The Apprentice 2023, Episode 9: Literal Snake Oil Salesmen

Welcome to Netflix’s gritty reboot of Flubber.

Please don’t touch anything, it might stain.

Finding his beauty sleep interrupted by a 5am phonecall this week was Brad

who was told that he and the rest of the candidates were to meet Lord Sugar at John Lewis where they found out that they would be creating and launching a male skin care product for this week’s task – the winner being decided by whoever got the most orders and caused the least permanent damage to one another’s skin.

Starry Eyed

We’ll ease our way into the chaos by starting with Dani’s Team of Little Consequence who decided on creating a moisturiser for the over 50s, which apparently everyone seems to think means you’re on end of life care

and while Dani and team talked about a skin care regime for the exhumed corpse of King Richard III, Tim Campbell, aged 45, sat in the corner having an existential crisis

it’s ok Tim, I’m sure Lord Sugar will let you in on the Ancient Egyptian curse that I am at this point 95% sure is keeping him alive.

In terms of splitting the teams, Simba and Megan were continuing their career cosplaying, shedding their prison guard uniforms in favour of vague scientific trappings as they were mixing up the formula for their moisturiser

everything about this feels slightly illegal and like they really fudged the healthy and safety assessment – this team less so than… We’ll get to it. Megan and Simba, very much feeling like being in charge of making up the formula was a corporate trapdoor, went as vague and middle of the road as possible with a white moisturiser featuring caffeine and black pepper

I think it was the best route to go for – sensible, practical, non-staining – and the formula went down well with the London Fire Brigade where they met three men and a woman because the show definitely didn’t decide to book this location under the belief that all firefighters were men, no that would be terribly sexist…

they would NEVER do that.

Over on the branding team, Dani decided the brand name should be Star Skin Co., or it might be Start Skin Co.

I have watched the episode twice, the two names are used interchangeably and it did not help that her tagline (which is usually meant to be between three and five words) was an entire Shakespearean soliloquy

which by the time you’ve finished saying, you’ve forgotten the first part like some sort of oral neuralyzer. Or the slow creeping sense of short term memory that consumes your later years.

There was a big emphasis on practicality with this brand, and as such Dani went with some very plain, no nonsense packaging that did look a bit like a republican voter in Florida might stick in on their front lawn

and then there was a bit of a glitch in the Matrix and Dani, with stars in her eyes, decided that the actual vessel for the moisturiser needed to look like a novelty panettone tin that you’re always a little annoyed that your great uncle got you

and every time they drove home how decorative and ornamental it was they got massive side eyes for the potential buyers

If you’re wondering how Dani was trying to make the decorative jar fit into the practical theme, she had one suggestion

WHAT ABOUT REPEAT BUYING, DANI? What does your dad do with the second one he buys? USE IT AS A FUNERAL URN?
The shape of the bottle was a big sticking point for the Star(t) brand, and in some of the only constructive criticism he’s given in the last 5 years, Lord Sugar pointed out that all of those sharp edges are a manufacturing nightmare

but as a whole, it’s still a pretty inoffensive brand that given a few tweaks here and there could probably make its way onto the shelves of somewhere.

Snakes and Pains

Upon hearing that they were going to the health and beauty section of John Lewis, Rochelle woke up like a child on Christmas morning

and eagerly confessed that this was going to be HER chance to shine as Project Manager

the person she made this confession to? None other than the viper in whatever-vipers-eat clothing, Bradley

who promptly decided to be the Gia Gunn of The Apprentice and declared himself Project Manager the moment they sat down to discuss it

and Rochelle’s face CRACKED like the brittle bones of whichever corpse was in desperate need of some black pepper scented moisturiser

and she was fighting a losing battle because Brad already had a plan – he wanted to make an exfoliating gel with the brand being themed around snakes – meaning that yes, they were going to be literal snake oil salesmen this episode

and unfortunately for Rochelle, she was in a nest of vipers with both Avi and Marnie jumping on The S.S. Brad

the target demographic being men in their 30s who are just beginning to worry about turning into dust as the clock strikes midnight on their 50th birthday and because it was a snake, he wanted the whole thing to be bright green and yellow – it’s fine, this will be fine, there’s no way that can go badly at all.
He’d also decided that the product was going to be called “Venom” which Avi was concerned he’d get mixed up with the bottle of poison he keeps in his bathroom cabinet

so upon taking that into account, they decided on Anti-venom. And I don’t think that any of this was a bad idea – I think this could have really worked had they gone down the Louboutin perfume aesthetic route

unfortunately this is The Apprentice and were long overdue an unfortunate pairing of turd brown and lime green

reviews of the packaging ranging from “child’s novelty bubble bath” and “dog’s chew toy” with everyone being far too kind or naive to point out that it looks like a serpentine fleshjack [Don’t Google that mum.] and Avi had the audacity to look at it like someone had just dumped a handful of green slime into his hands

The packaging didn’t get much better, with Brad and Marnie whipping up a logo that looks EXACTLY like something I designed in year 8 for a rollercoaster poster using only the shape tools in PowerPoint (IT classes in 2006 were a total wilderness)

while Marnie worried about the perfect shade of green for their cartoon snake that looks like it’s advertising Slushies at the Rainforest Café, Avi and Rochelle were contemplating the heady question of “How green is too green?” like they were a 6 year old on Junior Bake Off being let loose with green food colouring

it is absolutely WILD to me that at no point in dumping tablespoons of yellow and blue dye into their gel mixture that neither of them for a moment contemplated what effect that might have on someone’s skin and the supervisory scientist wasn’t going to help them, and just stood there, letting them hang themselves

and with time running out before they could develop a skin-safe formula, they had to phone Brad to break the news that they hadn’t created his snakey exfoliant and had instead developed a Poddington Pea Scarification Wax, with both Marnie and Brad rapidly ageing before our very eyes upon receiving the news that they were well and truly screwed

and the show was absolutely not going to give them any time to revise the formula, which I am pretty sure violated at least three of the Geneva Conventions

this is chemical warfare and they just gamely unleashed it on the cast of Magic Mike Live

Magic Mike Myers as Shrek: The bravest crossover event of the century, coming to a theatre near you

Obviously the fact they had to warn anyone coming within 5 feet of the substance of its staining properties was a bad look,

their solution to this being to sell it as a double concentrate that you had to dilute with water, which did just then make it look like absinthe

and Rochelle, having realised that all of the green fingerprints being left across London lead back to her, was eager to try any hail Mary she possibly could

needless to say, the entire product launch event was a total disaster, with Marnie and Brad watching over it like a brother and sister who just laced their entire family’s drinks with arsenic in a scheme to claim their inheritance

and with nobody willing to order a product that came with more warnings than your average box of anti-depressants, not even the ten (10) whole units that Avi was offering with a lifetime no questions returns policy

Brad resorted to the tried and tested Brad technique of just pitching a different product

not that this worked because by this point everyone had been stained and were ready to run all four of them out of town with fire and pitchforks

the slow ripple around the room as everyone realised they couldn’t clean the colour off their hands was one of the best TV moments of the year – cinematic perfection, BAFTAs all round.

Boardroom Blitz

Unsurprisingly this challenge was a complete wipeout for Bradley’s team, with Karren relishing the opportunity to stick a stiletto heel through the dead snake’s skull

the only mystery in the whole thing is Dani’s team’s deal for 10,000 units

I can only imagine he has A LOT of paperclips.
For their reward, they got to have a special effects makeup masterclass with Kryolan where I imagine they were just shown how to apply Bradley’s Definitely Not Toxic Anti-venom – there is ZERO footage of this reward taking place, because it was a PACKED meeting as before Bradley could even mutter a defense he was fired

and it wasn’t over, with Sugar promising another firing, giving Avi, Rochelle and Marnie just a few minutes to formulate their defense – Marnie deciding she was going to be playing 4D Chess

meanwhile, Avi is playing Checkers

they did have to fire someone from the manufacturing side because GOOD LORD, what a cataclysmic failure and despite Avi’s willingness to apply mysterious green liquids to himself without so much as a second thought and ritually embarrass himself and everyone around him, he was the second firing of the episode

I mean, it probably should have happened 7 episodes ago, but we got there eventually!

and so, only 6 candidates remain

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