DISCLAIMER: I'll try not to jump the gun here by getting straight to the boardroom fiasco. But I don't know how long I'll hold out.
Last night's episode meandered along as usual. The task was slightly trickier than most: the two teams had to set up and run a London bus tour on the theme of their choice. The shivering Apprentice teams were both presented with an open-top bus at Wandsworth bus garage by His Sugarness at sparrow's fart in the morning and told to get on with it.
Stuart was sent over to Apollo to take charge of Stella and Liz, while Joanna masterminded Synergy's dastardly duo: Chris and Jamie. Stella, like Princess Toadstool on her final life in Super Mario Bros, has one last chance to prove to Lord Sugar that she was more than just a corporate stooge. "I'm not looking for a cautious Carol," announces the Viglen boss at the start of each Apprentice episode.
Well, Stella certainly dispelled that notion last night.
She came up with the Cockney theme for the tour, and offered to take the part of conductor, instructing tourists about the sights of lah'vly Lah'dan. And would you Adam and Eve it? She was rather good.
Jamie had all the patter on the other team. Synergy opted for a Ghosts and Ghouls theme and Jamie's spine-chilling tales of Sweeney Todd truly hit the mark. But his knowledge of London left something to be desired. "The Thames is the second largest river in London," he announced to puzzled tourists. Oh, and there was also this gem: "See that building that looks like a gherkin? Well, it's called The Gherkin. Because it looks like a gherkin".
Nevertheless, the hapless tourists lapped up the tall tales and Jamie raked in the business with a tidy sum of tips to add to the loot. Joanna and Chris, in their peaked caps, were drumming up trade around Trafalgar Square and Embankment. Stuart Baggs the brand, however, seemed more intent on sabotaging Joanna's pitches than pulling in his own custom.
The Baggage was feeling crotchety having lost out to the other team on a deal with the London Tourist Centre. Chris offered the official tour reseller 20% of all sales from the day (including tips and merchandise) in return for their patronage, beating Stuart's tender of a 35% cut of tickets sales (only those generated by the Centre, mind). And, while Joanna lost her rag over the generosity of Chris' promise- and tried to renege on the deal that very morning - it turned out to be a godsend.
Still, I mustn't skip forward. Stella was a real grafter in this episode. She fluffed a few lines here and there, but overall, she was the crowned Pearly Queen of pies and jellied eels. Scratch that last, she couldn't find the jellied eels in the end. Reckon the supplier might have moved his stall that day to avoid Liz. The polished show pony with the big eyes had cantered up to his East London outlet the day before and demanded he 'Cockey it up' to entertain the tourists the next day. A passing customer was furious. "You can't say that!" he jabbered.
The clever producers at the BBC made sure that viewers were never quite sure who had outsold whom on last night's episode. But Stuart did seem to have knee-capped himself with a ridiculously inflated ticket price: £35 a pop. Joanna's team set their sights on a far more reasonable £25 for an adult and £10 for a child.
Stuart Baggs couldn't have been more annoying. Had he actually appeared in my front room, blocked my view of the telly with his oversized noggin and persisted in sticking his chubby fingers in my nostrils while singing "I'm Henry VIII, I am", that would have irked me less.
When the teams were summoned to the boardroom to face the music, it was clear that Baggs was nervous. His throwaway remark to camera, "Stella chose the Cockney theme. If she messes it up, she'll take the blame" must have been weighing heavily on him. This time, this onus was squarely on him. And so, he sat, slumping his 21-year old shoulders. (Did you know that Stuart is 21, by the way? He is 21. And again? Stuart is 21.)
Here are the numbers: Bagg's team pulled in a profit of £834.30. Joanna's bunch beat 'The Brand' by 30% with a profit of £1,099.33. It was a well-deserved victory for Joanna. Yes, she harped at Jamie a bit at the beginning, but she also broke up a squabble between Chris and Stuart that threatened to turn nasty. And she is, to quote Vanessa Feltz from the You're Fired show, so much nicer than she was at the start of the series.
As Jo, Chris and Jamie flew off to Jersey to enjoy champagne and oysters, the defeated team prepared for battle. Stella was off the hook from the outset. Her eponymous performance was indubitable. The axe was set to fall on either Liz or Stuart. We all knew that Baggs would put up one hell of a fight but nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared us for the reality.
Here are some of the killer lines from Bagwise:
"I want you to wake up in the morning, check the bank balance and go, Stuart has made me millions!"
"I'm not a one-trick pony, I'm not a 10-trick pony, I'm a whole field of ponies - and they're literally all running towards this job."
When Lord Sugar says that he is reluctant to suppress Stuart's enthusiasm, he pipes up. "Don't suppress it. Harness it!"
Saddle up, horsie.
Anyone else grinding their teeth with impotent rage?
It's not just the content of Start's endless blather; it's the speed of its delivery. If we could harness the raw power of all that hot air, we could solve the energy crisis. His last-ditch attempt to win over the Sugarmeister is like a machine gun. I'm only 21... I run a £3m-turnover company... I have the mad skills... This is how I live... I bought my own flat... My mum and dad haven't given me anything... They gave me £10 to buy yo-yos to sell at school... I work my socks off...
I would keep typing but my fingers are tired.
While the nation groaned, Sir Alan softened. While I threw cushions at the screen, Sugar smiles wistfully. He obviously saw a shadow of his former boisterous self in Stuart. In the end, Liz got the chop. It was obviously with considerable reluctance that Lord Sugar raised his firing finger to her misty Bambi eyes and dismissed her from the series.
The reaction to Lord Sugar's decision by the winning team was priceless. Even Stuart, with his rhinocerous hide, seemed slightly wrong-footed by the gobsmacked disbelief that met news of his survival.
Poor old Liz. Lucky Baggs. Though, mark my words. He'll be packing them next week.