Apparently I was wrong last week when I said that this week's task was the one where they have to sell miscellaneous tat to unsuspecting members of the public (I was thinking of the one which, last year, brought us Nooral and a skeleton); rather, this is the one where they have to buy miscellaneous tat from unsuspecting members of the public.
They really don't give an ass any more, as evidenced by taking a year and a day to answer the phone (Stella eventually gets down the stairs, wrapped in towelling; Jamie sits up in bad and looks all handsome, and the rest of them swear loudly). In the half an hour which they allegedly have to get ready, they manage to tong hair, moan about being tired, and do the ironing. Off to London's Financial District, where they form an orderly line to await Lord Shugah arising slowly through the floor, like some sort of inverted Angel Gabriel.
The task, as we've said, is to buy all the items on a supplied list as cheaply as possible. They have 10 hours; if they don't get back in time, they get penalised, and if they miss any items they get penalised. The ones who spend the least, win. We're back to girls and boys this week, which mercifully means that either Baggs or Laura has to go; no more jammy being on the winning team - this week, Lord Shugah is on the ball.
Jamie and Liz are in charge. The boys basically explode in a fury of racing around the streets trying to buy anything they can lay their hands on, while the girls stay back at base with their list and their phones and their Yellow Pages, and Plan. Not well, of course ('What's our strategy?' 'I think we need to figure out where we can buy these things'), but enough that they know what they're looking for.
Jamie is desperate to prove he's not a twit, so he tells the boys they're to aim for 70% off, make up whatever stories they want, and 'negotiate their bloody bottoms off'. He then sends Chris and Stuart off for half the things, and goes on the hunt for the other half himself. There's a fabulous moment when he walks into a shop looking for a 'tikka, 22-carat gold', not knowing what it is, and the salesman says 'Yes, that's not a problem... what's a tikka?'. Now THAT, my friends, is a sales technique.
Stuart and Chris are trying to buy a Blue Book, which they suss out really quickly is a rare American magazine, and they start sniffing round bookshops, where the owners do a lot of teeth-sucking and slow shaking of heads because they've never heard of it. Meanwhile, the girls figure out that a Blue Book is actually a taxi driver's manual, and nab one from a taxi driver school for 50 quid by telling the guy in the shop that his mate said he'd look after them. Jamie's having no luck with figuring out what a tikka is, whereas Laura and Stella have Googled it or something and picked one up for £160, having gone into the shop saying 'You have the item and we have the money', which even I know is a crap negotiation technique. Eventually, however, Jamie strikes gold, and wanders into a jeweller's looking sad because he wants a tikka so much and they are trying to charge him so much money, and isn't it so so sad, and lo! he gets it for £135. The jeweller's now homeless and starving, like, but never mind.
Stuart and Chris have evidently taken Jamie's command to 'have a story ready' too seriously, and now that they have worked out what a Blue Book actually is, they go to a bookshop and try to haggle. Chris comes up with some crap about his brother doing a taxi driver exam on Monday but being unable to study for it because Chris borrowed his Blue Book and left it in Nottingham or something... Please consider this for a moment. Consider that this is a regular shop, and 2 guys in suits have walked in, and one is claiming that he borrowed his brother's taxi driver exam books (? What? Why?!) and then managed to leave them in Nottingham (??!?); these 2 guys are accompanied by Karren with 2 arrs, who you'd imagine they would at least recognise as being off the telly, and a camera crew. Presumably he imagines it's some kind of candid camera show or something, because he gives them the first discount ever in the history of Blue Book sales, as long as they give a pound to charity.
The basic gist of happenings is thus:
> the girls are fairly rubbish at negotiating. They hair around Knightsbridge trying to buy truffles from Gordon Ramsey (well, Stella tries, while Laura sits next to her and shreds the Yellow Pages with her laser eye glare, because she thinks it's a stupid idea but doesn't like to say so); they eventually manage to buy 50g of truffles (cost: £2000 per kilo) for £200 and an agreement to come back to the restaurant for dinner some time.
> Jamie is very good at negotiating, but feck useless with common sense; he manages to spend half the afternoon being unable to buy 4 metres of kitchen worktop.
> Stuart and Chris are lying gets, and not even good at it. Trying to buy tartan, they wander into a Scottish shop and Chris spins some complex yarn about needing the tartan cheap because he has to go to a Scottish wedding next week and he wants to take the tartan for his nan's birthday present. What?
There's a last-minute dash back to the boardroom, with Liz almost stabbing a pensioner for not being able to write fast enough, Chris begging embarrassingly ('I have no money and I really need truffles'), Stuart racing up the stairs and almost landing on Jamie's knee, and the girls being late and incurring a fine. In their wake is a collection of robbed, deperate shopkeepers, vaguely hoping that they'll be on tv.
Then it gets interesting: the boys only got 7 out of the 10 items but made it back on time, whereas the girls got all of them but were back late. This means that the girls get a £50 fine, and the boys are charged as if they had bought the 3 missed items at list price plus something I miss. The girls explain their planning technique and their route around the various items, and it's all very P5 project. The boys explain that they ran around with fire in their bellies telling lies.
The girls have spent (including their fine) £1094.40, where the boys have spent (including £500 of fines) £1020.50. Heck, says everyone. Jamie witters on about the kitchen worktop again, and then the boys get sent to Paris, to gad about in berets on the Champs Elysees.
Back to the boardroom for the girls, and bizarrely, they all seem to have turned on Stella who, ok, was wick at negotiating, but no more so than anyone else. Lord Shugah makes some sexist comments about how they'd be better at buying handbags and shoes than computer chips, and then they all turn on Stella again, for being 'too corporate'. Obviously Laura's going, if only Liz has the wit to bring her back in, which she does. Stella comes too, so that they can snark at her some more.
It turns out that Liz and Laura can't stand Stella, which is quite exciting. Also, Laura's 22 and has never had to scream, and reminds everyone that she was a shambles as project manager. Stella and Liz blame each other for the whole truffles fiasco, and then Laura snipes at Stella again.
Obviously Laura goes, although not before Lord Shugah gives Stella a good fright by pretending he's going to fire her. Back at the house, they're all snarking about Stella (mysteriously, the boys are back from their weekend in France). When Liz and Stella come back, Liz complains that Stella was mean about her in the boardroom, and announces that Laura will be missed. They all agree. Gulp.
So there are 3 weeks left. Next week is the final team task, then there are the interviews (please let Stuart get to the interview stage, pleeeeease), and then the final. It is time to begin predicting. Obviously it depends a bit on who's on which team, but I suspect that next week will see the end of Jamie (or maybe Stuart), and that the final could be Liz and Chris. Anyone else?