The Apprentice: series seven, week nine

Another tasty task as the candidates make biscuits...

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Sunday evening and the candidates are enjoying a well deserved day off. Natasha is pounding out some Ks on the running machine – yeah – Melody is polishing her awards, Tom is tinkering away, inventing a robot girlfriend. Suddenly, two sharp raps at the front door. Tom throws a sheet over his creation and hurries to answer it.

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It’s Lord Sugar, and he’s got the munchies. There are no biscuits in the kitchen so he demands the candidates make him some.

Helen has “experience in biscuits”, but who wouldn’t choose her as a team leader anyway? She just doesn’t lose. Jim is a smart cookie. He “likes Helen’s personality because she’s passive”. I feel sorry for his wife.

So Helen is Venture PM, leading Jim and Natasha. Zoe crushes Susie’s aspirations like a stale digestive. She heads up Logic with Susie, Melody and Tom.

After some experimentation, Tom the inventor introduces a focus group to a mysterious biscuit-within-a-biscuit concept, a sort of conundrum wrapped in a paradox, but with biscuits. It goes down surprisingly well.

Melody showcases her “the new popcorn” idea – balls of uncooked dough with cornflakes and bits of marshmallow stuck to them. They look like they were made by a five-year-old. The focus group looks aghast. When Tom spontaneously christens the product “Pop-squits”, they look positively horrified. Nobody wants a case of the pop-squits (or even a packet). Melody doesn’t notice. All her ideas are brilliant and everyone loves them.

Venture’s Special Stars slogan is “an anytime treat”, which confuses Natasha no end. As she tries to explain the concept to a designer, she strays into the realms of quantum physics: “Our Special Stars take away the restriction of time, so we… open up time.” Does that make sense? “Kind of,” says the designer and draws some cartoon stars with faces on. Bingo.

Back at the factory, Tom bakes Logic’s prototype biscuit to be taken out to the supermarket buyers. It’s a product of contrasts. One half is chocolate, the other half is plain. The middle tastes nice, the outside doesn’t. It’s a biscuit for people who fancy a treat but don’t really think they deserve one. Bix Mix.

The packaging is luxurious – an opulent purple box, with ribbons and everything. Pity about the stingy chocolate digestive inside.

We see “the first [exclusive] pictures” of Special Stars: round flapjacks with chocolate stars on top. They look homemade and the chocolate is about four inches thick. On the one hand, you might think these are not going to help with the child obesity crisis. On the other, the kids will probably be so hyper after eating one they’ll run around screaming for the next two hours, thus burning off all that fat. I should be doing this pitch, really.

Tom and Melody are in a cab heading back to the house. Melody suggests doing a role-play as part of Logic’s pitch. “You and I, Tom, are going to be lovers tomorrow.” Tom laughs and closes his eyes, “You and I… lovers…” God knows what sort of role-playing he has in mind.

The less said about the little play Tom and Melody actually put on for the supermarket buyers, the better. Anyway, I need to make room for the large amount of bulls**t Jim levers into Venture’s final pitch. Here’s just an excerpt: “we envisage a very significant mass-market and strategic marketing approach, with above- and below-the-line marketing”.

Jim goes on to promise Asda merchandising, movie tie-ins and a giant billboard on the moon. Lord Sugar estimates the campaign would have cost between £20 million and £30 million. But he doesn’t really seem bothered. It wins Venture the task, securing another Helen-sized order of 800,000 units. I look forward to seeing the Special Stars ads in cinemas ahead of the final Harry Potter movie. This week’s lesson? A variation on Gordon Gekko’s mantra: bulls**t is good.

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In the end, Zoe goes out with a whimper. Tumbleweeds roll through the boardroom when Lord Sugar asks if she’s been a good team leader and Bix Mix racks up zero sales. At least Zoe got to say, “I couldn’t give a shiny s**t about Melody”. Maybe Shiny S***s would have been a better product. I’ll always remember the words of the white-coated man at the biscuit factory: “We never say never in the biscuit world”.