The Apprentice: Episode 5

Hannah Langworth's weekly take on The Gateway's favourite business show

Hello and welcome to your weekly business workout! In many ways, being in a tough corporate environment is just like your favourite exercise class - there are big rewards at stake, you have to set goals and push yourself to the max - and, err, it sometimes gets really sweaty and umpleasant.

So, moving quickly on, this week's episode starts with the now well-known warm-up: "let's pick a team leader, guys!" Who steps up? On Team Phoenix, it's sales manager Stephen Brady who powers his way to the top job by bigging up his experience in the fitness industry. Meanwhile, over in the Team Sterling negotiations, it's wrestling v showjumping, and recruiter Ricky Martin's muscle beats beauty salon owner Jenna Whittingham's horse sense to emerge victorious.

With these negotiations over, it's time to get those whiteboards and markers out as the teams give themselves a mental workout by throwing some ideas around. The results? Rejecting editorial and research director Katie Wright's idea for a lonely hearts/aerobics combo (not on a first date, surely?), Team Phoenix pick a retro theme, and head into an 80s-style club to practice their "Thriller" moves. Team Sterling go for a dance and combat cocktail - "like a punch-up in a disco, then?", Lord Sugar later asks.

With the concepts firmed up, things get tough! The next stage for the Phoenix and Sterling troupes is to prepare promotional videos for their workouts, which gives one lucky candidate from each team (entrepreneur Azhar Siddique and bridal shop owner Laura Hogg) the chance to pull on their lycra, get set with their peppiest voice, and take a class through their moves - the ability to simultaneously smooth talk and jump around to cheesy pop is a key ability for the modern businessperson, don't you know? Do you think Lord Sugar prefers zumba or body pump?

His aide Nick Hewer at least is always svelte and ever shrewd, and his contribution at this juncture was to point out that where there are cameras, there are conflicts, which certainly proves to be the case on this task. As market trader Adam Corbally and business development manager Jade Nash snipe about each other's lack of talent, Laura and entrepreneur Duane Bryan fall out over who's really in charge, which culminates later in the car in the first spectacular back seat showdown of the series.

Videos made, it's time to put them to the test! Let's pitch them to some toned, tough, and frankly quite scary-looking gym bunnies! Team Sterling did well, or, to be more precise, Ricky did, being singled out for praise for his presentations skills by Nick and fellow aide Karren Brady. And what's the great man's own comment on his business perspicuity? "Witness the fitness!" - scribble it down, MBA students! Flogging the goods is a bit more challenging for Team Phoenix, who get a bit hot and bothered about whether or not they'll supply gyms with the exotic equipment (space hoppers and hula hoops, no less) needed for their class.

And just as the teams are feeling pushed to the limit, it's time to take the pace up a notch for the glass and steel torture chamber that is the boardroom. As always, Lord Sugar glides in looking fresh(ish) from behind frosted glass panels that are just a bit like the shower doors you might find in an upmarket fitness club - does he have his own private gym and steam room tucked away behind there, I wonder?

The results are announced! - Team Phoenix emerge victorious and are sent off by Lord Sugar to give their tired bones a rest in a luxury spa. They've eased past their competitors thanks to a (rather massive) order, but it seems a bit unjust to me that they should win. Of course, on these kinds of tasks, and in business in general, all that matters is whether your target market will stump up the cash for your product, but this order, conditional on a rebranding of the "Groovetrain" workout for a family market, seems a bit half-hearted. And the fact that only one gym liked the offering (two opted to buy "BeatBattle") is not really a ringing endorsement of the routine, which just doesn't seem as professional as Sterling's effort.

But Sterling it is who are back on the treadmill, and Karren gamely wades in to get the usual boardroom bootcamp-style abuse started, branding their video "dull" and "samey". Team leader Ricky fights back by suggesting the video didn't show enough of the combat elements that were supposed to be a key part of the routine, and blames Laura, who picked the moves that went into it. But it's Duane who finally gets kicked out as the director of the video, which leaves viewers with a nagging sense that something's gone haywire somewhere. Lord Sugar thinks so too, telling Ricky he brought the wrong people into the boardroom by choosing those who, although they might have made mistakes, took the lead on the task rather than hiding in the background.

But as we're warming down in You're Fired, some "could do betters" emerge for Duane. Was he too confrontational? Did he fail to capture his customer's imagination? And shouldn't he be keeping his connection with a certain Eurovision-tastic noughties boyband under wraps? I guess if it stops you feeling Blue, Duane...

So that's it for this week - eleven candidates are left to fight, jump and crunch their way to a partnership with Lord Sugar. We hope they're still feeling fit to battle on in the corporate world, as I'm feeling worn out; never mind real business, when it's this high-powered and muscly, this sitting around watching TV business is exhausting enough for me...