I’ve openly admired most everything Derren Brown has done, with the exception of the silly Russian Roulette show. There was a so-so counting trick on tonight’s show with the episode’s “guest celeb” Jo Whiley which i could have done without, but the highlight of the show was a stunt that managed to appall me. He appears to send an unsuspecting man playing a (made up) zombie-shooting video game into a trance. Then he pops out of hiding and takes the mark and two of his friends to a building down the street. The building has the same layout as the game – obv the game is modelled on it. He then places a paint-ball rifle in the mark’s hand and hides again with the mark’s friends as they watch on TV. The mark comes out of his trance and looks around disorientated, but then actors start to shamble towards him in zombie make up.

The mark freaks out. Surprise. He acts immensely scared, running for, and banging on, (locked) doors, then goes Full Metal Jacket shooting the zombies. This went on for some time. I wanted it to stop. And when it did, as Derren sent him back under, he was clearly deeply scared or upset.

The “punchline” is DB then takes the mark back down the street to the video game in the pub, gets his friends to stand just as before and mark comes out of trance. When asked about the game by the “game’s designer” he calmly explains how great the game was.

I’ve not worked through exactly why I found this distasteful, but my first instinct is that it seems like a more mentally exploitative version of a Candid Camera trick. Derren’s marks are usually aware of their involvement – and this didn’t appear to be the case this time. Perhaps there was a reason for this, but I can’t see why the trick couldn’t have been otherwise staged. Even had that been the case it would have been a lot less “improper”, but still to some degree disturbing. Getting someone to manifest the appearance of being SHIT scared, though later they seem quite calm, seems out of place from the rest of the stunts in the series. Even in the fantastic seance he staged last year, the subjects only scared themselves – there is a difference in the subject’s volition. Perhaps this is the very point that does vanish under the extreme psychological states the show covers. Like I say, I’m still undecided on this. It is just a stage hypnotist’s trick, and i’m not one to be hating on the fun. Hmm.

One extra worry remains – this was a situation that deliberately appeared to blur fantasy and reality (though like I say, after the fact, the reality of that seemed to be largely forgotten). Isn’t this the core of psychosis? Again, perhaps I’m over-reacting, the simple definition of “the perception of reality is distorted” pretty much sums up a lot of DB’s tricks.

It would be unfair of me to omit the fact that DB later shows the mark the video of the full episode which he takes with much humour and appears to be enjoying.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been so upset if he’d sprung the trick on Jo Whiley.