The Apprentice: season 12, episode 8 recap: "Fish and Chips"
In the bit of the National Portrait Gallery that you walk round quickly because it's just dull oil paintings of men in wigs, Lord Sugar tells the gang they've got to put on two events: one at Madame Tussaud's and one at the London Aquarium. This means two things: it will end up a colossal shit-show, and Dillon will somehow carve out an opportunity to make everything look fabulous and show off.
Paul is PM on Team What Does It Matter At This Point, immediately announcing his intention to run a tight ship and a desire that everyone get along and do what he says, then gets Frances to buddy up with him on everything so he can ignore everything else and focus on trying to get off with her. "I really enjoy working with you," she smiles in acceptance, like a cat curling itself around Gentle Ben's legs. Yeesh, get a boardroom. Dillon steps up to manage Team We're All Going To Die Alone, and proposes a "Fantasy Island theme". (He means a "Dillon dresses up so everyone looks at him" theme.)
Courtney wants to do a dating event at the aquarium based on the concept of "plenty more fish in the sea". As is so often his pitching strategy, he has come up with the title first and worked backwards. This is ignored, leaving him free to resume work on his screenplay "Centre Courtney", about a young entrepreneur who wins Wimbledon against improbable odds.
Paul likes a casino, having once carried out an audacious heist on one with ten associates of disparate character, so they'll have a slice of that for their night. Someone asks what general admission ticket prices to Madame Tussaud's are, to which he replies "£47.50", so quickly that you can only presume he goes there every weekend to stare out the Lennox Lewis dummy. He begins an odyssey of price changes, starting at £65 then oscillating wildly as the sales process wears on between the GDP of a small Central American republic and "three quid and I'll throw in this Wills and Kate commemorative tea-towel".
Dillon and Alana audition a mermaid, whom the sales team have promised ticket-buyers will actually be in one of the tanks, but it turns out she just sits on a chair and sings. Obviously he loves it and suggests: "I was thinking of [for which read: I definitely am whether anyone wants it or not] dressing up as a sailor and singing." You've got to wonder whether his heart's in business. Alana, having been continually underestimated and talked over for seven weeks, now emerges as a dark horse, noting Dillon's absolute disinterest in anything that isn't a fancy dress party, and sets about quietly focusing on actually making the task turn out well.
There are various balls-ups, like telling customers the price includes hot food when it doesn't, and Courtney and Grainne (dressed as a pirate and mermaid, which manages to demean them even further than, y'know, being on The Apprentice) selling too many tickets on the night. Obviously they have to make the food themselves rather than hire caterers, but settle on canapés smaller than the kind Frances thought was used to cover boats last week. "The best cooks are men," say Sofiane and Paul, while putting ham on crackers and pausing to look at pictures of Joanne Guest in old copies of Loaded.
There is a ruckus brewing between Paul and Jessica and it blows up spectacularly in front of all the guests with a shouting match, of which Claude takes a dim view. It's been going this way for a few weeks now: the men are concerned mainly with alpha-ing their way through it or raiding the dressing-up box, while most of the women cannily get on with doing the job. If you ask me we're heading for an Alana/Trishna/Courtney final three.
Sugar lays off the jokes, probably because he's an avid reader of this site and is worried about displeasing me further. He says something crap about it being easier to sell Oyster cards at St Pancras than tickets to an aquarium, but you can tell his heart's not in it. Probably after eight weeks he's itching to get back to his important business career in business where he goes to an office and does business with other businesspeople.
Sofiane complains that he spent three hours "working like a slave", having studied keenly that scene in 12 Years a Slave when Solomon Northup had to wear a hair-net and spread some cream cheese on a few Ryvitas. Karren tells Dillon: "You were the life and soul of the party" and he thanks her, failing epically to read her tone. It wasn't a compliment.
Paul starts losing it when Jessica wants to talk in her own defence, like he was always going to sooner or later, and makes the error of getting stroppy with the Lord, which you don't do. Sugar quiets everyone down to let Jessica finish talking. To the extent that anything on The Apprentice is more illuminating than looking at a shoe, its gender politics are quite interesting at times. While he wants it to appear a straightforward meritocracy, Sugar sometimes seems sympathetic to the fact that women are often shouted down or characterised as hysterical when defending themselves. Then later on he is astonishingly condescending to them. But like the saying which I have just made up goes, No one made a load of money in the eighties without being an utter prick. Except Michael J Fox.
Anyway, one lot lose and the other lot win, and Frances tells the camera outside the Misery Cafe that Paul was a bit crap. Booty call red-buttoned.
Who got fired?
Paul brings back Frances and Jessica, and denies that what was obviously a row in the casino was a row. Everyone cries and it's like a big war. Paul sulkily tells Sugar he can take his answer "how you want to take it", thus marking his card. He's off home to see his mum and loom over people intimidatingly as a sales technique.
Does he thank him?
No, he just gets up and walks out. And as I mentioned, Sugar undoes his earlier chivalry and tells the tearful Frances and Jessica: "Ladies, calm yourselves down. There's a tough task coming up. Do you understand me?" They both resist the temptation to reassure him that all the crying hasn't affected their ability to understand English, and head back to the house.
Next week: they all have to start an ostrich farm in Beckenham by mating a hippo and a narwhal, with only four hours in which to have it up and running.