Three contestants have been booted off The Apprentice in an unexpected and brutal triple elimination.
Daniel Elahi, Khadija Kalifa and Sabrina Stocker were fired by Lord Alan Sugar after a day of gruelling interviews with the business tycoon’s associates.
Former trader Elahi said being fired at the penultimate round was “heartbreak”.
He described Lord Sugar’s decision to send him home instead of finalists Camilla Ainsworth and Sian Gabbidon as “bizarre”.
He told the Press Association: “I was shocked to hear it. It was quickly followed by a feeling of heartbreak. I was absolutely gutted.
“If you have a look at my performance over the past 10 weeks coupled with the comments which didn’t make the cut, about my business, everything pointed in the direction of me being hired. On the basis of what (Lord Sugar) was looking for, and all the things he was saying in the boardroom, it was bizarre that I would be fired.”
Tennis event organiser Stocker, the first of the three to be fired, said Lord Sugar’s boardroom had felt like a “lion’s den” but insisted the group had otherwise got on.
She said: “In the boardroom, it is a bit of a lion’s den. You can either kill or get killed. When we went back to the house it was like a family and everyone was very good at compartmentalising and getting on.”
Eco-cleaning entrepreneur Kalifa said she had mixed feelings when Lord Sugar told her she was fired, as she had been missing her children.
She said: “Immediately afterwards, it was pretty gutting, to get that far and to think, ah, that I didn’t get right to the end. Equally, it was kind of mixed emotions because I was really missing home and missing my children.
“I’m a lot more hot-headed than Sian and Camilla put together. But that’s OK, that’s me. That’s Khadija, or Kha-diva. Whatever you want to say.”
The penultimate episode saw the final five candidates summoned to the Leadenhall Building, a 55-storey skyscraper in the City of London.
Each contestant was challenged to prove their business was worth investment from Lord Sugar, and each of their plans were scrutinised by one of his advisers.
Following a day of interrogation, the group were called to the boardroom where they faced Lord Sugar.
First to be booted from the programme was Stocker, who looked downcast as she was told by Lord Sugar: “You’re bouncy, you’re bubbly and you’re definitely going to go somewhere but it’s not going to be with me. It is with regret, Sabrina, that you are fired.”
Kalifa was next to face the axe.
Lord Sugar praised her “hard working” spirit but was less complimentary about her tendency to dominate discussion.
He told her: “You like to talk up for yourself but I’m sorry to have to tell you, I don’t see it. So Khadija, best of luck for the future, but regretfully, you’re fired.”
With three budding entrepreneurs left of the original 16, Lord Sugar explained that he needed a moment to consult Baroness Karren Brady and Claude Littner.
Lord Sugar then recalled the group to the boardroom to reveal who would be the third entrepreneur to leave.
He said: “Daniel, you have been good in the past 11 weeks, but I’m a bit concerned about you as a person, as an individual. Bit of a fly boy, you are. I have to think about who is going to be a successful business partner with me. I can’t invest in you. Unfortunately, Daniel, you’re fired.”
After surviving the triple elimination, Ainsworth and Gabbidon hugged in relief.
The series finale of The Apprentice will air on BBC One on December 16 at 9pm, where Gabbidon and Ainsworth will battle it out to see their brand receive a £250,000 boost.