Just how far will an octopus stretch? Why would anyone put chilli sauce on a doughnut? How on Earth did Kurran make it on to this show in the first place? This series of The Apprentice has certainly raised some perplexing questions over the past seven weeks, but perhaps the biggest mystery: why is everyone so terrible at winning tasks this year?
Exactly like in previous series, the past seven tasks have given us seven losing teams and seven winning ones. However, while previous shows have seen one or two candidates consistently coming up trumps (think Helen from series 13 or Courtney from series 12), nobody from the Class of 2018 has yet built up a winning streak.
In fact, in seven weeks, not one of this year’s 16 candidates has won more than four tasks – a new Apprentice record low. Even favourites like Jackie, a contestant who has received plenty of praise for her selling ability, has lost the majority of challenges, also notching up a defeat as project manager along the way.
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So, who’s the worst remaining candidate and who is this year’s taskmaster? Well, seeing as six of the nine remaining contestants have lost three tasks and won four each, it’s difficult to pin down. But not impossible.
To better separate them out, all you need to do is think of each candidate as a football team competing in a single division – an Apprentice version of the Premier League, if you will (or perhaps the Vanarama Conference), complete with the constant pressure managers are under not to get fired at the end of each week.
But to better take into account all the degrees of winning and losing on the show, this Apprentice league requires a points system a little more complex than your average football table. A system that looks something like this…
- +3 points for a win as a project manager
- -3 points for a loss as a project manager
- -2 points for an appearance in the final boardroom
- +1 point for being on the winning side
- -1 point for being on the losing side (and not being brought back to the final boardroom).
Allocate those points for each week so far and these are the standings for remaining candidates at the end of week seven…
While Jackie and Jasmine are both in serious danger of regulation, it looks like Daniel has actually performed best in this year’s tasks, with a grand total of three positive points. It’s a score made possible by four wins – one as project manager – and being the only candidate this year to avoid the final boardroom.
Whether it be for his dominant points total or for his Justin Bieber haircut teased in the preview for the next episode, Daniel is certainly one to watch.
However, he’s only in the lead by a single point. With such a close pack at the top, one bad loss could easily send Daniel down four places.
And it’s very very tight compared to previous years. Just see how the best five performers – based on the same points system above – stacked up this time last year…
And in the 2016 series…
There’s much more space between the top candidate and the fifth in both cases – at least more than the single point spacing for this year.
In fact, there’s less difference in this year’s top quintet’s scores than in any past series (for any maths fans reading, the standard deviation for the top five candidates in 2018 is only 0.4, almost a whole point lower than the next lowest deviation in the show’s history, the first series).
But there’s also another thing you might notice about the tables above: how much better the top candidates from the past two years are. Add up the scores of the five best-performing business hopefuls in 2017 and you get 23 points. Then 15 points for 2016. This year? A mere 11, a strong sign there’s not much to separate the best and worst contestants in the process.
Now, we should state that 2018’s ‘best’-performing candidates aren’t the lowest scoring in the show’s history. Add up the points of the top five contestants of series five – the year that gave us Phil ‘Pants man’ Taylor, very much the Accrington Stanley in our Apprentice football analogy – and you’ll get a grand total of six points after seven weeks, almost half of this year’s equivalent.
Yet even in series five, you can still find a three-point gap between fifth and first place. So in terms of task performance, the 2018 show is still the most closely-fought competition in the show’s history.
But who will pick up the most points in the weeks to come? And will that even matter? After all, when it comes to firing and hiring, Lord Sugar is more likely to rely on his instinct than points tables (not a great trait for a man who used to be chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, but there you are).
But if Sugar asked us to pick out a winner based on task results so far, it would be Daniel. Just.
The Apprentice in at 9pm on Wednesdays on BBC1