Symptoms of jungle fever may linger. For us viewers, the not-very-snappily titled I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! The Coming Out Show (ITV1) was a chance to see how this year’s campmates have readjusted to civilisation after three weeks of rough sleeping and rice rations. For ITV, it was a chance to rinse a hit series for one last hour of primetime.
Cameras followed the class of 2022’s loved ones as they touched down at Brisbane Airport to wait beside that familiar rope bridge. Matt Hancock’s aide-turned-girlfriend Gina Coladangelo admitted: “I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle. My last words to him were ‘Just be yourself, be the Matt I know and it’ll go really well’.” It did indeed. Hancock defied all predictions to see off eight celebrities and make it to the grand final.
Understandably, the evictees stampeded towards proper beds and food. Wooden spoon recipient Charlene White phoned her father back home and said: “Turns out I’m less popular than Matt Hancock, Dad, who knew?” She regretted that she didn’t immediately explain her reason for refusing to sleep in the RV alongside Hancock (that it would compromise her journalistic impartiality) and left it looking like a snub.
Boy George, who made noises about quitting when Hancock arrived, now said: “Walking out was never an option but I did threaten it a few times. Twenty years ago, I’d have been out of there on day one. I’d have said ‘Where’s Elton John? Send me a Versace helicopter’.” When Coladangelo remarked upon his fractious relationship with the former health Secretary, George hugged her and said: “It’s all cool, love, we got on in the end.”
Hosts Ant and Dec asked the King's niece, Zara Tindall, if Mike Tindall’s “budgie smugglers” were a regular sight. She ruefully confirmed that they are. “I can’t wait to see this episode of The Crown in 10 years,” quipped Dec. Zara joked that her husband had “cheated on her” with his “camp wife” Sue Cleaver and asked DJ Chris Moyles (now a stone-and-a-half lighter) if he’d enjoyed Mike’s “spooning and hugs”. “I felt violated,” deadpanned Moyles. “There might be a lawsuit.” Zara sweetly added that it was good to have the gentle giant back: “It’s been too long. Let’s never do this again.”
Ahead of Sunday’s final, Coladangelo confessed: “I thought Matt was leaving every day, so I’m pleasantly surprised he’s made it this far.” When he left in third place, she was there to greet him. “You look amazing,” gushed Hancock. “I love you so much. So sorry it’s been this long. It’s going to be great from here on in.” “You don’t know what lies ahead,” she replied. A political comeback? A media career? Either way, it will presumably involve less eating of animal anuses and fewer toads sitting atop his head.
“When I was being grilled, I felt like people were asking questions on behalf of the British public,” said Hancock. “I knew going in would be controversial but I also know millions of people have voted for me.” Stat-wise, he received 21.72 per cent of the 12m votes cast, which means 2.6m. Although with viewers able to vote five times apiece, that might be nearer 520,000. As Coladangelo cringed, he broke into a tuneless rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and asked if he “looked cool doing the Terminator walk”. Just when he’s redeemed himself, Hancock turns into Alan Partridge again.
Winner Jill Scott was welcomed by her partner Shelly Unitt. The newly crowned Queen Of The Jungle craved coffee so badly, she asked her driver to stop off en route to her hotel. “In a gold stretch Hummer with a flat white and an egg, bacon and cheese muffin,” Scott beamed. Life couldn't get any better.”
What else did we learn? Well, the celebrities leave the jungle smelling of campfires and fish guts. Scarlette Douglas eats croissants in the bath. Owen Warner eats anything, anywhere. And the production is contractually obliged to sneak in clumsy plugs for the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa.
At the wrap party, Cleaver presented Tindall with a pair of tight underpants, as in their campfire song, emblazoned with “Nibble my nuts” – a reference to ripping his trousers in front of mother-in-law Princess Anne. In return, he vowed to buy everyone some souvenir budgie smugglers.
Sunday’s series climax was the franchise's most-watched final in four years, peaking at 11.5m viewers – the biggest audience for an entertainment show this year. This epilogue won’t hit those heights but it served as both a behind-the-scenes tour and a merry skip through the highlights. “Let’s go and get drunk!” concluded Scott. It seemed as sensible a sign-off as any.