It was all going so well for Tenacity. They pulled together as a team, achieving the rare feat of securing every item in the discount buying task. But then in the boardroom it all fell flat – literally – as their gamble of buying a paper skeleton backfired, with Felipe Alviar-Baquero paying the price for his failed tactical masterstroke.
The tortoise and the hare
Buy nine products, lowest price
Roisin pulls a diamond heist
Felipe’s skeleton, paper-thin
Costs his team a certain win
The candidates are awoken by an early morning house call from Lord Sugar at the Apprenti-Mansion. With the dishevelled candidates assembling in their pyjamas, Mark Wright at least hasn’t forgotten how to be a good host, suggesting that someone should offer him a cup of tea.
Sugar informs them that this week’s task is discount buying – find nine items, all of which have featured in previous seasons (many of them infamously), for the lowest possible price, and get them to the boardroom by 6:30pm. The list is:
- A diamond
- An anatomically correct human skeleton, at least 150cm in height
- Three packs of Nigella seeds
- One usable secondhand Belfast sink
- Oud oil (this featured in the Dubai task last season, although the item required then wasn’t oud oil but an oud, a stringed musical instrument)
- 1kg of fresh king scallops
- 300g of pu-erh tea
- 1 metre of old rope
- One whole kosher chicken
Yep, kosher chicken – the infamous item from season four that elevated “good Jewish boy” Michael Sophocles to the heights of infamy. Remember this?
For Tenacity, both Mark and Daniel Lassman put themselves forward as project manager, as both have good knowledge of London. Katie Bulmer-Cooke also volunteers on the grounds of her organisational skills. Mark reluctantly agrees to let Daniel lead, with the new PM apparently turning over a new leaf as he seeks to repair his damaged relationship with Felipe and set a positive example for his team.
Sanjay Sood-Smith steps up for Summit on the basis of his knowledge of London – and wanting to repair the damage to his reputation from last week’s boardroom. Fellow Londoner Bianca Miller does not volunteer, just in case they have to go near Westminster again.
There’s an immediate contrast in styles. Daniel quickly splits the items between the two halves of his team and hits the road by 10:30am. Meanwhile, Sanjay’s team are still at the house planning and making calls an hour later.
By the time Summit set off, the Jewish Daniel has already picked up his kosher chicken in Golders Green, while Mark and Katie have secured their sink at a scrapyard for £75 and attempted to persuade the dealer not to give the other team a good deal. (Sneaky, but hardly season four Jenny Celerier-level bribery.) However Bianca is still able to purchase one – dinged up but usable, barely – for £60.
It quickly becomes apparent that the supposedly organised Sanjay is anything but, and has no coherent plan whatsoever. He stops to try – unsuccessfully – to buy a skeleton that Roisin spots in a random shop. Eventually he leaves it to the combination of the verbose Solomon Akhtar and the more direct Bianca to get one for £230 (down from £260). Meanwhile Felipe tracks down a flat-pack paper skeleton for £14. Daniel applauds his out-of-the-box thinking and backs him all the way, while Mark and Katie cautiously approve on the proviso that it meets Sugar’s criteria.
The rest of the day sees both teams dashing furiously across London as they try to secure all nine items. A few notes:
- Sanjay has to spell out ‘kosher’ over the phone to an unseen vendor. If you have to do that, you’re probably not going to be able to buy it from them. There must be something about him though, because when he asks one fish dealer where to buy fresh scallops, he’s told to try Sainsbury’s.
- Both Solomon and Bianca and Mark and Katie are able to procure the Nigella seeds at a garden centre and get the rope thrown in for free. However, Solomon gets it cut to a metre length on the spot, whereas Mark and Katie do not.
- Honestly, Solomon, is ‘anatomical’ really that difficult to pronounce? He keeps pronouncing it ‘antamological’.
- Daniel and Felipe crossing the road holding hands – how sweet.
- At the jewellery dealer, Daniel asks, “Do you mind if I take a seat?” but not until after he has already sat down.
- Nearby, Roisin drives a hard bargain for her diamond from a starting price of £140-£145, ending up at £50 – below even her original asking price of £65-£70. It’s amazing what’s possible with a pretty woman and a camera crew. As Karren Brady notes:
Roisin, I mean the guy was just putty in her hands. There’s charm and there’s *charm*.
- Sanjay’s decision to travel right across London to buy the oud oil in Stratford means that he and Roisin purchase only three items all day (oud, diamond, scallops). Meanwhile, Katie secures the oil for less than half the price from an online dealer on a dodgy-looking council estate. It’s hard not to wonder whether he also trades anything slightly more illicit.
- It’s implied rather than stated explicitly, but it appears that both Summit sub-teams miss the 6:30pm deadline. Sanjay and Roisin are definitely late by a considerable margin.
However, the single most shocking event on the task is Mark’s phone conversation with Daniel as they are heading back to the boardroom:
Daniel, you’ve been a fantastic project manager, mate.
Hang on, is this the same show we’ve been watching for the past eight weeks? In fairness, Tenacity visibly set their differences aside and worked well as a team, with Daniel taking a mature and sensible approach to leadership throughout. With one crucial exception.
Task over, the boardroom takes on some of the aspects of a grand Shakespearian tragedy as Daniel’s team praise him for becoming a man (Felipe) and turning over a new leaf (Katie). Sanjay looks worried when he realises Tenacity obtained the full list and also how much less Katie paid for the oud oil. But concern soon turns to sniggering amusement as Sugar questions why Mark and Katie couldn’t have found someone with a pair of scissors to cut their rope. And then there’s the skeleton, which Sugar is most definitely not amused by. Felipe claims it meets the written specification while Daniel says they were trying to think outside the box. Sugar dismisses them, scowling:
It’s a skeleton that’s been run over by a steamroller.
Summit’s debrief starts with Sanjay stating that he has good organisational and logistical skills – which he patently failed to show on the task itself. Solomon and Bianca both accuse him of being disorganised, testimony further underlined by their fines for missing out on the chicken and their lateness.
The team’s slowness to focus on Hatton Garden for their diamond is offset by the revelation of Roisin’s incredible deal. An impressed Sugar notes:
Normally jewel thieves wear masks.
And a black-and-white stripey top, and they carry a sack with ‘SWAG’ written across it in huge letters. Obviously.
On to the results. Including fines, Summit’s spend tots up to £644.97. Tenacity’s is £399.59 including a £52 fine for the rope. But then Sugar penalises them for their skeleton stunt, adding on the guide price of the skeleton (£310) to reverse the result and give Summit victory by a little under £65.
Summit’s treat is to drive single-seat racers at Silverstone, where Sanjay proves to be the fastest of the four.
In the Cafe of Broken Dreams, a devastated Mark and an angry Katie are – correctly – quick to identify Felipe and Daniel’s skeleton purchase as the reason for their defeat. Back in the boardroom, Felipe puts his hands up but tries to defend himself by saying he was working within the rules. Sugar is unimpressed:
This is not a legal loophole, it’s a noose.
Good job some rope was on their shopping list, eh? Daniel does his best to back away from the scene of the crime, but Mark also highlights the diamond as a key failing – a £122 swing that was nearly double Summit’s final margin of victory.
It’s obvious Daniel has to bring back Felipe but, stuck between a rock and a hard place, he chooses a furious Katie over Mark to stay in the boardroom. Was this an objective decision or an attempt to show that, by freeing his nemesis, he could be even-handed? Probably a little of both: while Katie and Mark were equally at fault over the rope, it’s hard to argue against Mark’s eye-catching sales history, and bringing him back in would have laid Daniel open to accusations of personal vendettas.
Anyhow, it’s all academic as Katie, despite comments that she may not have much going for her other than common sense, is never going to be fired. Instead Felipe gets the boot for trying to be too clever.
Fair enough. You could make a decent argument that Daniel, on his fourth time in the final boardroom, had run out of lives and should be held accountable for allowing Felipe to jeopardise the outcome of the task but in truth Felipe, while a lovely guy, had shown little other than being likeable and possessing decent organisational and people skills. Those are all good – but an investor looks for more commercial acumen than that in an entrepreneurial business partner.
Nice to the end, Felipe climbs into the Taxi to Obscurity and refuses to bad-mouth anyone while continuing to refer to himself in the third person:
This is not the end of Felipe. I have so many plans for the future. But at the end of the day I showed what Felipe is capable of. I believe that I am a winner.
There are some candidates we can’t wait to see the back of. It was Felipe’s time to go, but he’ll go down as one of the few candidates I’d happily accept as a colleague and go out for a drink with.
Let’s start with the detail of how the task was won and lost.
With both teams obtaining the rope for free, Tenacity achieved lower prices on the majority of the other products. Despite Roisin’s diamond deal, thanks to Summit’s fines had they bought a standard skeleton for the same price as their rivals, they would have won by £30. Even a £1 discount off the standard £260 selling price that Solomon and Bianca were quoted would have been enough. As it was, they effectively paid £324 (£14 for their paper skeleton plus the £310 guide price), costing them victory.
Roisin’s diamond heist emphasised the fact that the discount buying task, while always tremendous fun to watch, can be easily skewed by random elements. Would she have achieved the same level of success had she been dealing with Daniel’s dealer, or did she just get lucky? How was it that the fishmonger who Sanjay and Roisin found was selling scallops at £26.50/kg whereas Felipe and Daniel’s was £38.90/kg – and, despite that, how on earth did Felipe manage to negotiate a price £5.50 cheaper than Sanjay which, aside from Roisin, was arguably the most successful negotiation of the day?
However, although random luck does play a role, there are some key skills and tactics which can maximise a team’s chances of success. Although Daniel dismissed the relevance of Katie’s organisational skills to managing the task, poor organisation can have disastrous consequences as Sanjay so nearly proved.
There’s value in doing some planning up front so that at least the first couple of purchases can be made quickly, but excessive planning soon becomes counter-productive. On this task, the teams spend a lot of time in the cars. This is dead time that can be used to plan the next one or two moves, reducing the need to work everything out in advance. We’ve seen on many occasions in the past that a team that spends too long planning ends up buying fewer items and/or being late to the boardroom, as was the case with Summit here. As it was, Sanjay seemed completely haphazard anyway.
Balance is also vital. Work out which the big-ticket items are likely to be, divide those between the two sub-teams and prioritise getting those as early in the day as possible. (Both teams appeared to do this reasonably well.) Avoid long trips to pursue a single product, particularly later in the day when rush-hour traffic becomes a factor. (So, Sanjay going to Stratford – not clever.)
Where time and location permit, visit multiple vendors and play them off against each other. With the diamond, it should have been possible to visit two or three dealers in Hatton Garden and haggle between them to achieve the best price. It’s possible one or both teams did that, but it didn’t look like it and it particularly cost Tenacity, where Daniel spent more than three times as much as Roisin.
Ultimately, Sanjay lucked in. He did pretty much everything wrong as a project manager, whereas Daniel ran a tighter ship but was let down – not for the first time in this process – by his tendency to over-reach when a more conservative approach would have stood him in better stead. Nonetheless, he survived yet again. This was unquestionably a better week for him, but he’s still living on borrowed time.
Next time: The candidates must come up with a range of puddings. Who will get their just desserts?