If there is a neater motif for The Apprentice than the sight of Lord Sugar asking his latest cast of hopefuls to create something vintage from a pile of discarded tat, then we are yet to see it. You suspected that somewhere, although not Salford in all probability, a television executive was laughing themselves towards a hernia.

Yes, this week was about ‘upcycling’ (is there a more annoying neologism in the language? It makes ‘mixology’ sound like a perfectly laudable pursuit) or as Ricky, a man of little discernible finesse, put it: buying, restoring and/or modifying ‘as much crap’ as they could sell in pop-up shops on Brick Lane.

For the first time this series, the team took opposing strategies to the challenge. Leading Phoenix, half toff half geezer Tom took the frugal approach, buying relatively selectively and with some thought as to their target market. Laura’s Sterling, by contrast, bought everything they saw and stockpiled materials as though they were living through the National Interior Design Shortage of 2011. There is little point withholding the result for the grand reveal. Phoenix won. Convincingly.

Sterling’s problem was threefold. Firstly, leadership was conspicuous by its absence. Having previously been next-to-anonymous, bridal shop owner Laura decided that this was the moment to display her irrepressible self-regard: we learned how difficult it was to be ‘an attractive woman in business’, heard that she had been ‘successful at everything’ and witnessed one of the most underwhelming boardroom boasts ever (‘I was quite impressed with myself, to be honest’). How she reconciled this with a total lack of control and the profligacy of Mickey Carroll is anyone’s guess. She does have a singular gift for shouting, in fairness.

Then there was the design element. Whether seizing on pre-Olympic fever or some ill-judged sense of patriotism, painting everything they bought with a Union Jack was folly of the highest order, particularly in multi-cultural, painfully cool East London. By the time they had opened their shop, it looked as though the project was being sponsored by Nick Griffin.

Then, tellingly, there was Jane. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man may be king. In the kingdom of hipsters who don’t even need lenses in their designer glasses frames, someone who veers between mumsy and bossy is not fit to entertain the court. Fittingly for a woman who had spent the entire process clutching a calculator, the losses added up to a cab to the station.

This column has had very few good words for Jenna thus far. Until this week, we assumed that that her most notable feature was her range of novelty tights. We were wrong and we apologise. Jenna was excellent and, without her input, Sterling would barely have got started. Which means that she is almost certain to get the elbow in Episode 5.

Week 4 Summary

Economic Voice Favourite: Jenna. Who else?

What We Learned: Where buying crap is concerned, less is more.

Next Casualty: Ricky’s time is coming. For the sake of this column, let’s hope he survives a few more weeks, though.

Image by Damien Everett [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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