It was the kind of edge-of your-seat TV that the BBC's The Apprentice provides so well - editing as clunky as ever - as the candidate who was set up to look like a winner suffered a crushing defeat. After weeks of squabbelling and drama, Lord Alan Sugar's pendulum-like sausage finger swung round to hire Dr. Leah Totton and her cosmetic surgery chain business plan.
The Apprentice Wraps Up For Another Year.
After the first few weeks of girl-on-girl bitchiness and constant catfights, it's a small marvel any girls prevailed at all. Hair was furiously tossed, spidery eyelashes were glared through and towering heels were stamped as the show saw some of its most aggressive power struggles in its nine series.
Perhaps the men would have stood more of a chance of making it to the final had neckbeard-Neil not messed up and offered his ludicrous sell-your-house-yourself business idea to withering criticism from hard-nosed Claude and Co but unfortunately for Sugar who took a shine to the Altrincham lad, Cloughy remained fixated.
Karren Brady Voiced Her Delight At This Year's Female Winner & Runner-Up.
So Leah Totton won...phew that was a relief. For a while there it looked like bambi-eyed bully Luisa would take the prize, and Lord Sugar's soul, as she looks to build her cupcake empire one edible sprinkle at a time.
Sure, she may have changed ever so slightly across the arduous and character-crushing experience but as we saw in last week's bloodsport of an interview round, she still had her claws out for cheery northerner Francesca who had had the temerity to whisper once or twice that she regarded her rival as manipulative. Manipulative, moi? Luisa's eyes narrowed in on the frightened blonde dancer as the other candidates shuffled nervously.
Watch Leah Totton's Apprentice Audition:
The final task was to start their new business from scratch, designing branding, filming an advert and launching the business with a slick event. Cue yet another episode of concerned looks from harassed creative agency workers as the minutiae of brand logos and colour schemes were obsessed and stressed over.
The BBC dropped the traditional 'basketball-team' approach to reintroducing previously fired candidates, where one forlorn reject is left behind to slot into a team that doesn't want them. This time Leah and Luisa had to scan through CVs, assessing their colleagues' strengths and ringing them up. Leah quickly harvested all the key players, inviting Miles, Jason, Francesca and errr...Usma to join her in her fight to the top.
Luisa, realising that the best had been picked up by the softly-softly approach Leah, got her first choice with Neil but got lumped with wide-boy Zee, useless-but-sweet Jason and scared bunny Natalie. "Ugh I really don't want Jason," she said "He'd be detrimental."
Lord Sugar's Aide Nick Was On Hand For More Many Classic Moments.
Dr Totton, who started out the series as a silent, scowling mute began to emerge as a cool-headed decision-maker who fiercely bulldozed her 'NIKS' name through ('Skin' backwards, geddit? Like, turning to time back on your skin...or whatever) despite criticism that it evoked images of shaving cuts and needle slips.
Luisa went down the sickly sweet baking route, overloading her campaign with shades of pink and placing herself firmly at the centre of the brand as the apparent mother-of-one hired a couple of terrified child actors to play her children in the promo shoot. "For the purposes of this pretend I'm your mother," instructed Lu who, to give her credit, produced a pretty good ad showcasing her distinctive branding.
Watch Luisa Zissman's Audition Video:
Leah's ad campaign was a little more clinical, showing shots of the 24 year-old GP waving needles in the face of a nervous-looking actress and promising her medical ethics with a glinting smile after a scuffle with Jason over the strategic placement of an offensive potpourri bowl.
In the presentations, she enlisted dancer Francesca to dance onstage, waving a ribbon in the audiences' faces before Dr. T came out and gave a confident speech, dispelling any ideas she didn't understand the industry. Luisa fared less well in the presentation, fluffing her lines and facing some tough questions (Why, oh why do they never know their numbers?!). She exited stage-left and burst into tears - a strange and poignantly human moment in her game-playing conquest.
Lord Sugar With 2011 Winner, Inventor Tom Pellereau.
In the boardroom, numbers got serious - Leah's margins were much stronger than Luisa's 'Baking Toolkit' wholesale idea but Sugar couldn't get his head round the medical ethics of cosmetic surgery and the impact on his reputation if a botched patient went to the press.
During much mulling from Sugar, wasp-chewing from aide Nick and disapproving looks from Karren, the trio digested the cake company and dissected the botox business and made a decision.
In the end the "devil" on Sugar's shoulder, tempted by the flourishing industry and mega margins, "hired" Leah under the compromise the 'NIKS' name would be scrapped in favour of "Doctor Leah."
Dr Totton clapped with joy as the world came crushing down on Luisa; the little girl inside climbed out of the cracked hard shell of the tough businesswoman who had given everything she had over twelve weeks and faced some hard lessons.