Apprentice 2011: The 'secrets and lies' episode

The objective: to develop, brand and market a new kind of pet food. Unusually, this task took place over three days. The pace was different, the stakes higher, the bonds and splits within teams more conspicuous.

The team leaders were selected by Lord Sugar. He nominated Vincent for Logic and Glen for Venture. Vincent grinned widely at the opportunity, a veritable Cheshire Cat. Perhaps he should have chosen an altogether more feline target market. Instead he went for dogs. And not just any dog. No. Vincent wanted to go for EveryDog.

The scheme was flawed from the start. A focus group of pet owners and vets made it very clear that no one food could possibly cater to every kind of dog, and more importantly, no owner would buy a brand that tried. Vincent, in his determination to prove himself, rode roughshod over these objections, lying bare-faced to his absent team members. What a plonker.

Glen didn't fare too well either. From a design background, Glen understood the need for a clear and cohesive concept. He latched on to cat obesity and tried to find a brand name and tagline to match. His big idea: Cat Size, a play on words (not double entendre, Glen. I'll show you one of those in a minute) with road-side cat's eyes. The slightly confused message: "See their light".

Fast forward to the boardroom. The pet food experts (a slightly ignoble title) said that Logic's advertisement was superior, but that Venture's concept and packaging were first-class. The EveryDog commercial definitely had my vote, although I attribute less credit to director Natasha than to the jumpy dog who stole the show, the ad and the entire episode.

Vincent grabbed a shovel at the beginning of tonight's episode and just kept digging. The key mistakes: ignoring his market research, bowing and scraping to Jedi Jim, his selective deafness to other team-members, and finally his skewed logic in selecting Natasha and Ellie as fellow lambs for the abattoir, I mean boardroom.

Having signed his own death warrant, Lord Sugar had no choice but to fire him. But not before the grizzled one had also done away with sensible wallflower Ellie. She talked a lot of sense, that one. Shame it was always in a subsonic monotone.

As for Jedi Jim, turns out the silver-tongued Irishman is more Anakin than Luke Skywalker. Even Lord Sugar was compelled to ask, "How does he make people do whatever he wants?" Natasha, who looked quite desolate returning to the house on her tod, stated very clearly: Vinent gave up his place in this competition for Jim.

It will be very interesting to see what transpires next week. Lord Sugar has laid down the gauntlet. "Your card is marked," he said. Wonder if Jim will be able to NLP/parselmouth/Jedi-mind-trick his way out of that one.

The double firing this week had a clear purpose: to show the remaining Apprentice hopefuls that Lord Sugar is one hard-nosed sonofabitch. That might swing with the candidates, but the audience, us folks tutting at the telly, still have to put up with the made-for-TV stock phrases and one-liners, the 'light entertainment' that turns a business programme into Rainbow.

Lord Sugar, as Lord of Hackney (oh the irony), has made the hackneyed phrase his own. This task was "dog eat dog, " he says. To Jim, he posits a hypothetical: "You're like dog food. I don't know what you're made of. Is it brains or bollocks?"

It's the usual puff and bluster. But Lord Sugar isn't after just any rank and file flunkie. He wants a partner, a business equal. His tired precepts and admonishments aren't helping to achieve that aim.

Roll on series seven...

One more thing, before I forget. A lesson in semantics for Glen. Woman walks into a bar, looks at the cocktail menu, and orders a 'Double Entendre'. The barman gives her one.

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