In episode five of Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins, TV presenter Helen Skelton revealed that, in 2017, she gave birth alone in the kitchen while her toddler innocently played beside her. She said:
“The scariest thing I ever did was give birth in my kitchen by myself with my three-year-old bashing my head with a sword.
“That was pretty scary but it's not like you have any choice is it?”
The former Blue Peter presenter, now published author and presenter on programmes like Countryfile and ITV’s Lorraine, has faced many physical challenges in her career. These include running 80m in the Namibian desert, cycling to the South Pole and walking a high wire at Battersea Powerstation. She said:
“Loads of stuff scares me, I’m just willing to do it even though I’m scared.”
It’s resilience like this that Chief Instructor Ant Middleton and his Directing Staff (DS) of Jason ‘Foxy’ Fox, Billy Billingham, Ollie Ollerton and Jay Morton are searching for during the Channel 4 Special Forces Selection series, Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins.
This week the DS set out to test the physical, mental and emotional resilience of the six remaining celebrity recruits to see who has it in them to get to the final stages of the course.
With the brutal ‘Escape and Evasion’ phase just 24 hours away, the recruits are set a series of punishing tasks including a dangerous military 'drownproofing' exercise which proves challenging for Helen. They also face one of the hardest multi-terrain races in Special Forces (SF) selection using genuine SF kit - heavy-duty 'Klepper' kayaks designed to be carried over long distances. Meanwhile, Rudimental bandmate DJ Locksmith suffers an unexpected setback despite being one of the strongest recruits so far.
At the beginning of the episode, Ant lines up the recruits in order from the strongest to the weakest. Reality TV star Joey Essex looks genuinely shocked when he is placed in last position. Previously, the DS had considered him to be one of the strongest.
At this stage, DJ Locksmith is the strongest recruit with Helen next followed closely by Hollyoaks actress Nikki Sanderson, British Paralympic athlete Lauren Steadman and former professional boxer Tony Bellew. Did video messages from loved ones at home break their emotional resilience? Have they got what it takes to get to the end of the course?
The first challenge to test this was an underwater drowning technique called - ‘drownproofing’. It’s the ultimate mental test and a way of teaching people not to panic in terrifying situations. It’s about going against your natural survival instincts and following instructions.
With their wrists bound together, the recruits must fully exhale and submerge into the turbulent, freezing water. Once they have sunk to the bottom, they must bounce back to the top for air and repeat the process for five minutes. This process is made even more difficult because of being situated under a waterfall making the undercurrent far stronger. DS Ollie said:
“Drownproofing exposes and tests your resilience. It’s a physical and emotional nightmare.
"In the freezing cold, your body can go into a state of panic because it thinks you’re going to drown.
"It’s really about being able to control that discomfort and emotion.”
As the frontrunner, DJ Locksmith takes on the challenge first. He’s incredibly physically fit and thinks his exercise regime might seem ‘loony’ to others. The member of drum 'n' bass band Rudimental said:
“[I’m] up at 4 o’clock in the morning, six days a week, five km run. Sometimes with a 30kg vest on.
“But it’s not going to be about how much you train in your controlled environment with your nice gym in your house with your nice heater. No, that means absolutely nothing.”
This challenge isn’t simply designed to terrify the recruits. As Billy said, it’s far more important than that:
“Not being able to breathe in water is petrifying.
“During the Falklands War, there was a Command meeting onboard one of the British ships out in the ocean.
“As the helicopter went to leave, the boat clipped the back end of it, sending it into the water.
“Eighteen people on the helicopter died.
“Some of the drills we do replicates a situation like that, which could happen.”
Up next to attempt ‘drownproofing’ is the second strongest recruit, Helen. However, she fails to master the technique and becomes the only recruit to fail the challenge.
Speaking to the DS back at base about why she decided to take part in Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins, Helen reveals that she wants to see if she still has the ability to take on big challenges now she’s a mum of two children.
The 36-year-old goes on to explain that in 2010 when she was a Blue Peter presenter she broke two Guinness World Records - the longest solo journey by kayak and the longest distance in a kayak in 24 hours by a woman – by kayaking the entire length of the Amazon River in South America for Sport Relief. She said:
“I once went down the Amazon and our boat got charged by Colombian policemen with guns and we all had to get on motorbikes and whip across town.
“When you’re young and you don’t have responsibilities, I think it’s different ... I wouldn’t be scared in the same way I would be now. This is the first time ever I’ve felt really old ... I feel like their Mam.”
Billy responds with warmth and encourages her to focus on the progress she's made on the show by saying:
“Listen Mother Hen, you can't be a mother to everybody, alright?
“I think it’s great that you do try to encourage them and get amongst them and rightly so, but you’ve got to show us you want to be here."
With the punishing ‘Escape and Evasion’ phase approaching, the DS meet to discuss the recruits' progress. About DJ Locksmith, who revealed he had £100 in the bank and had just become a father when Rudimental’s number one single ‘Feel The Love’ came out in 2012, Billy said:
“I think he’s been a front runner for quite a while now and he’s had his ups and downs.”
Foxy describes the 33-year-old musician as “a front runner but a grey one”.
This refers to a person who gets on with the task at hand without complaint and meets all the standards.
Military training is designed to develop resilience and a certain mindset to help people get through difficult times.
During real SAS selection, the DS continuously throw curveballs at the recruits to keep them thinking on their feet.
The next curveball does exactly that. The mindset of the celebrity recruits is tested by showing them videos of their family sending messages of love and support. Foxy explained how important it is to not be distracted by communication from home. He said:
“Communication from home is a distraction that can cloud ... your judgement ... you’re not in the game.”
“I’ve been in a situation where I’ve spoken to home just prior to going out on an operation and I can remember being sat on a helicopter flying into what we knew was going to be violence and I had to fight with my mind to stop thinking about the situation that had just happened on the phone.
“... I regret making that phone call.”
Foxy explains that the recruits need to push how they feel after reconnecting with their loved ones to one side and not let it affect their operational output.
Nikki, Helen, Joey, and Lauren watch their videos calmly, but Tony closes the screen immediately and becomes agitated when the audio doesn’t stop. Eventually, he covers his ears to screen out the noise.
In a poignant moment, DJ Locksmith is emotionally shaken by watching a video message from his young son. He said:
“My son is my biggest strength, definitely, but at the same time yeah, you could say that he could easily be my Achilles heel.
"When I go on long tours and I’m away from home I’m almost at breaking point and that emotion comes from me not learning to be a man quick enough and having to learn all that, sorry...”
At this point, the young father becomes overwhelmed by emotion and has to stop speaking. He returns to his fellow recruits who gather around to support him.
No One Said This Would Be Easy
Before the recruits embark on the ‘Escape and Evasion’ challenge one test remains. A physical endurance task designed to drain their energy levels.
They must complete a three-stage race using a military-grade kayak. For the first stage, the paired recruits of Tony and Lauren, Joey and Helen plus DJ Locksmith and Nikki must carry the 60kgs of kit across three kilometres of uneven Scottish terrain to the ocean.
The recruits must build the kayak in a particular way otherwise it could take on water making it difficult to steer. As Foxy said:
“They’re f***ing hard work.
“If you don’t build a Klepper right, the worst that can happen is you f***ing sink.”
Once the recruits make it to shore, the race isn’t over. The recruits must now disassemble the kayak and pack it back into their Bergens. As the canvas of the kayak is now soaking wet, the recruits are carrying double the weight they were before. Is this what will push the recruits past their breaking point? Will they be able to prove themselves worthy of continuing on the course? Foxy said:
“We’re looking for the person that, when they’re empty, they dig deep and find more to give.”
Now back on land, Tony and Lauren find themselves in the lead with Joey and Helen not far behind. DJ Locksmith is struggling with an excruciatingly painful injured knee he sustained just before setting off on the water. This means that he and his fellow recruit Nikki are last and now face a three-kilometre trek to catch up with the others. He said:
“I grew up on a street that was called ‘murder mile’. It’s taught me that you just have to take care of yourself as best as you possibly could
“I got into scraps and fights all the time. That was the point where I had to say to myself, if you carry on the way you are, you’re not going to make it past 25.
“When my son came along, he was planned, I wanted him, I needed him and everything changed.”
Lauren and Tony win the race in three hours followed swiftly by Helen and Joey. Despite his injury, and with encouragement from Nikki and DS Billy, Locksmith completes the race.
In an incredibly moving moment, Lauren and Tony sit either side of DJ Locksmith and shower him with words of support and encouragement. Tony said:
“You’ve just shown resilience of the highest order. You’re the number one boy here by a f***ing mile."
Back at base DS Ollie and Billy call in DJ Locksmith for questioning and remind him they’re not looking for the strongest and fastest recruit, just people who are putting 100% effort and “digging out blind” and that’s not always the people at the front.
Ollie asks the drum ‘n’ bass musician why he’s doing the course. He explained that when he was younger, he wanted to join the British Army. He said:
“I loved the sense of team, being a part of a unit together and working hard.
“I picked up the forms, was ready to go through with it and then I ended up falling in love and had a child and here I am today.”
DJ Locksmith and his sisters were raised by a “mother who was as strong as any man”. He explained:
“Dad was about for a bit but left at a young age. That’s always been a sore subject for me.”
Billy asks whether DJ Locksmith, who left home when he was in his late teens, adamant that he was going to make it on his own, is in contact with his father now. He said:
“I try to and I feel like he lets me down and it’s a hard one because I want him to be a part of my child’s life.”
DS Billy opens up about his own relationship with his father, who was never there for him and whom he resented for a long time. However, Billy encourages DJ Locksmith to never give up on his father, especially for his son. He also boosts his confidence by saying that he fully believes the DJ is more than capable of achieving greatness on the course. About his father DJ Locksmith said:
“You know, I might have to thank him in some ways. Yeah, he weren’t there … I’ve learned how to be stronger on my own.”
Escape And Evasion
During a moment of downtime, while the recruits take a minute to reapply their blister plasters or catch up on some sleep, the DS force the recruits to leave base immediately to begin the next challenge - a key phase of Special Forces selection – ‘Escape and Evasion’.
Split into two groups, the recruits must evade capture through the night from a military-trained Hunter Force taking them across the most arduous terrain the Scottish Inner Hebrides has to offer and dangerously close to ragged coastlines and sheer cliffs. Only the most resilient recruits will make it to the final stage.
Escape and evasion isn’t just an exercise where the DS want to see how you cope when you’re on the run. It’s seeing how you adapt and how you improvise with your mind.
The recruits are told to head to a rendezvous point (RV) on a trawler off the coast. Back at base the DS are tracking the recruits' progress.
At one point Nikki, DJ Locksmith and Tony duck to avoid being captured and their cover is almost blown when the musician farts loudly as seen in the clip below. This makes Nikki and Tony burst out into laughter but thankfully the noise doesn't alert the hunters to their location.
Video: Channel 4 / Contains Swearing
Cold, miserable and hungry, with adrenaline pumping through their veins, the recruits discover the RV point but are also within eyesight of the Hunter Force. They choose to make a run for it to evade capture. Split into two teams the recruits must navigate through the wet night in freezing temperatures to separate RV points.
Team Alpha, comprising of Nikki, Tony and DJ Locksmith, take a more obvious route, but this puts them at risk of being captured. Team Bravo, comprising of Joey, Lauren and Helen, take a longer route staying close to the road but have to duck for cover when vehicles drive by.
Escape and evasion continues next week when the recruits are finally captured and interrogated. Will they manage to survive and make it to the end or will they fall at the final hurdle?