The Apprentice: season 13, episode 12 recap: "Born a Gambling Man"

The Apprentice: season 13, episode 12 recap: "Born a Gambling Man"
Now I've finally got round to watching the last one because my Sky box had inched up to 97% and I needed a quick cull (cheerio, 12GB of Electric Dreams, but it was never going to happen), I can say without fear of contradiction that last year's Apprentice very definitely featured some people performing futile tasks in order to appease a crotchety old man, like when you have to go round your nan's and retune her digital radio because you "know about computers".
The task

God, it's so nearly over. The house now obscenely empty considering the plight of London's homeless, James and Sarah are summoned to the Sky Garden, where Claude likes to sip rooibos while dangling rivals off the side by their braces. Sugar appears and tells them it's the usual presentation in front of a panel of experts at City Hall. For some reason they need others to help them, so back come some of the more useless dingbats we and they have had to endure during the process.

I say "for some reason" because every single task involved in the final episode is always something that the finalists must have already done months ago, way before we ever met them. They include things like coming up with a name for their business, which, given the shredding their business plans all got in the ritual slaying that is the interviews round, you'd think would've come up if not accounted for in the documents.

This is, then, a strange process of wilfully undoing presumably good work already done, in favour of rash decisions made at haste and inevitably regretted. Essentially all it should be is half an hour of each candidate in a room spell-checking their Powerpoints, a quick trip to City Hall, then back to Sugar Towers for shit jokes and a painfully contrived attempt to divert the viewer from what his final decision will be.

A decades-old cold case. A ruthless killer with a taste for blood.
Two detectives who refused to give up.

The final irony is that they must do this with the assistance of the pack of utter chumps they've managed to see off over the last three months, none of whom they'd ever employ even as emergency cover for the guy who brings in the daily fruit basket. They must pick them, playground-style. Charles is picked first. CHARLES. Andrew is somehow not picked last, and to delight him even further, within a month he'll be in the Celebrity Big Brother house, and inevitably best mates with Dapper Laughs, which is very probably all he ever wanted out of life.

So Sarah picks a creative team spearheaded by the creative powerhouse that is Harrison (one idea for a brand name is "Sarah Lynn's ... Sweets") and James entrusts sub-team leadership to Elizabeth, with a final plea to listen to the others' ideas, which goes about as well as you'd expect. There is the usual chaos in which obstacles that could've been easily overcome had they just called the boss for a decision end up in a couple of embarrassing bits on the presentation later. Charles dresses up as a lobster holding a red stratocaster for the digital billboard ad, and on the other side there's a tacky thing with Andrew and Siobhan having sweets rained on them while dressed up like Bert and Mary Poppins.

Reviewing it the next morning, James seems to quite like it, or maybe is just canny enough to know that expressing displeasure will lead to a wasted half-hour getting stonewalled by a defensive Elizabeth. Sarah is less keen. It's time for the video ads, in which the viewer is encouraged to believe that Charles would beat Anisa and Joanna in a race, and Siobhan gets a sweets delivery from Harrison. The runners leave James's storyboard at the track, meaning Charles has to wing it in the voiceover and gets a word wrong. It's fairly typical of The Apprentice, or perhaps just indicative of James's thinking, that the man on the sub-team is the main figure on the billboard, the star of the TV ad, and entrusted with the voiceover, despite having demonstrated his total incompetence at everything he's been asked to do for months, while two capable women end up on the sidelines.

In the website meeting, Liz takes it over while James sits back powerless to intervene, such is the sheer brute force of her very being. Brilliantly, she is so incapable of not having the last word that she adds a single letter to the agreed strapline. In hers, Sarah wants to change the name from the agreed, and acknowledged as crap, "Chic Sweets", to "Sweeteze". This takes some stones, but she's not got this far without breaking eggs, or something.

James doesn't seem to notice the mistake on the voiceover, so Charles lives to fail another day. Elizabeth, in a moment of genuine inspiration, tells James he can explain away the lobster with a reference to their mating for life and his business helping clients through their whole career. I like it when the edit occasionally lets slip that some of them are quite good at things. It's like peering behind the wizard's curtain.

Claude isn't sure where to put his eyes, confused by the human expression of affection.

At the presentations, the CEO of Microsoft is there, having presumably stumbled into the wrong room. Why would he turn up? You'd think he'd be busier telling me how to get rid of the notifications informing me I need to activate Office (I don't; I really don't) that still pop up every time I'm in bed watching a YouTube documentary about Lord Lucan on a two-year-old laptop.

Sarah is very good, though her ad strapline "Leading the way in confectionery gifting" is not all that inspirational for the B2C market she's hoping to straddle like Bertie Bassett sitting on that tube of licorice all-sorts I'm fairly certain he used to sit on though have possibly misremembered and not looked up in case it destroys the simile. James frontloads the cybersecurity angle on the advice of a guy called Ricky Martin whom he spoke to yesterday, which is a sound basis for any big business decision.

The boardroom

For some reason, Siobhan and Anisa have to stand up in the boardroom, when there is plainly enough space for them to sit, and the filming process apparently takes the best part of a day. It may be that the only available seating is the spikes that Claude makes his employees sit on, except for on their lunch breaks when they're allowed to lie on a bed of nails and have scalding hot soup poured into their mouths for half an hour.

There is a joke from Sugar about pick 'n' mix/"ending up with all-sorts", and thank Christ we're near the end. Isn't he sick of this yet? He is very approving of Sarah's having boldly changed the brand name halfway through, and it reminds me that it's always this way in the final: decisions that would've got you criticism two months ago now earn you praise.

Claude makes a funny joke about Ann Summers, then does a little Kenneth Williams gurn straight after, and for a brief second the trail of dead in his wake over the years ceases to seem so appalling. Sugar is troubled by Sarah's needing machinery for manufacturing whose cost she doesn't know and that she hasn't got a website. Though this is excusable given that she seemingly didn't have a name for her company until two days ago. James, on the other hand, hasn't owned a business before and doesn't know VAT or payroll. You'd presume he could probably get someone in for this. It is, Sugar muses, a Very Hard Decision.
Who got hired?

"I'm a gambler," Sugar admits, but rather than confess to a debilitating fruit machine addiction that sees him spend hours a day in the newsagents asking them to change a hundred quid into nuggets, he goes on: "I'm going to double my investment and start businesses with both of you." Karren and Claude do their best shocked double-takes.

Right. So he just rustles up another 250 grand from nowhere on the spot, without running it past his board of directors. Good luck to you, pal. He's got his fingers in two more pies, and those fingers are sticky with the taste of sweets and, er, IT recruitment with a focus on cybersecurity.

"I've looked up to Lord Sugar as a businessman since I was a kid," says James in the back of the car. He means "as a TV show host", because he isn't old enough to have seen Lord Sugar in any other context. And he has very poor taste in TV show hosts.

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