One day, Stephen will look back on this episode and laugh. Not as manically as Gabrielle will, or indeed did on “You’re Fired”, but laugh all the same.
Because yes, this week is Stephen’s last throw of the dice. His only chance to avert the obvious end to his story-arc that’s been brewing since Edinburgh at least. No Adam to bend to his will, no chance to dodge the Boardroom, no reputation and bluster left to coast on with his peers, no random act of Virgin Active madness, no “if you let me be PM next week Lordalan…”. Stephen is PM, he has to win, otherwise he is fired. Such an opportunity should show us Stephen in the raw shouldn’t it? And so it does. Flailing, incompetent, desperate, wheedling. It’s quite a showcase.
The task that’s serving as the frame for Stephen’s Last Gleaming is an odd one. The teams are to act as agents for a “Luxury Discount Deals” website, and spend one day scouting around posh places for people willing to offer up a 50% discount on their wares in exchange for appearing on the Internet, thus drumming up trade. The nobs in charge will survey the deals proferred by the teams, choose the best ones, then submit them for public approval. Whoever’s deals ring the public’s bells most are the winners. Fortunately for Jade, this is somehow her day job (has literally EVERY task this year been one candidate or another’s day job?), so she siezes the reins for Phoenix, and attacks the task with ruthless efficiency, winning the whole thing in the space of about two hours by pinning a luxury spa to the wall and forcing them to submit, which surely has to be an Apprentice record, right? I mean, her team do nothing much for the rest of the day (literally so in the case of Tom & Adam, who strike out – having all their deals rejected by the website) but this alone is enough to seal the victory, and send Phoenix off to some hotel to have tea.
(This episode is such a Jade Showcase incidentally. BELLOWING about whorehouses and stuffing her face; wearing an amazing smug grin the whole time, personifying “heck yeah, I’m winning this!”; giving the firing a rapturous round of applause; winning the entire episode single-handedly. Get it girl!)
Meanwhile Sterling crumble into a mess, with Stephen shoving Gabrielle in a box and telling Ricky Martin to go out and try and win the task for him single-handedly. Sadly, this is beyond even Ricky Martin, although he makes a decent job of trying, mostly via the medium recreating THAT Christmas episode of The Vicar Of Dibley but with scallop dishes. The boardroom that ensues is of course an utter mess, as Stephen reaches MAXIMUM desperation and starts flailing around, talking over everyone and bugging his eyes out to Jesus. Sadly, my declaring Gabrielle Queen Of The Boardroom last week proves a jinx, as she can’t summon up the energy for another screaming fit until proded, and even that is half-hearted. Happily Ricky Martin is happy to step up in her stead, and he cleans Stephen’s clock from one end of the boardroom to the other.
In recognition of this, he is the sole survivor of this series’ official DOUBLE FIRING. Lordalan makes sure to fire Gabrielle first (horribly – telling her how nice she is, and pretty she is, and what an awesome friend she’d be, and giving probably the most nauseating “with regret” ever) just to try and eke every last drop of desperation out of Stephen. Apparently Series 8 Project Manager Immunity only stretches so far. And that far is “not quite as far as Stephen”.