The Apprentice, Series 16, Episode 8: A Funeral For a Court Jester

Nick Campbell sitting in the corner of a room looking like he was refereeing a child’s birthday party was indeed the highlight of the episode.

You can really tell how much the pandemic has affected businesses when Silverstone is willing to allow The Apprentice to run rampant on their property.

In the wake of Sophie leaving, I have to say everyone is looking significantly more relaxed, Harpreet’s hair has never been more voluminous

Kathryn’s hair is practically glowing, Akshay has a spring in his step, Brittany has taken actual corporeal form, Aaron’s shoulders aren’t around his neck, and Nick’s hair is (mostly) brushed!

even Lord Sugar looked less like he was being kept alive only by an IV drip and an ancient Egyptian curse! I’m not saying Sophie was poisoning all of them, but I’m also not not saying Sophie was poisoning all of them.
As for Steph, well I joked about the fact she was merely a figment of Sophie’s imagination and umm… seemed to do a vanishing act the moment Sophie left

I’m curious as to what happened here? Did her ride to Silverstone take the wrong route? Did she fail the on-site security check and have to be questioned for an hour? My theory, and I only say this because it struck me as distinctly odd that none of the women were in a 4 inch stiletto, is that they had to wear flats in the workshop and Steph, being the powerhouse of a Girlboss Hun that she is, didn’t pack anything other than her Pigalle Louboutins and thus wasn’t allowed into the workshop, and she certainly wasn’t going to go in barefoot and risk having a page made for her on WikiFeet. Whatever happened, she wasn’t there for the introduction of this week’s task which was for the teams to each put on a Corporate Away Day for one of Aston Martin’s clients which would have to include catering, a tour and a racing experience.

The teams were as they were before:
Harpreet, Akeem, Brittany & Aaron.
Stephanie, Kathryn, Akshay & Nick.

Racing Strikes

Having freshly reappeared in the mortal realm, Stephanie is seemingly made Project Manager without anyone batting an eye, which did confuse me after the last episode in which Akshay would have fought Sophie in gladiatorial combat to be the Project Manager of a car related task. Although once driven over, twice as cautious on a pedestrian crossing. Then just to make it even stranger, Akshay was banished to catering duty instead of assisting in the guided tour of the museum and the track racing experience that Stephanie had lined up for their clients.

Stephanie’s entire approach to the task was to go for every mid-price thing they could possibly afford and then trying desperately to market it as premium; which is a tactic that very rarely works out well on the show. Least of all when you have someone like Nick on your team who is, almost accidentally, doing everything in his power to make it as mediocre an experience as possible

and as Stephanie began to explain to Nick that she *did* want this “mid-luxury” experience to be the best of their clients’ lives, Kathryn immediately began formulating her defence in the boardroom

Oh, she knew they were onto a loser.

I did find the whole way this task worked to be thoroughly weird, with Stephanie and Kathryn going off to negotiate a price of their client before they had secured the cost of the food and activities, so I can’t really blame them for going into it like Blu Hydrangea as Dr. Evil

nobody in their right mind is paying for an office bonding day at £700 per person, and if they are – are they hiring? And because Stephanie’s negotiation method was to use absolutely no guile or tact and for Kathryn to remain absolutely silent, they were hammered down to a mere £245 per person – 35% of what they originally asked for.

While Stephanie hardballed two people she was meant to be trying to schmooze, Akshay and Nick negotiated the cost of their two course menu. Or at least Akshay did, Nick stood off to the side and shoved brownies into his mouth like a squirrel preparing for a long winter

the cost of the mid-price meal, which was Chicken Kungpao and whatever brownies were left after Nick was done having at them, was £16 per person, which Akshay managed to get down to £13 per head but had promised to wash the dishes too. And if you thought they were going to get help with all of this, you’re very naive because tonight we’re playing by MasterChef rules and this catering challenge is a two person job and was thus suitably chaotic, with the two of them only narrowly avoiding disaster because they hadn’t switched the hob on correctly.

And while those two got lost amongst the instruction manuals of every kitchen appliance going, Stephanie and Kathryn were lost in a 4000m2 hangar with no actual walls (see, I do do research for these things)

I always hate it when the teams have to lead a tour because it’s never going to go well because they literally have an afternoon to familiarise themselves with facts and figures like they’re revising for a GCSE history exam they put off for the entire Easter holidays… Stephanie and Kathryn had tried to mitigate disaster though by choosing to do less stops in the museum so they would find it easier to talk about the stops they did do. Which is not what they did at all, they mostly just walked up to something in the museum and gestured for their tour party to read the signs and tap the interactive screens if they so wished

so it’s no wonder the tour only lasted 35 minutes, most of which was Kathryn holding a map of the museum upside down and loudly asking “where the fuck are we?” in front of the clients. This did mean they had arrived 25 minutes early for lunch which meant Akshay and Nick hadn’t laid the table so the room looked like a funeral for a court jester

The black table cloth, the slightly ominous bunches of balloons and the starkly white walls make for a very liminal space.

Naturally Stephanie wanted to go and give Akshay and Nick an earful about this and caught Nick like he was in a compromising position with some incredibly dry looking fried chicken

this entire lunch service was an absolute calamity with the food being served up an alleged 40 minutes late, and while their guests bitched and moaned about the non-appearing lunch, Kathryn utilised her training as Amelia Stone to spy on them

From this I imagine she gleaned that everyone was eyeing up the weakest member of the party as a potential snack.

By this point, Nick and Akshay seemed determined to make Stephanie’s life utterly miserable by completely forgoing the entrance to the prep room and instead walked right through the dining room, with Nick giving a stellar performance as Mrs. Overall in the process

it’s the role he was born to play!

And because they were falling further and further behind time, Nick’s approach to plating up was to get more sauce on the table than in the plate

they could have probably also saved a couple of pennies by not paying for the green peppers because it didn’t look like a single person in the party ate any of them

and while Nick and Akshay delt with the disposing of 10 peoples worth of maligned green peppers, everyone went to go and drive around a race track at like 100mph with their stomach full of fried chicken and brownies

I cannot blame you.

I did find it *very* funny that Akshay missed out on the entire experience because he was A. trying to get the best price for 10 helpings of a very ordinary looking brownies and B. doing the dishes – I hope Kathryn and Stephanie bragged about it mercilessly when they got back to The Apprentice house

I find Kathryn’s hair spilling out from the helmet much funnier than I should, it’s everything Phil Spencer thought he was

but not all was lost for Akshay because Steph had also packed in a giant Scalextric session for everyone

I can’t help but feel that after being driven around the track at insane speeds, that then playing with a Scalextric is a bit of a letdown? But Akshay was loving it

You know what? If he had just got on the minibus at the end and vanished into the horizon like a corporate John Wayne, I would not have blamed the man. Run, be free Akshay!

Rice Race!

Brittany was first to bid for the role of PM and weaponising her first class degree in hospitality in the process. However it was no match for Harpreet who really could have just said “Sorry babe, I run a dessert parlour.” and left it at that, but instead she gave a 500 word presidential speech while Akeem just nodded along because that’s what the vibe dictated and Aaron just looked very uncomfortable

naturally Harpreet was given the role because she spoke the most and the loudest.

While Steph’s approach was to buy mediocrity and sell it as luxury, Harpreet was just going all out and splashing the cash as much as she could, the point of which was apparently to mitigate the potential risk of the tour group asking for refunds. Now, I would have thought that the luxury group activity was the race track experience that Stephanie’s group did and yet *apparently* the Formula 1 car motion simulator was the star event with it initially set to cost Harpreet £1000 – and oh the woe this damn simulator caused, not least of all for Akeem who, for the entire episode, was just Harpreet’s stress ball

the way he just gamely drove into that wall, not really knowing what would happen while Harpreet observed him like he’s a labrat <3.

With the motion simulator picked as their star event before they had even seen it, Brittany and Aaron were sent to negotiate over the ticket prices with the corporate client, who just so happened to be a tech company. They too took the Dr. Evil approach to the price, opening with a slightly more conservative £600 per person, which the clients did, rightfully, laugh in their faces over. But then Aaron thought he would play their trump card and say that if they wanted a lower ticket price they would have to get rid of the motion simulator which he and Brittany had started to call “The VR Experience”. Little did Aaron know that the clients had an Uno Reverse card

Is it possible for her to win The Apprentice? I realise she’s probably worth more than the £250,000 investment, but still…

At this point they should have just jettisoned the motion simulator but because Harpreet had stressed she wanted as much high end nonsense packed into this day as possible so that nobody wanted their money back, Brittany and Aaron were determined to get it in there and out of nowhere Brittany just dropped the price to £320 and Aaron was once again hearing the dulcet tones of Amy talking about cheese

and now they were tethered to the motional simulator, so Harpreet, who having witnessed it in action wouldn’t have actually put it on the tour, mostly because it didn’t kill Akeem when he barrelled into the wall like he was on a Blues Brothers simulator

but she did negotiate down from the original £1000 to £800, mostly by pretending to “work out their figures” in front of the poor tech-geek in what has to be some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen

and if you’re curious as to what Harpreet wrote while she was pretending to do mental maths, here is an artist’s rendering

as you can imagine, Harpreet wasn’t best pleased to find out that she had splurged £800 on something the clients didn’t want, and Brittany wasn’t particularly impressed when Harpreet immediately began setting it up as hers and Aaron’s fault

and then the client wasn’t particularly happy when they, an alleged tech industry heavyweight, found out that they weren’t getting a VR experience but a glorified bumper cars simulator. They did however go on to have a pretty good time though, so it wasn’t a complete dud, it was just very uncomfortable watching Brittany trying to explain her way out of that one though.

The Poor tech-geek wasn’t the only person that Harpreet mercilessly hardballed in a negotiation as she went harder on the catering professional than she needed to, negotiating over the price of a butter chicken curry and a tiramisu like it was a hostage situation. Also, what a truly awful menu line-up? Both things are great, just… not together. Although to be fair, they were given A LOT of rice to soak up the richness because Akeem felt it necessary to make a biblical amount of rice for just 10 people

the fact Harpreet then blamed this on the fact that making rice was the only thing she could trust Akeem to do successfully like he was her 10 year old son properly took me out

That is honestly the most savage thing anyone has ever said in the boardroom, like DAMN, just stick him in the oven and roast him why don’t you? Although it’s not entirely fair, he did also do a wonderful job at holding a bowl of tortilla chips that they had for no particular reason

Harpreet was running this kitchen liKe a [UNTIMELY PHRASE REDACTED] as she bellowed orders at him like a drill sergeant, but you know? At least she was doing it in the kitchen, unlike Steph who was shouting at Nick while they were in the room next door to their tour party who could absolutely hear everything she was saying.

While Harpreet and Akeem had a kitchen nightmare, Brittany and Aaron got on swimmingly and I have to say, seemed to put on a very good show for their guests, even if Aaron was going the full Butlins and momentarily brought their tour to a grinding halt but deciding to give everyone a history on Thomas à Becket which absolutely nobody was enjoying

he did also get the wrong King Henry, unless I missed the part when King Henry I order Thomas Becket to death via a seance. Which honestly wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen in British history.

My absolute favourite part of this group though was the fact Brittany wanted to save my money by designing their own activity and while Harpreet was absolutely right to just bulldoze right over that suggestion, I can’t say I wouldn’t have loved to watch Brittany and Aaron orchestrating an adult colouring-in session. I need to know what she had planned and how it probably tangentially related to climate change.

A Ballroom Blitz

This really could have gone either way, with Harpreet spending a lot of money: £1283, to Stephanie’s £895 and a very important 30 pence. But it’s unignorable that Brittany and Aaron were stellar in their roles as tour guides and they handled the awkward situations very well. I think if this episode accomplished anything it’s showing who works well together – Aaron and Brittany are a great team, Kathryn works best with Akshay, Harpreet should not be let within 50 feet of Akeem but would probably work well with Stephanie and Nick and Akeem can just… vibe together.
Harpreet’s team did manage to avoid getting any refunds and so got a healthy profit of £1926 while Stephanie’s team ended up with £1209.70 after having to give back 20% of their client’s money back because apparently they didn’t appreciate being led blindly around a museum or Nick’s dinner theatre antics. I wasn’t surprised, especially considering The Icon of the Episode, The Woman In Red Lipstick clearly hated every second of the experience, even refusing to react while being driven around the track at breakneck speed

to think, she was only the second most glamorous person on the episode because Karren showed up to the boardroom looking distinctly like she was about to make sure her second husband died of mysterious causes

everyone else, step up your game.

As was to be expected, Nick and Akshay blame Stephanie and Kathryn, while Stephanie and Kathryn blame Nick and Akshay – with both teams having valid points. Although, as Akshay pointed out, even if the guests hadn’t asked for a refund because in an alternative reality they didn’t mind waiting 45 minutes to be served THIS

they still wouldn’t have won, so I think it was a fair assessment that ultimately the failure of the task was more the fault of Stephanie – both in that her negotiation was one of the worst we’ve seen and that she utilised her team very badly. Akshay, who is on record a very good negotiator, should have absolutely been dealing with the client and I think he would have been able to put on a more interesting and engaging tour. Then because Kathryn and Akshay work well together, Stephanie should have been on the catering team where she could still scratch her negotiation itch in a less high-stakes situation. I think Stephanie would have also managed Nick a lot better because Nick, at least from what I’ve seen, doesn’t really work well when he’s on a team with only men – I think he’s very awkward and nervous and he falls into that sort of chummy laddish attitude where everything is a joke and he just becomes a bit careless – which is exactly what we saw in this episode.

I personally would have fired Stephanie though, but I did think we might be in for a twofer because Lord Sugar brought all four of them back into the boardroom – it was a little unfair to say Stephanie was trying to scapegoat the two guys, I got the distinct impression that she wanted to say they all deserved to come back in. She did start gunning a little heavily for Akshay, and I think most people in her situation would have given that he’s on his 7th team loss and 5th time in the boardroom and I do think he would have been fired had Steph not brought up the fact he hasn’t been PM since week 1, which gave him the perfect opportunity to play his Wicked Wango Card and declare he would be PM next week so he lives another week, much to the delighted surprised of Brittany when he came back to the house

things didn’t go quite so well for Nick as Lord Sugar felt like he hasn’t ever really shone in any particular task and thus Nick was fired and apparently send to play The Phantom in a community theatre production of Phantom of the Opera

for someone who I thought would be gone by Week 3, he did remarkably well.

And so 7 candidates remain to battle it out on QVC next week…

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