And then there were six – three men, three women and one £100,000-a-year job.
The Apprentice has waved goodbye to Jadine Johnson, who many believed was a favourite for the prized role alongside Sir Alan Sugar.
For someone who had appeared to be one of the most combative and abrasive contestants when this third series began, Jadine departed without much of a fight and with something of a whimper (literally at times). A mixture of homesickness and cabin fever brought on by having to live and work alongside the likes of Tre Azam and Katie Hopkins for so many weeks proved too much for Jadine.
In what was a fairly muted show all-round, Jadine left with a few tears but it was the three remaining men who found themselves firmly in the spotlight.
Tre was team leader and presided over a genuine cock-up. Although acknowledging his failure, for some reason he objected to the addition of “royal” to Sir Alan’s appraisal of his dismal efforts to rally, motivate and cultivate his team.
But for Jadine’s lack of fight in the boardroom, Tre would probably have found himself hearing the words his ego simply wouldn’t allow him to hear: “Tre, you’re fired.”
His arrogance has finally seeped into Sir Alan’s brain and the bearded, belligerent and bothersome businessman (that’s Sir Alan, not Tre) is clearly unimpressed. Tre continues to survive for dubious entertainment value alone and it is doubtful that he will take much notice of Sir Alan’s less than subtle suggestion that he needs to start delivering on his wild, self-deluded claims.
Tre could well have taken the remaining members of his team down with him after this latest challenge.
The rapping acrobat finally lost his cloak of invincibility. Simon Ambrose, for reasons that still are unclear to me, seems to have been regarded as a favourite for the prized job by many on the show and those watching it each week.
But the blessed Margaret stepped up to the plate at the right time last night to declare how lucky Simon was not to be in the firing line alongside Tre and Jadine and how ineffectual he had been once again.
His place facing Sir Alan was taken by Lohit Kalburgi, who has also had his card well and truly marked before Jadine got the chop. Lohit has floated around this series in a largely anonymous way, albeit in a suave, charming, well-dressed, nicely-spoken and vaguely sophisticated manner. Not surprisingly that is not enough for Sir Alan, who was quick to make his displeasure known.
On this evidence, all three remaining lads look unlikely to survive too much longer.
That puts the three remaining ladies in the frame – Katie Hopkins, Kristina Grimes and Naomi Lay.
And yet there are still grave misgivings about the quality of all three.
Kristina remains the favourite simply because she is wily enough to dodge the bullets and brickbats and get on and do well enough in the task at hand. But despite displaying her ability to sell yet again, Kristina is one dimensional.
Of course, if all Sir Alan really wants is a super-salesperson then Kristina could probably ease into the £100,000-a-year role with a rough and ready aplomb.
If, however, he wants a more rounded individual and more of a dedicated team player then Kristina will struggle. Frankly he does not exactly have an embarrassment of riches.
The Wicked Witch of the South-West – aka Katie Hopkins – remains the pantomime villain. Apart from looking to bring the 1980s Sloane model back into our boardrooms in terms of style and attitude, Katie’s sole contribution to the series is provide a masterclass on how not to flirt.
Her Princess Diana-esque bowed head, fluttering eyes and knowing smile are about as attractive as her regular statements wishing physical harm on fellow contestants. Based on her showing on The Apprentice, Katie comes across as a deeply unpleasant individual in almost every respect.
And that leaves Naomi Lay. A female Lohit for much of the series, she has been largely anonymous but very quietly and with a growing confidence Naomi is starting to blossom.
A bit like Tim Campbell and Michelle Dewberry (the two previous winners) before her, Naomi has mostly been written off as a bit of a lightweight. Yet she is displaying more steel of late and managed to pull off a good sale during the latest task to suggest she has been learning valuable lessons all along the way.
She has ridden her luck at times and stayed a little too far in the background at others, but based on the outcome of the first two series it is Naomi who is emerging with all the right credentials.
Naomi won’t upset too many people, she can stand her ground, she can sell, she can step up when she needs to and slip quietly away when required, she looks good and she’s in her mid-20s.
So, with just six wannabes left, is it time to make a bold prediction?
No, simply because there is still a worrying lack of quality in the remaining six and Sir Alan himself once more is proving a mass of contradictions.