The Apprentice 2009 episode 11 review

Simon reviews the semi-final of The Apprentice, and for once, the interviews didn't make bad viewing...

This is, guffed on Sralan Sugar, the toughest decision he’s ever had to make. Does anyone ever buy that crap? Does anyone buy that a man who has built up umpteen companies over the past few decades was seriously most troubled with picking between Debra and Yasmina for the final place in the final? I just don’t buy it.

But then that’s been part of my fundamental problem with the annual interview episode anyway, which had come round again for this year’s semi-final. I don’t believe that Sralan Sugar can’t whittle down an interview selection of five candidates to two, and yet we have to sit through the charade of bringing in four trusted advisers, and lots of pontificating, before he’ll pick the two he wanted. It’s a conceit anyway, surely designed to offset the fact that it’s possible to get this far in the competition without being wonderfully good, and here’s the chance therefore to cut out the ones that Sralan has no intention of employing, under the cover of interviews.

The early vox pops seemed to hint straight away that both Yasmina and Lorraine were for the chop. Yasmina is brilliant, said Yasmina. She’s never failed an interview. She’s brilliant. Did we mention that? Lorraine, meanwhile, is also very good at interviews. It must be true, because Lorraine said it. And thus the five candidates went off like the proverbial lambs to the slaughter (after barking “Yes, Sralan” in their finest dalek impression first).

There are two further problems I have with the interview process, as seen every year to date in the show. Firstly, it’s so profoundly negative it beggars belief. I defy anyone to sit through the snippets we see of the interviews and think that it’s a place they’d want to work, with a panel of interviewers who seem armed with rifles, and all too gleeful to fire them. The second problem is that presumably every candidate had to sit through around five hours of interviews, or something of that ilk, and yet the most you get to see was a few minutes of each. That’s no fair representation, and the editing, as usual, underlines the show’s business credentials.

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However, all that considered, I still thought that this was one of the better interview episodes. In came Bordan Tkachuck again, along with Karren Brady and the ever-chipper Claude Littner, this time joined by litigator Alan Watts (who looked just delighted to be there). We didn’t get much of Tkachuck this time round, with Claude Littner the most exposed of the interviewers. He’s just the kind of bloke who you want at your table for Christmas dinner.

To be fair, they had plenty to get their teeth into. Yasmina’s restaurant business was clinically taken apart by Littner, who had just happened to pull the accounts. This flustered Yasmina, who didn’t fully recover, and it soon became clear that she wasn’t entirely on top of her numbers. Furthermore, she came under criticism for risking her mother’s money with her business, which caused some debate among Sralan’s advisors. They did, at least, respect the fact that she had started a business up in the first place.

Lorraine, however, was doing herself no favours at all. She feared that her CV had holes in it, but as it turned out, it was her interview performance that seemed to put pay to her. Notably, Sralan didn’t fire her with any regret at all. She started talking about her unique gift, and her ability to read people, and much of the nation was surely wondering if she’d just gone plain bonkers. She was also the candidate this year exposed for lying on her CV, but as usual in The Apprentice, that matters not one jot.

Debra hadn’t really turned into the on-screen megabitch that you suspect the producers were angling for, although they did throw her referees at her just to muddy the waters. Go on what the show told you about her, and nobody likes working with her, everybody dislikes her, and she no doubt cackles mercilessly at all before her. She was arguably the biggest victim of the editing this week, and I did feel that she was, ultimately, unlucky to miss out on the final. Her age surely should have been positive factor here, but Sralan seemingly didn’t want to chance it.

James was clearly going to go from pretty much the moment he started opening his mouth. With comments such as “I put a leash on people who spunk money up the wall,” and “I can bring ignorance to the table,” he solidified his place as the comedy sidekick. Comedy sidekicks, however, don’t tend to make the final, and nobody seemed to be fighting his corner at all. I agree with what Nick said earlier in the episode: he was lucky to have got this far. But then those ratings don’t appear by magic.

And then there was Kate. She’d been shaping up as the favourite for some time, and yet we were in a bizarre position of her being criticised for being so controlled in an interview situation. That, in the land of The Apprentice (just what does this programme teach you about business, you wonder?), is clearly a fault, but given that she’s a country mile ahead of the other candidates from what we can see, she has to be the raging favourite for Sunday’s final.

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The whittling down to the final two was, therefore, not too tricky a job, save for the final conundrum between Debra and Yasmina. Right now, that seems like the fight for the silver medal, but we’ll find out for certain when Yasmina and Kate launch a chocolate product in this weekend’s final. Not a bad episode in all, though.


Check out last week’s review here.