Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins is on a mission to discover whether celebrities have what it takes to become a Special Forces Operator.
Chief Instructor Ant Middleton and his Directing Staff (DS) of Foxy, Billie, Ollie and Jay aren’t convinced the latest celebrity recruits who are taking on the condensed special forces selection course have the necessary mind set.
SAS selection is a test like no other. Do ballroom dancers or footballers have the strength of mind to push past their physical and mental boundaries to get a job done? Could they be relied upon in combat?
After last week's episode - which saw former professional boxer Tony Bellew talk about his concerns over whether he can control the aggression which has helped him become a world champion - the DS set challenges designed to reveal the recruits mind set.
After the first, exhausting day and just one hour of sleep, the DS storm in and wake up the recruits by shouting and demanding they get dressed within two minutes. At the beginning of the course, the recruits were advised what they should and should not wear, according to the weather and challenge. As it’s not raining, they should not wear their waterproof jacket. However, former Premiership footballer, John Fashanu and TV presenter Helen Skelton forget this advice and are the only recruits not dressed correctly.
Not ones to let things slide, the DS decide to punish the whole group for John and Helen’s mistake. While drowsy from exhaustion, the recruits are told to carry a sandbag above their heads for 10 minutes, a task the celebrities find incredibly difficult. Some of the celebrities, like Lauren and Tony, became famous, in part, thanks to their strength but, Katie Price admits she knew she would struggle with the physical side of the course due to a lack of fitness. Before the show started filming, the former glamour model said:
“It doesn’t matter what anyone says to me, I can cope with it. I mean I have done, I’ve proved it.
“But I will admit, I definitely won’t be the fittest and I will struggle...”
Eventually, the 41-year-old voluntarily withdraws (VW) herself from the course after admitting that she can’t continue with the physical challenge.
The TV personality admitted the experience had changed her, for the better and given her new life goals. She said:
“I left the old Katie up there and she’s not coming back either.”
Over the next 36 hours the recruits must prove they have the necessary drive plus physical and mental strength needed to become a Special Forces Operative. Ant said:
“In the celebrity world and Special Forces there’s that will to succeed, that drive to get out there and perform when they need to perform.
“But, when they’re faced with their demons and fears have they got the strength of mind to commit?”
The recruits must attempt a backwards dive into the freezing Atlantic Ocean and then swim 200 metres to the shore of Isle Of Raasay in Scotland.
Can they compose themselves enough to complete the challenge correctly and prove that, if they were in a real combat situation, they could respond immediately after being dropped out of a Chinook? If they don’t pay full attention to the instructions, they can severely hurt themselves when the cold-water shock kicks. Ant said:
“You’ll suck in the f****** water, you’ll fill your lungs and you’ll go deep six.”
VIDEO: Channel 4
Former footballer John Fashanu is the first celebrity recruit to take on the terrifying challenge. The 55-year-old explains that a large part of being a successful footballer is confidence and that he is a competitive person. He said:
“If you ask a footballer is he good, if he doesn’t tell you he’s brilliant, he’s not a footballer.
“Having your self-esteem, having your self-confidence is what makes you a footballer.
“Once you get out there, you’ve got 30,000 watching you and if you can’t perform, they will tell you whether you’re good or not.”
While each recruit successfully falls backwards out of the helicopter into the choppy sea below, YouTuber Jack Maynard prepares himself to conquer his fears. His public persona is one of confidence, but that certainty in himself took a knock after tweets he wrote when he was a teenager, in which he mentioned rape and used racist and homophobic language, were discovered in 2017.
At the time Jack, who has 1.54 million YouTube subscribers, admitted he was "ashamed" of those tweets and realised the language used was "completely unacceptable". In response to the public shock at those tweets, the now 25-year-old responded by saying:
“... I am truly sorry. My childish attitude back then is not a representation of my thoughts and feelings now.”
The YouTube star explains how, since 2017, there are two versions of himself. While outwardly confident, he now feels anxious and hopes taking part in Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins will bring back his confidence. He said:
“There’s definitely a lot of egos in the celebrity world, everyone wants to think they’re the best at what they do.”
“My ego … has been completely shattered into a million pieces.”
While the other recruits watch from the shoreline, shivering from the cold, Jack free falls backwards from the helicopter and crashes into the freezing cold sea. However, he struggles in the water and needs the safety boat to help him return to shore.
After drawing attention to himself on the backward dive challenge, the DS are keen to dig deeper into Jack’s background and so bring him in for questioning.
DS Jason “Foxy” Fox asks Jack what kind of person he thinks he is now. The recruit explains how being publicly shamed has knocked his confidence. He said:
“I’m terrified by a lot of things in front of me.”
Instinct And The Rules Of Engagement
The next challenge the recruits are faced with will test their ability to make a life or death decision in the blink of an eye. Can they think under pressure and stay calm while in a stressful situation? The celebrities are given a weapon and have to decide whether to use it or not. Having been trained in the basic rules of armed conflict only 12 hours before, the recruits must assess whether they are faced with a friendly ally or a genuine threat.
To simulate the chaos Special Forces operators work in when in a real-life war zone, the DS disorientate and shock the recruits. They do this by blindfolding and handcuffing them and making them run across the unforgiving terrain of the Isle of Raasay while Jason shoots into the air to simulate real gunfire. They’re told they’re moving through enemy territory with hostiles everywhere.
First to the firing line is former Wimbledon and England striker now TV presenter, John Fashanu. He admits that, during his football career, he was aggressive and that, when he was on the pitch, there were no rules. He said:
“Was I bully? I sit here now, with nobody aside me I can tell you yes, I was a bully.”
Each recruit must decide in a split second whether the gunman running towards them is an ally and whether they should return fire.
After having his hood taken off John, without hesitation, aims and shoots at the gunman. He fails the challenge as the gunman is wearing a uniform signifying he is Canadian and therefore, an ally.
Several other celebrity recruits fail the challenge by immediately firing at the charging gunman but, British Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman very calmly assesses the situation and doesn’t fire. This elicits a rare response from DS Billy of a celebratory fist clench and victory “yes” from under his breath.
After this testing challenge the recruits, of which only four managed to compose themselves well enough to not shoot the gunman, are faced with an endurance run of 5km while carrying their 25kg bergens back to base. This helps the DS discover what the recruits are really made of once they’re drained of energy.
TV presenter Anthea Turner and John Fashanu return to base 15 minutes after their fellow recruits, so Ant gives them the opportunity to VW from the course. John is determined to continue but Anthea decides this is the time to leave. She impressed the DS with how well she completed the helicopter challenge earlier in the day but, Ant points out that her fitness is dragging down the rest of the recruits.
Cracks In Their Armour?
Special Forces operators are able to control their aggression. This is what separates the good from the elite. On the real SAS selection course, the DS are constantly looking for cracks in the recruits armour. Ant says controlled aggression is all about:
“Getting in there, getting the f****** job done and then switching off.
“Make it work for you because the moment it works against you, it will f*** you up.”
The recruits are split into two teams and must fight for the possession of a tyre. Both John and former boxer Tony Bellew prove they have the aggression to dominate the challenge but, not the control to make it work in their favour. Tony’s teammates remind him that the point of the challenge is to prove whether they can harness their aggression and use it in a constructive way. He said:
“I’m never in control of my emotions and that’s probably one of my weaknesses if anything.”
The DS end the task early when it becomes clear that some of the recruits, like John, can’t control their aggression. The 57-year-old grabs hold of DJ Locksmith, of British drum and bass band Rudimental, to prevent him from getting the tyre but takes this aggression too far. Because of this the DS punish both teams by making them run up and down a hill covered in boulders. This proves too much for YouTuber Jack Maynard and he VWs.
Alarmed by the level of aggression shown during the previous challenge, DS Billy reminds the recruits how they are expected to behave. He said:
“We’re not here to kill each other, alright?
“Show aggression where it needs to be shown, calm it down.
“It’s not what we’re about, wind it in.”
After his excessive display of aggression in the task, the DS have some questions for John so bring him in for questioning. John, nicknamed “Fash The Bash” by the media due to the intimidating style of football he played during the 80s and 90s, admits to offering his brother, fellow footballer Justin, "a substantial amount of money" to not reveal his homosexuality in 1990. Justin, who was the first black £1 million footballer, came out to the press in October 1990, but committed suicide eight years later. DS Jason asks the 56-year-old whether he feels guilty. He said:
"Yeah, everyday. There's not a time when he doesn't come into my mind.
"You can pray and wish that you'd handled yourself differently, but we didn't. What a waste."
John and Justin were both fostered at a young age by a white couple who were very loving but the racial abuse the brothers suffered where they lived because of the colour of their skin, was "pretty heavy".