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The Apprentice: season 13, episode 7 recap: "Expando Ballet"

The Apprentice: season 13, episode 7 recap: "Expando Ballet"
Because cars aren't in the least bit interesting, and anyone who thinks they are interesting is an imbecile, it is especially hard for me to get around the fact that I was quite engaged by this episode of The Apprentice. A lot of it was about cars, you see.
The task

As the gang are led into a big place with lots of cars in it, Elizabeth says: "Oh. My. God." As we've established, she is to some degree performing at all times, but it's still an odd reaction. Cars are dull, functional items to which, as long as they've started when I got in them, I could see out of the front and the doors opened to let me out, I have rarely given a second thought. It's like she hasn't stood by a road drinking cider and shouting at them before. What else do you do with your Sundays?

How they are advertised, to the extent that a typically impossible Apprentice task is representative of the process, is quite interesting, as it turns out. Sportingly, Lord Sugar turns up in person this week to do his three minutes, informing them that they must devise ad campaigns for cars. They'll then pitch them to, I don't know, Alan Carr, Carmen Miranda and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, and the Lord will decide himself in the boardroom which is better by pointing at one before asking if he can go home now.

Charles ducks out of PMing again, and is starting to remind me of when Ric Flair won the Royal Rumble in 1992 by coming in at number three but then spending most of it outside the ring. Anisa, a fairly obvious choice because she runs a PR firm, volunteers but is pipped by Michaela because telly. James steps up to lead Graphene, with that headlit-bunny look of a Barboured Sloane at a pub golf day, fronting it out but secretly uncomfortable that everyone went to a slightly more expensive school than he did.

"Why yes, everything we did was awful, what an excellent point you make."


Joanna suggests "Expando" as a name for a car – an actual name for an actual car – and I briefly have to rewind it because I thought she said "Spandau", and is maybe proposing an aspirational car campaign based around the final years of Rudolf Hess. I'm not sure it's much better when I hear it properly. On Vitality, who are after the female 18–25 demo, Andrew suggests "Miami", which is not awful. He then suggests that the actor in the ad could put on some lipstick while the car handles the assisted parking. It was never going to last.

Graphene pick as their location a Norman village, which is shown as the big game-changing error of the whole thing, but was so easy to avoid (there was a picture of it in the brochure, showing huts and a pit fire) that it's almost as if it was somehow set up this way. To their credit they have a bash, with Sajan enjoying being a director ("The mise en scène is perfect!") and Elizabeth barrelling through the whole thing as lead actor and chief-talker-over-of-James.

Andrew, on the ad subteam, doesn't like being sidelined, probably because this is about cars and the ones leading it are women. "I thought this was going to be Jason Statham-type stuff," he complains about his role as the car's passenger. When you unpick this, given that there was no suggestion of any nods to action cinema, you can only conclude that this is his way of expressing that he thought the role would be more substantial, and therefore that the first example of serious acting heft which occurred to him was Jason Statham. If you went to his flat you'd notice that all his books are either about the Mafia or The Guv'nor by Lenny McLean.

Michaela admits to a lack of confidence about pitching the campaign but resists well-meant efforts to let someone else handle it (the sort of demonstrably bad decision a zero-sum game encourages). She freezes up for what is probably three seconds but is edited to look like a fortnight, then performs pretty well. The Top Gear types they're pitching to point out that their strapline ("Move forward, move fast, move free", which I'd thought uncommonly good) is dead in a ditch because you can't use the word "fast" in car advertising. This is the sort of interesting window into the marketing world that The Apprentice could provide more regularly if it wasn't wholly devoted to promoting the idea of being a bell-end to achieve success, but instead comes about once a year.

The boardroom

Sugar praises the use of the drone in the Miami advert but otherwise gives little feedback, up against the very limits of his abilities as a TV personality with no numbers to make the decision for him. He throws the win at Vitality, which is fair enough, because at least they had a vaguely coherent campaign that didn't hinge on a woman in contemporary clothes unaccountably leaving a medieval village hut and chasing geese.

Andrew bigs himself up at the celebratory slide thing they get to go on, happy to confirm that he can "be a professional when I want to be". When he doesn't want to be he presumably just puts a Pirelli calendar on his office cubicle wall and drinks cans of Harp at his desk.
Who got fired?

Sugar, barely bothering with the jokes anymore, says something about "Expando" sounding like M&S pants, and berates Sajan, the ad's director, for mentioning camera angles. "Camera angles! You're making it up as you go along here!" Well, yes: they only had 48 hours. I quite like Sajan's vibe. He's not full of himself, and you've got to admire anyone who can pull off a burgundy suit.

It complements Elizabeth's regular almost-getting-fired dress quite well too.


James picks Sajan and Joanna to come back, but Sugar wants Elizabeth too so he can quiz her about her control freakery. James points out that in his IT recruitment job he was earning a hundred grand in his first year, not unreasonably, because there is no other marker of success than money in the recruitment industry, which is about nothing other than securing commission at all costs, but it does mark him out as one of those sorts who mentions his salary even though you didn't ask him about it, which you wouldn't anyway, because you're not the type of twat who'd ask anyone their salary.

After another ham-fisted attempt at misdirection, Sugar boots Sajan out the door, then sends everyone else home.

Does he thank him?

Yes: "Thanks for the opportunity, thank you so much." He's a smashing guy and I look forward to sitting in one of his photobooths wearing a pair of oversized plastic glasses and a feather boa sometime soon. You know, at the work Christmas party or something. Or just in the post office on a Wednesday, whatever.

Next week: the teams have 48 hours to digest the 2,800 recently released files relating to the JFK assassination, figure out who was ultimately responsible, issue indictments and prosecute them.


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