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The Apprentice Week 11 – wheels, spokes, Darth Debra departs

Ice cool

Ice cool

The Apprentice Week 11 – now only two can play

Sir Alan Sugar in government? It is rumoured tonight that SAS has been offered a job by Gordon Brown. Given the rest of the news, this is a bit like the captain of the Titanic inviting you on a cruise. This invitation, if true, is worrying on so many levels. First it suggests that our lugubrious PM can’t tell the difference between ‘reality’ TV and reality itself. Second, it is another of Dog Born Worn’s pathetic attempts to court a vicarious popularity he can’t generate himself. Worst of all it looks like another example of a politician who actually knows nothing about business buying in to an approach which is Neanderthal in conception and divisively pig-headed in practice.

That said this week’s Apprentice wasn’t half bad. With the original rat pack of 15 reduced to 5 before this show, last week’s gradual emergence of actual people continued. An extended profile of each remaining candidate humanised them a bit with parents siblings and friends offering encouraging proof that there were some real people hiding within the TV-induced ego-onanists of the last 10 weeks.

It was especially interesting and to a degree engaging, to realise how very ordinary in a good sense their backgrounds are. No silver spoons in sight, one began to understand a little better the sometimes grotesque over-reaching and self-image delusions that have both exasperated and made us laugh each week.

The ‘interview’ process was simply no contest. Primed to be aggressive and brutal, every candidate’s CV, as in fact last year, seemed to have been about as truthful and accurate as Hazel Blear’s expenses claims. Because they are perhaps the one business requirement that Universities actually know something about, there is no excuse for getting years and time spent factually wrong. It was painful to watch the ease with which the interrogators, no interviewers these, were able to hang each candidate with their own words or those of referees apparently selected for their inherent hostility rather than support.

It may be that Darth Debra really doesn’t have a friend in the world but her chosen referees basically filleted her then fed her failings in bite-sized pieces for the inquisitors to chew on. Yasmina was so astonished that publishing the accounts of her business meant that someone might read them, that her brain went walk-about suddenly bewildered by abstruse terms like profit, sales, turnover and the distinction between gross and net. Lorraine used what is now known as the MP-gambit: describing lying about her length of experience as a ‘mistake’. At least she didn’t say the CV system was rotten and had to be changed. Kate was positively animatronic in her blithe assumption that being called “robotic” was somehow a compliment. She had an advantage in that she seemed the only one of the five who took her brain with her into the interviews instead of leaving it in on the sofa downstairs.

One always leaves the best till last. Yes you’ve got it – James, Oh James we, the people of Britain will miss you. James is a true entrepreneur: not in business, there he seems pedestrian and banal. No James’s innovative genius is with words. He has invented a new grammatical form: what we might call the ad lib metaphor. Time and again he wanders into a sentence like a drunk in a minefield staggering past semantic oblivion by what looks like sheer luck and then escapes with an image that just pops into his head. This seems to be the way thoughts struggle free of the Jamesian mind. Mentally he sets out for Edinburgh, finds himself in Cornwall and persuades us that’s where he meant to go in the first place. Extolling his own virtues, not sadly an uncommon dialectical form for this programme, he told Sralan that with him our Knightette wouldn’t have to re-invent the wheel. Sensing this solemn cliché stood in need of some elaboration he blurted out “ maybe just change a couple of spokes.” Thinking on his feet or what? We just know in our water that when he set out on the mystery tour of that sentence he had absolutely no intention or even inkling of talking about wheels or spokes. James’s efforts at simple communication sometimes sound as if they come from the pages of Ulysses or even Finnegan’s Wake: obscure, abstruse, at times simply incomprehensible – but usually funny.

All these linguistic powers appeared to have been indulged in James’s application for the programme: not so much a Curriculum Vitae as an extended suicide note. James’s great strength as a comedian, for such he is, is the endearing quality of his constant, child-like surprise and delight in the words that come out of his own mouth. James’s own expression of triumph at each of these remarks bears the satisfied smirk of a baby boy who eschewing his potty, has finally peed solo down the loo and has just realised that this really is a pretty cool piece of kit with other exciting, but as yet undiscovered possibilities. James’s unwitting witty wordplay is occasionally accompanied by a kind of Eric Cantona-like philosophical gravity on his CV and not for one second doubting the sagacity of his own remark, James vouchsafed his greatest contribution to business was his ability to “bring ignorance to the table.” Look for that one in the canonical tomes of the business gurus why don’t you? Far from understanding the sagacious nuances in this Delphic aphorism, the interrogator asked, a little insensitively I thought, whether James was an idiot. As for his other eloquent CV phrase of preventing people from “spunking money up the wall” his interviewer looked incredulously into James’s eyes just to reassure himself that our boardroom clown was not actually taking the p*ss.

There is a fortune to be made this Christmas in bringing out a little book of ‘Apprentice Sayings’. James would fill half of it. “If I was selling funerals – people would stop dying.” Etc.

As I said last week it was impossible to see Sralan employing either Lorraine or James. I think only his insecurities about Darth Debra’s intelligence and uncompromising independence led him to choose Yasmina over her. I don’t think Sralan feels threatened by Yas in the way he did by DD. It would have been a more interesting final to have left all three in. It will be fascinating to see how losing apprentices especially Deadly Deb, co-operate in Sunday’s tasks to help someone else win the prize they wanted for themselves. Who will benefit from Lorraine’s Spock-like Vulcan mind-melding; Ben’s business conversion on the road to Sandhurst; Philip’s Pantsman perceptivity? Etc Etc.

Gotta hunch if it’s close it’ll be Kate. But Yas might just do well enough that she has to get it. I wonder whether they get to choose their team members? If so, for all her supposed unpopularity my bet is first pick will be the Dark One. Rightly so.

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