Nigel Farage was always going to be the main event on the latest season of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! But who suspected he would so quickly become the anus event?
The Brexit campaigner and GB News presenter had been put forward for the first Bushtucker Trial by ITV viewers – which meant snacking on crocodile bum, camel teat and a triple-threat of sheep feet, goat feet – “topped off with chicken feet”. He hadn’t looked so unnerved since that time he got into a surprised row with Bob Geldof over EU fishing rights.
Farage had been a rum presence on the show – though that turned to a bum presence when This Morning’s Josie Gibson accidentally spotted him showering. The scene prompted an uncharacteristic quip from Declan Donnelly about her potentially seeing his “honourable member” (uncharacteristic in that it was funny).
But back to the Bushtucker Trial – the centrepiece of an episode that will have thrilled I’m A Celeb viewers and left everyone else baffled about the ongoing appeal of the series and a bit queasy to boot.
The ordeal came with a pizza theme and saw Farage sharing a dining table with YouTuber Nella Rose. Rose had experienced a meltdown confronted by a snake the previous night.
However, with Farage as a calm and encouraging presence, she scoffed most of her disgusting meals, and the duo gained nine out of 10 possible stars.
There was lots of pithiness from the foraging Farage. He appeared quietly disgusted by the fare but was presumably thinking of his reported £1.5 million fee and all the mouthwash it will buy when he leaves the jungle.
“This has the potential to depress you for weeks,” he said – referring not to Ant and Dec’s banter but to the cow’s feet he was munching. Stoicism was replaced by speechlessness as he next tucked into different varieties of animal anus, and Dec wondered if he could tell the difference. For perhaps the first time in his public life, Farage had no answer.
The public has already spoken, however. Overnight viewing for Sunday’s season opener peaked at 7.8 million. The figure was ITV’s highest for the year – but well down on the 9.1 million who tuned in last year when Matt Hancock said welcome to the jungle.
Usually, it takes ages for I’m A Celebrity to hit its groove. This year, though, it’s been straight into the action. Two days in, and Farage was in the Bushtucker firing line.
Meanwhile, Britney Spears’s younger sister, Jamie Lynn, was feeling the strain of life far from home and with the constant possibility of Ant and Dec popping out from behind a shrub.
She mooched around, wiping away tears and explaining she missed her children. Determined to bring good cheer, the other contestants gathered around and, led by Marvin Humes of JLS, serenaded her boyband style. She didn’t know what to say – a common reaction to JLS’s music.
The only genuine friction was between the otherwise amiable Fred Sirieix from First Dates and Farage, who clashed over their favourite Taylor Swift album. Only joking – the row was about Brexit. Farage set out his views about the wisdom, as he saw it, of leaving the EU but seemed too weary to argue with the impassioned Sirieix.
Maybe his thoughts were on other things – such as that Bushtucker Trial he had coming up. Farage had predicted Brexit years before anyone else – perhaps his powers of intuition extended to a premonition that he would be munching crocodile bum in just a few hours.
He looked haunted all over again as Ant and Dec joined the camp just before the end credits to reveal who would be participating in Wednesday’s trial. To Nigel’s astonishment, though, he’d been spared. The dubious honour of another Bushtucker instead went to his partner, Nella Rose. She shrieked in horror at having to undergo two in a row. Everybody else just sat about vaguely stunned.
After the initial buzz of entering the jungle, they were adjusting to the bleak reality of three weeks of rice and beans for dinner and Ant and Dec jokes for dessert. Farage, by contrast, appeared at ease - and no wonder. After you’ve had crocodile anus for supper, the only way is up.