The first episode of The Apprentice series 12 was a typically chaotic affair, with the candidates rushing around London to offload their vans full of antiques and making various mistakes along the way.
Some £300 vases were sold at £15, a van was accidentally sent to the other side of London and one deal was struck with a man with no money to offer – but amid all the disasters the boys’ team Titans slipped to victory, landing team Nebula’s Michelle, Rebecca and Alana in the boardroom and seeing our first firing of the series.
That unlucky candidate was mortgage company founder Michelle Niziol, who as project manager for the girls’ team was held responsible for the failure of the task by Lord Sugar – a decision she still maintains was a “mistake” by the businessman.
“The only reason I felt I went was because we lost and I was project manager,” Niziol tells RadioTimes.com of Lord Sugar’s decision. “Rebecca only sold £25 in a day, I sold more than that and obviously I was project manager so managing both teams… so absolutely I felt like I shouldn’t have gone.”
Alana, Michelle and Rebecca in the boardroom
Adding that it was “absolutely gutting” to be fired so early in the process with little opportunity to show off her skills, Niziol also says she thought she might have coped better with the pressures if she’d have stayed longer.
“I mean obviously it’s a lot harder with fewer candidates, but I think that I would have got a bit more used to it,” she tells us. “I mean it’s the first task, and you don’t have a clue what you’re doing!”
So perhaps the series could take a leaf out of Strictly Come Dancing’s book, and not chuck out any contestants in the first week at all?
“I think it would give Lord Sugar, Claude and Karren a bit more time to get to know the candidates,” Niziol agrees, “because I do feel that he made a mistake firing me. I’d have gone really far in the process.
“So…yeah, I don’t think that’s a bad idea.”
Jessica, Michelle and Grainne in this week’s episode
Sadly we’ll never get to see if she’s right, and Niziol’s Apprentice legacy will instead be the time she and her team sent a van to the other side of London by mistake, in a highlight of this week’s episode. So, to finish up – what exactly happened there?
“Complete oversight,” Niziol laughs.
“I think what happened was, obviously it’s the first task, you’re not really used to all the excitement going on, and trying to manage everybody, and obviously we had the brilliant idea of selling to antique shops on the way to Camden market. We get there, and no-one had called the van!
“None of us had thought to call the van. We just thought that it would be following us.”
So there you have it – in an episode full of valuable antiques, it was a priceless Van-Go that made for the most embarrassing mistake. Irony, thy name is Apprentice.
The Apprentice continues on BBC1 next Thursday at 9.00pm