The Apprentice: season 12, episode 6 recap: "Ihr Kampf"
Got to be a twat to make it: in The Apprentice as in elections. Watched through the filter of Tuesday's events, you notice the semiotics of capitalism rinsed through the intro sequence: big shiny skyscrapers, men shot from below to make them look powerful, everyone power-striding past the camera. What was last week a daft excuse to get some dickheads in a room and make them shout at each other now has chilling overtones; it reminds you that these people in the magic box you're looking at aren't necessarily just harmless buffoons. People would vote for them given half a chance, and the more unhinged they are the better. Karthik could be your MP in four years' time.
To business: Karthik answers the phone with his moobs out, and ushers everyone along to the Shard. I've begun to notice how weird it is that before Sugar turns up, the contestants all stand there in a line while Karren and Claude just glare at them wordlessly, like they've joined a cult.
They must all work through the night and buy a load of items. Project-managing this is very simple indeed: work out where the items will be and when the shops will be open, arrange your journey in such a way that you don't waste time backtracking, and split the teams in a way that minimises each journey.
Trishna for Nebula and Courtney for Titan seem to have worked it all out quite sensibly. This should by rights be very dull and last about 20 minutes. But obviously the time constraints and obscurity of items make it next to impossible. Sofiane grabs a camera and starts taking pictures out of the window for one of the items, which is a good idea but highlights how uninterested he is in listening to anyone else.
Out on the streets, Paul is a sub-team leader, which means he can perform vital tasks like telling Rebecca how a phone works and being childishly excited to be back in his Hackney neck of the woods, while doing very little of note himself. This is a theme of his contributions to tasks, I've noticed. It is only a matter of time before he spends an entire episode sitting on a stool saying how shit everything is, before insisting that he was the top performer.
No one knows what a rambutan is, and seemingly has no access to Google, their phones having only the capability to act as mediums for frantic bellowed instructions on speaker. A trip to a late-night cigar emporium yields the appearance of an unconscionable hipster in bow-tie and Prohibition-era flat cap, and Jessica pretends the cigars are for her father (the presence of a camera crew apparently not tipping the guy off that this is a task for The fucking Apprentice). It's almost as big a lie as when Alana tells the other cigar guy that they should have a discount because they are "really nice people", which pisses off Karren mightily.
As the night draws on, Rebecca thinks she's found a place that sells both tagines and African black soap, and they make the choice to detour all the way to Streatham. Excitingly, they end up in the Mediterranean food store that is about five minutes' walk from my flat and where I often buy vegetables. The guy looks at her blankly, as he often does me when I ask whether he's quite sure this parsley isn't actually coriander. It's a total bust and could be a costly one, but fortunately the camera doesn't catch me stumbling out of Chicken Cottage at 3am.
As they omnishambles their way back to the Shard, Sofiane dicks around trying to make sure the printer uses the best of the pictures he took, Alana asks whether Morocco is in Turkey (Courtney: "I don't know") and Jessica makes a Carry On Apprentice joke about the rambutan looking like testicles. This has not gone to plan, and Claude and Karren have been up all night for the first time since they did that Gilmore Girls marathon.
Everyone actually looks tired, as if they genuinely are shooting this at 6am straight after the task. Sugar makes a joke about rambutan being spiky on the outside but sweet inside, which Karren doesn't get, then invokes the Two Ronnies' "fork handles" gag, at which Claude laughs for the first time since he shot a zebra on safari in the eighties. Then Sugar says it would've been quicker to get the cigars in Cuba, and Paul laughs too. They've all been told to laugh, haven't they? Like Trump's campaign staff, fearful of the sack, when he cracks wise about the breasts of a highly qualified female public servant.
A theme for the week emerges. Karren criticises Alana for using overly feminine "pathetic tactics" when trying to secure the cigar discount, but she defends it by saying that it worked and the end justified the means. Sugar tells her: "You got the cigars because you were nice. But that's not how business works." If The Apprentice were not an engineered idiot jamboree but an actual exercise in finding a business partner you'd be minded to point out how wrong-headed this is: you can do very well in business while being nice. It's an asset, in fact. But this is what reality TV and now elections to the highest office on the planet are based on: acting like an absolute arse and offending as many people as possible in order to get noticed.
Once it's confirmed that whichever team it was that lost lost, and Trishna, Rebecca and Sofiane are facing the finger, Sugar says of the latter that his business partner needs to be "the kind of person who gets on with people generally", which of course contradicts his earlier statement about niceness having no place in commerce.
Despite Sofiane's days surely looking numbered soon, it's with a heavy heart that I see Rebecca get the finger-elbow. In fairness she has been on the losing side every time, and it's hard to argue with that, but she is by far and away the most normal person I've ever seen on The Apprentice, and the only one with whom you could work in the same office without pushing out of a window.
Does she thank him?
Yes. She says: "Thank you: it's been a great experience. Lovely to meet you, Karren and Claude." Sugar tells Sofiane not to be an autocrat in this process, and it is entirely plain that Sofiane has no idea what that means.
In the taxi Rebecca reflects, wonderfully, that she lost because "I'm not a twat. I think that was my downfall. I haven't been enough of a twat." In one glib moment she has blown the reality TV gaff wide open, but in doing so scuppered her chances of ever being elected President of the United States.