He has been branded “evil” live on television.
And with a growing list of online detractors, Cookstown’s Jim Eastwood is earning a reputation as the man they all love to hate on The Apprentice.
Comedian Jenny Eclair laid into the local man on the You’re Fired show on Wednesday evening, earning rapturous applause from a packed studio audience with her stinging criticism.
“I'm finding him sinister now,” she said. “He's turned into Derren Brown gone bad. I think Jim should have gone because he's evil.”
Jim’s once gentle and charming demeanour appears to have been replaced by something darker in his bid to win Lord Sugar's £250,000 investment.
Team Venture failed to hit the mark on Wednesday with a lacklustre attempt to create a free magazine aimed at the over 60s called ‘Hip Replacement’.
His boardroom slurs in this week's episode showed a more callous side to the businessman, who referred to his quiet and |restrained team-mate Susan Na as a “meek little mouse”, comparing the 21-year-old skincare entrepreneur to “Bambi”.
Sugar's right-hand man Nick Hewer was increasingly less favourable about the Co Tyrone man's business skills, saying “trying to nail anything on Jim Eastwood is like trying to nail jelly to the wall”.
Once seen as an honest and likeable bloke, his recent outbursts have seen his public persona take a drastic slump.
Detractors have branded the sales and marketing manager everything from “The Teflon Don” for his ability to yet again slide away from Lord Sugar's inimitable wrath, and “incompetent and pig-headed”.
Sugar was sweet on our Jim during the first couple of weeks of the show, but this week told the Cookstown man: “What I’ve forgotten about bull****, you ain’t even learned yet.”
His list of detractors seems to be growing on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook which are now rife with a raft of quick-witted slurs and put-downs.
One of the show's fans said: “I'm intrigued by Jim's transformation in The Apprentice from super-cool candidate to a malevolent honey-tongued control freak.”
Another said: “Want to make money, Jim? Charge people a tenner each to slap you around the face. Punters would be queueing round the block.”
During Wednesday night's You're Fired show hosted by comedian Dara O'Briain, Jim's ability to wriggle out of yet another firing earned him an icy reception from both the panel and audience.
Fired Apprentice hopeful Glenn said: “Jim could convince us the world's flat.”
Many of Jim's biggest fans are still supporting him all the way despite his change in character this week.
“Jim is being totally vilified — not amused,” said one of his supporters during this week's task.
Only time will tell whether the once-lauded Jim will be able to keep his cool in the remaining weeks ahead.
Genius or manipulator? Four business chiefs decide
Ciaran Sheehan is managing partner of Clarendon Executive Recruitment. He says:
“I thought at the start he seemed to be the outstanding candidate but the way he manipulated his first boardroom experience was very clever, and unfortunately in the last few weeks it’s been more evident and calculated.
“I think the approach he takes to continue to shift responsibility from key decisions is very evident and consequently people including Alan Sugar have caught on. That said, he does appear to be a good thinker.
Kieran Donnelly is director of PR group Morrow Communications. He says:
“He's gone steadily downhill in my eyes. Whether he knows it or not, he seems a very manipulative person. Nothing seems to stick to him. If the reaction of Karren Brady and Nick is anything to go by I'm beginning to wonder about him. He would really need a great next episode after the last engagement and I'm very surprised he's still there. He has a powerful hand over people — although that is a strength in business, used in the right way.
Phil Davison is managing director of Aria Property Management. He says:
“Honestly, I think he's a genius — you just couldn't help but admire him.
“He's running circles around the rest of the candidates and he didn't listen to anything he was told and produced something that was completely rubbish, but he still got off scot-free.
“I don't think I would want to work with him but he's doing brilliantly — he's calculated and he definitely has the measure of everyone else. He made a pig’s ear of the task this week but still came out on top. I think he's definitely playing the game.
Brian Murphy is co-director of K-point Internet Solutions. He says:
“Obviously Jim was the stand-out candidate at the start of the Apprentice but I think in the last few episodes he's become a bit unwilling to make decisions and I think he'll have to start to regroup.
“I think that he needs to start delivering rather than talking himself out of the boardroom.
“He needs to start making decisions.
“I think he is definitely one of two or three candidates that stand out from the pack, and I definitely think that he'll make it through to the interview stages.