The Apprentice, Series 16, Episode 7: Gradient Brainworms

He was a stop sign.
She was a traffic cone.
Could I make it anymore obvious?

Have you ever wondered how much of a nightclub you could fit in the back of a family sedan? Well, you’re about to find out.

Having seen his nemesis, Amy, vanquished last week, apparently Aaron was feeling in high spirits as he bounded down the stairs at 5am like a child on Christmas morning

and was informed that the candidates were to meet Lord Sugar at The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which Aaron then runs up the stairs screaming at the top of his lungs and from which Nick goes full Poirot and manages to helpfully deduce this

and while Nick ponders whether there’s chocolate in a chocolate cake, Akshay has quickly grown fond of waking up with his head swimming with the buzz of Victory Champagne

It was nice while it lasted.

Over at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the candidates meet Lord Sugar who, I am assuming was going for menacing drama with his arrival via an all black driverless vehicle, but really it just looked like something out of Spaceballs as that Darth Vader helmet trundled so slowly into position that they genuinely had to speed up the footage

but they can always rely on Nick to be very impressed

and from the slowly crawling vehicle emerged Dark Helmet Lord Sugar to inform the candidates that for this week’s task they would be coming up with their own brand of driverless vehicles which is a perfectly normal thing to try and do in under 48 hours and with your team split in twain and needlessly not allowed to communicate about the brand identity when not in the same room as one another.

He was also mixing up the teams, which just involved making Brittany and Kathryn swap places because under no circumstances were they going to seperate Sophie from her mortal enemies: Akshay and Stephanie – I dub thee “A Loathe Triangle”.

So the teams are now:

Akeem, Brittany, Aaron and Harpreet

Kathryn, Sophie, Stephanie, Akshay and Nick


Given his love of technology, Akeem was very quick to nominate himself for Project Manager with grand ideas of creating something futuristic, which did start to sound a lot like the game he wanted to make about the dystopian robot apocalypse… But Brittany was very quick to interject that they should definitely embrace the sustainability side of our autonomous vehicle overlords – and we do know that Brittany is very passionate about climate change and how it is devastating The Ice Capsules in the Artic…

So Akeem solidifies the concept as a Futuristic and Sustainable Taxi Service and divides the team into Harpreet and Himself as Team Corporate who are tasked with meeting with Wembley Park to find out what they want from a driverless vehicle. While he trusts Aaron to not make the logo brown and green as part of the branding team with Brittany.

One of the biggest notes that Akeem got about the last time he was Project Manager was that he wasn’t assertive enough and things didn’t go much better for him this time as Harpreet very quickly had to take the reigns during their meeting with the Wembley Park delegates because Akeem was inventing Wembley Arenas in front of them. Not that she did much better because they didn’t manage to find out how many vehicles the client would want, how much they’d be willing to spend or what features they wanted them to have.

And while Harpreet and Akeem managed to find out absolutely nothing, Aaron and Brittany were struggling without Sophie’s degree in Colour Psychology

and Aaron was practically bursting a blood vessel as he restrained himself from pointing out that green and brown are very natural colours and therefore are pure. Unlike yellow, the colour of immorality. And so they decide on blue

Bees + Water = Electric Vehicles.

As far as logos on The Apprentice go, I think theirs was actually pretty good

it is slightly unfortunate that the only person on the team that was on the apian wavelength was Brittany and the theme goes on to make very little sense, especially when Akeem proceeded to kit out the interior like it was office of The Apprentice’s Resident Faceless Receptionist

while on the outside, despite Akeem repeatedly saying “futuristic and simple” Brittany had created a child’s study of a van Gogh painting

which was met with two wildly different reactions when they unveiled the exterior to Akeem and Harpreet

I don’t know why everyone hated this design so much, sure it’s kind of childish looking, but these are vehicles that inherently look like a child’s toy no matter what colour scheme you give them, they’re basically big versions of those little cleaner robots from Wall-E

but I also might also be inured to the design because we did have these FreeBee buses going around Sheffield for a considerable amount of time

it turns out bee-related public transport is never made to last.

When it came to pitching their vehicle, Akeem was keen to mix the teams up a bit and swapped and changed the pairings up into more combinations than I think was actually possible, eventually deciding that Harpreet and Aaron would go and pitch to the corporate client because he couldn’t bring himself to show his face in front of Wembley Arena’s mum and dad again, while he and Brittany were going to plan their pitch for the launch party and make some very serious decisions as to which fancy dress costume they’d wear for the event

Very. Serious. Decisions.

Had Akeem and Harpreet talked to the parents of Wembley Arena properly, they would have managed to deduce that they were looking for 30 vehicles and had £1,000,000 to spend. Harpreet and Aaron manage to shift a grand total of 4 for £6500 a month, at a 6 month minimum. Which Harpreet was not thrilled by but at least she managed to add the maths up correctly this time and didn’t have to slink back to them with her tail between her legs like she did with Mr. Manchester Central after closing on a deal she had totalled up at £40,000 lower than it was actually meant to be. All the while dressed like a Victorian urchin trying to sell newspapers

sadly Brittany and Akeem had decided against dressing like the mascots of a speeding awareness course and opted for the chauffeur caps which Brittany was steadfastly refusing to wear. Would she have been more open to a beekeeping suit? And Aaron was only extending the theme as far a bee-shaped lapel pin

As for Brittany and Akeem’s pitch at the launch event, it wasn’t great, mostly because I don’t think a single one of the buyers at the event could tell you what Akeem looked like but they would be able to draw you a very detailed portrait of the back of his head

what I did love about this pitch though was that Brittany momentarily forgot what the point of a driverless vehicle was

Brittany’s dedication and enthusiasm for these dumpy little trucks was actually quite endearing in the end.

Party Podders

Much like Akeem, Akshay was very quick to put himself forward for the role of Project Manager, mostly down to the fact he is very keen on cars, like VERY keen on cars

nothing sounds like more of a nightmare than being trapped in a house with a man that won’t stop talking about cars. However there was a spanner in the works of Akshay’s dreams as while Akshay made his pitch for the PM role, Sophie was hearing the Ironside siren

and she was, under no circumstances, going to let an opportunity to make Akshay’s life hell for two whole days slip by. Her trump card in this duel for superiority? She just really loves interior design, and that she designed her cocktail bar from scratch. You would think she might learn not to talk about the cocktail bar by now

if not from the lack of success in tasks that tangentially relate to it, than by the fact everyone rolls their eyes whenever she mentions it

something in your eye, Akshay?

While Nick remains firm in his support for Akshay’s knowledge of cars, Kathryn and Stephanie both vote for Sophie to take the helm in what I absolutely believe to be a concerted effort to have her fired.

Sophie’s grand plan was to make a fleet of Party Pods, because when I think of having a great night out with my friends I immediately think of cramming 4 of us into a Fiat 500 sized vehicle and driving in a predetermined loop around a London landmark? But she was absolutely adamant that this was the route she wanted to go, even though Akshay and Kathryn were unabashedly looking at her like she was insane

She was very clear that she didn’t want it to look tacky though – and remember that because it’s very important later.

As for the team splitting, Akshay wanted to be on the corporate side of things but because that team would also be designing the interior of the pod, Sophie wanted to do it and she was not going to be within even remotely the same orbit as Akshay if she could help it, so he was banished to the branding team which was being headed by Kathryn. Meaning Sophie was accompanied by Nick and Cersei Lannister herself.

While the corporate team met with The NEC where Sophie suddenly went full Live.Laugh.Love. and rebranded her pods as “Experience Pods” that provided their riders with “everlasting memories” without telling anyone, Kathryn and Akshay were spitballing brand name ideas for what they believed to still be a Party Pod

Celepod sounds like the middle evolution of every pokemon generations’ obligatory early-game bug pokemon.

They eventually decide on the name StarPod and thus the quest for an aesthetically pleasing star and the slow deterioration of the graphic designer’s will to live began

apparently none of the stars were good enough for Kathryn and so the graphic designer ended up having to layer what were absolutely shapes from the Explosions folder

and with every terrible graphic design decision made, a hideous gradient is sure to follow

Karren saw an exploding toaster, personally I’m seeing a tentacruel with a headache

and once they had rendered their logo, they did get to phone Sophie and tell her all about their creation where Sophie starts to backtrack on the whole party angle, saying she wants to prioritise the experience side of things and for them to make the exterior of the pod as neutral as possible so that it’s not too niche a product. Throughout this phone call, Stephanie is suspiciously quiet and Nick is as helpful as ever

and so with the branding team given strict instruction to make the pod look as neutral as possible, while still giving it a brand identity, Sophie decided that she was going to shove everything a 24 person party bus has into her four person pod, including a starlight ceiling, a mini fridge, hot pink seats, a red carpet and a karaoke machine which under no circumstances was anyone to mention to the corporate client. Oh and how could I forget

glitter walls.

So with their interior looking like Paris Hilton’s TARDIS, the exterior looked…

like a designer trainer, which is certainly better than the Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen Love Nest that lay within it

and the highlight of the episode was definitely Harpreet and Brittany just about falling out of their seats laughing at the absurdity of Sophie declaring she didn’t want her brand to be tacky and then unveiling THAT

the buyers were a lot more polite about it and didn’t quite laugh in Sophie’s face when they saw it but merely called it “too niche” and saying they only wanted to lease 2 of them for the time being. Which was MUCH less than Nick wanted

that’s at £8000 a month for a minimum of 6 months. THE AUDACITY of him to ask The NEC to spend £2,400,000 on what is essentially a badly pimped out Fiat 500 is almost admirable.

And if you want to know who would rent out one of Sophie’s Mobile Changing Rooms Disasters at £8000 a month, apparently this woman was in the room to make some bad decisions

but who knows, maybe she was just very taken by Nick continuing his advocation of glitter by dressing like he was the caller at MECCA Bingo

I expect this from Nick, but God bless The Fates of Cringe for bullying Akshay into that disco labcoat

and while I would like to say these two in their little outfits were the best-worst parts of the pitch, that honour has to go to whoever made the decision to start it all off by having Akshay unexpectedly letting off a massive party popper while their PartyPod is slowly revealed

the man from We Are The Fair was NOT pleased about it

obviously they struggled to sell anything to the buyers with the pod frequently being called “too limited” while someone outright said it looked like something that should be on The Vegas Strip, which Nick didn’t seem to know was an insult and proceeded to pitch them to the man anyway. He’s a disaster. But he’s *my* disaster.

Boardroom Blitz

I do think this task has to be one of the weakest tasks that the show has ever done – it was quite clear that everybody was a little bit out of their depths and a Autonomous Vehicle start-up company is just… not a thing. And also, when they’re selling to these big clients for tens of thousands of pounds, it becomes very obvious that none of it is serious and that they’re playing with monopoly money, so it’s hard to get excited when they announce that Akeem’s team made £1,262,800, and were ultimately the winners with Sophie’s Travelling Bordello coming in with only £535,200.

As their reward, they got to fling themselves into the rapids

somehow that is a more dignified exit than being bundled up into your best winterwear and sweltering in the back of a taxi swearing to the world that this isn’t the last they’ll see of you, because you will be paying to have your Instagram posts boosted for the next 6 months.

It became very obvious that Sophie was gunning for an Akshay elimination, mostly because she looked murderous every time he so much as breathed

but also because she was willing to die on the hill that was blaming the entire failure of their product on the name “StarPod” and constantly avoided blaming the logo as a whole because she knew Kathryn had drawn it

and she couldn’t afford to put too much blame on Kathryn because she was pivotal in the plan to throw Akshay under the bus, little did she know The GirlBoss Code was being broken

Doubly unfortunate for Sophie was the fact Akshay had a card up his sleeve in that Sophie had made the interior of their pod look like a 16 year old who drank too many WKDs had thrown up in their parents’ Volvo. Sophie desperately tried to counter that by saying she had done it to fit in with the name of the brand and also to accommodate the gradient brainworms that had possessed the branding team. Quite why she never thought to pull the classic “We’ll change the logo in post if you buy 30 pods from us” shenanigans I don’t know.

And so Sophie decided that she was going to bring the branding team back into the boardroom with her. Or that’s what she said before Stephanie emerged from her shadow state and told Sophie that she was just scapegoating Akshay

God bless the fact Stephanie did absolutely nothing this entire episode except walk around with a notepad and convince Sophie that the karaoke machine was a good idea

The fact Stephanie got away with that without ANYBODY clocking her for it? Kind of iconic, she might be my new favourite to win.

And with Sophie’s vendetta against Akshay rumbled she brought back… Akshay and Nick – a decision she can’t really justify because the whole “the brand name was at fault” angle she was going for crumbled around her and the only thing she could do was claim that nobody on the team supported her which… Oh boy. This whole bit from Sophie felt like weaponised white woman tears, it was baffling and came out of NOWHERE. I was relieved that neither Nick nor Akshay rose to the bait because I would not have survived an evening of that discourse.

And so, because Sophie couldn’t really justify any of the decisions she made during the task, she was ultimately fired

if anybody finds me Sophie’s cocktail bar, I will bankroll a night out with you there. [Editing Ari here, it turns out she charges almost £15 per cocktail. I will buy you 1 (one) martini.]

and so 7 candidates and the towering force of Stephanie’s girlbossing remain…

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