What a great episode! A lot of people were expecting the interviews last night. I think it was a great decision to do the big task instead and hold the grilling next week.
We're down to tiny teams: just two on one, three on the other. They had to create a fast food chain from scratch and actually run it as a business for two days. Helen and Tom were faultless. What an outstanding performance from those two - the dream team!
Helen's almost OCD organisational skills dove-tailed perfectly with Tom's more outlandish style. He's always funny to watch, Tom, the way he takes inspiration for his ideas. Ultimately, he came up with the goods and made their concept - British pies - a reality. Mypy - his suggestion - was also a great name. Good on them both.
Over on the other team, well, where do I start? I think it showcased Jim's ultimate failing: he's a great communicator, he has charm, he's great at selling, but what lets him down is his project managing skills. He's PM-ed twice, loss twice and he's still in the final? That might be a record.
The Mexican takeaway idea was fairly strong but, operationally, they were not a patch on the other team. Jim had tough job on his hands, though. When Susan is in the mixer with Natasha, it's a nightmare. They just don't get on - and then they hung him out to dry in the boardroom. It was truly unfair. Neither of the girls contributed much to the task. Then, when Jim couldn't cope on his own, they turned against him.
Jim did have one truly cringe-worthy moment last night. I'm not one to judge - I still remember my howler when it turned out I lied on my CV. But when Jim got his numbers wrong in front of all those fast food experts (and nine million Apprentice viewers), I really felt for him. He just needed to do more preparation. Helen nailed it. She got her percentages right, she worked out a financial plan for the business, she is just on top of her game.
Looking at both teams, however, I'm a little disappointed that neither came up with a healthy fast food option. There's a real gap in the market for hot, low-calorie takeaway. But then, it's always easy to come up with great ideas from the sidelines.
For me, Natasha was the right person to go yesterday. I would have got rid of her a few weeks ago, in fact. Looking at the background footage in the house, people seemed to like her. But on the tasks, she seemed hard-nosed, stone-faced: I couldn't warm to her. Business is about building relationships and networking and that's just not her forte.
Jim could have easily got fired yesterday instead. If Lord Sugar was hiring someone to run a big team, Jim definitely would have been out of the competition. But that's not what this series is about, it's about finding a business partner.
It'll be intriguing to see what business plans the final four pitch next week. I presume they had to submit their ideas before the process started, so it's likely we'll see four very different start-up business plans. It's intriguing. A bit Apprentice meets Dragons' Den.
I can really see Tom excelling next week. Susie and Helen might do well too, but Jim could come a cropper.
In the teaser at the end of last night's episode, there's a snippet of one of the interviewers accusing a candidate of creating "utter bullshit". I can imagine Jim on the receiving end of that one. He can bullshit for Britain.
Looking at the final four, I think Lord Sugar's got the right candidates in the final. All of these hopefuls were in my prediction for the top five. It's also a good mix: Tom and Susan are the entrepreneurs, Jim and Helen have always worked in large organisations.
Helen is definitely the favourite based on the show so far. She's only had one wobble in the whole process. But will her business be sustainable? Will Lord Sugar want to invest? Jim's the outsider but what if his idea and pitch are bloody good? Lord Sugar's not going to fire him.
My gut feeling is that Tom will win The Apprentice 2011. Lord Sugar has said before that he liked the look of him. He's really grown in this process and he's well-liked. No one says a bad word about him. It all comes down to the business plan: Tom's creativity and originality will really help him here.
Lord Sugar likes people with long-term vision. Tom has proven time and time again that he can see the big picture and has a long-term outlook. Even if his new business idea won't make money today but could yield big money in five years or so, Lord Sugar will go for it. He's not fussed about making a quick £500,000, he wants to see profits of £200m. You heard it here first: Tom to win.
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