Liane Jones: Young, gifted and named after a scent from the Body Shop

Michelle was a grafter but fooled us with mimsy people skills
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The Independent Online

Oops, he's done it again. For the second year running, Sir Alan has picked an attractive person to employ. A nation sulks. We wanted him to go for Ruth Badger and her tank-like personality. She made great telly: blatantly self-serving, hypnotising punters by sheer force of will into shelling out for cars, sparkly tops and lame murder mystery evenings.

Yet he's opted for Michelle Dewberry, fragile, pretty and named after a Body Shop fragrance. Pshaw.

Not only that, we've been made to feel fools. Because now it turns out that despite being blonde, Michelle is a grafter who's worked her way up. How were we supposed to know? She tricked us with her mimsy people skills.

It's cheating really, isn't it? It wouldn't have been so bad if she'd presented herself as a Grace Kelly icy blonde or a Hillary Clinton stern blonde. Or even a Paris Hilton party girl blonde, complete with business plan for designer merchandising. But Michelle chose to present herself as a pretty blonde. And by the rules of blonde, that made her dismissable. Maybe good at PR - look at how well she timed the disclosure of her tough life, the minx! - but insubstantial.

Now she's won, we must all take a juddering breath and reappraise her. The press has risen to the occasion splendidly. She's already moved from being a sweetie to being cool and calculating. By tomorrow she'll probably have the cold dead eyes of a killer.

So did Michelle strategise her whole fair and friendly persona? Perhaps her bedtime reading includes those surveys that show blondes are perceived as successful and confident yet pleasantly unthreatening.

She certainly steered clear of threat, while many of her rivals majored on it. The Badger embodies it, providing a delightful frisson for us viewers. So aggressive, just like a man. Just like Sir Alan himself! And there's a hitch Michelle might have spotted - Sir Alan's doing that job, thanks.

Imagine: you're a clever young woman, streetwise and very ambitious, and you want to win The Apprentice. Do you go head to head with the other contestants, all older than you, and try to out-shout them with Sir Alan looking on? Or do you have a look at what Sir Alan did last year, then blonde up, redraw your eyebrows and deploy your people skills?

It's all disguise and counter-disguise and enough to make a person throw their copy of Body-language-for-beginners into the bin. Take the Moment of Choice, for instance. For one second, I just knew Sir Alan was going for Michelle because his whole face lit up as he turned to her. But now we know that two versions of that scene were filmed - he chose Michelle in one and Ruth in the other, and neither contestant knew which was the real one. In the unscreened version, does his face light up for Ruth?

At times, this series has seemed like a experiment to see how far viewers can be manipulated. Syed's an arrogant twirp! No, on the post-firing show he's funny and self-deprecating! Sharon never stops moaning; no, none of her friends recognise that description one bit.

Never mind how authentic Michelle is - I'm working on a new theory. The entire show is scripted and acted by professionals, like a reality version of The Truman Show. The cost-conscious BBC used leftover names from the Farthing Wood cartoons (Tulip, Badger, Dewberry). Everything is fictional and any resemblance to a real person is coincidental. Michelle is played by the producer's daughter fresh from RADA and has macrobiotic diet. Syed's actor volunteers as a Relate counsellor at weekends. And the part of Ruth is played by Tamzin Outhwaite.

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