In the real world, quality matters. At the least, products must be of an acceptable standard or else customers will never return to buy again. Of course, this is The Apprentice, which is nothing like the real world. In this rarefied atmosphere, all that matters is taking the punters’ money and running. Which is why shoddy products which are unfit for purpose will always win over beautifully designed alternatives.

So it should come as no surprise how the opening task of season eight of the show turned out. Bear-faced cheek triumphed over superior design and loud-mouthed Bilyana Apostolova found herself silenced by the only voice that matters: that of Alan Sugar.

It’s that time of year again. For the next 12 weeks, millions of viewers will be glued to their TVs watching 16 people in business suits acting like petulant children and making frequently ludicrous decisions as they compete for the right to receive a £250,000 investment to fund their own business. Yes, The Apprentice is back!

This year’s 16 candidates were unveiled at the series’ press launch earlier today, complete with the obligatory bios and mean-and-moody profile photos. I’ve worked tirelessly (or maybe that should be tiredly?) to bring you the low-down on the names and faces we will come to know and love – or, equally likely, hate – over the coming weeks.

Season two of Young Apprentice concluded last night with Irish economist James McCullagh and aspiring film-maker Zara Brownless battling it out for the right to succeed Arjun Rajyagor as the beneficiary of Lord Sugar’s £25,000 investment fund. The pair pitched their rival online games Crazy Cabinet and Piggy Panic to a room of gaming industry experts. But who made it to the next level, and for whom was it just a case of ‘game over’? Read on below the line to find out in my final recap of this season.

After seven weeks in which an enterprising bunch of 16 and 17-year olds have regularly outshone their grown-up counterparts on the parent programme, we arrive at the final of this second season of Young Apprentice. Aided and abetted by some familiar faces, economist James McCullagh will take on aspiring film-maker Zara Brownless for the right to succeed Arjun Rajyagor as the beneficiary of Lord Sugar’s £25,000 investment fund. But how did James and Zara survive to the final week? And which one will win?

In an unprecedented turn of events, the hopes of four of our final six contenders on this season’s Young Apprentice went pop as the two teams were tasked with the challenge of developing and pitching a new popcorn brand to three potential corporate buyers. Once the order books were closed and totted up Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™ dismissed first the entire losing team and then one member of the winning side, leaving us with just James McCullagh and Zara Brownless to battle it out in next week’s final.

It seems like the series has barely hit its stride, and yet Monday sees the penultimate episode of Young Apprentice. The pressure is really on as the candidates must shine both as teams and individuals as they tackle one last task to determine who will progress to the final and who will fall at the final hurdle.

*** Mild spoilers for this week’s episode below ***

The (size ten) shoe is on the other foot as Young Apprentice does Bargain Hunt. Rather than selling, the teams are asked to buy ten items for Madame Tussauds waxworks ranging from the statuesque Elle Macpherson to the pint-sized Justin Bieber. After a day spent chasing all over London from Saville Row to Skid Row to negotiate the lowest possible prices for their various wares, Team Atomic found themselves well and truly gazumped in the boardroom, resulting in Hayley Forrester becoming the sixth victim of Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™.

As we enter week six of eight of this season’s Young Apprentice, the final and the prospect of becoming the recipient of Lord Sugar‘s investment must seem within touching distance for the seven remaining candidates. But there can be only one winner. This week’s discount buying challenge may appear deceptively simple, but it is arguably the toughest the teams will have to face in a task which will ruthlessly expose the candidates’ weaknesses.

Let’s preview Monday’s episode and have a look at the three keys to success which will determine who becomes the sixth candidate to be dismissed by Sugar’s Digit of Doom™.

*** Mild spoilers for both this and next week’s episodes below ***

This week on Young Apprentice it was the turn of many people’s favourite assignment: the advertising task. Led by Zara Brownless, Team Atomic finally won their first task with their youth deodorant Raw. Meanwhile Harry Maxwell led Kinetic to their first defeat – but his fifth in five tasks overall – after a shambolic team performance. However despite being rounded upon by his entire team Harry survived, with fashion designer Gbemi Okunlola carrying the can for a poor packaging execution as she became the fifth recipient of Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™.

It’s time for Young Apprentice to tackle everyone’s favourite task: advertising. Four weeks into the process Team Atomic have yet to win a single task – and Harry M is the only candidate to have lost in every week so far – so the pressure will be on them to end their nightmare run.

Deciding the winner of the task is always a subjective matter – there are no definitive measures such as sales or profit to separate the teams here – but the series has tackled advertising enough times for there to be some clear dos and don’ts which the eight remaining candidates would be wise to heed. Here is my guide as to how to win the task.

This week we reached the halfway point of Young Apprentice in a task which presented us with a number of surprises, such as James McCullagh proving to be a calm and effective leader. Less shocking, however, was yet another defeat for Team Atomic – that’s no wins in four tasks now – as a result of which Lord Sugar‘s Digit of Doom™ fell upon the increasingly incoherent Lewis Roman. The Scouser ended up with egg on his face after his half-baked questioning and incessant waffle proved that selling to the over-50s really wasn’t as easy as pie.

This week’s task marks the mid-point of this season’s Young Apprentice. It sees the remaining nine candidates take on the apparently straightforward assignment of selecting products aimed at the over-50s and then selling them at an exhibition. Of course, we can be sure that things won’t go according to plan.

Here are my pre-episode thoughts ahead of tonight’s episode as to how the task will be won and lost.