Lord Sugar chopped and changed the teams around on this week's Apprentice. Susan went over to Venture, Helen moved to Logic, joining Tom and Melody. Perhaps it was Helen's unblemished record that gave Melody the guts to nominate herself for the PM role. With the ultimate lucky charm on side, how could she lose?
Over on Venture, Susan and Natasha both wanted to manage the task. Jim had the casting vote and plumped for Natasha because of her 'passion'. Yet another example of Susie being sidelined for spurious reasons.
And then they were off. The two teams moved around London over two days, setting up pitches in Hackney, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush, the South Bank and Portobello. Susan even tried to sell door to door in Kensington. A real highlight was when Melody instructed the driver to take her to "Hack-ney Cen-tral" as though asking for a lift to some fantastical, fictional destination. Lilliput, say.
Lord Sugar made it very clear that this was Tom's last chance to save his skin with an exceptional performance. "You have got through this by the skin of your teeth," he said. "Enough with the innovator, designer and all that stuff, you're now in the thick of it. And if you nod your head any more, I'm going to put you on the back seat of my car."
Don't know why Lord Sugar was so against nodding: it proved a winning activity. The highest seller on day one was a kitsch nodding British bulldog. "Get some more. Woof. Woof." said Nick. Alas, Melody ignored Lord Sugar's instruction to reinvest in top sellers so the nodding dog had its day but no more. Tom sulked over the decision but did little to fix the problem.
Melody totally lost her focus on this task. She fudged her key objectives and lost control of her team. On the morning of day two, Helen even attempted a coup, offering to step in as project manager to rescue the task. Her idea - to sell to retailers rather than consumers - was flawed but something about Helen's poise and air of competence suggests she would have pulled it off nonetheless.
Melody managed to resist the takeover - just. But morale on the team plummeted. Displaying an unusually bullish attitude, Tom powered on. He even conquered his fear of selling down on the South Bank, clearing through his stock at a rate of knots.
Over to team Venture, Jim was a dynamo. The lone salesman at his pitch, he flogged his heart out. He offered little discounts, hugs, kisses, even attempted to speak French in order to make a sale. He was truly an inspiration to watch. Nick, never Jim's biggest fan, said: "I've never seen such a bundle of baloney but people like him and I like him now. For the first time!"
But Jim was, to borrow his own phrase, trying to "push treacle up a hill". Natasha'a leadership was piss-poor. She has no strategy, poor sales, she didn't even understand that the purpose of the task was to operate like a business: leftover stock was not an issue. The point was to accrue assets, not just flog yourself dry. Jim summed her up pretty neatly: "Natasha is all guns and bluster but no direction, no conviction, no clue. I see past the bravado and the passion and there's nothing there."
Susie had a belter of a task. Despite a lack of direction from Natasha, she sold brilliantly on both days using her own blend of sweetness, charm and pushy petulance. She also took a risk on a new product line, spending £100 on bracelets. Natasha's sour puss drooped even further when she returned with her loot, but Susan stuck to guns: she knew from prior experience that bracelets are a big seller on market stalls. Very smart.
But in the end, it all comes down to the numbers. Both teams had a tough two days, beset by bellyaching and bad eggs. Yet Venture just managed to stay ahead with assets worth £751 at the close of the second day. Logic only managed £728. It was a narrow win and Natasha displayed no vim and vigour in her execution. As a punishment for ignoring his instructions, Lord Sugar denied the winning team their prize and sent straight back to the house where Natasha attempted to pin all her failings on Susan. Her arguments were hollow, her logic flawed. Surely she'll go next week?
Back in the UK's most depressing cafe, Tom was formulating a plan: to besmirch the reputations of his team members in order to save his skin. A risky strategy, especially when you're up against Helen, on her first ever after-hours visit to the boardroom. Luckily, Melody signed her own death warrant: "If you look at my performance on the first day, I deserve to be fired," she said. And so she was, but not without some regret. Lord Sugar called her an "exceptional woman" but added, "This is a cruel process."
That it is, Lord Sugar. That it is. Tune in text week for our review of episode 11, the fast food chain task.
N.B. A little piece of gossip. Turns out love is in the air on The Apprentice. Glenn and Zoe have become this series' first couple. Pity they've both been fired already. That would have made for some interesting dynamics in the boardroom.