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Sense and nonsense

The Apprentice - Buying a bowler hat and some jellied eels

It's week 3 of The Apprentice on BBC Knowledge. Miriam and Adele return from the boardroom.  They embrace Rachel, who says "well done" and then grimaces.  Presumably because her friend got fired, whilst they survived. 

Saira is talking sense, for once: "The dynamics of the group are four loud-mouthed girls.  We will be sitting in the back of the van squabbling.  We need to identify our roles."  Meanwhile, the boys are feeling confident.  They must be showing us this for a reason - are the boys going to lose?

Strangely, the candidates are already up and dressed at 7 am.  Aha - Sir Allan is coming to visit them.  He appoints Matthew as team leader for Impact (the boys) and puts Adele in charge of the girls.  She gets to pick 3 "boys" for join First Forte, whilst Matthew has to pick 2 "girls" to join his team.  He chooses Rachel and Saira.  Adele choses Tim, Sebastian and Ben.

If Adele can't win with this team she deserves to be fired.

This week it's the buying task.  They have a list of items to buy and £1,000 to spend.  A weird but rather mundane list - a bowler hat, a bottle of champagne, a mattress, a Freeview box (to watch digital terrestrial TV), US$100, some jellied eels and a diamond.  Oh, and a dental check-up.  They all have to be brand new (apart from the US dollars, I suppose).

Adele is giving everyone roles, and warning them that they will be in the firing line if they fail.  Don't these people ever learn?

She appoints Tim as her deputy.  She appoints a senior buyer (Ben) and says she will have two people working under him.  So how's that going to work when they split up into two groups? She also wants a PA - to take notes, minutes of meetings and set the agenda.  Meetings?  Agenda?  Aren't they going to be running around like crazy trying to find the products as cheaply as possible?  I think they are. 

She asks Miranda to be her PA, and warns her that is a "fairly senior role" and so she may be called into the boardroom if they lose.  That would be "fairly senior" as in 4th in line in a team of six: after the PM, Deputy PM and Senior Buyer, but presumably above the buyers.  Miranda is clearly not happy, but reluctantly agrees.  Adele reiterates that she wants comprehensive notes.  I forsee trouble. 

Tim is rather scornful about all of this, wondering whether Adele really needs someone to take notes for her.  Well, yes.  In the other team, Matthew seems more sensible, and is willing to take a backseat role and let the others get on with it.  Paul approves of this approach.  Saira is being loud and bossy, but the boys just listen politely and ignore her.

Back in First Forte, poor old Sebastian finds himself caught up in one of the many squabbles between Adele and her "PA".  They carry on arguing, and still haven't bought anything.  Meanwhile, Tim and Ben are negotiating on the diamonds in Hatton Garden, and Ben appears to have struck a good deal. 

Adele's team are trying to buy several items simultaneously, without much success.  Eventually they do buy something - a Freeview box for £68.  Not bad.

James and Matthew have found a hat shop, but when they get there they find that they only sell second-hand hats, which is no use to them.  James chats away affably to the owner and tries on some hats.  That's not the way to win the task.  In the other team, Tim has bought a new bowler hat for £40. 

Adele and Miranda are still squabbling in the supermarket as Sebastian pays for the jellied eels.  Adele does most of the talking:  "I'm the PM.  If I tell you to do something, you do it..... No, no, I delegate that to you....It's very simple in my mind...I don't want any conflict here...", and we can see that Miranda is not happy.   

It's the end of the day, and Matthew still doesn't have the bowler hat, so that means they will be fined £50.  They are also missing one more item, but Saira and Raj are on the case - and remarkably they manage to get the Freeview box for free (I think they told the Indian shopkeeper that they were the Asian team, and he fell for it).  The problem now is that they only have 25 minutes to get back to the boardroom.   We see a lot of footage of cars stuck in traffic, and Matthew looking tense, but somehow they make it in time.

Impact spent £447.38.  First Forte spent £506.94.  Matthew's team won.  Adele will be fired.

Sir Alan takes the winning team out to dinner at his favourite Italian restaurant.  He also lays on a meal for the losing team back at the house - jellied eels.  Ha ha.  Sebastian tries one, and says they are not too bad.

Adele is having a post-mortem.  She wants to share out the blame.  She does her patronising thing of talking slowly and clearly, and making strange gestures with her hands.  I can't see the point of meetings like this - would anyone really want to reveal their strategy before they go into the boardroom?   The only sensible thing to do is probably to talk privately with someone else and try to make a deal  

In the boardrom the next day, Adele seems to have decided to share most of the blame with her reluctant PA, Miranda.   Nick asked how that worked for Miranda, and (surprise, surprise) she feels that it didn't fully exploit her skills.  She explains that in her day-to-day business she buys and sells stock and negotiates deals.  "Adele knows this, and I was quite confused why she put me in the role of secretary."  I don't remember her saying all of that at the time.

Sir Alan asks who should be fired.  Ben blames Adele for the strategy.  Miranda agrees, and feels that titles and roles were given to people inappropriately "and the structure was very generic rather than identifiably focused on the task at hand".  A bit too much jargon, but that seems like a fair summary. Miriam latches on to this theme but descends into meaningless management-speak - apparently her biggest frustration was that there was "a lack of definable structure and measurable achievement".   However, she seems to get away with this nonsense, and Sugar says that it's not looking good for Adele.

Sugar then has a moan about his time as chairman of Spurs, complaining that he always got the blame.  Does he have some sympathy for Adele?  Then Miranda rather undermines her own case by bickering with Adele in front of Sir Alan.  That's not clever.

Adele choses Ben and Miranda to come back with her.  Ben is obviously not going to be fired, so it's the boss or her secretary.  Sugar fires Miranda for disloyalty, and that really is a lucky escape for Adele.  We see Miranda carrying her suitcase to the taxi, and it seems she is much stronger than she appears - or maybe it's a completely empty fake suitcase.  You'd think they might try a bit harder to make it look real.

Miranda started well in the boardroom but then seemed to lose focus and started bickering, and in the end I think she can only blame herself for being fired.  In the taxi home, she seems very calm about it, and says that she feels sorry for Adele.  Wimp.

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