Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the much-loved ITV show was done a little differently this year.
The producers opted for North Wales rather than New South Wales, substituting the jungle camp for Abergele’s Gwrych Castle. One other noticeable difference to the show was the substitution of fan favourite Kiosk Kev for the equally gruff Kiosk Cledwyn, who was paid in Castle Coins rather than Dingo Dollars in the hope of an exchange for treats. Despite these alterations, the show was still just as entertaining as it has been in previous years.
We could easily sympathise with the celebrities this year as they went through spells of homesickness after being away from their loved ones, which everyone has had to cope with due to lockdown rules.
So, what happened?
Spoiler alert: don’t read ahead if you’ve missed any episodes!
First to leave was Paralympic athlete Hollie Arnold MBE, who didn’t have quite enough public support to keep her in camp for long enough to fully come out of her shell. What we saw of her was great – as an athlete, putting 100% into her tasks came naturally to her. If she had stayed in for longer we would have got to see more of her cheeky side that was emerging near the end of her stint.
Next out was Ruthie Henshall, one of the two late arrivals. Despite being in the castle for the shortest time, Ruthie had one of the biggest self-discovery journeys. Ruthie described herself as tough, and didn’t expect to struggle with her emotions whilst on the show. She ended up discovering the strength in vulnerability, and was comforted by her fellow campmates while she worked through her problems. Another notable highlight of Ruthie’s stint in camp was when she discussed her relationship with Prince Edward, at one point telling Shane that she “shagged in the bedrooms” of Buckingham Palace – when talking about her camp experience with Ant and Dec, she said she regretted being quite so detailed.
Third and fourth to leave were Coronation Street actress Beverley Callard and journalist Victoria Derbyshire respectively.
Beverley managed to not only leave an impression of herself but of her husband Jon – affectionately known as “Megashag”. Ant and Dec did nothing to prevent his new nickname being spread across the nation, repeatedly addressing Jon through the camera and saying “Evening, Megashag!”, or phrases to that effect. Beverley was quick to form solid friendships with others in the castle, especially Jordan, with the two of them enjoying a sweet mother-and-son type of bond that the public loved watching.
Victoria was one of the quietest members of the group, generally getting things done with minimal complaints and being supportive to the rest of the group. She had a sweet bond with the other women, as well as with Jordan who she knew personally before starting the show – with Jordan announcing “I was her tea boy!” when everyone first met. Her solo trial was particularly slow and quiet, without any real sense of urgency, which Ant and Dec played on by saying “She was SO SLOW that …” followed by a heap of exaggerated points, including that by the time she finished her trial the duo would have had to leave for Australia the next day to film the show’s 2021 series. It seems it was her tranquil and steady nature that prevented her from going further in the show, as a lot of the other celebrities had a flair for the dramatic and were a lot more excitable in their respective trials.
The fifth and sixth out were classical singer Russell Watson and EastEnders actress Jessica Plummer. Russell arrived late alongside Ruthie, but charmed everyone in camp and at home with his incredible singing voice, and broke into song whenever the opportunity arose. Ant and Dec found his long-awaited solo trial one of the funniest in the series, as he was strapped to a human rotisserie and covered with various grim substances whilst being asked general knowledge questions. The presenting duo were in fits of laughter as Russell said “You are SICK people” at one point.
Jessica clearly struggled with being apart from her daughter Noa and said that, before she left to enter isolation, she told her little girl to look at the moon and know that she would be looking at it as well. This helped her find comfort on her first night in the castle, which was very sweet to see. Jessica’s most iconic moment in the series was the Sickening Stalls trial, in which she was joined by Shane. The trial involved drinking six “smoothies” each, which contained unusual blended ingredients – most notably, fish eyes, goat’s penis and pig’s vagina.
Professional dancer AJ Pritchard and Olympic legend Sir Mo Farah finished in sixth and fifth place respectively.
AJ was fairly composed throughout the show, and did most of the heavy lifting off camera, including collecting the wood for the fire. This didn’t quite carry through to his trial in the dark with Jessica, in which he squealed the whole way through. His luxury item was hair product, which he offered to share with the girls. He had a slight disagreement with Shane over washing up, but this was the only argument of the series. Some people were disappointed that the campmates got along so well this year and wanted more drama, but others enjoyed the united feeling and felt it was sweet to see.
Sir Mo was incredibly entertaining to watch, particularly when he screamed throughout his trials, including when a leaf landed on him. We learned of his fascination with EastEnders, and got to see him and Shane ‘running lines’ and hear his attempt at a Cockney accent, which didn’t quite hit the mark. He often told stories of his accomplishments in camp to the amazement of the rest of the group, and loved visiting Ye Olde Shoppe to see Kiosk Cledwyn and ringing the bell after a Castle Coin Challenge.
EastEnders star Shane Richie came fourth after facing eight trials, more than anyone else in the group. After getting into a disagreement with AJ, Shane was the centre of attention and was therefore nominated for the solo Cruel Jewels trial. Because he fared so well in that trial, he was then nominated for the next one, and the cycle continued until he had seven under his belt. The Celebrity Cyclone was his last trial as he had made it to the final four, and he was more than fine with being eliminated afterwards as his dream for the series was to get far enough be able to do the Cyclone.
The three finalists were TV presenter Vernon Kay, radio host Jordan North and podcaster and author Giovanna Fletcher.
Vernon finished in third after an INTENSE final trial which had everyone gasping as he was covered in all manner of critters, including whip scorpions on his face. He particularly excelled during Celebrity Cyclone, when he used his 6’4″ frame to his advantage and powered through the force of the water, making it look deceptively easy. At the end of the series, Shane revealed that it was Vernon who was the “phantom dribbler” after weeks of discussion over which of the men was the least accurate in the toilet. Needless to say – he didn’t admit to it himself. His time in camp was spent making everyone laugh and he was very well received by the public, and after not being seen on mainstream television for a few years it seems likely that he will take up new presenting roles in the near future.
Jordan didn’t have the best start to the series, as he was physically sick at the prospect of abseiling down a cliff to retrieve the group’s belongings, and it looked as if he would say “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” before he’d even got in the castle. This instantly made him a target for trial nominations, and his first trial forced him to tackle his biggest fear – snakes. He had a panic attack before getting into the coffin-shaped compartment under the floor, and reportedly almost walked from the show, but once he was in he showed courage despite his fear, and spent the whole trial shouting “Happy place, Turf Moor!”, referencing the football stadium, home to his beloved Burnley FC. This “happy place” theme was maintained through the whole series, and was a comfort to him and others. He made amazing progress during the series’ run, eventually managing a solo trial with 50 snakes with much less stress.
Everyone expected Jordan to win the series because of his incredible progression, but the mother figure of the group crept up and up the popularity ranking and eventually finished up as the show’s first Queen of the Castle.
Giovanna was a lot quieter than others in the group, and very rarely complained. In her final trial, Giovanna was given five disgusting things to eat, and she did so with such composure and elegance that it sealed her victory. She barely flinched when biting into a fermented duck egg, and the only slight visual hint of disgust was when she chewed a fish eye, famously one of the all-time worst things to be given during this trial.
Her only real wobble in the series was when the majority of the camp received treats from home with a message from their loved ones, and she was one of the three who didn’t. This understandably upset her, as she left her husband and three little boys at home in order to compete on the show, and missed them terribly – she said “It breaks your heart” in tears in a piece-to-camera. Despite having her own emotional issues through the show, her natural maternal instincts meant she was a constant support to the rest of the group, and the public clearly loved her for it. She thought about others so much that her luxury item was three plays of S Club 7’s ‘Reach’, so that everyone could enjoy themselves.
2020 has been a massive challenge unlike anything the nation has ever experienced, and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! was a much-needed comfort. The team did an amazing job of putting the show together despite so many unforeseen variables that had to be considered, and it was yet again a resounding success. Hopefully the camp can return to Australia for 2021, but if that isn’t possible it’s clear that the Welsh alternative will once again be a joy that we all need in our lives.