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This week’s episode saw the return of the ever-eventful ‘buy 9 items for as cheap as possible’ task. In a surprise twist, there was a notable absence of the early morning wake-up call, with Lord Sugar directing the call to be made in the afternoon. The instructions that came through were “pack a bag and head to the Wartime Tunnels underneath Dover Castle.”

The ‘mission’ was simple – find 9 items (including manure, snails, an anchor, mirror and an inflatable boat) with precise specifications, negotiate the best price and the team that spends the least amount of money will win! Likened to a Tribunal case, there were strict time limits (10 hours) and harsh fines for non-compliance – you didn’t want to miss getting any items off the shopping list as this would incur £50 being tagged onto your total together with the average retail price of said missing item. All this task needed was strategy and organisation, neither of which either team had.

The teams stayed as Boys v Girls, however, sub-teams within each were created, with half the team tasked with searching the Kent Coastline while the other half set sail for Calais!

The boys, or ‘Versatile’, were led by Joseph Valente who found they had 2 team members who promised fine French language skills (albeit if either was fluent in French I can now add ‘fluent in Arabic’ to my CV!’) and were being overseen by Lord Sugar’s new aide, Claude Littner. Who knew Claude was actually also a fluent French speaker….cue an episode of exasperated looks as the other 2 attempted to negotiate in French with him looking over their shoulders.  Joseph’s clear managerial direction before each team headed off was nothing other than ‘be as cheeky as you can and negotiate well’; they were already admitting defeat by saying the girls were ‘very pretty ladies who may sway the old French men’.

The French sub-team took to their first shop where we saw (fluent in French) Richard take the reins in buying the cheese. My favourite moment of the series so far followed with him feeling extremely chuffed with his little self – “I’ve got him down to €14.80” – only for one of the other lads to then point out that it said €14.80 on the original sale sign. Not discouraged by this faux pas, Richard then managed to negotiate the price down by an astounding 30 cents – winner! The UK sub-team did slightly better with Brett Butler-Smythe managing to (literally) bag 30kg of (still warm) manure and Gary Pulton taking a punt on a kid’s £10 toy boat to satisfy the ‘inflatable boat’ item, which was a massive gamble especially since the echoes of Felippe’s paper skeleton drama from last year were still ringing in many Apprentice fans’ (and surely Lord Sugars) ears.  This daring purchase even got a smile out of Claude.

The Girls, or Connexus were led by Vana Koutsomitis, who turned into the most egotistical team leader The Apprentice has ever seen (and that is saying something). Despite not knowing what ‘Leavers Lace’ was (The Lace of Calais), Vana split the items in 2 – UK and France, with The Lace of Calais item given to the UK Sub-team! She then appointed Elle as the other sub-team leader, although she confessed at the start of the episode to not knowing where Dover was!

They started the task well, as Joseph had predicted by schmoozing and flirting their way to what Karen Brady described as a ‘steal in anyone’s book’ in their purchase of the champagne flutes.  However, from there it all went considerably downhill.  If this team had been one of my corporate clients I would have been advising a few sharp exits for insubordination and that they either change the management or quickly provide some intense managerial training.

Vana’s sub-team bought the wrong cheese and then failed to buy 2 of the listed items, Elle’s returned to the same shop 4 times, only to be instructed by Vana to go against her gut instinct and buy an inflatable boat for £245 more than the boys got one for, and Jenny ringing a Japanese College for the French Lace! They must have sensed failure early doors as it soon turned into one of the most cattiest episodes ever, with Selina being called “a morale vacuum” and also being likened to being as ‘irritating as a wasp at a picnic!’ Karen Brady did not hold back either stating of the girls’ efforts that, “it was tale of woe. It was chaos. It was unorganised. It was unfriendly at times. It was a shambles” – think it is safe to say she wasn’t impressed.

Having just managed to get the boat back to Dover, the teams were reunited in the Boardroom where the boys were declared (unsurprisingly) victorious, spending only £409.21 (with 1 fine for not getting the snails) and the girls’ total coming in at an astounding £725.90, due to the missing mussels, mirror and the wrong cheese!

Vana brought Jenny, who she accused of being a dead weight and energy-sapping and Elle, as she had responsibility for the UK team, back to the Boardroom with her. Vana, who I was sure would be the one to go then surprisingly took the blame for the failure of the task, maybe a tactical move on her part given that Jenny then became the third victim of Lord Sugar’s ‘You’re Fired’ strapline, for ‘contributing nothing’, which to be fair I felt was a lot more positive and encouraging than some of her team-mates did.

This task was all about effective planning, strategy and working as a team.  The Team Captains should have provided the correct direction, guidance and support in order to be successful, thinking carefully about the roles and locations of each team member.  As an employment lawyer, I have witnessed many occasions where employees haven’t been given the appropriate training or guidance because the right person was not appointed to head up a certain task. This leads to notifiable weaknesses with people not knowing what needs to be done and people not working together as a team as they are all trying to pull in opposite directions, leading to the self-destruction of a key sale or business.  If these candidates were employees in real businesses, especially those in Connexus, there would be trouble on the horizon from an employment perspective, from top to bottom of the chain of command.