The Apprentice has been hit with its second double firing in three weeks as Lord Sugar whittled down his candidates to six.
Art director Dillon St Paul and sales executive Sofiane Khelfa were the latest candidates to face the chop after their team failed to impress in a task that challenged the contestants to move into the world of virtual reality (VR)
The two teams went head-to-head to create a new VR game before pitching it at the Comic Con exhibition in London.
The double exit leaves just one man left in the competition — business owner Courtney Wood.
Sofiane, 32, who was swapped into Team Titan by Lord Sugar, took the role of project manager for the task despite protests from Dillon that the creativity involved suited his skill set.
The 37-year-old illustrator told the Press Association the outcome “could have been very different” with him at the helm after their underwater puzzle game, titled Magic Shells, flopped in front of industry experts.
Just 78 of a 300-strong crowd said the game was better than Team Nebula’s effort, Gordon’s Lost His Badger which was set in space and centred on Galactic Gordon finding his lost pet badger.
Team Nebula, led by IT recruitment worker Trishna Thakrar, swept to victory with five of the seven industry members expressing interest in the game and 222 votes cast in their favour.
Sofiane, who brought back Dillon and Grainne McCoy to the boardroom, said he was “shocked” to be sent home by Lord Sugar after hearing the business mogul’s favourite catchphrase minutes earlier.
He told the Press Association: “I still think I’m better than any of the other candidates left in there. I’m very competitive.
“I was gutted. Coming this close makes you want it more. I walked in to every boardroom thinking that there could be more than one firing, but I was actually shocked by my firing.
“Even after Lord Sugar fired Dillon, I was still thinking he might fire Grainne, not me,” Sofiane added.
Dillon said he was “frustrated” by losing the task and blamed project manager Sofiane’s refusal to let him design the character and brand.
“I don’t think I should’ve been fired. From the beginning I voiced my concerns about being placed on the subteam, with a background in design and as a published illustrator I had a lot more to offer on that team.
“I think I gave it my all to try and develop a game that could win but in the end the game was restricted by weak branding and a weak character design and then there was the pitch.”
He added there was “nothing in” his decision to not follow the show’s tradition and wait to say goodbye to his team mates outside the boardroom after being fired.
“I am very fond of my fellow candidates and I think I was kind of in a daze – I would have loved to say goodbye to Grainne for sure.”
Dillon, who was called “a very, very, very nice person” by Lord Sugar as he was fired, said he thought being “cut throat and ruthless is overrated”.
On his firing, he added: “I was saddened because I knew I wouldn’t see my friends like Jessica again. That was hard. I think I had a feeling it was my time though.”
Asked who will go on to bag Lord Sugar’s £250,000 investment, Dillon called for entrepreneur Jessica Cunningham to win “100%”.
He added: “She’s very business savvy and is a Jedi with numbers but yet wears her heart on her sleeve which is really refreshing and wins you over.”
Meanwhile Sofiane said Courtney “definitely stands a chance”.
:: The Apprentice returns next Thursday at 9pm.