Tom Bennett

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Young Apprentice 3: Smell the Roses

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‘LEWIS! I meant Lewis should stay!’

Quote of the night from Zara: ‘You know what they say: there’s no ‘I’ in team.’

Yeah,  but there is in ‘bullshit’.
Welcome, welcome, welcome back to the only game in town, Young Apprentice. I would have blogged last week’s, but I came up against the problem that THERE ARE ONLY 24 HOURS IN A DAY. We saw the genius of the Comfy Curve, and Harris the Hippo, and Ben got canned because he hadn’t been given a chance to shine yet and wasn’t that sad? With time, and support, we got over it.
This week the announcer boomed that the flower industry was worth £1.5 billion every year, like it was the introductory props link for the Sunday night X-Factor guest stars (‘3 billion petals in Norfolk! Grown in half a million gardens in Sunderland!) Flowers. Industry. I’ll never look at a tulip again without thinking of a spreadsheet.
A 7am start, and Harry M was ready at the door with a camera team, as you do. ‘You stay here and see if there’s a message,’ he told Lewis in his plummy, commanding tone, ‘I’ll get the girls.’ And I thought, blimey Boris has competition, the cad. It was Sugar, of course, mixing the teams up into a flower arranging face-off. ‘This task is all about profit,’ he reassured us, in case we had forgotten that the purpose of capitalism is anything other than sucking the jelly from your grandmother’s corneas and selling it for a profit. Harry H was confused. ‘I can’t see why having the girls on the team will be good.’
You will, mate, you will, one day. It sounded like a quote from a Famous Five adventure.
Rich Mix embracing this week’s theme of ‘Canary Wharf Classic House’
Slippery Jim was up to his usual spiv tricks. ‘I just see these flowers as pound symbols,’ he said, confirming that the love of money is indeed the root of many evils, and the market place is where men cheat each other with oaths. Hannah took the lead of Team Atomic, with an unusual (for the Apprentice ) pitch: ‘I don’t overlook people becaue I’m overlooked myself,’ which was refreshingly modest and altruistic. But Hannah was a bunch of surprises, showing more teeth than the cameras have allowed her so far, especially later in the board room when she showed a distinct capacity to catch flack and catapult it back into the lap of her antagonists. Poor Haya got stuck with the arranging side of things because ‘she has a GCSE in Art’, which just goes to show that sometimes you want to hide your light under a bushel if you don’t want to get saddled with the donkey work.  Just as well she didn’t mention a BTEC in wiping arses.
One thing you can’t get past the Beeb on: their cinematography pisses on everyone else’s chips from a satellite in space. London looks like a futurist Turner painting in widescreen HD,  a utopian metropolis of steel, glass and light. Little Lewis thought so too, gazing in yokel admiration as the car sped past the postcard charms of Parliament embankment. ‘This is gorgeous,’ he cooed, oblivious to uberfrau Zara’s attempts to form a business plan. ‘I want one of the task to be boats,’ he added. You should last so long, chum.
Meanwhile  Slippery Jim wants to make something clear. ‘I hate flowers and nature and animals,’ he said. We know, mate, we know. You love MONEY. And it doesn’t grow on trees. Mind you, you wouldn’t have known his vegephobia from his pitch to the five star hotel. ‘We see this as an art,’ he solemnly told the staff. Yes, James, the art of LYING to people because you just told us you hate all that green shit. He displayed his impeccable business ethics later on when he announced the instant that they won the hotel contract, ‘Let’s make it out of cheap shite.’ Isn’t he lovely?
For a second I nearly got my coat and my thermos and headed off to St Paul’s to shake my spear at Adam Smith. He really is a charmer. Still, at least he was true to his word: having scored the deal, he then went on to show that his vision of the art of flower arranging was similar to Berlusconi’s approach to the art of governance: screw ‘em. Alas, the five star hotel had other ideas about his clownish approach to chic statement table pieces. ‘I suppose we can use them to wipe our arses,’ I like to imagine they were thinking.
(The music for this show is very good, isn’t it? Moody, not so muscular that it intrudes. That’s the Beeb again. I forgive you for My Family: you made Frozen Planet. Mind you, Einaudi and Nyman should sue. I liked Danse Macabre wafting around as they spoke to the staff at Ghost the musical, and I adored ‘Sixty Seconds…to what?’ from Morricone’s spaghetti epics. Prokofiev would approve of the company.)
‘Let’s make it out of cheap shite.’
You have to admire Zara’s cojones when it comes to sales. ‘Sell it at £80’ she was told. ‘We can do it for £100,’ she said. Which is a ploy, I suppose. Perhaps she was confused, like when Harry H gave her the cost price over the phone for the bouquets. ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘But what’s the cost price for THEM?’ she said, somehow missing the point of the term cost price. Mind you, after episode one’s display of mathematical bone-headedness, we should be grateful they’re using the decimal system. James, in a moment of astonishing candour, told Surallun, ‘I’m not very good with numbers,’ and compounded his suicide note with, ‘There’s not a lot of numbers in economics,’ before our grizzly billionaire host could pick his jaw from the floor.
Fans of watching TV through their fingers weren’t disappointed tonight, as Lewis kamikazed through the pitch to the Daniel Galvin salon (motto: ‘Is your au pair going on holiday this year?’) with his phone betraying him mid-pitch. Client: ‘That’s really bad.’ Lewis: ‘It won’t happen again.’ Comic pause. Phone rings again. ‘I don’t know how to work it,’ said a now-sweating Lewis. It was probably the owners of Fail Café, wondering if he wanted two sugars or three in his latte when they saw him the next day.

Mind you, Harry H and James went for the Pitch Fail silver medal when, in response to the manager’s pursed-lip insistence that the arrangements be small, chic and delicate, presented the Heliconia, an enormous triffid that could sit in the centre of the Wembley Arena and look comfortable. ‘We need a small, chic display.’ There you go mate, have a fucking six foot aspidistra. Job done!

It was East versus West, as Spitalfield and Westfield saw the stage set for the battle of the bouquets (or book-wets as Lewis put it. By this point, the hole in his keel was so large there’s no point even trying to pump water). Harry M performed magic by shifting the triffid onto a restauranteur who clearly had a thing for enormous walking plants and low sales; one of the customers even chipped in, ‘I’d eat more!’ which has to be the maddest condition for overconsumption I’ve ever heard in my life. They should sell Helliconias to mothers weening babies off the bottle. ‘Eat this or the triffid eats you.’
‘Ahhh, bugger.’

In the end, Lizzie’s team trumped Atomic by the kind of loose change you sometimes find in an old pair of trousers, and she and her crew were treated to what I can only describe as  posh tuck in Fortnum and Masons, every course a chocolate bonanza of delicacy. The ladies, because they are girls of taste, styled themselves up for the occasion marvellously. Slippery Jim, in a manner true to his business philosophy, threw any old shit on, presumably scraping the leftover chocolate-coated ants brains into his top pocket while no one was looking so that he could sell them to homeless people later on.

In the board room, Hannah (who was looking more and more like a young Louise Mensch) let Lewis off the hook because HE IS APPARENTLY CHARMED BY THE GODS LIKE ACHILLES. This, even though, when questioned by Sugar as to who was responsible for the failure of the task, he said, ‘Me, partially.’ You could see the old war horse, holding back a smile at the naivete of the kid, as if to say, ‘Christ, you won’t last long.’ Well he will, as long as Lakshmi the goddess of fortune apparently owes him a  favour. He could probably curl one out on the board room desk, and Sugar would say, ‘I’ll give you one more chance- but I’m watching you.’
Poison Ivy

The boardroom musical chairs were a predictable blood bath. Hannah showed guts, and I was sorry to see her go, but then she made the mistake of bringing back two Big Beasts into the ring: Harry H (a contender for the final) and Zara, the Amazonian woman-child. You can tell that those two have staying potential because of their power dressing. Despite Hannah’s efforts, the Taxi of Fail (which interestingly enough takes them home in the daylight for the junior apprentices; no doubt a sop to child safety) tolled for her. She was, I am delighted to say, mature and noble in defeat, suggesting that she has winning potential after all; fail; fail better next time. I often think that the one valuable life skill we usually neglect to teach our kids is the ability to lose; the skill of handling the inevitable losses and defeats that we will face as we flourish. Hannah had class and grace, and the competition was poorer for her absence.

‘I am immortal!’
Back to Lewis the lucky leprechaun, who flounced out of the winners’ lounge like Zsa Zsa Gabor when he saw that everyone’s chum, Rugby Harry had dodged the bullet. Maybe he was upset that Hannah took the hit. If he has any sense he’ll be sacrificing another house-goldfish to the great Satan in return for week 4 immunity.

Next week: ‘She’s sleek, she’s sophisticated, and she comes from Barcelona!’ I have NO IDEA what this means, but it’s a Saga task for the tweeny apprentices, which promises a late-Summer special of third-age inappropriacy of Olympian levels as our plucky kids try and sell something to people over the age of twenty-five. Coffins, knowing them.

Laissez les bontemps roulez!


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