The Apprentice: the tale of the seer, the strongman and the snitch

This latest episode of The Apprentice was all about back-stabbing, finger pointing and treachery. How apt, then, that Margaret refer to a character in Greek tragedy to describe Lorraine, the unlikely heroine in this seedy tale of power and corruption.

The task this week: to flog a range of items for their full value. The catch: that value is unknown. And all the contestants are thick as two short planks.

This was Sir Alan Sugar’s toughest task to date. It involved a number of difficult decisions – each team had to work out the value of their ten assigned objects, then figure out where to sell them, zip around London, and somehow avoid murdering each other en route. Philip headed up the girl’s team, Ignite, while brawny Ben took on Empire.

The teams had one day to shift all their items. Some were worthless, others valuable. The jewel in the crown in their respective stashes was an Indian rug, worth over £200.

Philip, the cocky wide boy from Durham, quickly declared that the carpet was “a piece of shite”. Lorraine, later dubbed “Cassandra” by Margaret in the boardroom, was adamant that the rug was valuable. She was overruled by her testosterone-fuelled team leader.

Just to jog your memories, Cassandra was the woman cursed by Apollo to always speak the truth but never be believed. It was an asute observation for a show that usually stays below 2 on the “words of wisdom” Richter scale.

The rug was a sticking point in Ignite’s side all day. The team even journeyed all the way to King’s Road, right by Real Business headquarters, to try and flog it. Pity they didn’t come up here – we’d have bought it! Especially as Philip refused to believe it was valuable, even at the very end, accepting £50 for it from an inebriated man on the pavement.

But Philip’s failings were a drop in the ocean compared to rival leader, Ben. The wannabe Apprentice proclaimed, “I am a natural born leader,” at the beginning of the show. “I’ve been in situations with heavy gunfire, explosions, people getting injured, that’s when I can lead,” he said. Pity the task wasn’t set in a Laser Quest then, eh Ben?

Instead of leading, Ben panicked, selling off valuable items in a job lot for £1. He lost his grip on the team and the task, and quite possibly his own mind. His team made a staggering loss of £169 at the end of the day. When asked who he should bring in to the boardroom, he chose Noorul – fair point, that little snake in the grass has survived too long – then announced that James was coming in too. It came out of nowhere. James hadn’t even been mentioned in the previous tirades about poor performance. Even Sir Alan was taken aback. “Why James?” he asked. “Do you think that there’s a village somewhere missing an idiot?”

Ben soon realised his mistake and backtracked. “I’m take Deborah instead,” he babbled. But it’s this hot-headed impulsiveness that makes Real Business doubt he’ll stay in the game for long.

Later, when the tragic trio were summoned back into the lion’s den, a screaming match ensured. Deborah, like a Fury from Greek tragedy, could not control her harping. It very nearly cost her place in the penthouse. But Noorul, oh Noorul, you repulsive little snitch, you really shot yourself in the foot this time.

Realising that the odds were stacked against him, he tried to save his skin by ratting out egomaniac Ben. “Sir Alan, there’s something you should know,” said the science teacher from Rochdale. “Ben’s been bragging about all the magazine deals he’s going to get. He can’t wait to take his shirt off and show off with a rugby ball.”

It was a low blow and one that sealed his fate. If there’s one thing Sir Alan will not stand for, it’s snitching. “I’ve heard enough,” he said. Two beats later and the finger of doom was pointing at Noorul with the immortal words, “You’re fired!”

But the whole show was less “business entertainment” than cautionary tale. An example of how dismal human beings can be. And it took earnest criticism from James, “the idiot”, to illustrate just how low the wannabes sank this month.

“You come in here and you say ‘I’m so strong’, ‘get rid of the weakest link’,” he said to Ben, obviously still reeling from his leader’s attempt to scapegoat him earlier in the day. “But you showed in there that you’re totally spineless and you shat your pants.”

James would know all about that…

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