Sunday, November 22, 2009

1x02: Breakfast Cereal Branding

In which Kellogg's gets material for a defamation case.


Okay, before we do: Last time, I mentioned Survivor returning to Nein as one way they could improve the flagging ratings. And guess what's happening this summer? You're welcome, Survivor fans without GO! You haven't really missed much, beyond the chance to hate Coach as much as eveeryone else does. (Which reminds me: I need to apologise for all the people I fuck over when the meaningless snide crap I've written on the internet keeps turning into unintentional prophecies. So: Western Bulldogs, I am sorry you choked in the preliminary final just like you do every other time you get that far. Rob Dickson's family, I am sorry Rob died in a car crash. Kyle Sandilands, I... will probably never be sorry for you losing your job. Gotta draw the line somewhere.)

Previously on Gardening, Australia: Twelve contestants (mostly either "unemployed" or "unemployable") got down and dirty doing glorified yardwork, but only one of them was able to take the recapper's mind to the dirty place it's become so familiar with thanks to people like Craig and Nathan and Sandy. The gerbils were so many kinds of stupid it resulted in me not even really hesitating to decide to start recapping this show. On the upside, though, at least nobody used the age-old "I'm just being myself" excuse to justify being a complete and utter dickweed. Yet. The women chose the horrible Latin name "Eventus" for their team, while the men chose the even stupider name "Pinnacle", which was so bad it had already been rejected by an American team in favour of the incredibly twee "Apex". The men were slightly less sucky at the actual challenge than the women, though, and got to sweat in a sauna, while the women sweated it out with Hortense as she got all hot and bothered downloading Jensen Ackles lip-synching to Eye Of The Tiger in the reception. Jane's get up and go got up and went, officially making her the least successful Jane in Australian reality TV history. Eleven gerbils are left. Who will be flushed down the proverbial toilet... TONIGHT?

Did you know this was some kind of job interview? Well, did you? Because Andrew "Pirate Apprentice" Daddo's back once again to remind you of this simple fact, before we even hit the official previouslies.

Credits. Gimme an... oh, wait. The credits are over.

Previously: The stuff I mentioned three paragraphs up.

Week Two. A nighttime shot of Sydney (because, as Australia's self-confessed and self-obsessed business capital, it has earned the right to remain there after dark, apparently) takes us to the Maison D'Moron, where the sun is rising. Except it's only 4:45am, according to the graphic, and this was filmed in the middle of winter, so what gives? The phone rings, and both Heather and John make the mistake of wondering who it could be at this ungodly hour. Heather learns after picking up the phone that Bouris was seeking the early-morning equivalent of a booty call. So all of the gerbils have to get ready to go across town. As well as the usual Women Taking ForEVER To Get Ready shots, we also see Sam trying to hide a zit or something. Because he's THAT young. I'm amazed his voice has broken. Lynton thinks Eventus has no confidence because they lost. Heather would rather "cut off [her] right arm" than lose again.

Sydney's still there at sunrise, even though Kochie and Mel aren't as omnipresent at that time of day as Channel Seven would like us to think. Thank God, Allah, Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard, and the many Hindu deities The Amazing Race is no doubt planning a task around for their inevitable next visit to India. The gerbils walk into an office foyer thingy, where Bouris and the assistants are already waiting. We learn that "we are here today at Ogilvy", which apparently is some sort of leading advertising agency. If I'm recalling correctly, though, I don't think they've ever won one of those commercial-pitching challenges on The Gruen Transfer, though, so, you know. Great pedigree there.

Without any explanation beyond "this place is great", or any reasoning behind why the challenge was chosen, we learn that the challenge this week, naturally, is to create a new brand of children's breakfast cereal. They have to come up with "a name, a box design, a jingle, and a character". You will note, of course, that since much of this work will actually be done by costume designers, composers, and graphics people, the teams are basically going to be doing fuckall this week. They'll then have to pitch their work to the Ogilvy executives, who will decide which team wins. This time, Brad will join the Pinnacle sausagefest, where they will undoubtedly be trying to come up with some hazing ritual for him as the new guy to undertake, while Bobblehead goes with Eventus, who will have a pillowfight and gush about how goshdarn dreeeeeeeamy that guy from Twilight is.

As Bouris sends the teams on their way, he begins wondering when he can get a real job back. Brad and Bobblehead again stay back for whatever reason.

Sydney has slow-moving trains and fast-moving pedestrians. So, basically, it's Melbourne with pedestrians who like to pretend they have somewhere to be.

Daddo reminds us that the gerbils are on different teams, just in case you tuned in in the seven seconds or so since Bouris last said the word "team". As usual, the first job this week is to select a project manager. Heather confessionals that she works in advertising, and would have loved to have done it. In the meeting room, however, Sabrina is all, "Heather's the only one who could actually do well at this task on her own, but I would like to make it look like I'm actually going to be doing something this week, so can I have it?" Heather could not possibly have a bigger bitchface if she tried, but Amy still thinks it's a decent idea. Sabrina confessionals that since Bouris told her to show some actual signs of competence, she decided she'd get to be the Project Manager anyway. One wonders if not letting the person who knows what they're doing be in charge could be construed as yet another reason Sabrina is not the sort of person you'd want working for you. And you've really got to wonder whether whoever was in charge of casting this show was thinking anything besides "every reality show has to have a beauty queen as a contestant" when they cast her, considering she has yet to show any signs of business acumen. Of course, since Heather is a shameless yes-man, she's supportive of Sabrina being the Eventus project manager. Heather confessionals that she let Sabrina do it to give the team a chance "to shine", and win the challenge. Of course, the team would probably be more capable of winning the challenge if she was in charge, but whatever. Over on Pinnacle's patio, we learn that Lynton has a background in marketing, and therefore will be their project manager. Morello confessionals that Lynton has "got experience all over the world, in ad agencies!" Well, that'll help him deliver a lively, entertaining presentation, I'm sure. Lynton rants in a confessional of his own about how capable he thinks he is, and how he loves being the boss and loves to "make decisions" and blah blah blibbedy blah. Pride on three!

10am. The teams cross a bridge that may or may not span the harbour, but isn't the Harbour Bridge. Daddo tells us that because doing fuckall is too hard for the team to do in one group, half of them (Amy and Sabrina for Eventus, and John, Morello, and Gavin for Pinnacle) will be going to pester some schoolchildren. Both Daddo and John think John will be good at talking to kids because he's a dad. Well, I hear Michael Jackson was good at talking to kids, too. (Too soon?)

At Ogilvy, the remaining six gerbils -- Blake, Sam, and Lynton; and Carmen, Mary-Anne, and Heather -- have decided to do fuckall without even leaving the building. For some reason, Lynton wants the boys to eat cereal, as though that will help them. He does realise he's not actually trying to design a new cereal itself, right? They apparently have no idea what eating cereal make them think and feel. Aside from "less hungry than before", I assume. Sam interviews that he "really wanted to step up", and prove that he's not completely worthless as a potential employee. Of course, he's only just outside the demographic they're aiming for with this task, so... you know. Little steps, people. Sam brainstorms up a couple of suggestions for cereal names, like Mischief Mix or Monkey Business. Lynton shuts him down because Monkey Business is going to be too similar to Coco Pops. Lynton, wait until you hear the rest of the names he'll think of during this episode. Monkey Business won't seem so bad, trust me. And Sam does look semi-simian in his Real Boy Suit, doesn't he? Blake watches on, as we hear Sam continue to blather about the possibilities of using fish or insects, because grasshoppers always make good costumes. Because what little ankle biter doesn't want to think of anchovies and crickets when eating breakfast cereals? Lynton just looks at him like he's nuts. Hey! Chipmunks! That might work! Brad tells us that Sam has "idea diarrhoea" (HA!), and thanks a LOT for making me look up the spelling of that, Brad. Grrrr.

Blake continues to look bored as Sam tries to incorporate the word "Jungle" into the brand game. This next moment cements Blake's place as My Favourite Contestant. Basically, Sam suggests "Zoo Poo", and Blake actually makes like he's going to leave the room, it's such a stupid idea. The best part? He doesn't even look like he's joking.

...I wonder what the character would have been, had they called it Zoo Poo. Because I don't think "Hey, kids! Eat Zoo Poo! It has a dung beetle for a mascot!" would have gone over very well.

Amy and Sabrina arrive at the school they're using for market research, which a helpful shot tells us is The Australian Institute For Performing Arts. So, you know, all these kids we see milling around and playing up for the camera are doing this ENTIRELY NATURALLY, and are not at ALL the product of some bitter stage parents with resentment of their own unfulfilled ambitions and lack of talent. Or so I've heard. Sabrina pesters the kids about whether they like animals. We hear that one of the little mactors-in-waiting has a special affinity for lions. Possibly because both he and the lions know how to make a lot of noise you don't want to hear. Diane tells us that Amy and Sabrina have "a strong rapport" with the children. Sabrina sounds just as condescending as always, which is actually appropriate here, I suppose. Amy tells us she thinks she and Sabrina are "really focused".

Suddenly, the men's crew is arriving at the school, where a bunch of kids are spinning around one one of those... what are they called, anyway? It's basically a carousel without the horsies, the motor, or any sense of whimsy and wonderment. A bunch of stage mums watch on, looking every bit the bogan. Daddo explains that even though John was supposed to be the one talking, Gavin goes ahead and barges in before John can get a chance. Gavin himself confessionals, trying to explain why is he such an overbearing twat. It doesn't work. Gavin asks the kids what their favourite colours are, and it turns out that everyone we see getting asked loves pink, including one poor boy who will probably never live down the fact he just admitted his favourite colour was pink on national television. And... like, I'm as stereotypically gay as you could get while still fooling people into thinking you're heterosexual, but even I like green and blue better. (This has nothing to do with anything, really, besides pointing out the stupidity of the obvious "he likes pink, therefore, he'll like the cock when he grows up" way of thinking.) (No, I have no idea why I felt the need to explain that.) (Or that.) (Or that.)

Even Morello claims to "like hot pink too". Daddo gives us this week's first jibe at Morello's phrasing, pointing out that "pink is hot in their target market". Because he said he liked hot pink. Get it? Sigh. Last week's sailor hat mocking was so much more fun. Daddo credits the fact that they've "learned little else" because John is "so quiet"'. Brad tells us that the only reason John is her in the first place is because John had kids, and why didn't they send Blake as well? He's got kids too, and I'd bet he'd be better at dealing with the kids than Gavin is. Or Sam? He's practically a kid anyway. Brad thinks it's "disappointing" that John didn't do more. Gavin leads a round of applause for... his own lack of incompetence, I guess?, as the trio leave.

Look at these weak Sydney buildings, moving on their own like that! You wouldn't get that down in Melbourne!

The members of Eventus who decideed to stay at Ogilvy are still stumped for ideas. They call Amy and Sabrina, being driven back to Ogilvy. The Ogilvy trio have been trying to think of names ending in "Munch" and "Crunch", apparently under the assumption that nobody likes eating breakfast anyway, so they might as well make it sound as lunchy as possible. When Amy tells them the kids thought "wild African animals" were popular (oh, sure, bring poor defenseless Africa into it), Heather suggests Wild Crunch. The music changes instantaneously, as though they're trying to get us to immediately think this is the second coming of Snap, Crackle, and Pop. Mary-Anne claims that "it's like it's wild, but it's crunchy". Well, yes, dear, that is the point of the name. Sabrina "very much like[s] the direction [they're] going in, because they're "keeping it very simple". It's a good thing Sabrina is in charge, because they were totally going to go with calling it Milk-Soluble Breakfast Carbohydrate Ringlets With Added Sucrose without her there to want it kept simple. Sabrina is "very proud".

Heather points out in a confessional that Sabrina was not the clear leader of the team. Interesting how she could hardly be prised away from kissing Carmen's arse last week (figuratively speaking... I hope), and is now the first to slam Sabrina's leadership qualities. Wonder what's up with that?

After the break: Cartoon animals! Brad whispering sweet nothings in Bobblehead's ear! Fingerpointing!

Commercials. Water polo: The love child of swimming, boxing, and nude modelling. (In other words? Best. Sport. EVER.)

Look at Sydney, acting like a grown-up city!

Daddo reexplains what the teams have to do, as Lynton tries to rearrange a bunch of real-life cereal boxes, as though he's playing some rejected Price is Right game. Eventus already has their brand name chosen, "but for Pinnacle, their creative process has turned to porridge". It's sort of funny, but Daddo completely butchers that line, and it loses any comedic impact it had, sadly.

Lynton tries to decide what percentage of the branding process is emotional and how much is rational, and one hundred percent of the decision to spend time doing this falls under the umbrella category of "stupid and pointless". Lynton blathers some more. Brad confessionals from what looks to be a home office that Lynton is a son of a preacher man, basically, if you assume by "son of a preacher man", you mean "preacher man himself". Lynton continues speaking gibberish. Lynton confessionals about being an obsessive compulsive problem solver, pretty much. I seriously feel like going to sleep whenever he's speaking. Which is impossible, damn it, because I have so much caffeine in my system at the moment I probably won't be sleeping until a week from Thursday. It looks as though Pinnacle agrees with my desire for sleep. Sam randomly suggests having a pink elephant as their character, and everyone likes it, because it means Lynton will shut up. Lynton petulantly tries to reassert whatever little authority he had, but the rest of the group are all, "My God, You're Boring!", and go with the pink elephant idea.

Thankfully, we don't have to sit through the rest of their creative process, instead getting a montage of everything being decided. They're calling their cereal Jungle Treats, are using the slogan "start your day the jungle way", and have named the pink elephant Elbert. "An illustrator", who is pretty cute even with the green windcheater on, draws a simple elephant for the team. Blake wanted big ears, but is still happy with the floppy ones Elbert has. Lynton feels the need to say "spoon in the trunk" twice in a row. We get our first really clear shot of Elbert, and he has giant anime eyes. Heh.

Now that they have a picture of the elephant, they'll need a "life-size" elephant costume for one of them to climb into for the presentation. Wouldn't they need three or four of them in there if it really was "life-size", Daddo? I mean, I'm no biologist or anything, but elephants aren't exactly tiny creatures. (Under my theory, it is good that they did not choose to have a mouse mascot. They could have ca... oh, there's already a company with a stupid mouse as their flaghead? And it's not the Australian Democrats? Huh.) Anyway, Morello wants the costume designer to make the elephant huggable. Morello confessionals about how huggable the mascot is going to be, and makes a high-pitched elephant impersonation in front of the rest of the men's team. Lesson: Pink animals? Always sound girly.

Heather wants "Ziggy the Zebra" (choosing the American pronunciation of zebra for some reason) to have big, "horsey teeth" and "big, pop-out eyes". Daddo tells us that even though it's Sabrina's job to order the illustrator around, Heather is doing it. You will note over coming weeks that this is not going to be a one-off occurrence (SPOILER!). Diane takes notes. Heather is also being a bitch about it, even though the others seem to like it. Sabrina asks Heather if "there's something that the illustrator is doing that you would prefer to be done differently". Lesson: Always learn the names of the people you are working with if you don't want to sound like a condescending nitwit. Heather thinks it looks more weird than whimsical. The illustrator looks like he doesn't want to be there. Frankly, I don't blame him. Illustrator Guy for the win!

Sabrina confessionals that she thinks Project Manager involves not doing anything about the creative aspect of the task, but rather a bunch of spaz-wrangling. As the illustrator complains that he might not be able to get Ziggy as perfect as Heather wants him, Daddo tells us that it'll have to be done by five o'clock, because they won't be able to get their box design to the printers in time, and thus won't have anything to pitch. Sabrina may or may not be used to not having anything to pitch. So to speak. Carmen confessionals, speaking for the first time in this episode, that Sabrina's leadership was purely symbolic. And... she's a pageant queen. These people can't seriously be surprised to learn that the idea of leadership occupies the same place in her brain as the bit where she stores her memory of where the best places on her body to use double-sided tape are.

Pinnacle. They've decided to have a maze, and have found one on the interwebs. We get a nice shot of the original, non-tampered-with maze, and it's quite clear even from this that you won’t be able to solve it. Just to prove it, try taking the cheese to the rat instead of the other way around:

…See? Completely impossible. Damn interwebs. The guys have decided to try and write their jingle instead of checking to see if the maze works. John heaps on Sam for not understanding that kids won't like jingles that are longer than three or four words. Soon, after an annoying Daddo voiceover explaining what's happening, John is singing the jingle:

Elbert's here now to remind you, if you want to learn and play
A bowl of Jungle Treats will let you start the jungle way
Jungle Treats! Start your day the jungle way!

My Lord, it's almost as bad as having to recap the freaking treemail on Australian Survivor last summer. John confessionals that he thinks the boys can beat the girls.

Heather, Amy, and Mary Anne are busy trying to finish off their box design. Meanwhile, Carmen and Sabrina are headed elsewhere. Sabrina vainly exposits that they've "left the graphic designer in very capable hands with those girls". Are the graphic designer's own hands not capable of doing his job? As they pull up, Daddo informs us that the teams are going to be getting help from "professional composers" to finish the jingle. Inside, Sabrina is still unaware of how condescending she is coming across, but they manage to make a start on the jingle melody anyway. She confessionals that she's so comfortable that she feels like "a fish IN water". She does know fish can drown, right?

While Sabrina sings, we learn that the box designers only have fifteen minutes to finish off the box. And considering it looks like they've still got the back and both side to do, it's probably going to be pretty tight. So Heather's being even more domineering than she has been, natch. She complains that she found herself thrust into the spotlight while Sabrina didn't do much. In Sabrina's defence, though (and I feel all icky saying those words), this seems like the sort of task where you're really not doing much anyway. Thanks to the wonders of television, we cut to them finishing, with the "remodelled zebra [Heather] wanted".

The Maison D'Moron is bright by the light of the night. The girls perform their jingle for Pinnacle to mock later. Because you know they will. Sam whines in a confessional about how laaaaame zebras are, because they make him think of zebra crossings and how much people tend to hate school. I suspect, though, that Sam is the sort of guy who probably would have liked school more if the other students around him weren't there -- he does seem to have that slight lack-of-confidence thing that suggests to me that he... wasn't exactly part of the popular crowd, if you get my drift.

Coming up: Blake inside a giant pink cottonball.

Commercials. I'm not rabidly against them or anything, but I sort of love how it seems like the only comeback the Church Of People Who Think Jumping On Oprah's Couch Is Okay can come up with for "they're a money-grabbing, health-endangering cult!" is "But a book written by our founder says taking all your money and claiming science is voodoo is okay!"

It's the next morning at the Maison D'Moron, where clouds race by and the sea is glary. (I believe "where the clouds race by and the sea is glary" was a rejected Dubai tourism slogan.) The women get ready while Sam wakes up singing. Oh, great. It's going to be one of those days. Daddo rehashes the task. Amy tells us she heard "Lynton and Morello crying themselves to sleep", so she's assuming they're freaking out about how good the Eventus pitch is. Morello, meanwhile, is trying to teach Lynton how to tie his tie. How did he ever get to be successful in the business world without knowing that? That's like going on Survivor without knowing how to solve lame 3D jigsaw puzzles. Or going on The Amazing Race without knowing how to sit in the back of a taxi. Lynton confessionals that he thinks he's been so successful because of his level of ability. Not at knot-tying, it seems.

Daddo explains that the teams who fucks up their pitch the most loses. Just in case you thought the losers were going to be the team who can get the fewest celebrity endorsements for their non-existent cereal brand. I hear Ricky Ponting wants to endorse them both. The first step for both teams is to record the jingle. Sabrina is "absolutely thrilled" about the work the others did in her absence.

Sam is singing for Pinnacle. He chin-strokes in a confessional, telling us that he "became" Elbert the Elephant from the moment he walked into the studio. Thus explaining why he felt like acting dizzy when he put the headphones on for the first time? We hear part of his voice-over, and it sounds almost like Jimmy Barnes had another secret lovechild.

Or perhaps two, because Carmen is also unnaturally gravelly this morning, in her sound studio with Sabrina. We intercut between the two studios for a little bit, before the jingles are finally finished. Carmen compliments Sabrina on her singing voice. You know, as a businesswoman, she does make a good singer.

Meanwhile, John, Sam, and Gavin are all making ape noises. Apes, elephants, it's all a rich tapestry. Sam asks Gavin, "Who said a nineteen-year-old can't be The Apprentice?" Gavin non-committally does not deny saying it himself.

5 hours until the pitch. Someone alert Sydney! They need to know!

Blake wants to try the costume on as soon as they pick it up. Lynton compares their teamwork to "a fine Swiss watch". Apparently, fine Swiss watches stutter when saying "a fine Swiss watch". Lynton confessionals that he's loved the task so far, because he's been able to get his own way on pretty much everything. As they arrive at the costume designers, Daddo informs us that the suit needs to fit. One would hope they gave the measurements beforehand, because if Blake wound up feeling like he was being held in a tight cage, it... there's an image that's gonna be burned on my retinas for a little while. Where was I? Oh, right. The recap.

They see the costume before we do, and Morello calls it "fantastic" and "wonderful". We see it for the first time, and the music changes to an almost mocking glockenspiel tune. The elephant is freaky. And very, very pink. It's even pinker than Morello's pink tie. Blake forces his way into the beheaded elephant costume. He confessionals about his love of "performing" and loving the task. And I know I made a joke like this in the previous recap, but... he works for Centrelink. Of course he'd love acting. Acting competent, acting like he cares, Blake can do it all. Morello reaches in to hug Blake The World's Hottest Elephant-Man, and someone (possibly in the editing lab) makes a hilarious high-pitched squeal. Hee.

Amy and Mary-Anne arrive to see their zebra costume. I take back everything I said about the freaky elephant costume, because this one just looks ridiculous. Amy decides that walking in front of a chromakey greenscreen in a skin-tight white bodysuit is "not [her] proudest moment, definitely not [her] proudest moment". Mary-Anne mugs for the camera, pretending to be Amy's security. Amy points out that she's "a professional businesswoman". Really? You can't tell. And that was before she ended up neck-deep in a zebra costume. Before she even finishes getting the head attached, though, she's already complaining about the smell, and about the lack of vision, and about how she's "getting high from the glue". Okay, she's not whining so much about the last one, but still. Soon after figuring out how to walk in the costume, she decides to do the Running Man. In a scary zebra costume. Way to make like a professional businesswoman. Mary-Anne is excited.

T-minus two hours. Sydney does not appear to give a rat's arse. For some reason, Eventus's cereal boxes arrive at the recording studio. Daddo tells us Heather is happy with it, but that Sabrina "is not so sure". Sabrina holds the box up to the camera, and... it does seem a bit sparse. But of course, rather than complain about how the entire upper half of the box appears to be empty, Sabrina has decided to bitch about stray exclamation marks on the top of the box. Perhaps she could have sent Amy or Mary-Anne to the recording studio the previous day, then. I can't see any reason why she needed to leave, given she was just telling them that an upbeat poppy tune was needed for their jingle. And at least none of the exclamation marks were 1's. Heather points out in her confessional that Sabrina could have been there to help decide, but instead was "off... singing", saying the word 'singing' as though she was catching the plague.

Sam and Gavin unroll a poster for their cereal, complete with Elbert the Elephant, who is much closer to Morello's pink tie in colour on the poster than the costume was. Their box also looks dull, but slightly less so. Suddenly, as all kids want to do, Sam decides to try and work out the maze. He slowly works out that the maze isn't "finishable". John points out that it's the idea that matters, not whether it works. Ah, yes. The Snuggie principle. Nice to see you again. (It occurs to me that the Snuggie has replaced the Ab Roller as the Infomercial Laughingstock Product Of Choice.) Daddo tells us that there's no time to change it, and Sam confessionals a whole bunch of business speak. Approximate gist of business speak: "Our work sucks. Bite me."

6pm. Sydney has an early sunset to match all those early sunrises. With only an hour to go, the teams are finishing up on their pitch presentations. Lynton seems to think that elephants have some sort of connection to health, which... okay? Daddo informs us that the Ogilvy executives will report directly to Bouris, so it's kind of important to not suck so much the executives would rather switch back to eating fresh fruit for breakfast. Because they need sugar!

For Eventus, Heather will speak first, and Sabrina answers questions. To prepare, Amy is going to impersonate the executives and grill Sabrina. Amy wants to know why much of the side of the box is totally, completely blank. Sabrina blathers on about how they wanted a recipe on the side of the box, but didn't have enough time to Google for one. Amy snarks about how that could be interpreted as not managing time effectively. Sabrina claims they managed to get "everything that [they] needed onto the box". Amy correctly points out that she obviously couldn't have, if there's a big empty space. Any smackdown of Sabrina is definitely welcome, but... Amy was part of the group responsible for the box design. Wouldn't this be a mark against her, more than it is against the person who was across town doing a separate part of the task? Sabrina condescendingly calls her "so harsh", and Carmen laughingly claims she wants to leave the room because she's "scared". Sabrina confessionals that Eventus has "done a phenomenal job", and that she "could not have done it without them". Well, obviously. Besides the singing, I can't name a single thing Sabrina actually did during this challenge. She hopes the rest of the team "could not have done it without [her]". Don't quote me on this, but I think they could have. Hell, I have no business skills at all (I haven't even gotten around to putting ads on this blog yet), and I could have filled in there.

Blake is inside Elbert's body, and... like, the last time I saw someone inside an elephant was when Scully had to do an elephant autopsy on an old X-Files episode. It's one of those things that manages to be both disturbing and fascinating at the same time. But anyway. Lynton wants everyone else to shut up during the presentation, unless they are directed to talk. Blake confessionals about this, making sure to state clearly -- twice -- that it was Lynton's idea. Just in case you thought the guy in the elephant costume was threatening everyone else with blowdarts or something. Lynton goes over the details of the pitch, as Blake struggles to keep his head up inside the elephant costume, and asks if everyone is fine with it. The now-headless pink elephant gives the thumbs-up. (My God, this IS an acid hallucination!)

As Pinnacle walks into the pitching room, Lynton interviews regarding his happiness at getting his own way with pretty much everything. Daddo informs us that Knowing People's Names Is Important In Business, and then decides to tell us the names of the two Ogilvy executives who got rope into being bored out of their wits for this (SPOILER!). And, of course, the first thing Lynton does is fuck up their names. Apparently, he thought he could get his own way with regards to that, too. Brad explains in an interview (complete with name graphic, in case we forgot his name) that not remembering people's names is "just about the worst mistake you can make". I think it might be a bad thing. Maybe. Lynton goes into a big, boring spiel about the Jungle Treats brand and the subtextual meaning of "start your day the jungle way". As it turns out, malaria shots are not the answer (you heard me, Amazon), but pink ties to go with Elbert the Elephant are. Elbert waddles in, holding a bunch of pink balloons. As you do. Poor Blake dances around like an idiot as the jingle plays, while all the other guys just stand still. The executives clap out of sympathy. One of the executives tells Lynton to work on his presentation technique a little bit. Ouch. That's gotta hurt, for someone who works in the industry.

Back in their office space, they cheer. Everyone loves Elbert, and why wouldn't you? Inside every pink elephant is a cute guy and a lot of circus peanuts.

The executives like the name Jungle Treats, but don't give away much else.

Coming up: Heather is shocked that someone would defend themselves.

Commercials. If I've learned anything from reality TV, it's that Jeff Probst hates quitters. Do you really want Jeff Probst to hate you, Oprah? Do you? DO YOU? HUH?

Sydney! Aaaand... Sydney! From a different angle!

Sabrina gives Heather one final lesson in Deportment In A Zebra-Ear Headband, as they walk into the pitching room. Daddo calls it "crunch time". Heh. You know, the script they give Daddo for this is hilarious when it's not being repetitive, but the combination of that repetitiveness and the fact that he's a Daddo brother really detracts from the good parts. Sabrina and Heather make the sane decision to introduce themselves properly, forgoing the need to remember (and or forget) the executives' surnames, before Heather begins the presentation. According to her, all kids and their parents want is Wild Crunch. Somehow, I doubt it. Carmen and Mary-Anne walk in with Ziggy The Amy-Sized Zebra, who still looks disturbing. I think it's the rainbow mohawk. It's like they're aiming for "popular with kids", and got lost somewhere around "Hey, look! Mardi Gras is coming! We better make a float!"

They sing the jingle, giving out some headbands. You may notice, if you're watching closely enough, that Bobblehead actually does put on the pair Mary-Anne gives her, briefly. One point for Bobblehead. (Although that may just be the low quality video I'm using to recap this.) One of the executives clap when they're done singing and dancing, but whether that's because the song was good or because it was over remains to be seen. Heather explains that they decided it might be good to steal ideas from cereal boxes from decades gone by. Thus the Ziggy mask. There's more spiritual mumbo-jumbo crap about how cereal mascots are role models for "individuality". Yes. Really. God, I wish I was joking.

Shut up, Heather. It's Sabrina's turn to bore us all to sleep! As the de-eared Bobblehead makes notes, the executives ask exactly what I was thinking: Why do you need all the crap about individuality? Just do the most important thing -- in this case, make an entertaining character -- and let everything else speak for itself. Sabrina decides to talk back, having forgotten that this is not the Bouris Boardroom. One of the executives reminds her of the basic rule of television, writing, and the universe -- what you leave out is more important than what you put in. Bobblehead glares at Sabrina as she continues her ranting, and Brad whispers in her ear. It turns out he apparently sounds a bit like a Heather confessional in which she asks for an old stage hook to get Sabrina to shut the hell up. Hee. I like Heather. They wind it up.

Bobblehead confessionals that the Experts Know Best, and you should never argue back when they're trying to give you advice. Boy, I've had this discussion with teachers before. It never ends well.

Sydney! If this was the sort of show that used parody lyrics for no reason, as opposed to, like, the same four musical cues it repeats over and over and over, I predict the ones that would go here would be something like "My, my! At Woolloomooloo, the Pinnacles did surrender! Whoa, yeah! E-vent-us met their destiny in quite a similar way!" Unfortunately, the only way the next line would work would be if it was a crossover with Masterchef and we got "The Mystery Box on the shelf! Is always reheating itse-e-e-elf!", but still. Woolloomooloo couldn't escape if it wanted to. Woolloomooloo knows that it's fate is to be with you, Sydney. Poor, poor, poor, poor Woolloomooloo.

The teams walk into the Bouris Boardroom foyer, where Hortense is watching Rocky Horror and imagining her own boyfriend in that gold Speedo. (Or, alternately, in the Frank-N-Furter corset.) Sabrina tells us that the rest of her team told her she was the most awesome invention since, well, sugar-loaded cereal, and she agrees with them. Unless they're lying, in which case may best pageant queen survive. Lynton wants to work for Bouris for a whole line of arse-kissing reasons.

Hortense lets them into the boardroom, where Bouris is running late. Brad and Bobblehead are already feeling seasick from the wavy walls, which look to me to have changed from bluish to teal-tinged since the last episode, probably making the feeling even worse. Huh. Bouris eventually toddles in, to apparently read his ledger of notes for the first time. He wants everyone to argue their pants off in order to survive. He reminds the gerbils that their challenge was to create a breakfast cereal brand targeted at "Aussie kids". Because the children are our future, people. And we want to give them as many high-in-sugar cereals as we can so they're all used to being hyperactive and can make decisions quickly. Or something along those lines.

Let's look at Pinnacle. Bouris looks at the box, and the still photo of Elbert the Elephant. Trying to think of good things to say, because this show is nothing if not Nein's attempt at Televisual Positivity, Bouris unenthusiastically points out that he likes Elbert's hat. ("I like the hat on it" is going on my List Of Things To Say When I Don't Have Anything Nice To Say, otherwise known as the Recap Joke Stockpile.) Bouris asks if anyone slacked off, and Lynton calls Pinnacle "a dream team to work with". Bouris decides to remind the men that criticism can be constructive when he asks what the team though of Lynton's leadership, but it's pointless, because nobody has any.

Eventus! "I like the orange" will also be going on the Recap Joke Stockpile. Bouris asks what the zebra's name is, as opposed to more logical questions like "what were you thinking?!", "why does this suck so much?", and "no, really, what were you thinking?!". Sabrina is happy with the job she did as project manager. It's very easy to be happy at not doing much, though. Heather sucks up to Sabrina, saying she did a good job (despite her confessionals to the contrary), and Carmen points out that Eventus would have done perfectly well without her there. Assuming Mary-Anne could sing, that is.

Brad is "extremely impressed" with Pinnacle's presentation. Bobblehead thinks Eventus's pitch was "absolutely brilliant". She takes care to repeat the Ogilvy executives' full names, just in case it may wind up being important later. She tells Bouris that Sabrina "overstepped the mark" by trying to argue back to the executives. Before Bouris can ask her what her major malfunction is this week, she's already trying to debate what Bobblehead is trying to say, talking to nobody in particular. Carmen makes faces while Sabrina tries to apologise for not informing the executives the role of Miss World Australia 2006 came with the added privilege of being able to talk down to people whenever she feels like. Observe:

Bouris implies that Sabrina's condescension may have cost them the task, because the Ogilvy executives were in charge of deciding who wins the task. And the winner is...

Commercials! No, commercials didn't win the challenge. But it would have made more sense.

The winner really is Eventus and their freaky zebra. Blake pointedly takes the effort to congratulate Sabrina on her "good work". Oh. My. God. Love. Him. As Eventus celebrate, Bouris explains that Pinnacle's pitch had about as much energy as conjoined Bangladeshi twins on the operating table.

Reward time! Eventus gets to go to a hotel to get drunk and have "an intimate discussion" with a "world champion public speaker". One wonders why they're getting the public speaking help when they already were better than Pinnacle, but whatever. Out in the lobby (where Hortense is signing an online petition to ban Thierry Henry from ever playing soccer again), they share a group hug.

Back inside the boardroom, Bouris reminds the men that they got beaten by a bunch of girls, and one of them is going to be fired. He not-very-subtly asks Lynton what the names of the Ogilvy executives are. Lynton comes up with "Bruce Mathis and Jeff Daniels", which in itself is different from the names he used during the presentation. Brad provides the correct names, Bruce Matchett and Mike Daniels, and Bouris tells Lynton never to forget a client's name, because that's still as much of a faux-pas as it was the last time we were told that it was, about ten minutes of episode ago.

Bouris wants to know why John didn't do much talking when he went to the school. John informs us that he spoke to a couple of the kids nearest to him while he was scribing, but otherwise let Gavin ask the questions, like they'd agreed to on the way over. Bouris does not appear impressed, but doesn't elaborate. He does, however, ask who came up with the name Jungle Treats. Nobody wants to take ownership of it, but eventually Morello tries to claim it was a group effort. Bouris points out there's no way the entire group spent the day trying to come up with the name, and Sam finally tells him the name and jingle were his ideas. Bouris is impressed, because without it, they would have been even farther up the creek without the paddle, to quote Morello.

Pinnacle's box is the next item on the agenda. Sam compliments Morello on the design, and he and Morello agree that they were discussing the idea of having a puzzle on the back of the box. Bouris looks at the box some more, and the camera angle reveals what's in his ledger -- a piece of paper with the gerbils' details and photos, apparently in case he forgot who some of them were. (I am sure there's a joke about Trump and Carolyn not remembering Pepi in there somewhere, but I'm going to need more Red Bull to get at it.) Lynton bootscoots under the desk as he claims the maze was his idea. Which contradicts pretty much everything we've seen so far this episode. Bouris asks if the maze works, and Morello lies and says it does. Sam bursts into silent laughter, and he and John wind up explaining that it doesn't as a result. Bouris congratulates John for having the balls to tell him, and then yells at Morello for "bullshitting". Bouris doesn't care about the maze not working, believe it or not, but also doesn't like when people lie to his face. Sounds fair.

Bouris asks Brad what he thought of the pitch, and Brad confirms that it was "wooden". Wooden like a pegleg! Bouris tells Pinnacle to "cop it sweet". Bouris demands to know whose idea it was to make the presentation as wooden as Daniel McPherson's hosting style, and doesn't want another "it was a group decision" answer. Lynton takes the blame. We are informed, as though we didn't know already, that the crappy presentation was the reason Pinnacle lost. Lynton needs to "carefully" choose two people "out of all your mates [sic]" to face the final boardroom. He chooses John because he should have spoken up more at the school, and Sam for something related to the low-energy pitch. I know I should be surprised he picked the two people Bouris actually seemed to like, but this is a reality TV show. Being surprised by stupid decisions is like being surprised by Kyle Sandilands being a dickhead. Blake, Morello, and Gavin are sent back to the house, while the others will help Hortnese update her Lavalife profile in the reception.

After they leave, Bouris claims that "as usual" (because one whole episode is a barometer for how every week will be, apparently), the decision isn't going to be easy. Brad thinks Lynton is good at delegating tasks, but has trouble taking feedback. Lynton is officially my exact opposite. Sam is very creative, and both Bouris and Bobblehead think there's "something endearing about him". Bobblehead thinks John is being steamrolled by the rest of the team.

Hortense's phone rings, distracting her right in the middle of her self-hypnosis video.

Commercials. That's mighty presumptuous, to assume Gilligan would've had the whole island named after him.

Sydney! I like the hat on it.

Eventus arrives at the Reward Hotel, quickly making idiots of themselves. Daddo tells us that they're meeting a "world-renowned corporate communicator", and that "people pay thousands of dollars to hear him speak". So did Channel Nein. Unfortunately, they wasted their money, because (in my opinion) he provided nothing you could not have gotten by watching a Big Brother audition tape. So let's skip forward past this whole scene, shall we? Good.

Hortense's phone is STILL ringing. She finally picks it up, and sends the gerbils into the boardroom. Once again, they choose the seats all the way up the far end of the table. What's up with that? Bouris doesn't care about that stupid decision, but does want to know why Lynton brought one of the only people on the team who provided any decent work on this task back with him. As soon as Sam realises that Lynton is trying to blame him for not being creative enough, his eyebrows skyrocket halfway up his forehead. Lynton says that John is back in the boardroom because he didn't speak up in the focus group at the school. Apparently, Lynton has not realised that (1) they got the mascot worked out perfectly fine, which was really the only reason the school visit was necessary, (2) Sam's creativity saved this from being one of the most appalling efforts in Apprentice history, and (3) the dreary presentation is what lost them the task. Lynton would fire John, if it was his decision.

Sam, why do you think Lynton wants to see you lose? Sam doesn't now. He'd fire Lynton. John implies that Lynton is trying to use him as a scapegoat (undoubtedly to make him feel like even more of an alpha male), and agrees with Sam about firing Lynton. John correctly identifies the pitch as the place they lost this task, and chalks it up to Lynton's self-indulgence.

Bouris sees "a lot of passion" in Lynton, and knows he works hard. But it was his fault the presentation sucked ass, and he couldn't remember the executives' names. Sam is very creative, but doesn't have enough experience to know when his ideas are good (Jungle Treats) and when they're not (Zoo Poo). He claims that "90% of them aren't worth baking". I think the same rule applies to those little bake-at-home dinner rolls. John is a "battler", but is also a "shrinking violet". But! Bouris doesn't like sacrificial lambs, and because Lynton "came in with a Machiavellian mask". He does sort of look like he's preparing for a masquerade party, a little bit. Bouris thinks Lynton's decision "rates somewhere between dishonesty and game-playing". Game playing on a reality TV show? Stop the presses! I am shocked! And outraged! And appalled! And offended!

So Lynton is fired. He leaves, as Bouris wants the others to stay back after class. Bouris wants John to "speak up, get off the fence, otherwise [he's] gonna get splinters in [his] arse, mate". There's an image I didn't need to think of at 2AM. Bouris tells Sam he should not have been in the room in the first place, before sending both of them back to the house.

Taxicab Confessional. Lynton explains that the loss was his fault, and that it was a "fantastic journey". Yawn. (I feel like I win when you lo-o-o-ose! Woolloomooloo!)

One job. Ten gerbils. One boss. Two awesome assistants. One annoying narrator. One blogger, mocking it all.

Next week: I continue to like the hat on it. Bouris has "got a good mate". Bouris shuffles the teams around. The teams run a pie cart. Hey, maybe we will get that Masterchef crossover after all! Morello wears the sailor hat, but probably not a cravat. All are bored. (No, wait, that's a bad train pun. Never mind.) Bouris doesn't like talking about "a grey area". Does he mean his hair? Because that is pretty grey.

To watch Lynton's exit interview in full, zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

1x01: Premier Gardening Service

In which people apply for a job, and Mark Bouris begins weeding out the applicants.


Previously on There's No Facebook Group For Bringing This Back, Channel Nein: The Nine Network was brimming with so much confidence that the American version of The Apprentice would be a successful show on Australian television that Trump and Burnett had to call Kerry Packer personally and BEG him to take the show. He did, after negotiating his way out of the contract having the same clause as that which resulted in Australian Survivor, and he and the network were proven right. It failed completely, being shunted into a horrendous timeslot partway into the second season, and cancelled entirely later on. Nein had tried at some point while they were still airing the show to find someone to be the Aussie Trump. Nobody agreed to getting THAT haircut, and so the show was fired before it even submitted its resumè. In 2008, after the show had been mercifully absent from Aussie screens for two years, Seven decided that the real problem with the show wasn't that it was a sucky concept, but that "There Was Too Much Trump", by which they mean "There Was Trump". They toyed with the idea of getting the Irish version of the show, but realised that they'd have to disprove the dual stereotypes that (1) there is more to Ireland than potatoes, Riverdance, and U2, and (2) redheads can be good at something besides being so pasty they get sunburn from a spray-tan. So, instead, we got the British version advertised ad nauseum during the Olympics (which, as Johanna Griggs will go to great lengths to remind you, were held in Bay-JING, in CHY-nuh). It also died a slow and painful death. So, naturally, Nein's jumping on the feelgood Masterchef happy happy joy joy bandwagon by bringing this show back, in the same timeslot the original American season had. Personally, I'd think they'd be better off repeating Australian Survivor in the timeslot. It's not like they'd have to give the winner another half a million bucks. Or foiling Seven's success with The Amazing Race by showing either a local version or The Amazing Race Asia, like Seven themselves did by ruining Survivor: Cook Islands with Celebrity Survivor: Vanuatu. Or, you know, actually SHOWING SURVIVOR ON THE MAIN NETWORK. That might help them improve their ratings. But what do I know? It's not like I as an average viewer know what average viewers would like to see or anything.

So. Anyway. Welcome to Sydney. In what is possibly the quickest mention it's ever gotten in any show, the bridge turns up just three seconds into the episode, before we've even seen any of the contestants or heard a single word. I swear, if something happened to that damn bridge, you'd have to get a big red arrow with "Sydney" painted on to point to a dot on a map to introduce it. You know what, editors? We live in Australia. We know what's in Sydney. Sydney's about as shy with regards to letting the world know what little it has to offer as a St Kilda Road hooker. In other news which can't bode well for the show, one Andrew "My Brother Hosted Pirate Master, And All I Got Was This Crappy Announcing Gig" Daddo claims that "this is the opportunity of a lifetime for twelve of Australia's brightest minds". Aside from, you know, all those people whose minds were so bright they didn't bother to audition for this. A guy on a ferry looks at the bridge, because that's just so full of employment opportunities. A generic blonde tells us that she's trying to be a good role model for her daughter. Thus why she's joining the ranks of such notable reality show contestants as Pauline Hanson, the turkeyslappers, and Jules Lund. A fat guy gets his daily exercise walking down the street as he confessionals that us he can sell "ice to the Eskimos [sic], and sand to the Egyptians". But then again, when was the last time you saw an Eskimo businessman? A cute younger guy believes in "hard work and myself". A dark-haired woman walks through a city park, and even the birds fly off once they realise which show they just landed a cameo in. A blonde lady who looks creepily like my own mother walks past the Museum of Contemporary Art (which I can only identify because of its appearance in one of the best Amazing Race episodes of all time). She calls herself "a dog with a bone" because she's so persistent. I wonder how loose the RSPCA are with their definition of 'bitch'. A grey-haired gentleman tells us that he's unemployed, and a new job will change his family's lives. A brown-haired woman "want[s] the world, [she] want[s] it now, and that's the way [she's] always been". Boy, the last time I saw a reality contestant come across as that spoiled was The Amazing Race: Family Edition, and they had an excuse because they were, like, eight years old. Here? Shut up, whoever you are. An older lady finishes walking across the middle of a busy city intersection, choosing to take the existing pedestrian crossings as 'suggested'. A poncy guy in an ugly red-and-blue tie thinks he's the most "ambitious", "driven", and "hungry" person for the job. This quote will make him failing the Meals On Wheels challenge even more hilarious. A larger lady with glasses tells us she can "deliver a bunch of roses in the one hand, and a punch in the gut in the other". Neither of which will help her win any challenge likely to be on this patricular show, but whatever. A young, YOUNG guy walks along the damn bridge, providing a confessional in which he claims to be mature. Well, I'll be the judge of that. All of our people conveniently converge on the same stretch of footpath, somehow managing to all walk in the same direction despite originally being headed all over the place.

Apparently, if they want the job, they'll have to impress the boss. Because, you know, there are a bunch of jobs out there in which you don't. The boss this time, introduced with some faux-fiddle noises, is some guy named Mark Bouris. He doesn't care about their backgrounds, but is apparently one of Australia's most successful businessmen anyway. You can tell because he wears a tie. Or so the introductory clips of him would have you believe. He wants someone who's "successful in life", as well as in business. Perhaps someone should tell him half of this cast is currently unemployed. And you know what makes him seem like a guy you don't want to mess with? If you said "watching on while guys in short shorts grope each other", then you win... something. He's the founder of Wizard, which he sold for more than four hundred million dollars. So now even he's unemployed! The editors decide to show us the concept of "he's looking for an apprentice", by having him climb into a helicopter and fly around Sydney for a bit, as opposed to just looking down to the group of people walking off the street into his office building. Huh. This apprentice will be involved in "his next venture, Yellow Brick Road". And if you can avoid singing anything from the Wizard of Oz after hearing that, you and I are very different people.

Bouris is supposedly going to "put these budding tycoons through a recruitment like no other." Aside from all those foreign versions we've had the displeasure of watching, and the many more we didn't, that is. After a bunch of quick spoiler-y shots of some of the tasks these gerbils are about to suffer through, and the joint displeasure of both hearing blonde lady snapping at cute guy, and of hearing dark-haired lady open her mouth, we hear Bouris tell people they're "completely dysfunctional". Woo!

12 candidates. 10 weeks (which makes no sense, because 12 episodes have been confirmed). One Apprentice. A whole bunch of fingerpointing.

Credits. Which are basically non-existent, and don't give me anything to mock.

"Week One". Tinkly music accompanies a shot of a random skyscraper, as we cut to an office containing the twelve gerbils -- five of the women sitting down, the six men and the lady who looks like my Mum standing up -- and a receptionist busily typing. I can't decide whether it's worse that her job is apparently so secure they can't even get her a proper computer instead of the laptop she's using, whether she has literally no desk drawers, or whether she's busily typing away on the laptop even though there's no program open. The gerbils nervously stare around, silently trying to will her to at least open up Facebook. She answers the phone, miraculously forgetting any of the usual business niceties, and sends the gerbils in to see Bouris. Then she resumes pretending to type.

Inside the boardroom, Bouris and his two offsiders wait, seated behind a gigantic white table. Ew. With one of those wavy walls nobody would ever actually use in real life as a backdrop, they file in. Bouris welcomes them to his boardroom, and a music sting tries to give off the impression that the news this isn't a normal job interview is a surprise. The cute guy nods silently. This time, as opposed to the American version, they'll be competing to run Bouris's "national development unit", which is "a bloody important job", considering Bouris isn't actually involved with a business at this particular point in time. The female assistant and her bobblehead glare silently at the people she might have to work for in the future. Apparently, the winner will be paid "a package of $200,000 per annum", which I assume means Bouris will find some crafty way to take out business expenses from that. Let's meet Bouris's "advisors", shall we?

...Yeah, I know you don't want to, but I think we have to, anyway. On Bouris's right is Diane Stone, the bobblehead lady, who's been his "personal assistant over two decades" and who is trusted "implicitly". Yes, that's right, these people will be answering to a PA. On Bouris's left is Brad Seymour, his business partner. So, to recap, one of the assistants is underqualified for the job and will have a hard time earning respect, especially with the bobblehead, and the other is overqualified, and will have a hard time reclaiming dignity after agreeing to do this. (But I have never known anybody named Brad to not be unfailingly awesome, so stick that in your double-negative generator and smoke it.)

The twelve players are going to be separated into two teams of six. Bouris actually points at the gerbils to describe the confusing concepts of "the boys team" and "the girls team", even though they're all jumbled up. Each week, they get "a business challenge", and must "do [their] best to execute that business challenge", and someone from the team which sucks the most gets fired. I hope this doesn't turn into "each week, you'll get an advertising challenge" like it has on the American version. The first challenge is going to be given out "bright and early tomorrow morning".

In cars I have no doubt are product-placed, the teams drive across the damn bridge and head off "to their new home". One of the cars contains the fat guy, the young guy, and the poncy tie guy, who introduces himself as Gavin. God, he even has a wanker-y name. The young guy, Sam, claims his morning shave will do him for "at least seven weeks". Heh. He confessionals that "whatever [he does] in life, [he'll] probably be sitting behind a desk". It's good that he knows his own limitations, because he really doesn't look like the kind of guy who'd be good at anything involving moving around too much. Sam's a law student, so... you know. Probably not a good idea to point out that many of the law students I know are either openly gay or closet cases. Gavin is also a lawyer. Ew. He talks in the car about how the "six beautiful girls" are going to make for "interesting competition". Has he even seen half the women? Two could audition for The Biggest Loser, and one looks like that old hag on Ladette To Lady.

Girls' car. The generic blonde and her brunette counterpart giggle. Brunette tells us her name is Amy, that she runs a recruitment company, and that her working family background has given her a lot of drive. Of course, she's from Adelaide, so that drive is probably in a stolen vehicle, but whatever. The blonde woman explains what she does -- advertising -- and her family situation, without ever telling the other girls in her car (Amy and the fat lady) her name. In a confessional, we learn that it's Heather, and that she can deal with stress because she has a positive outlook on life. So, I take it she sees the glass as entirely full -- half with water, half with air? Until then, shut up about being positive, Heather.

As the teams arrive at their new pad, Daddo informs us that they'll be living in "the height of luxury". As it turns out, this luxury happens to be perched on the edge of a cliff. Blunt metaphor alert, woop woop woop! I wonder how much Bouris had to loan himself to rent this joint out for a few months.

Inside, the fat guy calls it "a real estate agent's dream". We learn via confessional that his name is Morello, and that he's a real estate agent and auctioneer. He learned everything he knows about business from "pumping petrol from ten years old and cleaning, cleaning toilets". You know how sometimes someone just says something and you don't know where to begin mocking it, even if it wasn't actually that funny to begin with? Well, I'm having that feeling right now. Morello exclaims that they don't exactly have "these sort of things in Moonee Ponds". He touches the edge of the pool to make sure it's real, and Dame Edna sure has a lot to answer for.

Walking down the hallway, the dark-haired woman introduces herself as Sabrina, and boasts that she was Miss World Australia 2006. Now, if you didn't get that, you'll hear it plenty more throughout the episode, so relax. As you may remember, she's the one who gave the finger to her Muslim upbringing by wearing a bikini in the contest. In other news, doesn't casting know that Miss World is the one Trump DOESN'T own? She's also a Mensan, and that will not be continually referenced throughout the episode, for reasons that will soon become readily obvious. She calls either the house, or the fact that she's managed to go for five minutes without referencing her pageant queen past, "absolutely stunning". The cute guy wants to "check out the views in the bedrooms". He tells us his name is Blake, and that he's a customer service manager. But since he works at Centrelink, the words 'customer', 'service', and 'manager' are a bit of a misnomer. He says, "I'm ethical, I'm honest, I'm a good husband, I'm a good father, but I'm not satisfied". Or humble, it seems.

The fat lady screeches -- I mean, literally SCREECHES -- when she sees how big the "cupboards" are. Because she likes to have a snack while deciding what to wear, apparently. Her name is Mary-Anne, and apparently thinks the other gerbils won't like her "fierce spirit".

Morello finds the alcohol, and soon everyone is drinking. Because you know what makes you look like a responsible businessperson? A hangover. One of the women makes a toast "to winning". The guy on the ferry introduces himself as Lynton, and declares himself "an alpha male". Shut up, Lynton. The woman who looks like my mother brags about dealing with men with big egos, and Gavin snarks that there won't be any arrogant men here. She is Carmen, and provides the first mention of the Global Financial Crisis as she reveals that she's a single mother who lost everything because of it. Frankly, though, her bio on the official site lists her as living in Toorak, one of Melbourne's most exclusive suburbs, so it's kind of hard to feel sorry for her.

Amy asks Sam what his team is like, and Sam thinks it's full of "six winners". Heh. The grey-haired guy and the old lady separate from the group and complain about the young whippersnappers and their egos. The old lady is Jane, and she explains that being over the hill is an advantage, because with age comes experience and knowledge. Motion to put her and Sam on a Japanese game show to see if she still has the advantage? The grey-haired guy, John, is a father of four, and wants to win to make his kids proud.

Waves smash against the cliffs, but don't make much of an effect. You know, like the one thirty-second commercial this show got before it started.

The women walk down a hallway, and so do the men. Daddo voices over that the teams have to come up with their very own name and a Project Manager. Sabrina's first suggestion is Eventus, a Latin word for success, which she feels the need to sort of spell out, as though ninety percent of Latin words don't end in "-us". Mary-Anne calls it "a really catchy one", as Carmen writes it on a whiteboard. Heather comes up with Ethos, and Jane wants Zeus. In a non-sexual way, of course. Probably. Amy wonders what the "word for successful achievement" is, and Carmen decrees it to be "Carmen". The women cackle at how stupid this remark is. We get a clear, if glary, shot of the whiteboard for the first time, and I notice that Alpha has been scribbled out and replaced with Omega. Heh. Wonder if Lynton told them his team was going to use Alpha on account of all the alpha males. Everyone likes Eventus, and Sabrina grins cheesily.

Lynton tells the group that they're all men (no shit), and that they want to come across as masculine. He suggests Pinnacle, and the guys are so happy about it that they don't even need to suggest any Latin names. High fives all 'round! Morello claims that their ability to make a decision without considering any alternatives is what separates them from the women, and shut up, Morello. Lynton wants to "float the idea" of Morello being Project Manager, because he's not enough of an alpha male to do it himself. Morello confessionals that he's "been the leader since the day [he] was born", so he has no problems being in charge. Everyone at the Pinnacle table feels the need to shake his hand, before they do one of those lame team-building "Pride on three!" everybody-put-your-hands-in-the-middle things.

Eventus. Trying to decide on a project manager, Amy wants everyone to explain a bit of their backgrounds, because they were apparently too busy screeching over the wardrobes to introduce themselves before. Jane tells us she's worked in the travel industry for the past 35 years, and Sabrina once again gives the Miss World spiel. Jane subtly mocks the low standards of beauty pageant judges these days, and I think I like her. I don't hate Sabrina for mentioning her past (yet), but she's the sort of person I'd definitely like if she didn't mention it so often, you know? Amy does, and would now like to know who actually wants to be the project manager. Carmen does, and Heather says she was just going to "recommend" Carmen, apparently solely because she knows how to write on a whiteboard. Carmen confessionals, hair flying all over the place like anyone's chances of liking her as a person, that she's a team player, as long as you're on her team. Shut up, Carmen. (Wow, that's five "shut up"s in the first twelve minutes. This is going to be a long season.) The women also high-five.

After the break: More episode! I know, I was shocked too. Seriously, whoever decided these "after the break" things were a good idea needs to be fired; pilloried; hung, drawn and quartered; and burnt at the stake. Preferably all at once.

Commercials. Can Channel Seven please be banned from making their own ads for The Amazing Race? Because, really? Calling the freaking CAPITAL CITY of CAMBODIA "deep in the JUNGLES"? They've just made The List.

The gerbils arrive at some park and walk down a giant staircase to Bouris and the assistants. Brad is the only one smiling at the prospect of having to spend time with the gerbils. Bouris welcomes the gerbils to the Royal Botanic Gardens, as Bobblehead looks around expectantly. Perhaps she thinks this is just a rehearsal. Bouris points across the harbour to the center of Sydney, calling it "the heartbeat of Australian business". Speaking on behalf of Melbourne and Victoria, where over a third of the gerbils live, shut up, Bouris. Bouris does not, instead gleaming out the identity of the Project Managers and the team names out of the gerbils. (By the way, Morello, thank you soooooo much for explaining the meaning of Pinnacle as "when you reach the top of the mountain, you're at the top". Because I was completely flummoxed before.)

Bouris points out that the gerbils may be thinking that the first challenge will be "a walk in the park", and reveals that that assumption is "sorta half-right". Really? Not even completely half-right? The only walking in the park they'll be doing for this task is with a lawnmower, because they've got to run "a premier gardening service". Sam confessionals that he's "mowed [sic] the lawns one or twice before", but has about as much gardening experience as Gerrard Gosens has dancing ability. Bouris informs the teams that whoever makes the most money wins. Simple. Brad and his fashionable scarf will go with Eventus and make sure they don't fuck it up too badly, while Bobblehead and her creepy smile will join Pinnacle. Between Carmen and Mary-Anne on one side and Lynton and Morello on the other, as well as everyone else, I'm not sure which of them got the raw end of the deal here. Bouris wishes the teams good luck, and everyone walks off without their supervisors.

As they depart, Daddo explains that they're each going to brainstorm how to make money. He adds that they'll be competing against each other for some big, commercial jobs (because what commercial company doesn't want to hire a group of gardeners with no experience who just started their company yesterday to mow the lawns?), but can also do some residential gardening for money. The teams conveniently find gazebos with whiteboards and their team logos -- Eventus has a giant, stereotypically-Greek-looking E, while Pinnacle has a normal-looking P inside what I think is supposed to be a pyramid. Lynton explains that residential and commercial businesses need different strategies. Morello wants John to do the corporate management, because he's "more mature", while he himself uses his background on the commercial jobs. So, basically, Morello wants John to do the work while he takes the credit. Morello confessionals that he's a good leader, even though he's young. This, coming from the guy who just used John's age to decide where to put him? Shut up, Morello. Gavin has no problems with doing residential work. Bobblehead confessionals, complete with a little graphic remind us who she is (heh), that Pinnacle is turning into "a really cohesive team", and that they have figured out roughly what they need to do.

Eventus. Sabrina steals Carmen's job away from her, wanting to know who's going to organise residential gardening and who will organise commercial sales. She's not going to win Miss Congeniality with behaviour like that. Mary-Anne puts her hand up to do some commercial selling, and Carmen immediately rebuts the proposal. Brad watches on. Carmen confessionals that she can "pick up on people's strengths and weaknesses very quickly", and can use that skill to get what she wants. Mary-Anne confessionals about being pissed she wasn't allowed to do commercial jobs (in which case, she should have volunteered to be project manager), and hopes that that's not going to be where the team loses this challenge.

1:30pm. As Sydney's towers continue to stand upright, Daddo informs us that the teams will only have until five o'clock -- three-and-a-half hours -- to get jobs, and they'll have to do all the work before the same time tomorrow. The residential pitchers will be hiring their lawn-mowing equipment, and have been provided with brand new utes to help them, while the commercial teams (conveniently both including the Project Managers) will try and sell their services for "two major commercial contracts". The first of these is with the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, who will be hiring one of the teams to mow two lawns and plant a "massive" flowerbed right in front of the Museum Of Contemporary Art. Daddo tells us that professional gardeners would take four hours to do it, and charge "about $1200". Or they could just rent out a herd of cattle and get the grass eaten quicker and cheaper.

Morello, John, and Lynton from Pinnacle are the first team to pitch. Morello tells them that they need their lawns to look good. Which makes you wonder why these guys are even being considered. The guy they're meeting asks Morello to describe their business strengths in three words, and he comes up with "experience", "presentation", and either "hard workers" or "fast workers", he can't decide. Or count, apparently. And just for the record, I never want to have to use the words hard and fast in the same sentence as Morello again, show. Blecch. Bobblehead takes notes. Lynton explains that Pinnacles "operate[s] based on delivery, with a focus on finish". Thanks, Lynton. Because I just wasn't confused enough about what you were trying to sell before. The customers ask for a figure, and Morello makes the mistake of using the expression "million-dollar question". He quotes them "somewhere between $1500 to $1700, depending on how long the time takes". Given that time travels at about the pace of one second per second, how about an exact number, Morello? The client guys look unimpressed.

The Eventus pitchers -- Carmen, as well as Jane and Amy -- enter the room. Carmen and her gigantic "C" necklace confessional that she's "a salesperson at heart", "like an Energiser bunny", and "tenacious, tenacious, tenacious". She's three times as annoying as your standard double-A battery. She quotes them $1295, not far off the actual price, but when she learns that the plants for the garden will be supplied already, it gets cut back down to $900. "Based on those figures", and possibly a complete and utter lack of understanding of what Lynton and Morello were waffling on about, Eventus gets the job. Brad confessionals, again with the legend, that he thought Eventus had no idea what they were pitching, but happily reports that Carmen saved the team's hides. The girls squee in the hallway at having their first job, while the Pinnacle posse watch on in disappointment.

In their car, the Eventus pitchers call the other members in their group, all wearing overalls (Sabrina's idea, no doubt), and tell them the good news. Sabrina blathers something about "power to win", but fucked if I can be bothered figuring it out.

Coming up: Even more episode, including a lady with giant teeth.

Commercials. Oh, Ricki-Lee Coulter. How can I pretend to miss you when you won't fuck off?

The Eventus cars roll on, full of energetic, likable people, as well as the six Eventus members. Mary-Anne, Sabrina, and Heather approach an older-style house, all "Your garden is ugly! Pay us to fix it!", but the girl who answers the door is not interested. I don't blame her for a second. The next person they try isn't home. Great business plan this was.

2:37pm. Gavin, Blake, and Sam are on Pinnacle's residential crew. Gavin comes across as a much better salesperson than Sabrina did, but he's preaching to the converted -- the woman he's trying to whore his services out to is the daughter of "a horticulturalist". So? My dad's one too, and I still wouldn't pass up the chance to see Blake getting hot and sweaty in my backyard. They try a few more people in the world's lamest music-free montage, but still can't even get a look at anyone's gardens.

The girls also suck. So, naturally, Sabrina decides to pull out the pageant card. Surprisingly, "Hi! I'm Miss World Australia 2006! Can I weed your garden?" actually works. Some heavy "welcome to the jungle" drumbeats introduce them to the backyard. Hee! Mary-Anne offers to do the backyard by the end of the afternoon, in exchange for just $200. Sabrina calls the three of them "angels, sent to help you out when you needed it". Cheesy grin! She takes them up on the offer, and soon Heather is weeding and Mary-Anne mowing. Miss World Australia 2006 rakes, and rather poorly at that. Heather explains why doing the job was a good choice for the team.

The other members of Eventus arrive at Strickland House, in time for a pitch at three o'clock. The place has "five hectares of lawns", all of which needs to be mowed, and some gardenbeds which need clearing because they're all overgrown. The old guy in charge of deciding who gets the job looks like Dick Smith, but sounds like Eeyore. Daddo tells us that the going rate is two grand. Carmen, on the other hand, offers to do it for $600. Even Brad notices that the price is low. One point for Brad. Eeyore asks if they want to reconsider the price, but Carmen seems fine with it. Amy, it seems, catches on to what he's trying to ask, and asks how he feels about the price. He refuses to give her an answer. Soon after, Morello, John, and Lynton turn up with Pinnacle's quote. According to Morello's dinky little calculator, Pinnacle will do it for $1350. And indeed they will, because after a moment's consideration, Eeyore gives them the job. The women look pissed, standing beside their car as the men shake hands with Eeyore. Brad confessionals that the girls lost because they had even less of an idea about what they were doing than the men did. Except he says it with a lot more tact. But that's why he's the successful businessman and I'm the pseudo-psychic recapper. Eventus gets in their car, and Carmen tells us she's "a terrible loser". Insert your own joke, people. Something makes Carmen laugh shortly after, so apparently your joke was funny enough. Go, you!

Miss World Australia 2006 has finished raking, and the others have finished their gardening as well, so the three of them get paid. In the middle of the driveway, naturally. Mary-Anne confessionals that she was "excited" to have earned $200. Heather declares as they leave that they "rock". And they do, in the same way that Michael Bublè is the father of death metal.

4:02pm. Gavin, Blake, and Sam have apparently managed to book themselves four residential jobs for the next day, even though they haven't actually done any work yet. Bludgers!

Meanwhile, Morello decides that the residential jobs and Strickland House just aren't enough work, so they head on up to the Sydney Observatory, where the gardens apparently "need a makeover". Why? It's not like the people at the Observatory spend their time looking at the flowers. They meet a frazzled-looking lady with a big, toothy grin, and Morello acts like she's already supposed to know who he is. Daddo butts in to tell us that there's only a half-hour to get the contract sorted, and Morello confessionals that he's "a fierce negotiator". And, yes, that's two "fierce"s in just over 25 minutes. What is this, America's Next Top Model? Morello tells Toothy that Pinnacle can send people over for "four to five hours" to work on the lawns. Toothy's no idiot, and wants to know whether they'll get the job done, not how long they can be here for. John asserts that Pinnacle are competent enough to get the job done, while Morello tries to hypnotise Toothy. Or something. His hypnosis skills may need some work, because she manages to add some trimming into the deal before giving them the job. Morello gets a hug instead. I must have missed the memo about when hugging your clients became acceptable protocol.

4:50pm. Eventus are searching for more commercial work. Someone has told them that there's an overgrown garden at "the Park Cottage development" which needs clearing. Where are our drumbeats for this one? The women settle on a price of six hundred dollars, before they even see the rest of the property or the owner. Daddo tells us that "a fair price" is a full thousand. The guy, who does seem sort of pompous, explains that the area to be cleared is "about 200 square metres". Pompous Guy calls it a jungle, and Amy asks if there are snakes. Heh. Carmen feels "like [she] should have a safari hat on". She confessionals that Eventus are "gonna absolutely kill it". Way to ruin my fun, Carmen. They're also "very sales-savvy, and ready to get their hands dirty". I suspect if you guys actually were sales savvy, you would have researched reasonable pricing after what happened at Strickland House, but... whatever. She, Jane, and Amy huddle again, and somehow revise their figure down to $400 instead of up to something approaching a logical price. Once again, Amy is confused, and wonders if Carmen means "put four people on this mess". The girls return to Pompous Guy with their quote, and he incredulously points out how big the property is. One point for him. It works out to two bucks per square metre, which, given how overgrown it is, is frankly ridiculous. Jane snarks that they can raise the price if he wants to feel less like he's letting the most incompetent gardening company ever do the job. And, seriously? That's two out of three people on this team who've pointed out that $400 is too cheap for the scale of the job. Perhaps Carmen should take notice next time. He puts the kibosh on that idea, and agrees to the current price. Jane confessionals that even though they were originally aiming for six hundred, they ended up lowering the price just to make sure they got the job. Did they not notice why they lost the job at Strickland House? Because Brad did, and he's supposed to be watching the team itself, so something he worked out should have been even more noticeable to Eventus. Sigh.

Night. As Carmen's group calls Mary-Anne's group to tell them of their job the next morning, Daddo interjects, reminding us that both groups have two commercial contracts, and thus it may come down to who gets more money from regular people. Carmen says once again that they're "going to really kill it" tomorrow, because they've decided to do some more door-to-door gardening after their jobs are finished. She did see both jobs, right? Just checking.

Coming up: Gavin wears a singlet, and someone tries mowing lawn with their feet.

Commercials. So, Quantum Leap's a show from the late 80's about a guy in the late 90's who spends most of his time in the 50's, 60's, and 70's? I kind of feel that by liking it, my born-in-1990 self is tearing a hole in what's left of the space-time continuum. Just remember to thank me when the take-out you order on Friday night is delivered on Thursday afternoon.

Dawn breaks over the house. Daddo tells us it's going to be a long day, even though we already know the teams have to finish their work by five o'clock, so considering they're not even getting paid overtime? Shut up, Daddo. He adds that Eventus and Pinncale each have "two huge commercial gardening jobs" to complete, right as the editors apparently try and convince us that putting mascara on Heather is one of them.

Carmen tells the rest of Eventus to try and be as efficient as possible. Thanks for the advice! Heather was going to try mowing the lawns by repeatedly bungy jumping out of a hot-air balloon before she said that.

John confessionals that Pinnacle needs to "knuckle down" to get their jobs done, pretty much working non-stop for as long as possible. Daddo reminds us that someone from the losing team will be fired, and WE KNOW. We have been watching this show, you know. Morello explains in a confessional that he's "never been fired before". Please God, let there be a first time for everything. Amy confessionals with glasses on, telling us that "everyone here wants to be the Apprentice". Well, that's nice. If the cast was full of people who didn't come into it wanting to win, this would essentially be Big Brother, and nobody wants to have to sit through twelve weeks of that again.

The teams drive off. We teleport magically to Strickland House, where Gavin, Lynton, and John re-introduce themselves to Eeyore, whose real name is apparently Paul. Whatever. Daddo tells us that it's "easily" the largest of the four jobs, because apparently mowing a bigger area of lawns which are already pretty well-kept will be more difficult than mowing a smaller area with grass so long even Pompous Guy called it a jungle. As they confirm what they have to do to get paid, Bobblehead watches on.

In the other Pinnacle car, Morello wears a sailors hat for no reason. He claims he'd be "up the creek without the paddle" without Sam and Blake. Daddo voices over that Morello's "taken the helm" with regard to the Sydney Observatory job. Heh. He reintroduces himself to Toothy, who wants them to make their garden beds "a showpiece". Daddo reminds us that because of their residential jobs, they've got to finish the job here by about lunchtime. Blake confessionals in a yellow construction-worker jacket and lab goggles that they've got to try and keep to "the promises [they've] made as as business". I get where he's coming from, in that having to cancel on people is never good, but still? They have to give the monopoly back to Jim's Mowing after today, so it's not like they're going to lose their favourite customers.

Eventus crosses the Anzac Bridge. We learn that Mary-Anne, Amy, and Heather will be headed to the "jungle". Suddenly it's before dawn again, as Carmen tells Jane and Sabrina that they'll be "cursing" her when they see how much they've got to do. Because Amy apparently had her eyes closed when she was with them yesterday. Oh, and Carmen. I'll be the one to handle the curses, thank you very much. (Mwahahahahaha.) Jane calls the Park Cottage mess "derelict", and, while the word might be a little strong to describe it, it's not too far off the actual appearance of the yard. As the people working at Park Cottage arrive, Amy sarcastically grins that it's "just a small job". Heh. One point for Amy. Mary-Anne has a look on her face that's basically the same as the look you'd probably make if you saw Kyle Sandilands making out with Hitler. Or, you know, anybody. Heather confessionals about $400 being wayyy too cheap a price for the amount of work they have to do, and she's completely right. Mary-Anne confessionals that "it is absolute bullshit what they quoted for this job", and I have no idea where the right place in that quote to put the [sic] is. The quote is fully [sic]. Pompous Guy confessionals that he wants them to get the job done because "a deal's a deal". A horn tootles ominously.

"Across town", the other members of Eventus arrive at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Apparently, in addition to having to mow the two lawns, there are over five hundred plants to plant. That does seem pretty big, actually -- even once you take out the lawnmowing, it'll still take around about two-and-a-half minutes to properly dig, plant, and soil each plant, so one person could really only get 24 plants done per hour, assuming they were actually doing it properly. If that same one person works non-stop for the eight hours until 5pm, that's still only 192 plants all up. Essentially, to get it done, you've got to have two people mowing the lawns at the same time, and both finishing and switching to gardening within a little bit over ninety minutes. And that's using an estimate of 500 small-ish plants, even though we know there are more and larger. It's still definitely possible, assuming the gardens aren't massive, but really? They're not going to do any more jobs today.


Sabrina introduces herself, and I'm beginning to wonder whether it would be less confusing for me to call her "Miss World Australia 2006" instead of her actual name every time I need to refer to her. Because there's approximately no reason why these people need to know she used to wish for world peace. They start working, and almost immediately Sabrina is wheeling one plant over with a wheelbarrow, which really can't be far enough away to justify. Even if it is, though, Jane has decided to sit on top of a hole she's digging and try to push dirt out with her hands. Just like all the professional gardeners do it. Carmen stops her, so she can dig the hole herself by doing it properly, and voices over that Jane has no "sense of urgency". Well, she did work for Qantas, so taking a timetable as a suggestion rather than an actual rule is probably something she's used to, I suppose. We cut to what seems like it's a different, possibly pre-show confessional, in which Carmen claims people will hate her "directness". Back in the real world, Carmen orders Jane to go and mow one of the lawns while she and Sabrina dig. Jane confessionals that she felt more like "Carmen's lackey" than a "vital team member". She's sort of right, but the job's got to get done anyway, so it really doesn't matter who does what as long as it gets done. Jane leaves Carmen and Sabrina to "do the yellow flowers".

1:00pm. Four hours to go. Strickland House. The three Pinnacle members here -- Gavin, Lynton, and John -- "are knee-deep in back-breaking work". As Gavin moves a bunch of fallen palm tree branches or something to the kerb (heh), Lynton leans on a rake or a shovel or whatever it is, confessionaling that he'd rather keep his normal job than do this again. He laughs nervously at a joke he apparently made at some point during the sentence. He's the only one. Bobblehead confessionals that Pinnacle have made the smart move by putting their buffest men "into the toughest task". She, of course, doesn't actually call them the buffest men, because that would be unprofessional, but you just know she's totally thinking it. She adds that it'll be "an absolute race to the finish". See, Mary-Anne? That's how you use "absolute" in a sentence. (But still, anyone in the future who uses the word "race" to describe something not even remotely resembling an actual race is on The List.) Eeyore apparently stops them, then tells them not to stop, because there's still "a way to go". Eeyore confessionals that he doesn't "think they can achieve what was planned". IN other news, Gavin has nice arms, even if the rest of him is a bit douchey.

Museum of Contemporary Art. One of the guys in charge of the project here comes out to see how the women are doing, and is understandably unimpressed to see that Jane has been planting the "plants in the wrong spot". Carmen points at the plants in question and asks whether those plants are the type of plants she thinks they are. Really, Carmen? You're running a gardening company, doing some gardening on a fairly major site, and you can't even be bothered checking to make sure the members of your team are putting the flowers in the right place before they plant? I get that you're all busy, and that this is manual labour and all, but that's like booking Marcel Marceau for a radio interview. Don't get me wrong, Jane sucks at flower identification too, but they shouldn't have had to wait to be told that these flowers were in the wrong place. Sabrina confessionals about Jane fucking up. Carmen shows Jane the flowers in the book they've been provided. Daddo interrupts once more, pointing out that the plants need to be uprooted and replanted.

Carmen takes more time to bitch about Jane being slow, and I have no idea whether to agree with Carmen, insofar as there's a lot of work to be done, or to point out that at least Jane was the one who fucked up, because otherwise you'd have to replant half the fucking garden. Carmen points out that she's "younger and fitter", but then talks over Jane when she tries to get a word in edgeways, claiming she's "not interested in arguing". Jane points out that if she doesn't want to argue, she probably shouldn't raise the point. One point for Jane. Jane confessionals that "there's a time and a place just to keep your mouth shut and get on with it", which sort of makes me wonder if she thinks not talking back isn't the normal thing to do. I'd point out that, yeah, it's not, but that would make me the biggest hypocrite this side of all those twits on Big Brother who claimed non-stop that they were just being themselves.

It's apparently just before three o'clock, even though just a minute ago Carmen said they only had an hour left to finish the replanting. In any event, the men up at the Observatory also still have a hell of a lot of planting to do. Morello realises that there's probably over two more hours worth of work to get done, even though he'd planned on finishing by one o'clock. Blake tells us that if they have to cancel the residential jobs, which quite frankly they probably should have done as soon as they realised they weren't going to finish by one, then so be it. Blake, by the way, appears to be one of the very few hot people who can manage to still look good while wearing lab glasses. Morello decides to spend some time getting Blake to stop what he's doing and call the residential customers, apparently forgetting that it would be both quicker and easier for him to do it himself, given that he's apparently not currently working. Morello confessionals that big companies are more important than everyday people, which is why he's decided to cancel those jobs.

Bobblehead watches on as Blake, cap on backwards like he's officially the least with-it gangsta ever (aside from, you know, the guy who just used the words 'gangsta' and 'with-it' in the same sentence), calls the customers to cancel. Bobblehead confessionals that the problem was that Pinnacle overfilled their schedule, and we're back to the St Kilda Road hooker comparisons. She states that "never again, are you going to be able to build your credibility back without difficulty". And she should know, considering she's appearing on this show. Blake continues cancelling, and actually seems somewhat remorseful to do so. Or "as remorseful as someone who works at Centrelink can be". One point for him.

3:11pm. Over at Park Cottage, Heather decides to take the phrase "show and tell" literally, she she shows us and tells us how "swollen" her hands are. Carmen calls, and everyone realises that neither of the groups are going to get done early. Carmen's Internal Monologue: "Not. Happy. JANE!" Back at the Museum, Sabrina tells us that "the one thing that's very much concerning [her] is the fact that [they]'ve only planted maybe 35% of the plants", and that she doesn't know if they'll get the job finished. The guy who hired them points out that they "will consider retracting the contract" if Eventus doesn't finish. He's totally a museum guy -- nobody else would use such blowhardy terminology if they didn't have to.

Commercials. Oh, please. I could sing better than the Australian Idol hamsters this season. (But still? James FTMFW!)

Daddo decides that, in the absence of a stupid "after the break" bumper, he'll do a stupid "before the break" bumper. Here's the news: You missed nothing of importance.

Apparently, there's only 45 minutes left to go at this point. I wish I only had to spend another 45 minutes writing this recap, because my GOD, this episode is sucky. And boring. And filled with unlikeable twits getting all the screentime. At the museum, the girls still have "dozens" of flowers to plant, and an "enormous pile of mulch" to spread. Because, really? All about the mulch. Carmen is still taking time off work to complain that Jane sucks. She confessionals that "a little bell went inside of [herself]". Yeah, I know that feeling. If only there were bikini babes holding up placards in real life. It would certainly make university lectures a lot more enjoyable. She tries to complain to the museum guys that the mulching wasn't part of the deal -- and the first we've heard about it in this entire episode is Daddo's last interruption, so I have no idea whether she's right or not -- but the museum guys point out that the mulch was mentioned earlier in the morning, and it seems to them like she's trying to get out of having to mulch the garden beds.

To be honest, it seems as though Carmen's right here, and you have no idea how dirty I feel saying those words. She clearly says in her bell-ringing confessional that it "wasn't part of the quotation". The museum guy clearly says that "it was certainly mentioned this morning". I think -- and I have no way of knowing about this, so take this with a grain of salt -- that the mulch was never mentioned as part of their discussion the previous day. Unless there was a bunch of stuff edited out of the discussion this morning, it was only ever mentioned as an afterthought there too, with the non-argumentative Museum Guy #2 being all, "Here are your plants, you have to plant them in these flowerbeds, you have to mow this lawn, up to and past the fountain, and you have to mow this lawn down by the water. Ohandheresyamulch." Add to that that he waited until after the three of them had agreed to the mowing and planting to mention it, and this all seems a bit suss. It was mentioned this morning, yes, but if it wasn't mentioned until the price and the number of people completing the job was set, as both Carmen and Museum Guy #1 have very strongly implied? Then this is all the museum guys' fault, and these three women have a right to be pissed off. Since they're not allowed extra time to do the task, either offer to pay them more (and by "more", I mean "the going rate for mulching, even though they were underpricing") for the unplanned extra work, or don't force them to do it.

In any event, Brad watches on, and confessionals. "Carmen's trying to renegotiate, based on the fact that we're not going to get the job finished in time. So, that's a BIG business no-no." I automatically love anyone who can use the word 'no-no' in a serious context, but Brad, honey? How 'bout paying a bit more attention to what's actually going on, instead of what the editors are somewhat incompetently trying to get us to think? But it is nice that he apparently considers himself part of Eventus. Heh.

Carmen returns to working with Jane and Sabrina, yelling at the group to mulch. Of course, when Sabrina offers to start mulching, Carmen snaps that they have to finish planting first. And I'm back to hating Carmen. Now that that's out of the way, the world can resume its normal orbit around Grant Denyer's ego.

Ferries have nothing to do with the Sydney Observatory, but transition us to it anyway. We learn that "the garden bed'll have to pass inspection". And it does, with Toothy calling it "brilliant". Let's not go nuts, Toothy.

Strickland House. Apparently, one of the signs the other men also finished in time is Lynton unbuckling one side of his overalls, like he was some reject children's television presenter. They call the Observatory team, and everyone manages to be happy without celebrating. Bobblehead points out that even though "the boys have performed well", Morello "needs to take on board" the fact that even normal people are important. Even she's getting involved with the boating puns!

There's just fifteen minutes left, and the Park Cottage group is done. Pompous Guy shows he's much more tolerable than the Museum Guys, by giving them a $50 tip, solely because he thought they "severely undersold [them]selves". I think Carmen put exactly the right people on this job, to be honest -- these three really buckled down and did the job with no histrionics, which always goes a long way. Unless you're editing this show, in which case you will punish the decision by ignoring them. Mary-Anne confessionals that if Pinnacle wins the challenge, it'll be because Eventus quoted too small a price for this job. The three of them group hug, and I swear Amy gets lost in the sandwich for a second there.

Museum. With two minutes left, everyone is still rushing around and flouting the water restrictions. Brad makes a note. They get paid, as though there was any chance the first challenge on a Channel Nein reality show based on an American franchise they've also aired in exactly the same timeslot would be a dismal failure. Brad calls it "a major miracle" that Eventus finished on time. Hee. I like both Brad and Bobblehead, but Brad just manages to ooze personality, while Bobblehead seems much more guarded. And still, Bobblehead is the only person so far to get a nickname this season. (And, again, all the Brads I know are awesome, so anyone who knows an annoying Brad can suck it deep.)

Back at the gerbils' house. Everyone feels tired and exhausted, apparently, including the recapper. But not tired enough to stop Lynton from promoting healthy alcoholism. Daddo voices over that someone will be getting fired the next day, and... the teams talk to each other. I doubt the final results didn't end up getting leaked out at some point during the night. Morello confessionals that he thinks Pinnacle are going to do well, but that he doesn't "underestimate the women". I don't know about this. Either he mentions that he thinks the men will beat the women, in which case he's a misogynist, or he says that he thinks the women will do well, in which case he's being condescending. I don't even like Morello, but... there's no way you can win when talking about the gender divide.

In their bedroom, Carmen and Mary-Anne talk about the day. Carmen claims to have had a "power hat" which helped her to finish the job on time. She confessionals, next to a hilariously-placed bunch of flowers, that "it's been one long, hard day", but that all the team members did as much as they could. The next thing we know, she's out downing a couple of brewskis with Jane and Blake, probably the two most tolerable gerbils at this point (even though we really haven't seen much out of Heather or Amy or John or Sam to tell). Poor Blake and Jane. Carmen goes back to her confessional about how everyone did a good job.

After the break: The stuff spoiled by this bumper.

Commercials. In which I have run out of snarky things to say about random shit, because Channel Nein decided to make this a ninety-minute episode without telling anyone.

It's the next morning, and the gerbils are driven to the boardroom. In the waiting room, the receptionist has at least managed to open the Start Menu. Small steps, people! Daddo reminds us that someone is going to be fired. Gasp! Carmen confessionals that she "take[s] ownership in whatever outcome there is today, 'cause ultimately the buck stops at me [sic]". Morello confessionals that the work Pinnacle did was "great", and again calls something the "million-dollar question". He was paying attention when Bouris told him the winner was only going to get two hundred grand a year, right? Just checking. The receptionist's phone, seemingly not plugged into anything, rings, and we see that she's now got another window open as well as the Start Menu. I have come to the conclusion that each week I'd like to see a new random thing on her computer screen. One week, it could be Peter Hitchener getting attacked by that "giant seagull", the next she could be browsing for vibrators online. Not very business-y, I'll grant you, but still better than a blank window. She sends them into the boardroom.

Inside, Brad and Bobblehead are waiting. Wow, Bobblehead looks PISSED for some reason. As the teams sit down, Bouris walks in through an extremely fake-looking door. Why would you put the side of the door with the hydraulic thingy on it on the interior of the boardroom? And blue? What is this, Thank God You're Here? Actually, this boardroom really doesn't look much like a boardroom at all. The table is so ridiculously oversized that John could probably get a restraining order out on Heather without her even having to move (and yet Bouris and Brad are basically knocking elbows), and those wavy walls would make anyone seasick after a while. Hey, maybe that's why Bobblehead looks pissed.

Bouris reminds everyone about the task. Brad tells Bouris that Eventus had "passion", and a determination to make up for their lack of grunt with a focus on quality and on "servicing their client", and that's quite enough St Kilda Road hooker shoutouts for one episode, thank you Brad. Brad claims that everyone was talking over each other during the brainstorming session, causing Carmen to roll her eyes. And even with their problems with underquoting and slow work, "they got the job done". Diane thinks Pinnacle were a "very competent and very cohesive team", and manages to make me very, very sick of the word "very" in a very, very short time, so that's one point off. She reminds Bouris about something he himself taught her about business, that not delivering the service one promises is A Bad Thing.

Moving on. Bouris asks Morello how the team did, and he thinks it went "phenomenally". The next question is about "weak links", and Morello starts to give a stunningly bad non-answer before Bouris smacks him down. If I and my Melbournian self could be bothered checking how many there were, I'd give him a try worth of points, but since I can't be arsed, he can take six, because I do at least pay enough attention to the AFL when it gets covered in the media literally NON-STOP for the entire period between March and September. Morello confirms that he doesn't think there were any weak links. The rest of Pinnacle turns into a bunch of yes-men when they get questioned about Morello's skills as a leader. Carmen gets asked who the "standouts" were (Heather and Mary-Anne, the two people on the entire team Carmen didn't work with on either day) and who the "weak links" were (Jane, the one person she worked with on both days). He asks why Jane was useless, and Carmen puts it down to, essentially, Jane being slow and old. Carmen thinks she did "extremely well" as a Project Manager. On the other hand, Mary-Anne thinks "she didn't listen effectively", and Jane agrees, as Carmen gives them both death stares. Amy tells Bouris, "Carmen's a very good people manager, but the task could have been executed better." Carmen looks like she's about to cry, to the point where Bouris has to ask her if she's "all right". She figured she would have gotten "some backlash, but not as much as" this. Bouris feels the need for a pep talk. Gross. Bouris, as a general rule? The people you (as a glorified game show host) have to motivate are usually the ones who make viewers feel sick inside when you do. See also: The Weaver family. Tarasai Vushe. Pretty much anybody from Big Brother, and most of the people from the last couple of Biggest Loser seasons.

Time for results, which means this episode is finally almost over. Good. Brad goes first, explaining that Eventus earned $1550 from their various undersold jobs, but only have a total profit of $1106 after you take out the lawnmower rentals and stuff. Bobblehead gets the job of revealing that Pinnacle had $2250 in revenue, but $1717 after taking away the hire costs. Pinnacle celebrates. Their reward is that they all get to go to a spa. The women seem even more excited about it than the boys do, even though they won't get to go. Bouris sends them out, but orders Eventus to stay.

Outside in the waiting room, the receptionist may have gone back to looking for kitten pictures, but we don't get to see. What we do get to see is yet another "pride-on-three" cheer, and Gavin making like Om-Tay Ooze-Cray, except with less jumping on couches.

Back inside the boardroom. Bouris reminds Eventus that someone will be getting fired.

Commercials. Yeah. I've still got nothing.

The damn bridge is back, and is all, "Does my bum look big in this camera angle?"

Pinnacle walks into the spa for their reward, and at some point they transition from business suits to bathrobes, to boardshorts (and possibly Speedos). Sam bombs into the pool, because Adelaide apparently doesn't give you the chance to do that. As someone who's been hit by giant splashes more than once, that's one point for Adelaide, and the first in the city's history. Unfortunately, they still have to make up for foisting Ryan Fitzgerald on an unsuspecting world, and so they're still down about eight and a half million. Morello thanks everyone because they "literally did give it". And by "it", he means "two hundred percent". Yes, that's right, they literally gave twice as much as it is physically possible to give. What, did they plant their harvested kidneys while they were at it? It's a good thing Bobblehead was in double-checking the Pinnacle profits.

Later on, Morello gets a massage, but luckily it's only on his neck and I don't have to recap the site of him with minimal clothing on. He's probably a nice person in his daily life and all, but I'm really attached to my eyeballs, and I don't particularly want to have to go searching for new ones after jabbing these ones out with a headphone jack.

Until now, that is, because right after I unpause my copy of the episode, he's in a sauna with the rest of the team. It turns out Gavin and Lynton are pretty buff, though. If I didn't have such an immediate dislike for them upon seeing them on the screen, I'd totally be lusty. And I can be even lustier over Blake, because the dude doesn't look hideously ugly in a towel. Mmmm. I don't even remember if we got to see Craig shirtless. Blake wonders what the women are doing.

It's taken the women all day to spead themselves out and fill the six seats in the office. Bouris reminds everyone of how much they lost by, and chalks it up to horrible planning session. Mary-Anne, did the brainstorming session suck? She thinks it did, because she was ignored by Carmen. Sabrina, were you happy with the plan? She decides to replace the word "happy" with the word "satisfied" in her response, and Bouris decides that merits stopping her answer and repeating the six-word question. Sabrina speaks... very... slowly... and... deliberately... as she says that while what they had planned was good, there needed to be more. Bouris points out that there wasn't much of a chance for more planning, and that it's the entire team's fault if there wasn't enough. Then... why ask the question? It's not going to help you pinpoint who needs to be fired. He snarks that you can't exactly expect the project manager to not be bossy, given their status as the team's boss, and basically tells them to quit wasting his time with excuses like that. One more point. He then asks Jane the same question, and she explains that even if she wasn't happy with it, she did what she was told to do. Bouris is unimpressed, and implies that she's a sheep, before asking why she didn't do anything about it. She is unable to answer, and, not finished interrogating her, Bouris asks if everyone was pulling their weight. Both she and Sabrina think Carmen was doing less than she could have, by stepping back to see how the three of them were going, instead of just working. For those of you keeping count, that's now four out of five non-Carmen people on this team who have pointed out that Carmen sucked (only Heather, who never worked directly with her, hasn't).

Bouris brings up the Park Cottage pricing deal, and Carmen claims the price-lowering was because they "just thought it was a fair price". Bouris slams this, pointing out that the goal of a business is to make money. Hee! Bouris learns from Heather that the three assigned to Park Cottage worked well together. Bouris comes to the conclusion that, though the gerbils on this team might be good individually, they can't share they're little treadmill wheel, and are "completely dysfunctional". You know, as long as Carmen is fired here, Bouris just earned himself immunity from ever appearing on The List in future.

Bouris tells Carmen that she's got to pick two people to go with her into the final boardroom. It's a shame this can't be like I Survived A Japanese Game Show. I would pay money to see Carmen dressed in a fly costume and stuck on a wall. Bobblehead can be our Judge Bob. Carmen picks Jane and Sabrina. Bouris sends the others back to the house, while telling these three to just wait with Hortense the receptionist for a little while.

In the foyer, they all sit and wait. Jane confessionals that she's not ready to go home. Sabrina thinks she was one of the hardest workers on the entire team, which I could by if plants actually planted themselves when you tell them that you're Miss World Australia 2006. (My plants? Laughed so hard they wilted. And I didn't think it was possible for cacti to wilt.) Carmen regrets underpricing.

Inside the boardroom, Bouris tries to figure out how he should decide who gets fired. One of the production staff must remind him that he doesn't need to come up with a method, because every other employer in history, including all the people who have sat in his position on other versions of this show, just goes through the applicants to sort the wheat from the chaff. Brad thinks Sabrina is "obviously intelligent" and "very articulate", but Bobblehead thinks she's "flying under the radar". Because "Hi! I'm Miss World Australia 2006! Can I mow your lawn?" doesn't make you stand out at ALL. Bobblehead is "concerned" that Jane "didn't fight back" when "the others" (read: Carmen) criticised her. On the other hand, Carmen "hasn't held back", and Bouris notes while fiddling with his pen that what he's seen "hasn't been brilliant".

Reception. Hortense's phone rings.

Commercials. Still nothing, and hurry up and be over, show.

Reception. Hortense's phone is still ringing. Bouris calls her "Alison", and asks for "everyone" to be sent in. Hortense sends in the clowns. For no logical reason, they all take the seats right up at Bobblehead's end of the table, instead of in front of Bouris. "Carmen, why shouldn't you be fired"? Because she takes risks and doesn't mind being blamed whenever the risks turn out like a celebrity sex tape. Sabrina, same question? Because she knows how to blabber on and shoe-horn the words "hard yakka" into a sentence. Jane, your turn? Because she has no problems workinng with an "unusual" boss. Oh, my. Is she auditioning to work for Richard Branson? Because that's the only time that excuse will work. Bouris thinks Sabrina is "all show and no go". Heh. Jane, you didn't fight back against "your critics", even though she was given "ample opportunity". Firstly, she only had one critic to begin with, compared to Carmen's four, and secondly, she has pointed out that Carmen was a bad leader three separate times already. What more would you like, a tickertape parade where all the confetti has been meticulously painted with "Carmen sucks" in tiny, tiny lettering? Carmen, on the other hand "leaves a lot to be desired" when it comes to her leadership qualities. And since Bouris isn't looking for a receptionist, because he already has Hortense (and isn't aware of her Farmville addiction), that's going to be a big problem. But Bouris hates people "who sit back, don't make a call when they have the ability to, [and] the experience to". Therefore, Jane is fired. Which makes almost exactly no sense at all. Even ignoring all the scorn Carmen's team heaped on her, fire Jane because she fucked up with the flowers, not because she didn't do anything. Jane leaves, and Bouris decides to tell Sabrina to start being more than just a token pageant queen, and Carmen to stop being such a raging bitch. He sends them back to the house.

Jane walks out alone and gets into the Loser Cab, because apparently there's some hidden teleportation device between the office and the gerbils' house, which allows Carmen and Sabrina to get over there without having to see Jane after the waiting room. Jane's final confessional in the back of the cab results in her denouncing mud-slinging. Good for her, I suppose.

House. The gerbils wait on the lounge, as Amy tells everyone she thinks Carmen will be fired. Blake thinks that Sabrina will be safe, while Carmen is probably going to get the boot based on what everyone's told him. Sabrina and Carmen walk back into the room, and Heather makes some inane comment about Carmen's motivation, making it sound like Carmen thought she'd just been diagnosed with cancer, while Sam steps back to let them have their Moment. Mary-Anne confessionals that everyone's realised this is an actual job interview now. No shit. On the couches, Carmen gives a sermon on how the final boardroom went. It's just as boring as a real church sermon. She confessionals that she's going to take the criticism on board and deal with it quickly, because she welcomes the change for personal growth. She smiles warmly. Right there, right then, in that smile, is the starting point for Carmen's transformation into a better person. I suspect that with her, she came in to the competition not expecting to be taken very seriously by the other gerbils, because she's a single mum and whatnot, and chances are she overcompensated for that by taking charge and trying to run everything. Much like all mothers do. (Mum, I'm still getting Christmas presents, right? Right?) So, now she knows Bouris will take her seriously because of her actual credentials, rather than automatically discounting her, she's going to relax a little bit, because she doesn't NEED to impress the other contestants too much. She'll still work hard so she doesn't get taken into the final boardroom again any time soon, because the after-effects from this one will last a while, but I think the way she was lambasted here will turn out to be great for her in the long run, and she can eventually move her way back off The List. There are way too many people on it anyway, and Carmen actually does seem like a pretty funny, normal person underneath that shell of hers. But gardening really does not suit her, I don't think.

Sabrina on the other hand? Well, I think it's telling that, even with the ubiquity in which they appear on reality TV, and with the amount of reality TV I watch, I can't name a single beauty queen who's changed or grown as a result of being on a reality show. Look at Dustin and Kandice. Wonderful people, sure. But the people they were at the start of The Amazing Race 10 are exactly the same as the people they were at the end of The Amazing Race: All-Stars. There was no change at all. And Sabrina has the same cheesy-grinning, slightly-condescending tone to her that they and all the other beauty queens have had, and I'm sick of seeing it. Normally, you don't really get enough of a picture of how reality contestants like the gerbils are changing as a result of the experience, or even if they are, but Aussie reality shows are usually unbelievably great at treating the contestants three-dimensionally (see: The Mole, Australian Survivor). But they have to actually have three dimensions for it to work, and Sabrina just doesn't appear to. Anyway.

One job. Eleven gerbils. One annoying narrator. One tired recapper, celebrating over a quarter of a million words' worth of delusions of recapping adequacy. (254,058 over all my various blogs and recaps, for those of you playing along at home, including 12,508 in this recap alone. Woo!) (And word #250,000 was "the", right in the middle of discussing Carmen and the mulch, for those who care.)

Next time: Mary-Anne eats ten boxes of breakfast cereal. Someone dances around in a freaky zebra costume. Heather's pouty lips want to win. Morello scares some kiddies. There is a pink elephant in a hat, and it's not even an acid hallucination. As far as I know. More stuff happens in other weeks, but I really don't care enough to recap an entire season worth of previews.

(It's coincidental that Sabrina's "hard yakka" line got kept in the episode, while Hard Yakka the business gets a special thanks, right? Because otherwise that's just bordering on subliminal.)

To get an extended sneak peek of next week's episode? Yeah, I don't know why you would want to either. Shut up, Daddo.