The Apprentice (UK) series 3 final: review

Spoilers aplenty, as we review the final of the third series of The Apprentice. Has Alan Sugar lost the plot, we wonder...?

Sralan Sugar and his two trust aides...

Let’s have a wager, right here, right now.

Last night, Sralan Sugar, as he kept his two finalists – Simon and Kristina – on tenterhooks, he told them that over 10,000 people had applied to be on the programme. I’m willing to bet what remains of my reputation and pride on the fact that they’ll get more going for series four. Far more.

Because after last night’s show, it seems he’ll have anyone.

How many people sat there last night, dumbstruck, when Sralan gave the job to the bloke who’d seemingly bumbled through the last two or three weeks, and thought if that’s what you have to do, then maybe I can win it too? Because surely – surely! – if the rancid Katie Hopkins hadn’t pulled out because she forgot to ask mommy first last week, Simon – the winner! – wouldn’t even have been in the final two.

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Certainly there was little evidence in this tepid final episode to suggest why he would get the job, although to be fair, it was vague enough to let Sralan do pretty much what he wanted. It focused, after all, more on the old contestants bickering and playing with Lego and looking at fishes and stuff than the task in hand.

The idea of it, going against the grain of having to organise an event that pretty much every Apprentice final everywhere had relied on before, was to design and pitch a new building, with the help of said past contestants.

Simon, bizarrely, ended up with Tre and Rory on the same team, although we never saw how that crucial decision happened. Given that Tre and Rory blatantly despised each other, this wasn’t a good move, although it did give the episode some decent moments. Tre’s faced when Rory was choreographing dancers was one of a man whose freshly mown lawn had been shat on by a pack of very big dogs.

Kristina, meanwhile, picked a solid team, and organised them effectively. It’s a sackable offence.

Simon didn’t just look like a rabbit in the headlights for much of the show. He looked like a rabbit realising he was in Glenn Close’s house with no chance of escape. The way the episode was edited, we saw Tre assume control of the key idea of a building in the shape of, er, a boat, along with his team continually bickering, and changing ideas when the penny dropped that the boat thing was, ahem, ‘challenging”.

It took, if anything, some classy management from Jadine to pull him back into shape, which resulted in him ranting back at his team, then promising to take them away for the weekend. Personally, I’d have given Jadine the job there and then, and brought this sorry charade to an end.

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Simon’s promised incentive did, at least, give Tre the line of the episode, as he wryly noted that “Going on holiday to Barcelona with Rory, Jadine and Lohit for a weekend is like being stabbed in the eye with a rusty screwdriver”.

The rest of the episode meandered on in the same way, with Simon’s building resembling two malformed penises on the South Bank of London, and Kristina’s looking impressive enough until you realised she called it The Phoenix. Hopefully it wasn’t just me who wondered if she was about to hire Brian Potter to front her presentation.

And so it came to the boardroom. We’re led to believe that both potential endings were filmed, and the finalists – gamely waiting in the You’re Fired studio with Adrian Chiles – had no idea which would be used, and thus, who’d won. And like the majority of viewers last night they were reportedly dumbstruck when Sralan made his decision. If you believe the tabloids – who’ve had to move the aforementioned Katie Hopkins’ sex life back a few pages as a result – there was a near walk-out, so unhappy were some of them with the final choice.

Realistically, you can see that Simon, as a mid-20s man, is far less the finished article than late-30s Kristina, and thus more likely to be an apprentice of sorts.

But why go through the whole charade of the last twelve weeks then? If I was Kristina, I’d be wondering what the hell I had to do, and if she ever stood a sporting chance of winning. Was Sralan veering towards a male apprentice after his heavily-charted problems with last year’s winner? Or was it an age thing? Perhaps there was something he saw that we didn’t, that was killed in the editing of the programme?

As a viewer, I can’t help feeling cheated. Appreciating this has been the weakest series to date, with the focus far more on individuals – nay, scrub that, pretty much one individual – than any other, and appreciating the man is a risk-taker, you can’t – surely? – say “you’re not a good leader of people” then employ them to, er, lead a project.

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Mind you, if Sralan is making his decisions on the basis of the evidence shown on the telly alone, you can pretty much appreciate why Amstrad are in the shit these days.

I’m off to fill in my application form for series four, anyway. I was going to write “can organise, manage, motivate, work hard” and stuff like that. But now I’ve seen what he’s after, I’m going to put “can’t look people in the eye, easily overridden by strong characters, am already loaded and drink shandy”.

Would you bet against me?