Friday, 1 January 2016

A very Harry Christmas

Christmas special 2015
Broadcast Friday 25 December.

Welcome back! Since we last met: Aliona has quit in a blaze of glory after being fired, being rehired, suffering through duffer after duffer and finally emerging as the first pro to win twice (what a journey!); Andy Murray won Sports Personality of the Year Again - although Judy was presumably not as excited about this as she was about Anton Du Beke getting to the Strictly final; half the country has taken to living in boats due to our apocalyptic weather; and hopefully all of us have eaten more than our fair share of mince pies. Still, whatever the weather, the Strictly Christmas show (recorded weeks ago) must go on!

Cue credits! Weirdly, because we aren’t yet supposed to know who the participants are, instead of featuring our pairs, it features an array of ghostly gold dancers. And I thought Halloween was some weeks ago.

We open with a slightly strange Harry Potter themed dance, largely set in the WB studio tour. You could, if you’d been avoiding any form of entertainment media over the last few weeks (including, if I recall, the main show itself), take this to mean that they are setting us up for one of those Christmas specials where we get people who are “far too busy” to commit to the full show, only this time, perhaps they mean it and they’ve got a bunch of guest stars from the Harry Potter series. Or maybe, a Harry Potter themed dance? (Nope, they did that back in Halloween week). Instead, it seems we are at Hogwarts for… well, I’m sure there were reasons. *shrug* [*looks pointedly at Kevin Clifton* - Steve]

Anyway, it’s an American Smooth themed dance, and we meet our pros: Pasha, Joanne, Oti, Brendan, Natalie and Robin (don’t they usually wheel out Ian when they’re lacking in current male pros? Sigh). Our contestants are then revealed. Riding on the Hogwarts Express are Abbey fucking Clancy and Tom Smug Chambers. People’s Strictly champion and ringer Cassidy Little (I know Anna wuzrobbed, but she was dancing with Robin and Cassidy was dancing with Natalie so, you know…) is waiting in Diagon Alley as is Alison Kaffee Babes Hammond.  Lisa Snowdance Snowdon is hosting a feast in the great Hall, and Harry Not-Aliona’s-Favourite-Winner-Any-More Judd is late to proceedings. The pairings are revealed as the couple’s waltz around: Abbey and Brendan; Oti and Tom; Cassidy and Natalie; Alison and Robin; Lisa and Pasha; Harry and Joanne. The obvious point of ‘Oooh, what’s gone on there?’ gossip is, of course, Lisa and Brendan not being partnered. Robin and Alison seems like a fairly good fit, it’ll be good to see more of what Oti and Joanne can offer, and we can all be grateful that it’s not Lisa Bloody Riley again.

I am not sure whether I like the returning contestants’ version of the Christmas special more than the new contestants’ version-although you do often get a better standard of dance this way round-but I think this is generally a decent cast. You have three winners (okay, two of them nobody really likes, but they won nonetheless), a spin-off winner, a finalist and a popular comedy contestant who was not entirely terrible.

We go through the mirror in the Great Hall and we are suddenly transported to the world of the Strictly studio, where Tess and Claudia enter. Tess is accompanied by a smart-suited Brendan, whilst Claudia is accompanied by Robin in lederhosen - I assume the reasons will become clear later. Daly Dress Watch: bright pink, off the shoulder, very summery, looks nice but somewhat unseasonal. What Winkleman’s Wearing: a sleeveless maroon dress, bit more Christmassy. In the audience, Jeremy Vine is mugging away for the cameras. Tess and Claudia tell us that it’s going to be an all-stars extravaganza, and later at we have a guest performance from Blake, which Tess pronounces in the audible version of all lowercase small print, and then contrasts this with DAME SHIRLEY BASSEY. Ha, sucks to be Blake.

The judges enter, dressed as characters from Snow White: Darcey as Snow White, Bruno as the handsome Prince (!!), Len as a king (wearing a robe with some odd cutout patches on the arms through which she can see his white shirt) and… If you were expecting Craig as the wicked Queen here, prepare to have your illusions shattered, as he comes on as… Grumpy the dwarf. Even though this was filmed mid-series, they don’t bother doing ‘the Strictly’. 

Our contestants enter, and time to see if they have simply reused the introductions they had for them when they were on the show proper, or if any of them have been up/downgraded since then. Model and presenter Abbey Clancy and Brendan; actor Tom Chambers and Oti; presenter Alison Hammond and Robin (Alison appears to be dressed as some kind of weird techno Heidi, so now I’m hoping that their dance is going to be to Bring Me Edelweiss); People’s Strictly champion Cassidy Little and Natalie; presenter Lisa Snowdon and Pasha; McFly star Harry Judd and Joanne.  So, no ‘pop stars’ or ‘TV presenters’ and ‘actor’ rather than ‘Holby City star’ which I guess might be downgrades, albeit small ones?

Tess says that, for the ‘first time ever’, they have four Strictly champions in the same show. If we are counting The People’s Strictly as canon.  And discounting this

We then cut to the Strictly version of the Queen’s speech: a message from the absent Bruce. Part of the joys of Christmas Strictly is watching it with the family and seeing how people who like the show, but aren’t perhaps as invested as we are, view it. My parents both talked about how good it was that Bruce was no longer presenting the show and how much better Tess and Claudia were. As we were watching the show after recording it, I asked if this therefore meant we could fast forward Bruce’s speech. Apparently not. Anyway, Bruce has a message for the nation (and notes the similarity between his speech and the Queen’s) - he is gutted not to be in the studio, but his operation went well and he thanks everyone for doing the Christmas show and calls them all his favourites. Thanks Bruce!

Tess lies that this could be one of the closest Christmas specials ever. Tess, haven’t you been watching these for the past 12 years? They have all been a) close and b) wildly over marked. That’s how Christmas works. [Remember the year there was a four-way tie for top of the leaderboard and Len had to rank them all again? Ahh, memories. - Steve]

The first couple of the evening are Lisa and Pasha and Tess makes a joke about how they will be dancing in the snow, despite wearing Alice in Wonderland getup. Lisa, for the record is in a fairly inoffensive blue dress, whilst poor Pasha has yet again invoked the ire of hair and make up and is dressed as the Johnny Depp Mad Hatter. Their VT talks about Lisa’s memories of being on Strictly, including ‘the 40s.’ Such a troll. [I just assumed she meant the 1940s, it feels like that long ago. - Steve] She says that she hasn’t danced since being on the show. Except for the 2008 Christmas special. She thinks Pasha is fabulous and as she got a 40 last time she did the quickstep, she’s feeling some pressure tonight. She thinks the way to win the judges over will be to sneak in their dressing rooms and leave them a mince pie (?). Meanwhile, because he can never get away from the comedy VT, Pasha takes Lisa into Wonderland via a ‘drink me’ vessel, where he is the white rabbit, leading her through a maze of brightly lit flowers and an enchanted forest.

I am not quite sure what the theme of this Christmas special is. It’s not really panto, nor is it films, nor fairytales. I guess it’s as loose as ‘fictional characters’? To complete the sense of loose theming, they are dancing (the quickstep) not to this, this, this or even this, which would have made at least some sense, but to ‘Let It Snow’ because Lisa’s surname is Snowdon do you see what they did there?

We open with Pasha hosting the Mad Hatter tea party, then Lisa, as Alice, distracts him and they start dancing. That’s as far as the storytelling goes. As for the dance itself, you can tell that she hasn’t been dancing much lately and that this is pretty under-rehearsed, because there are places where it looks like she’s running to keep up with him. [Yeah, I feel like of all the dances you can get in a Christmas special, a quickstep is one of the unluckier draws. - Steve] That said, she’s clearly still a capable dancer, and for the most part she copes well with the rhythm, and in some places there’s quite nice footwork. It does feel somewhat under committed, with a lot of the jumps and kicks being a bit subdued, but it’s decent enough and, given that she is up against a bunch of previous champions, it’s likely to give her a solid mid-table position tonight. Or at least place her above Alison.

Len says it was magical, with her dancing with ‘Pasha the Dasher’ (and Dancer and Prancer?) and they were going faster than he does when he goes for his pickled walnuts. Bruno says it was like a flute of the finest champagne, bursting with fizz and popping with bubbles. Craig says she clearly hasn’t lost it and it had a great cross-section of steps and good energy where she covered the floor several times - and overall he loved it. Darcey says it was magnificently fast and she was really light on her feet and she looks like she’s never stopped dancing.

In the Clauditorium, Lisa declares it so much fun. For some reason, there is a guy dressed up as an elf in there. I don’t know if he is a bonus backing dancer, or just some poor man who they made dress up for the fun of things, but he looks somewhat uncomfortable either way. There is a buffet table, complete with the giant sprout from the BBC idents. I guess he’s going to be eaten? That’s as dark as that time when Noel Edmonds blew up the Christmas robins #scarred4life.  Tom Chambers is also there, wearing a waistcoat that is a little bit too small for him and bunching up in all the wrong places. He is not particularly a large guy, but this is making him look quite tubby – reminding me of when Chris Hollins came back for this last year and the judges kept telling him how fat he was. Rude. /miranda. 

Anyway, scores: nine, nine, nine, ten for a total of 37. Lisa says she loves Bruno, and Claudia reminds us that the winner will be decided by a combination of the judges’ scores and the studio audience vote. We then have some random carol singers emerge singing ‘Deck the Halls’, with the most audible line being ‘don we now our gay apparel’. Never let it be said this show is beyond the cheap double entendre. Take that, Bake Off!

Alison and Robin are the second couple of the evening. Apparently, they are Hansel and Gretel. Thanks for telling us, Tess. I genuinely had no idea. Tess also tells us that they will be dancing in a house actually made of sweets, which I’m quite excited to see. Alison’s retelling of her Strictly story shows that she has absolutely no awareness of her TV journey, highlighting her favourites as her cha-cha and her Charleston rather than the correct choices of these two. She says she can’t wait til Christmas because she hasn’t told any of her family she is doing the show. I think the surprise will probably have been ruined for them by the time this airs, love. She says she’d like an eight, because it’s Christmas. And I think that is the reason why she’s probably quite likely to get one. She says that she didn’t ‘keep dancing’ after the show, but stopped. Such an advert for ‘this changed my life, I’m in love with dance et cetera’ this lot, aren’t they?

They emerge for their cha-cha-cha from a ‘gingerbread’ house that looks like it’s been constructed entirely out of MDF and glitter, with not a literal sweet in sight. Call Ofcom, everybody! They are dancing to ‘Celebration’ as the theming on this episode falls more and more apart. As dances go, this is generic week one party Latin, except for the hilarious bit where she pushes Robin to the floor, but Alison is always exuberant, which sells it a little bit. The fact that she is not wearing heels makes the footwork look quite leaden, but she does have a sense of the atmosphere in her performance which slightly compensates for the lack of technique. Then there’s a really weird bit where they do some handclapping staff which I could possibly buy if they were going full on thigh-slapping Austrian style, but they’re not, so…

The audience, including bonus Peter Crouch, seemed to enjoy it, anyway. Bruno calls it a luscious Christmas hamper, full of delights and treats and he loves it when Alison does, but forget about Robin. If only we could, Bruno, if only we could. He then starts singing Kylie’s ‘Your Disco Needs You’, so extra judge points to Bruno for that one. Craig says it was incredibly flat-footed, but ‘it is Christmas after all’ and so he loved the disco feel and the fact that she has natural rhythm (drink!) and brings joy to the dancefloor. We cut to a woman in the audience who I assume is Alison’s mum, which makes her VT even more redundant. Darcey’s favourite bit was where Lisa pushed Robin.  Ha! Poor Robin. Darcey also has three weird gold dots painted on her neck – anyone have a clue what that’s about? Len calls them ‘the yummy Brummie’ and ‘throbbing Robin’ which prompts the exact looks from Lisa and Robin that you’d expect.  He says it was more fun than warming chestnuts on an open fire and they epitomise enjoying yourself and having fun.

As they arrive in the Clauditorium, Alison gives Aljaž a little kiss and says he shouldn’t be too jealous as she’ll see him later.  Claudia asks if Alison would like an 8.  She says she wouldn’t mind it, ‘not because I’m a big fat lady but because I want an 8’ #bingoshoutout. Scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 for a total of 31.  Claudia offers Tess a ‘massive Brussels sprout’ which would work better as a visual gag were the cabbage she is using green rather than white.

Next is Cassidy Little, ringer winner of The People’s Strictly, dancing with Natalie, making him the only returning contestant tonight to be matched with their original pro. We are reminded of him winning the ‘first-ever’ People’s Strictly with his paso doble. I hadn’t noticed any announcement that they were doing it again, but perhaps they’re planning it for Red Nose Day 2017? Cassidy says he isn’t a celebrity, he’s a veteran, but he’s looking forward to it. Natalie says she’s really happy to be working with him again. For some reason, he wears a turkey mask and bright sunglasses in his VT. I guess wardrobe like him about as much as they like Pasha. He and Natalie then go and visit some people who’ve been helped by Help for Heroes, and Cassidy tells a bunch of veterans that they should get into dancing. They look fairly unconvinced by this suggestion.

Cassidy and Natalie are dressed as Puss in Boots. I think she is the Puss in Boots from Shrek, given that she is in red and slightly more Latin themed clothing, while perhaps he is a standard Puss in Boots from pantomime. Who knows? Make up hasn’t really gone to town on either of them, with them just having noses and whiskers rather than full on face paint assaults like Pasha. They are dancing the jive to something I’ve never heard before, but Ultimate Strictly informs me is called ‘Cool Yule’. Now I’m not saying you should necessarily treat people with disabilities any differently to other dancers, and if Cassidy were to do a full series of the show, obviously you’d expect him to master every genre. However, given that this is a one-off special, it seems slightly unfair to give a jive to the person with a prosthetic leg. It doesn’t really strike me as the best choice of dance to show off his abilities. He does seem to struggle with the footwork, unsurprisingly, although he has a good feel for performance, and his timing isn’t bad. His hip work isn’t too shabby, FOR A MAN WHO IS TALL, and he ends with a lift which involves Natalie kind of being chucked over one of his arms and looks pretty impressive.

Craig calls him a true inspiration, who has great musicality. He says it was compact and clean and he brings an enormous amount of Canadian charm to proceedings. Cassidy looks a bit like John Barrowman here. I don’t know whether that is a good thing for him or not. Darcey said she really enjoyed the lifts and tricks, but it was the performance value that really did it for her. Len says he’s happy and he says that ‘Little and Lowe’ are a great combination. And are quite ironically named, being tall people. Bruno says he’s a wonderful performer and can really sell it.

In the Clauditorium, Cassidy says he still a bit nervous and he says that the jive is totally different to the paso, but he’s really grateful to Natalie for guiding him through it. Natalie says he hasn’t done any of the ballroom dances in his life, so she thought it was great things come out and do a jive like that. Scores: eight, nine, nine, nine for a total of 35. Natalie thinks this is amazing, but that’s Christmas for you, Nat.

The some reason, we need the filler of a preview of the remaining couples. There are only three of them left, so this is pointful. Still, we get a bit of Kylie soundtracking it, so I’m not gonna complain too much. [My mum was on a bizarre anti-Kylie crusade all over Christmas. I'm still not entirely sure I understand why. - Steve]

Time for this episode’s random Claudia costume moment. Because there’s a lot of people upstairs and a turkey might not be enough, she has come as the ostrich from future comedy contestant Bernie Clifton’s set.

Our fourth couple are Abbey and Brendan. Abbey’s VT reminds us that she won, to everyone’s surprise, including her own. She also recognises that she has a tough challenge to win the Christmas special against Harry Judd (and some other people of course), so she’s bringing out BABY WARZ yet again, with an update on her cute daughter Sophia, as featured two years ago, who comes to rehearsals with her and Brendan, and brings some Rapunzel wigs to put on both Abbey and Brendan. Brendan is quite adorable with Sofia. Unfortunately for them, the ovary voters in the audience have a Chambers and a Judd coming up, as well as having just seen Cassidy and Pasha, so this may not be enough to secure a victory for them. We also see her and Brendan let off a party popper in this VT, without the party poppers exploding and still maintaining their cardboard base. More BBC lies! [To be fair, my party popper did something very similar on Christmas Day. Bloody shoddy merchandise. - Steve]

They are dancing the waltz to ‘When I Fall in Love ’ and the nod to the theme is Abbey standing in a turret, with a trail of tinsel dangling down representing Rapunzel’s hair, which Brendan loosens so she can come down and dance with him. Such storytelling! There is a lot of dry ice around the footwork, which is always really annoying in a waltz. Otherwise, it’s a lovely enough dance, but not especially exciting. These two do have quite nice chemistry though, and the audience really love it, including Abbey’s Famous Husband Peter Crouch.

Tess says she makes it look so easy and Brendan says ‘this girl’ (drrrrrrrink!) can dance. Darcey says it’s one of the most elegantly controlled waltzes she’s seen ‘at Christmas’. Damning with the faintest of praise there, Darcey. Len says, forget Westminster, she’s his favourite Abbey. If you were going for that joke, why not make it ‘Forget Downton’? He declares it ‘like a warm hug on a cold Christmas morning, just delicious’. Bruno calls her his dancing queen, waltzing her way back into his heart as if she never left. He says she was conditioned to perfection with not a split end in sight and says she really is a dazzler. Craig said it had grace, elegance and style. He said her top line was marvellous, although there was a bit of gapping. ["A bit" - Steve] Brendan says it was to allow room for the Christmas pudding. Teehee.

Up they bound to the Clauditorium, where Natalie Lowe tries to do a one-woman arch to welcome them up. Claudia reminds us that Abbey hasn’t danced since 2013. Oh dear. They then wish happy birthday to Brendan’s little girl Aurelia, whose birthday is on Christmas Day. Aww. Scores: nine, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 39. Claudia then holds up a gravy boat to offer Tess some and then says ‘my mistake, it’s fake tan’.

Harry and Joanne are the penultimate couple of the evening and it looks like they have also incurred the wrath of hair and make-up, as both of them are festooned in in glitter everywhere. That stuff is a bugger to get off, you know. [Seriously. On Christmas Day it was all over my crackers (not a euphemism) and I was still finding it in the bed several days later. - Steve] We are reminded in his VT that he won Strictly with Aliona. We are not, sadly, reminded that he is no longer Aliona’s favourite celebrity partner, nor of the wonderful moment after they lifted the glitter ball, when the rest of McFly gatecrashed proceedings and Bruce tried to sweep them all away. Harry says he’s been in McFly for 12 years and talks about the band’s achievements (note, not McBusted, who are apparently well and truly OVAH.  For this week), but says people still stop him in the supermarket to talk about Strictly. Again, he hasn’t danced for four years and has ‘missed’ it, although he says he does sneak out a cheeky move here and there.  He notes that in the future he will be able to catch up in BABY WARZ, because he and his wife are expecting their first child. He is dancing with Jo, who tells him in training that he was brilliant, worth ‘about a four’. What I love about that is that, given Joanne’s background and what we saw of her on choreography corner on It Takes Two this series, she was probably not joking with that score. We then have the obligatory comedy moments of the VT, involving Harry developing Jack Frost powers and turning everything to ice. Harry says he is doing the American Smooth, and last time he got a 39, but as it’s Christmas, this time he wants a 40. I love how everyone is basically trolling the Christmas special scoring this year.

Harry and Joanne are dancing the American Smooth to ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, which is the closest anyone’s got tonight to having a synthesis of theme, song and luck-as the sets, lighting, costumes and make-up all fit with the same theme as the song and the characters. There is a moments where Joanne ends up on a bench, because apparently the Cliftons can’t leave tables and their ilk alone. I know we were somewhat unconvinced by Joanne’s first series as a pro with Scott, but going on the form of both her choreography corner this year (where she’s been a revelation), and this lovely routine, I’m gonna start now and say it: ringer for Joanne in 2016 please. [I agree. I've really come around on Joanne this year. - Steve] This is a lovely dance, well executed, light, romantic and just the right balance of cheesy without going too over the top. Harry dances well and the two of them seem to have a decent chemistry going on as well.

Len says he has truly missed watching Harry dance and loves the way Harry has lovely wide elbows, a flat back and dances onto the ball of his foot-this is pretty much the first piece of dance critique anyone’s had tonight where their technique has been concentrated on. Bruno says the hits keep coming and when it comes to smooth charm and exquisite dancing nobody does it better than Prince Harry, at which he stands and bows, leaving Harry looking mildly embarrassed. Craig says he absolutely loved it and thought it was fab-u-lous, whilst Darcey says it’s a close competition but he’s certainly up there. She says the style was glamorous and the dance felt effortless, especially when he lifted Jo. Darcey congratulates Joanne getting partnered with Harry because it's all about the men for her.

In the Clauditorium, Harry says he absolutely loves dancing. Jo said she’s not going to lie, he hasn’t danced for years, but she’s still delighted to have danced with him. Claudia says Harry danced the American smooth his wedding because it is favourite dance and Harry says yes it is, his wife’s in the audience. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40 and I presume that will be the winning dance of the night? Jo looks beside herself as well she might. Claudia offers him an eggnog without the nog: an egg and a glass. She then makes a joke about Uncle Terry who licks the chocolate off the Brazil nuts. Well I guess he had to be doing something when he wasn’t presenting Children in Need this year, hey?

Tess says that Tom is going to be dancing as Scrooge, grumpy old man, but of course Scrooge isn’t his full name, it’s Scrooge Revel Horwood. As anyone knows, Tess, this series it should have been Scrooge Goodman. Or rather, Len Scrooge, given that Scrooge is a surname, not a first name.

Tom’s VT shows is that when he was on Strictly the first time, he was a vaguely successful actor in a popular ongoing BBC drama serial, whereas now he is… A former Strictly winner? It doesn’t enlighten me as to what else he’s doing. He said that since he’s been on Strictly, he’s been jealous of everyone else who's got to do the Charleston, and that seems kind of believable, given that it probably is the kind of dance that Tom and Camilla would have lapped up. The comedy element of their VT centres on Oti trying to get Tom into character, but him loving Christmas far too much to be Scrooge.

Their Charleston is being danced to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, and opens with a comedy montage of Tom getting out of bed and falling into the scenery, before Oti comes along and helps him dance. It’s not really clear what her role is: the ghost of Christmas specials future, perhaps? I have to say, that although Tom is not exactly one of my favourite ever winners, he can dance, and this genre really does suit him. It has that slightly cheesy vibe that he suits quite well, and he is pretty light on his feet throughout. The theme doesn’t seem too bad either, as he is transformed from a curmudgeon into a cheerful bouncer, which does seem to fit the Scrooge theme. As with the recent series, Oti’s presence here only makes me want to see her get a decent partner next year so that we can see what she can do – as with Jo. I think they definitely saved the best two dances til last, although I do think Harry’s had the slight edge. My dad thought they were pretty equal, whilst my mum was Harry all the way - kind of not the way I expected her vote to go, to be honest.
Bruno says they were soaring with festive spirit and it was the crowning glory of a wonderful night. Craig says it was full of character and used every Charleston step in the book, with complex changes of weight and it was absolutely brilliant. Darcey says she wasn’t expecting that from a grumpy old man and they weren’t being stingy with the amount of dancing in there and the precision of it all. She thinks it was a brilliant Charleston. Len says if he was a real king, he’d knight Tom 'Sir Dancealot' because he’d come out with a full on, flat-out fabulous routine.

The audience loved it, as they have been loving everything tonight, although I don’t know whether that or Harry’s got the loudest reaction. My favourite part of them getting up to the Clauditorium is when Tom holds mistletoe over Claudia for ages before she reluctantly gives in and gives him a kiss. Tom says his family and friends all told him he should do the Charleston and he said he would love to do it, either with Aljaž or Oti. OK then. Scores: 10, 10, 10, 10 for a total of 40. Tom said he never got straight tens before, so that score was amazing. Claudia then gives them a cracker and Oti has no idea what to do with it - both Claudia and Tom offer her the end to pull and, adorably, she shakes it as if she was shaking its hand.

Shall we have a Christmas leaderboard?
Harry and Joanne 40
Tom and Oti 40
Abbey and Brendan 39
Lisa and Pasha 37
Cassidy and Natalie 35
Alison and Robin 31

So I think that is likely to be Harry vs Tom for the popular vote, and that Harry will take it. Tom then explains to Oti how to pull a cracker and she finally does so. For some reason, Janette and Karen have come in matching pink lady style costumes, with Karen wearing reindeer glasses. I think that has been rather a lot of festive spirit imbibed by the non-dancing pros tonight. We then get a recap, which I’m really not going to recap, before Blake and Shirley Bassey duet (/quartet?) on a very weird ballad version of ‘The Christmas Song’, replete with a Viennese waltz style dance from Anton and Joanne, which is lovely and classy, even though the arrangement of this song is kind of bizarre and turns a festive pop ditty into a funereal dirge. Sorry Shirl, but this is not doing it for me. Blame those three losers standing beside you. It then randomly goes into a jazzed up refrain just as you think it’s finished, and Bassey looks like she’s slightly embarrassed, and then they slow it down again and start singing all over each other, Shirley Bassey obviously dominating the other three. Good God that was an unholy mess, and didn’t sound too unlike a battle round from The Voice (Shirl would be team Tom, obvs, the other three haven’t got the raaaange).

We then see a random selection of celebs and pros: Kevin, Karen, Iwan, Georgia, Giovanni, Carol and Pasha, visiting a party for young carers. There is not really any comedy to be mined here, I’m afraid, what with it being a good cause and all that. The kids say they can’t wait to see everyone dance, but we only really get to see Kevin and Karen having a few twirls.  I would feel cheated if I were them. I mean, not cheated out of seeing Iwan dance, and maybe Carol, but apart from that. Then they all dance with the partygoers and Carol seems to really enjoy taking part in the conga, which is not particularly a surprise.

Results time: we get a little recap of a comment for each pair, before the winners are announced: Harry and Joanne. Well, that seemed deserved for a lovely, light very festive dance. But especially delicious is that, despite Kevin always being in the final of the show proper, Joanne is the first Clifton to take the trophy (albeit a non-canon Christmas trophy). Harry dedicates the win to Jo and neither of them seem to want to touch the trophy so it’s left to Tess to shove it in their hands for their winner moment. 

And if you think that’s it, you’re wrong! There’s always time for one last comedy VT, where Harry and Abbey are late for a Christmas dinner party blowout dance to ‘What Christmas Means to Me’ in which Harry and Abbey takes centre stage, dancing together. Do you think they were anticipating it would be between those two for the win? Brendan is playing the role of the drunk uncle who falls asleep because Anton was otherwise unavailable.

And that’s it for another year. We would wish you to keep dancing, but the message of this show seems to be not to bother, so we hope you had a great Christmas and have a fantastic 2016. We’ll see you sometime in the summer no doubt for a series culminating three-way final featuring Jo, Oti, Natalie and their ringers.  Or Kevin’s fourth final in a row, who can say?

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Jay walks it

Week 13: The Final (Part 2) - 19 December 2015

So, after an episode of Casualty featuring Sean Hughes, La Prenj and Dr Browning from Hollyoaks, and a Lottery update in which Ore Oduba seemed to have insider knowledge that Frankie Bridge finished in second place last year (I'm kidding, off-hand remarks on other shows are not canon, don't write in) we're back in the ballroom. The top four are all dressed ready to perform their couples' choice dances (Jay - paso, Georgia - charleston, Kellie - also charleston, Katie - Viennese waltz) and Tess reminds us that one of them will have changed clothes for no reason because one couple is about to finish in fourth place.

Special Truncated Top-Four-Only Final Titles!

Tess and Claudia have also changed outfits: Claudia is wearing a strangely summery burgundy strapless dress, and Tess is inexplicably wearing an Ellen DeGeneres-style white trouser suit [I thought she looked great, however unlikely an outfit choice it was - Rad]. Claudia confirms that the vote is frozen (and has been ever since Prenj was wheeled into Holby City A&E, more or less) so we must not vote now, as our votes will not count but we may still be charged. Which is also true if at any point you voted for someone other than Jay. I'm suddenly nervous for Kellie here, because while I think she easily did enough to propel herself past fourth place in the main show (and her odds came in impressively during the break to the point where she breezed past Georgia into second place), she has not yet proven herself to have any sort of reliable fanbase (even last week, it's mathematically possible for her to have been bottom of the public vote) and she is also dressed as Princess Leia Organa, and to have to leave dressed like that for no good reason would be kind of humiliating.

Tess teases an upcoming performance from Ellie Goulding and the reunion performance for the class of 2015, but before we get to the results, it's time for our behind-the-scenes glimpse from earlier. Len declares it "the tightest final ever", making it a whole 12 months since he last said that, Katie describes the whole atmosphere backstage as "fantastic" and Georgia declares this the biggest night of her life. Aliona congratulates Jay on recovering from his quickstep mistakes, Georgia says something that sounds like "fantastic" in response to her rumba feedback but it all happens so quickly it's impossible to be sure, Kellie screams about getting 40, Katie shrugs off her quickstep, Aliona has loved every little second with Jay, Giovanni is really proud of Georgia, Kellie is having her best day ever, and Anton declares Katie's showdance "epic". There wasn't really a lot of notable backstage action this week, was there?

Tess has got her cue cards, so someone's going home. The couple with the fewest votes, finishing in fourth place, is...Katie and Anton. The top three applaud her, Katie blows kisses to her family, and Katie's Awesome Daughter Natasha is seen saying something to her dad which might well be "fair enough". Tess tells Katie she is "leaving as a finalist with your head held high", and Katie says she can't quite believe that she's here in the final, having descended from the ceiling "in a spangly box, like a pop star". She's absolutely chuffed to bits, and declares it the right decision for her to be leaving now, and I like that I can totally believe that she honestly feels that way. Katie thanks Anton for teaching her to dance, and says that he's had to put up with some bumps in the road, but he's been very patient, and she will be forever grateful to him. We look back over Katie's Best Bits, which strangely don't include her surprisingly competent week one jive, but her undoubted highlight is being at the top of the leaderboard in week 4 with her Viennese waltz because no one will ever be able to take that away from her. Katie thanks everyone one last time and heads up to the read-only section of the ballroom in the Clauditorium.

Trying to get things back on track, Tess reminds us of the three couples still remaining, but pauses for applause after each one and none comes until she gets to Kellie and Kevin at the end. (This is clearly just the audience being off their game rather than an indication of who's got support, but it does make me giggle when I think of that DS poster earlier this year who claimed that they had to move Jay to the end when they introduce all the couples at the beginning of the show, because the screams for him were just so much louder than they were for everyone else and it was making everyone who walked on after him look bad...and then everybody else pointed out that Jay had always been the penultimate person to walk out anyway and therefore became the last one by default after Kirsty - who had been the only person walking out after him - got eliminated.) Claudia informs us that the vote has been re-opened, and that the totals from earlier have been carried over as well.

Up next to perform their favourite(ish) routine of the series, it's Jay and Aliona, who will be reprising their paso doble. Do you know, at the start of the week, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was for nobody to do a paso in the final, because at that point Anita had the highest score for it, and I thought that, considering she was pretty undermarked for the most part, it would be nice for her to at least have one highest-score to her name at the end of the series. And I thought she'd be pretty safe, because obviously Jay would do his jive and obviously Georgia would do her charleston, and obviously Katie would do her Viennese waltz and...well, I wasn't sure what Kellie was going to do but I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be her paso. And then this happened. THANKS A LOT, JAY. [WHY this?  His tango was also way better even if he wasn't going to reprise the jive.  Even his rumba would have done, I guess.  Not only was Anita robbed, I feel we were robbed as an audience of seeing the winner doing one of his best dances, because there was nothing memorable about his paso - Rad]

In his VT, Jay says he thought doing Strictly would just be all showbiz, and he didn't realise just how much blood, sweat and tears would be involved, and that was just the time that somebody posted the wrong bottom two on the Digital Spy spoiler thread. Jay and Aliona were very excited to be paired, and Jay says that they got on really well because they were both so similar. Aliona calls Jay "the best dance partner [she's] ever had" for about the ninetieth time this week. Justice for Tony Jacklin! Did you not appreciate that free trip to Florida you got out of it?! Looking back at his opening cha cha cha, Jay thinks he looked "like this huge mountain of hair". Then the haircut happened, then the Holy Jive happened, and then this basically became a fight to see who got to finish joint-runner-up to Jay. Jay says that Strictly has made his mum more proud of him than ever, though we should probably bear in mind that prior to this his main claim to fame was being the one at the back in the boyband mostly notable for all having different-shaped faces. Speaking of which, Rhombus and Square turn up to say how proud they are of him. Oval--sorry, "Jay"--says that being able to lift the glitterball would be an amazing end to his journey.

So, why hasn't Jay picked the jive for this round? Well, it's because he and Aliona really wanted people to be begging them to do the jive all week, pleeease do the jive Jay, it's the best dance Jay, it won't be the final without it Jay it was such a perfect moment the first time, they already did it the best they could possibly do it, and they wanted to pick a dance they could improve on. What absolute horseshit. Just do the fucking jive, princess, because it's what the people want to see. Honestly, I've had a long time to reconcile myself to Jay winning this series, and I've mostly been fine with it because he's done some good dances, particularly but not limited to The Holy Jive, but I really went right off him this week after he and Aliona spent their entire stint on It Takes Two disappearing right up their own arses about not sullying The Holy Jive by performing it again. What sort of champion doesn't want to perform their most famous dance again because they don't think they can do it as well as they did the first time? And sure, I'm cross because Anita's going to lose the 'highest scoring paso of the series' title in about three minutes' time, but I'm also cross because nobody wanted to see Bon Paso again anyway, so stop being so goddamn self-indulgent and do the fucking jive, you twit.

My pleas fall on deaf ears, so we have to see their paso to 'It's My Life' again. I would recap it, but you know what? I already recapped it once, and I recapped it to the best of my ability, and I really don't think I could improve on that recap, so I'm not going to recap it again. Instead, I'm going to recap this piece of toast. What a lovely piece of toast. I'm spreading Bertolli Light on it, and then some Marmite. I put it on a plate without cutting the toast. Then I pour myself a refreshing glass of milk, and I eat the lovely toast, which is delicious, occasionally stopping to drink the milk. It's not as technically precise as I would have liked (crumbs all around my mouth, for starters), but it's still very enjoyable. And that was my piece of toast. I know you came here to read my recap of Jay's paso, you guys, and I'm sorry, but I just have to be true to myself as an artist.

Len says that Jay has been the most consistent of all the contestants (like that time he scored 37 for his jive and then one week later scored 25 for his quickstep? Okay Len) because he's just given his all to every dance. This was powerful, aggressive and clean, and Len's loved watching Jay dance. Bruno says it was more loaded with power and artistry than ever, and Jay has perhaps the best arm movements he's ever seen on the show. Craig tells Jay that he had no personality when he started, and now he has drive, passion and he dances brilliantly. I mean, still none of those things are a personality Craig, but let's just get on, I've got places to go. Darcey loved the confidence that he brought onto the dancefloor, and declares him "number one in my book" [by virtue of having a penis - Rad].

Jay heads up to the Clauditorium where Claudia reminds him that at the beginning of the competition he was so scared he couldn't even talk to anyone, but look what he just did. Jay jokes that he's heavily tranquilised, and says that whatever happens now, that was the perfect end for him. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. #justiceforanita

Georgia and Giovanni are to follow that with their Chicago-themed charleston, and Chicago may or may not be Georgia's favourite song/movie/country this week, Tess doesn't actually clarify. Georgia has loved being on Strictly and will never forget it - her highs included being top of the leaderboard with her charleston, and her lows included being in the dance-off in the quarter-final. She's been quite surprised with her progress because, coming into the show, she thought she would be all about the latin and crap at ballroom, and indeed her week two waltz didn't go terribly well, but then she had a transformative moment in her ballroom with her American smooth in Blackpool. She says she's not used to getting instant reactions from an audience "being an actress in TV", but now that she's experienced it she wants to go into theatre. Georgia's proud parents appear, and her mum says that Georgia "bursts my heart" (aww), and Georgia hopes she could repay their faith in her by winning the competition. She tells us once again that she and her Joe Varney have been like brother and sister, including the occasional fight, and she really wants to do her charleston again because that was the point when she really started to feel like a dancer. She got 39 the first time around, but she knows she can do it better. You hear that, Jay? 39 first time around, and she knows she can do it better.

So Georgia and Giovanni do their charleston to 'Hot Honey Rag' once again, and I'm glad that they at least have an idea of how to end on a crowdpleaser because this is absolutely the one I would have voted for them to reprise. If I'm honest, I've always found Georgia a little bit dull even when I've been marvelling at the beauty of her performances, but she just completely comes alive in this one - the energy and joy absolutely shines out of her, and it's the perfect marriage of choreography and personality. She's absolutely fearless here too, hurling herself into some dangerous lifts and looking completely relaxed the whole way through. Watching this through for a second time, I'm actually getting goosebumps, it's that good. Let's just put it this way: Georgia's mum isn't the only one welling up when it's over. Well-played, Georgia May Foote. Well-played indeed.

Bruno tells them this was a "sparkling cracker of a charleston", and she's taken all of the Fosse references and put them in the right place and made them her own. She's really shown how she's grown as a dancer and a performer with great range. Craig tells her she has been extraordinary, and he thinks she's had one of the biggest journeys on the programme, from being a little bit insecure to learning how to tell stories through dance, and he would be very, very proud to put her into "any of my West End shows". Georgia cries with joy, and I assume she's trying to figure out if this legally constitutes a binding verbal contract. How many West End shows does Craig actually have, though? Darcey says it was full of "the naughty little Georgia that we like", not that she's patronising her at all, and she nailed it. Len says that he wrote down "pure joy" as she was dancing, and he calls her "a little fireball". He says that if he's ever asked what makes a terrific charleston, he's going to tell people to watch this one. Yeah, take that Hollins!

Georgia runs up to the Clauditorium, using her hat to hide her tear-stained face (hee), and Claudia cautions Georgia to make sure she watches Craig's shows before she signs any contracts. Ha! (Helen absolutely cracks up at this, which makes me laugh even more.) Claudia checks where Giovanni's crying, and he insists he isn't. He says he's so proud of Georgia for being amazing at dancing everything, including the charlesssston. Scores: Craig 10, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 40. Anything less would've been a crime. Georgia says that's a fantastic way to finish, and Giovanni says that he is over, over, over, OVER the moon. Bless.

The last couple of the series to dance is Kellie and Kevin. Also doing a charleston. After that. Now, I loved Kellie's Star Wars charleston, I think it was a good choice of dance to go out on in light of recent pop cultural events, I'm delighted we get to see it again...but the running order absolutely did her in here, because having to follow Georgia's perfect-score charleston with one that's a lot sillier and more knockabout is, I imagine, going to do serious damage to Kellie's momentum. Ah well. She was never going to win anyway. [Shame they didn't reprise this in show one and their AS in show two as that was a proper showstopping, pandering for votes number - Rad]

In her VT, Kellie says that doing Strictly is one of the best things she's ever done, and Kevin says they've just genuinely had a brilliant time. One of Kellie's personal highlights was Blackpool, because she got to dance with five boys instead of one, and Kevin praises Kellie for just running with whatever daft idea he had on any given week. He thinks she's been the perfect partner. Kellie loved getting to do some proper Fred 'n' Ginge for her American smooth, and she feels so lucky that she got to do this show with Kevin Clifton of the Grimsby Cliftons. She wells up a little bit when she thinks about how much Kevin has given her (phrasing), even to the point of holding her up when she was too exhausted to stand, and he never raised his voice or got cross with her. Danny Dyer says she deserves to win, "no disrespect to none of the other finalists", and Kellie's cute husband says that she's amazing and he's very proud of her. They've chosen their charleston to close their time on the show because they had so much fun doing it, and it feels like a fitting end because they get to be überdorks one last time. Kellie says that as far as she's concerned, they're winners whatever happens. Which is just as well.

So they charleston one last time to 'Cantina Band' (which is apparently actually called 'Mad About Me' - who knew?), and I still love this routine. I love the way they flip a switch and turn from serious intergalactic rebels into goofy charleston dancers, I love the little performance accents that they give it, I love the shit-eating grins they both have as they do a little shimmy right down the camera, I love how the whole thing really doesn't make any sense at all and yet is somehow completely compelling all the same. My only reservations are that they're still not quite synchronised in some of the side-by-side sections, and that I still feel that the dance fizzles out a little bit - the final lift is very anticlimactic, and I rather hoped that, since this would be the close of the series as far as the performances were concerned, Kevin might have made it into something more snazzy. But, as ever, I understand that Kellie has two jobs and is exhausted and that there probably just wasn't time.

Kellie's overjoyed and, I think, mostly relieved when it's all over and Karen's welling up again on the balcony. Tess asks if they could be worthy winners based on that, and Craig says that everyone in the final now deserves it. Judicious use of "now" there, Craig. He thinks Kellie is one of the most exciting performers on the show, and her energy and commitment have been extraordinary. Darcey calls her the princess of precision, and was impressed once again with the precision and synchronicity of the performance, and calls it "perfection". Len says that he loves watching them, they bring joy to his heart, and he thinks Kellie deserves to win. Bruno says that this was even better the second time around because he could appreciate the wit, the inventiveness and the attention to detail. He's loved the quirky details they've been putting in all season, and the way they've continued to surprise him all series long. He thinks she can deliver the ace when she's required to, and that's worthy of a champion.

They force themselves up to the Clauditorium, where Kellie says that she loves Len too, and she adds there were a few dances she considered choosing - with Kevin adding that she tried to get him to do 'Boom! Shake The Room' - but this one just felt like it summed them up somehow. She thinks that the whole experience won't hit her until it's over and she can sit back with a cup of tea, but it's been wonderful and she's loved every single second of it. Scores are in: Craig 9, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 39. Kellie says she's very happy with that, but there are shouts within the Clauditorium that it was undermarked. (I don't think so, there's no way they could've marked it on a par with Georgia's, and I say that as someone who voted for Kellie to win nine times.)

Final, irrelevant leaderboard?

1. Kellie & Kevin - 40 + 40 + 39 = 119
2. Georgia & Giovanni - 36 + 36 + 40 = 112
3. Jay & Aliona - 36 + 35 + 39 = 110

Claudia tells everyone to grab their favourite prop from the series as she reads the terms and conditions one last time, and Jamelia and Kirsty realise they don't have any props within reach, so they just grab each other. Heh.

After a recap of all of our top three's performances, it's time to find out what the public liked best about this year's show in a filler VT. They included: the porn train, Daniel O'Donnell's quiff, Jeremy's dad dancing, the new pros, Gleb, the Gleb Special, the thought of being held by Giovanni, Oti even though she went out early, Movie Week, Peter Andre being sexy, Kirsty dressing up as a dog, The Holy Jive, Blackpool, Anita's paso, Anton making the final, the female celebrities in general, Carol living her best life, Helen George being lush, Jamelia being a trouper despite her dance-off woes, Musicals Week, Georgia's paso, watching with their grans, Darcey, Craig mellowing, Len's one-liners, Bruno falling off his chair, thinking about Strictly 2016. (Imagine your actual highlight of the series being Georgia's paso, though. Imagine.)

Then in "sing up, luv" corner we have Ellie Goulding performing 'Love Me Like You Do' and somehow managing to be nearly inaudible despite singing right into a microphone. Thank goodness Oti and Gleb and Aljaž and Janette are here to do some showboating right in front of her and make this somehow not a waste of everyone's time.

And that's it - Tess declares the lines officially closed, so while the independent adjudicators tot up just how many million votes Jay has won by, it's time for us to check back in with the class of 2015. Anita says that nothing in her life could have prepared her for Strictly, and Helen can only barely remember stepping off The Porn Train during the launch show. Anthony felt like a star for a little while. Kirsty remembers being scared as the partners were being handed out, and Anita remembers wanting to be partnered with Gleb when she first saw him, while Carol wanted Pasha from the off. Ainsley remembers how hard the working was, and Jamelia remembers doubting her dance ability on the first day of training. Peter recalls being stressed every Monday worrying if he was ever going to get the routine, and Kirsty now has a Pavlovian fear of Alan Dedicoat's voice. Anthony remembers his trousers splitting during his jive, Carol remembers forgetting her cha cha cha, Jamelia remembers being desperate for validation, Ainsley longs to drag all the judges into the kitchen and tell them they're chopping an onion wrong. Peter remembers getting his first 10 from Len, Jamelia loved getting into character for the theme weeks, Helen particularly loved being Marilyn Monroe for movie week. Peter still gets kids telling him that they loved him as Captain Jack Sparrow. (Yes, Peter actually mentioned kids without telling us that he loves his. Perhaps he really is evolving.) Daniel loved being Danny Zukko with his Tea-Birds, Carol loved having two Pashas fighting over her for Hallowe'en VT purposes, and Jeremy realises how sad he was after he got eliminated because he'd had so much fun. Everyone loved each other and nobody wanted to see anyone go home, and Anita thinks she's one of the luckiest people on Earth because she's one of the few to have "the Strictly experience" and she will treasure it forever. Daniel tries to mimic Craig's "fab-u-lous" and sounds so very bored, and then everyone tries to sum up the experience in one word: Jamelia goes for "rollercoaster", Anthony for "exciting", Ainsley for "unique", Carol for "exhilarating", Daniel for "amazing", Kirsty for "incredible", Jeremy for "overpowering", Peter for "fantabadosa", Anita for "exhausting", Helen for "unforgettable" and Iwan for "fabulous". I wonder how many of them picked a word someone else had already chosen and had to come up with another one, like on Family Fortunes.

That seems like as good a cue as any for the class of 2015 to return to the floor, doesn't it? They're dancing ("dancing", in some cases, with thanks as ever to Jamelia for the sarcasm-quotes) to 'Do You Love Me' by the Contours, and it starts with Daniel, sitting in the Clauditorium and weeping over a pillow with Kristina's face on it and Iwan doing the same to one of Ola, with Ainsley offering them each a tissue. Well, you could certainly read this little tableau in more than one way, couldn't you? Then Pasha, Gleb, Tristan, Jeremy, Brendan and Aljaž appear, and it could just be the camera position, but it looks as though Iwan accidentally hits Aljaž in the face. They lip-sync to the chorus and part to reveal Ola doing her final dance EVER on the show atop the chairs and Iwan doing the worm. Anthony throws a few punches inside a mocked-up boxing ring with Oti, Karen, Janette, Joanne and Natalie dancing around, and I'm no doctor but I still don't think his shoulder has fully recovered. Daniel skips by apparently doing some sort of ceilidh with Kristina, and then the music transitions into 'I Only Want To Be With You' as Ainsley stands by the judges' desk while Tristan, Aljaž and Gleb wave cards with green peppers and red tomatoes on them. Gleb clearly has no idea what any of this means and is just grinning his way through it, and I love him for it. Brendan and Kirsty chomp on the same strand of spaghetti, but thankfully Kirsty is not dressed as a dog this time. Carol holds up a glittery umbrella while Gleb, Aljaž and Tristan conga past and chuck glitter at her (life goals, right here) and then Pasha descends on a cloud again! Jeremy rides in on a horse pushed by Brendan and Tristan and attempts to lasso Karen, but pulls in Craig instead, brandishing his 3 paddle. Then, in possibly my favourite part of the whole routine, Jamelia leads all the female pros (minus Aliona, of course) in a 'Proud Mary' jive and even does an assisted somersault with Tristan, and then Peter just gets across the stage. Hee. Helen swoops in to be borne aloft by Aljaž and Anita gets one last Gleb Special and then finally everybody assembles for a dramatic end pose. You know, it really was a good cast this year. [Except Iwan.  And Antony's shoulder. - Rad]

We go from that into a teaser trailer for the Christmas special, which is apparently going to contain some fairly terrifying costumes and special guest star Shirley Bassey. Yes to all that.

The end is in sight as the class of 2015 joins Claudia in the Clauditorium, where Daniel says that he's been singing to everyone via video message when they've been stressed late at night. Helen says she's really missed being with everyone, and it's been really emotional watching those clips back. Claudia asks Jeremy what people say to him in the street now, and he answers an entirely different question by saying how much everyone has loved their professional partners (obviously not IN THAT WAY, no scandal here, although he says that he did hug Craig earlier so maybe the Strictly curse has a new form now?). Carol says she's so proud of everyone and they're all winners as far as she's concerned. Ainsley says this has been a really special year in terms of the camaraderie, and everyone's been so cheerful - even Tess and Claudia. Claudia asks Peter who the naughtiest person was during group rehearsals, and Peter says it was absolutely Iwan. And that's that.

Just to make sure there is absolutely no danger of, say, having time to reveal who is in third place and having a quick exit chat with them before revealing the winner, we get a VT of the judges talking about the top three. What is even left to say at this point? It's been such a close competition (lies), everyone's been so extraordinary, Georgia has learned how to ballroom, Jay is the last man standing, Jay is for Jayourney, That Jive, Kellie is full of joy and a brilliant performer, apparently nobody else could've done that Viennese waltz, she's a fighter and never gives up, all of them are technically great and great performers, they all deserve to win.

It's time for that final result. The Strictly Come Dancing champions of 2015 are...Jay and Aliona, of course. Kellie and Georgia both put up a good fight at the end, but the Jay train has been rolling for 10 weeks now and there was no way of stopping it. Like I said earlier, I think he's been good across the series, but I really wish it had felt like he'd actually turned up for this final, because he kind of sleepwalked through it and, on the basis of the dances performed tonight, he doesn't feel like the right winner, which is a shame. As it is, he joins Darren, Tom, Chris and Louis in the ranks of celebrities to win from the bottom of the leaderboard, and Natasha, Darren, Alesha, Tom and Kara in the ranks of celebrities who won without ever receiving a perfect score and... I dunno, I feel like both of these could have been fairly easily avoided?

Anyway, to the runners-up: Georgia just wanted to get to the final and she's done that, and Giovanni tells her she's become an amazing dancer. Kellie has had the best time and she's glad she got to be here to the very end and do as many dances as possible. She wanted to entertain everybody, and she hopes she's done that. (Also, let's hope 2016 is finally the year where Kevin knows what position he finished in, eh?)

But Jay and Aliona are our champions, and Aliona is the first pro ever to win twice (lol). Jay says that he feels spaced out, and Aliona deserves this so much. It's been one of the most special things he's ever done, with the most special person, and he's really happy that people liked what he was doing. Claudia summons the rest of the cast back in and Jamelia's at the front, making a beeline for Kellie and Kevin. A weeping Jay gets lifted into the air on Aljaž's and Gleb's shoulders (what a way to go out, amirite?), 'Flashdance (What A Feeling)' plays, gold confetti erupts from the ceiling, Jay weeps some more, everybody hugs everybody, and we're done.

And that's it for the 2015 series, but Rad will be here at some point post-Christmas with a recap of the Christmas special. Thank you all for sticking with us once again, we really do appreciate your support and your comments, and we hope that you all get a Gleb special for Christmas. Bye!

Charge of the Bright brigade

Week 13: The Final (Part 1) - 19 December 2015

As we cycle through a flipbook of the fallen contestants of the series so far, Tess reminds us that we started with 15 couples and now we're down to four. It's the final week, which means three dances (for three of them) and their busiest schedule ever (Alesha and Matt would like a word about their five-dance final now, thanks) as they train, do a press conference, appear on It Takes Two, stop by 10 Downing Street to talk to some ham-faced loser, and, in Kellie's case, prop up a bar in the fictional East End next to Danny Dyer. They're busy, they're excited, they're...ready, they think? Tonight, one of them will be declared the champion, and it will be Jay because we've all known that since week three, but we still have 155 minutes of airtime to fill tonight so let's have ourselves a bit of dancing, yes?

A re-edited version of the titles plays that places our four finalists at the very end (in the following order, just in case anyone cares: Georgia, Jay, Katie, Kellie) and I'm struck by how strange it is that while it feels like this series passed by pretty quickly, it also feels about three years ago that Anthony Ogogo was on the show. Time is a peculiar thing indeed.

We open with a group dance number to 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody', a song that is famously a curse for those who perform it on reality TV. Does this mean that none of our finalists are going to win now? Perhaps the whole competition will be declared null and void at the last moment and Caroline Flack gets to stay the winner for another 12 months. Anyway, Georgia, Katie and Kellie are positioned around a make-up table backstage while Jay paces up and down nervously (because of course boys don't wear make-up, not even on television), then Special Guest Star Hot Greg The Floor Manager appears and tells them all it's time to take their positions. As they run up the stairs, Gleb bursts through the curtains (Gleb can burst through my curtains any time etc) and party-Latins around the crew before picking up Anita and whirling her around, then Karen cavorts down the corridor and strokes Daniel's face before they pull back another curtain revealing Darcey and Bruno (Darcey committing to the piece as much as you would expect). Janette then appears in the control room and drags Peter away from a terminal lest he try to write some of his terrible jokes on an aston and superimpose them onto the broadcast, then she heads out into the corridor where she's joined by Natalie and Oti, who lead us down to wardrobe where Ola, P45 tucked into her bosom, emerges through a clothing rail (probably the first time in her ten years on this show that Ola has burst into some clothes) and gives us an all-too-brief glimpse of Pasha before disappearing behind a divider and turning into Ainsley, who's in his penguin outfit again, the poor guy. In the background Craig is ironing a shirt which he then throws to Gleb, who is now topless (♥) while a leopardprint coat-wearing Tess covers a similarly attired Claudia in fake tan, then Pasha dances while Tristan cleans some shoes and Kristina and Brendan dance down a corridor past Jeremy who is wearing tails and a shower cap (this is getting quite surreal now), then Anthony and Iwan emerge from behind another clothing rail and run off with it, revealing that Helen was also hiding behind it. Helen hurries down the corridor, past Len who's busy with the hair and make-up department, and calls the lift, which opens to reveal Aljaž in a compromising position with Carol, Jamelia and Kirsty. (Personally I think a better gag here would've been Giovanni with Georgia's boyfriend, but I guess not everyone shares my sense of humour.) Aljaž races through to the studio to dance with Janette, who either doesn't know what he was just up to or is surprisingly forgiving. The pros dance on the main floor underneath giant banners reading (l-r) GEORGIA, JAY, KATIE and KELLIE. Kevin and Anton are on the staircases vamping as hard as they can, while Aliona is perched on the judges' desk and Giovanni is off wandering around Soh--sorry, he's actually there, in the middle of the floor. My mistake. The banners drop one by one to reveal our four finalists standing above the floor in giant frames which gradually drop to the floor. Given how...merry Katie always looks, I'm surprised they got clearance from their insurers to put her up there in the first place. They make their way to the front and strike their end pose. Georgia is late, in case anyone's interested.

Tess and Daly arrive, escorted by Aljaž and Brendan respectively. There's something very odd about Alan Dedicoat's delivery of Tess's name tonight; it's like "please welcome your hosts...Tess Daly?!", like he can't quite believe it. I mean, most of us can't quite believe she has this job either, Alan, but you really should try to remain professional about it. Tess is wearing a purple-grey strapless dress with a plum-coloured cincher around her waist that gives her a sort of hourglass illusion, and Claudia is wearing a floor-length black gown with a v-shaped cutout at the front that's covered in lace. Claudia looks good, Tess looks slightly uncomfortable, but they've been dressing her surprisingly well all series so I guess I can permit an off-night. As Claudia and Tess rattle off this evening's agenda, there's a cut to the friends and family of the finalists in the front row, and Katie's husband is wearing a truly terrifying suit covered in Batman-esque sound-effect clouds. Do you think he goes to the Proms like that? Maybe Katie bought that for him at the end of a three-day bender and he's just wearing it out of politeness? Who knows?

The judges enter to the band's rendition of 'I'm So Excited'. Nobody does The Strictly, but Darcey does misjudge a spin around Bruno and almost crashes into Len. Our experts, everybody! And then we have the entrance of our finalists: Kellie and Kevin, Katie and Anton, Georgia and Giovanni and Jay and Aliona. Judging from their outfits, it seems safe to assume that the judges' choice dances are tango, quickstep, rumba and quickstep respectively. Tess reminds us that all four finalists have topped the leaderboard and any one of them could be our winner. As long as that one is Jay.

Claudia reminds us, as if we needed telling, that the first round is judges' choice, a reprisal of a previous performance that the judges think the contestants could improve on. It says here. After that, the phone lines will open and we can vote while we watch the showdances, which Tess accidentally refers to as "the most breath-tanking dances of the competition". This will turn out to be a rather apt description. The "tanking" part, anyway. Claudia reminds us that the couple with the fewest votes will be booted out at the start of the results show, after which the remaining three couples will perform their favourite dance of the series.

Jay and Aliona are on first, and the judges have selected his quickstep from week four, back when he was riding the crest of the holy jive wave only to have his surfboard sliced in half by the SS Clumsy Footwork. Speaking of clumsy footwork, in his VT Jay admits that he was pretty sloppy in his Viennese waltz, and the judges' marks were more generous than he was expecting. I'm pretty sure his opinion was not shared by the Digital Spy forumites, who had pitchforks and torches and were all set to raze Casa Len to the ground last week. Jay hopes that he'll go out with a bang this weekend, whatever happens. The reveal of the judges' choice inexplicably takes place in a faux-cinema, where Darcey tells him he's got the quickstep, and Jay says he's hoping that he'll prove he can do it cleanly this time. Len points out that this was Jay's lowest score of the entire competition, and I must admit that I'd forgotten he'd ever gone as low as 25. Jay says that there's no room for mistakes this time around, and he's going to concentrate on this dance more than any of the others. He adds that even to get "just a pat on the back" they'll need to be technically perfect, which is hilarious considering a lot of what's going to happen later tonight.

Back in the studio, Jay and Aliona reprise their quickstep to 'My Generation', and I realise how much I disliked a) the stupid graduation selfie framing device and b) the actual choreography of this routine. That's part of the problem with judges' choice for me: yes, it gives the contestants an opportunity to correct their previous mistakes, but this often leads to us having to sit through a routine that nobody particularly wanted to see again. I mean, if you were genuinely hankering for a second viewing of Jay's quickstep, by all means tell me I'm wrong in the comments, but considering that the Holy Jive is not getting a second outing tonight, it seems particularly galling to have to revisit this mess. [Seriously.  I'd rather see the missing dance than judges' choice TBH - Rad] It's a bit of a mixed bag: Jay's footwork is improved and the confidence he's gained in ballroom since the first time he did it is clear, but the whole thing feels a bit placid and lacking in energy to me, which really should not be happening in a quickstep, Aliona clearly trips at one point (not Jay's fault, as far as I can tell, but still an unfortunate error) and there are some obvious gapping problems in about a third of the routine. Not Clancy-level terrible, but certainly disappointing for a finals quickstep. Also, on an entirely superficial level, dusky pink is a terrible colour on Aliona and washes her right out.

Jay describes the atmosphere in the studio as "electric" and Tess introduces the singers, who have an extra Chris in their number tonight, as well as Dave Arch and his wunnerful orchestra. Len says that he didn't want Jay to put a foot wrong, but there were a few slip-ups. It was, however, quick, slick and a vast improvement on the last time. Bruno says that he thinks it was actually Aliona who went wrong, and Jay shakes his head violently, but it's Aliona's reaction that cracks me up: she starts off shaking her head before realising that if she doesn't claim responsibility for the errors than everyone will assume that Jay was to blame, so then she changes her mind and starts nodding. Hee. Bruno describes Jay as "twinkle-toes" and says that when he gets it right he's stupendous, but when the quality is that high, even the slightest mistake can spoil it. Craig says it "wasn't perfect". but Jay danced around the floor with great ease and maintained his top line throughout and kept his thumb down throughout the whole routine - he's a lovely dancer and a joy to watch. Darcey admires the complexity of the routine and calls the performance "divine" - she thinks Jay led Aliona beautifully, despite the tiny mistakes.

Jay gets a hero's welcome in the Clauditorium, where Claudia asks him if it was nerve-wracking going first, and he says it was: normally he likes being the first one out because then you can just relax and enjoy watching the others, but that wouldn't have applied tonight anyway. Aliona says that she was pleased to get to do the quickstep again, and that she actually said back in week four that she wanted them to be in the dance-off so Jay could show the public how well he could really do this dance. Scores: Craig 9, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 36. Claudia points out that this is an 11-point improvement on last time. As a special treat for the final, Claudia ushers in Mary Berry to read the terms and conditions. She says "excess charges" instead of "access charges", but maybe she has a secret axe to grind against price-gouging telecomms operators?

Georgia and Giovanni are up next, and Georgia says she put all her energy into the semi-final. They arrive at the CineJudge, where Bruno tells them that they've been allocated the rumba for this round, and Georgia says she's love to do that again. Georgia asks what she should do this time around to improve her score, and Craig says she needs to work on the hip action. Len, verbatim: "for me, there wasn't enough rumba content. Just do it as you did it, just put in a little bit more fundamental basic choreography." Right, so do it exactly as before but change everything, gotcha. Thanks Len! Georgia thinks this is a chance for redemption, but she's worried because the rumba is such a hard dance. Georgia, it's only a hard dance for men. You're not a man, silly!

They reprise their rumba to - oh god - 'Writing's On The Wall', and per Len's instruction it is now much more rumba and much less Bondstravaganza. Now, I like the rumba so I feel bad about saying this, but...I think I liked it better the way it was? It's well-danced by Georgia though, and I think she has definitely improved a lot since the first time she did it because this feels a lot more placed and precise, and there's more hip action in it. It's just not really been a particularly strong year for rumbas (don't ask me to name a particularly strong year for rumbas, I'm not sure I could) and I suppose this was one of the better ones, but it still feels a bit of an underwhelming dance to reprise in the final.

Bruno says he's "totally smitten by the sex kitten" and he thought she was stretching and bending like she was made of spandex. He thought there was much more content this time, but a little bit of a balance issue this time around. Craig says she was using her hips beautifully, he loved the intensity and the choreography, and he thought the back bend in particular was delicious. Darcey thinks Georgia has "grown into this beautiful, sensual lady" (blerk) and she delivered all the goods. Darcey wasn't bothered by the balance issue because the tension was so amazing. Len thinks you couldn't get more content, and apologises for being quite so demanding in asking for it last time, but "the proof is in the pudding".



(deep, cleansing breath)

No, Len, the proof is not in the pudding. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Do you see how the latter is a complete, logical thought, and the first is JUST A LOAD OF RANDOM WORDS THAT MAKE NO FUCKING SENSE? DO YOU? DO YOU?!?!?!

Oh, curses. Well, I tried to respond reasonably, and I almost managed it.

Georgia and Giovanni scoot up to the Clauditorium where Claudia gives a shout-out to Georgia's mum, who has apparently "not stopped crying" all night. Ooh, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Scores: nines all round again for a total of 36. Len's nine generates the most excitement from Giovanni, for obvious reasons, and it's a nine-point improvement from their first score.

Our third couple to perform is Kellie and Kevin, who will be reprising their tango - which was the very first competitive dance of the series. Kellie declares the semi-final "completely bonkers", and Kevin says that going from two dance-offs to topping the leaderboard in the semi-final is what dreams are made of. I would've thought their dreams wouldn't involve being in the dance-off at all, but there you go. At the Judgiplex, Len tells them that he wants to see their tango again, and Kellie says that she's really happy about that. Craig tells her she needs to tidy up the links and just exaggerate the moves a bit more. Well, that shouldn't be a problem. Len says "get a bit of fire in the belly, Kellie". Kellie says she rewatched her tango a few weeks ago and thought that she loved it, but she'd like another go at it - and now she's got one. Kellie works on those pesky shoulders in rehearsals, and says that she's looking forward to doing it again.

Their tango, in case you've forgotten, was Sixties-themed and danced to 'You Really Got Me'. I'm a little bit disappointed by how much of a straightforward repeat this is; considering that Giovanni made a point of adding more rumba content to Georgia's routine for this round, I would've liked Kevin to have removed some of the vamping and faffing at the top that accounts for about a third of the runtime of this tango and replaced it with some, y'know, actual tango. I appreciate that Kellie has the biggest workload of everyone remaining and may not have had as much time to do a complete choreographic overhaul, but at the same time: it's the final, and I'd really like to see a bit more dance content than we have here. Now that I've got that particular bugbear out of the way, what tango there actually is in the routine is greatly improved, you can see it in her posture and in the clinical precision of her footwork. Again, it's a good routine to demonstrate how far she's come, but not necessarily a routine I was that excited about seeing in the final.

As Kellie and Kevin head over to Tess, there's a chant of "10! 10! 10! 10!" coming from the Clauditorium which, going by everyone's reactions, does seem to be entirely spontaneous. The Clauditorium does appear to be firmly Team Kellie for most of the evening but, as was pointed out to me on Twitter last night, that might just be because it's full of Cliftons. Craig says that all of Kellie's hard work has paid off and he loved her slow, deliberate heels in the turn section. Darcey says she loved this routine before, but the difference in her frame and top line now is YUMMEH. Oh god, I was hoping we'd get through an entire series without YUMMEH, I really was. Len says they've "ironed out all the kinks" (groan) and that routine was brilliant. Bruno finishes by saying that is how you rock a tango, and he likes to see things that are different and imaginative, but at the same time this was exactly what a tango should be.

They scream up to the Clauditorium and the chants for tens continue, and Kellie says that the best thing about today is having all the gang back in the Clauditorium. Claudia asks Kellie if she remembered the routine from all those weeks ago, and Kellie says that she didn't - she's learned a lot of dances since then. Claudia: "Yes, I know, I've had six children since." Scores: Craig 10, Darcey 10, Len 10, Bruno 10 for a total of 40. Kevin absolutely loses his shit at Craig's 10, and someone in the audience leaps to their feet for Len's, blocking the view of the Lencam in the process. Hee. Personally, while I think this was the strongest performance of round one by a considerable margin, I don't think it was a 40 - there just wasn't enough content in it for me, and I just can't see this being one of those classic tangos that I want to rewatch on YouTube in years to come. [It did feel like a 40 for the sake of having a 40 at some point.  As tangos this series go, the one I'd have most liked to see again was Jay and Aliona's - Rad] Claudia points out that this was the first 40 of the series, and also Kevin's first 10 ever from Craig. "Thank you, Kellie!" squeals Kevin. Bless. Kellie says that she can't believe it, and she feels like she's just won the competition. And this is as close as she's ever going to get to that feeling, so I suppose she might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

Rounding off the first, er, round, it's Katie "Durr-hum" and Anton with their quickstep. Tess says that they scored sixes and sevens the first time they did this, but "sixes and sevens won't cut it tonight." Awkward. In her VT, Katie remembers her charleston going pretty terribly, but the upside of having two dances is that you get a chance to redeem yourself, which she sort of did, even though her second dance wasn't great either. She wasn't surprised to be in the dance-off, but because the judges were never going to vote for Gleb's salsa-showdance over some classic ballroom (well, apart from Craig, but he's frequently an outlier), she managed to defeat Anita and make her way into the final. At the Strictly movie house, everyone makes the occasion far more about Anton than about Katie as per usual, and Craig tells them they've been given the quickstep because Katie got a bit lost the first time they did it. "I might get it right this time, so it's nice to have another chance," giggles Katie. Len hopes she'll do a better job of keeping up this time now that she's more experienced. Katie says that she loves the routine, and she's glad to have another chance to do it. Last time, they got 26, and Katie thinks they "should be able to improve those marks by 10 at least" this time. [Because of final score inflation? - Rad] Welp.

Their quickstep - to '42nd Street', lest we forget - starts one more with a cane-capers section, and she only just escaped this section unscathed last time, but she's not so fortunate this time around: as she flicks the cane over her shoulder, she catches the brim of her boater and knocks it and somehow it gets stuck on her face, and I'm not a horrible person, honestly I'm not, but this absolutely cracks me up because Katie, god love her, keeps going while trying to wrestle the damn facehugger off and she just can't get it free, and eventually has to knock it off with her free hand. Poor Katie. I almost want to hand her the glitterball right there and then just for doing her best to style her way through that. One thing's for sure: I've never seen someone to look quite so relieved to get to the bit where she gets to take her hat off and lob it offstage. Her performance is an improvement on the last one in that she doesn't look quite so hopelessly outmatched in it, but a lot of the old problems persist nonetheless: keeping up with Anton takes so much of her focus that her frame and her hold suffers, leading to some gaps that you could stage a Julie Taymor production in, there's what looks like a very serious stumble near the end, and by the time she reaches the final side-by-side section she's completely out of sync with Anton. It's a shame.

Darcey tells Katie that she never fails to be "the beautiful classy lady" that we see every week (I had to rewind that three times because I was convinced that Darcey was calling her a "party lady" and basically outing her as a drunk) and she could feel the pressure that Katie was under - she got nearly all the way through, but fell apart at the end where Darcey thought she could sense Katie internally screaming out to Anton for help. Len says she "more or less" kept up, but she moved so fast she could've ended up on "43rd Street", and he loves her posture in ballroom. Bruno calls her "always so lush" (*eyebrow*) and says that her suspensions were better, and while she hit a few bumps again, she recovered much better this time. Tess asks if they've proved themselves worthy finalists, and Craig says that the hat issue threw her off from the beginning and there were gapping problems throughout, but it was a major improvement on last time. Anton says to wait until next week where there'll be an even bigger improvement. Heh.

They pick up their canes (though not those evil hats) and make their way to the Clauditorium, where Katie says that she loves this routine, but she thinks that she and hats are just not destined to get on (remember, her hat fell off during her foxtrot in Musicals Week as well). Anton thinks he preferred Katie's choreography, "perhaps I should have been up to speed with it". Heh. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 8 for a total of 31 - five points up on last time, but the lowest scoring finals dance since Matt Dawson's samba in series four.

Round one leaderboard:

1. Kellie & Kevin - 40
2=. Jay & Aliona - 36
2=. Georgia & Giovanni - 36
4. Katie & Anton - 31

Claudia reminds us that the judges' scores are "just for guidance" tonight and then declares the phone lines open. She asks for no fun and games during the terms and conditions at this difficult time, so of course everyone breaks out in silent hijinks behind her. My favourites are somebody near the back (I can't quite make out who) holding up a sign that says "SHE'S SAID THIS 48 TIMES ALREADY") and Oti attacking Brendan repeatedly with an inflatable guitar.

After a recap of the performances so far, it's time for the showdances which, Claudia reminds us, are where the rulebook just gets thrown in the bin. And yet the judges score it anyway. That's never entirely made sense to me.

Jay and Aliona are up first, and Tess involves That Jive to get our expectations up nice and high. In his VT, Jay says that it's going to be a greatest hits routine (SIGH) but with everything modified to make it bigger and showier. Jay says that doing so many different styles is quite confusing and muscle memory quite often leads him into the wrong steps, and Aliona admits that she's pushing Jay harder than ever with this choreography. Jay hopes that all the hard work pays off, Aliona tells him that Jay has been amazing since day one, and Jay tells her that he couldn't have asked for a better teacher.

They're dancing to 'Can't Feel My Face' by The Weeknd (no, me neither) and expectations are certainly high as the whole thing starts on a platform suspended above the dancefloor, with Jay hanging upside down. I can only assume this is a nod to Spider-Man, except he's not wearing a mask and they don't kiss. But, y'know, apart from that. The platform gradually lowers, and when it reaches the floor Jay rights himself and takes Aliona in his arms. It truly is the mish-mash of styles that we were promised, but the main problem is that none of the individual parts are particularly exciting, and neither is the whole. By the time we've reached Jay finger-walking up Aliona's chest and down her back, I think it's perfectly clear that this one's a bit of a dud. I can remember my heart sinking when the music was clearly gearing up to end, and I felt like the routine hadn't even started; this was just such a total non-event to me. Anita's salsa was more of a showdance than this was, I feel absolutely cheated.

Tess calls that "all your greatest moves in one routine", although I didn't see anything like enough of the Holy Jive in there to be honest. Len says it was "like a trip down memory lane" (indeed at one point I think Jay's fingers took a trip down mammary lane), but he personally would've liked a bit more "show" in the showdance. It was lovely, and what was there was danced well, but it wasn't spectacular enough for Len's liking. Bruno feels like he got wrongfooted by the promise of a superhero extravaganza at the beginning (you and me both, Tonioli), but he did a very good "pick 'n' mix" of ballroom 'n' latin. Still, the first image stayed in his mind, and the rest of the routine didn't live up to it. Craig says he was really disappointed because he knows Jay's capable of much more, and this felt like a cop-out. He loved the opening, and if he'd had his druthers it would have ended like that as well with Jay spiralling back into the ceiling. He felt there was no build and no climax, even though all of the dancing was done brilliantly. Darcey thinks he's "the cool cat of technique", and she had high expectations of him as the last man standing and she wanted a little surprise, so while it was seamless, she wanted it to go out with a bang and it didn't. Bruno chips in again that they're not criticising the dancing, just the framing and the construction of the piece. Aliona says that she'll take all the blame, and Tess hollers "WELL THE AUDIENCE LOVED IT", because they've been shown to be such discerning consumers so far.

Claudia consoles Jay by telling him that everyone around her was going nuts for it, and she loved that it was like a jigsaw of every dance. Aliona says she tweaked all the moves to make them more difficult, so they're not the same as the ones they danced before. God NO ONE CARES ALIONA, JUST DO SOME FANCY LIFTS, IT'S NOT EXACTLY FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM. Jay says he loved it and he wouldn't have wanted a single step different (because he's winning anyway and this makes absolutely no difference). Scores are in: Craig 8, Darcey 9, Len 9, Bruno 9 for a total of 35. That's the same score as Mark Wright's weaksauce showdance last year, which feels fair enough.

Hopefully Georgia and Giovanni can restore our faith in the showdance now with their routine, which Tess promises will be "innovative" and "challenging" but also "traditional". Well, that doesn't sound very encouraging. In the VT, Giovanni says this dance is quite dangerous, and there's "a small thing in the beginning that will be a little bit different". I wonder if it's the first time he's had to say that to somebody. Georgia thinks their "little secret" is a risk and it could go horribly wrong, but she just has to put her trust in Giovanni, which is something she's learned to do. She reflects that it could be her final dance of the series, but that it's a heck of a note to go out on. She thanks Giovanni for bringing this side of her out, and Giovanni calls her his "little sister". God, remember at the beginning of the series when we were convinced they paired these two together so they could start SEXY SHOWMANCE RUMOURS? How naive we were. Giovanni tells her that she can win, and Georgia wells up, saying that she doesn't want it to end. Eh, you're on the tour, you've still got until mid-February yet.

They're dancing to 'Fix You' by Coldplay and the little secret that they were alluding to is that Georgia starts the dance blindfolded. According to my reliable informers who still watch the flaming pile of garbage that is Dancing With The Stars, Derek Hough already did it. Georgia does her very best soap opera blind acting (i.e. she paws at her eye sockets) and they break into some contempowaft rumba steps. Georgia dances pretty well for someone who can't see, but her balance is a bit of an issue again. Giovanni lifts her over his head and lays her onto the floor, and then just as the band get to the title of the song, he fixes her by removing the blindfold DO YOU SEE. Then Giovanni starts pointing things out to her and Georgia does similarly terrible "omg I can see!" acting (seriously, this is her day job?) and then they break into what seems like some sort of Viennese waltz/tango fusion with some lifts thrown in. Again, the dancing itself is fine, but the concept is just saccharine and dull, so I'm nought for two on the showdances so far tonight. [Yup.  What the hell were they thinking with these?  Worst showdances since Flavia stuck Louis on that big birthing ball- Rad] 

Bruno calls it "Fifty Shades Of Green" (because they were wearing green, although isn't that Dorien's book in Birds of a Feather?) and he loved the fusion element, but warns her about that darned shoulder once again. He loved the chemistry and intensity and the storytelling, though. Craig enjoyed it even though the shoulder was creeping up, and he loved the blindfold section most of all - he thought Georgia did a particularly good job of going down Giovanni's back when she didn't know where the floor was. Darcey says it was such a wonderful start, lyrical and smooth, and she was impressed by how Georgia took off immediately after getting into hold. Len loved the fusion too and the poignant opening - it was a great dance, and Georgia's a lovely ballroom dancer.

A thankfully non-blindfolded Georgia scampers up to the Clauditorium where Georgia says this meant a lot to her, and that taking the blindfold off was like having her eyes opened to everything that Gio's taught her. (I'm still not entirely convinced that she doesn't think his name is actually Joe Varney, by the way.) Giovanni says that he made her proud, and she apologises for the shoulder. Scores: all the nines again for a total of 36.

Kellie and Kevin are next with a lindyhop (ie charleston with more lifts) showdance, set aboard a train. I wonder if it'll be the porn train from the launch show? In the VT, Kevin suggests they go "full-on, high-energy, lifts, kicks, tricks, lindyhop-style". Kellie declares herself very much in. Kevin says that it's been exhausting to rehearse, and Kellie giggles that she's fallen on her arse three times so far today and almost fallen on her head a few times too, but she's sure it's just because she's tired. When you factor in how Kellie's clearly been knackered since about week seven, it's a minor miracle that she's still upright at all. In their Moment of Reflection, Kellie says her favourite thing has been how much Kevin made her laugh, and she thinks he's really helped her to grow as a performer.

They're dancing to 'The Ding-Dong Daddy Of The D-Car Line' by the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (absolutely a real thing, trust me, I looked it up) and OH MY GOD IT ACTUALLY IS THE PORN TRAIN. Well, the prop version, anyway. This is brilliant. As for the dance itself, it's the first one of the night to even feel remotely like a showdance, in fact it feels very closely related to Chris and Ola's from series seven. I think Kevin has just figured that he's tried everything else to win at the final, so he might as well just go Full Hollins and see if it works. It's an admirable attempt, certainly: it's all very knockabout and fun but there's a lot of precision in there as well, as evidenced by the bits where Kellie kicks in between Kevin's legs that could potentially end the Clifton dynasty right here if she mistimes it. It's a real showstopper and a crowdpleaser and just generally a total tonic after the last two underwhelmed. (And for those of you who look for such things, I will say that tight high-waisted trousers are a good look on Kevin. Not that I was staring at anything in particular. *cough*)

Kellie's struggling for breath at the end and says that she thinks Kevin's been trying to kill her off this week. Craig declares it "uh-may-zing". Darcey says the routine was extraordinary, and Kellie brought everything she could to that dance. Len looks right into the camera and says "that's a showdance" (lol take that Aliona), and Bruno says she brought the A-game right at the right time, and says that's how a champion wins. Except it's not, because Jay's winning.

Kellie staggers up the stairs somehow, and the others are struggling to contain their excitement. Claudia is aghast at Kellie trying to learn a completely new style of dance at this point in the competition, and Kellie says she's loved this so much, and she couldn't turn down the opportunity to learn something else. The scores are in and, it's 10s all round yet again for another perfect 40 for Kellie. Properly deserved this time, I think. Karen's in bits too.

Closing the show tonight we have Katie and Anton with their ancient Rome-themed showdance. Katie promises that it won't be "low-key or subtle or modest". Well, thank god for that, quite frankly. They're throwing in a lot of favourite moves and a lot of Katie being chucked around. Katie appears to have developed a late-in-the-game back injury so they have to work around that a little bit, but she vows to push on through the pain, and says that Anton has been both an amazing teacher and a really good friend. She has enjoyed every minute, but she knows that she needs to pull off the showdance to have any hope of making it to the top three.

They're dancing to 'O Fortuna' and Katie appears to be wearing a dress very much modelled on the one Alesha wore for her showdance. It's very paso-themed with a bit of tango thrown in as well, and while Katie is easily the weakest dancer remaining in the competition, the sheer razzmatazz of the production here makes it one of the evening's better showdances - and, to be fair, this is probably the best she has danced in a couple of weeks. There are a lot of lifts which are executed well, and the only real bum note is when Katie drops into Anton's arms from atop the makeshift balcony that's been created for them on the dancefloor and he catches her rather awkwardly, but it's such a great set piece that it hardly matters anyway. I can appreciate why Aliona and Giovanni went for precision in their routines, but I will always prioritise spectacle over technique in a showdance. Always.

Tess says she's so glad Anton caught her, and Katie replies "so am I!" Hee. Darcey enjoyed the intensity and drama and of course Katie's posture. She says that intense music like that can occasionally work as a disadvantage, though, because you have to live up to that standard - but her only reservation was occasionally sensing the nerves. Len says there was plenty going on, and he loved the drop into Anton's arms, but he felt like the music overpowered the dance a little bit. Bruno liked that it was "historically accurate" (lol) and while it was all-conquering at the beginning, there were a few stumbles as it went along but he felt like they carried the story beautifully. He thinks she gave it a good go, though. Craig says that he didn't take to it at all - he doesn't want to end on a negative, but it was rigid and stiff and Katie wasn't at the same standard as everyone else. He says that Katie doesn't have the same level of skill as them, but she can still hold her head high because she gave it her all and did her best to drive that dance home. Katie says she appreciates that, and it's a fair point. Anton's all "yes, mistakes, we wanted some of them" and Katie tells him that she wishes he'd keep quiet about the mistakes. Preach, Katie.

They head to the Clauditorium, where Claudia declares that the scores are in and then immediately changes her mind. She asks Anton if he regrets that song after the judges' comments, and Anton says no, if anything he'd make it louder. Scores: 7, 8, 8, 8 for 31 again. Lowest score for a showdance since Christopher Parker, with the caveat that the showdances weren't scored at all from series two to series six.

So here's that end-of-part-one leaderboard:

1. Kellie & Kevin - 40 + 40 = 80
2. Georgia & Giovanni - 36 + 36 = 72
3. Jay & Aliona - 36 + 35 = 71
4. Katie & Anton - 31 + 31 = 62

After a recap of the voting numbers and the evening's performances so far, we get the obligatory "nooo, I don't want to go home" VT: Georgia thinks the show has been life-changing, Katie's goalposts gradually moved from "not first boot" to "make Hallowe'en" to "make Blackpool" and she's baffled to make it this far. Jay wishes he could go back and tell Week 1 Jay how far he was going to get, and also to cut his hair before they film the title sequence. Kellie never expected to make the final. Jay think it's been an emotional experience (maybe tell your face that?). Katie would do it again in a heartbeat. Georgia's got a friend for life in Giovanni. Winning would be the perfect thank you to everyone's professional partners.

And that's it. It's time for us all to go and vote/eat dinner/watch Casualty/all of the above, and then the show will come back at 9pm, eliminate Katie (just a hunch) and everyone dances again before Jay wins (hunch). Join us for part two when my fingers have recovered from typing this one, won't you?