"She's got her head in her vagina," said David Gest, a little way into the sixth series. The increasingly wearisome rituals of inauguration had already been completed. A former soapstar had been dropped screaming out of a hovering helicopter (Jason Donovan, whose upbeat motto - "Jump, you might fly" - proved sadly off the mark). The participants had gathered at a hotel to be introduced to the venomous and sharp-toothed organisms they would be sharing living quarters with for the next three weeks, not all of them human. And veteran viewers had been able to confirm reports that the variety-pack approach to team selection still applied.
There was a token fey one in the shape of designer Scott Henshall, a token boy band survivor (Matt Willis), a token lady of a certain age (Jan Leeming) and a token bloke (Toby Anstis, former children's TV presenter and DJ), as well as the scattering of feisty egomaniacs necessary to exempt the programme from charges of discrimination on grounds of age, sex, race or mental capacity. Now, after the ordeal of arrival, the testier members had retired to the diary shack to share first impressions.
Any man with hair as pubically weird as Gest would be well advised not to raise head/genital comparisons. Indeed, he might be wise not to draw attention to himself at all - given that he has eyebrows that look as if they've been pasted on with masking tape. But he was cross with Leeming and Lauren Booth and wanted us to know it.
The feeling is mutual, apparently, though it seems likely that Leeming and Booth will find more allies among their fellow victims than Gest, given that he has a snore which could shake loose timber out of the jungle canopy. Nobody was impressed by his way with snakes either, acquired, he claimed, by visits to Michael Jackson's Neverland. "If you treat it like you love it, then it's not going to harm you," he said. "Didn't you go to Jackson's house and play with his snake?" Dec asked Ant.
Leeming was the first to face an ordeal, having thrust herself forward in the hope there might be an advantage to getting it over. Dropped down a shaft, lined with crittur-stuffed cavities, she lost her nerve quickly - though a nice moment came when she talked sternly to a bucket of cane toads, as if they were teenagers lounging in an untidy bedroom. "Come on ... out!" she roared, scooping them into the sump beneath her.
Naturally, the British public - with an instinct for the herd weakling that has made ITV very rich - selected Gest to undergo the first involuntary trial. He'll be locked in a flooded room with those organisms most likely to cling to his extremities. After a head-to-head legal battle with Liza Minnelli, it should be a walk in the park. As he said himself at the beginning of the programme: "You either die or you go with it." Alternatively, you come to your senses and switch off.Reuse content