We'd been invited out to Marbs as part of a select group of journalists for the filming of The Only Way is Marbs, and after being mustered into this hidden, enclosed space, we were all in agreement that it felt a bit like an ambush. We'd been so at ease earlier in the day as we sat sunning ourselves by the pool at our luxury hotel, where Lucy Mecklenburgh had also been hiding out in order to make a 'surprise' entrance when filming began (we found out when chatting to her the next day that she'd dodged the paps by sunbathing on the establishment's roof).
Suddenly everything we'd ever written about the TOWIE crew came rushing back through our heads. Every sensational headline, every embarrassing photo... were we brought here by ITV so the cast could get their revenge? But then, literally bursting through the door, came Arg, Joey Essex, Gemma Collins, Sam Faiers, Jessica Wright, Ricky Rayment and Bobby Cole Norris, all shouting various things about "Marbs!" and being "on holiday!", and we realised we needn't have worried.
The seven came bounding over to us like we were long lost friends, clearly so excited to be on their annual pilgrimage that they couldn't care less about all the times we'd been mean about them. Before long DS discovered what it must be like to film a scene at the Sugar Hut, as we chatted to Sam and Joey over champagne about the early, pre-TOWIE days of their relationship and gasped at the suggestion that Arg and Gemma could soon have a baby together, all with a camera stuck right in our faces...
We also discovered over gorgeous food platters (all of which appeared to somehow make their way on to Arg's table) that some of the cast have their doubts about who leaked former co-star Kirk Norcross's naked pictures ("Well, he does have a book out"), Sam is still too nervous to go the toilet in front of her future husband Joey, Jess and Ricky predict TOWIE will be axed before they get married, Arg thinks BFF Mark Wright's girlfriend Michelle Keegan is "a cool girl" who'll be "hugely successful" and Joey apparently does "massive poos". And on that note, it was time for dinner.
Up we hopped from La Sala's beautiful La Terraza bar to its packed restaurant, where we were greeted by a surprisingly carb-heavy menu (we admire any cast member with an upcoming swimwear scene who went for the trio of deep fried cheeses). While us mere journos were already feeling less than 'reem' after a few too many glasses of bubbly, the TOWIE lot were just getting started, with a seemingly endless supply of shots landing at our table unannounced. A producer reminded everyone that they had filming first thing at the morning, which Arg responded to by jumping up at the table, downing a Jagerbomb and roaring.
As delicious as the food was, it was clearly cutting into the TOWIE lot's precious partying time. This was their one day 'off work', and they were determined to make the most of every minute. The gang had barely finished their main courses before they were up and jiving. Bobby borrowed a trick from their Geordie Shore rivals and started slut-dropping at the dinner table, while Arg and Gemma were side-stepping around waiters as they performed a ballroom dance so passionate and enthusiastic that it led us to believe they're either madly in love or practising for the next series of Strictly Come Dancing. We're going for the first option, since we heard buzz from other cast members of them getting amorous on their way over from the airport.
Stopping only so that Arg could sing 'Fly Me To The Moon' with the restaurant's resident Michael Bublé impersonator, the TOWIEs piled into taxis and, after a mini kerfuffle with an overeager pap trying to take upskirt photos of Jess Wright, headed across to 'Marbella's most exclusive night spot', Pangea.
As we were led up to the club's roof terrace by bouncers with broad grins, it became clear that the TOWIE lot are pretty much royalty in Marbella. They shook hands with important people in suits, posed for pictures with a stream of starstruck 'salty potatoes' and didn't have to wait a second for a private booth with a whole host of goodies, including £1,000 bottles of vodka and a shisha that scurrying bartenders made sure never burned out.
Finally the TOWIEs could let their hair down properly, and soon enough Bobby and Ricky were dancing all over the furniture, Billie Faiers was teaching everyone how to properly suck on a shisha and her sister Sam started repeatedly jumping in our faces screaming about how intoxicated she was. Even Big Brother wildchild Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, who just happened to be at the club too, wanted to join in with the TOWIE fun, squeezing up next to the group repeatedly singing her name and then disappearing in one of the night's most bizarre moments.
The only person who looked like they weren't having a good time was Gemma, who sat in a corner looking juuuuuust a little bit mopey as her co-stars danced. When we asked if she was OK, she replied that she was missing her boyfriend Rami - the one that copped a G&T to the face on a recent night out - and promptly left to FaceTime him, which we're hoping was not some kind of euphemism.
As she left, fellow TOWIE cast members Little Chris, Jasmin Walia and Abi Clarke turned up at the club, trailed by newbies James Lock and Daniel Osborne - both of whom looked as bemused as us at the level of their co-stars' celebrations. Clearly they are not the traditional TOWIE types - Dan revealed to us that his modelling agency even told him not to go on the show - so we left them to get acclimatised to the Marbs experience. Apparently Tom Pearce and Diags also showed up, but we didn't see them. We got our explanation the next day when the latter told us that he hadn't slept all night after 'getting lucky'. Aside from Lucy, the only noticeable absentee was Mario Falcone, and based on what the rest of the cast had to say about him across the night, he wasn't missed.
But much like an episode of TOWIE it all ended in tears, as Sam and Joey got into a blazing row after he was spotted being chatted up by a mystery blonde. The drama appeared to take the sheen off the night, as one by one the reality stars slunk away and all of a sudden we were the last ones standing, with only the Michael Bublé tribute act for company. DS is unlikely to ever win a Pulitzer, but knowing we outpartied TOWIE is enough of an achievement for us.
As we woke up bleary-eyed and confused in our hotel room the next morning, we felt satisfied that we'd done the TOWIE Marbs experience properly. We had fuzzy heads. We were sunburnt. We'd got involved in screaming matches. The only box we didn't tick was a holiday romance, although we heard that we did actually catch the eye of a certain TOWIE star. Of course, we didn't act on this because we're total professionals... and also we only found out about it at Málaga Airport the next day. So, as we boarded a plane back to cold and dreary London town, knowing that thousands of feet below us the TOWIEs were getting ready to do it all again, we couldn't help but feel 'well jel'.
The Only Way is Marbs begins tonight (June 2) at 10pm on ITV2.