The OPPrentice - Episode 4

Posted 27 May 2011 by

Lord Sugar, in so many words, indicated that were he not producing rubbish electronics, he would have chosen the beauty industry. Whether the public would have one for a company owned not by a Coco Chanel lookalike, but someone with skin like the Churchill bulldog is neither here nor there. What matters are facts like the margin on a spray tan is 92.5%.

For many people, therefore, the utility of paying such a high price for the service is not necessarily for the end result, but for the experience of being made to look like a carrot.

This was, in our opinion, a rather lacklustre episode. We were treated to the delicious sight of Karen's eyes widening as a bronzed (or rather carroted) Adonis sported himself in front of her, and Nick's unprecedented intervention as the task crashed around the ears of the deserving losers, but even Magic Jim's sheen had tarnished to a point that not even an emergency glitter foundation could keep his shine.

Even though Lord Sugar doesn't reward people for taking a back seat, there does seem to be a preponderance of those who have led a team getting the chop – 3 out of 4 firings so far this series. With these stark statistics, it a good strategy to nominate oneself, we wonder, or is it better to keep out of prominence, thus improving one's chances of avoiding the Sugar Finger-of-Doom?

Felicity suffered this fate but wasn't, for once, a muppet. She certainly deserved to lose, but more for lack of suitability to the task than the raving idiocy that the previous departed leaders. Attempting to lead team Logic, she attempted to put her head above the parapet while simultaneously hiding in the basement. She avoided making individual decisions, something demonstrated in the boardroom, where she explained everything in terms of "the team decided...", "the team thought..." There is definitely a balance to be struck between collaborating to get a team on-side, and abrogating the responsibility of a leader by deferring everything. Lord Sugar clearly thought she was on the side of the abrogator. Also she made a humungous loss.

Tom, who, surprisingly for an Apprentice contestant, actually does some sums, clearly has little influence or presence within the group. Though he highlighted two important things to Felicity: treatments have high margins, and a treatment room three storeys up is unlikely to attract many visitors. She shot him down, to her cost. The pieces of the puzzle were there, but both Tom and Felicity threw them out of the window: it's one thing to work out a strategy, it's another one when you're so focused on the minutiae of tasks that you forget to realign yourself with your team's goals. Tom was confronted with the reality of the no-treatment-customer situation, came down to remedy it, but immediately started to footle around with hairpieces (of which the Winge has to be the most freakishly odd accessory we've ever seen – please in the name of all that's holy say that nobody actually wears these things).

Over on the other team, we think that Zoe was delighted Susan put herself forward as an expert. Surely someone who "sells skin creams for a living" would have a better sales technique than weakly crooning "would you like to try some skin cream?" - and certainly would have shifted more than four units. However, the orchestrated way in which she and Helen confronted Zoe after her admittedly piss-poor performance seemed just a little bit scapegoaty. Indeed Zoe operates within a blame culture a lot of the time. If Venture has crashed as dreadfully as Logic, would her attempt at a massage-oil slippery exterior have kept her out of the grips of Lord Sugar's ire?

There's a famous experiment where a member of the 'public' simulates distress, and psychologists measure whether or not bystanders will intervene to help. They found that the chance of intervention goes down as the number of bystanders increases. This is known as 'diffusion of responsibility' or 'the bystander effect'. Ellie demonstrated this amply: she was very happy to mention the lack of customers in the treatment room to the Project Manager - but then sat back on her bum and did nothing about it for the next few hours. Rather than focus on the success of the task, she felt she had 'done her bit' and would take no further blame. There’s an outward chance that this could have been a risky strategy - help her team lose and hope she wasn't dragged into the boardroom - but it is more likely to have been a ‘someone else’s problem’ situation.

Natasha seems to suffer from the same problem: a non-participant gifted with an exceptional power of hindsight. Keep your eye on these contestants - can they take responsibility when it is given to them directly?

We've little to say about Helen. Apart from appearing as Zoe's henchperson, she's been a back-seat passenger so far, or at least she's edited that way. Let's hope there's more to her in future episodes. Similarly - anyone seen Evil Edna recently? Apart from the rare sight of her smiling for the first time since ‘Glovegate’, she appears to have been completely edited out of the last two episodes.

There was a distinct lack of individual acts of idiocy this week, and thus no muppet award. Let’s hope next week is more entertaining than this collective sinking into the mire of headless chickenry.