Generation Game. (I thought the whole thing was more like Challenge Anneka, but lower budget and without the supposedly - I take my cue from the men on this one - sexy bottom). Ludallen's response was to ask whether Stuart had opened his "Christmas crackers early this year..." If so "You need to go out and buy some more expensive ones". So not that funny really :-(

So the boys won, by a small margin and Liz decided to bring Mini Pot and Verruca into the board room, on the grounds that they bought the over priced Truffles. Cut to boardroom bickering with Verruca and Liz ganging up on Mini Pot (who defended herself admirably). A [male] friend of mine felt that the bickering was demeaning and that the girls should have decided who would go via a mud wrestling competition. Verruca served to bolster that view by saying to LudAllen that she thought "69 was fine". (Seriously she did! Admittedly, the context was the price they paid for one of the items, but if you're a bloke thinking of mud wrestling in relation to The Apprentice, you're already clutching at straws. Deep sigh...) As it was, Ludallen decided to use the opportunity to get rid of Verruca, the person who led the team that broke Apprentice records by getting no orders in a selling task. Was she the main reason for the failure tonight? No. Did she deserve to go for her overall performance to date? Definitely yes.

Couple of other points of note:

(1) Liz showed her b*tchy side when she returned to the house, post the boardroom, complaining that Mini Pot said she did a bad job as PM. To start with, she did!! But in addition, as Mini Pot pointed out, they were competing against each other in the board room, she was hardly going to say Liz was great. We no longer like Liz, mud wrestling or no mud wrestling.
(2) The boys prize was a romantic trip to Paris - cue the schoolboy French (Très embarrassant) and Chris the exceptionally boring Investment Banker's attempt at humour: "Arc de Triomphe for our 'Triomphe' guys" (cringe). I'd tell him not to give up his day job, but he already has...
(3) Against all odds Stuart "Herr Baggs" the Brand, is still in the competition??? Upside? As a minimum, that may mean (if the rumours are to be believed) that we get to see him go up against marvellous Margaret in the interview rounds. Downside? He could actually win????

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