The Apprentice: season 12, episode 9 recap: "Virtual Insanity"

The Apprentice: season 12, episode 9 recap: "Virtual Insanity"
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill: the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill: you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.
The task

Claude and Karren arrive at the candidates' house, demanding that they put on the Virtual Reality headsets in front of them. Everyone sees a CGI boardroom, apart from Dillon whose headset is still stuck on Claude's session beforehand, which is a more nightmarish vision of the sex scene in The Lawnmower Man.

An animated Sugar sets out the task, and because the producers have to think of a shorthand way to convey modern technology, his avatar is, of course, blue and flickering, which just makes it look like the broadband in the house is playing up. This week they must all develop and present a new Virtual Reality game in ONE DAY. Because of course.

Still dressed in their jim-jams, the candidates set about picking their new PM and my idea for business sleepwear gains more ground. Trishna puts herself forward to be project manager of Team Nebuliser, whilst Sofiane's claim to fame of selling one of the UK's first VR sets lands him PM of Team Titus Andronicus.

"This week, you must all surf the mainframe of the cyberspace interweb."

Seeing as they're officially called Team Nebula, Trishna's team opts for a space-themed game. If you think you know which way this is going to do, you really, really don't. With great sincerity, Trishna asks what a Martian looks like, and Frances, Courtney and Jessica stare quietly into the middle distance.

Again, nominative determinism means Sofiane's team decides on an underwater game, and not because they were in any way influenced by the game they'd just played five minutes before. Dillon makes a start on doodling ideas in his notebook, reminding everyone every two minutes that he's a "creative", only for Sofiane to put him on the development sub-team with Alana. But he's already drawn all the characters, Sofiane!

It's at this point I'm pretty certain that Jess and Courtney drop acid in the back of their taxi, as they start to talk about a badger with a cosmic quiff and some guy called Gordon. Trish quite rightly is concerned about their lack of focus.

At the designer's, Alana and Dillon can't agree on the type of game they're creating, mainly because Dillon stills thinks Alana is invisible and doesn't want her harshing his creative vibe. He turns down her idea to add jellyfish to the game, hastily flicking past the drawings in his book of jellyfish he'd angrily scribbled out because he couldn't get them right. Meanwhile, Sofiane and Grainne are trying on costumes: Grainne is dressed as a drowned Disney princess, whereas Sofiane is dressed as a ... pea? This somehow gives him the inspiration to create a character called "Coral Kid", because his junk is corralled into those minuscule green tights.

His great idea for Titan's title is ... Magic Shells. Dillon is dumbfounded, his creative sensibilities so offended by what he's heard. Alana casts doubt on how magic these shells are, but once again it falls on deaf ears. Sofiane and Dillon then spend five minutes arguing whether or not the Coral Kid is a baby, and I'm wondering if I'm the one who's dropped acid.

Jessica's bad trip starts to affect everyone else. Her concept is a character called Galactic Gordon, who's lost his astro-badger. Because she's off marveling at a roll of tinfoil, exclaiming that it's like "a living mirror", Jess hasn't delivered the picture of Gordon that Trish asked for and has just sent over a picture of a badger with a rainbow quiff. Frances is fuming: maybe a clan of funky-haired badgers slaughtered her entire family?

Unsurprisingly, Magic Shells and Galactic Gordon ("No badger left behind") are about as popular as a non-sexy female Ghostbuster at Comic-Con, and are not going to be the next Angry Birds. Trish lays it out straight to Jess that she doesn't like her idea ("Where the hell is Gordon?!"), forgetting that as PM, Trish could have shut it down early on.

This wouldn't be an Apprentice task without a pitch, and it wouldn't be The Apprentice if Sofiane didn't just out-and-out ignore Alana. I'm concerned that maybe she is actually a ghost, the way so many people blatantly ignore her. Sof's plan for the pitch is for Alana to stay completely silent as she plays the game on stage. Alana is not happy with this.

Jess, now obviously on an epic comedown, fudges the beginning of the pitch for Galactic Gordon, stopping at one point to don a silver cape whilst Trish mutters something about "jet juice". The audience all ask where Gordon is. Nobody knows. Where's that blue pill?

Dillon reluctantly agrees to do some cosplay, but only after telling the producers he feels it demeans his reputation as a businessman.

Still striking a blow for equality, Sofiane has ensured that the girls on his team stay dressed in their underwater sea-whore outfits, whilst he and Dillon get to stay in their suits. He's decided that Alana CAN talk after all, but this throws everyone off course as the ghost at the boardroom table finally talks. Grainne, upon finding Jess's stash, gets a little too immersed in the undersea kingdom they've created, flailing around on the stage and screaming for air. As the pitch progresses, Sofiane decides to update the running order; it's just a shame he omits to tell everyone else and it's a right old omnishambles.

The boardroom

Depressingly, we're back to the actual boardroom, and not Sugar's sexy virtual one that's floating around in space, ready to eject the next fired candidate into the void of the universe. Maybe this is what The Apprentice will be like in the future?

The traditional game of "Passing the Buck before the Results Come in" begins. It's up to Courtney to finally reveal the mystery of where Galactic Gordon went: we're ALL Gordon. I did not see that one coming. And despite her gurning and weird staccato pitch, Jessica's presentation actually went down really well with the gaming professionals: I've been properly blindsided this week; nothing I know is real.

The Coral Kids come into the firing line when Sugar points out they blatantly ignored the target audience, and Sofiane did absolutely sweet FA.

The deciding vote comes down to the audience at Comic-Con, who overwhelmingly went for Gordon's Missing Badger over Dillon's undersea adventure. If that's not an allegory for the state of the planet today, I don't know what is. Nebula's prize is for Trish to pretend she actually did like the idea all along, whilst the Titans get a truly immersive experience of an empty café.
Who got fired?

Sofiane desperately tries to introduce a new game, called "Pin the Blame on the Dillon Donkey", and Sugar bites: Dillon and his drawn-on eyebrows are gone. However, a last-minute power-up from Sugar sends Sofiane packing too, and he's told to get back in the sea.
Do they thank him?

Yes, and everyone else in the room. And the taxi driver. He's the real hero in all of this.

Next week, the candidates must do all of my Christmas shopping.

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