Apprentice 2011: The final reviewed

The final four in the hunt were: record task winner and ultra-organised executive assistant Helen Milligan; record task loser and inventor geek Tom Pellereau; manipulative salesman 'Jedi' Jim Eastwood; and young gun skincare entrepreneur Susan Ma.

Unlike previous years there was no final old friends' reunion task - perhaps a sensible decision given the unsavory bitchiness witnessed this series - but thankfully the other final favourite survived the new format chop: the interviews.

Quite right too. Surely our pay off for tuning in to 11 weeks of business botch-ups and BS bravado is getting to see those responsible grilled by Lord Sugar's meanies?

As it always does, it started with a call… the finalists had 48 hours to tweak their business plans ready for scrutiny. Cue too much camera time focused to professions of confidence and impending world domination and too little on the actual business plans.

For the record, Helen was pitching a concierge business; Tom an office chair and consultancy business geared to reducing back pain; Jim a careers e-training project for schools; Susan another skincare company.

Lord Sugar's former sidekick Margaret Mountford returned alongside serial taskmaster and chairman of Viglen Claude Littner to head up the interview process. Joining them were publishing entrepreneur and CEO of Shortlist Media Mike Soutar and telecoms entrepreneur Matthew Riley, founder of Daisy Group.

Time for that deeply satisfying televisual experience of watching outward confidence crumble on the inside. Oh how cruel we are, but it's the pay-off, remember?

Our interviewers were suitably sadistic in their dissection.

Claude told Tom his career was 'floundering' and business plan was littered with so many errors it simply wasn't credible. Mike insisted it was 'obtuse' for failing to mention the word 'chair'. While Matthew questioned if Mr. Nice was, well, 'too nice' before pulling out a reference labelling Tom as a 'starter not finisher'.

Matthew also wasted no time rubbishing Helen's business and lack of contacts. Margaret informed Helen it was her not the public who needed help organising work-life balance, while Claude simply advised she think of alternative ideas.

Susan got pulled up by Margaret over claims she 'employed' 15 people and was torn to shreds by Claude over the notion she could extrapolate a stall on Greenwich market to £1m first year profit. Matthew highlighted another numbers flaw and pulled no punches with 'this smells like bullshit'.

Mike got first crack at Jim - the candidate who had possibly done more in the previous 11 weeks to mark himself out as any easy and deserved target for interrogation than as a serious contender to win.

He exposed the 'zero research' lurking behind Jim's practised sales patter while Claude doubled with a low blow about his disappointing salary before concluding, 'you've got all the talk but nothing to prove it'.

Mike revelled in mocking Jim's 'blarney', but Margaret took the lead in bringing the man who must have 'swallowed the Oxford book for clichés' to task.

"You say, 'I'm not a show or a one-trick pony, or a wild stallion that needs to be tamed or even a stubborn mule, I'm the champion thoroughbred this process requires'. What impression does that give me of you? That you're a bit of an ass?"

Try and tell me something without using a cliché, she urged - only succeeding in teeing up Jim for one of the best one-liners of the series:  "I am exactly what it says on the tin." Apprentice gold.

So to the boardroom one last time. After a quick conflab between Lord Sugar, his trusty aides Nick and Karren and the interviewers, it was down to business.

Suggesting he probably already had an idea how this was going to unfold, Lord Sugar was brief in his summary. Tom's consultancy idea, Susan's fanciful numbers and Helen's entire concept were routinely dismissed.

Jim's Michael Jackson moment was majestic, however, and played out in its full glory. In a crazed appeal to Lord Sugar's little publicised sense of philanthropy, he attempted to justify his flunked zero-revenue e-training idea by reasoning it was 'about the futures of children'. Even by Jim's bullet-dodging feats it was never going to work.

"Don't play that card, I do enough of that stuff', was Sugar's gruff response -and Jim was sent packing. Next up, harshly some would say, followed Susan.

And then there were two - but such was the disastrous nature of Helen's pitch and a lack of entrepreneurial nous at odds with the show's new format, there was an air of inevitability to Lord Sugar's verdict contrasted with the tight calls of recent years.

Like a boxer on the ropes gasping for air, Helen abandoned her previously cool exterior making a final plea to Lord Sugar to consider an alternative business idea (the bakery she should have gone with originally) and taking a desperate late swipe at Tom.

Resisting the urge to get drawn into a scrap, Tom countered strategically - delivering a true entrepreneur's account of how he charmed his way as an unknown onto the shelves of US giant Walmart.

It was a perfectly-timed articulation of why he, above not just Helen but all the other candidates, had what Lord Sugar was looking for in a partner.

As Lord Sugar put it in his own inimitable way, that was "experience making stuff, selling stuff, inventing stuff" - and with that, Tom Pellereau was hired.

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