Tuen Ng
Medium-rare with a side order of fries

Not so stupid

The third season of the UK version of The Apprentice has come to an end, accompanied by a fair degree of controversy.  Naughty old Sir Alan picked the wrong candidate - allegedly. 

It's clear that Donald Trump regarded the original US version of the show as a way of promoting himself and his companies, whereas Alan Sugar does appear to be more interested in hiring someone who is suitable for his company.  Which is why his decision to hire Simon the upper-class twit rather than 'hard as nails' Kristina is not as stupid as some people seem to think. 

The point is that Simon should have been fired in week 10 after his abject performance in the TV shopping task, and so when he survived it could only be because Sugar wanted to hire him. 

In week 11 we had the interview round that was dumped from the US original some time back.  It seemed fairly intensive, and it certainly found out Tre, who was exposed a chancer who hadn't thought through what he was saying (unlike a camera, an interviewer can bite back).  Sugar had already made up his mind that Lohit was nice but hardly inspiring, and the interviews merely confirmed that. 

Having got rid of those two, Sugar told Katie that she would be in the final, meaning that Kristina and Simon were fighting for the other place.   

Cue much simpering from Katie, who decided she didn't want the job.  Her excuse was she needed to talk to her parents about the childcare arrangments for her two young children, but it's hard to believe that she hadn't thought about that earlier.  Anyway, whatever the real reason might have been, Katie walked away and Simon and Kristina were left as the two finalists.

The problem with the final of The Apprentice is that it rarely changes anything.  This task was to come up with a concept for a new building for London's South Bank (on a site purchased by Sugar and currently occupied by IBM).  They had 4 days to develop the concept and then had to present it to Sir Alan and and a room full of property experts. 

The two finalists were allowed to choose some helpers from the candidates who had previously been fired.  Inevitably this produced some potential conflicts, notably between Kristine and Paul (after she had exposed his tryst with Katie in the boardroom) and between Rory and Tre (after Rory famously said "I am your boss" to Tre in the task where he got fired).

At first it seemed as if it was going to end in disaster, especially when Simon placed so much trust in Tre, whose startlingly original idea was to make the building look like a boat (it's next to the river, you see).  However, Rory had other ideas (the main one being to annoy Tre), and Simon was nothing if not willing to change his mind (which had the desired effect on Tre).  To be fair, the architects did seem quite taken with Rory's idea. 

Rory was obviously determined to have more fun, and so he put most of his effort into choreographing the dancing girls, inviting even more scorn from Tre - who asked him if he "used to be a ballet dancer".  Simon just let them get on with it even though it seemed unlikely that dancing girls would win the task.

The fact that everything turned out OK was almost entirely because both teams had the help of leading architect Ken Shuttleworth, who was able to take their half-baked ideas and turn them into something a bit more plausible, complete with fairly impressive video simulations. 

All that was left was to present the videos and conjure up some numbers for a pretend business plan.  Neither of the two finalists did a particularly bad job, though the praise that was heaped on them by the 'experts' also seemed somewhat overdone.  There was no obvious winner, so it was simply down to whoever Sugar preferred.

The boardroom was very low-key.  The choice was stark -Simon is either a bumbling idiot or a brilliant guy with a Double First from Cambridge, whereas Kristina was the safe choice who could probably do whatever she was asked, but isn't going to do anything brilliant.  There's only so much you can say about that, so the Boardroom was mercifully short.

Rumour has it that Simon and Kristina both worked for Trump for several months after the finale was recorded, in which case you have to assume that Sugar had enough information to make an informed decision.  He also knew what job he was going to offer to the winner, and presumably he felt that Simon was more of a golf club person than Kristina.  So Simon got the job.  Seems reasonable to me.

The BBC version of the show is still managing to avoid the gimmicks that eventually sunk the US original.  It is more low-key, but it's also more solid, and it feels as if the contestants are chosen because they could win, not just for entertainment value.  The danger is that having been promoted to BBC1 the show will attract more candidates like Katie who are there for the wrong reason.  We shall see.


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