Last night's Apprentice semi-final was compulsive viewing. For ten weeks, we have veered between annoyance, horror and disbelief at the antics of 21 year old Isle Of Man contestant Stuart Baggs, who styled himself "The Brand". Lord Sugar seemed to have gone soft and was completely taken in by scatology more related to bovine creatures than to the "field of ponies" Baggs famously swore he could deliver for him.
I had been particularly furious when Lord Sugar fired the highly competent Liz last week. The only saving grace from that is that he knew what was coming to Stuart - an encounter with Margaret Mountford, who has become pretty scary in her absence. Her replacement, Karren Brady, is lovely and fair, but totally lacks that wonderful brand of acid Margaret brought to the show and which has become much more concentrated.
Stuart walked into the office, saw Margaret there, and greeted her as if she was a long lost aunt. Margaret cast him a look that would have reduced anyone else to sherbert like powder and suggested that his friendly greeting was inappropriate. Stuart found that his patter didn't wash with her at all. He tried the "but I just feel like I've known you for ages" but that was brutally cast aside with a "but you don't". She could have let it go there but she actually dragged a "Ms Mountford" out of him. Absolutely brilliant.
Even after that encounter, though, Stuart still tried to pull the wool over the eyes, and try to run rings round Viglen's CEO Borden Tkapchuk who had discovered that he didn't quite have the licence his CV suggested. The man's sheer nerve was unbelievable.
The quote of the day came from another of the interviewers, Claude Littner, who told him in response to a Baggs boast that he was a big fish in a small pond, that "you're not a big fish, you aren't even a fish".
Margaret was on fine form when she tackled property developer Jamie Lestor, taking him apart for a "puerile" joke he'd made on his application form about having a third nipple.
I was a little sad to see Jamie and Leicester cleaning business owner Joanna Riley go. Joanna had annoyed me intensely at times but she had shown originality and leadership ability and competence through the process - more than Chris Bates, who did go through.
The final will be between two from the world of banking - there's an irony there - Stella English and Chris Bates. Now, every time there's been a man/woman final in Apprentice history, the man has won, even though he has been in my opinion anyway, the poorer candidate. Tim v Saira, Simon v Kristina, Lee v Claire - each time the guy had demonstrated less competence and flair than the woman. The only times a woman has won has been when there's been two women in the final.
I'm not going to hold my breath for Stella, but, for me, she's shown much more personality, adaptability and ability throughout the 10 weeks and I want her to win.