The Apprentice, BBC1

1. (5) Lucinda. The quailing bleat of “they got rid of me because I was a threat” will be a ubiquitous complaint in the Big Brother season. Lucinda used it in this episode – only here it was an accurate reflection of her treatment.

She was a threat. She was a threat to the culture of stupidity that infests Sir Alan’s companies and, more keenly, she was a threat to The Apprentice itself.

The lucid ruthlessness with which Lucinda hacked her way through the macho bluster of Paul, the sanctimonious pseudo-intellectualism of Claude and the dreary nitpicking of Bordan exposed the job of the Apprentice as about as enticing as the nightshift at a drive-thru McDonald’s.

This was nowhere better epitomised in her attritional struggle with Paul. “You’re not listening to the answers I give, Paul,” she scolded. This surprised him, and his reply was that of a spoilt five-year-old whose brain has already handed in its notice to experience more rewarding cerebral toil in the gooey cranium of a string of doomed toad spawn: “I think you’ve just described yourself!”

By actually answering Paul’s questions, she threw him out of the stride he displayed elsewhere of grossly insulting or humiliating candidates to cow them into an inert state of submission so he could relentlessly punch them with meaningless and risible questions.

In the boardroom she adeptly cut the rest of the candidates to ribbons over their snide plotting to discredit her to Sir Alan, and by the time she was being lined up to be fired she resembled Einstein surrounded by four unhatched spider eggs that were currently being devoured from within by wasp larvae.

Catchphrase: “Absolutely!” or “Absolutely not!”

2. (2) Lee. Fell victim to the repellent Paul’s gambit of asking him perform his reverse pterodactyl impression, only to be slapped down that “this is a serious business interview”. In fact it was so serious that Paul left his face in such a rough state even Tiger Woods would have to take a free drop, while his clothes appeared on his body in the same shapeless, shifting morass as maggots squirming about a rotten, rotund apple core.

When Bordan ‘exposed’ the lie on his CV about the time he spent at Thames Valley University, he said: “I’ve learnt from that mistake of lying on my CV, and won’t do it again.” He won’t, not least for the reason that about nine million people know he lasted four months and not two years.

Although the best thing about this exchange was the absence of Margaret popping her head round the door to make a witless quip about the quality of Thames Valley University to entertain the atrophied elitism of any snobs who attended Oxbridge.

Catchphrase: “Thass warrum talkin’ abaaat!” (What else? Although even he had the good sense not to say it in an interview.)

3. (3) Claire. Her technique to curry favour with Sir Alan is when greeting him at the start of a task to say “Sir Alan” slightly louder and longer and just a bar out of sync with the rest of the fawning chorus; her “-laaaaan” always lingers on like the scream of someone falling down an abyss.

She led the assassination of Lucinda after the beret-wearing iconoclast had expressed doubts (not disapproval) about the job of Apprentice. As they waited for the next interview, she stabbed the absent Lucinda with all the passion of Brutus on Julius Caesar, with Helene joining in as a featureless crushing boulder.

She also claimed she was “passionate” (the bic Lee ‘sold’ Karren was more passionate), and “innovative”, when her thoughts are about as agile as Stonehenge.

Catchphrase: “Good morning, Sir Alaaaaaaaan!” Or: “Isn’t [perceived weakest candidate’s name] shit?”

4. (5) Helene. From the interviews, Helene didn’t seem to answer many questions she simply navigated any interrogation around to the fact that she had a difficult upbringing and that her workplace was male-dominated.

While she has her sympathy over her childhood, she appears oblivious that other people in the world have problems, too, and that they have overcome them but don’t think that it entitles them to a dream job.

Other than that, she was just as bad as Alex for repeating meaningless phrases from earlier in the series. “I have delivered!” she importuned in the boardroom. But what has she ‘delivered’ – nothing, only an illusion that she’s a credible candidate by endlessly speaking balls.

Sir Alan was wearied by news of her upbringing, perhaps sniffing the redolent stench of another Michelle Dewberry, but given that at least six times a series we have to sit through his enervating lecture on his humble East End roots it’s a little hypocritical to be dismissive of other peoples’ past.

Catchphrase: “I’ve delivered!”

5. (4) Alex. He’s 24, don’t you know. And if you didn’t know it beforehand, that fact was referred to no less than 10 times during the programme. Whereas Lucinda answered each question individually and with thought, Alex just vomited up the same carrot-diced effluence he’s been churning out since week one – “I am dynamic, I am the full package, I’m 24” – in much the same way as needlessly hysterical women react to everything with “Ohmygod! Ohmygod!”

And after Paul and Karren both trumped his “I’m 24!” ethos with their own self-aggrandizing eulogies, we were surprised a few more people hadn’t been lined up to make Alex feel his achievements were insignificant. What about Alexander the Great (“I invaded Egypt at 24!”), Mozart (“I held my first exhibition aged six!”) or Chris Moyles (“I got my first DJ slot at 16 despite being a stub of terminally untalented gristle!”?

Also, he sits with his feet at a perpendicular angle to his body.

Catchphrase: “I’m 24!”

Sir Alan’s obsequious oil slick chart (ranked in order of how far from the basic genetic structure of a human being they stray into primal savagery)

1. Paul Kelmsley. A man so vulgar and primitive, taking orders from a half-open cardboard box in which is deposited only a vagrant’s festering turd and the ichor dripping from Satan’a latest shaving accident would be more palatable.

Lucinda so bamboozled him, it’s a wonder he didn’t pull out a wooden club forged from the stilted dreams of Viglen employees and whack her over the head before dragging her off to do woman’s work, such as arranging “candles in a room”.

He has obviously been prepped as to Alex’s catchphrase as the moment Alex said I’m only 24, Paul’s “I was running my own business at 22” flew out of his irascible mouth like a bullet.

2. Claude Litner. A man as pointless as an appendix. His brief seemed to be to make a ludicrous statement that had no basis in fact and then smirk as the candidate drowns in his puddle of contrived verbal quicksand.

His questions were often so absurd that if he had spoken them in any other scenario than a manufactured job interview, he would have been sectioned (“Lucinda, you’re unemployable!”). And he assumed to give his words authority by speaking in the clipped functional rhythmic tone of Roman soldiers hammering Jesus Christ to the cross.

3. Karren Brady. A nauseating Amanda Holden clone (“Claire has been on a journey through this experience”) who didn’t have hardly a bad word to say about anybody. While her defence of Lucinda was justified, her crumbling into a porridge of oestrogenic mush when she teased Alex made Sex & The City resemble Die Hard.

And, like Paul, she couldn’t wait to riposte Alex’s catchphrase, which she again seemed to be forewarned of. “I was managing director of Birmingham City Football Club at 23.” This at the time may have been a laudable achievement, but that given that Birmingham’s current owners are placed on the ethical compass somewhere to the worst of Robert Mugabe, it is about as morally impressive as sitting as one of Robespierre’s judges during the Reign of Terror.

4. Bordan Tkachuk. The man whose face appears to be slowly slipping into a vice and with eyes like a deserted village was portrayed as the stickler for detail. This was displayed when the human bloodhound sniffed out Lee’s lies on his CV over his college education. We might have believed this were this not “the job interview from Hell”, and that such facts would have been scrutinised long before his CV even arrived on Sir Alan’s desk along with the other 15; even Lucifer would check the nefarious deeds of his endless influx of new charges to determine to which part of his diabolic domain they should be sent.

He was also the major fall guy in the inept boardroom editing when Sir Alan threatened to send Lucinda to work for him at Viglen – Bordan’s response was to pull a sour face of impending woe, but we guess it was pasted in from elsewhere for ‘comic’ effect.

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