Did The Apprentice spoil its own firing this week?

Eagle-eyed viewers might have guessed this week’s boardroom outcome weeks ago

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Tonight’s episode of The Apprentice concluded with a nail-biting boardroom scene, with Lord Sugar eventually sending Paul Sullivan home in a decision that nobody could have predicted.

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Or rather, it would have ended that way – if The Apprentice hadn’t surreptitiously shown WEEKS ago that Paul was the only candidate who could have possibly been fired this week.

Let me explain. At the beginning of every episode of The Apprentice there’s an introductory montage of the candidates on various tasks, which sees our hapless entrepreneurs running around, shouting at each other and generally flailing about as they try to complete the random assignments given to them by Lord Sugar. It’s a lot of fun.

However, the montage includes clips from both previous AND future tasks in the series, meaning that you can spot pretty easily which candidates are set to make it further through the process.

Take Jessica. This week it seemed likely that she was for the chop, with most of her team turning on her due to her misleading sales technique and project manager Paul bringing her back into the boardroom alongside Frances. In the final moments before his decision, Lord Sugar wavered between her and Paul, and for a while it seemed like Jessica’s firing was a sure thing.

However, I wasn’t biting my nails on behalf of one of my favourite candidates – because for the last few weeks that opening montage has included a clip of Jessica and Frances from a task yet to be broadcast, arguing with Trishna while at Comic-con. Of the final three, Paul was LITERALLY the only one who could go.

Jessica and Frances in the opening montage clip, which has been aired since at least episode 2 of the series six weeks ago

“Oooh, will Jessica be fired after her performance?” The Apprentice seemed to ask us this week as she made a catastrophic error on the task.

“No,” thought I – “because she hasn’t been to Comic-con yet.”

“Lord Sugar is torn between firing her and Paul – isn’t this tense?” the boardroom scene subtextually suggested as Claude and Karren turned the screws on the candidates.

“No,” I replied in my inner monologue, “because I have seen a vision of Apprentice future and both Jessica and Frances are in it.”

The same thing happened as far back as week 2, when Jessica was PM of the disastrous designer jeans task and it seemed like her breakdowns under pressure would force her out. Just 50 minutes before, I’d watched a clip of her complaining about NOT being project manager in a location (Comic-con) and outfit we’d not seen her in that week – so how likely was it that she’d be the one making a Jexit?

Jessica and Trishna in this week’s task

Of course, the opening montage isn’t always a huge spoiler – the clips of future tasks are often suitably vague enough to be indistinguishable from episodes past, and the sheer number of candidates means that it’s rare for a clip to correspond directly with the final three up for a firing in the boardroom. Plus, it’s unlikely that many people watch the show with enough rapt attention to notice such small details, so this week’s firing would probably have been just as tense for them as it should have been.

However, in a show that’s so good at keeping its secrets, well, secret, it’s funny to note that their biggest spoiler came within the episode itself. Definitely worth a boardroom scolding or two.

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The Apprentice continues on BBC1 on Thursdays at 9.00pm