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The Apprentice Ep4 – Triumph of The Nerd

'Jean Luc' Pellereau

'Jean Luc' Pellereau

The Apprentice Episode 4 – Triumph of the Nerd

He may have the haunted, undernourished look of a young Jean Luc Godard – but that Tom: il sait que ses oignons. However, the donning of quasi-medical scrubs in a fetching shade of purple did little to soften the freaky Pellereau persona: the “demented dentist look” as Dara O’Briain put it. But there is a brain ticking away in that sometimes creepy looking head: and unlike most of his adversaries in the Big Head household our Jean Luc didn’t leave his little grey cells in the car park of the Apprentice condo.

Only two things mattered for a successful Salon Sugar Beauty parlour, (apart of course from the usual rapacious desire to screw every penny you can out of unsuspecting punters): location and profit margin. And ‘Jean Luc’ Pellereau homed in on both like an Exocet missile. Of course, Sugar-designated Project Manager Felicity and the rest of her team of “elite entrepreneurs” were far too elite and definitely too entrepreneurial to trouble their smart arses with anything as uncool as relevant facts; as unflashy as sound thinking and solid business sense. So when Tom pointed out the 96% profit margin offered by ‘beauty’ ‘treatments’ (neither beautiful nor really treatment) which had the Good! Lord salivating back in the boardroom, Fliss and the Venture Scouts ignored him, trusting instead upon their self-generated, self-validated, delusionally self-confident intuition. Stupid is as stupid does I always say. This cadre of incipient business geniuses should dump their MBA reading list in favour of a few real fairy tales: they might start with The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Hare and the Tortoise.

Watch Tom: the sneaky bastard has been watching previous programmes. He knew about the dreaded ‘Curse of the Bullring’. As last year’s video-in-the-shopping centre task demonstrated – like the good Lord, the real one not the East End one, the Bullring “giveth and it taketh away”. It giveth fantastic footfall, thousands of persuadable people: but once you’ve sucked in your punters with a cheapo, market stall hard sell, the Bullring taketh away any room or facility less than a mile and a half away within which to offer the service that will make you money. Now I’ll back the British people’s innate, indomitable determination to trudge a mile and a half in search of a good bag of fish and chips: but not to undertake a massage in an isolated room in the bowels of the Bullring given by a bloke who “knows his cosmetics”, is described by his chums as the “girliest man in the team” and gives off a slightly orange fake-tan glow. Even in low light.

As a student of the mores of Planet Apprentice Tom-Tom should have beat the drum louder for the ‘get the product’ stratagem: this requires that the whole team displays maniacal enthusiasm and evangelical zeal for any and every half-baked, Dragon-reject product that is presented to them by whatever half-witted inventor mistaking weird for wonderful. For someone who thinks that a good, saleable name for a stick-on hairpiece that is a mixture of a wig and a fringe is ‘winge’ only one name comes to mind: f**ckwit. These people and their strange products make Billy Connolly’s Big Slipper (for sticking both feet in while watching TV) look like a Steve Jobs creation. But Fliss and Co never got over missing out on the all-over spray tan product which generated most of the successful Logic team’s revenue.

The spray tan was a reprise of the temperature-sensitive babygrow syndrome: one stand-out product even an idiot or an Apprentice could not help but sell. While this converted garden fence spray that gave to the whole bodies of punters that Strictly Come Dancing, Disneurian, orange glow-in-the-dark Vincey look was no babygrow thermometer, it did have the spin-off benefit of the chance to get a bunch of punters naked. The peripheral benefit of offering Leon a long overdue quantum leap in psycho-sexual growth should not be ignored either. Poor old Leon, already worried that his GIRLFRIEND would be put off by his rather fetching eyeliner and blusher in the discreet Man Cosmetics range, he stood, eyes averted, holding a canister of god-knows-what gunk, reluctant to spray the naked man before him who had oddly prominent nipples one hoped were just the result of a genetic oddity, not sexual arousal. With all the conviction of a pacifist on a firing squad Lovely Leon finally declared with triumphant relief “I’ve spray-tanned a MAN!” Now if he’ll just stop collecting the Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand records his GIRLFRIEND can rest assured that he has merely got in touch with his feminine side not come out a bit light in the loafers.

It fact there was a lot of gender asymmetry going on this week: while the girls were insouciantly happy to fondle and caress, sorry ‘treat’, male or female body parts with a matter-of-fact equanimity, the strange leer that appeared on Tom’s face, an ambiguous mixture of terror and unwanted arousal as he approached the business end of Jim’s wholly recumbent, semi-naked body, was one of the highlights of a good week. Another priceless moment was the jaw-dropping disappointment of two Brummie Jack-the-lads, up for, and I do mean up for, a freebee massage with Ellie, when Jungle Jim with the light of an immanent mystical experience in his eyes, dashed their hopes and their fantasies with his revelation that “four hands are better than two”.

Meanwhile: his feminine side not merely discovered, more forensically and defiantly exposed; his previously shaky self-confidence in his fundamental butchness now reinforced, Lovely Leon gave full reign to his campy, flirty, much enriched sexual identity with his reason-defying ‘little finger trick’ This pinky-piper of Birmingham led woman after bemused woman in a passionate finger embrace to part with their hard-earned dosh. One began to wonder whether LL might be on the brink of discovering in himself the marketer’s holy grail of sexuality – being Bi-sexual: instantly increasing his target market by 100%.

LL was undergoing this dramatic personal growth in the hinterland of Birmingham’s suburban superstores led by a rather well-organised, straight-talking Zoe, Sugarlump’s other PM draftee this week, who would take team Logic to eventual victory. More feet on than hands, I rather thought Zoe got the yuk job of the day massaging a somewhat unprepossessing range of feet. But she looked convincing and I have to say given the choice of her gentle, reassuring manner and a hot-shell drubbing by “I’m not a girlie girl” Ellie – I’d vote with my feet every time. I think we need a build a brick sh**thouse kind of task to enable Ellie to shine.

Meanwhile back at the Bullring, for Fliss and the Venture Scouts, things were getting desperate. The said Ellie was still waiting, over 3 hours in, to lift a shell or a finger in anger. This was actually because no one had found a way round the Bullring Curse to persuade punters to undertake the trek to the treatment room; but even if they had, Ellie’s almost permanent frown of inner Northern ‘girlie-girls and sissy-Southerners’ disapproval wouldn’t have enticed them overmuch.

Not much else to report this week: except Natasha and Ellie’s unpleasantly churlish refusal to say goodbye to the hapless Felicity, who they’d just ganged up on having claimed she was a good PM before they knew they’d lost, was an Apprentice first. And Natasha’s defiant defence of this quite unnecessary rudeness made her sound like a very nasty piece of work who hasn’t yet made an identifiable contribution to anything.

In the You’re Fired follow-up Felicity came over as a very nice young woman, actually quite self-aware about her lack of selling and marketing experience and almost uniquely among fired Apprentices, perceptive about her mistakes. As she said “if we had listened more to Tom, we probably wouldn’t have lost.” Perhaps, but at least she didn’t weaselly blame others for her own mistakes. Su’s immaturity begins to grate: when no listens she says things twice; then when she isn’t believed she says them again. And again. And again. Her “I sell cosmetics for a living” began to sound like an “I went to Sandhurst” mantra – designed to impress but having a dramatically opposite effect in direct proportion to the number of repetitions. And meaningless in accomplishing anything

In the Boardroom it is nice to see Nick Hewer’s deaf and dumb affliction of Episode 3 has been cured though he does look as if he’s becoming so frustrated at the stupidity around him that he is beginning to intervene. Of Ms Brady all I can say is – come back Margaret you are much missed. If you take Karen Brady’s remarks in the Boardroom and connect them up you will find that you don’t have to be male to suck up to the boss by telling him what he wants to hear. But as the Good! Lord loves this almost as much as he relishes the warm feeling of deference he gets from “yes Lord Sugar”, “no Lord Sugar”, “3 bags (granulated) full Lord Sugar” there’s not much chance of the occasionally acid-tongued Ms Brady getting fired.

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