The papers may have done their best to ruin the surprise for us but it didn’t make TV3’s The Apprentice any less compulsive last night. OK, I’ll qualify that – it was, by far, the dullest challenge the contestants have had thus far; collecting rubbish (albeit extraordinarily valuable, recyclable rubbish) and stacking it in cages hardly makes for thrilling TV. But last night, it was all about the ending, which had all the shock value of The Sixth Sense or one of Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected. Having lost the task by some margin, team leader (and series highlight) Joanna Murphy was grilled by Bill Cullen as to the reasons behind her side’s defeat. Her decision to remain at the collection point, with while sending the gloriously inept Nicky and Orla wandering around Naas touting for business in day-glo jackets and high heels and yelling through megaphones, seemed to have backfired. Their team seemed fortunate to have an ancient, dodgy-looking horse box full of recyclables turn up in the nick of time, but even that left them well short. Having magnanimously taken most of the blame on the chin, Cullen then dealt Joanna the fatal blow: “Who is Ray Murphy?” After a few moments of flustered bluster, she had to admit, “he’s my husband.” She was instantly fired, not for losing the task, but for contravening the competition’s rules about contact with the outside world.
However, it was only as she drove away from the boardroom that the extraordinary extent of her deception was revealed. ‘Wagon Face’ cackled and howled as she described how she had brazenly contacted her husband for a dig out with the task and got him and friends to collect plenty of booty from another recycling centre. She went on to gleefully tell how Nicky and Orla hadn’t been responsible for much of the stuff they actually took in, and anyway, she’d kept them away from the collection centre because she “couldn’t stand to spend even a second more with them.” It was shocking, hilarious and brilliant, brilliant TV. Farewell, Joanna – you made everyone else (including Bill Cullen) look like muppets and The Apprentice will be all the poorer for your departure. Let’s hope we see you turn up on Dragon’s Den before long.