Saturday, 8 June 2013

Something corporate

Week Six: 5th June 2013

Previously: DUBAI! And the always-great "source a bunch of items in a short amount of time" task. Zee swore he knew Dubai like the back of his hand, and while that may have been the case, he didn't seem overly familiar with the sort of things you can buy there, insisting that the "oud" they were looking for was a fragrance rather than, as it turned out, a musical instrument. Meanwhile, Dr Leah struggled with the accent barrier, while Jason, Jordan and Luisa were officially the most adorable (and surprisingly efficient) subteam ever as they wandered around a mall and basically treated the task as a mini-holiday. And still did better than pretty much everyone else. Myles scored his fifth successive win, and his first as PM, while Zee made the huge mistake of bringing Natalie and Leah back into the boardroom where they teamed up to eviscerate him and call him a sexist piece of trash, and he got fired. Oops.

It's 6am at Entrepreneur Estates. A towel-clad Jordan heads down the stairs to answering the phone, revealing a horrible tattoo on the side of his torso in the process. The disembodied voice of NotFrances instructs him that LordAlan would like to meet the candidates at Guildhall, and that the cars will be there in half an hour. I appreciate that this is very much a staple of the series, but since it's pretty much always half an hour between the phone ringing and the cars arriving, I wonder why anyone ever bothers to answer it. It's not like they need to know where they're actually going, is it? Alternatively, Lord Sugar could just tell them what time they need to be ready the night before and allow poor NotFrances to have a lie-in, rather than having to be in the office at 6am every third day to make an entirely unnecessary phone call.

This week's gratuitous shirtlessness comes courtesy of Myles and Neil, as Neil - ever the sportsman - frets that he's "played five, won three, lost two" and therefore he needs to step up to the plate, give it all he's got, sick as a parrot, and other vaguely sports-related phrases. In the women's chambers, Natalie tells Dr Leah that they have to win this task, because she can't afford to be in the boardroom again, while Rebecca says (to herself, as far as I can tell) that she doesn't think she's impressed on the last few tasks, and she needs to show what she's capable of now more than ever. Luisa tells...somebody that Rebecca's desperate to be PM, but "I still don't rate her". Well, I'm sure she's devastated.

In possibly the most hilariously overblown transition yet, choral music blares out as the teams approach Guildhall and enter a chapel, where they assemble while Nick and Karren stare ahead dispassionately. We cut from shots of nervous-looking candidates, to scary-looking statues, to the lit-entirely-from-behind entrance of LordAlan, with the choristers getting louder all the while. This is basically the first five minutes of an episode of Lewis. Not that I'm saying one of this lot is about to snap and murder LordAlan in a brutal yet inventive manner, but I'm sure at least half of them are capable of it.

LordAlan tells them that they're at Guildhall because it's a location that hosts a lot of corporate events, and that's what they're doing this week: staging an awayday. He's set up two influential clients, and the candidates will be tasked with providing entertainment or an event, and they'll be judged both on the profit that they make and the customer's satisfaction. "This is not some jolly," warns LordAlan. "This is a business task where the client wants value for money." Well, they probably shouldn't have contracted it out to candidates on a reality show where you win by making as big a profit as possible, then.

It's time to mix the teams up a little bit, so Myles is being moved back to Endeavour, where Dr Leah will be the LordAlan-mandated project manager. On Evolve, because Francesca has experience in corporate events (presumably by hiring out her services as Britain's foremost Stella English lookalike), she will be PM. Blah blah blah, profit and customer satisfaction, one of the losers will be fired.

The voiceover informs us that the awayday market is worth £1bn a year, yet I don't think I've ever met anybody who actually enjoys being sent on awaydays. Mind you, most of the people I know work in sectors where an awayday basically involves being sent to do your work in a different building with a slightly better selection of biscuits, but being forced to interact with your colleagues more than usual.

Each team has two days to create and run an event to meet the brief of a corporate client. Francesca is pleased to be "PM at last" and congratulates herself for "intelligently pull[ing] back" from some of the other tasks. Luisa's makes a "lulwut" face in response to this. Francesca describes herself as "Mrs Corporate", while Luisa says that she's totally anti-corporate. "I hate the corporate world," she announces in an interview. "The boring black suits, I'm not into corporate jargon. I think it's boring, the people are dull." At this point, I wanted more than anything else for Luisa to survive long enough to make interviews, because that is going to be a culture-clash car crash and I for one am going to LOVE IT.

In an Endeavour Apprentaxi, Alex and Neil welcome Myles back to Evolve. Neil states that Dr Leah had "a point to prove" on the last task, but if she just lets everyone do what they're good at on this one, then they'll win. Well, I guess there's definitely a market for a "Neil talks about football while Myles sashays around in a thong"-themed awayday. I'm sure I could book a few people on that myself.

First up: brainstorming potential ideas. Neil thinks a clear theme is important. He suggests a back-to-school theme with events like a sack race and an egg-and-spoon race. Dr Leah likes the idea of a history-themed awayday that they can make "majestic". (Be prepared to hear that word a lot in the next five minutes, by the way.) Neil shoots her down by saying "everybody has been to school, not everybody is into history." Well, yes, but a lot of people weren't into school either, Neil. I think there are plenty of people who are in absolutely no hurry to relive those adolescent years of having no friends and getting beaten up behind the bike sheds. Er, so I'm told, anyway. He suggests they could get people to wear something school-themed, and someone chips in "St. Trinian's!" and Dr Leah reacts in horror. I think her instincts are right, incidentally: it's not that I'm against the school theme per se, but I think you need to take it seriously. There's a difference between arranging a school-themed awayday for a corporate client and arranging a School Disco night at Shooters, is what I'm saying.

Over on Evolve, Francesca suggests themes like Vegas, James Bond and the Moulin Rouge, but says that her two top choices are "luxury" and "back to school". This at least makes it sound like the teams were given a pre-determined shortlist of themes to choose from: I'm not saying it's impossible that they both would've come up with "back to school" independently, but given the way this show usually works, I'm thinking it's not just sheer coincidence. Also, "luxury"? Such an appropriate theme for an awayday in the current economic climate. I know I want our most dynamic business minds spending their time learning more about what luxury feels like. Back to school is a popular theme on Evolve, so they go with that. Francesca interviews that she's "not technically an event organiser" (that seems like quite a serious technicality to me), but she does supply to a lot of events like this so she has an idea of what people want to see.

Now they need to pick team-building tasks for the day (again, it would seem that they're choosing from a list given to them by production), and Rebecca suggests wine-tasting. At a back to school day. Jordan says that it would only fit in their theme as a "clandestine, don't-get-caught-by-the-teachers" thing. I must admit I'm a bit surprised that his school didn't have a resident sommelier stationed next to the ostrich burger van. I guess it wasn't that fancy after all. Another theme considered is chocolate-making, and Luisa points out that she does cupcake-making classes as part of her day job, and that's as close as dammit, damn it. So having Luisa do the class herself is a potential cost-saving strategy, though Francesca's concerned that they "don't want to stinge". Is stinge a verb now? I stinge, you stinge, we have stinged? Luisa counters that it's daft to pay for a chocolate-maker to come in and teach a class when she can do it for free, more or less, since that would save them £1000. Jordan volunteers to be financial controller, and Francesca delegates Luisa to go and investigate what the chocolate-maker is capable of, since Francesca deems Luisa to be entirely unbiased about her own abilities and therefore perfectly qualified to judge whether she can deliver a class of the same quality for a vastly-reduced price. This is the first of many mistakes that Francesca will make over the next two days. In the Apprentaxi with Jason, Luisa's off: she doesn't think Francesca's a good PM, she doesn't have any conviction in what she says, and she's setting herself up to fail already. This is going to be a long task, isn't it?

Over at Endeavour, Dr Leah is still pushing for a history theme, but Neil argues that it's too expensive. Dr Leah wants archery and "an English lawn game" as potential activities since they're reasonably-priced, but Neil whines that that "sounds boring". Neil calls for a vote on who wants a school theme, and he, Myles, Natalie and Alex raise their hands, while Dr Leah does not. Kurt's vote is a bit of a mystery: he may have his hand in the air, or he may just be biting his nails, it's hard to tell. Neil passive-aggressives: "you're project manager, it's four against two, but it's your call." Dr Leah asserts her authority and decides that she's going with the history theme. "I'm really worried this isn't fun!" cries Neil. I can't tell if he's specifically objecting to Dr Leah's interpretation of the history theme, or if he thinks it's genuinely impossible to ever make history enjoyable. If it's the latter, man, fuck him. I was crap at history at school, but you'll never convince me that it can't be fun if you do it properly. Karren interviews that previously in the boardroom, Dr Leah had admitted that she hadn't followed her gut instinct, but this time she has, "much against the majority of her team, regardless of the logic of the decision." SHADE. In the Apprentaxi, Alex bitches that Dr Leah made a "selfish decision", while Neil kvetches that he made it very clear, he's been to lots of these events, and he knows what works. Again, I'm not entirely sure if he's really making the distinction here between "what works" and "what Neil likes", so I'm not sure his pushing for a back to school theme was any less selfish than Dr Leah fighting so hard for history, but the decision's been made, so let's move on.

It's now noon, and half the teams are off to arrange activities while the others are off to meet with the clients. So they're going to be booking people up for the awaydays before they've had their themes signed off by the client? Sure, that sounds sensible. Francesca, Jordan and Rebecca go to meet with their clients: (By which I mean they are working with the online deals agency, I wasn't channeling Natasha Scribbins describing their poor timekeeping.) Mr says that their ethos has always been 5* experiences for 3* prices, and they need to collaborate and communicate quickly. "So there's supposed to be business value in this day, collaboration and communication," Jordan parrots back to him.

At 12:30pm over at Canary Wharf, Endeavour are due to meet with their client, Barclays Retail Banking. Well, at least now we know what they're doing with all that money that isn't going into taxes. Leah, Myles and Natalie are on their way to meet them, bickering and running late. For some reason they're all hovering by the lifts until Karren comes to fetch him, hissing "guys, your client's waiting". Well, maybe someone should've told them where to go then? I mean, I realise this team has not covered itself in glory so far but it didn't look like they were waiting there out of their own choice. They go in to the meeting, and Mr Barclays opens by bitching "you've obviously had a hectic morning." Dr Leah, bless her, either doesn't recognise this as a slam on her professionalism or simply doesn't care. She asks what they're hoping to get, and Mr Barclays says that their branch managers need to improve their listening and communication skills, and if this session that Endeavour arranges works out well, they're going to farm it out to cover 35,000 employees. Dr Leah pitches her ideas: the historic, medieval theme, "providing escapism, majestic, medieval, outdoor lawn games, with very classic hot food during the day, and just go with the classic medieval majestic escapism theme." Oy. Mr Barclays isn't keen: "I'm not here to solve this assignment for you. What we're looking for is a fresh perspective to this. It's very, very important that you keep the objective in mind - understanding and listening to customers better." Endeavour are dismissed, and Mr and Ms Barclays openly laugh at them as soon as they're gone. Outside, Dr Leah admits to Natalie and Myles that she's surprised at how the order of the day seems to be "it must not be fun". I'm not sure that's exactly what they were being told, but I guess at least it means Neil can stop worrying about how history is a total drag, man.

Speaking of the devil, Neil, Alex and Kurt are making a deal for an archery event in Hertfordshire. The archery woman charges £400, and Neil tries to negotiate down to £320. She tries to negotiate back up to £330, but Neil holds fast at £320, and they agree on that. Their celebrations on the way home are dampened by a call from Dr Leah, informing them that the client wants more of a focus on communication, so she's changed the theme from medieval to "army". I guess I sort of see the logic there, though I kind of wish we'd actually been able to see that conversation. Neil complains that Dr Leah "doesn't have a scooby."

Meanwhile, Jason and Luisa are meeting with Hannah the chocolatier, who explains that she demonstrates how people can make their own truffles. She asks Luisa if she's ever done anything like that, and Luisa's all "NO, BUT I HAVE A CAKE SHOP!" Jason asks about pricing, and Hannah says her fixed price is £795 for the first 12 people, and then it's an additional £70 for each extra guest. Luisa asks Hannah if she minds excusing them for a second while they step outside and talk about pricing. They shuffle into the corridor, and Luisa decides to make an executive decision to just source all the products themselves and she'll run the workshop, which Jason agrees with. They go back in and apologise to Hannah, and Luisa says that "just from a cost point of view", they're better off sourcing their own ingredients and having her do it, because "I am you, just in a different industry." Hannah's face: "girl, you are NOT me and I resent that implication so much that I'm considering suing you." Luisa, totally committed to making friends and influencing people, goes on to say that "there's no point in us paying £50 per head just for the stuff." Seriously, why is she saying ANY of this? Hannah does not need to know your alternative arrangements, and all you're doing is insulting her; just politely decline and leave. To cap a truly diabolical meeting, Luisa then asks Hannah if they can buy some piping bags off her. Hannah's face: "Get the fuck out of my kitchen."

Now in North London, Francesca, Rebecca and Jordan are shopping for school dinner ingredients in Morrisons. Well, Francesca and Rebecca are running around playing Supermarket Sweep, while Jordan is frantically trying to keep tabs on how much they're spending. Apparently they're buying scones. We never had scones for school dinners: did you? Jordan interviews that nobody else is paying attention to the costs, and Rebecca in particular is "running around like a child in a sweet shop". Never have I felt the absence of Yasmina Siadatan more keenly. In total, they spend £284.97, for those of you who like to keep tabs on that sort of thing.

By contrast, Dr Leah and her subteam are haggling at a cash and carry in Hackney. This does seem to be the more sensible strategy; I've never really understood why people trying to maximise their profits always want to pay retail prices for ingredients. Neil calls from his Apprentaxi and Dr Leah actually answers by saying "talk to me", like she's Terry Tibbs. Neil tells her that he's worried they haven't got enough activities for the afternoon, so they thought about adding sumo wrestling. Dr Leah "does not love the idea of sumo wrestling at all". Kurt points out that they're charging £5000 and basically all they've got so far is archery. Dr Leah reminds him that these are managers from Barclays and she doesn't want them rolling around in sumo suits at her event: "I think it's distasteful". I don't think it's distasteful, I just think it's stupid and unsuitable. Alex screams in the background "for God's bloody sake, Leah, you're talking nonsense!" and Dr Leah fires right back that Neil should "tell Alex to have a wee bit of respect, I'm getting a bit sick of him. Tell him to keep quiet!" Let's not forget: these are the people in charge of showing others how to communicate effectively as a team. Dr Leah tells Neil that if they HAVE to, as a LAST RESORT, they can have the sumo suits, "but they're not wrestling each other, they can just touch each other." Bam-chicka-wah-wah. Alex interviews that Dr Leah is too indecisive and totally out of her depth.

At 5:30pm, Jason and Luisa are now in Kent trying out a team-building exercise which basically involves two planks of wood with string handles, where each participant has to put one leg on each plank of wood and then work together to co-ordinate themselves along some sort of obstacle course. I am FASCINATED to know how much this insultingly simple piece of kit costs for the day. Apparently they're offering "three activities for £350", and once again Luisa and Jason form a surprisingly effective negotiation team as they get it down to £310. Luisa is pleased because it looks professional and high-quality.

At 9pm, everyone reunites back at Entrepreneur Estates. Neil wants Endeavour to have a chance to air all their frustrations so they can put them behind them and concentrate on working together cohesively the next day. This is...surprisingly not a terrible idea, and Dr Leah agrees, so everyone vents. Meanwhile, Francesca puts a timetable together for her day. Rebecca wants them to end it with a motivational speaker, but Luisa and Jordan argue that they can do that themselves for nothing, rather than spend the £600 it would cost to hire a professional. Francesca points out that it's not just a profit task, it's a quality task as well, and interviews that she thinks the cost-per-head value at present is very good. Over on Endeavour, Neil is back-seat driving again and volunteers to do the motivational speech as the self-appointed best public speaker in the group. He interviews that even though they've got some reasonably low-rent activities, "people like myself and Myles" can make it value for money. ME. THE WORD IS ME. NOT "MYSELF", "ME".

The next day, it's 9am and Endeavour are arriving in Hertfordshire where they'll be staging their military-themed awayday. Myles says that he and Neil want to work on linking the whole day together to make sure it all flows smoothly and that - crucially - it actually reflects what the client wants. Dr Leah agrees and gives them 10 minutes to do that. Kurt and Natalie, who have both been pretty much invisible all episode and will continue to be (so much for Natalie vowing to show her passion and dynamism), are assigned catering duty.

Meanwhile, five miles away, Evolve are setting up for their school-themed day, which involves Luisa and Jordan unpacking such obviously educative props as a feathery thing, a plastic flamingo and a fabric flame thingy. They have apparently spent £300 on these, which have no relevance to any part of their day as far as I can tell. I suspect that the prop-shopping part of the task involved Francesca watching QVC at 3am whilst high. Oh, and Rebecca and Jason are on cooking duty together again. Rebecca interviews that she's "delighted" to be in the kitchen because it's essential that the food is ready, so it's the most effective use of her skills. I feel like she is pretty much handing her resignation in right in front of us.

At 11am, 16 managers from arrive for their awayday with Evolve, while "a squad" of bank managers turn up at Endeavour's event. Neil greets them and then informs them that he is "Sergeant Neil (prompting a few rolleyes) before he and Myles explain the objective of the day and how everything they do will have a business subtext, because it says so in the script. Meanwhile, Dr Leah is stood behind them dressed like Helga from 'Allo 'Allo, and the final guest of honour is Colonel Alex, who strides in wearing camouflage gear, aviators and warpaint on his face. This is, I think, almost exactly the same outcome as if the task had been "make a Triga movie". Alex strides in doing his very best R. Lee Ermey impression and informs them to follow his sergeants out to their training posts, leading to some Dandrew-quality marching from the bewildered bank managers.

Over at Evolve, the team are still preoccupied making sure everyone's got tea or coffee, and people are starting to notice the general lack of focus to the day so far. Finally Francesca heads to the front of the room and announces herself, saying that they wanted to get across the idea of communication, teamwork and motivation. Which would be fine, except she doesn't stop there and babbles on about helping them to achieve "success in work, success in your life, and happiness", prompting Luisa to give Jordan a "can you believe this shit?" look. I think Luisa is pretty much my favourite candidate at this point just for her reliability when it comes to providing reaction shots. Meanwhile, Francesca's still going, asking everyone what they wanted to be when they were at school and saying that she wanted to be a policewoman. Oh dear god. She asks everyone if they're happy. The room is conspicuously silent.

Endeavour are leading their delegates in some lawn games, military-style. It's incongruous, but it works because Neil is explaining it with conviction. They've adapted the games so it involves people having to do it with their eyes closed while a colleague gives them directions, and all that sort of thing. For the most part, it works. One thing that does not work, however, is Neil's army face paint. It looks like he went to the village fete and got the nice man to make him look like a kitty cat. Neil interviews that he's totally masterminded all of the brilliant ideas, and we get a shot of Dr Leah sitting down by herself making some notes, while Karren watches her from a distance questioningly.

Disaster! It's raining. Dr Leah admits that they need to make some adjustments, and she's "thinking as we speak". So everyone heads inside, while five miles away over at Francesca's event (where it is not raining), people are doing that thing with the planks of wood that we saw earlier, while Luisa yells "TALK TO EACH OTHER!" repeatedly. It seems to be going well, anyway.

Back on Endeavour, everyone is indoors being brought tea and coffee by Natalie, while one delegate interviews that she isn't seeing much of a wet-weather plan here. Dr Leah's brilliant plan is a "conflict resolution" seminar...using the sumo suits. While she asks if anyone would like to share their examples of resolving conflict in the workplace (no, apparently they would not), Neil and Myles - the two people who've drawn the short straw of wearing the sumo suits - giggle backstage about how ridiculous they look and wonder why they even bought the damn things in the first place. Dr Leah brings Neil and Myles in to demonstrate "how conflict can spiral out of control and not be resolved". There are a few laughs, but there's also a lot of cringing. After Myles and Neil have finished running into each other and giggling, Dr Leah chuckles that conflict resolution is a SERIOUS topic and they want to work on how you can avoid that. "That" being having to put on a silly rubber costume and make a fool of yourself, apparently.

Lunchtime! Rebecca is serving up school dinners for Evolve, which seem to be well-received, while over on Endeavour, Natalie and Kurt's beef stew appears to be actual garbage. Natalie tells Kurt that somebody "hasn't even touched his mashed potato! Well, he's missing out." Somehow I suspect he is not. Meanwhile, Dr Leah looks at all the dirty dishes and squirms. Looks like someone has a touch of the OCD, to quote Cheryl Cole.

At 2:30pm, Jason and Rebecca are staging the wine-tasting, clearly having made no plans prior to this point. I realise they were busy in the kitchen, but surely they could've discussed it a bit while they were peeling turnips? Jason explains that they're trying to establish which of the wines are high-quality, medium-quality, and low-quality. One of the delegates asks if they're going to explain how they should be able to tell, and Rebecca gabbles that that's not the point of the task, but that she and Jason know which ones are the most expensive, and therefore "the best". She does air-quotes and everything. It's brilliant. She tries to link this to the business model by saying that this task is about "costing and quality", but I don't think she's even convincing herself, let alone anyone else.

Meanwhile, Luisa is leading the people who aren't doing wine-tasting in a cupcake-decorating class. It appears to involve "pipe some icing on and covering it in marshmallows", so while everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, I'm not sure it's an exact substitute for "make your own truffles". Meanwhile, a senior-sounding type from interviews that the back to school theme seems to have been pretty much abandoned and the day lacks structure. A grumpy-looking type asks Francesca what the point of this session is, and she replies that it's "all about experiences", because that's what the company supplies. Yeah, not like this it doesn't. Over at the bar, it's time for Jason to tot up everyone's scores and reveal the results...except he keeps getting confused over who gave what answer, and he keeps getting the wines muddled up. NAILED IT!

Over at Endeavour, the weather has cleared up, so it's time for archery. Again, there's no real business point to it, but they cleverly cover that up by having Neil and Myles wandering around talking to the people who aren't currently firing arrows at a target and asking them about their strengths and objectives and whatnot, so they get away with it. Essentially, I'm not sure that Endeavour did that much of a better job actually arranging business-themed tasks than Evolve did, but they certainly did a vastly superior job at dressing them up in corporate clothes, which might just make all the difference. Karren interviews that Neil and Myles have done a great job in making sure all the games hit the client's objectives.

5.15pm, and time for the last session of the day. Evolve bring in their subcontracted motivational speaker, while Neil delivers a personal speech to their banking clients. He talks about his dad dying of cancer when Neil was 18, and how his dad wanted him to be a football player, adding that he played semi-pro football and thought that was his dream. (Wow, reach for those stars, Neil!) Meanwhile, Evolve sit back and enjoy some downtime while their hired-in speaker talks about the importants of growing and EVOLVE-ing continuously. Ah, I see what they did there. Very clever. Rebecca interviews that the day has been a success, and that none of them could've done as good a job as their speaker Adrian. One of the delegates interviews that Adrian was very inspiring, and in fact he was the most (/only) inspiring part of the day. Another delegate interviews that the day's been fun, but he's not sure if he's actually learned anything.

Back at Endeavour, Neil's closing his speech by talking about the importance of being motivated every single day, and the crowd applauds and Louis Walsh tells him how proud of him his dead dad will be after that performance. Oops, sorry, wrong show. The delegates praise Neil's engaging performance, and Colonel Alex thanks everyone for their hard work and dismisses them all. Neil tells Endeavour that it's going to take "something remarkable" for the other team to beat them.

The next day, and the boardroom. NotFrances, who actually gets into the shot this week (steady on, if she gets any more exposure they'll have to give her an Equity card), sends them all through. Dr Leah's hair is kind of mad again. Is it really humid in the boardroom, is that why that happens? If so, why is she the only one affected by it? LordAlan wants to start with Endeavour, and asks Dr Leah how she got on as PM. She admits that it wasn't easy, and explains that their brainstorm was "relatively organised", which Neil disputes, saying that he was passionate about the school-themed event. Dr Leah says she wanted the "majestic medieval" history, and Neil says that the point is that Dr Leah said "let's have a vote", and it came down 4-2 in favour of the back to school theme. Except that's not actually what we saw happen, because it was Neil who proposed the vote in the scene that we saw. Possibly Dr Leah was the first one to bring the idea up and Neil was just reviving it, but I can only go on what we were actually shown, which is that the vote was Neil's idea, so it's not quite such a terrible sin that Dr Leah disregarded the outcome, despite the show's attempts to convince me otherwise.

Karren admonishes Dr Leah for being late to the meeting with the CEO of Barclays Retail Banking, and that the history theme was a clearly "half-arsed idea" when they were explaining it. Dr Leah says that Barclays didn't want the "fun-fun-fun" aspect of the school idea that Neil was backing either (Neil makes a face of disbelief at this, as though it's inconceivable that any idea he puts forward could ever be anything less than perfect), so they went with "army" as their theme. LordAlan says that what he's getting from this is that Dr Leah is indecisive, and that surely as a doctor, she should be much better at assessing a situation quickly: "If I come into your surgery with a stomach pain, you don't put it to a vote whether I should have an enema or have my appendix out, do you?" Leaving aside the bizarre implication here that a democratic vote is no way to settle a business dispute, I think LordAlan's hit on the next new entertainment format here: Surgery: Live! People come on the show and describe their symptoms, and the public vote for what sort of operation they should have. Dr Christian Jessen can be head judge, with the rest of the panel consisting of Tom Chambers (because he used to play a surgeon on TV) and Sharon Osbourne (because: her face). Dr Leah explains how the army event placed Alex "in a sergeant major role", which Alex immediately corrects: "Colonel." Hee. Karren tells Alex that he was "a bit pantomime at times". I know, imagine something on this show being a completely cartoonish lampoon of a real world activity. Alex says it was a "last-minute theme with dishevelled components" and that he thinks he got the best out of his troops.

LordAlan asks where the business theme came through, and Dr Leah says they did "conflict resolution and how not to resolve conflicts by wrestling" (COMMAS ARE YOUR FRIEND, DR LEAH) and LordAlan is all "oh god, not with the bladdy sumo suits?" Yup, with the bladdy sumo suits. Neil explains how he and Myles were the sergeants, motivating the teams.

Over to Evolve. Francesca says that they decided on a school theme, with Rebecca and Jason in the "hospitality team" and also doing the wine-tasting. LordAlan questions the coupling of "wine-tasting" and "school" as Endeavour giggle in the background. LordAlan asks where the business message was. Jordan says that their themes were "collaboration, communication and creativity", and that's what they were trying to encourage between the teams. LordAlan asks about the motivational speaker, and Rebecca explains that she's attended a lot of corporate events and that she knows how beneficial a motivational speaker is, and that she felt "very strongly" that they didn't have the experience or the expertise to do that themselves.

Asked if Francesca was a good PM, Rebecca declares that she was "very good". Jordan says "weak managemenet, non-existent strategy", and Luisa says she'd agree with that. "Surprise surprise," snits Francesca under her breath.


Endeavour were paid £5000 and spent £2170.50, but the bank wanted a refund of 25% due to the lack of rainy-day contingency plan, so the profit was £1579.50.
Evolve were also paid £5000 and spent £2654.19, and their client wanted a refund of £1250 (so, 25% again) due to the "entire lack of business sense", leaving them with a profit of £1095.81.

So essentially "customer satisfaction" has been measured entirely in pounds and pence, and "not having a rainy-day plan" is as big an offence as "not having any point whatsoever". Interesting.

Dr Leah wins! But the glory is not hers, because Karren says that the client was "very impressed with Neil" first and foremost, and LordAlan says that she has her team to thank for her victory. Their reward? A luxury spa day. Meanwhile, at least one of Evolve is being shown the door.

Reward: Alex gets his eyebrows done and admits that he plucks them, which explains a lot. Natalie has a hot stone treatment and plans to win again if this is what all the treats are like. Myles gets his tits out.

Loser Café. Jordan thinks they'd have won the task if they hadn't had the motivational speaker. In theory, but the motivational speaker was the only part of the day that got positive feedback; who's to say that without him the refund wouldn't have been even bigger? Obviously this puts a target on Rebecca's back. Francesca says that she wants people to stop "passing the buck", and Jordan says that it's not about that, it's about finding who's responsible. Does Jordan think Francesca's responsible for the failure of the task? Yeah, kind of. Francesca interviews that Jordan is a "turncoat" because he went along with everything until they were losing and then suddenly changed his mind. She says that the decision to hire a motivational speaker was ultimately her call. Luisa interviews that Francesca sucked as a PM and had no strategy.

Boardroom 2: The Firing. LordAlan reminds them that they were told in no uncertain terms that this was supposed to be a business function, for business people. Maybe they should've done a lunch special for business women? The feedback indicates that the day was disorganised, didn't adhere to its theme, and that they were basically making it all up as they went along. Francesca replies that she felt like it was "a professional event". LordAlan wonders what the delegates will get from the cupcake class, for example, and Francesca waffles about tapping into the creativity of each person. Karren: "Do you believe what you're saying? Can you hear it? Can you hear what you're saying?" I'd estimate that Karen is only about a minute away from going on a full Nikki Grahame meltdown at any point during this boardroom. LordAlan says that Francesca talks a good game and that if she says something is inspirational enough times, she'll convince herself.

Picking up the baton of inappropriateness (I think we had a visitor come into our PSHE lessons at school once to tell us about that) and running with it, LordAlan says that the cupcakes and wine-tasting sessions didn't suit the "so-called event" (harsh), and Francesca says that's why she "genuinely wanted to explore the other activities". Luisa says that she saved them £1000 by doing the cupcake course herself instead of paying Hannah to demonstrate how to make truffles.

LordAlan reminds them that they lost by £500, and paid £600 for their motivational speaker. I will Rebecca to say that it was the most successful aspect of the day and save herself, but she doesn't: instead she hems and haws that Jordan and Luisa both potentially put themselves forward for the speech, "but on the day that didn't come across", whatever that means. Francesca says that nobody said they would do it, but Jordan counters that several of them expressed an interest only to be shot down. Again, we never actually saw this conversation, which is a bit annoying, because someone is obviously misrepresenting what happened and I have no idea who. Francesca tries to kneecap Luisa by pointing out her outspoken dislike of the corporate world, and Luisa explains that she "thinks a lot of empty words are spoken in the corporate world." THIS IS AN ACTUAL SENTENCE THAT WAS SPOKEN BY SOMEBODY ON THE APPRENTICE. It's like the very fabric of the show has cracked. To be fair, she cites Francesca as an example of someone throwing out corporate jargon that means nothing, and how the delegates were sniggering at her. It's a crudely expressed point, but it's certainly not without merit. Unfortunately, this sets Karren off again. "You might find a rough attitude when you get in front of a bank asking for investment in your business," she seethes. Seriously, guys, do not insult the corporate world in front of Karren. I think she could turn nasty.

LordAlan asks about the props, which Francesca takes responsibility for and Jordan admits to "an overspend" which was "where we ultimately lost the task". Again, I don't think that solitary factor lost them the task all by itself, but it certainly was a prominent symbol of the lack of coherent thinking in the whole arrangement. Jordan says that he tried to fight his cause, but people didn't want to listen.

And what of Jason? LordAlan asks if he's a waste of space in the process, because while he seems like a nice bloke, that's not what LordAlan is looking for. Jason says that if he had been PM, he would've listened to the client and tailored the whole day according to the brief. Which is a strategy I very much appreciate, but it doesn't really address the key problem here, which was that they had to do half of the planning and arranging before they even met with the client in the first place. Seriously, this task seemed like it was designed to make them fail in that respect. LordAlan asks whose idea the wine-tasting was, and Luisa sighs "Rebecca's." Rebecca clears her throat several times and says that it wasn't solely her idea, but a suggestion - the irony being, of course, that in this case that's actually true, but she lied about this back in week two when she forced the team to go to that tiny beer festival, and now she's the businesswoman who cried wolf. Oops. So now Rebecca's being blamed for both the motivational speaker and the wine-tasting, which together cost the team £900, which is more than the margin they lost by. Again, I'm frustrated by how simplistic they're trying to make this - if it genuinely wasn't a task judged on profit (and I'm growing less convinced of that with each passing minute), then we have no idea how much the loss of the motivational speaker and/or the wine tasting would've affected the result in terms of customer satisfaction, so it seems unfair to say "these events were Rebecca's idea and cost a lot of money so it's her fault that you lost", which is essentially what LordAlan does here.

LordAlan tells Francesca that she has to pick two candidates for the final boardroom, and he warns her that they must be people who are responsible for the failure of the task, not just people she doesn't like. Francesca insists that she would never do that, and decides to bring back Rebecca and Luisa, prompting Luisa to immediately denounce this as a personal attack. Jason and Jordan are dismissed, and I cannot even tell you how thrilled I am that Jason was actually on the losing team for once and STILL didn't end up in the final boardroom. Vive le Jason!

Francesca, Rebecca and Luisa are sent into the anteroom while LordAlan grumbles to Nick and Karren that their event was so shapeless it might as well have been about knitting, and that Rebecca hasn't made much of an impact on him in the last six weeks. Karren admits to being worried about Francesca's reasons for bringing Luisa back, and that she "senses real animosity between those girls". Gee, you think? LordAlan wonders why Jordan wasn't brought back, being the one in charge of finance, and a lack of control of the pursestrings being one of the main reasons they lost.

NotFrances sends them back in, and LordAlan asks Francesca why she brought Luisa back. Francesca says that "the cupcaking...was good", but that she didn't like how Luisa was so bellicose the whole time about not agreeing with Francesca's decisions. Luisa says that what she doesn't like about corporate events is "exactly what Francesca has just shown: empty, hollow words." LordAlan asks Luisa if she ever regrets what she says, and Luisa is all "...occasionally?" He digs out her REZ-HOO-MAY where she apparently wrote "if you push me and push me, I will flip, and when I flip, you don't want to be there." Heh, well, I think any residual illusions about this being a serious recruitment process kind of went out the window there, because no HR department in their right mind would let that past a first reading. Luisa insists that she's not difficult to work with, but Rebecca disagrees, saying that she finds Luisa "obstinate and argumentative". Luisa sniffs that she's just not EMOTIONAL, and she works better with men than with women, who all JUDGE HER FOR BEING SO BEAUTIFUL. Oh, Luisa. LordAlan says that he doesn't mind an argumentative nature as long as you're making sense, and Luisa says that the failure of this task wasn't because of her doing cupcakes because she saved them £1000 (that feels like an exaggerated figure, for starters - I'm sure they scrimped on the materials for her cupcake classes but I bet they haven't taken expenditure on the basic ingredients into account when throwing that £1000 figure around) - the problem was a lack of control of the money, which LordAlan says "is hard to disagree with." Francesca thinks that she can't motivate top-end management, which is why they had to hire in an expert. Luisa has the perfect answer for that: "Neil did."

LordAlan notes that Rebecca is being very quiet, and he's wondering if this high-pressure situation is for her. Rebecca says that she has her feet planted in reality, that she's given up a lot to be here, and that she has the skills and ability to be his business partner. Asked if she has the skills to be LordAlan's business partner, Francesca says that she's professional and fair and really wants it. Same question to Luisa, who says she's got a proven track record of making a success out of three businesses, and her direct attitude gets results. Asked who she thinks is responsible for the failure of the task, she thinks it's a joint failure between Rebecca and Francesca.

Decision time. Luisa is "a bombshell", but is that enthusiasm or abrasiveness? Rebecca is quiet, which is fine, but she hasn't really shown anything of worth so far other than some skill at selling. Francesca was put in charge as PM due to her alleged experience with corporate events, but this was a disaster. It's very nearly Francesca who goes, and there's a brief tease towards firing Luisa, but ultimately LordAlan's "instink" tells him to fire Rebecca, so she's gone. Francesca and Luisa are both given "the benefit of the doubt" and sent back to the house. Hugs in the anteroom, no hard feelings, etc.

Coatwatch: dark and calf-length, accessorised with a chiffon scarf. Rebecca taxinterviews that she was disappointed not to have shown more of what she's capable of, and that she's a bit shocked that she was fired.

Back at Entrepreneur Estates, Jason thinks two people are going. Jordan thinks Francesca is "definitely gone". Luisa and Francesca return, and Luisa admits she thought she was going. Neil jokes that only nine more people need to get fired until he wins.

Next week: selling caravans in the Midlands, and I'm sure Nick will have a few choice words to say about how everyone there is too poor to afford a caravan. Also, Alex has a hood for when it starts raining. I'll bet he does.

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