Sam Burgess has exposed his troubles with drugs and owned up to scandalous rumours that saw his marriage crumble. James Weir recaps.
Disgraced former footy star Sam Burgess admits to an affair and drug troubles on Monday’s premiere of SAS Australia, the extreme reality series that leaves all its celebrity contestants wishing they’d just signed up to do an episode of Anh’s Brush With Fame instead.
Finally, a reality show worth watching. The producers over at SAS Australia really know how to give the people what we want. And what exactly do we want? 1: Celebrities being humiliated. 2: Celebrities being forced to spill all their scandalous secrets.
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The Channel 7 reality series takes a group of celebrities (*cough*) and puts them through a hardcore military training course that aims to break them both physically and psychologically. But it’s so much more than that. Like, it’s not just about celebrities getting waterboarded. They also get pushed out of helicopters.
The main criteria for any celeb who gets recruited for this show is they’ve gotta have some kind of big dirty scandal in their past that the soldiers can mercilessly interrogate them about. Why would celebrities sign up for this? It sounds humiliating. Well, producers obviously trick them into thinking it’s a great idea by saying things like, “It’ll give you a chance to rewrite the narrative,” and, “You’ll get to tell the truth, in your own words,” and, “You’ll be able to change public perception by showing a side they’ve never seen before”. Oldest trick in the book.
So, which ding-dongs got fooled into signing up? These 18 familiar-ish faces.
We’d be lying if we said we weren’t disappointed that Guy Sebastian, Nadia Bartel and Georgia Love aren’t included in this season, fresh from their own respective scandals. Timing, huh? Oh well, we’ll get ’em next season.
SAS Australia is intense viewing. Unlike The Bachelor, stuff actually happens on this show. It’s real mile-a-minute kinda stuff.
For instance, just moments into the premiere, we see Manu and Mark Philippoussis taking a dump. Ladies and gentlemen, free-to-air TV is not dead.
These celebs have no idea what they’re in for. The course is brutal. But the worst part? They have to stay at a Rydges:
Being an SAS soldier is not for the faint hearted. It requires mental and physical strength. The enemy could strike at any moment. It’s truly a matter of life and death. Celebrity chef Manu can totally relate.
“My job as a chef, it’s very similar to the army,” he purrs. “Running kitchens is a stressful environment. You’ve got so much to think about. The quality of the food – the guy on the meat, the guy on the fish, the guy on the veg. And if you can’t handle it, then F off. It’s pretty much like this.”
Bold call. He promptly gets shoved out of a helicopter.
Brynne Edelsten – the American socialite who was once married to eccentric businessman Geoffrey Edelsten – also thinks she’s weathered enough hardship to succeed at the military course.
“I went six years without sex. That’s not normal,” she furrows her brow.
Brave stuff. You know what else isn’t normal? Getting teargassed.
It becomes clear early on that we’ve been gifted a Firass 2.0. Those who watched last year’s series will remember Underbelly star Firass Dirani and how he – how do we say this without sounding dramatic? – completely killed his acting career. He took himself very seriously, was insanely unaware of how he came across on TV and made Australia cringe every time he opened his mouth to say woo-woo actorly things about his “craft”.
Apparently former Home And Away actor Dan Ewing didn’t see Firass’ car crash performance because he goes and does the same thing with the introspective musings.
“There’s no acting on this course for me – this is Dan Ewing,” he talks about himself in the third person. “So, what does Dan Ewing do when he’s sleep-deprived? What will Dan do when he hasn’t eaten? When he’s freezing cold and getting screamed at? What does Dan Ewing do when his back’s against the wall?”
Spray him with the teargas, stat.
Not even the teargas shuts him up. He brags to a different soldier about a movie he was in.
“Occupation: Rainfall!” he names the film.
“Occupation rapist?” the soldier scrunches his face.
“Occupation: RAINFALL!” Dan reiterates.
“Never heard of it,” the soldier shrugs.
Neither have we. A quick Google search reveals the film has a 47 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But none of this knocks Dan’s confidence. Moments later, he’s back to talking about himself in the third person.
“Dan Ewing at 35 is very different to Dan Ewing at 25. I wake up every day, I meditate, I journal. I exercise,” he explains in a smooth, knowing tone. “Obviously there’ll be traits that you’ll see in some movies – because people know me from my movies.”
As the intense challenge rumbles on, Dan decides to perch himself on a dirt mound and meditate.
The soldiers react appropriately.
The soldiers don’t suffer fools. When former tennis champ Alicia Molik succeeds at the helicopter challenge and celebrates by throwing a shaka sign in the air, one of the soldiers stomps on her hands until she lets go of the railing and plummets down into the ocean. Then, after swimming miles back to shore, she’s eaten alive.
This year’s big drawcard is disgraced footy star Sam Burgess. After his messy divorce, multiple court appearances and a drug-driving charge, appearing on SAS Australia is perhaps the worst career move he could’ve made. Great TV, though.
In the middle of the night, he’s dragged into a concrete jail cell, chained to a metal chair and interrogated by the soldiers about all his past controversies.
“They found cocaine in my system while I was driving my car. Pretty embarrassing. Pretty embarrassed about that,” he says. “The last 18 months, I felt like a loser. My marriage broke down. I’d just retired from sport. My ex father-in-law had taken an AVO against me. … Two days after I retired, I separated my marriage-”
“Was it already on its way out?” one of the soldiers asks.
“Yeah, a little bit, yeah. I don’t think I was the greatest husband at times. I embarrassed my wife. I had an affair with a girl – a woman in Melbourne. Yeah. It’s true. I was away on tour. Regretful that it happened.”
In 2018 he was involved in a texting scandal with a woman in Melbourne — the screenshots unveiling the alleged affair that started a year before.
During the interrogation, Sam continues to reveal all about his troubles and we can’t help but wonder: do these celebrities realise it’d be much easier to just set the record straight on Anh’s Brush With Fame?
1. Anh wouldn’t ambush them with tear gas
2. They could sit down the whole time in a comfortable chair
3. At the end, they get a free piece of art to store in their garage.
“I’ve actually put myself into rehab for four weeks,” he continues. “Just completed 28 days of rehab. Because the last 18 months have been crazy. Everything I touched turned to sh*t. Decided to get back on my feet, I started coaching again. We started doing well. I got given the head coaching role. A lot of things were put in the press by my ex-wife and ex father-in-law. And consequently I had to stand down from both roles, so I lost it all again.
“Since then, there’s been a police investigation into me about some behaviour that she’s claimed. I turned to drinking, taking drugs. I thought I could manage it but it got to the point where I was pulled over for DUI with drugs in my system which is all over the press again and stops me from seeing my kids again and I just checked myself into rehab.”
It’s raw and hard to watch. Almost more than the footage of Manu on the can.
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