The Apprentice: tears, tussles, and then there were two…

Oh. The. Relief.

In case you’ve yet to watch the last episode, look away now. Real Business can hold back no longer…

LORRAINE IS GONE! At last! We’ll never have to look at her intense, earnest face with its vile lipstick and inane grin ever again. Hooray. Alleluiah. Hosanna in excesis.

Of course, she was not the only apprentice to sweat and toil on our screens last night. Three candidates in total were given the heave ho, following a gruelling day of interviews with Sir Alan Sugar’s most trusted advisors.

Three of the four panelists were familiar faces. There was Bordan Tkachuk (try saying that quickly), CEO of Viglen. Claude Littner, a very cool customer and former trouble-shooter for Suralan, returned too. Karren Brady, MD of Birmingham City football club, added her usual glamour and faultless business savvy to proceedings.

The new kid on the block was a Mr Alan Watts, a City litigator from Herbert Smith who conducted his interviews hunched over like an extra from Gringotts Wizarding Bank. His speciality? Spotting liers. And boy, he extracted the truth from his victims with surgical precision.

And lies there were aplenty. You would think, after so many seasons of the programme, that people would have learnt: you never get away with it. But no! Lorraine added a whole extra year of experience to her CV. And entrepreneur Yasmina pulled turnover figures out of thin air for her restaurant business.

It was comic watching the pair fidget under scrutiny. Lorraine claimed that the false dates were "misprints", while Yasmina simply boggled at her examiner. "Do you know what turnover is?" demanded Littner, before producing her annual accounts. "Where did you get those!" she squawked. And the game was up.

But no one fared worse than poor James. Hopelessly out of his depth, with a CV littered with jargon and asininity, he flunked out with each and every interviewer.

Under his job description, Sir Alan’s would-be protege wrote: "I put a leash on people who spunk money up the wall." In his positive qualities assessment, he’d quipped, "I bring ignorance to the table." Littner was flabbergasted. "You don’t stand out by being a prat," he raged.

Debra and Kate, conversely, were both outstanding. The latter was completely unflappable. In fact, the highest criticism any of the advisors could muster was that she was too perfect – almost "robotic" in her overwhelming competence and poise. And Debra too was a paragon of eloquence and self control. In the face of appalling references from previous employers, she kept her cool and maintained, "I can change."

But it all came down to Sir Alan in the boardroom. Kate was a firm favourite with his league of extraordinary business people. Despite the assertion that she might be "boring". Yasmina was praised for her entrepreneurial flair. Debra lost marks for her youth and ruthlessness but gained points for her performance and drive.

Lorraine was a real bone of contention. Her incessant warbling about "intuition" and "mind-reading" during interviews had led Tkachuk to ask, "Are you some kind of Mystic Meg?!" But good old Margaret was still in her corner. "She is usually right," she wheedled.

But in the end, James was the first candidate to hear the fatal words: "You’re fired!" Stung by the consistent jibes over his "village idiot" moniker, he still couldn’t help himself. In a final plea to Sir Alan, he said: "You’re not reinventing the wheel with me. You just need to fix a couple of spokes…"

He then tailed off, looking pained. He’d done it again. The joker couldn’t play it straight, not even to save his place in the final.As he left the boardroom, the reaction from the remaining women was unprecedented. Debra, the diamond-hard bully of the bunch, promptly burst into tears. Lorraine too, was hard-pushed to control herself. Sir Alan was forced to adjourn the meeting. It was a great accolade for "people person" James that his departure had such an effect on his rivals.

Lorraine went next. Not before time either. At least she wasn’t wearing those bloody awful pigtails that day: Real Business managed to muster a whole drop of sympathy for the tenacious mother-of-two. Then it was Kate’s turn. But what’s this? "You’re in the final," announces Suralan. And it’s no robot that thanks the grizzled millionaire with relief and triumph blazing in her eyes.

And between Debra and Yasmina? Air Alan plumps for the mature candidate. But in his farewell to feisty Debra, he says, "We’ll be in touch." It’s certainly not the end of the road for The Apprentice’s first glamour model.

All in all, it was a killer penultimate episode. We cannot wait for the final next week.

And then there were two…

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