Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Thomas tanks

Week two results
Sunday 4th October 2015

Welcome back! Last night saw 15 dances from our celebrities and everyone slowly losing the will to live, especially Ola who can’t wait to be put out of her misery. But will she achieve that tonight? There’s only one way to find out!

Cue credits! I love how Daniel’s face is immovable even here.

We open with the pro-dance to 'Only Girl in the World', which starts with a very Aliona-centric frame. I think she’s done well in whatever renegotiation of contract process she went through this year. We then get a moment with each of the female dancers having a solo spin around the room. Janette gets to swing from a high wire whilst Karen only gets to play with a hanky.  Joanne doesn’t get her own solo spot but then does get to dance with all the male celebrities so that she doesn’t forget what a partner feels like. We're then treated to some lovely ballroom wafting with Joanne, Natalie, Brendan, Gleb, Anton and some classical musicians which is all quite swoony, before Aliona takes centre stage again in an enormous parachute style dress. Then all of the pros are reunited for waltzing, wafting to the sound of the music being played by a classical ensemble rather than the in-house band. We head up to a balcony for Kristina getting thrown about by four of the male dancers, and then back to the dancefloor. It’s all quite lovely and gives an opportunity for all the dancers to have a go, whilst paying homage to ballroom for a change, rather than the pop/Latin type pro dances we had so much of last series. Then Janette gets spun from the ceiling thousands and thousands of times and manages to descend with a smile, rather than vomiting all over the place, which is more than I can imagine ever being able to achieve, even if I'd had years of dance training.

Tess and Claudia enter. They really are switching up their costumes this series: Daly dress watch: a mostly black shoulder list ensemble, with some cream detailing in the middle which looks quite nice. What Winkleman's wearing: a black shift dress, but with brightly patterned yellow and pink trees on it. I quite like both of the outfits tonight, to be honest, although I imagine some people would think Claudia’s dress perhaps looks a little childish-but then those kinds of people are just funsponges (Remember those 'glory' days of the X Factor with Gary Barlow? I like how that series has tried to forget he ever happened.  I wish we could).  Tess welcomes Dave Arch and the brilliant orchestra and we cut to the regular band, rather than the people who seems to be playing in the orchestra, but oh well. Claudia then plugs the website, where apparently we can see performances with a 360° camera. Swishy! Tess and Claudia remind us how the show works and that someone will leave at the end.

The judges arrive, walking fairly slowly on. Thank God the dancing thing seems to have either died a death, or is being restricted to Saturday nights only.  Sadly something that hasn’t died a death is Len's lens, which we will be seeing later.

Time for the backstage report and recap and it looks like Joanne will be presenting these or at least some of them. She is captioned, interestingly, as ‘Strictly pro Jo Clifton’, which suggests that she hasn’t yet been retired as an official pro à la Robin and could make a reappearance when the gender balances switch back next series.  Much as I was unimpressed with her last year, I'd like to see her work with someone who had potential before writing her off altogether.Of note in the recap: Iwan thinks he can take the British public on (LOL), hot floor manager Greg is back and as masterful as ever, Iwan further demonstrates that he has no self-awareness by not understanding his score when he tried soooooo hard, Karen thinks a three is awesome for her, Kellie and Kevin are trying to invent something called a high 15, which makes no sense whatsoever.  There’s little else to discover from this: I guess when you’re recapping such a long show anyway, there’s not much room for excess filler.

Tess reminds us of the leaderboard and it’s time for our first set of safety announcements. Safe are: Daniel and Kristina; Peter and Janette; Kellie and Kevin; George and Giovanni; Helen and Aljaž; Jeremy and Karen. The first couple in the dance off are: Iwan and Ola - and she looks incredibly relieved, as you might expect. I am guessing either Carol and Pasha or Kirsty and Brendan to join them?

Iwan says he will do everything to stay in the dance off and try and make it less aggressive. Len says it’s difficult to give advice at the dance off stage because they’re beginners. What a great head judge, everyone. Len says he could try and be even more aggressive in the dance off , but sometimes less is more. So helpful.
Up in the Clauditorium now and Georgia says the results were scarier than actually dancing. Kellie says the music gives her nightmares and that was one of the most horrible experiences she’s ever had - even beyond Danny Dyer in that too-tight pink dressing gown they always make him wear. Jeremy says he wants to apologise for acting as if he’d won the whole thing, but he’s just delighted to have been voted through and he gushes quite a lot. Daniel and his poker face claim to be delighted. Claudia says he’s like the Danny Zuccho of the ensemble, a notion that Daniel is quite taken with. However, isn’t he younger than John Travolta was when he played that part? Helen lies that she is amazed to be through, and Peter says that things are incredible several times. Apparently, he also gets confused by traffic lights backstage where green means go. Claudia calls this adorable. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

And now we have our first “special” guest, Rod Stewart. I don’t know how it’s possible, but the man hasn’t aged in the last 30 years. That’s not to say he looks especially lot young, just that he looks well… Rod Stewarty. I’m not sure what the new single is that he shilling, I guess it’s called 'Stay with me Tonight', because that’s the refrain in the chorus. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world and his voice seems a little bit shot in places, but if you like that sort of thing, I’m sure you’ll like this. Some of the pro female dancers come out and do little jigs in leopard print, with Oti and Aliona giving it full booty call down the camera. It’s a little depressing that we have renowned ladies’ man Rod Stewart strutting his stuff whilst a bevy of female dancers are reduced not so much to dancing but to posing around as if this were 1975, not 2015 (not that there’s anything against women being sexy, but there’s not a hell of a lot of dance skill going on, and none of it’s especially original. Also: Rod Stewart. Seriously, Stewart, either be a contestant already or get off the show. Don't think you're above Daniel O'Donnell.  Or, er, him from The Wanted).

The judges are welcomed into the Clauditorium with a somewhat incongruous blast of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding out for a Hero’. Our first Len’s lens of the series focuses on then saying that when he was younger, used to look at other parts of female anatomy, but now he only looks at the feet: he feels like a cobbler-at which, the other judges burst out laughing. We have a close-up of Georgia not putting her heels on the floor to demonstrate his point about heel leads. Claudia asks Darcey what she means when she said Helen needed more dip in her hip. Darcey says Helen’s done a bit of ballet as has she, at which Claudia points out that Darcey was at one point the best ballerina in the world, and not just some old lush stanning for male winners and telling us that the boys are right all the time.  Darcey says it’s hard for people who have been trained in ballet to be centred in their hips, because they’ve always been taught to put out. What? That’s what she says. Darcey thinks Helen will probably do better in a rumba, where it’s slower. Claudia asks Craig about his obsession with free arms and Craig says you should always be doing something with it: pointing out that Daniel sometimes left it loose, and sometimes did something with it, like waving or pointing in order to give it energy. We then get a recap of the judges’ dance (which they are calling 'the Strictly'.  Nope.), like anybody has time for that nonsense. No. And we hear Len shouting into his Mike ‘Come on!’ whilst Jamelia dances and all the judges shouting sexy at her and Tristan (it isn’t clear which of them they were referring to, or whether it was both).

Back to test with the rest of the results now. Safe are: Ainsley and Natalie; Katie and Anton; Jay and Aliona; Anita and Gleb; Anthony and Oti; Carol and Pasha and Kirsty and Brendan. This means to Amelia and Tristan are in the bottom two, perhaps a surprising turn of events this early on in the series, and one for which I largely blame Tristan’s choreography. Tess asks Jamelia if she’s surprised to be in the bottom two and to Jamelia says not really because she didn’t do a good job. Bruno advises her not to overthink it and to maintain her performance level, which was good, but to be careful with her arm placement.  Then he tells us forget about all of that and just have a good time. Our judges are so insightful this year.

In the Clauditorium and we get a reminder that Audley is going to dress as a Penguin next week. Katie says they’re all a gang and they don’t want anyone to leave.  Claudia asks Jay about his makeover and he says that he’s a new man, in a slightly Stockholm syndrome kind of voice. He clarifies that all of them are nervous because they’re all in peril every week. Claudia laughs in the face of peril and says they’re only dancing (she stops short of calling them all big wusses, but you knew that’s what she was thinking).

As we are about to hit week three, apparently we are long overdue a theme week (thank God it’s Steve’s turn). Yes, it still long awaited return of movie week. Although, it’s at least better than around the world week. We see a comedy VT of everyone pulling faces, which reveals very little about what’s going on, other than Anton’s rehearsal hair is a sight to behold. He looks a bit like Jim Carrey after a fight with a Van der Graff generator.

With the two couples, Jamelia says she is going to try and put everything she can into the dance, and they go off to get ready. Iwan says he won’t quit and he wants to thank everyone including the production team, because he presumably knows that this is likely to be his leaving speech. Ola, for her part, just smiles meekly and thinks of the cocktails she’ll be having in five minutes' time when this is all over.  Good to see the tradition of Erin Island is being kept alive and well.

First to dance are Tristan and Jamelia, and the wind machine hasn’t got any better since their original performance. She seems a little tired in the performance and sometimes seems to be giving it energy, but at other times less so, although overall I get the impression she’s just having a laugh with it all, which is at least better than facing grim death throughout. It suffers from some of the same problems it had first time round, although she is probably a little bit more precise in her steps this time around and it ends well, much to her visible relief.

Iwan’s performance, like last time is essentially a retread of Robbie Savage, with less talent, attractiveness or chemistry. I like that he is dancing to 'Sexy and I Know it', whilst pulling the least sexy faces and moves known to humankind and clod hopping all over the place. Ola also seems to see the fun in this as she’s practically laughing throughout. He ends pulling a face down the camera that I presume is meant to be sultry, but just looks slightly constipated.

Time for the judges’ verdict. Craig saves Jamelia and Tristan for dancing better than the other couple; Darcey saves them as well, without giving a reason; Bruno makes it a third vote for them and the most foregone conclusion in the series happens (learn also would have made the same decision as his fellow judges).

Iwan thanks everyone yet again, even though he’d already done that before his dance off. Ola says she loved dancing with him and he’s a wonderful person. Claudia reminds us about it takes two and Tess reminds us about the website, and then our couple dance off to we’ve only just begun. For some reason, it takes an eternity before any of the others come out onto the dancefloor to help them, during which time he hoists above his neck and spends her around in a rather ungainly fashion.

Post show vox pops: Starch Amelia says it was a great feeling to win but she was gutted to see a friend go home; Jeremy says that was brutal, Jay says they’ll miss him; Katie lies that it was shocking; Peter says it was the hardest thing ever apart from giving birth, except that he’s never given birth; most of the people thought it was brutal, except for Carol who thinks it was great fun. Sadist. Next week, join Steve for movie week, when what we lose in time from having fifteen dancers will be made up for via lots of terrible comedy VTs! 

Monday, 5 October 2015


Week 2 Performance show
Saturday 3 October 2015

Welcome back! Last week, all fifteen celebrities danced for the first time and it was at least spread over two episodes. Jeremy, Kirsty, Iwan and Carol disappointed, whilst Peter came out on top and Anita was seriously under marked. Tonight! A two-hour bloatfest as everybody dances for the second time but at least tomorrow someone will go home and our job will get one dance easier.

Cue titles!

Tess and Claudia arrive, and as per Steve’s request last week that they switch up their colours, Tess is the one in black, whilst Claudia is in red. Daly dress watch: a black trouser catsuit thing with a metallic belt. It would actually be okay, were it not for the strange white band holding it up at the top. What Winkleman’s wearing: some weird asymmetrical pillar box red thing, which would again be better if it didn’t have an ugly band of colour at the top. The judges dance on, because apparently that whole thing is still not over despite my hoping it had followed Rock’n’Roll, Fusion and Around the World week (*fingers crossed*) down the memory hole never to be heard of again. I do, however, like the maroon-red colour that Darcey is wearing.

We welcome our stars: Kellie and Kevin, Anthony and Oti, Anita and Gleb, Daniel and Kristina, Katie and Anton, Ainsley and Natalie, Helen and Aljaž, Iwan and Ola, Georgia and Giovanni, Jeremy and Karen, Starch Amelia and Tristan, Peter and Janette, Carol and Pasha, Jay and alley owner (Aliona) and Kirsty and Brendan. Brendan’s shirt is open so wide his nipples are almost falling out, whilst Jay is in a bizarre hat. 

There’s quite a lot of theme tune jigging around this year-well done cast, keep it up!

First up: Jamelia and Tristan. Apparently, her dance requires her to play the role of the diva. She looks wary, presumably expecting a ‘that will not be too hard’ type joke. We all know Bruce would have gone there. The way they’ve done her make-up makes her look a little bit like Sinitta: I think it’s largely the plum lipstick. Let’s just hope there aren’t some palm fronds making an appearance later.

Jamelia recaps last week and says she thought it would all be going well but then it all fell apart. This week Tristan tells her she’s going to play a popstar who is a bit of a diva. To get into role, Jamelia has an actress pretending to be her PA turn up with her to training, then arranging a comedy wind machine, smoke machine etc. Lovers of comedy VTs will be pleased to know that we are only the second week in and they’re already well underway. I can’t wait to see what Carol and Pasha will be getting up to in that case.

Their cha-cha-cha is to Don’tcha by the Pussycat Dolls. We open with a wind machine blowing her hair all over the place, including across her face so she can’t see what she’s doing. Great job, staging! They’re both wearing sea-greens and she starts pretty well with decent hip and leg action and fierce attitude. However, by the middle she starts to lose the dancing side of things and it gets a little clumsier, with legs stomping and flailing, rather than being sharp and precise. I’m not entirely impressed with Tristan’s choreography, however, as it relies quite a lot on hip thrusts and posturing, and I think he could really have helped her out more. Jamelia’s legwork towards the end is really sloppy and unprecise, and she doesn’t look like she’s practised it very much.  I really think she could do better than this. Tess congratulates them and introduces the band and the singers, naming the singers for a change. I wonder if they’ve had new contracts negotiated.

Len says it’s ‘Hotober’ which is such a woeful pun that I can’t wait to see what he’s got for us with the rest of the night.  Except for the part where I can. He says the performance value was high, but the technique was low and her legs went straight enough, but overall it was a great effort. Bruno says she’s turned into a wild pussycat and does his usual flailing and excitement. He says she needs to maintain her excitement, but be more precise in her movements. Craig said it was too spiky and her foot placement was dodgy, but it had good bump’n’grind. Darcey says she was hot but ‘the boys are right’ (drink!) that she needs to work on her technique.  They bounce up to the Clauditorium, where everyone congratulates them.  Scores: four, six, five, six for a total of 21. Tristan says four is better than a three.  You’re hardly Anton, mate.  I think pairing him with Mrs Brown’s wife last year might have set his expectations/work ethic a little below-par, because former pop stars really shouldn’t be doing this badly this early on.

Daniel and Kristina next and I won’t dignify Tess’s terrible joke about Irish stallions by giving it air (well, blog) time. You don’t have Bruce anymore, you no longer have to make lame jokes, scriptwriters. Last week Daniel and Kristina got 24 and he says he was pleased, although his face doesn’t show it, as you might expect. This week they have the Charleston and they’re setting it in a racecourse, as you do. Daniel doesn’t seem exactly enthusiastic at the prospect, but I’m sure you could tell Daniel he’d won this, the lottery, a BRIT award and got the Christmas number one and you’d still not be able to tell whether or not he was pleased. He and his wife arrived on a canal boat to see Kristina at the racecourse, on a day where there’s no racing. I’m not sure what the point of that is. They get to meet some horses and Kristina stands in a field a bit and it all feels a little bit pointless. Daniel’s wife Midge Ella (Majella) asks them to show her a bit of Charleston. They look a bit like two uncomfortable penguins trying to shuffle out of frame before Johnny Morris imitates their voices.  Bodes well.

They open, both wearing pink and sparkles, as if they were spectators watching a horserace – which is about as far as the theme gets.  No jockey suits, no horse costumes, no whips.  Somewhere Flavia is weeping for an opportunity lost. Their dance is to ‘Let’s Misbehave’ and Daniel manages to affect something approaching a smile (for him).  For the rest of us it’s about the level of delight we’d show if we found 2p on the street – you know, it’s quite nice and that, but you wonder if it’s worth the effort of bending down to get it. The dance is quite dainty and subdued, which isn’t really the spirit of MAXIMUM GURN and exaggerated movement this dance usually elicits on Strictly, but at least he can do what’s been given to him, choreography wise. It doesn’t quite have the elasticity you would expect from a good Charleston, but it’s certainly a passable effort, especially for a more mature male star, as they don’t tend to be good at this particular dance.  Overall, somewhat too gentle, but a decent effort, considering the car crash it could have been. Tess congratulates him and he says he’s too out of breath to speak.

Bruno, who looks incredibly orange tonight, says he didn’t really have the full gallop energy that Charleston needs and it got a bit sleepy partway through-he has to keep the energy and pace throughout. Daniel reminds them of his age. Craig tells him to get more on his toes and incorporate more swivel, as well as making good use of his free arm. He thinks he wasn’t quite over the top enough for the Charleston - however, he did have good rhythm and there probably is a dancer within him. Darcey says he had great energy but his technique sometimes dropped. Len said it was a little bit too controlled for Charleston but he is odds-on to be back next week. I would say he’s odds-on to make the quarter-final at least - on audience votes, anyway.

Claudia says that he told Zoe on It Takes Two that he thought the Charleston was like an out of body experience, but he says he feels fully present in his body tonight. Scores: five, six, six, six for a total of 23. I love how Daniel says the five was ‘good’ in a way that seems genuine. So adorable. He tells Claudia it was much harder to do this dance with fewer days to rehearse, but he’s happy with his score.

Next up: Kirsty and Brendan. Tess says that she shook all over the last week, but shaking might work quite well for her this week, given they have the cells. Kirsty tells us in her VT how the dance last week didn’t go the way she wanted and how she needs to harness her nerves. Brendan has decided to go with her to work to see what makes her confident. Cue plug for Sky Sports!  Apparently rehearsing on set has helped her confidence.  She seems so convinced by her own VT storyline as she says this.  God, if she lasts much longer, I can’t wait to see how she handles an actual comedy VT.

They start their salsa atop the judges’ desk. His shirt is still wide open, while she’s wearing a royal blue sparkly dress. They dance to something called ‘Can’t Touch It’ that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before, which means I’m probably really out of touch with the charts. The wind machine is still in full flow - I guess when you’ve paid to hire it, you may as well get your money’s worth out of it. It starts quite well, but then there’s a bit where they do a fairly awkward bend, and they lose it after that - it becomes quite stoppy, starty and posturing, a series of poses and moves, rather than a flowing dance. I think the awkward bend seemed to knock her nerves and they really are going to need to work on how she can come back from mistakes. Then there’s a lot of skirt ruffling and Brendan miming cunnilingus and then it gets a little bit skippy. They do some interesting lift and dip manoeuvres and then it’s over. Overall, a good improvement from last week, but still quite clumsy in places.

Tess congratulates her on the bravery of doing those lifts. Craig says it wasn’t quite fluid and connecting with each step, there was quite a lot of stopping and starting, which is true, despite the audience boos. However, he thought she did well. Darcy points out how difficult the lifts are and how she did really well to cope with those and make them look easy. Len says it was fun with terrific lifts but she needs to go lower in her movement. Bruno says she had the right attitude for it but the steps didn’t always fit the music to which Kirsty says ‘blame Brendan!’ Bruno tells her not to stop and think about it, but to stay on the beat. He says they can do it. And Brendan says, sarcastically, next time they do the salsa it will happen (you know that could be tomorrow night, Brendan?).

In the Clauditorium, Claudia congratulates them and Kirsty says she was really relieved and that they’d worked really hard this week without much time. Brendan says he’s really proud of her. Scores: 5, 5, 5, 5, for a total of 20. Brendan doesn’t mind the five from Craig but gets annoyed when the other judges score it the same way.

The next couple of the evening is Jay and Aliona. Week two and he already has the haunted look of a man who is not prepared for what he has in store, whilst Aliona has the look of a raptor ready to eat its prey. I don’t think he’s ready for this jelly custard.

We are reminded of how Darcy said the dance was hard for men last week and given that (presumably) Jay and Peter are probably the two most likely, I suspect we’ll see a lot more of Darcy stanning for them over the weeks to come. Step one in Aliona’s world domination plan: force Jay to get his hair cut. I quite liked his hair as it was, it at least made him a little bit distinctive, but as they’re sound tracking this VT to 'Dressed for Success', I’m not going to complain too much.  It’s a very strange sight-he almost looks like he has a Michael Ball thing going on.  Not keen.

Their waltz is to ‘See the Day’. It has a moody opening with lots of swaying and pouting, before moving into traditional hold. The bits in hold are okay, but Jay looks slightly frowny, as if he is concentrating a little bit too hard on the steps. When they move out of hold for sections, he looks quite lost and the dance stutters a bit and I think that if this were coming from many of the other dancers, they’d be criticised for it, but as he is one of the most likely to, I wonder whether or not the judges will be so harsh on him. I have to say, I was expecting a lot more from him given last week’s form, but this was quite stilted in places and he looked very nervous throughout. I think they managed to cover up some of the problems simply by virtue of the song choice and lighting, both of which add that slightly moody elegance to proceedings, but overall, I’m pretty underwhelmed.

The audience are whooping and standing on their feet, so clearly they saw something in it that I didn’t. Tess lies that Jay seems calmer this week.  Darcey says she is blown away by his ability to understand the style and that it had a real romantic quality to it. She thinks he’s going to be one special dancer, but she would say that, wouldn’t she? Len lies that it takes a lot to get him excited. Come off it Len, we see new listing over any sportsman that walks onto the stage. However, Jay got him excited. Bruno calls it fluid and firing. Either they’re desperate to get a man to the top, or they all see something that I really didn’t. Craig says his thumb was sticking up but otherwise it was very well danced.

The others are weeping back in the Clauditorium when they arrive. Jay is unable to answer Claudia’s questions, appearing to be on a slightly different planet, perhaps one in which he still had free will. Scores: seven, eight, eight, eight for a total of 31. If you say so.

Iwan and Ola next, and she looks utterly thrilled by the prospect. Iwan says he was disappointed by their first week performance and thought the judges were pretty harsh. Come off it, you spent the first portion running round the room, and the rest looking thoroughly disinterested. In their VT, he’s wearing a sparkly headband whilst moaning about how last week went. I’m really not sure what’s going on with that. He records a random piece to camera at 5 AM telling us how hard he finds the training and how much he wants to be good. It’s like the cinéma vérité version of a VT. However, although has a trick up her sleeve, bringing wine gums as a bribe. This would seem more realistic if he wasn’t wearing the same sparkly headband he allegedly wore on day one. I call shenanigans.

The cha-cha-cha is to ‘Sexy and I Know It’ and, obviously, it features him ripping his hot pink shirt open to reveal his tats/tits and the knee slide that Ola Jordan’s useless male partners always end up doing, followed by a very uncomfortable attempt at break dancing and a bad back flip. However, these are masterpieces of choreography compared to what comes next, where he tries to walk around very unconvincingly and can’t even hold onto Ola in any way that demonstrates an ability to dance. He is okay at wiggling his arse, but in anything that approaches a dance step looks entirely out of his depth, unrhythmic, uncoordinated and clumsy. Although does her patented trying to wiggle and dance around them and so no one will notice, and at the end she looks quite relieved that it is over, and presumably hopeful that this might be it being over for good.

Len says that with too much aggression that it lost any sense of finesse (I’m sure it never had any to start with). Bruno agrees and says the dances have a particular style you need to think about the style rather than attempting to come out and attack them/murder them. Iwan says he doesn’t want to go home so we try to give it everything and Bruno says he gave it too much and pushed the other way. Craig says the 21 ½ hours of training you put in this week were wasted because it was stumpy and unrhythmic (hey Craig, we’re on the same page with made-up words). Darcey says that as much as he was uncoordinated and lacked rhythm, he was there for Ola when she was doing the turns. Whoop whoop, big praise there.

They head to the Clauditorium, his tats and tits bursting out of his vest and she offers him some sweets again. He says he can’t go out without a fight; clearly he is anticipating lasting a long time then.

The next couple of Georgia and Giovanni. My DVR cut out quite a bit in between these two couples, so I’m not really sure what happened or what their VT is about up until the point where she takes Giovanni to Bury market for… reasons. Presumably to teach the foreigner about quaint British traditions, in this case black pudding. He says it tastes like chocolate sausage but is not chocolate sausage. Insightful!  (Also: sounds blurgh)

Their waltz is to Georgia on My Mind. See what they did there? In case you’re in any doubt, they have the name Georgia projected all over the floor as well. It flows quite well for a first waltz. She seems to be doing everything that she needs to. It could do with being a little bit more free-flowing in places, with more attention to the top line, and it’s not the most original choreography ever, but a perfectly satisfactory early waltz and to my mind, not quite as stuttery as Jay’s, but I don’t think the judges will score it as highly.

Bruno praises the romance, but also says to keep an eye on her neck. Craig says she needs to live through the transitions a bit more, but otherwise it was good whilst Darcey says there was sophistication there but she doesn’t need to move ahead as far back and should control her top line more from her waist. Len says she needs to work on the detail and there wasn’t a heel lead throughout the dance, nor did it have enough rise and fall. I’m not sure how much of that is Georgia’s fault and how much of that is down to Giovanni. However, Len liked the romance-just thought the technique needed work.

They sing the song to themselves as they bound up to the Clauditorium and Georgia says she enjoyed it. Scores: six, six, six, seven for a total of 25. Is that really worth six marks less than Jay’s?

Claudia then previews all the dances we have to come, as if this show weren’t long enough.

Not yet halfway through, we now look like we’re going to get Anita and Gleb. Tess says their theme is bank robbers, which leads to Claudia emerging in a police hat, carrying hand cups looking utterly demented shouting ‘Oh Gleb, Glebby Glebby Glebby’ which will now be his nickname until we get bored of typing it. However, they’re not actually next, that skit was merely warming us up for what’s to come and further demonstrating how much the show wants him to happen.

Instead, the next couple of the evening are Natalie and Ainsley. Tess says their routine is about the Ready Steady Cook theme of red tomatoes and green peppers. (What would everyone’s £5 bag contain, by the way? Mine would probably contain a bag of salad, a box of crackers and enough cheese from the deli to take me over the threshold to earn me my free Guardian at Waitrose) I’m surprised they didn’t stretch the RSC theme out a bit longer: red tomatoes one week, green peppers the next. Ainsley says he was a little disappointed with last week’s score, but he’s a smiler and he’s looking forward to improving it this week. Ainsley tells Natalie whenever he hears the word salsa, he just thinks of lovely flavours. Natalie asks if food is all he can ever think about. Well you know the way to change that would be to cook a meal for him, Nat, using your MasterChef prowess. She brings him a goody bag to remind him of his Ready Steady Cook days, which includes a metronome, a hula hoop (for his hips), some tomatoes that he is to use to get his arms moving, and a jar of actual salsa. Ainsley responds to this with a perfectly well delivered tongue teaser: it’s going to make Strictly Saturday nights one spectacular spicy sensation. Bravo, that man!

Their salsa is to ‘Don’t Touch my Tomatoes’ and if you thought Natalie had gone for full camp last week, you haven’t seen anything yet. The scenario is that Ainsley is a market vendor on a stall selling only green peppers and red tomatoes, whilst Natalie is a saucy customer coming up, jiggling her tomatoes around euphemistically and giving full ‘yes I know that you know what I’m doing’ face right down the camera. Full-blown comedy Natalie Lowe: we love it. She then goes and dances around with the tomatoes suggestively before flinging them into Bruno’s hands and hoping this is one of those weeks where he’s feeling a bit bisexual. Their salsa then moves into an energetic romp. Ainsley might not have the smoothest movements in the world, but he does have a good sense of rhythm and performance and his body wriggles all over so what he lacks in technique, he makes up for in showmanship (and bum wiggles). They very much embrace the party spirit of the salsa -it looks like they’re both having a whale of a time, there’s loads of wiggling and jiggling and a slightly ungainly lift that ends pretty well. Overall, if we can have comedy contestants, let’s have comedy contestants like this. Natalie appears delighted by the result, as do the audience.

Tess says it was a perfect combination of comedy and talent which don’t usually come together on the show. Is everyone on the show reading my mind tonight? Ainsley points out that some steps he didn’t do quite right.  Yes, we had noticed. Shit.  That is exactly Craig’s first comment. I feel like I’m psychic or something.  That, or this show is just very predictable. Craig says he did a brilliant job at bringing the dance to life and the dance really seemed to suit Ainsley’s personality. He said Ainsley made no excuses and though he did some of it wrong, he did it wrong with panache and style.  Darcy said there were some charming details in it and then collapses in a fit of giggles. She says he was totally in his zone and she got transfixed by it and she wants him to keep going that way. Len says he was like a tomato: juicy, delicious and cooking on gas. Bruno says he loves the ready steady salsa full of spice. He’s not as good at alliteration as ably agile alliterative Ainsley.  He says Ainsley did well and that when his footwork wasn’t so great, he made sure enough was going on in the upper body to distract us from it.

Ainsley and Natalie lap up the audience praise on their way to the Clauditorium, and then they shimmy all the way up the stairs. Ainsley says that there were one or two things Natalie will tell him off about next week whilst Natalie says no no, she didn’t want it to end. Awww.  We cut to Ainsley’s slightly embarrassed daughter in the audience.  Remember when poor Simon from Blue’s daughter had to endure that last year? Scores: six, seven, seven, six for a total of 26. Claudia tells us that if we keep Ainsley in next week, he’ll be dressed as a penguin (what, stealing Daniel’s schtick from earlier?).

The next couple of the evening are Carol and Pasha and the weather theming isn’t going to stop as we are promised an umbrella in this routine.  Carol says they’re at the bottom of the leaderboard, so they can only go up (she hopes). Pasha says they have to turn around the negative into a positive and Carol says she loves to do that. Cue comedy VT! We see Carol carrying on dancing in uncomfortable shoes, telling Pasha it’s better for him to get a cold now than in the finals and spilling coffee down her T-shirt then saying she has another one with her. Come on, you two, your commitment to comedy VTs should be better than this. If you stay here next week I want to see a marked improvement.

Their American smooth Foxtrot is to ‘Isn’t it a Lovely Day’ and it opens with Carol standing at a bus stop, holding a newspaper over her head, whilst gentleman Pasha offers her his umbrella. He can offer us his etc etc.  There’s a nice romantic feel to the dance, although the umbrella seems to be halting proceedings a little bit-I’m not sure why they didn’t let go of it after a few steps. Pasha is really selling the dance with the fluidity of his movement and his facial expressions, whilst Carol’s expressions also fit the dance and go some way to covering up her lack of finesse in the movement. Her movement is much better than last week, however, and although she isn’t given anything particularly taxing to do in terms of steps, she does seem to mostly manage and acquits herself reasonably across the floor. The camera is also fairly forgiving, not focusing too much on her footwork. At the end, there’s a bit where she sort of stops and I’m not sure whether or not that was choreographed, but it does look a little bit odd.

Tess says that when she smiles everyone is smiling with her and the camera cuts to some very sympathetic looking people in the audience who seem to have pity on their faces rather than joy. Darcy says she’s improved a lot from last week and there was a real flow in it but her top line isn’t great as she closes into Pasha too much (who wouldn’t?). Len says the clouds parted and there was a ray of sunshine. He coments that ballroom dancing is about exaggeration and she’s too subtle in the way she moves but she did make him smile. Bruno says low pressure still affects her footwork, frame and personality, but there weren’t so many mistakes in the dance and she should continue in this vein. Craig said it lacked a bit of movement and she needs to pull up through her chest more and she needs to make the dress look more beautiful when holding it up, rather than like a tea towel. We’ve run out of weather puns this early on and are resorting to homewares?  However, he thinks she did much better than last week.

As they bound up the Clauditorium, Claudia greets them wearing an umbrella -shaped hat. Carol says it much better than last week and she really enjoyed it. Carol says the judges are really lovely. Bless her. Scores: four, six, five, five for a total of 20. If anything, that feels a little bit harsh.

Kellie and Kevin are next, and she seems to have acquired a pair of glasses like his. The dance is going to be seaside themed, so Tess takes the opportunity to embarrass Ainsley’s daughter even further and offers her rock and doughnuts. Unlike Rock and Chips, in which Kellie once starred. Kellie is wearing bunches in her VT just like her onscreen sister/aunt-in-law and says she surprised at how well last week went. Kevin says he’s going to take her to the seaside, and I’m hoping for another trip to Cleethorpes-pretending-to-be-Grimsby, but sadly we’re just standing out on the River Thames. Oh, BBC budget. He does buy her fish and chips and ice cream and the time of day keeps varying between daytime and night-time. The VTs are completely bending the laws of physics this week. I guess the BBC have got to do something to arrest those falling Doctor Who ratings and perhaps it will be revealed that this is all part of an elaborate time travel plot by the end of the series.  Hey, if it means a Michelle Gomez cameo in the middle of a showdance (*please let it be Daniel’s*), I’m all in favour.

Their cha-cha-cha is to 'Don’t Go Breaking my Heart' and Kevin is in his cheesetastic element (he isn’t much younger than me, he was probably brought up on Roadrunner discos, too), springing around the steps like he’s always wanted to dance to this. There’s quite a lot of posturing from both of them before the dance gets going and, to be honest, once it has started as well. The bits that are actually danced are quite interesting, although they do slightly go out of sync at one point. However, I think Kevin is trying to focus too much on performance rather than technique and it doesn’t quite work as well with Kellie as it might with an Ainsley. Some of the leg lifts are a little awkward and I don’t know whether too much time was spent on making VTs and not enough on dancing in rehearsals. Then at the end it gets really ungainly as they try and do some backwards manoeuvres that don’t quite work. You can see on Kellie’s face that it went wrong as well. Upon the balcony, Joanne is looking down and wondering why she wasn’t the chosen sibling.

Len says it was tasty just like fish and chips. Bruno says it was a bit over clipped and therefore some of the hip action was lost but he loved the mid-section. Craig says it was a bit spiky and aggressive and her arms needed more work but she had very good energy and lovely straight legs. Darcey says the cheeky energy is great and her leg action is superb but her arms were a bit too strong for the nature of the dance.

Scores: six, seven, seven, seven for a total of 27. Kellie and Kevin got the same as last week but seem to be quite pleased with it. Claudia reminds us to register for our BBC ID and previews Anton coming up later with a dance on the phone, which she says is probably him trying to cancel his mid-November cruise. I think it’s still a little bit early to be expecting an Anton late placing. We were here not that long ago with Fiona Fullerton after all and I was over that storyline by this stage as well.

Next up are Anthony and Oti and Tess pronounces the ‘th’ in Anthony and I can’t work out if that’s just a Tess-ism or if that’s actually how he does want his name pronouncing.  He says the last thing he was glad just to get through it, but then he had a pretty major wardrobe malfunction, which we see in detail-it was indeed pretty major. Oti says they need to change their choreography to accommodate his wonky shoulder, but they still should be able to bring out the romance in the dance. Antony’s fiancée Casey turns up at rehearsals to try and get him in the mood. Oti says it warms the heart to see how much in love they are. D’aww. Let’s see how long her soppiness lasts.  I give it until Halloween week at best (LOL like they’re making it that far).

They are dancing the waltz to If You Don’t Know Me By Now and look sweet in lemon and grey. They open behind a wall of rain, like that one in Friends.  There’s a lot of Oti posturing and Anthony only being able to hold her with one hand, whilst the bad hand hangs awkwardly in front of him. I don’t know if that’s because it’s hurting, or because they didn’t choreograph it properly, because once they get in hold he uses it to support her. Their height differences do seem to cause a few rucks at points where she has to stretch and he bends in order for them to meet each other during the movements, and I think that’s something they could have worked on more in rehearsals. Another thing they really need to work on is his pacing and rhythm, as he runs and stutters through transitions, rather than stepping sleekly through them. You would have thought that, given his arms can’t do very much, they would have really worked on his legs, but maybe she just set a slightly too complicated routine for a week two waltz. The mood of the dance is quite nice, but the technique doesn’t quite match up, and Anthony looks like he’s playing catch-up the whole time.

Bruno said the moves didn’t travel really to the feet and it was too jagged and he needs a lot of work on his footwork (see, psychic). Tess asks if it was better than last week when Craig gave him a 4, and Craig says no, sadly, but he could see him trying. He says he needs to work on his legs and hands and that it lacked elegance, grace and flow. Darcey says they have the Paso doble next week and she can see Anthony looking more comfortable in that role than in the waltz, where he has to lead the lady.

They slowly jog up to the Clauditorium, Anthony holding his bad arm up to his chest. I sympathise brother. Claudia points out his fiancée in the audience and we cut to Casey who has some serious strobing going on with her cheeks. Scores: four, five, five, five for a total of 19. Oti says they worked hard but they’ll get better.

Because the one thing the show needs is yet more filler, we get another preview of what is coming up. For God’s sake. If you’re wondering why this recap is a bit later than it would normally be, look no further. I can’t believe how many people are still left to dance. We cut with Helen saying she’s going to cry. I think I will beat you to it Helen.

After the false start earlier, we do actually now get Gleb Glebby Glebby Glebby and Anita. Tess says if their dance last week is anything to go by, they could end up stealing the show. No, they could end up getting ridiculously under-marked. This week they have the Charleston, one of the 10 dances Gleb learned last week (I’d like to know which of the show’s dances he hasn’t learned). They go to see Alex Jones and Matt Baker on the One Show for advice on the Charleston. Their advice, sadly, is not ‘just watch Louis, Denise, Kimberley, Sophie and Caroline and forget we were ever on this show’.

They are dancing to Pencil Full of Lead, because the song choosers have officially run out of Charleston choices. They are allegedly dancing as bank robbers, but there isn’t really much themeing to the dance. I guess Charleston is a theme in its own right. There’s something slightly off with the band arrangement of the song - I’m not quite sure what it is, but the pace or the rhythm don’t quite feel right. This is a bit of a Charleston by numbers in terms of choreography - although it does seem to have almost every Charleston move thrown in, which they’re to be commended for, especially in the lifts and jumps. It doesn’t stand out with the best of the show’s Charlestons, because those that stand out tend to have a little quirk to them which this one lacks, but it has a lot of energy and verve. Anita has good Charleston face and energy and it has that combination of looking a little bit slapstick and off-the-cuff whilst also having technique and flow. As a week two effort goes, it’s probably the best dance of the night so far, and will no doubt be undermarked accordingly.

Craig says she did really well with some very difficult moves and she has a lot of energy, which she and Gleb high-ten about she actually jumps to high ten him too, which is adorable). Darcey loved the feel and how she made it her own and calls it fabulous. Len says it will be a crime she is in here next week, but for him it needed more Charleston content. I can’t think what was missing there, Len, given it had every Charleston move under the sun chucked in and Gleb Glebby Glebby Glebby seems to agree, with his ‘what the fuck’ face. Bruno says it was vivacious and alive but it lost sync. I’m not sure that that was their fault, Bruno, 
because the music seemed to lose itself.

Claudia says if Anita ‘can do that in week two, what on earth will she do if she stays in’? Anita says ‘get a lot more bruises’. Heh. Scores: seven, eight, six, six for a total of 27. What is with those bullshit sixes? Even Anita and Gleb look perplexed.

Jeremy and Karen are next and Karen looks like an elderly grandmother in spectacles. Has this show aged her as much as it’s ageing me? Jeremy says that last week was bigger than a general election. Aren’t the voting figures pretty comparable? They have the American Smooth, the news of which makes Karen slightly hysterical. For some reason, they go to his daughter’s school and Jeremy tries to skip over a child’s skipping rope to prepare.  They dance to a small assembly of a couple of classes’ worth of kids and Jeremy hopes his daughter looked happy. Aww.

The American Smooth is set in a library, with Karen playing the part of librarian, and Jeremy naughtily reading a book and miming the words to ‘Happy Together’. The theme of this dance makes no sense, but other than Ainsley’s, most of them have been a bit random tonight. It’s hard to tell if Jeremy’s grin throughout is through the love of dance, or the fear. His frame is still somewhat ungainly, although it’s better in hold than out, because at least then he can be used for Karen to dance around. When they dance side-by-side, he looks more lost. She is clearly leading him throughout the dance, and he looks nervous throughout, but it’s probably a marginal improvement on last week. There are some lifts that don’t always go to plan, including one where Karen’s knickers end up on display to the whole room.  Smooth.

Karen says they’ve been working really hard and Tess says he has an adorable kid. Darcey says an American Smooth should have Hollywood grace and glamour and he has the look and the frame but it wasn’t produced in the dancing. She says there was one nice lift in there and he does have a Fred Astaire within him, but it hasn’t come out. Len says he enjoys watching him but the key to an American smooth is the word smooth and the dance was a bit lumpy and bumpy, but at least he did a heel lead. Bruno says that’s what he calls making a dance your own, to the point of making it unrecognisable.  Jeremy looks like he isn’t sure whether he wants to grin or kill Bruno. I think many a person before you has felt like that. Craig says his body seemed travel to an astral plane at times and it was a bit odd and then he pulls a funny face. I think Craig is as over this episode as I am. Seriously, is it ever going to end? (I must try to be grateful for the fact that we’re no longer recapping the X Factor. They’re doing a different six chair challenge per episode for four episodes. Can you imagine?)

In the Clauditorium, Jeremy says the whole thing was incredible and he thinks there was a moment of smooth in there somewhere. Scores: three, five, five, four for a total of 17. Len, you mark that one point lower than Anita’s? Fuck you, Len.

Katie and Anton next, and the amount of whooping in the audience they get is slightly depressing. Not because of Katie, I like her plenty, but it’s sad to think that Anton still has such a fan base, for little reason. Surely without Erin, he is nothing? Katie is amazed by the judges’ comments last week and how well they did. She says she feels like she has a huge responsibility because everyone wants Anton to do well. Katie, he’s the one that supposed to be teaching you, not the other way round. Also, he probably could have done quite well with Leila had he not been… As he was. And we have this whole narrative back with Fiona anyway, so I really can’t be arsed with it anymore, so I’m basically just not going to recap any future references to this storyline.  We see Katie getting interviewed on Radio 3 and dancing through the corridors at work. The R3 studios are painted a bright yellow, which isn’t the colour I would have expected.

They are dancing the tango to a new instrumental arrangement of Lady Gaga/Beyoncé’s  ‘Telephone’ that makes it almost unrecognisable, so much so that I had to Google what the song actually was. It starts with Anton on the phone and Katie lounging in a shed launched, before he comes and picks her off, via a really neat little swivel thing that involves her balancing on the edge of the shows in him dwelling her in the air. That, I was impressed by. Good job, Du Beke.  Katie shows a good grasp of the posturing and speed of the dance, although her footwork lacks elegance and refinement in places. However, she sells it well through keeping tango face going and executing the more posed parts of the dance really well. There’s one bit where it looks like Anton is dropping her, or she is tripping, and then it turns into a dip. I’m not sure if that went wrong, or if it was meant to look that dangerous (I presume the former), but either way they made it end well. Overall, that was a decent effort and whilst it wasn’t perfect and could definitely have used more refinement, as week two dances go, it was pretty impressive, not least as tango seems to be one of the harder dances to master.

Len calls it a mango of a tango (mmmm, Mango Tango…): sweet and delicious. He said there was a little mistake right there and that they mustn’t go wrong, but if that was indeed a mistake, man, I think they recovered from it pretty well, which is surely what needs to happen. Bruno says it was alluring and started beautifully but she wobbles a little bit in the shop freezes and she needs to engage her whole body on the dance. Craig says the whole thing was grey and had a lot of control the shame about the stumble but all of the mistakes can easily be ironed out. Darcey says she does need to watch some of those points, but overall it looked beautiful.

They giggle on their way up to the Clauditorium and Anton stops to say hello to somebody in the crowd. They’re greeted rapturously by the rest of the stars and Claudia asked how she manages to keep a straight face dancing with Anton and Katie says that’s probably taken the most rehearsal. Scores: seven, seven, seven, seven for a total of 28.

Claudia tells us the lines are almost open and I get my hopes up, thinking only Helen is left to dance, but then Claudia spoils the party and says there are two dancers left to go. Oh yeah, it’s Peter. Great.

Tess says it’s the first quickstep of the series, so asks Len what we should be looking out for. He says: hold, posture, movement and footwork. Isn’t that what we look for in, well, pretty much every dance? Head judge, right there.

Peter says he was really buzzing after Saturday night and felt alive out on the dancefloor. Janette was incredibly happy to get 30 on week one. Careful, Janette, you know all about stars who have early promise from last year. For their comedy VT, were putting Peter through training with a commando. Some of this training involves smearing his face in camo paints, dragging attire around and running around a field. I don’t really know what that was about, other than an excuse to play the Village People’s ‘Macho Man’ in the background.

Their routine is set in a kind of 50s style kitchen to ‘Valerie’. Thankfully, the props are dispensed with fairly quickly with a neat little opening move involving both of them doing side kicks that looks really nifty. When they get down onto the floor to dance around, the pace drops and isn’t as fast as I think it should be for a quickstep. It does pick up around the halfway point when they start to move around the floor with much more skipping, albeit the running/galloping kind of skip. Then there are some bits where Peter looks like he just remembered what he needs to do next and clicks into the next kick, which suggests either nerves or perhaps a lack of rehearsal. Given that a quickstep is quite difficult to do in the second week, he does an okay job, but it felt a little bit underprepared and sloppy in places, and I wasn’t that convinced about the choreography of the whole thing as it didn’t feel like a quickstep all the way through, only in places. I think Peter could probably do a little bit better given a bit more time to rehearse and a slightly more sophisticated routine, as the opening hinted at quite a bit of potential, which Janette could really capitalise on if she wanted to (which might mean another good salsa is forthcoming?).

Bruno says he was a hit, it was crisp and clear and he loved the variation as well as the fast changes and kicks and he praises the storytelling. Craig says his knees were a little bit too high - he looked like he was jogging in places and his feet were a little bit limp but he’s being picky because Peter is very good. He thinks the timing and storytelling were great. Darcey thinks they bring the dancefloor alive and they’re light on their feet but his top line showed how much effort he was putting in and he needs to watch that. Len says he galloped in places and although he moved nicely they could have done more and there is more potential in Peter to come.

In the Clauditorium, Claudia says that the judges are being quite pernickety (except for Jay, for some reason). Scores: seven, eight, seven, eight, for a total of 30. Claudia says it’s the same score as last week, top of the leader board. Aliona in the background scowls, clearly aware that her score this week was higher – although I assume Claudia means over both weeks.

The final couple are next and I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s been an incredibly long marathon and one that I don’t want to run again… At least until this time next year. It’s Helen and Aljaž – and we are reminded that she is pretty crazy and we may well be in for another touching the divine moment at some point this series, for which I can’t wait. Her VT centres around her needing to learn how to use her hips, so she brings her dogs to training. No, me neither.

They are dancing the cha-cha-cha to ‘Uptown Girl’ and we open with Aljaž as a mechanic under a car, whilst Helen takes the Christie Brinkley role and fans herself with her hat. It’s a fairly literal piece of referencing the original text, this one. She sashays over to him and gives him a wink and then a come hither boy motion. Bless her, but she can’t really do sultry sexiness that well. She’s far too cute. Speaking of cute: Aljaž in those dungarees anyone? I know they’re not as tight as some people would like, but… Anyway, the routine itself is a lot of fun: it has the storytelling referencing the music video, whilst maintaining cha-cha moves. They seem to do a pretty good job of dancing in sync with one another and Helen’s technique is not too bad for the most part, especially as the routine is slightly more challenging than we sometimes get at this stage in this particular dance. She does have a tendency to posture and grin a little too much and her arms do need a little bit of work, as she looks less relaxed when having to do elongated movements with them than she does when in hold, but overall, a fun, breezy cha-cha.

Greg says she could afford to loosen up as he thought there was a steel rod through her body, but it was the best cha-cha-cha of the series so far. Darcey says it was sleek and fun with plenty of confidence and she’s very watchable. Helen looks like she’s about to have a panic attack through everything that Darcey says. 

Darcey tells it to work on getting the dip in her hips more, and Helen looks like Darcey’s just killed a puppy. Len said it was a nice and enjoyable number but her legs betray the amount of ballet she did as a child because they’re too on point and look a little bit wooden at times but it was full of go and he enjoyed watching it. Bruno says if they keep delivering that kind of service, they can be in the running for a long time.
Up in the Clauditorium, Claudia gives Helen something sparkly for her dogs to wear. Scores: seven, seven, seven, eight for a total of 29.

And that’s finally it for the evening. Let’s have a look at that leaderboard, shall we?
Peter and Janette 30 + 30 = 60
Jay and Aliona 27 + 31 = 58
Helen and Aljaz 29+29 = 58
Kellie and Kevin 27+27=54
Anita and Gleb 27+27=54
Katie and Anton 26+28=54
Georgia and Giovanni 25+27 = 52
Daniel and Kristina 24+23 = 47
Ainsley and Natalie 20+26=46
Jamelia and Tristan 21+21=42
Kirsty and Brendan 20+20=40
Anthony and Oti 21+19=40
Carol and Pasha 16+20=36
Jeremy and Karen 19+17=36
Iwan and Ola 17+13 = 30

Ola is delirious with laughter upon seeing it. She can’t wait to get away from this and just collect the paycheque, I expect.

We then get a recap, which I’m really not going to be recapping. Incidentally, I was watching this at a friend’s house, and she doesn’t usually watch Strictly, so she spent the recap trying to guess who was the pro and who was the celebrity. For the most part, she guessed correctly, but was quite surprised that Anita was the celebrity - and she was the only celeb whom she said was really really good, so make of that what you will.

Claudia declares the vote lines open, and Joanne manages to shimmy with Ainsley, whilst Natalie seems to have ended up miles away from him for some reason. Tess says she can’t believe the improvement in the celebs in just one week, despite the fact that many of them scored exactly the same over both nights. Claudia once more implores us to vote and Tess reminds us to join them “tomorrow” for the results where one couple will be going home and we have a performance from Rod Stewart. I’m so excited. Join me then!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

This week on It Takes Two, we have learnt...

- Karen Clifton’s first dance at her wedding to Kevin was the robot.
- Jeremy’s kids knew he was going to get terrible scores and feedback from the judges.
- Even Zoe isn’t pretending Bruno didn’t fall off his chair on purpose.
- Natalie would’ve happily spent the off-season waiting for the show to begin again in the ITT studio with Zoe.
- Ainsley is one of the most nicest men that Natalie’s ever met in her life. And she’s met Paul Daniels, so THINK ON THAT.
- During a training mishap, Natalie’s battery pack for her microphone came loose and whacked Ainsley in the goolies.
- Minutes before we were reminded of When Karen Won With Ramps: 17. 
- Ola thinks it’s boring when you start off well. Would she even know?
- Iwan will be playing the character of “Sexy Man” this weekend. Glad he’s put so much thought into his backstory.
- Iwan is so irrelevant to me already that I mistakenly called him “Steve” just now.
- Giovanni looks very handsome in a suit.
- Even Zoe thinks Giovanni is a budget Vincent Simone.
- Georgia got a tweet from Meghan Trainor after her performance.
- Judging by the names that popped into her head during that interview, Zoe’s a big fan of Prince and Kate Bush.
- Zoe doesn’t speak Italian terribly well. Or possibly someone on the production team has a very wicked sense of humour. Or possibly both.
- Antony was wearing black underpants under his split trousers
- Anthony is already calling Oti “Boss”.
- Dancing is very different from boxing.
- Natalie and Ainsley's salsa is going to be punning on the tomato salsa theme.  Can't.  Wait.
- 'Social media have loved Jeremy', whatever the show thinks that means.
- Zoe doesn’t know what twerking is.
- Karen Hardy thinks Anton will struggle to keep up with Katie.  BURN.
- Jay’s mum has been telling Aliona to “take care of my boy”. Hopefully she didn’t mean this in a Mafia sense.
- Aliona’s mum thinks Jay walks like a caveman.
- Aliona puts Jay(-by) in the corner
- Ola had a birthday this week.
- Kellie is mid-pack in the top five EastEnders' bar women's first dance scores.  Remarkably, Anita Dobson is second (behind Kara), with 28.
- Kellie and Kevin have almost-matching glasses.
- Matt Di Angelo’s advice for Kellie was “don’t forget your routine and sit on the stage like I did”.
- Zoe hasn’t quite got the hang of saying Gleb’s name yet.
- Sorry to all the Gleb lovers, but his one true love is dancing (*barf*)
- Gleb has learned 10 dances from around the world. Girl, Iveta was CHAMPION at ten dances.
- Ian Waite’s trousers are terrifyingly tight.
- Ian got engaged in the same week that one of us did.  Start the rumour mill now!
- Salsa is an 'exposing' dance for the girls.  Wardrobe have a lot to answer for.
- Jamelia did actually giggle a lot throughout her waltz.
- Tristan thinks it’s better to have giggles than tears.
- Daniel's blank face in his Charleston rehearsals is wonderful.
- Peter says “sorry” a lot.
- You can only dance yourself when you’re secure that your partner knows what they’re doing.
- Contrary to expectations, Iwan has at least done some training this week.
- Anthony has created a gentleman character called Reginald for his waltz.
- Oti’s first dance trainer was her mum.
- Most of Anita’s opening show was a blur to her, but she remembers the actual dance very clearly.
- Gleb thinks the headmaster is a marvellous man, and this is the best Strictly he’s ever been on.
- Katie’s two daughters came to her wardrobe fitting during the summer and her jive dress was their favourite.
- Daniel didn’t realise how little he spoke on Friday until he watched the show back.
- Pasha is both a gentleman and a gentle man.
- Carol has an umbrella prop for her foxtrot, and go hang with the idea of it being bad luck.
- Carol doesn’t like letting go of Pasha in training. Well, who would?
- Robin’s job so far appears to be giving us the Strictly A to Z. A is for Anton, B is for Brucie and blisters, C is for “Claudia and Tess” (this is falling over already) and Craig, D is for Darcey and E is for exhaustion. At least that’s what my dealer tells me.
- Paolo Nutini’s ‘Pencil Full Of Lead’ will be used for a charleston for the third time this week - Ali and Brian used it in series 7, Richard and Erin used it in series 10 and now Anita and Gleb are using it.
- Having a live audience in the ITT studio is a bit claustrophobic.
- Aled Jones got his highest mark for the jive even though he forgot his steps and made half of it up.
- Aled also thinks Ainsley has - wait for it - natural rhythm.
- Anton and Katie together look like “a bank manager and his wife dancing”.
- The pros were taught all of their group dances way back in August, and then they get a refresher each week on Monday morning.
- Brendan is the craziest of all the pros, according to Joanne. Kristina and Aliona are always late, and Aliona always has a fried egg for breakfast.
- The stress of the show has driven Helen to drinking in the mornings.
- Aljaž is still as camp as a row of tents.
- Helen did not know that the dance-off existed until recently.
- Giovanni was inspired to take up dance after watching Come Dancing when he was 8.
- Giovanni’s mum is apparently Bella Lasagne from Fireman Sam.
- Kirsty’s waltz went really well in rehearsals, HONEST.
- Believe it or not, Len has given more 10s to musicians than he has to SPORTSMEN.
- If Jenni Falconer was on the show she'd want Aljaž for her partner, but she thinks she'd probably spend all her time giggling.
- Mark Benton thinks Iwan might go home, Jenni Falconer thinks Jeremy, and Aled Jones thinks Anthony.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The long and the short and the tall

Week 1: Nine Couples Perform - 26 September 2015

Last night: six couples made their Strictly Come Dancing debuts - EastEnders star Kellie Bright got things rolling nicely, boxer Anthony Ogogo jived through a shoulder injury, Call The Midwife's Helen George got the Darcey Bussell seal of approval that she's been working towards for her entire life, weather presenter Carol Kirkwood faced a frosty reception, Daniel O'Donnell disappointed fans at every level of the spectrum by being blandly competent, and GLEB SAVCHENKO! performed with something called an Anita Rani in the background. Tonight, that noble band of comrades informally known as "The Other Nine" will also be dancing for the first time. Shall we get on with it, then?

We begin with a pro-dance to 'Shut Up And Dance' by Walk The Moon. I am reliably informed by my boyfriend that this song is everywhere at the moment, but I must confess to being completely unfamiliar with it so if you'll excuse me I'm just going to go outside and yell at some clouds. The dress code is black and white, and for some reason that means they've dressed Giovanni as an escaped convict from a 1950s cartoon. Careful, Giovanni, there's only room for one 1950s cartoon on this show, and his name is Kevin Clifton. And speaking of the Clifton dynasty, those of you on JoanneWatch will no doubt be interested to mark her appearance in this routine, and I'm kind of digging her new hair colour. Not as much as I'm enjoying Pasha as a leather-jacketed greaser though, so I'm just going to file that one away for later.

Tess and Claudia arrive, and they also got the "black and white" memo - Tess is in white, and Claudia is in black, naturally. Although it would've been fun if they'd swapped. (Yes, I know my definition of "fun" is clearly so loose that it loses all meaning.) Tess reminds us of the salient details from last night's show - chiefly that Anthony Ogogo ripped his trousers - and Claudia summons the judges. I know I shouldn't keep harping on about what everybody's wearing but I will say that I love what Darcey's got on tonight - a floor-length purple gown with a fishtail and an asymmetric neckline that makes her look like the backdrop in an Art Deco cinema. She looks fabulous, is what I'm trying to say.

After that, the couples arrive, and I typed out their official introductions in full yesterday so forgive me for abbreviating them on this occasion: Kellie and Kevin, Anthony and Oti, Anita and GLEB!, Daniel and Kristina, Katie and Anton, Ainsley and Natalie, Helen and Aljaž, Iwan and Ola, Georgia and Giovanni, Jeremy and Karen, Jamelia and Tristan, Peter and Janette, Carol and Pasha (yes, Pasha's shirt is still open, let's make the most of this while we can because I don't think we're getting that much Pasha this year you guys), Jay and Aliona, and Kirsty and Brendan.

Claudia and Tess remind those of us who are unfamiliar with how the opening weekend works that there's no public vote or elimination, but the scores are still important(ish), and then move things right along by introducing our first couple of the night: Jay and Aliona, who'll be doing a cha cha cha. Just so you're all aware, Jay is this year's designated guardian of the Abbey Clancy Memorial "ME NEHHHHHVES" Narrative, and we will be hearing about it a lot. Like, a lot. Jay's VT reminds us that he used to be in a boyband, and he also used to have a much more flattering haircut, but I guess all things in this life are fleeting. Jay's very happy to be on the show, but he's NERVOUS. Aliona's all "I'm really happy with my partner but it's such a shame we're only going to be on the show for two we--oh, hang on, that's the script I've been using for the last two years, they actually gave me a new one this time, lemme go find it." Jay says that he's used to being on stage with four other guys - you know, The Little One, That One That Was In Glee, and The Other Two - but he's just going to get used to only having Aliona there. Maybe don't even bank on having that, Jay - if you fuck up you're on your own, just ask Gregg Wallace.

In rehearsals, Jay is NERVOUS about performing in front of millions of people, so Aliona takes him to The O2. She asks him what it's like to perform there, and he replies that "it's like nothing you would believe". That's true, I do have a hard time believing The Wanted were ever popular enough to play The O2. Aliona encourages him to channel that feeling when they do their cha cha cha.

They're dancing to 'Reach Out, I'll Be There' by The Four Tops (I don't care what the website says, it is fucking not by "Human Nature", whatever that is), and Jay is playing a singer (huge stretch there) while Aliona plays a broken-hearted girl who learns to overcome her problems with MUSIC and DANCE. Aliona's cry-acting is just delightful, especially for those of us who just assumed she'd lost the ability to feel anything at all after the last couple of series. It gets off to a slightly wobbly start, although I think that's because Jay isn't yet skilled enough to cha cha around the tiny little podium that he's standing on at the top of the routine, but when they get out onto the dancefloor proper, he's actually quite good - his timing's fine, his moves are sharp and there's some decent chemistry between him and Aliona. I'd say that it's a little bit mechanical (you can almost see him checking off the list of positions in his head as the routine goes on), his free arm is frequently a bit limp and he needs to smile more, but it's a very solid start. And speaking as one of that small but determined group of people who have always quite liked Aliona, it's nice to be reminded of what she's capable of doing when she doesn't just get automatically lumbered with the duffer du jour. It ends, and Jay appears to be apologising to Aliona for something and she assures him that he was really good. Yeah, we're going to have a lot of this, aren't we? Self-assurance wise, he's going to make Abbey Clancy look like Austin Healey.

Jay tells Tess it was "really fun" to do the routine and Tess squeals "HE'S SHAKING LIKE CRAZY, BLESS!" Seems like the classy thing to do would be not to call attention to it? Jay and Aliona back-and-forth with the "no, you're amazing" bit for a while until the wheels come off dramatically when Jay says "you pulled it out of the bag...my bag". I think he might be reading from a script he found lying on the floor of the Porn Train (neva 4get). Jay waves to his mum in the audience, who was apparently Very Moved. Tess reminds Len that Jay has been SUFFERING WITH NERVES, and Len compares Jay McGuiness to "a glass of Guinness", because he was full-bodied with a lot of froth on the top. I think maybe Len needs to start going to better pubs. Len adds that he thought there was nearly a lift in there but it wasn't an actual lift, but warns Aliona (and, by extension, everyone) that he's going to be watching "all season" (you've left Dancing With The Stars now Len, you can go back to saying "series") to make sure that there are no illegal lifts and if anyone sneaks one in Len is going to DOCK THEM A POINT. I'm sure that's going to make all the difference when he's got Darcey next to him trying to find her "14" paddle. Len tells Jay that he is "wanted", and Bruno tells Jay that he's "glad you came", and this is unbearable but at least we're getting them all out of the way early. Bruno says Jay has great potential, and he was really impressed by the way Jay pushed through the leg and extended his feet. Craig agrees with Bruno, and then Bruno FALLS OFF HIS CHAIR ENTIRELY SPONTANEOUSLY, just like he does every year. I bet he'll be disappointed to discover that the camera was on Tess the whole time so we didn't actually see it. Craig continues that he was impressed with Jay's isolation, but the whole thing needed a bit more showmanship. Darcey says it's so hard for the men, and *fast-forwards*.

Tess instructs Jay to go and "reach out to Claudia", and up in the Clauditorium we hear a little bit more about Jay's nerves. Jay's nerves, everybody. Claudia reminds us all of what the leaderboard looked like last night, and the judges give their scores: Craig 5, Darcey 8, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. I don't want to look like I'm piling on Darcey here, but fuck off was that an eight. I mean, I suppose it counterbalances Craig's 5 which was also pretty ridiculous in the opposite direction, but maybe we could just all start scoring sensibly instead? Claudia tells Jay that the whole audience went "what?" when Craig announced his score, but sensibly does not reveal the general reaction to Darcey's score because, unlike last night, we are on the polite side of the watershed.

Our second couple this evening is "sports news anchor" Kirsty Gallacher and her partner "Brenda Cole". Looks like Tess has been reading Monkseal, which is brave of her really. Kirsty's VT opens pretty disastrously with her talking about how there are lots of misconceptions about her being really sporty and tough, "but I'm actually a very girly girl", like these things are not mutually exclusive and being sporty does not mean you aren't feminine. Good grief. Kirsty says that Brendan's reaction to being partnered with her was great, but she wonders if he knows she can't dance. Brendan scoffs at this, and declares that she just hasn't found the right boy yet. (Brendan Cole is 39.) [Is that his stage age? - Rad] Kirsty says she thinks she's going to be a good student, but she's not sure what sort of teacher Brendan is. Yes, the man who has been doing this show for 11 years is such an enigma! She hopes she doesn't let Brendan down (lol foreshadowing).

Brendan asks Kirsty how she's feeling ahead of her first performance, and she says she just hopes she doesn't let her nerves take over. Kirsty tells us all that her mum has been very supportive and just keeps popping in unannounced, because apparently Kirsty lives in a sitcom from the nineties. Kirsty's mum says that it's great to see Kirsty dancing with Brendan, and she hopes that she can offer some encouragement to stop Kirsty from feeling nervous. Kirsty hopes she can do her mum proud (lol foreshadowing).

There's some bizarre framing at the top of the routine, and I mean that entirely literally because a picture frame surrounded by hotel wallpaper has been superimposed around Kirsty and Brendan, which has the unfortunate side-effect of causing me to check I haven't accidentally sat on the remote control and switched over to Dave just as they're going to an ad break. They're waltzing to 'Vincent' by Don McLean, and I think it's supposed to be all dreamy and romantic but honestly? Kirsty looks a bit drunk. Like, the whole thing looks like she had too much wine at the office party and Brendan's the guy who was sober enough that everyone else made him escort her home, but she keeps running off down side roads to yell at taxi drivers or throw up in someone's front garden and it's just taking them forever to get there and he's wishing he'd had a bit more to drink so someone else would have had to do it. I mean, it doesn't help that she's dancing to a song that really isn't in waltz time but even so, this is disastrous. And it's personally devastating for me because I wanted Kirsty to run the Gabby Logan arc by being sporty and competitive and flawless and making everyone fear her until she suddenly gets shock-booted, but looking at this mess, I don't think it's going to happen. Still, people have come back from worse starts than this, right? [We were wrong about her being Gabby redux - she's Pendledrama redux.  Hopefully with the drama - Rad]

Bruno says that it would have been gorgeous "as a series of pictures", but the problem was all the stumbling in between as she was clinging on to Brendan for dear life. Kirsty says that it's nerves, and Bruno says that he's sure she can improve. Craig reports that it lacked the flow that is crucial to the waltz and there were some serious balance issues. You can tell that Brendan's already far more invested in Kirsty than he was in Sunetra last year because he pipes up in her defence, saying that he's never seen her as nervous as she is at this point, and they will absolutely work on sorting all of this out. Darcey says that it's so hard to control the rise and fall when you have all those nerves on top, and assures Kirsty that she'll feel like a different person next week. Len finishes by saying that some people don't appreciate that the celebrities are beginners and haven't yet learned to control their nerves (swear to god if I hear the word "nerves" one more time tonight I am going to fill the bathtub and drown myself in it), and he wants Kirsty to be more relaxed next week for her salsa and come out there and wiggle her bum and just enjoy it.

Kirsty flees to the sanctity of the Clauditorium, and says that she's just glad the whole process has started. Claudia assures her that the salsa will be her dance. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Oof. Even Brendan doesn't try to protest that score, he just attempts to draw a line under it and move on. Come on, Kirsty, come back next week and terrify everyone with sporty brilliance, I'VE ALREADY BEEN LET DOWN BY DANIEL O'DONNELL NOT BEING COMPLETELY HOPELESS, DON'T YOU BETRAY ME AS WELL.

Benefitting from lowered expectations next, we have Jeremy and Karen with their cha cha cha. Jeremy says in his VT that he's been "a serious journalist since 1987" (lol no, you're the guy who hosts Eggheads and a Radio 2 show where people just phone in and say any old awful shit about The State Of Britain Today). Karen says she was quite surprised when she saw Jeremy's hip thrusts in the launch show, but she quite liked it at the same time. I've started to quite enjoy watching Karen never having anything in common with any of her partners. There's a bit of business in his training footage about him being unable to shake off his journalistic instincts, to the extent that he brings a notepad to training and writes everything down. Karen's all "ehh, whatever works for you" in much the same way that Karen usually is.

There's a swingometer projected onto the studio floor so he's obviously going to do A Bit before they get started, but the way he starts it by calling out "laaaaaaaadies and gentlemeeeen" makes it sounds like his day job is as a carny rather than a journalist. Anyway, the whole thing is so gloriously incoherent that I must transcribe it verbatim and preserve it for the ages: "Today we are discussing the cha cha cha, but what does our election swingometer say about the cha cha cha? Oh dear, only 18 per cent. I wonder if that might be different in...September!" And then the band starts playing 'September' by Earth, Wind and Fire. I really, really hope he improvised that bit because if that was actually scripted, God help us all. Anyway, Karen emerges from a Sexy Polling Booth and Jeremy takes off his jacket and they dance together, and that awful opening might turn out to be a shrewd move because I can't imagine anything he could do afterwards that would look more cringeworthy in comparison. His cha cha cha is absolute dad-dancing and he seems a little unsure of his moves, but Karen has at least choreographed an actual routine for him to do and Jeremy's giving it his best shot, which is my most palatable brand of comedy contestant: I don't mind you being crap, but at least be crap in the process of trying to be good rather than just admitting from the outset that you're not going to be any good and trying to force lolz out of it. Also, he's not completely hopeless anyway - his hips move, and he seems to know where he's going most of the time. He's never going to be great, but he might just claw his way up to being decent if he's here long enough.

As Jeremy crosses over to Tess, we cut to the judges so we can see Darcey doing the full head-back-hands-flapping-in-front-of-face-trying-to-dry-tears thing and calm down Darcey, it wasn't that funny. Karen giggles that Jeremy's heart is about to pop right out of his chest. Craig tells Jeremy that he would have qualified for the world dad-dancing championships (which are apparently a real thing, held in Devon) and it was all very flat-footed and his free arm had a mind of its own. Darcey calls it "strangely fabulous" (oh god, she's giving it a crazy nine, isn't she?) [Just give her the Overs on X Factor in Cowell's next 'pinch a Beeb reality judge' swipe and let's be done with her - Rad] and commends Jeremy for throwing "everything" into it. She advises him to watch his legs though, because they give away his lack of technique. Len says it was like a vine - a little bit out of control, and you never know where it's going next. And only six seconds' worth of content? Len tells Jeremy that he came ahhht and went for it, and that he thinks "this underdog's got a bit of bite". Bruno tells Jeremy he "dances to his own tune", but he looked like a "rubbery, gangly" Hallowe'en spider. There was no control, but he thought it was funny.

Jeremy receives a hero's welcome at the Clauditorium, where Claudia reports that Iwan just said "he makes me happy". Jeremy says that it was a bit wrong at the start (you're telling me), but it all came to him about 15 seconds in, and he thanks the audience for spurring him on with their support. You can tell he works with politicians. Jeremy thanks "partner, here" (psst, Jeremy, her name's Karen) for everything, and announces that he won't be bringing the notepad next week because it clearly didn't help. Heh. Scores, then: Craig 2, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 19. Claudia reminds us to register for our BBC ID if we want to vote online next week, which is good advice. Do it now! (In a new tab, don't you dare close us down.)

Next, we have the sexxxy sexxxxy sexxxx pairing of Georgia and Giovanni. In her VT, Georgia is introduced as "actress and star of Coronation Street", possibly because she doesn't really have much of a profile outside of Coronation Street, not hating, just saying. She gets off to a bad start by refering to herself as "little Georgia from Bury", which had better be the first and last time she or anyone else refers to her that way. Georgia is hoping to do The North proud. Giovanni and Georgia have already started referring to themselves as "Team GG", so start compiling all of your horse jokes.

Giovanni starts their training by giving Georgia a t-shirt with "BORN TO WIN" on one side and "TEAM GG" on the other. Say what you like about him, but he knows the importance of #brand #engagement. Georgia is horrified to learn that she's got the jive first (even though I remember her saying in interviews that the jive was the dance she was most looking forward to, so I guess this is a "be careful what you wish for" scenario), and as they practice, Georgia tries to get the hang of pronouncing "Pernice" correctly. This leads to all sorts of "she's from Oop North, he's from Sicily" hijinks that are played more or less note-for-note as they were during When Chelsee Met Pasha (except he was Russian, obviously, not Italian). Georgia tries to teach Giovanni some reet northern slang like "it's nippy", he's all "what ees theese 'neepy'?", we all laugh at the funny foreigner and the little northern girl, job's a good'un.

They're dancing to 'Dear Future Husband' by Meghan Trainor from the album Yes They Actually Let Me Record One Of These, Lol I Can't Believe It Either. [It has the same tune as some Olly Murs thing as well SMH - Rad] It's set in a salon where Giovanni is the slick groomer (STEADY) and Georgia is...Katy Perry, I think. That seems to be the look they're going for, anyway. She's pretty good, as I think we all knew she would be, but there's definitely an ongoing balance issue throughout the routine - a couple of times she comes out of a spin and almost goes right over, so I'd suggest Giovanni does a bit more work with her on spotting. The kicks and flicks are a little bit sluggish as well, but it is a very fast routine for a week one jive, so in general I'd say she keeps up with it all impressively well.

Tess and Georgia have a brief northern-off after the dance, and Darcey says that it was an incredibly impressive first dance in terms of the content and the speed. She thinks the two of them work very well together, but points out that Georgia needs to control how she exits her turns. Len embarks on an extended hairdressing metaphor that basically amounts to "I liked it", and Bruno cracks a joke about feeling "the g-force". Well, at least he didn't mention the g-spot, although...give it time, I guess. He says that they ran out of steam towards the end, but it was a wonderful first outing. As for Craig, he thought it started well, but he thinks Georgia didn't quite have the stamina to carry that through to the end. He did think it was "lively" and "bubbly" though, and enjoyed it very much.

They bounce up to the Clauditorium where Georgia cops to being equal parts excited and terrified to be here, and Tess tells us that Giovanni's parents are here. Giovanni says that this is his dream come true, and he thinks it's his parents' dream come true as well to see him here. Aww. I like Earnest Giovanni a lot more than Italian Stereotype Sleazebag Giovanni, if any of the scriptwriters are reading this. Scores: Craig 6, Darcey 7, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 27. A lot of 27s so far this weekend.

Ainsley and Natalie are up next as we approach the mid-point of the evening. Ainsley says in his VT that he was so excited to be partnered with Ainsley, because you would be. He says that he and Natalie are a prefect combination like tomatoes and basil, and he's always loved dancing in the kitchen so he's hoping to incorporate that into his routines. Natalie says she's already seen the salt-and-pepper-shaker, and the stirring-of-the-pot, and then she started having Celebrity MasterChef flashbacks and had to go and lie down in a darkened room for a bit.

Natalie has planned a tango to 'Voulez Vous' by Abba and is setting it in a Parisian bar, and honestly if I were a judge I'd be gripping my 10 paddle already. Ainsley decides to thank Natalie by cooking her some French food, so of course they both wear berets and Natalie accessorises it with a necklace of garlic bulbs, she literally cannot get any better. I love this pair already. NOW MAKE NATALIE COOK SOMETHING!

The routine is magnificent, because a dance choreographed by Natalie Lowe that starts with Ainsley Harriott in a beret sipping a martini can't possibly be anything else. The whole thing is so camp that it's already set up a Grindr profile with "MASC4MASC" at the top, and I love it. I mean, on an objective level Ainsley's posture is pretty terrible and actually gets worse the longer the dance goes on - by the time it ends he's practically Uncle Fester - but at least it delivered everything I wanted from this couple. Please, voting public, at least keep them around for a little while. I'm already set to lose Pasha very early, I can't cope with Natalie being an early boot as well.

Ainsley tells Tess that he's been doing a tango face for two weeks, and Natalie giggles "it's not him!" Seriously, they're a match made in heaven. If we must give up on the #RINGER4NATALIE mission, I'm glad they're at least giving her people she can have fun with. Len says it's the longest he's ever seen Ainsley go without smiling, and follows that up by saying that he captured the flavour of the routine but not necessarily the technique. He adds that it "had a touch of the gallops", and really there's no excuse for that in the age of Imodium. He's looking forward to Ainsley's salsa next week, as am I, because I've got all sorts of jokes about chopped tomatoes and lime juice lined up. (That's a lie, I have no jokes about chopped tomatoes and lime juice.) Bruno was impressed by the variety of different "flavours" in the routine, particularly the point where Ainsley became "a rooster chasing a hen". He encourages Ainsley to stick to one character per dance in future. Craig says that he needs to sort his posture out because you need to create a v-shape in this dance. I should think Craig needs to be careful of encouraging people to make a v-shape at him. He loved the acting, though. Darcey couldn't take her eyes of Ainsley's lips, and tells him that he took the emotion into his shoulders, so he just needs to learn to relax them.

Atop the Clauditorium, Ainsley admits that Natalie's been telling him for weeks to keep his shoulders down, but he got carried away. Claudia compliments him on "the best tango face I have ever seen", describing it as "livid, yet charming". She also asks them to to reveal what song they're dancing to next week - 'Don't Touch My Tomatoes' by Josephine Baker, apparently. I CAN'T WAIT. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 5, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 20. Ainsley Harriott getting the same week one score as presumed ringer Kirsty Gallacher is giving me life, I can't lie.

Ahead of a preview of the four dances yet to come (including Peter Andre rehearsing in a bloody leather t-shirt, good grief), we arrive at our next couple: Katie and Anton. Katie tells us in her VT that her dance experience only amounts to a bit of ballet when she was a kid, but she's not sure that knowing "good toes from bad toes" is going to help much. Honestly, Katie, compared to some of Anton's previous partners, just knowing where your toes are is going to put you ahead of the pack. Katie was pleased to get Anton, describing him as "the legend", and I don't really need to tell you that Anton's pleased, because of course he's thrilled with anyone who's going to talk about him like that.

Katie turns up for her first day of training, which is in a bleak brick room that I'm not entirely convinced isn't actually situated within a prison, and Anton tells her that they're starting with the jive. Katie tells us that the jive is terrifying (perhaps because Anton hasn't done one in six years, and the last time he did one it looked like this) and apparently theirs is to have a Last Night Of The Proms theme, so she invites Anton to join her for the real thing. They do a bit of their jive in the Royal Albert Hall (sans audience, sadly) and Katie says she just wants to be able to recapture a bit of that atmosphere on the show.

It starts with Katie miming to a harp while Anton conducts some classical music that I do not recognise because I am a pleb, sorry, but then the band rebels and starts playing 'Roll Over Beethoven' and Katie is overcome by the URGE TO JIVE so she strips off her formal suit to reveal a sparkly gold fringed Latin dance dress. The good first, then: Katie has legs for days and a good sense of rhythm, and does a good job of her kicks and flicks. The bad: it's a bit wobbly generally, and not really the trainwreck I hope for when Anton does Latin. It's not great, it's not terrible, it's just somewhere in the middle, which is a bit disappointing. [Katie was better than Anton though, as per the case every other year when he gets someone OK - Rad]

Bruno tells Katie that he couldn't take his eyes off her because she has "radiant stage presence" (translation: always looks a bit drunk), and warns Anton that he's actually got first-class material this year so he'd better not fuck it up. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. Tess tells Katie that she's obsessed with "those legs" in the tone of voice that she normally reserves for men with gunz, so Katie should probably be quite careful. Craig tells Anton he's loving finally seeing him actually dancing, but says that the side-by-side section was a little out of sync in some parts, and there was a ropey under-arm turn at the end, but declares it perhaps "the most sophisticated and stylish jive we've ever had on the programme". (Craig is going to give it a 6 in a minute, just FYI.) Darcey says that it's very impressive to keep a jive neat and clean with long limbs like Katie's, and while it could've been sharper, it was very classy. Len hopes this could be "the glory year", and says it could be the year that Anton's gainfully employed in the show right up to Christmas.

Katie giggles "I love you!" at Anton as they make their way up to the Clauditorium, adding further fuel to my theory that she's that exact level of posh that makes you always sound a bit drunk. Everyone's cheering for them when they get up there, and Claudia jokes that Anton's never really understood how the show works - when everyone else gets on a bus to Blackpool, he's just assumed that was the end of the series and gone home. (I hate to be that one serious guy that ruins the joke, but the last time Anton made it to Blackpool was...last year, with Judy Murray.) Claudia asks Katie if it's as much fun as she imagined, being a big fan of the show, and Katie says it's better and more terrifying and also brilliant. I love her. Scores for the bestest posh jive the show's ever seen: Craig 6, Darcey 6, Len 7, Bruno 7 for a total of 26. Suddenly Anton seems even drunker than Katie, and starts screaming about how he's not used to getting 26 points in one go: "it takes weeks of accumulated numbers!"

Our antepenultimate couple for the evening are Iwan and Ola, who will be doing a tango, apparently. Over a montage of photos that remind us of his bygone days as a proud ginger *sniff*, Iwan says that as an athlete he knows what it's like to push your body to the limit. As a recapper, I too know what it's like to push one's body to the limit because I've been sat here for nearly four hours now and my back really hurts. Ola says that she is a strict teacher, and will be strict with Iwan.

In training, she tells him that he has the tango first, and Iwan says that he's not a quick learner but he is a perfectionist. Iwan's perfectionism manifests itself in a strange way where he doesn't actually bother to clear enough time in his schedule to train properly, so he's jetting off to Italy to cover Moto GP - Ola goes out there with him, but he ditches her because he's got work to do. I guess he's like Pixie Lott, he's just BUSYBUSYSOBUSY. I mean it's not as if it's not well-documented that you need to clear a fair bit of your diary out to give yourself enough time to train for this show, so don't sign up and then go "oops, I'm busy". Also, lack of training is no excuse for turning out shoddy product, remember Louisa Lytton's jive that came on the heels of about five minutes' worth of actual training.

They're doing a tango to 'Keep On Running'. There's an athletics track superimposed on the dancefloor and, I shit you not, Iwan and Ola are on their marks and there's the sound of a starting pistol and then Iwan does a circuit of the "track". And then they do a tango. I can just about tolerate some pre-performance faffing if you try to actually tie it in with the routine, but I've seen actual pornography with more coherent plotting than this. And if you're wondering if the actual tango is worth the wait - no, it isn't. It's painfully obvious that Iwan is under-rehearsed, and Ola's kind of on autopilot so she's not even doing anything interesting to distract us from his limitations like, say, Janette or Natalie or Iveta (sniff) might. It's all just a bit of a non-event, really. A false start, if you like.

Tess asks Craig if it was a winning performance and Craig says no - there was gapping, it was lumpy, his posture was terrible, and there was no real storytelling. But, he does think that Iwan's bottom is lovely, so there is that. Darcey says that he started really well (he did?) but he's inclined to get wild, so he needs to fix that hold and that topline. Len thinks it didn't have enough attack, but he thinks Iwan will come back and improve next week because SPORTSMAN. Bruno says he wishes Iwan had kept running because that was much better than the tango, and tells Iwan he needs to learn to assume a character for his performance if he really wants to master dancing - and he tells him he needs to properly commit to being here too, so that's Iwan told.

Claudia says that Iwan is adorable to be around, and Iwan replies that he knows he has to improve because that's the whole point of the show, adding "I can't get worse, can I?" Don't count on it. Scores: Craig 3, Darcey 5, Len 5, Bruno 4 for a total of 17. Ola says that they will come back stronger. Iwan has a cha cha cha next week, so we'll see.

Last-but-one are Jamelia and Tristan. Tess tells us that Jamelia "stars in Loose Women", which is a mind-boggling concept in itself. In her VT, Jamelia said that the group dance in the launch show made her realise how much she misses performing, and she was ecstatic to be paired with Tristan. In turn, Tristan thinks that the fact that Jamelia really wants to learn is definitely a good thing.

Tristan tells Jamelia that they'll be starting out with the waltz, and Jamelia puts her head in her hands, which sort of belies that whole "wanting to learn" thing from 10 seconds ago. Jamelia says that the waltz is graceful and elegant and she is not, and adds that she has a serious giggling problem, which she urges us not to confuse with her not taking this seriously. Tristan attempts to get Jamelia to stop giggling, but deploys peculiar tactics like "stare at my face", "wear a silly hat", "ooh chase me chase me", all of which unsurprisingly only make things worse. Jamelia says she'll try to contain her giggles on the night.

Unfortunately, giggling is the least of her problems because despite a promising start to her waltz (to 'Do Right Woman, Do Right Man') and despite Tristan being in one of wardrobe's ever-reliable pairs of Snug White Men's Trousers, the whole thing gets away from her quite early on and the whole thing feels a bit stuttery and tentative. Also, the end-pose is just really ugly, and I don't know if that's Jamelia's dancing or Tristan's choreography, so I'm going to split the difference and assume it's a bit of both. [Not yet sure why Tristan got to be the sole survivor of last year's new pro crop - Rad]

Darcey says it was a very charming waltz, and she enjoyed the beginning when Jamelia was making fine use of her long arms, but the further she got into the dance, the more she lost concentration. Len agrees - it was a great start, but then there were some mistakes and those threw her so she lost her place. But he thinks she's beautiful and elegant and the waltz suits her. Bruno says it started like a dream - it just didn't continue like one. He advises her to try to catch up if she goes wrong, rather than get into a muddle, though I daresay that's the sort of thing you only really learn to do with a bit more practice. I've never tried to improvise a waltz on the spot but I imagine it's much harder than it looks. Craig points out that the basic waltz step is "step-side-close" and that Jamelia wasn't actually closing a lot of the time. Always Be Closing, Jamelia! But he thinks it was great and it got a good reaction from the audience.

A rather subdued Jamelia makes her way up to the Clauditorium - still giggling, though - and Claudia tells her she was fantastic. Jamelia says she enjoyed it, but she's just disappointed that she let Tristan down. Claudia tells Jamelia that she loves her because everyone else has been going on and on about their nerves all day (PREACH, SISTER) but when Claudia asked Jamelia, she just said that she was nervous but she was mostly just excited to be here. Scores: Craig 4, Darcey 6, Len 6, Bruno 5 for a total of 21. Jamelia's clearly a bit disappointed by that result, but puts a brave face on nonetheless.

Predictably enough, Peter and Janette are closing the show. Peter's VT includes a lovingly-shot scene of Peter and his own reflection, which probably says quite a lot. Janette says that she's the smallest female pro on the show (I like the implication that there are male pros shorter than she is, like perhaps Brendan has secretly been three children standing on each other's shoulders all this time).

In training -- well, actually, we don't get to see much training, to be honest. Peter says that he's not really feeling the cha cha cha yet because he's used to the sort of dancing you do in pop videos and Iceland advertisements. Janette decides that she wants to get all of that "hip hop" (lol okay) out of his system by doing a 90s-style dance battle. So they wear some silly clothes, trash talk each other, and flail around aimlessly for ages. I feel like we just got a macro-version of Steve and Ola's narrative from last year.

They're dancing to 'Ain't No Other Man' and can we please have a moratorium on people dancing to Christina Aguilera songs? No disrespect to the singers, but they can't really keep up with Xtina and they never have been able to in any iteration. It's a bit disappointing considering how über-pimped Peter has been leading up to the start of the competition, because his performance is rather flat to me: he's not required to do an awful lot other than wiggle his hips while Janette cavorts around and his movements are a little too aggressive.

Len says that the action was a little clipped, but that aside it was the best dance of the weekend. Bruno loved the performance level, but he thinks Peter's got more smooth hip action - "the cha cha is not angular all the time". Tess asks Craig if it was a showstopper, and Craig says it was and he really enjoyed it", but he advises Peter to work on his hip action because he's going to need that for all of his Latin dances. Especially with Janette as his partner. Darcey finishes by saying that Peter was overflowing with attitude, and she's very excited about next week.

Claudia asks Peter if he's over the moon, and he says he's speechless. Claudia says that they're training really hard (just not to the extent that any of it gets shown in their VT) and Peter reminds us that they're Having Fun And Bants as well. Scores: Craig 7, Darcey 8, Len 8, Bruno 7 for a total of 30.

So, after a quick recap of all of this weekend's performances (I've been here for hours, please don't ask me to recap the recap), here's the leaderboard:

1. Peter & Janette - 30
2. Helen & Aljaž - 29
3=. Kellie & Kevin - 27
3=. Anita & Gleb - 27
3=. Jay & Aliona - 27
3=. Georgia & Giovanni - 27
7. Katie & Anton - 26
8. Daniel & Kristina - 24
9=. Anthony & Oti - 21
9=. Jamelia & Tristan - 21
11=. Kirsty & Brendan - 20
11=. Ainsley & Natalie - 20
13. Jeremy & Karen - 19
14. Iwan & Ola - 17
15. Carol & Pasha - 16

I realise that it's very hard to manage these things when you're a) spreading a competition over two nights and b) allowing four individual people to score as they see fit, but even so: that four-way tie for third place is ridiculous. And having watched Anita again in the recap after seeing everyone perform, I'm still convinced she was undermarked. So, I guess I'm stanning for Anita this year, basically. (Don't even get me started on how she's being sidelined so they can build up the profile of her pro.)

Anyway, next week everyone gets to perform again, and we'll be kicking out our first couple of 2015. Rad will be here with all of the detail, so make sure you're here too.