Usually, I should confess from the off, I find the interview episode of The Apprentice one of the weakest. It’s not because I’m against the idea of it, rather that it’s edited to bits, so you rarely get to enjoy a prolonged moment of any of the interrogations. Still, my hopes were raised this year with the return of Margaret Mountford, this time one of the interviewers. I’m sure I’m not alone: I could watch a chat show with her quite happily. Heck, any show, really. The woman is a legend.
At the start of the episode, I must admit, I couldn’t tell you who was going to win the series. I could tell you who isn’t, as, if Baron von Sugar employs Stuart, then not only would it debase the idea of the TV programme somewhat (based on what we’ve seen), but it might just bugger up his businesses, too. But three candidates were set to go.
As usual, as the interviews approach, we find out who the top earner was. In this case, it’s Jamie. Stuart is the youngest. None of this really seems to matter.
So then, out came the interviewers. Claude Littner was up first, once more coming across like the kind of person no human being would want to work for. Alan Watts, the lawyer was next. Bordan Tkachuk of Viglen third.
Then Margaret Mountford. And heck, from the off she was good. I wasn’t needing as much of the wine this week, friends. I just needed a full hour of The Mountford. Take Jamie’s third nipple joke. She tore it to bits, and comedy gold ensues. She didn’t even blink.
Next? Stuart vs the lawyer. He’s not dishonest, he insists. He’s just a bit of a tit. He was in for around 15 minutes, felt probed, and – ah, bugger it. Spar’s finest white wine was duly broken open at this stage.
Stella vs grumpy Claude, next. I bet Claude is a right hoot at his company’s Christmas party, isn’t he? Stella, I thought, held her own here, to be fair. Meanwhile, I helped myself to a Muller Front Corner. Strawberry flavour.
Jo vs Bordan? Jo couldn’t pronounce the word Viglen, Bordan then quizzed her as to what companies Baron von Sugar had. Many have wondered the same thing. Jo, basically, flunked this one, and the camera took great glee in lingering on her suffering. More than anyone else in the episode. She was doomed, wasn’t she?
Margaret was back next, so I put my glass down. Her eyes, I have to say, are just amazing. They pierced Chris’ skull with an intensity few human beings can muster. I appreciate this might be more and more coming across as a love letter to Margaret Mountford, but crikey, she’s just brilliant, isn’t she? Were it her, rather than Baron von Sugar, who was recruiting for an apprentice, I do think I might apply myself.
Sadly, we were back to misery guts Claude next. He was biting chunks out of Chris, next, specialising in hunting down negatives in a pool that may be swimming in lots of positives. “You’re not so gifted,” ranted Claude. Have a fucking drink, man, I thought. So I did. Lovely. I thought Chris came out of this one quite well, to be fair, as he did throughout the episode.
Fortunately, back to The Mountford, who was going for Jamie’s parents next. Not for long, though, so we cut to Jamie vs Bordan. Bordan took a more analytical approach, but he must have known in this episode he was onto a loser. We weren’t there to see him. Jamie did quite well, but, as I sank down another gulp of quite the worst bottle of wine I’ve had all series, Margaret reappeared. With Stuart. Win.
Stuart, she found out, is looking to be the Baron’s business partner, giving “110% no doubt”. But it was over too quickly, as instead Stuart moved on to Claude. “Don’t tell me what a brand means,” ranted the Claude. “You’re not a big fish. You’re not even a fish,” he banged on. He almost achieved the aim of making me feel sorry for Stuart. Crikey.
Jo vs Claude? I felt that Jo was dropping out of the episode here even more, which is a shame. Claude patronising her didn’t help. I swear when he opens his Christmas presents, he berates the people who handed them over, one at a time. Maybe the treat in next year’s series could be taking Claude to a happy hut somewhere? That’s one I’d actually watch.
So then. Stella vs the lawyer who clearly wasn’t saying much of massive interest, as they’d barely edited him into the episode by this point. Stella was looking more and more a shoo-in for the final. Chris, too, was coming across well. Were they to be the finalists?
Bordan had the final go at Stuart, before he was inevitably sent to the hills. He perfectly called bullshit, only Stuart didn’t seem to realise it. He then, brilliantly, tried to turn the tables on Bordan. It didn’t really work.
And then, halfway through the episode, the interviews were done. Once again, while they were far better than usual, I did wonder if we’d been a little shortchanged once more. I could have had ten more minutes of that, and cut down the boardroom wrangling that was to follow.
“I don’t think there is anyone out there like me,” said Stuart, before we got the boardroom. I’ll certainly drink to that.
Margaret, then, got showered with compliments as she sat with the other interviewees in the boardroom. And she stood up for Jo as they all started giving their feedback. We also got interview flashbacks for the first time, which showed the candidates in a slightly better light, for a change.
Chris, meanwhile, split the panel. Bordan found him dull. Alan quite liked him. Karren Brady really liked him. Margaret pulled a face. And chucked out another great one-liner about his educational record.
Jamie didn’t impress her much, either. She’s an exquisite bullshit caller, and does it with a comedy edge that the Baron can only dream of matching. At the very least, get her on the payroll to write the script next year.
Stella, meanwhile, had won over Happy Claude. And Margaret. And Karren Brady. And Alan The Lawyer. Bordan wasn’t keen, but then Nick came to her rescue. She was looking more and more likely for the final two.
Finally, Stuart. “Mr Baggs greeted me like a long lost friend,” said Margaret, “which, of course, he isn’t”. Claude, meanwhile, liked him. Karren Brady liked him. Bordan, however, then threw in the bullshit grenade, and patronised Karren Brady a little along the way. Alan The Lawyer wasn’t keen. Most human beings watching the show were surely fearing that he might even make it to the final by this point. Surely not? Surely, surely, not?
And so the firings began. Baron von Sugar went through them one at a time to go over what they’d all banged on about for the 45 minutes we’d just sat through. But he finally went for Stuart, with a “you’re full of shit” rant. At last, for the first time, this was the Baron appearing to go off script. He was in a right rage, too. Stuart was off. At bloody last. It was a bit odd, though: the rage just came out of nowhere in the end. Was there more to the story? No doubt a tabloid will fill in the missing gaps.
Next off? After a bit of waffling from the four remaining candidates, Joanna was off, but with a massive pat on the back. Which I thought was strangely positive for this show. And that just left Jamie and Chris, with the former getting the axe. It was Stella vs Chris, and that seemed about right, on reflection.
It wasn’t a bad episode in all, either. It was dominated by Margaret, clearly, but it did get it down to two less-showy candidates, who probably deserved to get to the final. And we’ll be back for that when it screens this coming Sunday.
Hopefully, Margaret will be too. I’ll certainly drink to that.
Read our review of the tenth episode, here.
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