It was the infamous interview round on The Apprentice where many past candidates have come unstuck or had their business plans literally shredded before their eyes. At the very least it’s always the time for remaining candidates to get a thorough ticking off from Lord Sugar’s trusted advisers.
This year’s panel of interviewers included: Linda Plant, Mike Soutar, Claudine Collins and we also saw the return of Claude Littner. Claude was out of the show this year due to a cycling accident but returned for a special cameo appearance.
As the all-female final four (Kathryn, Brittany Stephanie and Harpreet) took deep breaths and subjected themselves to a grilling they’ll never forget, we expected tough questions. But what we didn’t see coming was the emotional flood gates opening for one of this season’s toughest talkers.
Stephanie Affleck has been a consistent candidate throughout the process and despite bad moments (no one mention the logo for ‘First Time Foodies’ or how to spell the word ‘Arctic’) she’s nevertheless earned herself a place in the penultimate stage. But viewers have criticised her over the weeks for being responsible for some of the biggest mistakes (seriously, please don’t mention the logo for ‘First Time Foodies’, we can’t handle it).
And her general demeanour has often come across as fairly no-nonsense and perhaps a little cold at times. However, in during Week 11, the ice finally melted around Stephanie’s heart as she unexpectedly teared up in a round of questioning from Claudine.
Claudine read from Stephanie’s personal statement saying: “You talk in such glowing terms about your dad. You say, ‘My dad is my everything, I’ve learnt the most important lessons from my dad, in business and in my view of the world’.”
Stephanie immediately dissolved and fighting back the tears said: “Sorry, I’m the hard nut that never cries, I don’t know why I’ve chosen this moment to cry,” adding, “I think I cry once every 10 years.”
Claudine saw her chance to really turn on the water tap saying: “What would your dad think about you being in the final four with a 25% chance of Lord Sugar saying, ‘Stephanie you’re going to be my business partner’?”
A snuffling Stephanie replied: “Oh I think he would be so incredibly proud, he’d be the first one fighting my corner as to why I definitely should be the person for investment. He has been my support system my whole life and I’m so lucky to have not just someone who’s a great dad, but someone who is also a great mentor.”
Claudine warmed to the new softer Stephanie saying: “You’re so much more personable when you let your guard down.”
Drying her eyes Stephanie said: “I would say this is the real Steph. In the tasks it’s hard not to have a barrier up. If I were to do it again maybe I’d have my guard down a little bit “
Brittany was the first person to be eliminated in the semi-finals, and she was closely followed by Stephanie.
The final episode of The Apprentice airs on Thursday, March 24 at 9pm on BBC1