Don’t ask, don’t tell

How many lists, countdowns, recaps and unnecessary retrospectives can you cram into just one month? It’s only mid-December and already I fear I’m about to be buried under the sheer weight of top 10s. In the spirit of the season, the BBC has already served up the “Final Five” in this year’s series of The Apprentice. Unfortunately, that select group doesn’t include Liz Locke, who perished at the end of Week 10 in the stampede caused by Stuart’s “field of ponies”. What a crushing disappointment.

“Tonight we press pause on the posing and posturing” claimed Mark Halliley as he prepared to unleash a full 60 minutes-worth of insightful discussion about Chris Bates, Stuart Baggs, Jamie Lester, Stella English and Joanna Riley. This was a lie. Seconds later, the booming tones of Bates were declaring once again “There’s absolutely nothing mediocre about me. I’m supremely intelligent.” Oh, I get it: before we “press pause” we have to rewind through all the boasting and bullshitting, without which The Apprentice would struggle to fill 10 minutes of running time.

This being the BBC, I’d already resigned myself to the disappointment of not hearing any unpleasant revelations about the candidates or their families. For scandal and spoilers you’re probably better off just reading the tabloids. This not very surprising story in the Daily Mail suggests that Lord Sugar might make less of a prat of himself if he vetted the applications from next year’s contenders more stringently.

So, as tonight’s marathon interviewing session looms, what more did we learn about the Famous Five and (more to the point) what would we still like to know?

Stella English

She’s got Knightsbridge restaurants on her speed-dial, but Stella hails from the distinctly unglamorous Thamesmead Housing estate in south London. Film fans will know that scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange were filmed in what has been memorably characterised as “an unspeakable concrete disaster”. Discussions about Stella’s personality have focused on unflattering descriptions like “wooden” and “corporate”. I dare anyone to use those words in front of the Iron Lady’s two (cute) young sons, or her formidable great-aunt “Big Stella”.

Character in a nutshell
“Stella’s greatest strength is her ability to be a cool cucumber” intoned the much-missed Melissa Cohen, doubtless impressed by Stella’s mastery of figures in the Week 1 sausage task.

On herself
“I actually find being labelled the queen of the calculator amusing.”

Not so hot on
Sniffing out cheap truffles or grinding out low prices in Week 9’s discount buying task.

Ever wondered . . .
What happened to that horrible red lipstick she was wearing at the beginning of Week 2?

Jamie Lester

Ask most people in Britain what they think of estate agents and you’ll probably get a response littered with four-letter words. According to Jamie’s mum, Linda, that didn’t stop our budding entrepreneur from entering the profession at the tender age of 14, and then playing rival firms off against each other in a bid to increase his salary.

Character in a nutshell
“He may just think about himself and not be able to work as part of a team” moaned Joanna about Jamie’s inability to take orders.

On himself
“My name is Jamie and I do not bite.”

Not so hot on
Regurgitating facts about London landmarks or sourcing kitchen work tops.

Ever wondered . . .
Can he ever learn to be a number two or does he always have to big the big cheese?

Joanna Riley

Mother-of-two Joanna grew up on a council estate in Leicester and had, by her own admission, a pretty miserable childhood. The focal point of some boardroom argy-bargy in Week 2, Jo seemed to have a knack for shouting, ruffling feathers and generally getting her point across. She started her cleaning business at the age of 22, which makes her less precocious than Brand Baggs. But then Stuart, who cruelly mocked her finger-wagging negotiating style, has never had to cope with any big babies — apart from himself.

Character in a nutshell
“What you see is what you get. She’s to the point, she’s direct, she’s strong, she’s opinionated . . .” A glowing testimonial from Princess Paloma, who’s also been known to speak her mind — at every opportunity.

On herself
“As a child growing up I was a pain in the backside . . . I was a ticking time bomb.”

Not so hot on
Speaking slowly in “export English” or refraining from nagging.

Ever wondered . . .
Where she bought those oversized hoop earrings?

Chris Bates

He may have been on the losing team six times, but Epsom-born Chris was also a record-breaking PM in Week 4. Nicker Hewer was impressed by how he grasped the potential of the hideous Babyglow: “A 24-year-old bachelor: what does he know about babygrows?” Unlike some of his rivals, Chris is also a university graduate and enjoys team sports.

Character in a nutshell
According to his sister, Lauren “Everything he does, he always wants to be the best.”

On himself
“I’ve never professed to be a creative mind. I work in an investment bank.”

Not so hot on
“We were all completely amazed by Chris’s pitching style. It was dull, it was monotone and it was boring.” Alex sums up what Stella had tactfully highlighted as early as Week 2.

Ever wondered . . .
Does he ever get a clean shave?

Stuart Baggs

“Legal almost everywhere”, 21-year-old Stuart grew up in his parents’ pub in the Isle of Man. According to his mum, he’s never read a fiction book in his life, preferring “boring” manuals. With his “money back” guarantees and “ridiculous” statements, Stuart has piqued Lord Sugar’s interest and pissed him off in equal measures.

Character in a nutshell
“Is he hero or zero? I don’t know.” Stella reflects on the enigma that is Baggs.

On himself
“I’m essentially like the office IT geek, but maybe with a little bit of a personality.”

Not so hot on
Tact, diplomacy, or writing things down.

Ever wondered . . .
Where he met this “girlfriend” he claims to have and why she doesn’t buy him some nicer shirts?

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