The Apprentice: Episode two, reviewed

After the girls’ snivelling failure last week on the car-cleaning task, the 7 am wake-up call from Sir Alan this week meets with fighting talk. New Yorker Kimberley drawls, “We’re gonna be more efficient, and we’re gonna come out fighting.”

We’ll just see about that.

This week’s task is catering for City-folk: lunch served to anyone stupid enough to risk an amateur lunch prepared in a hurry in return for the chance to appear on BBC1 on a Wednesday night. Then, in the evening, canapés and service for up to 50 City-slickers who expect only the finest Bolly and foie gras, sweetie. (To give you an indication of what level we’re talking here, one of the bashes is going to be held in the Gherkin.)

Ominous, isn’t it. We know. And the foolhardy young Apprentice-wannabes never fail to disappoint.

Rocky steps up for the boys as team leader. He’s 21, the youngest of the bunch, and runs a chain of 15 sandwich shops with 150 employees. The perfect experience for this task, you might think. Hmm.

Sadly for Rocky, even his perfectly task-compatible cv isn’t enough to save him from the plight of The Awful Idea.

The lads decide to run with an Olympics 2012 theme for the whole day – “It needs to be fun, it needs to be different,” enthuses the baby-faced Rockster. This means American style peanut butter sandwiches (yup, that’s right, just peanut butter – no jam. Just to make it about as dry and cloying as a sandwich could possibly be without being scientifically dehydrated), Asian chicken tikka, African cous-cous salad and English Ploughman’s wrap (because tortilla wraps no longer originate from Mexico).

Cultural and taste-bud quibbles aside, the real issue here is the men’s outfits. That’s right friends – they dressed up. “Michael Phelps American peanut butter,” though, prancing around the Square Mile, looks more like slightly anaemic washed-up superhero than sporting superstar.

They don’t sell much.

Having not learnt their lesson at all, the lads plough on into the evening carrying on the Olympic theme. Which entails shiny togas, gold lame covered tables and dubious-looking white plastic statues.

A couple of the boys say they look like idiots, and salesman Philip has quite sensibly been gently pointing out the ridiculousness of everything the whole way through: “I think it’s an absolute farce. The outfits are shit, the decorations are shit. It really looks bleak.” Hopeful, then.

But Philip’s no business demon himself. He was spearheading the sales team for the event, and got bargained down from £65 a head to £15 in the most measly-quick speed you’ve seen since the Wicked Witch of the West got dissolved by water in The Wizard of Oz. Like – less than a minute.

After serving canapés that consist of a truly Michelin-star worthy slice of Pepperami with a dollop of ketchup on top of a tortilla crisp, and cheese-on-a--stick with a bit of pickle that even Gordon Ramsey would be proud of (ahem), the boys only get paid half of their originally agreed £750 fee for the night.

Over to the girls.

Restaurant owner and perma-one-eyebrow-raised Yasmina takes the lead. She’s bossy and to the point, and she seems to know what she’s doing. “You have to cut the crap,” she intimates, knowingly, before telling her team, “We have to make a 70% gross profit on anything we want to sell.”

For her Mediterranean-themed menu, this translates as 72 cans of the most budget tinned tuna known to the British Isles, tomatoes sliced to within a millimetre of oblivion, and mozzarella spread so sparsely across breads and “flatbreads” (for flatbreads read tortilla wraps) that you’d think it was 1942.

Unsurprisingly, one poor office who pre-bought the lunches emit plaintive cries of “seems to be an awful lot of lettuce”, “no dressing”, “a hair!”, “I don’t think I’ll have anything, actually”. One poor man gets only lettuce in his £4 Italian chicken flatbread.

Standards decline for the evening’s food.

Incredibly, Nicole Appleton lookalike Kate has managed to sell the menu, despite not knowing whether any of the canapés were hot or cold, not knowing what blinis were and really not knowing anything very much at all, even though her opening gambit was “we’re a very experienced team.”

And so, bruchetta becomes half a French stick ladled with tomato slop, blinis became oil-soaked pancakes smothering plastic mozzarella into mini heart-attack wraps, and Italian food is massacred to a watery, Morrisons-savers-range tomatoey pulp in a way that  Scorcese himself would have be proud of.

In an attempt to ease the suffering, the lovely white-haired Margaret-angel points out to Yasmina, “In terms of canapés, they’re gigantic”.

HR boss and amazingly-haired Paula says, “It looks like it’s come from a funeral from a working men’s club.”

But Yasmina assures them all, several times, everyone will be pissed and so not notice that they’re shovelling snacks larger than their heads into their mouths in place of dainty fingertip-size bitefuls.

Incredibly after all that, the girls win - with a profit of £615, even after having £200 docked off their £700 agreed fee for the evening because of the “quality of the food”.

The boys, having splashed out more that £800 on their embarrassingly bad costumes and decs, make a loss of about £170.

“A loss? A loss! It’s unthinkable,” screeches Sugar.

Really, past here, the best thing worth drawing attention to is gobby James: “I think he’s gonna take me into the boardroom – and it hurts. It feels like my cat has died.”

We hear about his hurt a lot, as he is indeed brought into the boardroom, along with Howard.

We learn from Sir Alan that on James’s cv he wrote that every morning he can “taste success in his spit”. “What,” the poison-tongued Sir Alan enquires, “do you have a curry or something?”

Asked who Sir Alan should fire, James looks a little flustered, then blurts out, “Well, I think you should fire the pair of them.” Sir Alan looks exasperated.

But it’s Rocky who goes. “In a couple of years, he could be the star of the northeast,” Nick says posthumously. But for now, they’ve decided he just made a few too many “immature mistakes.”

Good, at least that means we get to watch more of James being an absolute twit.
 

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