Straight into week three and we kicked off with a reminder of Shazia’s unfair exit. We sat through the trauma once again as Shazia whimpered the word ‘please’, just before getting booted. And then it’s on to Tate Modern for the briefing. They’re going to run out of London landmarks soon. By series six Sugar will be asking them to rendezvous outside the Holborn Wetherspoons, six a.m. sharp.
The task is to transform a London boozer – Upper Street in Islington and Hampstead are the locations, so hardly spit and sawdust locals – into a credible gastropub. Or at least into a pub that serves food.
By my reckoning, that’s actually a pretty simple thing to do. Usually I balk at the Sugar-suggestion at this stage, wondering how the hell I’d cope, certain I’d make as many elementary mistakes as the preening pricks lining up for the bum-job. This time, however, I actually thought ‘easy’. They had a kitchen ready to go, a chef waiting to be utilised and a restaurant ready to be filled. All they had to do was sit down for a couple of hours, decide what food would suit the area (food they could actually cook), work out how much everything would cost and how much, as a result, they could sell it for. Pretty basic stuff.
Instead and as usual, both teams ran straight out of the door, barking rubbish into blackberries and making shit up as they went along. The insufferable goons.
Led by Ian Stringy Stringer, the boys’ period of research and planning seemed only to involve a lot of guarantees and pledges that they would work hard (Raef winning the ‘first to say 110% percent’ competition this week) and deciding they’d do Italian food. The girls, led by the sweary-mouthed Sara argued about what theme to follow. Someone idioticly bellowed ‘Let’s have a murder-mystery night!’ (in a pub?!) whilst Sara wanted a Bollywood theme whilst Claire wanted English fare. Sara won as she was Team Leader. Sara won because she has the dead-eyed gaze of the living dead and the ability to repeat herself until all around her wilt and perish. Sara, for some reason, is very attractive – against all the odds.
A key failing on Ian The Stringboy Stringer’s part was the appointment of Kevin as Head Chef. It came to light that this was a tactic by which he could transfer all blame to the Somerset George Dawes should things conspire to go wrong – which they did, thank God. If they hadn’t – where’d be the fun in that?
Kevin was asked to lead a chat on what food they were going to make as he’d declared his expertise on Italian cuisine earlier – apparently he eats in ‘a lot of Italian restaurants in Guildford’. His speech on what menu he fancied working on was a kind of confused stream, listing vaguely intelligible food processes. Watching him stumble over terms he’d seen on the cooking channel was the highlight of the show for me. ‘We take a mushroom. Then we bake it’ he said, not unreasonably. ‘Then we put some salt and pepper on it’ he continued before completely losing his train of thought, ‘and then we puree it’… This carried on for some time, until the baked, pureed mushroom had been flambeed, whipped and crumbled over fruits of the forest. Kevin, by this point, had proved himself to be either a very convincing actor or the greatest example of incompetence since Eddie The fucking Eagle. What’re we making for dessert Kevin? A latte with chocolate sprinkles. Mmmmm! Fetch me a spoon!
These scenes were interspersed with Lee having the most working class nervous breakdown ever seen onscreen. ‘I am concerned!’ he yelled into his mobile at one point. ‘LEE MCQUEEN IS CONCERNED!’. Within the gap between two sentences we watched him disassociate himself and plant his ego a few yards from his id, lapsing into third person in the process. ‘Dunno how to spell ‘accent” he said at one point, the big Nazi-faced thicko.
Sara wandered around in a sort of stoned, glazed wilderness of her own making as the other girls pulled together to make her curry night happen. She bought spices for the curry in minute quantities – I have more in my kitchen than she’d bought to feed at least a hundred people. Luckily her charges did the work for her and though her night was a bit of a shambolic mess – the Bollywood dancer being a particularly David Lynch-like lowlight – they made loads of money. This rested on the fact that Jennifer (the Irish one, not the redhead) had charged a fiver for entry. Profit before the doors had opened. Success. Jennifer is one to watch.
Meanwhile, the boys ended up being led by nobody. Ian turned into an empty shed, devoid of ideas or emotion, Raef hid in the shadows, Alex did what he could, Simon searched for answers from his boss and found himself in Ian’s pretty-boy dead end, facing disaster. Sophocles made his customary George Costanzaesque mistakes and got away with it. LEE MCQUEEN was concerned and continued to shout, his words forming a white noise it was quite easy to ignore. And Kevin, poor little Kevvy boy with his Westcountry accent and unrequested Head Chef role, had to do something. He made revolting food, gave a David Brentesque pep talk out of nowhere and, bless his heart, he tried. The fact that Ian Stringy Stringboy didn’t grab him by his neck and tell him to SHUT THE FUCK UP is the Stringy man’s problem.
Kevin tried, he failed, but at least he gave it a go. And that’s what resulted in Ian getting fired. He did absolutelty dick all apart from worry about his hair straighteners. Maybe he’s thick. Maybe he was just overwhelmed by the situation. Either way, Sugar sent him on his way and was justified in doing so.
The boardoom was fun. Simon was pretty much exonerated, Kevin was entirely unconvincing when talking up his progress and Ian sat there denying everything he’d done wrong.
Simon was dragged into the final three, which was baffling. So shocked was he that he made the amusing error of calling ‘Sir Alan’ the more familiar ‘Alan’, before realising his mistake and lifting his hand to his mouth, as if to say ‘Sorry Sir’ like a little boy. Quite endearing, really.
Instead of forming an argument and sticking to it, Ian simply denied everything. He denied that Kevin had given a pep talk (surely he knew Sugar had seen the footage?) and he might as well have denied the fact he existed. He was appalling under scrutiny, and it’s the boardroom where you have to be convincing. Forget the actual task, if you can’t cradle your balls against a counter attack in front of the bearded fat-cat, it’s the highway for you. And off he popped, without fanfare, back into anonymity.
Upon their return to the house, young Kevin shouted ‘Booyaka!’, delightfully using a very 90s term to express his happiness. ‘I totally nailed Ian in there’ he declared, as all around him looked on in stunned disbelief.
Noted for their absence, for a lack of footage around week three equals likely progress later on, were Raef and Alex. Neither said anything of any real consequence, Raef sat about looking other-worldly and Alex wore a stupid hip-hop hat at the end. They’re going to be key players later on and I can’t wait to see them fail, fail and fail again. That’s what it’s all about, after all.