The Apprentice review: How does Bognor's Phil Turner cope with Alan Sugar's latest challenge?

It’s episode 10 and the remaining candidates are asked to do something a little unusual; hop on a TV shopping channel and sell specially-selected items to a channel-hopping public. Is Bognor’s Phil Turner a natural talent, or will he be nothing but dead air?
Bognor's Phil Turner.Bognor's Phil Turner.
Bognor's Phil Turner.

I’ll be honest: this week’s episode of The Apprentice didn’t feel especially fair.

To cut to the chase for those of you desperate to know what happened: Phil made it through, despite picking up his ninth consecutive loss, taking that last, long walk out of the board room in his stead were project leader Raj and colleague Maura.

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Looking at this week’s challenge on its own terms, it’s fairly easy to see why. Raj was not the project manager she needed to be this week: she failed to give her team any real guidance when it came to sourcing products, telling Phil and Paul to find something “unique” but simultaneously “everyday”, and she asked all the wrong questions when it came to researching the products she’d have to sell on live TV.

Alongside Maura, she was such a chaotic presenter she actually prompted some viewers (of the teleshopping channel, not The Apprentice itself), to phone in with real complaints, and all she really seemed to have to say about the product itself was: “wow. Oh wow.” It was a bit like watching an Owen Wilson super cut on YouTube.

But, in the grand scheme of things it’s hard to really think her sacking was right. Unlike Phil who has lurched from failure to failure, Raj has won every week before this one – and had a very big role to play in each of those wins. I like Phil, I really do, but watching Raj leave the process with such a spotless record while Phil holds out makes it hard to believe in the integrity of the competition.

Besides, it’s not like Phil had all that much going for him this week. “That was *intense*” he quips to colleagues, moments after an intense session in the studio, and I caught myself wondering what he’d actually done.

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Teammates Paul, Maura and Raj presented the show itself, while Phil and Flo were supposed to be in the chamber, directing the action and calling out price drops. Except Flo did all of that. She directed the price drops – premature though they might have occasionally been – and gave most of the advice to the guys and gals onscreen. Every time she asked Phil for help he passed the buck in what looked to me like a witless – but apparently successful – attempt to cover his own back.

For all his talk of resilience in the boardroom, it was hard not to watch Phil this week without seeing a man who had given up all hope of actually winning. Here were his teammates, putting their all into new and increasingly difficult challenges, and here was Paul, squinting his eyes, scratching his head and doing his best to get through the whole thing as quietly as possible.

Not that it’s any different from what I’d do in that situation, but after nine weeks on the wrong side of Sugar’s table you’d think he’d have some fire in the belly.

I’ve often praised Phil, in these weekly recaps, for what struck me as a straight-forward character and a kind of honesty. I still think that’s true. He seems remarkably like a normal person with a remarkably reasonable head on his shoulders, and that takes some doing in a reality show format as wrung dry for drama as this one. But it felt to stand by my own words this week watching him weasel out of responsibility for his own failure to contribute; making Flo the sole fall-guy for a series of mistakes which were as much his responsibility as hers, and not for the first time this season.

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It’s a hard week to be a Phil fan, then and, this week, Lord Sugar seems to agree. Next week is last chance saloon for the Bognor baker, who has been told that if he loses again – this time as project manager – he’ll be gone for good.

It’s make or break, Phil. Here’s hoping he can do it.

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