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The secret ingredient making this year’s celebrity jungle camp like no other

In previous seasons of the hit summer reality TV series I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Herethere has been controversy, shock exits, nasty behavior and many self-promoting dramas.

Whether it’s a sign of the times or a Ten Network decision to go softer, this year’s Season 8 of the show is all about love, kindness and care in the jungle.

Without politicians or polarizing sports stars – think Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, boxer Anthony Mundine and tennis player Bernard Tomic – this year’s group of 12 have indeed got each other’s backs.

When former AFL legend and Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley, 49, collapsed after returning from a Mexican restaurant sampling menu challenge during episode four on January 6, the whole camp went into meltdown.

He was just trying to earn stars for the camp by eating a “disgusting” crocodile tongue tortilla alongside his other two selected friends, former AFL star Derek Kickett (now known as Iron Guts) and NRL player Beau Ryan.

The plan backfired.

Buckley turned as white as a ghost when he returned to the campsite, started cramping up, and suddenly got up and left, with Miss Universe Australia Maria Thattil, 28, and celebrity chef Poh Ling Yeow, 49, in hot pursuit as he then collapsed and fainted.

“Oh my God, oh my God, can we please get a medic,” screamed a distressed Thattil.

There’s a lot of love in the … jungle

All the contestants were shaken, upset and worried for their new best friend Buckley, who walked back to camp 20 minutes later with Akubra in hand, a smile on his face and an explanation about stomach cramps, low heart rate and low blood pressure creating a perfect fainting storm.

Ryan summed up the sentiment: “Everyone was relieved… I knew he’d be OK but… we’ve only been here a short time but we do love each other.”

form big brother winner Dylan Lewis cemented that sentiment, hugging Buckley, telling him: “I actually love you already.”

The drama triggered something every friendship group needs.

form Married at First Sight contestant Davina Rankin had the answer … a “gratitude circle” … to lift the mood of the camp by getting everyone to say a few kind words about each other.

Maria Thattil is comforted by comedian Cal Wilson during last Thursday’s emotional rollercoaster. Photo: Ten

And the flood gates opened. History was made.

Ryan said he felt safe around comedian Cal Wilson, who wiped away tears saying she felt like she was on a “yoga retreat.”

The young Thattil also teared up when told she’s got the world at her feet. She and UK reality TV star Joey Essex might also be falling for each other, which is another story.

Kickett’s word to describe him was “fire”, with Ryan saying he could listen to his stories and learn about his heritage until the fire went out.

He replied he didn’t know who to trust when he entered the camp but revealed he felt welcome with open arms: “As an Aboriginal person it takes trust for us … it takes a while for me to open up and talk to people and get their trust. I felt comfortable talking to these people that I don’t even know.”

“It’s only going to put us in a better place,” he said.

Next up, Poh.

Buckley, channeling his coaching skills, said: “This is not about you, but to you. I don’t know if this resonates. I want you to know you are enough, and you are loved.”

She gently covered her face and wept, admitting she often doesn’t think she’s good enough, but says she’s getting better as she gets older.

“I’ve made everyone cry on my first day. Everyone has come together and it’s awesome. We’ve bonded like we could never have imagined,” Rankin said.

Adds Buckley: “The connection is real between campmates.”

The campmates bond like never before, with more than one million viewers tuning in nationally since its January 3 launch. Photo: Ten

Is this the nicest group of celebrities ever to hit the camp?

Every year, the jungle camp connects on an emotional level, but it’s always in small groups.

There’s always someone bitching about one of the group not pulling their weight washing the dishes or even dividing up plates of food, or more seriously, pairs stealing time to talk politics.

In 2018, when the show was filmed in South Africa, Mundine and Tomic quit the show, the tennis player after just two nights claiming he was depressed and just wanted to get back to playing tennis.

“Bernard Tomic is out,” said I’m A Celebrity co-host Chris Brown at the time.

“He’s the first celebrity in the history of the show to pack up and say ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here,’” he said.

Mundine went on a rant, saying his religious beliefs were an excuse for his sexist controlling views on what his partner should wear.

“He’s a polarizing figure. He is controversial. He does things his own way and apparently he was insisting on the jungle being his own way as well and that’s apparently why he has made the call,” Brown told a Melbourne radio station.

In the 2019 season, Lambie was eliminated (after fellow politician Sam Dastyari a week earlier) after just too many controversial comments, from praising Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats” refugee policy to blasting the Australian Greens party over their policies on Australia Day and transgender rights.

There’s none of that in this year’s group.

On Sunday night, even after Poh revealed one of the campmates ‘The David’ was a fake celebrity (he’s from the Gold Coast), duping the whole camp with his UK shoe empire “bullsh-t”, the real celebrities had the final say on whether he stayed or was booted.

Initially, Ryan was in shock, saying he’d lied to everybody the entire time.

Wilson was “totally fooled” and swimmer Emily Seebohm was “dirty”, saying she felt like an idiot. They’d shared candid stories about themselves with him.

What did they do?

They vowed to keep the real David Subritzky in the hunt, turning him officially into a celebrity and giving him a group hug.

Truelove.

I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! is on 10 And 10 Play On Demand nightly at 7.30pm

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